Sex Etiquette For Roommates

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Having a roommate can be a great set-up. It cuts the cost of rent in half, plus it gives you a hangout buddy for those hungover Sundays. But, when it comes time to bring a significant other – or a fourth date – back to your shared place to get down and dirty, having a roommate can get complicated. After all, he or she does not want to hear your moans of ecstasy or the thump-thump-thump of your headboard, let alone run into your date in skivvies on the way to the bathroom.

In a cramped living situation — I’m looking at you, Manhattan — trying to get busy with someone else in the next room isn’t as easy as it may seem. And, while some roomies won’t mind popping in headphones to avoid hearing the action, others will be completely mortified at the thought. So, what are sexually active folks to do? We spoke to Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, an NYC psychiatrist specializing in sex therapy, for five tips on getting lucky without (completely) pissing off your roommate.
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You know that talk you have with your new roommate about washing the dishes, paying the bills, and purchasing new toilet paper? That’s when you can slip in a convo about sex etiquette. “As soon as you move in, or least when one of you starts a new relationship, you should be having this conversation,” says Dr. Castellanos. “Having a slightly uncomfortable pre-emptive talk will be better than having an extremely uncomfortable interaction after you’ve overheard each other or been caught in the act.”

Dr. Castellanos recommends being as direct as possible. And, if something is going on that you’re not a fan of, say so. “Say, ‘I’m not sure if you’re aware of it, but I can hear you, and I feel uncomfortable. I think we need to come up with a strategy so you can have your private time, but I don’t feel like it’s invading on my privacy either,’” Dr. Castellanos says. Be sure you’re not asking him or her to change ways without offering a compromise. Maybe you’ll stay at your partner’s place a few days a week, or wait to get busy when you know your roomie is working a night shift. Showing that you’re willing to make some changes so you both feel at ease will go a long way.
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In college, warning your roommate to stay away so you could have sex was as simple as leaving a sock on your door. But, once you graduate to the real world, roomies aren’t as understanding of being “sexiled.” Although, having the entire apartment to yourself may be an important part of satisfying sex. “If [someone] is constantly thinking, 'Can my roommate hear me? Did I just hear her?,' it can really take up space in her brain, so she doesn’t have room for erotic thoughts. She won’t be relaxed enough to get 100% aroused,” says Dr. Castellanos, who recommends asking for a few hours for a “date night” from time to time. “As long as it’s a give-and-take, where you’re both giving each other occasional space, I think it’s a very reasonable request.” However, regularly asking your roommate to find another place to sleep – or vice versa – is not OK. The whole point of sexual etiquette is to make sure you’re both as comfortable as possible — and not feeling welcome in your own home will only accomplish the opposite.
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If your roommate is at home, an apartment the size of the average walk-in closet with paper-thin walls isn’t exactly the ideal environment for letting loose in the sack. If you’re turned on by making a little (or a lot of) noise, you may have to tone it down. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done. “Not being able to vocalize during sex may be limiting your arousal,” says Dr. Castellanos. “Instead, try experimenting with breathing techniques, like breathing in and out quickly. And, some people may just need to grab a down pillow and learn to scream into it.”
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Be aware of where your bed is in relation to where your roommate may be. Do your headboards share a wall? Then it may be time to do a little sexual feng shui so you’re not literally knocking heads whenever you get a little action. “Or else every night can be like a bad experience in a hotel room, when you can hear the banging from the room next door,” Dr. Castellanos says. If completely rearranging your bedroom isn’t feasible, she recommends placing cushioning, like fabric or rubber padding, between the head of your bed and the wall.
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You may think your partner’s the hottest thing you've ever seen, but I’ll bet your roommate doesn’t want to see him or her marching around in flagrante delicto. However, asking your date to get fully clothed just to make a quick bathroom run is also a tall order. “Show a little respect to your roommate by making sure that your partner is as dressed as possible,” says Dr. Castellanos. “That may mean buying a special robe [so he or she is] not caught totally in the buff.”

Remember, sexual karma’s a bitch. If your roommate is forced to see or hear a little too much of your sex buddy, he or she has every right to make sure you’ll be forced to do the same.