The Overthinker’s Guide To Hearing Your Roommate Having Sex

Welcome to The Overthinker’s Guide — a weekly column that aims to advise overthinkers on the difficult situations that seem to characterize the lives of those who too often succumb to analysis paralysis. This week, I’ll cover the difficulties of overhearing your roommate having sex, which can be especially problematic if you’re already feeling #foreveralone.

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

  1. Earplugs
  2. Headphones
  3. Leave the apartment
  4. Fetal position
  5. Dissociating yourself from your body
  6. Screaming “I can hear you in there!” TC mark
image – Shutterstock


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  • aas

    And when it happens IN THE SAME ROOM AS YOU it’s this kind of trauma times a thousand. It’s the kind of thing that made me leave the apartment and cry down the block for about an hour, and feel a weird mixture of angry and creeped out and violated.

    • Amphx

      Angry, creeped out, and violated are the PERFECT words to describe that situation, it happened to me once freshman year of college. I’m the furthest thing from prude, but I don’t think I could ever be okay with that, especially since I woke up to it, and therefore had no warning. Simply awful.

      • Aas

        Thank you! I am by no means prude and I felt so uncomfortable about it. It’s an intimate moment between two people that I did NOT want to experience in the same room while trying to sleep. I feel you girl.

  • Erin B. (@darkheadlights)

    I wish I had had the guts to yell I CAN HEAR YOU IN THERE!!! when I was living with my last roommates. She probably would have kept going, though…

  • yeah...okay

    its like you forgot to write the last 2/3rds of the article but otherwise i liked it

  • Jessica

    Oh God, my last roommate’s boyfriend was a nightmare. It got to the point where I’d sleep with my iPod every time he walked in the door. She once called me out for not being nice to him because I just couldn’t look at him without hearing his awful sex noises. I couldn’t move out of that place fast enough.

  • Novia Olam

    I’d definitely go straight for number 6. Although they may just shout back that they don’t care so maybe number 1 is best.
    Also, isn’t sex more of an exchange than one taking and the other giving?

  • Reader

    Now try* having the roommate be your recent ex-lover. …that was an unpleasant morning.


  • donelder

    I don’t see what the big deal is. Furthermore, I find “sex is someone surrendering to someone who’s taking” to be a disappointingly antiquated perspective.

    • H

      I’m glad I’m not the only one who found that little paragraph a bit weird and alarming.

  • Guest

    This happened both ways to me and my last roommate. Hurray for lofts that have rooms without doors/kind of doors with huge gaps at the top! It was terribly uncomfortable for both of us…

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  • Yo

    the best way to tune put sex noises coming from the other room is to make some of your own. if u have a partner, u either wont notice or wont care. if u are by yourself just make noises anyway, i’ll be weird enough to get them to tone it down or shut the fuck up altogether.

    learned from experience.


    “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.”

    the rest of the article was great, but that bothered me. sex is someone surrendering to a person who’s taking? it’s not normal or conventional? it’s tragic and depressing? it’s the twenty-first century!

    • larooolie

      ..I guess its true if you think that in most cases one person is usually more eager to do it than the other or that usual one person is more active and the other more passive, so it would seem that one person is taking and the other giving.

      • Sasha

        Sounds like you’ve not been having great sex :(

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