I live in an apartment with two guys. I share one wall with one of them, and another wall with the other. I have heard sex exactly one time, at around three in the morning — a sort of frantic, animal panting sound that quickly turned into rapid-fire cries of pleasure. The whole thing lasted no more than 10 seconds; I guess she was climaxing. It had woken me up, and as I lay there afterward I felt troubled. Don’t feel so weird, it’s just sex, I thought. Are you so vanilla that you can’t hear two people fucking?
One time when I lived in Seattle I woke up in the middle of the night and couldn’t get back to sleep. I usually worked at our “dinner table,” a small thing of polished oak situated next to a large window that overlooked an apartment building across the street, and because I couldn’t sleep that night, that’s where I sat. Our place was on the fifth floor so I could see into four stories of apartments in the adjacent building. Sometimes we would notice people walking around in each of their apartments; it was always of mild interest, to watch what people with their social convention program inactivated, not filtering their appearance through their perspective of how others would perceive them. Scratching themselves, jumping, stretching, sitting in funny positions.
As it happens, on this particular night, as I was looking at our view of the city beyond the building, something in one of the apartments caught my eye. A large man was exercising on the floor of the living room. I squinted for a few seconds. I noticed there was something underneath him, and he quickly moved to the end of the… thing. He’s face-fucking her, I thought. And then I felt strange.
Inner monologue of a person hearing their roommate having sex
“What… what is that? I was dreaming about… what was I dreaming about? Is that…? Are they having sex. Hold on a second. [Pause for 20 seconds.] They’re having sex. Fuck. [Pause for indeterminate amount of time.] Oh god, I can hear slapping sounds. Jesus, she’s loud. Don’t they know I’m in here? Okay, the sound’s dying down. Please let them be finished. I’m just going put this pillow over my head and even if they’re not done I won’t be able to hear them and I’ll totally get back to sleep. This is a totally viable sleep position. Head sandwiched between pillow, forearms applying pressure to where your ears are. Great job, genius. You’ll totally get to sleep like this. [Pause for indeterminate amount of time.] Are they still having sex? I can’t tell. Is that noise coming from outside? Well, now I feel like now I’m actually trying to hear if they’re having sex despite the fact that I desperately want it to end. I’ll just take the pillow off for a second to see if they’re still doing it. Jesus, they are, it’s faster… How long can they do this for? How long can this guy go? Should I make sounds in here to let them know I’m awake? They don’t care. They’re having sex. Time for the earplugs.
Theoretically I don’t have a problem with seeing other people have sex. I watch porn… it doesn’t bother me. I probably have an average amount of shame concerning sexual behavior. But having it happen in your physical proximity can be troubling. Why? Why is that? Sex is someone surrendering to a person who’s taking, something that is not society, not convention, not safe, not normal, not sanctioned… it somehow feels tragic and depressing. Anyways.
Six tips for mitigating the difficulties of hearing your roommate having sex
- Leave the apartment
- Fetal position
- Dissociating yourself from your body
- Screaming “I can hear you in there!”