Characters in more risque comedies, particularly those set in apartment buildings, will inevitably have to deal with their noisy neighbours. It becomes especially problematic when the neighbours aren't merely loud about their daily business... just their bedroom business. How the characters respond to overhearing these noises is up to them, though frequently, they decide to provide their own noises in response to give the loud couple next door a taste of their own medicine.
Sometimes, the trope is turned on its head with the main characters trying to be heard Right Through the Wall for some reason - to prove that their sex life is generally better, or to make their neighbours feel uncomfortable, for example. Another popular variation involves the noise turning out to be something completely innocent like moving furniture.
Anyone who has lived in a college dorm or an apartment will know that this can be Truth in Television. See also Ceiling Banger for a similar trope (and what something like this may very well elicit). Nothing to do with Right Through His Pants. Or, for that matter, when someone movesright througha wall.
Compare Don't Come A-Knockin', for a more visual effect communicating the same thing.
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Anime and Manga
Invoked and Played for Drama in Corsair, after Ayace bluntly announces his relationship with Canale in attempt to dispel Aura's ideas of marrying Canale. Ayace goes to Canale's room and makes sure to have lots of loud sex because he knows Aura is going to come by later to talk to Canale and will hear them. Aura is crushed. It comes up more humorously in other places though, especially with poor Harold.
Variant: In the omake of Future Lovers, Akira, after moving in with Kento and his grandparents, is initially reluctant to have sex with Kento where his grandparents could hear them, but Kento reassures him that they're too hard-of-hearing to hear them go at it. Cut to the morning-after scene, where Kento's grandfather asks if there was an earthquake last night and his grandmother just gives them a Look.
This happens in Lost Girls. When one of the characters goes to tell them to keep quiet he sees that they're both women and loses his nerve.
In A Gun To Loves Head Light and L's room is above Mello's and while Mello is grounded he can hear them going at it right through the ceiling.
Used in thisMetal Gear Solid 3 fanfic, where the noisy couple in question are Colonel Volgin and Major Raikov. Considering that canonically their sex is probably pretty kinky, one can't blame Ocelot for going to extreme lengths to get a little shut-eye...
The Good Omens fanfic "A Precise and Accurate History of Monday, Eleven Years Later" has Crowley moving into Aziraphale's small house in a small town(complete with nosy neighbours). The neighbours had long suspected Aziraphale to be gay and Crowley found this amusing, so while Aziraphale is at work, he spends his days banging against the wall and shouting Aziraphale's name.
In the hilariousAxis Powers HetaliaKink Meme fill "Are You There God? It's Me, Canada", one of Canada/Matthew's recurring problems is having his bedroom be right next to England/Arthur and France/Francis's and hence hearing his fathers go at it every single night. In fact, when Arthur and Francis don't have sex because of an argument, Matthew actually loses sleep because he's become so used to hearing them every night.
Weightless had Garrus's neighbors who were very punctual in their "business", right down to the habit of not turning off the TV, which was not very helping for a turian who was just got rejected by Shepard. Later, he (unintentionally) paid them back with her.
In the Empath: The Luckiest Smurf story "Smurfette's Inner Beauty", Hogatha's got the doors and windows of her castle shuttered up by magic so that the Smurfs couldn't enter while she's making out with Harlequin. By the time Empath, Brainy, and Duncan McSmurf arrive, they could hear the sounds of intimate activity going on through the shutters.
The Avengers fic Walk a While Beside You alludes to this re: Natasha and Clint. The former is characteristically stealthy and quiet, but the latter is not.
In What Lies Beneath, Harrison Ford and Michelle Pfeifer's characters hear the neighbours going at it and decide to compete with them.
LA Story, at one point, has Steve Martin and his date in one room of a motel, and the woman Steve Martin's character is in love with and her date in the next room.
In Delicatessen, a butcher and his mistress have sex. The squeaks coming from the bedsprings provide a rhythm for the activities of the other tenants in the apartment building — painting, knitting, cello-playing, and so on. This scene was used as the original American trailer.
