What is Erotic Audio?

Garrett Schlichte|2020.05.29

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Dipsea is an app for Sexy Stories, Sleep Scenes, and Wellness Sessions designed to turn you on and then tuck you in. You can download Dipsea from the App Store, Google Play Store, or listen online.

Erotic audio sounds pretty straightforward upon first read, right? It’s a universally understood adjective following a universally understood noun. But it definitely isn’t a universally understood concept.

Erotic: sexy. Audio: sounds. Erotic audio: sexy sounds! It seems simple enough...Right?

Well, not exactly.

For starters, there isn’t a single, standard definition for the word “erotic.” Dr. Leon F. Seltzer offered one of our favorite definitions when he said, “erotica doesn't appeal exclusively to our senses or carnal appetites. It also engages our aesthetic sense... sensuous delight of a higher order.” According to him, something can’t be classified as erotic just because it’s sexual or designed to turn someone on. It needs to be as beautiful as it is explicit.

But, just like trying to understand what makes a piece of modern art beautiful to one person, and look like a random jumble of shapes and colors to another person, trying to parse out what makes something erotic from person to person isn’t quite so simple.

Try asking a couple of people what they consider to be erotic. You’ll probably get answers that surprise you a little bit, especially if you’ve never had that conversation before, but you’re also bound to realize just how much variance there is between their answers.

Then there’s the audio component of erotic audio stories. While there might be an infinite number of things that turn people on, just imagine what that means for the number of turn-offs that exist. Now, layer sound into that equation. The wrong kind of mouth sound (a lip smack, a wet squelch) is enough to shift your mood entirely and knock you out of whatever sexy moment you might have been reveling in.

It all goes to show that erotic audio is both infinitely faceted and also very, very hard to get right. Creating soundscapes and stories that turn people on, and keep them immersed, is no small feat.

In 2019, The New Yorker wrote an in-depth article about Dipsea and audio erotic storytelling. The author wrote “Good erotica is hard to write; graceful and convincing audio drama is hard to produce; and the awkwardness of flawed attempts at both is excruciating.”

That’s why it was exciting when the author concluded that Dipsea “seems to have created a genre of its own, with audio details that enhance a sense of pleasure, safety, and calm.”

Being lauded for creating a new genre is pretty exciting, but the truly essential part of that quote is recognizing that it’s being done in an entirely new medium—audio.

Erotica has existed for a long, long, long, long, long time. Audio erotica, not so much. Which is why it can be so hard to define: because it’s so new, and because it’s still evolving so quickly.

That’s why we wanted to talk to the experts, the Dipsea audio team, AKA the Sonic Sisters. Angela, Kristina, Kara, and Selene are the women behind the audio production and sound design of each and every Dipsea story and session. We asked them everything, from how they define audio erotica, to what some of their favorite sexy sounds are, to how the stories are made. It’s a little peek behind the curtain at Dipsea, and a deep dive into all the ways one can make audio erotic.

Defining audio erotica

Dipsea: Ok, starting off big here. What is audio erotica?

Angela: For me, audio erotica is a sensorial experience that allows you to use your own imagination while listening to sexy things.

Selene: It’s a form of storytelling that harnesses the inherent intimacy of sound to create and immerse the listener, and guide a listener back to their own sensuality.

Kara: Something we talk a lot about with the work that we do with erotic audio stories, is altering people’s mood states. The intimacy of audio erotica works really well with getting in touch with your sensuality and altering your mood state to put you in a different one.

Kristina: With other forms of storytelling or even with podcasts, they’re categorized by their ability to entertain and inform, but where others are maybe trying to move their audience toward larger actions, for instance, investigative journalism’s potential call for outward social action or change, audio erotica is asking you to take an inward micro-step toward self-pleasure. Which is also really powerful.

Angela: Yeah, tune into the stories but also to yourself.

What makes erotic audio special?

Dipsea: How do you think audio erotica, and Dipsea specifically, is different from other erotic mediums?

Kristina: Audio is a primal medium. I reference this a lot, but Walter Murch, the godfather of film sound design (he also literally did the sound design for The Godfather) wrote this essay where he talks about the fact that hearing is the first sense that’s switched on in the womb, and after that it kind of takes a back seat to the other senses, especially sight. What Dipsea is doing with our erotic stories is bringing sound back to the forefront.

