Feature

The right to have loud sex

A British court says Caroline Cartwright can't scream during sex because she scares the neighbors. Is noisy sex a right, or a privilege?

A British court refused to overturn the conviction of a woman banned from screaming during sex because she violated a noise ordinance. Caroline Cartwright, 48, said the authorities were denying her and her husband, Steve, their right to privacy. The judge said the noises — which an investigator said sounded like someone being "murdered" — were "very disturbing" to neighbors and people in the street, and the offense was compounded by "the frequency of the episode." Do human beings have an inalienable right to loud sex?

The Cartwrights should be quiet: "Caroline lost the right to respect for her private life when she broadcasted it for the entire neighborhood to hear," says Jennifer Meyer in Sexification. Making noise in the throes of passion is all well and good, but the screams from Steve and Caroline Cartwright's bedroom drown out the neighbors' TVs and shock passersby walking kids to school. If the Cartwrights can't control themselves, they should "invest in some soundproofing material."
"911, What’s Your O-mergency?"

The noise wasn't ear-splitting: Give Steve and Caroline Cartwright a break, says Craig Brown in Britain's Daily Mail. Investigators recorded noise levels outside the Cartwrights' home of 30 to 40 decibels, with a maximum of 47 decibels. Thirty decibels is a "very quiet library," and 50 is as loud as a living room conversation. "If ever Mrs. Cartwright began to blast off like a power drill, there might be cause for complaint," but lovemaking that's quiet enough for a library is "extremely subdued" indeed.
"Silence in court! This case is a real scream..."

Loud sex is a basic human right: This case is an Orwellian nightmare of government intrusion, says Brendan O'Neill in Reason. It's bad enough that the U.K. has 5 million closed-circuit TV cameras that "watch our every move," and talking cameras that "warn us to pick up litter or stop loitering." Now "even the decibels of our sexual moaning can become the subject of a police investigation." Laugh at this case if you must — but the Cartwrights "are screwing for liberty."
"Disturbing the peace"

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