How to keep the peace with sex-fiends?
March 12, 2006 2:07 PM   Subscribe

Responding effectively to neighbors' loud sex lives...

My boyfriend has been living since November on the second floor of a three-storey converted townhouse, with one apartment above and another below his own. Since the new down-stairs neighbors moved in last month, he's been subjected to several VERY loud, VERY obnoxious episodes of love-making during times of day people are very likely to be home, including supper time. He describes the female aspect as "porn-star-like" and has even been woken up by the noise. He hasn't yet met these neighbors (landlord said it's a couple in their early 30s), and would much rather do so under circumstances other than banging on their door. The best solution he's found, but has yet to attempt, is to clap and cheer after they've finished. Although if they're auditory exhibitionists this might not be the most effective deterrent.

So, he's asked me to post asking for real, practical solutions to addressing this himself with some amount of decorum and maybe humor, leaving a formal complaint as the last option. It would be great to hear from those who have survived raunchy neighbors themselves!
posted by nelleish to Human Relations (46 answers total)
anonymous letter
posted by |n$eCur3 at 2:11 PM on March 12, 2006

Carrier pigeon? Small elves with frankincense and myrrh? Navajo code talkers using intradental implants Real Genius style?

What's wrong with knocking on their door at another time to let them know they're loud? Then you can send a formal complaint if it continues.
posted by kcm at 2:20 PM on March 12, 2006

True story.

A friend of mine found herself in exactly the situation, except that we knew the noisy couple quite well.

She and I and some other friends got together one night and composed fake letters from *all* the neighbours, then signed them and after one very noisy sex session, posted them through their door.

The next day we met up with the noisy couple, who were very subdued. We asked them why (knowing full well) and they told us the story of the letters. Doing our best to keep straight faces we asked what they did about the letters.

They told us they had replied to them all and apologised to everyone, and posted the letters through the neighbours letterboxes.

It took them quite a long time to see the funny side.

Us, not so long.
posted by unSane at 2:26 PM on March 12, 2006 [2 favorites]

Offer them a percentage of your profits from selling the audio tapes on the internets.
posted by grouse at 3:11 PM on March 12, 2006

1. Record it.

2. ???

3. Profit.

Seriously - anonymous and easy-going note is the best approach, I would think.
posted by fire&wings at 3:13 PM on March 12, 2006

I'd try the direct route and talk to them about it first. If that doesn't work, I'd crank up the stereo and play a song on repeat that would make it impossible to keep an erection: the theme song to Sesame Street
posted by freshgroundpepper at 3:20 PM on March 12, 2006

If they are exhibitionists, it will only get worse with confirmation that people are listening. Try this: "I hate to intrude, but I work in a veterinarian's office and it sounds like your cat may have a urinary tract blockage. You should really get that checked out."
posted by Saucy Intruder at 3:50 PM on March 12, 2006

Get some large speakers, lay them on the floor, and the next time this happens, blast some 'bow chicka bow bow' porn music down at them. Hopefully they'll get the hint.

If not, anonymous letter is probably the way to go.
posted by Meredith at 4:14 PM on March 12, 2006

Well, what I'd do is make some loud sex noises of my own... One year in college, the girl in the room above me would always bounce her lacrosse ball on the floor. When I started whamming my chair loudly on my ceiling, she got the message.
posted by fvox13 at 4:21 PM on March 12, 2006

Maybe your boyfriend could mention to his new neighbors that the building does not have very good sound insulation - without mentioning the sex noise. If that doesn't help, try this cd:

"Neighbours driving you nuts?

Do the girls next door play their music too loud, does the guy upstairs have noisy floorboards, or has the new family in the street lowered the tone of your neighbourhood by installing horrendous cladding?