Sound is something that is so visceral, carnal, primal, that taps into a deeper sense, while still giving people room to construct their own version of the story in their mind with visuals or put themselves in the story. What really sets us apart as erotic audio is transporting people to a different space -- time travel, and space travel even if they’re just in their bed.

Selene: If you're watching something, you’re more of a passive consumer—it’s traveling to you. But if you’re listening to something, it’s all around you—you’re in it. It’s like being in an ocean or a body of water where you’re quite literally, in this analogy, immersed, versus being splashed in the face with water or being hosed down. That’s audio erotica.

That’s a really powerful medium for something that is so subjective and psychological and intimate as erotica. Erotic audio is also inherently subjective, psychological, and intimate.

Kara: Also, the accessibility part of it is important. A lot of erotica available online is visual, and for people who might not be able to access that , this is such an important option.

Kristina: One thing that also just sparked for me is thinking about how we receive stories naturally, how we receive dirty talk from people outside of erotica in our real lives, and I think that audio erotica allows us to simulate somebody actually whispering in your ear and makes it feel like it’s beaming into your body versus the distance of the page or screen. It’s like Selene was talking about, jumping in the ocean versus the splash.

There’s so much we don’t have to spell out because you can just hear it in the way the actor pauses, or gasps, or in what they don’t say. The silence. There’s so much you can infer and read into that way that might have to be super spelled out in written erotica, for example, and also isn’t even there in a lot of visual erotica.

Angela: Also in the way things are said—all the stories are consensual and respectful in their own ways and not all audio erotica is necessarily like that, but we’re like that, and that’s something that will hopefully let you listen and feel safe.

Kara: Another thing is that when you’re listening to audio erotica there’s the ability to kind of take it with you wherever you are, which is fun. Some people might not feel comfortable, but I’ve heard anecdotally about people listening in their car or on a bus (although most Dipsea listeners do listen in bed). Erotic audio stories are something that can travel with you. Watching erotica out in the world? Great! Looking at photos? Great! Live your life! But it’s much easier to listen to erotic audio in a more discreet way.

Kristina: And that’s kind of hot too! You have your little secret, it can add to the hotness.

What makes audio erotic?

Dipsea: Speaking of which, what makes audio erotic in and of itself?

Angela: There’s a feeling when someone whispers in your ear that is just as physical as it is auditory. The different sounds you hear, the different ways someone talks—you can literally feel them, not just hear them.

Kristina: It’s funny to think about things you would maybe assume are erotic in sound, and how that differs from what you actually find sexy or erotic in sound. Personally, I like a makeup brush in a plastic makeup container! Like to me, that’s an erotic audio kink.

And there’s certain things, like when we recorded the perfect ass clap and thrust, that sort of changed everything for us and it was a big deal. We’re still getting better at the ass slaps!

There are so many things that we’re just learning about what is and isn’t a turn on. Like slurping, like overt slurping. Even if that’s realistically what you hear when you’re having sex, that might not be what you’re focusing on when you’re having sex. You’re focused on the person from your perspective, and that’s what we want to emulate, all of the heightened, sensorial parts of sex. All of the sexy sounds that can be fun, without trying to make a documentary.

Selene: Yeah, we’re trying to recreate an elevated version of a sexual encounter through erotic audio, and although sex is messy and it gets messy and that’s fabulous and amazing, when you’re translating that experience into audio erotica you’re not doing a literal word for word sound for sound translation, you’re doing more of a transliteration. Interpreting it through sound.

That’s a good metaphor for how we think of all sound design. We’re capturing the essence without capturing it verbatim, whatever the sonic equivalent of verbatim is.

And we find that heightening certain sounds—for me, I love having a whisper—that works really well. Angela has done so much amazing work on creating the perfect Dipsea kiss.

Kristina: Another thing I love that we’re doing more of is silence. There are so many moments where silence can build us up for the payoff and is, itself, erotic. Even in a non-sexual erotic audio moment where characters are just sort of silent and observing each other and sitting in it and we’re hearing their inner thoughts in that moment. There’s so much that’s said in silence, and I’m excited for us to harness that more in our future pieces for sure.

Angela: Silence can say so much more than words.

