Excerpted from "Sex in the Romance: A Review of Romantic Encounters of the Close Kind".

(copyright John L. Ferri 1994, jlferri@epix.net)


During arousal and subsequent sexual intercourse, there are physiological changes in both the male and the female. Breathing, heart rate, and blood pressure are the systems most commonly measured, although there are certainly other indicators. Of all the changes that occur during sex, the breathing rate is the most obvious.

During arousal, it increases from a resting rate to 35-40 breaths per minute. During orgasm, it may increase to over 50 breaths per minute then gradually return to normal. Breathing may also be irregular, shallow, or unsteady and may be accompanied by panting, moaning and sighing of varying intensities.

The affected breathing is evident to a casual observer and would not require instruments other than an ear to detect. Similar changes occur in heart rate and blood pressure, but would remain undetected because they occur silently.

Of all the physiological systems that are affected by sexual intercourse, breathing is the only one that can be voluntarily controlled. The average person has no control over the involuntary systems such as heart rate, blood pressure, erection status, lubrication, or miscellaneous swellings. However, these occur quietly so that controlling them becomes unnecessary. Changes in breathing beg for attention but can, with concentration, be controlled.

This is wonderful news for couples who have sex in locations that tend to lack privacy -- like airplanes, subways, the office at work, or even at home if your bedroom is next to your mother-in-law's. It requires practice to be effective at quiet sex and a tape recorder to monitor progress. The next time you have sex, record it. If, from the tape, you can tell that it is a recording of someone having sex, you need more practice.

The bad news is that, because of the inherent motions of sex, the low-level seismic activity is almost impossible to conceal. Even the sturdiest beds, chairs, tables, and desks tend to squeak, creak, and groan under the punishing thrashing and pounding of sex (if performed correctly). Even in a completely soundless situation, low frequency vibrations and undulations are transmitted over short distances through walls, floors, and other seemingly rigid structures. These movements are easily detected, and require only a perceptive observer.

You may be in a situation where you are both so incredibly aroused that sex is inevitable. My first recommendation would be to wait for a more private location, such as a motel room. However, when sex is involved, urgency usually overrules many of the normal considerations. So from the above discussion, I will present a few guidelines to minimize detection.

  • 1. Control your breathing. This also includes moaning, sighing, and screaming. If the moment is extremely passionate, it may require you to bury your face in a pillow or shoulder or anything available. You also may have to stuff something suitable in your mouth, or your partner's.
  • 2. Control your movements. This depends on the situation and location. It may require little restraint, or it may require control that is difficult to maintain. And it requires control from both participants.
  • Depending on the situation, you may have to use various degrees of restraint. However, if you eliminate the heavy breathing, the panting, the groaning, the thrusting, and the screaming, you may as well take a nap. Some things are just not worth doing unless they're done right.

    The romance authors liked some form of "gasping" 26% of the time that breathing was referenced. Next came "panting" at 9% and "sucking" at 8%.

    Additional breathing descriptions are:

    • Agonized gasps
    • air was forced from her lungs
    • breath rush in and out
    • breathing hurt her lungs
    • breathless urgent gasps
    • caught in her throat
    • choppy
    • deeply
    • deep, shuddering
    • desperate rhythm
    • emerging in gasps
    • fast and hard
    • forced the breath from her lungs
    • fought for more oxygen
    • gasping
    • gasping at his touch
    • grew short
    • halted
    • hard
    • harsh and uneven
    • harsh rush of his breath
    • he fought for his breath
    • heavily
    • heaving like a bellows
    • hissed
    • hot and moist
    • in fits and starts
    • in little gasps
    • irregular
    • labored
    • more rapidly
    • panting
    • pulled in a lungful of air
    • punctuated gasps
    • quick and shallow
    • quickening
    • ragged
    • ragged gasps
    • ragged sigh
    • rapid
    • shallow
    • shallow and fast
    • shallow pants
    • shivering inhale
    • short little spurts
    • short, harsh gasps
    • short, heated breaths
    • short, sharp gasps
    • shuddering in breaths of gasping completion
    • sucked air through her teeth
    • sucked in a quick breath
    • sucked in a sharp breath,
    • sucked in a startled breath
    • sucking in lungfuls of air as spasms of delight rocketed through her
    • sucking in panting breath
    • unsteady
    • warm and erratic
    • whispering shallowly from her lungs.
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