At the end of My Super Ex-Girlfriend, this is taken extremely literally, in a most physical level. It's not just noise that goes through the wall, but the participants as well.
In Forgetting Sarah Marshall, the two couples end up with rooms next to each other. Peter and Rachel are intentionally loud to annoy Sarah. Sarah retaliates by faking, much to her partner's annoyance.
Michael J. Fox's character in The Secret of My Success is a victim of this trope. Best sequence is where he's got his head under his pillow trying to keep the noise out, but is unsuccessful, upon which he bleakly mimes being an orchestra conductor to the beat of the couple's increasing wails.
Loud sex sounds pervade Jimmy's ground floor flat in the opening scenes of Lesbian Vampire Killers as his girlfriend breaks up with him (again), underscoring just how much of a loser he is.
Happens a lot at the beginning of Bound.
Mädchen Mädchen 2 has an early scene where Inken has disappointing sex against the wall of the apartment next to hers (her roommates watch the wall vibrate). Later on, Inken reacts by faking the best orgasm she's ever had, again ramming herself against the wall.
In Analyze That, Ben Sobel and his wife get annoyed at Paul Vitti's "friend" moaning for forty minutes. Ben goes complaining, a discussion ensues ("We don't think it's necessary to wake the neighbors every time we have sex.")... only for the friend to restart ("I told her if I wasn't back in two minutes to start without me. I gotta go.").
One Cheech And Chong movie made it seem like two characters were having very loud and rambunctious sex inside a van, much to the embarrassment of those outside. However, the guy was moaning and banging the wall because of a cramp in his leg, while the girl was trying to demonstrate the noises her roommate made while having sex.
The Tim Allen movie For Richer Or Poorer has his character Brad and wife Caroline (Kirstie Alley) staying in an Amish home. Despite long, tiring work-filled days, their hosts provide rigorous, squeaky-springed sound effects almost every night. When Brad and Caroline rekindle their relationship, their hosts get treated to the same sound effects.
In Fight Club, the main character gets exasperated at how he can hear Tyler and Marla having wild sex upstairs every single time, with the plaster on the ceiling even crumbling with their movements. Becomes downright weird when you realize that the main character and Tyler are the same person.
The Jackie Chan movie Armor of God II, has Jackie and a woman fighting with two thugs in her apartment at night. The hotel manager downstairs thinks it is this.
Georgette and Joseph in the café bathroom in Amélie, making all the cups and crockery rattle. Amelie covers up the sound of The Immodest Orgasm by running the espresso machine.
Beetlejuice - as the Maitlands try to scare Mrs. Deetz in her bedroom, their ghostly moaning is heard by Delia in the next room, as she grumbles in disgust thinking it's her parents.
The short 'Thin Walls'' was all about this. A hot woman moves in next door to a nerd, who can hear her at night (I remember the boyfriend as a member of The Knack). He bribes a co-worker into recording passionate screaming, which he plays back at high volume to attract the neighbor.
In the Alan Alda film The Four Seasons, him and his wife are in one of the staterooms on the yacht the three couples have rented, listening as they hear one of the other couples on the boat going at it hot and heavy.
π: Brilliant but reclusive mathematician Max Renn can hear his neighbor having sex with her boyfriend right through the wall of his apartment. Not played for laughs however; at the same time Max is obsessively working on his computer to pursue the universal number which he is researching, emphasizing how detached he is from everyday life.
A short mystery story by Steven Saylor has an amorous couple in ancient Rome (well, the countryside near it). The detective's teenage son listens eagerly, but is shy when they heavily flirt in front of him.
High Fidelity. There, it's a major plot point — Rob recalls listening to Ray having sex with various girlfriends while he was still with Laura, and when they break up and Laura begins seeing Ray, he recalls it all and becomes intensely neurotic about it.
Occurs as comic relief in Frank Yerby's novel The Voyage Unplanned: the hero's love interest accuses him of having had very loud sex with another woman the night before. The supposed other woman was actually a terrorist who tried to murder him, and the orgasmic screams really came from the hotel room next to his. He proves this by banging on the wall and calling:
John: Hey, kids! Time's a-wasting! Or are you going to let one night wear you out?!