Give them a taste of their own medicine with any one of these 20 ear-splitting sound effect tracks:

1) Drill
2) Party (At Least 200 People)
3) Orgasm (Outstanding)
4) Train
5) Drum (Played by a Child)
6) Inhuman Screams
7) Walking (High Heels)
8) Domestic Squabble
9) Doors Banging
10) Bowling
11) Unhappy Dog
12) Practicing Scales (Violin)
13) Traffic Jam
14) Garbage Truck
15) Newborn
16) Phone Ringing
17) Ball Game
18) Pigeons
19) Spring Cleaning
20) Cock-a-Doodle-Do!

Choose your favourite track from this hilarious CD, turn up the volume, and sit back (or go out for half an hour) and reap sweet revenge.

Earplugs supplied for your sanity and protection."
posted by iviken at 4:22 PM on March 12, 2006

posted by sohcahtoa at 4:29 PM on March 12, 2006

I don't think my answer meets your "decorum" criteria, but might work for the "humor" aspect:

1. If it is at night time, run down to their door in your bedclothes, pound on the door, really loud, until they respond. When they do, act really distressed / concerned - "Are you OK? Wow, it sounds like someone is getting beat up, are you sure? Should I call the police?"

2. Similar, but knock and ask if you can come in. Have a tube of lube and sex toys with you.

3. New York style - just pound on the floor yelling "Shut the FUCK up!" (This is likely how I'd deal with it.)

4. Have you got kids? Send one of them down to ask "Have you got a kitty cat? I think he is hungry." or "What are all those noises? What's going on?"

5. Wait until about 45 minutes after the noise dies down, and you are certain they're asleep. Then treat them to extremely loud noise via speakers on the floor - either porno, or maybe Anne Murray or something similarly annoying...
posted by Meatbomb at 4:30 PM on March 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

Please just go ask them nicely. Escalating the noise by making your own may make it better, but it could also piss them off, making life even worse. They may not realize how loud they are. If they do, and don't seem to care, then you can start formally complaining. (Or just get their phone number, and call in the middle)
posted by defcom1 at 4:38 PM on March 12, 2006

Definately anonymous note. If you want to make it more anonymous, take pains to make it seem as if the letter came from "across the way" or down the block.
posted by Joey Michaels at 4:49 PM on March 12, 2006

Personal experience:

My upstairs neighbor initiated a new relationship that went EXTREMELY well. My wife and I tried to respect this and figured the noise would ease off after six weeks or so. It did not. We grew more and more irritated, and were awakened several times late at night by the amorous cries from directly above our heads.

Finally, one night we were in an argument when the "ah - ah - ah" started up. I snapped; against the backdrop of our transient marital strain the sounds were like a sharp stick in the eye. I grabbed something and pounded the ceiling ferociously, shouting "SHUT! THE! FUCK! UP!"

They immediately quieted down. I immediately felt deep shame. Then my wife and I started giggling uncontrollably. I certainly hope they did too. We were much less bothered by the noise after that - they shifted to early afternoon loud activities moreso.

When I finally did encounter them face to face, a few months later, everything was fine, and we greeted one another with no hangover from our bit of urban friction.

I'd endorse the New York Method.
posted by mwhybark at 4:55 PM on March 12, 2006

My boyfriend and I once lived next door to a very nice single gay man, who we both really liked, who happened to get a LOT of action. What was most unfortunate was that our apartments were mirror images of eachother, so our bedrooms were up against one another. Because of the circumstances, we'd often let loud noises go, but every once in a while, if it was extremely late and would wake us up, or was just outrageously, over-the-top-loud, I would simply bang on the wall. It would usually quiet down for a while if I did that, and whenever we'd see him, it would always be friendly, no hard feelings.
posted by pazazygeek at 5:21 PM on March 12, 2006

Blasting a soundtrack of an infant crying would be particularly fitting, and perhaps more effective because of its content, not just the "taste of your own medecin" factor. Assuming they don't have kids already. :)

I'll admit...I'm guilty of the same offense as Nelleish's neighbors. No one has said a word to me, but once I realized how easily sound travels in my building I quickly decided to carry out some considerate home improvements. I bought thick, shaggy rugs for all the rooms and got heavy drapes to muffle sound. Obviously I've learned to tone things down as well ;)

But if my preventative measures haven't been effective, I would only pray that one who decides to take action would send an anonymous note. If I knew who I'd disturbed, I think I'd rather move than run into them in the elevator.

