MEN have never been so worried. Thousands are scrambling to websites looking for answers. "Am I doing something wrong?" posts one man on an internet forum. "My wife never makes a sound during sex, ever, but she says she's having a good time? I'd love an answer from a woman on this please.".
Little did housewife Caroline Cartwright know that not only would her noisy love-making sessions result in an embarrassing court case, but also in a flurry of panicked men wondering why their lovers aren't screaming so loud "it sounds unnatural".
When neighbours and even the local postman complained about "hysterical, continuous screaming" coming from Cartwright's home in Washington in northern England, the council installed specialist equipment next door, recording noise levels during sex of between 30 and 47 decibels.
An anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) was made to stop her "making excessive noise, knocking, shouting, screaming or vocalisation that can be heard in neighbouring properties or outside the house".
Last week, Caroline Cartwright unsuccessfully appealed the Asbo on the grounds that she is "unable to control her vocalisation during lovemaking, and any attempt at restricting her behaviour is a breach of her human rights".
Despite Cartwright claiming to be "powerless to control" her "involuntary vocalisations", the court Recorder, Jeremy Freedman, dismissed the idea that Cartwright could not control her vocalisation during the marathon romps.
The judge said, "Frankly, we don't believe her. We do not find the screaming and shouting was unavoidable and inevitable during lovemaking. We find in the main, if not exclusively, it was a product of voluntary acts on behalf of the defendant. We are prepared to accept, and we use our own experience, that at the point of climax there may be some involuntary noise. What we are unable and unwilling to accept is for periods of two hours to three hours a lady engaging in sexual relations is unable to control shouting and screaming and the like. It defies common sense that that is unavoidable."
"I've been with a screamer," boasts a male friend. "She was Italian and really liberated, she knew what she wanted, we were in a hotel and she didn't care if the whole world heard her, it was a real turn on. Irish birds aren't noisy like that."
I remind him of the scene in the 1989 film When Harry Met Sally, where Meg Ryan educates Billy Crystal on just how easy it is for women to fake the passionate moans of a woman on the verge of climax by demonstrating in the middle of a crowded restaurant. "No, this was for real," my friend insists. It doesn't occur to him that perhaps, like Miranda in Sex and the City, his "screamer" was just trying to please an inept lover to get it over and done with. My friend looks seriously worried, "Do you think a woman screaming that loudly could be faking? She'd have to be a pretty good actress."
Recent research found that more than 50 per cent of women regularly fake orgasms and 80 per cent of women only sometimes or never experience orgasm in their lives.
It seems most women are more concerned with their lovers' pleasure than their own. "I'm usually just tired, especially with two young children, so I just moan at the right times and then get a little louder and he thinks that's it. It would kill him to hear this, but to be honest most of the time I just want it over and done with," confides a young mother who says her husband "has no idea I fake it and thinks he's doing a great job".
While men are focused on hearing their women howl, women have been sending each other links to online videos such as howcast.com's "how to fake an orgasm" which lists the moaning and movement required to perfect the moment.
While most women say they have never truly screamed out with pleasure in their lives, many feel that their partners have unrealistic expectations.
"I had to let my boyfriend know that I'm not really into talking or screaming during sex. I love sleeping with him, but he was paranoid that I wasn't enjoying it because I wasn't making any noise. I think men watch too many of those Paris Hilton, Pamela Anderson pornos where they're like 'ahhh, ahhh, yesss, yesss, mooore, please'," jokes a woman in her 20s.
The "porn factor" has been blamed for confusing men and creating unrealistic expectations. According to Alvin Cooper, who conducts seminars on cybersex addiction, many online-porn users develop sexual behaviour that disrupts their lives.
"The internet is the crack cocaine of sexual addiction," he says.
Even mainstream movies have been criticised for producing women who scream on demand. "I mean," asks Marshall Miller, coauthor of I Love Female Orgasm: An Extraordinary Orgasm Guide, "do you ever see a female orgasm appear in a movie where the woman isn't making noise?"
Clearly, not all women produce glass-shattering screams of pleasure, but noisy lovers may be on to something. A survey of students in America found the majority of people interpreted any noise at all -- moans, groans, odd words or full sentences -- as encouragement, while silence was reported as "disconcerting".
In behavioural scientist's Dr Roy J Levin's paper entitled Sexual and Relationship Therapy, he puts forward four possible reasons for the sounds humans make during sex: conveying information, increasing arousal, enhancing pleasure, and facilitating central arousal systems.
When asked to rate different senses in terms of importance, men said that they find hearing sounds the third most arousing sense, after sight and touch, while women rank it second last in importance.
Enhancing pleasure is, in scientific terms, "hedonic amplification", which has to do with the way an intake of breath affects the body with hyperventilation leading to giddiness.
Acknowledging that not all women will experience orgasm, controversial feminist Fay Weldon writes in her book What Makes Women Happy?, "If you are happy and generous-minded, you will fake it and then leap out of bed and pour him champagne, telling him, 'You are so clever,' or however you express enthusiasm. Faking is kind to male partners. Otherwise they too may become anxious and so less able to perform. Do yourself and him a favour, sister: fake it."
However, some women are horrified by the idea. "I have never and will never fake," says a friend and a self-professed loud lover. "I don't always have great sex, but if I'm somewhere where I don't know anyone, like on holidays, and I meet a guy and the sex is good, I do let rip and make loads of noise. Guys do find that a turn on and so do I, but, say I was in my apartment, I'll obviously be quiet because I wouldn't be able to look at the neighbours ever again."
But for men who have never heard a peep from their lovers, it's worth noting that brain scans on women during climax have found that women go into a trance-like state during orgasm.
Unlike in men, where the brain activity centres around physical touch, parts of the female brain responsible for processing fear, anxiety and emotion start to relax and reduce in activity.
Doctors explained, "What this means is that deactivation, letting go of all fear and anxiety, might be the most important thing, even necessary, to have an orgasm."
The message seems to be, if she's screaming like she's being murdered, then she isn't quite ready to let go.