Talia in the Heralds of Valdemar gets an interesting variant on this. Not only can she hear her "enthusiastic" neighbor, she also has strong enough empathy that she can 'overhear' sex that way too.
Edmund spends a couple of chapters of To The Ends Of The Earth trying to figure out how to avoid embodying this trope.
A Song of Ice and Fire: Lysa Arryn tells Littlefinger on their wedding night that she fully intends to be loud. She wasn't lying.
Played around with in Warbreaker. Siri quickly discovers that Susebron's priests are listening through the wall when she goes in to see him every night to try to make sure she's fulfilling her wifely duties. Since she isn't, largely because Seb is a bit of a Man Child and doesn't even know what sex is, she starts beginning every evening by bouncing up and down on the bed and making very enthusiastic noises while her husband stares at her like she's gone nuts.
Live Action TV
An episode of Sex and the City involved Samantha experiencing loud neighbors who had vocal sex every night immediately after the late news. After she 'joins in' with her own noises, she receives a note from them inviting her to join them in person. Though she is originally keen on the idea of a threesome with the couple who seem to enjoy sex so much, she soon realizes that the couple are overweight and unattractive, so she just tells them to keep it down in future.
In the season 3 episode "Shrink Rap", Daphne tells the story of how her neighbors used to do much the same thing, until she stopped them with her own gratuitous sex noises designed to give them a taste of their own medicine.
In the season 2 episode "An Adventure in Paradise", Frasier thinks his ex-wife is having sex in the next room, so makes loud sex noises so she thinks he's having a better time than he is. He ends up jumping on the bed, slamming the headboard against the wall and yelling at the top of his lungs. And then Lilith and her boyfriend walk by the room.
In ABC's short-lived drama Six Degrees, Carlos is searching for a new apartment to allow for some privacy for his roommate. At a particularly tiny one, he overhears a couple making love, so the real estate agent pretends they're having vocal sex to annoy them. It turns out that its his roommate at her boyfriend's apartment.
An episode of Friends dealt with a loud, but charming, upstairs neighbor. Monica and Rachel couldn't bring themselves to ask him to keep it down, so Phoebe went up to do it. Phoebe and the neighbor ended up having sex, which everyone downstairs heard. Later that episode, they find out that he is seeing other women when they overhear those sex noises, too.
The page quote is about when Chandler starts going out with Joey's ex. "All night long, she'd agree!"
There was one episode when Joey was describing to Chandler how much his girlfriend appreciated him being there "just for her". He described her response as being like a ticker-tape parade. Chandler remarks that is his room is "very close to the parade route."
There is a scene in Barbados where several members can hear it right through both walls. Although the 'it' in this case is just making out.
One Christmas episode involving Monica trying to get to know her neighbors better introduced "the woman downstairs who always has sex really loud".
Spaced has Tim and Daisy faking sex noises as part of their fairly lazy ruse to trick their landlady into thinking they are a couple.
Also, in a non-sexual example, "You never know who's listening" "Nobody's Listening!" Ironic Echo Cut.
Referenced in How I Met Your Mother. Lily thinks there might be some truth to the theory that Robin (who was Ted's girlfriend at the time) used to be a porn star.
Lily: She does have the fake orgasm noises down. Ted: Hey! Lily: What? The walls are thin. Ted: That's not what I was "hey"-ing you about!
A vertical variant is seen in Season 5; Ted's upstairs neighbors are loudly playing the bagpipes. When Ted can take no more, he confronts them but backs off when he realizes they're an elderly couple. Later in the episode, Lily and Marshall's bagpiping is seen to have a similar effect on their downstairs neighbors.
Then it turns out that it was the couple above the elderly couple.
For one episode of The Drew Carey Show Mimi (Drew's Nemesis) and Drew's brother are temporarily living in a trailer in Drew's backyard. Kate notices Drew is acting tired and we get this jewel.
Drew: I didn't get a wink of sleep between the trailer rocking and the screaming. Kate: Screaming? Drew: I started screaming when I realized why the trailer was rocking.