I'm hoping that my neighbors are the type to agree with Semmi's thinking, and that's why it hasn't been brought up all these years...
posted by saffron at 5:24 PM on March 12, 2006

Bang on the floor. It's the international signal for STFU so there will be no misunderstanding what you're trying to say and it's less likely to cause intra-building war than the more creative methods.
posted by fshgrl at 5:34 PM on March 12, 2006

1. If it is at night time, run down to their door in your bedclothes, pound on the door, really loud, until they respond. When they do, act really distressed / concerned - "Are you OK? Wow, it sounds like someone is getting beat up, are you sure? Should I call the police?"

Ding! Winner!
posted by frogan at 5:49 PM on March 12, 2006

Does he rent? Tell the landlord and let him figure out a way to tell them to be more respectful to their neighbors. Noise is noise, whether it's a loud stereo, practicing an instrument, having a party, etc.
posted by desuetude at 5:50 PM on March 12, 2006

I had some upstairs neighbors like this for a brief while, but they moved out after a few weeks. It didn't bother me overmuch, but had it continued on interminably I might have been irked.

Not long ago I had a girlfriend who was extremely loud. While it was rather exciting for me, I often worried that her screaming would incite someone into calling the cops. Thankfully, that never happened and I don't think we bothered any of the neighbors. I like to think it was good karma for putting up with the people who used to live upstairs.

Anyway, if it's really bothersome, he should just knock on their door sometime and politely explain that the walls and ceilings are far from soundproof. Then, to avoid any potential embarrassment, he might give them his phone number and suggest that they give him a ring if his music, etc. should ever bother them.

They'll get the hint.
posted by aladfar at 5:52 PM on March 12, 2006

I used to live above a very nice guy who used to scream at the TV while watching televised sports. The noise he made was terrible. I would take a baseball bat and pound it into the floor a few times (holding it perpendicular to the floor). He'd quiet down. We would be cordial as always whenever we saw each other, never mentioning the noise incidents.
posted by jayder at 6:13 PM on March 12, 2006

I had a downstairs neighbor complain to me when I had a particularly enthusiastic girlfriend. It never occurred to me they could hear us. I would bet your neighbor doesn't know either. Just ask them to keep it down.

Incidentally, the complaint was particularly enjoyable because my neighbor didn't speak English too well and sounded kind of like Ren of Ren and Stimpy. "You are having the sexing too loud!" he cried.
posted by Kafkaesque at 6:30 PM on March 12, 2006 [3 favorites]

A male friend of mine found out that he & his girlfriend made too much noise when he bumped into a female neighbor who said something along the lines of "Well done! Any man who can make a woman make that kind of noise deserves a pat on the back."
posted by ambrosia at 7:05 PM on March 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

I used to live downstairs from a couple who were also very loud. The worst part, though, was that their headboard was right up against the wall, so in addition to the moaning and screaming, the headboard was always banging against the wall, which was extremely annoying. Talking to the couple didn't work, so I talked to the landlord about it, and the bed got moved away from the wall. The moaning did not stop, however.
posted by smich at 7:28 PM on March 12, 2006

It's not happened to me, but I'd tend to record a session, then go to their door, knock politely, then when they answered, I'd play it back to them. Not loudly, but perhaps with a running commentary and a score at the end.
posted by krisjohn at 7:39 PM on March 12, 2006

In a relatively new apartment once, after a rather athletic evening with a somewhat operatic lass, I got an anonymous note under my door that said simply, "Your TV is too loud, could you try to keep it turned down?"

