There are countless playlists, videos and articles dedicated to listing all the songs meant to supercharge your boning experience. And it’s nearly impossible to imagine a sex scene (be it in porn, a movie or your own bedroom) that isn’t accompanied by some sort of musical composition.
It’s something most of us can agree on, too — at least anecdotally. A study of 2,000 participants conducted by music-streaming service Deezer found that 30 percent of them reported being more turned on when tunes are playing during sex. “Twenty-five percent said it made the sex itself feel better, and 15 percent agreed that it at least makes things less awkward,” reported Stylecaster. “More than 60 percent of people said the reason music makes sex better is because of its rhythm, while 50 percent said it was more about the artist’s voice or the song’s melody.”
But does it really make a difference, or is it simply something we’ve learned from onscreen sex?
Short answer: Heck yes.
Valorie N. Salimpoor, who studies how our brains react to and interpret music, tells me that part of the reason music and sex are so intertwined is because they both employ the same brain system. “My research is on music and dopamine, and it just so happens that this is the same system as wanting to have sex,” explains Salimpoor.
To her point, a study from McGill University in Canada found that the same chemical system in the brain that gives us feelings of pleasure from having sex, taking drugs or eating delicious food, is also stimulated when listening to our favorite song. “In 2017, a team of researchers from McGill University decided to scan the brains of a group of participants as they listened to music over the course of three sessions. The scans not only showed that listening to music helps release dopamine in the brain, but that anticipating the sounds of music helped prompt floods of the same ‘feel good’ chemical,” reported Salon.
That helps explain why people use music as a way to set the mood — y’know, to ease into the whole “getting naked and pressing your body against another person’s body in the hope of achieving simultaneous ‘O’ faces.” You see, if you’re an anxious person to begin with, music can — according to several studies — help reduce your stress levels. This alone is enough to make the sex better.
The same study from McGill also found that listening to certain kinds of stimulating music can increase signs of arousal, including increasing your heart rate and your breathing rate. This, in turn, can make the sex seem more exciting than it really is.
Since sex is a form of exercise (albeit a light form), a bunch of studies have found that listening to music while exercising can help people feel less fatigued. “Researchers discovered that listening to music helps us narrow our attention to the physical activity task at hand, which means we are distracted from any sensations of discomfort that may arise from fatigue while exercising,” reported The Good Men Project. In other words, music can help you hump till you collapse, even if you’re not in great shape.
As for what sort of music best gets the job done, it’s basically clichés run amok. Daniel Müllensiefen, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths, University of London, told the Independent in 2012 that based on a survey of 2,000 Spotify users, Marvin Gaye’s “Sexual Healing” and “Let’s Get It On” — along with the entire soundtrack of Dirty Dancing — were the most popular scores for setting the mood.
“The tracks that get us in the mood all possess the same qualities — including a greater dynamic range, more use of the high chest voice, more raspiness in the voice and less use of vocal vibrato,” Müllensiefen told the Independent. “These specific attributes are strongly evident in Marvin Gaye tracks.”
One other song that showed up unexpectedly on people’s sex playlists according to Müllensiefen: Ravel’s Bolero.
Which raises the question: Is it really even seduction if there’s no drumline?