In LOST, as David Reyes, Hurley's Disappeared Dad who returned after his son won the lottery, is waking him up:
David: What's with the earphones? Hurley: It's for the noise. David: Well, your mother's a very passionate woman. Hurley: That is disgusting.
Farscape. When Aeryn and Crichton finally have sex (while the crew is aboard an immature, and thus small, Leviathan), Rygel grumbles the next morning about being unable to sleep, and further is disgusted that it sounded like Crichton was exerting himself. Cut to the blissful couple snuggling. Crichton bangs on the wall with his fist and makes loud moans; Aeryn laughs that he was "even louder than that, if you can imagine".
At one point in Coupling, Susan complains of having a listening flatmate. When asked if this means she has to be quiet, she explains, "No, loud, we're very competitive."
General Hospital: Maxie is tired of hearing Johnny and Lulu's sex life, so one day she makes loud sex noises in her bedroom. They think she's with Spinelli, but when he comes through the front door...
Hustle. While Stacie and Danny are posing as a married couple, they hear someone in the next hotel room and think it might be the mark, so they fake having loud sex to maintain their cover. Actually Danny suspects it's Mickey and just wants to make him jealous, but he's not fooled (their orgasms are too well timed for a couple who haven't been together for a while).
There is an extremely disturbing version of this in Carnivàle, where the noises are of a girl being raped. The character who's hearing all this is paralyzed, though, and can only stare in terror at the wall.
On an episode of Spin City, Stacy is at Mike's apartment, and Mike apologizes for his noisy neighbors. We hear the noisy neighbors copulating for a second.
Stacy: You think that's loud? (voice filled with pity) Oh, Mike.
B'Elanna: (reading from the PADD) "Stardate 52648, 0300 hours: intimate relations resume" (addressing Seven directly) How the hell do you know when we're having intimate relations?
Seven of Nine: There is no one on Deck 9 Section 12 who doesn't know when you're having intimate relations.
On one episode of Roseanne, she accuses her younger daughter of having sex with her boyfriend (who spent the night). Darlene asks why on earth she would even risk doing it in the next room. Her mother counters that she could have been quiet.
Darlene: You can't!
Roseanne: You can hear us!?
Darlene: I had to tell David you were moving furniture!
Darlene also invokes this to play a trick on Becky. After Becky and Mark elope, they return to the Conners' house to stay the night. After an argument over whether they can sleep in the same room that night or not, Roseanne concedes and the house goes to bed. As Roseanne and Dan are discussing what to do in their bedroom, loud banging noises come through the ceiling.
Dan: I'll be in the garage.
Becky: (shouting from upstairs) Very funny, Darlene! Stop jumping on DJ's bed!
In Gossip Girls third season Nate and Serena start to date, and apparently have loud sex in the kitchen right outside Chuck and Blair's bedroom (now that's just rude). They are then treated to the sounds of Blair having an Immodest Orgasm, which they assume is her not wanting to be outdone. Then Nate gets a phone call from Chuck, who's apparently not having sex with Blair at the time. It turns out Blair is just reading a fashion magazine and mocking Serena's bedroom noises to point out that the walls are thin.
In an early episode of Mad About You, Paul and Jamie meet their neighbors Hal and Maggie, who recognize their voices...
Hal: We hear you through the walls sometimes. Maggie: Our kitchen is right next to your bedroom. Jamie: (mortified) Oh, my god— Hal: That's her!
In an episode of Everybody Loves Raymond, Robert is purposely thumping a chair up and down so his mother will hear it through the walls and think he and Amy are trying to conceive.
The Big Bang Theory had one when a drunken and frustrated Penny decides to have sex with Leonard.
Sheldon: FYI, my noise-cancelling headphones proved ineffective last night. Penny: Yeah, sorry about that. Sheldon: As a native Texan, I must say Iï¿½ve never heard the phrase "yee-haw" used in quite that context. Penny: Oh, God. Sheldon: "Oh, God". That Iï¿½ve heard on multiple occasions.
