Our sex is way too loud and my roommate is complaining.
by Sarah Jaffe
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Dear Miss Information,
I'm in my 20s, live in a large city, and so as you might expect I have a roommate. We weren't friends until we started living together over a year ago (introduced by mutual friends) but we get along fairly well, except for a recent problem that's come up. I've been dating my new girlfriend for a few months — she's great, and our sex is great, but a little loud. Loud enough that my roommate can hear it, and it makes him really uncomfortable. He brought it up to me a few weeks ago, and I mentioned it to my girlfriend, who laughed it off. She feels like since we're all adults and adults have sex in their homes, my roommate should just deal with it, and that she doesn't want to censor herself to please an acquaintance. This all came to a head last week, when my roommate arrived home earlier than expected and not only heard us, but caught us in the act and got an eyeful. He blew up at me a little bit the next day, and ever since he's been cold to me, and downright rude to my girlfriend when she's over — not even saying hello to her or making eye contact. What can I do to smooth this over? Help!
– (Not) Silent Alarm(ed)
Ugh, everybody in this situation is doing the wrong thing. Your roommate is being prissy, rigid, and self-righteous; your girlfriend is being unsympathetic and selfish, and you’re being passive and uncommunicative. Your roommate is right, though: it’s terrible to hear someone else’s sex through the woefully thin walls of a shared living space, particularly if that sex is especially loud, enthusiastic, and colorful. But dealing with this is just as much a rite of passage into young urban adulthood as being confronted with the disposal of the dead, trapped, long-hunted mouse whose demise you’ve been dreaming of for weeks as you swore upon finding holes in your cereal boxes and tiny turds along your counter. It’s not ideal, but it’s reality.
And your girlfriend is right, too: sex happens, and one of the nice things about it is not having to think about anything at all other than what you’re feeling and doing right at that moment, and worrying about making too much noise takes you out of the wonderful, wonderful moment. But roommates are just as much a fact of life, and keeping the peace in your apartment is key to making sure the everyday moments where you’re nowhere near climaxing are kept pleasant as well. Since you’re the liaison between your roommate and your girlfriend, this peacekeeping falls to you. I’m not sure why when your girlfriend refused to discuss the possibility of keeping it down that you didn’t just say, “Yeah, well, we’re making Jeremy uncomfortable and he knows where I keep all my valuables.”
Presumably, you could also have suggested you spend more nights at her place, where perhaps the roommates are more accommodating of conjugal cacophony. And if they’re not, or if they’re assholes (or her parents or something), then you have all the more argument for trying to maintain – or now, get back into – your roommate’s good graces.
Cohabitation is all about compromise, man. Similarly, speaking to girlfriend and roommate alike to ensure that your amorous rendezvous are planned for when your roommate’s out or vice versa could have saved all three of you a headache (and in your roommate’s case, a desire to bleach his eyeballs). One would think that given his request not to hear you getting it on, he’d be only too happy to give you a heads-up about any nights he’d be out late, out of town, et cetera, and to make his presence known when he is home so you don’t accidentally assume you have more privacy than you do. Going forward, these are good conversations to have.
As to how to smooth this over and pave the way for better practices for all? Well, if you haven’t apologized to your roommate yet, get on it. Take him out for a beer and make nice. Tell him you’re sorry to have put him out in his home by putting out in yours, and that you’re committed to figuring out a reasonable plan of action to prevent this kind of awkwardness for all of you, but that he can’t keep treating your girlfriend like the Whore of Babylon. If he can’t suck it up and drive on, he may be projecting some fun sexual dysfunction of his own in your direction. Fun!
Maybe you and your girlfriend can bring him home some kind of thoughtful treat (a slice of your town’s most perfect cheesecake? A bottle of his favorite whiskey?) and make a concerted effort to be warm and normal toward him. You catch more flies with honey, and all that. You’ll also need to have another chat with your girlfriend – I worry that her blasé attitude might belie a general inconsiderateness, but hopefully once she realizes that the two of you have created strain in your living situation, she’ll be more apt to compromise. (There’s also the chance she’s got an exhibitionist streak, in which case y’all should talk that out.)
If you find yourself agreeing with one side more than the other here, stand up for yourself. Regardless, everyone here has to find a way to get over themselves, and your job is to find a polite way to get them to realize that. Here’s hoping you’ve got decent social skills, buddy.
Image via Ana C.