Even if you don't consider yourself to be a member of the fetish community, we all have things that may turn us on more or less than the next person. Have you ever realized during an intimate session that what you were hearing was aiding in getting you there? If so, you might be into what's known as auralism—and you most definitely aren't alone.
What is auralism?
By definition, auralism means that you are aroused by sound. How this looks, though, can vary from person to person. "People that are specifically aroused by sounds are practicing mindful sensuality without even realizing it. The sounds that they find arousing are just as varied as the people themselves," Howard explains.
It's not exactly clear when the term was coined, though getting hot off of your partner's sounds of enjoyment isn't new. Notably, though, there has been increased interest around sensual audio experiences in recent years, from audio porn to ASMR. Stockwell attributes the trend to the general turn toward placing more focus on the female sexual experience and what turns women on.
"Heterosexual men are known to be very responsive to visual stimulation," Stockwell notes. "As more attention is being put on female sexuality...there has been a growing appreciation of the importance in aural stimulation in sexual arousal."
How to explore auralism:
"Most people enjoy auralism on some level, but to know if it's a real fetish for you, I suggest exploring it with intention," Howard says. "Get some good headphones and fire up the Google machine to find some aural sites that catch your attention. When you're engaging with a partner (or partners), pay attention to the sounds of your playtime and how they make you feel."
Tune into the sounds during partnered sex.
"Moans, slurps, wetness, skin-on-skin slapping," and other erotic sounds are already common during typical partnered sex, Howard notes. Some motions or positions might provide more acoustics—and maybe they're the ones you already tend to find yourself more turned on by, even if you haven't known why. Lean in and explore different options with those you engage with sexually. Let yourself focus on all of the varying sounds you and your bodies are bound to make, and notice which ones tend to make you feel even hotter.
There's no such thing as being too loud in bed: A 2019 SKYN survey found 57% of people felt more confident when their partner was making noise during sex. "Use your words and sounds to express your pleasure, and don't be afraid to make noise," Howard recommends. (Here's our guide to dirty talk for a little inspo.)
Wetter is better.
Many people love the sound that arousal naturally brings via a lubricated vagina. Pump that experience up by using lube products to make things even wetter.
Distract your other senses.
When you inhibit one of the five senses, the others tend to come to life. So if you want to play up an auditory experience, try blocking out your access to some of your other senses. Sight, in particular, tends to be very dominant during sexual experiences. "Wearing a blindfold with your partner enhances the sense of hearing and could connect you to your inner auralist," Howard suggests.
Be mindful of housemates.
Your living arrangements may not allow for you to be as loud as you want, but that doesn't mean you can't try things out! "If you have small children or roommates, using headphones or playing music can also help you explore," Howard says.
Try listening erotic audio.
"Another place to start is noticing if you respond pleasurably to certain voices," Stockwell adds. You can check out other audio apps that are not necessarily designed for sensual purposes, like Audible or Apple Podcasts, to test out different voices and types of audio.
Sounds do not have to be inherently sexual in nature. Sometimes a song or an audio recording of traffic can provide a euphoric experience—everyone is different.
ASMR, which stands for autonomous sensory meridian response, is a term describing the tingling sensation some people experience in response to certain sounds (and sights). YouTube is littered with ASMR videos featuring everything from crinkling paper to soft whispers. ASMR can be self-care for some people and a source of sexual stimulation for others, so it may be worth exploring if you're curious about auralism.
"Sometimes the sounds bring flashbacks of a previous lover or sexual encounter," Howard explains. "It's the tone, pitch, and timbre of sounds that stir the passions."
Explore in nonsexual settings.
"When we live more sensually, we experience sex through all five of the senses as well, which adds layers to the pleasure and can intensify orgasms. I suggest finding ways to engage in your everyday life in more sensual and intentional ways," Howard says.
"Pay attention to the little things like the way your clothes feel on your skin, the sounds of your breathing when doing different activities, the way your food/drink tastes, the textures and weight of food on the tongue, etc. Practicing general sensuality will open doors to connecting to auralism in ways that may not have been obvious before. For example, taking a shower in the dark, no music, no candles, just the sound of the water and your breathing is a great way to connect to your body and your senses."
Celebrate whatever feels good.
Whether it is an ASMR video of slicing fruit, the sound of waves lapping on the beach, or audio porn, if it makes you feel good, then it should be celebrated! "A key to exploring is to notice if any shame arises and learning to embrace that part of yourself," Stockwell says. "I suggest exploring in order to get to know yourself better, with as little judgment as possible."
If labeling it as an auralistic fetish doesn't feel like a fit, that's OK too. Do what feels good to you, and don't be afraid to think outside of the box!
Sometimes we do feel bound by what we have been told should be arousing, but oftentimes, what is sexy varies from person to person. So go ahead: Download that app, plug in your headphones, snag some slippery new lube—whatever sounds good to you.
Taneasha White is a Black queer writer and editor. She has a degree in English from Virginia Commonwealth University, and her work has been published at Rewire News, Next City, them, Pulp Mag, The Black Youth Project, Gay RVA, and more.
White is the founder and editor of UnSung Literary Magazine, a flash fiction and poetry publication focused on offering artistic space for marginalized voices. She is also a guest editor with Quail Bell Magazine and the co-host of Critiques for The Culture, a podcast where media is dissected through humor and a sociopolitical lens. She is a lover of words, inquisition, and community and has used her role within both literary and organizational spaces to make room for folks who are often cast aside.