Later: Mrs Gunderson: Good morning, Leonard. Or should I say "yee-haw"?
The second episode of Rome includes Octavia overhearing her mother Atia having very loud sex with Mark Antony, which she mockingly imitates at a party later. Antony's comment: "She has you exactly."
In one episode of Castle a suspect's alibi was that he had been having sex with the victim's wife when the victim was murdered. This is verified by talking to the neighbors who recalled hearing it (it was a warm night and the windows were open).
The episode "Watershed" features a subversion. Neighbors of the victim frequently heard sounds of sex coming from her room, which is part of the reason they thought she was a prostitute. She was really playing a CD of those sounds specifically to produce that conclusion while she worked on computer hacking.
The titular Cuckoo and Rachel are doing the deed much to the annoyance of her parents. The shrug it off as they're newly weds and they were like it once...although nowhere near as long. They also make Dylan trade rooms with them so they won't hear them any more.
Vienna Teng's song 1br/1ba, which is about apartment-hunting.
My upstairs neighbors are making sounds that I never want to hear I hope they're just moving furniture around and really liking their ideas
Sometimes in live performance, she will then add a chirpy spoken-word "Oh yeah, right there! Oh yeah, right there!"
"Paper Thin Walls" by Modest Mouse. "These walls are paper thin and everyone hears every little sound/everyone's a voyeurist, they're watching me watch them watch me right now."
Stand Up Comedy
Australian comedian Josh Thomas tells the story in one of his stand-up routines (and on his album "Things I Have Said Before") about the first time he lived with a loud roommate, and how heartbroken he was at the sound of him having loud sex, because he thought sex that good/loud was a myth from pornography.
Jeff Foxworthy has a story about a couple in the apartment room next to his and his wife's not only being loud enough to hear, but it also went on for two hours straight! He said he was tempted to get the man's autograph.
Billy Connolly has a routine about being kept up at night during a tour of Australia by a couple having loud sex. The woman keeps screaming "YES! OH YES!" to which Connolly answers by pounding on the wall and yelling "Would you stop asking her the f—king question?"
In the card game Chez Geek, a high-scoring Nookie card can force other players to discard Sleep cards they've already played.
Avenue Q has a whole musical number about it: "You can be as loud as the hell you want when you're making love!"
In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Gooper and Mae know that Brick and Maggie are not having sex, because they share a wall, and they hear her pleading and his refusal. Brick says that they could've done it without them noticing, because not everybody is that loud.
In Dragon Age: Origins, this can come up a couple of times with the warden and his/her romance options. Justified in that the Player Party spends nights camped in tents in the wild, so there's not much of a wall to be had.
If a female warden is romancing Alistair and has gone to bed with him, Zevran can make comments on how the affair is going based on things he overheard.
Also, if the warden is romancing Zevran, Oghren can bring this up in party banter, advising Zevran that "you might wanna, you know, keep it down".
Leliana will also make the rather cutting remark to Morrigan if they are both romancing the Warden.
Leliana: I suppose he must like your shrieking, you sound like a genlock being murdered ï¿½ a sweet, sweet sound to a Grey Warden. You should try a little harder next time he takes you. I don't think they heard you in the Anderfels.
In The Sims 2: Apartment Life, loud noises will occasionally leak through the walls, annoying your sims who can bang on the walls to get the neighbors to shut up. One of the things that can leak through the walls is Woo-Hoo interactions.
An entertaining scene in the second chapter of A Dance with Rogues, if you choose to have sex with Vico and if you broght the dwarven cleric along he mutters "how's a faithful dwarf supposed to get his spells back like that..."; if you have Pia with you she is rather embarrassed when you get her to admit to having been listening. Bran won't barge in and try to 'rescue' you from Vico, which he does otherwise.
Deus Ex: in one location, a hotel, a couple can be heard having sex behind a closed door. Lampshaded by the fact they never stop, not even if the player engages in a fierce gunbattle with grenades right outside the door.
