I can hear my neighbors having sex several times a week. Sometimes it even wakes me up at night. Is the universe against me?
The universe may or may not be against you, but that has nothing to do with your neighbors having loud sex. In fact, it's very common for the residents of apartment buildings to overhear the mid-coital confessions of couples on the other side of the wall. A few years ago, the real estate site BrickUnderground surveyed 400 New Yorkers about this very matter. Here's some fun with numbers on their findings: 68 percent heard their neighbors go at it on occasion; about 60 percent could hear "thumping," 56 percent heard simple moaning, and 28 percent heard screams of passion; another 23 percent heard an "other" sound, which I can only guess means a squeaky bed or a horrified house pet scurrying for cover.
Only 12 percent ever complained to the neighbors or the building.
It just so happens I'm a complainer. What can I do about it?
Glamour and other lifestyle mags offer similar tips for dealing with the loud sex neighbor next door: earplugs or noise machines, generally stomping and making noise yourself, having retaliatory loud sex ala Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and blasting offensive music to drown them out. The most popular suggestion is leaving a (not-terribly-safe-for-work) note under their door. The note may or may not enclose a CD you've burned of their sex noises — your choice.
Can I leave my phone number on the note in case they break up?
Yes. Actually that's a pretty good idea. I'm writing that one down.
What if the note isn't enough to make them stop?
A complainer and a worrier in one — big shock that you're hearing sex instead of having it.
Some people make that bold leap and knock on their neighbor's door. If you're a particularly smooth talker, or one of those people whose neck is so thick it doesn't look like a neck, that might be the way to go. Over at Slate, Dear Prudence recently suggested this step as a last-ditch attempt you can take to mute the feisty guy upstairs before your mother comes into town for the night.
Generally speaking, however, this course of action is not recommended for the following reasons. One, it could result in legal action against me after you're beaten to a pulp. Two, it could conceivably antagonize the couple into being louder. And three, even in the best-case scenario, it will make the next few dozen elevator rides extremely awkward.
I have a thing about confrontation and hate the stairs. Do you have any other options that are, say, a little more passive aggressive?
Well, you can always call the police. Sometimes justice prevails and the neighbor will end up in court. That happened a few years ago with a woman in England who had sex so loudly that her neighbors couldn't hear their own TVs. (When asked what the sex sounded like, they described it as "murder.") Other times your police call will simply end up on some Internet list of stupid police calls and you'll suffer more embarrassment than if you'd just let the loud sex run its course.
One more option, of course, is to move somewhere far away. May we suggest St. Petersburg, which recently considered outlawing noisy copulation.
I don't like the cold.
Oh, St. Petersburg isn't cold. You're thinking of St. Thomas. Seriously, you should go to St. Petersburg. Like now.
I'd still prefer not. In fact, full disclosure, sometimes I catch myself enjoying my neighbor's noisy sex. Am I going to hell?
You have a lot of existential issues to work out. But once again, you aren't alone in having a little ear-gasm when you hear the neighbors in bed. The normal brain has a mirror system that internalizes the actions and emotions of people around us. Sex therapist Dagmar O'Connor once told GQ that typical responses to hearing others have intercourse can range from "anger to arousal" — depending, in part, on what your neighbors look like.
My neighbor looks like Muammar Gaddafi.
Correction: the universe is definitely against you.