This isn't bragging, exactly, but no way did they think that was a TV. ;-)
posted by dhartung at 8:03 PM on March 12, 2006

This brings back memories of being in a hotel room with my parents and son whilst an amorous couple in the next room sounded as if they were making a porn film, complete with headboard banging the walls.

Most. Embarrasing. Moment. Ever.

None of us wanted to even acknowledge what we were hearing. If I had it to do over again I think I'd have called the front desk and let THEM handle it.
posted by konolia at 8:55 PM on March 12, 2006

Re: freshgroundpepper's scheme to "soften" their mood, why not blast 'em with the auditory equivalent of a cold shower? (Link is SFW, but legal grounds for manslaughter in numerous jurisdictions)
posted by rob511 at 9:02 PM on March 12, 2006 [1 favorite]

The best course is either a politely vague, anonymous note, or simply assurring them face-to-face that their apartment is not soundproof.

On the other hand, competing noises -- of your choosing -- can make the point too. Loud blaring music, sound effects, and um, whatever.

Can you ring their doorbell right in the middle of the noises, then quickly disappear upstairs? Childish, but as long as you're up, have some fun.

Wait till they get revved up then phone them and hang up. (Of course you might want to block caller-id or use a calling card.) Or, if you're feeling sporting, don't hang up. Endless potential there.

Call the cops. Call the landlord. Call the ASPCA and tell them cats are being skinned.

Can you record them, as others have suggested, then immediately play it back through loudspeakers into their ceiling? What'd be cool is if you could rig it so they get an amplified echo going.

Eh, just knock the next day and tell them their apt isn't soundproof. Yawn a lot.
posted by mumeishi at 9:45 PM on March 12, 2006

I'm sad to read all of the ridiculous responses in this thread. The passive aggressive anonymous notes, etc etc...

A few key things:

1) Apartment living entails dealing with noise from other apartments, PERIOD.

2) Poster said it's at times when people are likely to be home and awake. This implies that it's daytime, afternoon, early evening - they're not being woken up is the picture I get here.

3) How long can these sex sessions really last? What? 15-30 minutes?

Bottom line: your neighbors have a good and healthy sex life, and while it bugs you, it can't really be for so long it's unbearable. Turn up your TV or music for the whopping 15-30 minutes of it and deal. Why ruin their good sex life by embarassing them?

DO NOT do any of the passive aggressive bullshit people are suggesting here. If you're that bothered that you must let them know about it - don't be a complete cowardly prick and leave a note - that's just a bullshit immature way of dealing with things.
posted by twiggy at 10:08 PM on March 12, 2006

Just thought I'd repost what twiggy wrote for effect. I've a similar neighbor with an extremely good sex life. We should all be so lucky. Now, my other neighbor with terrible taste in music, very loud speakers, and a propensity to "harmonize," HE's heard from me on numerous occasions.

Bottom line: your neighbors have a good and healthy sex life, and while it bugs you, it can't really be for so long it's unbearable. Turn up your TV or music for the whopping 15-30 minutes of it and deal. Why ruin their good sex life by embarrassing them?

DO NOT do any of the passive aggressive bullshit people are suggesting here. If you're that bothered that you must let them know about it - don't be a complete cowardly prick and leave a note - that's just a bullshit immature way of dealing with things.

posted by The White Hat at 10:38 PM on March 12, 2006

I agree with Twiggy. If this isn't happening when you're trying to get some shut-eye, they're doing no wrong. Go for a walk, it'll be healthier.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:10 PM on March 12, 2006

So that's where my downstairs neighbors went when they moved out! I agree about the passive aggressive stuff; anonymous notes are bullshit. I simply would go down, knock on their door until they answered, and remind them that it was 3 am. Did that once, then got the manager involved as well when it happened again. They moved in about a month.
posted by bloggerwench at 11:35 PM on March 12, 2006

Anonymous notes are not bullshit. They are a way to avoid more embarrassment than required. Not everything that looks passive aggressive is passive aggressive.