Kristina: And also music! We use music to set up a vibe and to vary it up so that we’re not creating a wall of breath, a breath cyclone if you will, that can just feel like white-noise. We’re trying to build a cadence and a rhythm.

Kara: Breath itself can be erotic audio. I think there’s a lot of work that goes into figuring out where certain breaths should go, what kind of breaths are sexy, and the cadence. I remember one of the conversations we had early on when I first started at Dipsea was whether breath should be matched. Like whether people who are having sex should be breathing in and out and at the same time!

The best sound design is sound design that isn't noticed, and so much of what we do is exactly that.

Sexy sounds

Dipsea: Okay, now that we know what makes audio erotic, what are some of your favorite sexy sounds?

Kara: I think my favorite erotic audio moments are stuttering breaths.

Angela: Selene already said mine, but I like a whisper.

Selene: I like rain on the roof.

Kristina: After makeup brushes, I like a distant ocean hum.

Kara: I also like this sound . I guess I should describe it! It’s the sound of hands running over thick paper, like cardstock, or cardstock ripping. That might be my favorite sound in the entire world. Even cutting it. Since I was a child.

Kristina: I love drawing too, to pair with your cardstock moment. Pencil on paper, like in the Dipsea stories Virgo Season and The Shop. A sound I really don’t like is like is magic marker on paper, it’s squeaky.

Also to be more direct in terms of erotic audio, hearing oral sex pleasure from the giver is something we do that I really love. I think we do that really well, it’s not so cartoony and it’s more subtle. It’s really underscoring the pleasure of someone giving that act which I don’t think we always see in media, especially in erotica. It’s usually receiving that is shown as pleasurable, and I like that we can flip it and sort of underscore that with subtle sound design.

Angela: And skin on skin! And how much the rhythm of that matters. Whether someone’s just caressing someone, or if there’s skin on skin in a more sexual way. If it’s too fast in a very soft, sweet moment, then it sort of takes away from the moment. But if it’s right, it leans into the comfort of it.

Erotic audio: The bare necessities

Dipsea: Y’all have been amazing. Okay, our last question! What do you think the key components of creating an audio erotic story are?

Kristina: I think, for us, the first one is building off a base layer of erotic audio.

We try to do that with city sounds outside, or a bird. I think that’s the first entry point, we need this, we need some sort of inviting immersion to bring people in right off the bat before we even get to the sexiness.

Angela: Translating an inward experience through acting is important as well, so that there are feelings involved, as opposed to just outward projection that doesn’t have any inward emotion involved with it.

Kara: And consent! Obviously consent is the most important part of any sexual experience, or any experience, and specifically in erotic audio because there’s not a visual aspect you have to hear consent, and that can be written in. Our writers do an incredible job, even if it’s not going to be a spoken “Yes, I will have sex with you right now,” which they would never write like that. But it can be an affirmative sound, or some sort of non-verbal audio affirmation. That is always, always captured when we’re doing recordings, and that’s one of the biggest parts of the work that we do in audio erotica.

Also, I know we already talked about this, but music. A final shoutout to music!

Selene: The inviting and enticing nature of our stories is embedded in the sound design and woven into every part of production, from the conception of the piece. We know that eroticism is fragile, and that an awkward moment or something embarrassing can shatter it. It’s very delicate, so we create narratives and vignettes where we try to make sure at all times listeners are held and safe and secure and relaxed and guided into a mood point where they feel safe to be vulnerable, or dabble in taboo. That care is really important.

Discover and explore for yourself

Of course, the final component of erotic audio is you, the listener. How the story and the sounds are making you feel in the moment, while you’re listening, that’s the mark of true success.

And while you can read about the fundamentals, and everything that goes into the process of creating erotic audio -- the care, the consent, the consideration -- the only true way to know what it’s actually like and how it makes you feel, is to listen and see where your imagination takes you.

We’re certainly not alone in saying that Dipsea is one of the best options out there, there are quite a few people who seem to agree. But ultimately, that decision will be up to you.

Sex and sexuality are inherently psychological and intimate, and erotic audio especially so. As we continue to bring sex and pleasure into the conversation about what it means to live a whole, fulfilled life, it’s clear that immersing yourself in audio erotica is one the most wonderful ways to do that.

So what are you waiting for? Dive in!

Listen, light yourself up.

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