Thought Catalog
October 26, 2011

So You Heard Your Neighbors Having Sex

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What is the issue?

The other day I heard my neighbors having sex. It’s odd because they live across the hall which means the sound travelled through two doors to get to me, and I was also watching a movie at the time, so despite all those sonic roadblocks, the sound reached me, or sought me out, depending on how you look at it. After the sex ceased I had to resist a very strong urge to write “C+” on a piece of paper and tape it to their door.

I’ve heard sex on two sides of my apartment. When I’ve heard it from all the sides I’m moving out (it’s like a weird three dimensional bingo game). So far it’s come from the wall with the door (as we just discussed) and underneath me. It won’t come from above as I live on the top floor, but if it does I’ll rush to see it immediately, because rooftops are where superheroes have sex.

The sound of sex is somehow worse when you know what the people involved look like, because now you have two images of them: the street clothes version, and the no clothes version. It never even occurred to you there was a no clothes version, but there it is, like the flip side of a Kandinsky painting. When you don’t know what the couple looks like, the sound of sex has an anonymous, almost organic feel, but when you do know what they look like, hearing the sex is like receiving a heavily detailed dossier you never requested. Whereas once my neighbors were extras, now they feel like real people. I don’t need that sh-t.

Now I don’t care how old or experienced you are, the moment that distinct sound reaches your ears you feel twelve years old again, and it’s only after the initial shock that you revert back to your regularly scheduled jadedness. People have various coping mechanisms for blocking the sound of sex. Some blast music, some go for a walk, some curl in the fetal position, and some even bang on the wall to complain about the noise (heroes among us). At the time I wanted to gather with my other neighbors in front of the sex door and talk about how loud it was. “You believe this?” “Man this is nothing. You ever hear whales f-ck?” I’ve actually gotten used to the sound, and much prefer it to the sound of its result: a baby.

When I think about it, sex is really the only time I’ve ever heard my neighbors. It bothers me that I don’t hear other things, like baking. I’d love to hear baking! Let’s get some eclectic sounds on this apartment mix tape. Maybe some sex, some baking, a vuvuzela, just to shake things up a little. I need to know people are doing other things. For instance, there’s a crazy guy in my building who talks to himself whenever he walks down the hallway, and I don’t mind that sound at all, because I know he’s not getting laid.

Hearing sex from an adjacent room is simply part of life, but there are a few things that give me solace. While I’ve heard my neighbors having sex, I certainly never heard my parents having sex, and I especially never walked in on them having sex (although I did walk in on them getting a divorce, which is much worse). Another reprieve is knowing that there’s actually been sex in my apartment (thanks sense of humor!), and that feels good, but what feels much better is knowing my neighbors had to put up with it.

I think the core issue here is that it’s not necessarily the sound of sex that bothers me, it’s the sound of a man having sex which bothers me. Most men like the sound of a woman’s pleasure, even when it’s in Steffi Graff territory, but the grunt of a man, well, it just sounds like somebody kicked a dying emu. So I guess what I’m saying is, if you’re having sex with your lady in apartment 303, fella, please, keep it down. TC mark

image – John Tornow

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