Of course, this is an issue of perception.
posted by Goofyy at 3:27 AM on March 13, 2006

I fourth (or whatever) the leave-them-alone , no-passive-agressivity comment from twiggy.

How about getting some earplugs? When a screaming baby was living in the bedroom next to mine, I ordered the Hearos mentioned in this slate article, and they absolutely saved my sanity. They work very well and are comfortable, too.
posted by hazyjane at 3:42 AM on March 13, 2006

posted by enrevanche at 3:51 AM on March 13, 2006

When a screaming baby was living in the bedroom next to mine...

That's different. You can't reason with a baby.

But whether the couple next door are having great sex or not has no bearing on whether you should have to listen to it -- you could equally defend their right to play a great piano or drum bit they've just learned, or to work out that great tap-dancing routine they have choreographed for the Broadway show they're in, or practice the sumo moves for tomorrow's exhibition match.

If they're over the top, particularly for the time of day, bang on the wall or yell. This is the only proper reaction because it minimizes how much they inconvenience you (you just reach out and bang on the wall or you open your mouth and shout without having to get up and get dressed), the feedback is instant, it matches crude for crude, it might let other neighbors in on the ad hoc negotiations, and it reminds everyone of just how thin the walls are.

You shouldn't have to go to great effort to tell the neighbors that it's three o'clock in the fucking morning and you expect Ivana to save the performance screams for a better time. And it shouldn't be a next-day solution because, whether you're training people or other animals, you should always submit feedback immediately. You want to slap them on the nose (or whatever it is that dog trainers do) while they'e being bad doggies.

If their behavior doesn't change after one or two responses like that, then you start thinking of all the other more elaborate and pain-in-the-ass responses.
posted by pracowity at 4:41 AM on March 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

twiggy, in reference to your #2, the poster specifically said "He describes the female aspect as "porn-star-like" and has even been woken up by the noise." I am assuming he is not woken up during the day or nelleish would have mentioned that. So, given that, what's a response to a neighbor who wakes you up with noise, if you are someone who can't sleep through their noise?

Please keep the JudgeMe aspect out of AskMe. If you have answers to the question, including "you might want to try ignoring it" [a la hazyjane] that's fine, but keep the insults out of it, or take them to MetaTalk or email.
posted by jessamyn at 4:50 AM on March 13, 2006

We've been reading along with the thread, and as it's about to scroll off the front page, he'd just like to say: thanks for helping me see the humor in this situation, and for all the good responses!
posted by nelleish at 5:29 AM on March 13, 2006

I agree that they may not even realize you can hear them, but for me I'd just bang on the floor, and a full-throated STFU if it continues to be really bad.
posted by jamesonandwater at 5:29 AM on March 13, 2006

New York style - just pound on the floor yelling "Shut the FUCK up!"

This makes me intensely nostalgic for NYC, and it would be my preferred response as well.
posted by languagehat at 6:20 AM on March 13, 2006

No-one has mentioned slipping a BDSM catalogue under their door, open at the ball-gag page perhaps with one of them circled as a recommendation...

Uh. Or something.
posted by Chunder at 6:28 AM on March 13, 2006 [1 favorite]

i used to have this problem with one of my housemates but for some reason was too shy to say anything. i took the more passive agressive route and what i would do was listen until it sounded like they were close to climaxing and then i would call the phone in his room downstairs. usually he would just let it ring and ring but i think it probably succeeded in diminishing the power of the moment. one time he actually answered, which i thought was hilarious.. but he never thought of unplugging it from the wall.
posted by petsounds at 12:43 PM on March 13, 2006

Whenever my roommate was too loud, we'd crank "Feels So Good" by Chuck Mangione.

That usually did the trick.
posted by black8 at 12:33 PM on March 16, 2006

Hey man, Chuck Mangione could only sweeten the moment.
posted by cosmicbandito at 11:12 AM on March 17, 2006

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