How To Make Sure Your Tiny Apartment Doesn't Ruin Your Sex Life

Photographed by Natalia Mantini.
New York City is notorious for having tiny apartments that end up feeling even smaller through creative faux-construction. One bedroom apartments become two bedroom apartments, two bedrooms become three, and on and on. That's how I ended up sleeping in what's essentially the living room of the one bedroom apartment I share with my best friend.
When we first moved in, it felt like I'd be perpetually single, so it made perfect sense to just stick my bed in our extra living room space. A flimsy room divider seemed like enough to section off the room and make the space feel like mine. But, when I started to have regular sex, the downfalls of that decision hit me. I had no door, no walls, and by extension, no privacy. Luckily, I'm #blessed with a roommate who sleeps like the dead, so most of the time it's easy to wait until she's zonked out to have sex.
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It also helps that she's my best friend and we have no qualms talking about our sex lives. I can ask (and have asked) her to not be home at certain times, and she can call (and has called) me out when my sex noises are a little too loud. It's important for roommates to acknowledge each others sex lives, even if they're not the best of friends, says Kate Stewart, a counselor and dating coach in Seattle. "We all know people are having sex. Now is not the time to be shy," she says. "Put it out on the table."
Still, having that conversation can be awkward if you're not as candid as my roommate and me. So, we talked with Stewart and sex therapist Vanessa Marin for tips to help you and your roommate(s) navigate paper thin walls and squeaky bed frames while keeping your sex lives intact. Read on for their advice.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Make a schedule.

The safest way to have sex in your tiny apartment is to do it when your roommate isn't home, so Stewart suggests going over your schedules to figure out when you'll have the place to yourself. "If one roommate is a bartender and works nights, then those are the nights that the other roommate can have 'romantic company,'" she says.

You can also add in the schedules of your respective partners when you have this talk, Marin says. If one or all of you have steady partners, it might make sense to have a set night when you'll stay at their place to give your roommate time alone in your apartment, or vice versa.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Consider setting ground rules.

Think about your relationship with your roommate. Are you close enough that you'd be comfortable sitting down over a beer and setting ground rules for your in-apartment sex adventures? Then do it. Make a schedule for who can have the apartment on what nights, create a heads-up system to let each other know when you're bringing someone home, talk about whether or not it's cool to have loud sex, if it's okay to steal condoms or dental dams from their room, and anything else you think needs going over.

If you're living with a rando from Craigslist, however, it's best to wait to have these kinds of conversations until you absolutely have to, Marin says. "You never know, they might not end up having sex too often, or they might always go to their partner’s house," she says. There's no need to have those awkward conversations until they're necessary.

It's also a good idea to set ground rules for how often your partner or your roommate's partner can be at the apartment, Marin says. "Respect that you’re living your own lives, but also have shared space," she says. "Some people don’t care at all if your partner is over every night, but I’ve talked to people who were very protective of their space." It's better to ask your roommate how often they're okay with your partner being at the apartment before it becomes a problem.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Don't be shy about asking for privacy.

Talking about sex can be weird. Explicitly letting your roommate know that you plan to be having sex between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. Friday night can be even weirder. But, sometimes asking your roommate to be out of the house is the only way to make sure you have the private time to have sex. So, there's nothing rude about asking for privacy, Stewart says.

"The key here is to ask respectfully, not in a demanding way, and also to recognize what is a reasonable frequency to ask for," she says. Don't expect your roomie to leave for a few hours every night, but requesting some time once a week isn't unreasonable. "If you give them enough warning, your roommate can plan to do their errands or grocery shopping that night," Stewart says. She recommends making set nights that each of you get to have some privacy.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Decide on a code word.

If talking explicitly about your sex life feels too weird, Stewart says it can help to come up with a code word or phrase to let your roommate know when you'll be having company. "Just say 'Jane is coming over, and we'll be slow dancing (or eating ice cream or knitting or whatever your word is) later,'" she says. It might feel silly, but it can really help cut down the awkwardness.
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illustrated by Tristan Offit.
Be courteous.

This feels like a no-brainer, but it can be easy to forget your manners in the middle of great sex. So, when you are having sex while your roommate is home (hey, it's bound to happen), remember that you're not alone. "You might be doing something in your bedroom, but you don’t have the privacy you’d have if you lived on your own," Marin says. So try your best to dial back the volume on your sex noises. If you know you have a squeaky bed frame, put a little WD-40 on it and if you absolutely can't make yourself quieter, put on some music or a white noise machine to drown out the sound.

If your roommate has sex too loudly or does something else you're uncomfortable with, you'll have to be respectful in that situation, too. "Be direct. Don't let discomfort or resentment fester," Stewart says. Confront your roommate, but do it kindly. It's doubtful that they were having loud sex just to make you uncomfortable. So, gently ask them to be a little quieter next time.
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