Grand Theft Auto V: During a randomly generated sequence, Michael's daughter can be heard having loud sex behind her locked door in his mansion.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas: When C.J. chooses to have "coffee" (sex) with one of his girlfriends, the camera stays outside the home and the sounds of them having sex are muffled, as if we're listening to them through the wall. Later games with this option, Grand Theft Auto IV (and its DL Cs) and Grand Theft Auto V, also keep the camera outside during "coffee" or "booty calls", but the sounds are no longer muffled.
Invoked in Miyabi's route of Enchanted In The Moonlight: Miyabi wants to make sure all the other guys know that the protagonist is with him. Much eye-rolling ensues among the rest of the cast, save for a very mortified Samon.
Fairly early in the run of Something Positive, Davan gets sick of hearing his neighbour's loud sex noises - not so much for the noise, but because it's very obvious that the woman is faking it. He finally storms over to them and angrily gives the man detailed written instructions how to please a woman. Found here
Also, thisSomething Positive references how thin the walls are within Davan's family home.
Subverted early in 8-Bit Theater. Black Mage hears bedsprings creaking and White Mage moaning in the next rooms; turns out it's just Black Belt jumping on the bed, practicing his kung fu.
This happens in Better Days chapter 20 when Fisk and Beth and Tommy and Lucy go to New York and stay in rooms next to each other. Both boys try not to "finish" before the other, and the next day they both have sore backs when they have to visit museums.
Concession: Artie and Kate engage in one of the few explicit sex scenes in the comic, and are heard Right Through The Wall by Artie's very Squicked grandmother. (page 146)
Candi and her suitemate overhear a couple during Spring Break, thinking it's one of their friends and his girly—not knowing it's her ex and one of her other friends as well. It's a twofer!
Apparently, the walls in Ménage à 3 are pretty thin.
Gary and Zii have to listen to DiDi and her boyfriend, until they rush out of the apartment.
At the end of the "Backstage Pass" story, Gary and Dillon are kept up by Zii and Yuki having sex.
Matt and Dillon also used to hear Gary's Dates With Rosie Palms when they still lived with him. Moreover, when they decided to become a gay couple, they record his "sounds" and play them back to enhance sex with each other,
In The Gamers Alliance, the sorceress Shyralis tortures King Marcus with her magic in order to keep him under her power. When the knights guarding the door hear the loud noises coming from the king's bedroom, one of them ponders if everything is alright but his commanding officer Signan jokingly implies that the sorceress and the king are having sex which would explain the loud grunts.
Guard: D-Do you think everything's okay in there?
Signan: Seems our boy Marcus likes it a little rough, that's all.
Marge and Homer often are these people in The Simpsons. Their loud love making has been the subject of at least two gags, both times with reactions shots from Bart, Lisa, Maggie, and Ned Flanders (their neighbor in another house). On at least one occasion, the family holds a conversation about this habit while remaining in their bed rooms. Bart even punches Right Through the Wall to prove the kids' point.
Subverted in Futurama: it turned out to be two robots made of bedsprings, just playing cards.
In The Oblongs, the sex life between the father and the mother is so good that every night she's saying "Oh God" repetitively. The younger son, having lived his entire life listening to them, finds himself incapable of having a good night's sleep without it, and gets insomnia when their relationship becomes rocky.
A variant is played for laughs in Mission Hill, where Kevin can overhear his gay neighbors arguing over whether the condoms Gus bought are adequate for their purposes.
Gus: What was wrong with our regular brand? These'll snap right off!
A Venture Brothers college flashback has Doc Venture sharing a dorm room with Brock, lying horrified in the lower bunk as Brock has loud, furious sex with a succession of girls just above him.
Any college student living in a dormitory has had to deal with this.
As has almost anyone who's stayed in a hotel. Not just sleazy motels, either; even good hotels aren't soundproof, and the chance your room will be next to people having sex is pretty good.
According to Bob Denver's autobiography, he heard Tina Louise and her fiance in a wild tryst with each other in her dressing room, while he was trying to sleep in his.
Videos recorded outside doors or next to walls where a neighbor is having loud sex (usually recorded in dorm buildings or hotels) are ubiquitous on YouTube, to the point where it borders on meme territory.