I live in a community house with 5 people, and as you can well imagine, this doesn’t leave much room for privacy. Going to the bathroom is usually a private affair. But the old walls leak audio evidence about who drank too much, who ate too much Indian food, and who plays guitar while they shit. It’s also public knowledge who is sleeping with whom, and often times roommates can hear how well it’s going.
Any bedroom laughing or crying can be heard by anyone in the kitchen, dining room, or living room. But crying and laughing and peeing are part of the everyday spectrum of human life and people are pretty much okay with getting found out. So you had diarrhea, so what? And usually the appropriate laughing or storytelling or sympathy ensues.
But it is always different when sex is involved. One night my roommate forgot his key and was locked out in the middle of the night. So he walks over to my bedroom window, knocks, and then looks in. And what he finds is me and my girlfriend having sex. So naturally he looks away, texts me to let him in (–which he should have done in the first place!).
But then he proceeds to tell the story to the whole house the next morning and I walk into a kitchen full of laughter and pointing. I was shocked and embarrassed. Not because I was having some premarital sex, I really love my girlfriend and feel no shame about having sex with her, but when someone sees me I feel small and vulnerable. Like a secret is out there that shouldn’t be. My roommates definitely love me and make fun of me only with the best of intentions, the story has since become mythologized and retold hundreds of times.
Overhearing people having tender or wild animal sex has forced me to see sex as a great part of life. People make funny sounds and movements and facial expressions when they are doin’ it. And that’s okay, that’s how it’s supposed to be. Maybe we can learn to accept a moan or a bed creak the way we hear a funny laugh or a snort when someone is crying. It’s part of being alive.
Not that it’s always easy to admit that we have bodies that aren’t as well trained as we’d like them to be. My roommates hear my intestinal problems, smell my bad gas, and watch food fly out of my mouth when I laugh. So why can’t they overhear me having sex sometimes too.