Is my flat shaking because tectonic plates are rubbing against each other? No, it's because my flatmate is rubbing against her new boyfriend. 

This exact situation happened to Alix Klingenberg. In 2018, Alix tweeted about an earthquake in Auckland. 

She even used the #eqnz hashtag. “Everyone was like, ‘what? No. No earthquake,’” Alix says. 

Alix Klingenberg’s tweet about a nonexistent earthquake. Source: supplied. 

Figuring out how to have sex in a flat can be a sticky situation. For Maia, it’s about learning how to strike the right balance – and communication.

Navigating your flatmates’ boundaries

Maia, who wants to keep her last name private because of her job, moved into a new flat at the end of last year to live with “randoms” she found on Facebook. 

The 22 year old describes her flatmates as “good folks” with “good vibes” and says most of them are single. 

A few months into her tenancy, Maia and her flatmates had “the sex conversation” to figure out what everyone’s boundaries were when it came to their flatmates’ sex lives affecting them.

Everyone agreed they were all good with a little noise and said they would put headphones in if they heard anything, Maia says. 

“If my flatty is having loud, disruptive sex for hours and I have work the next day, I’ll knock on the wall. Otherwise I’m happy to put headphones on,” Maia says. 

“I don't want to stop their fun if it's the weekend and it's a manageable level of noise and not super late.”

Communicating these expectations with her current flatmates has helped Maia feel more comfortable when she brings her partner over to her current flat. 

Maia has had different experiences having sex in different flats

Maia says she never had an open conversation about sex with her previous flatmates.

In her previous flat, Maia found out her flatmates had heard her having sex which made her feel anxious so she started overthinking her actions. 

“I couldn’t get out of my head when I was having sex… I just wanted to let loose.” 

“That made me embarrassed and I don't want to be embarrassed. I want to be sex positive,” she says. 

In another previous flat, Maia was friends with all of her flatmates and says she was more relaxed having sex there — a bit too relaxed. 

“In retrospect, I should have been more polite as if they weren’t my friends.” 

Maia says she’s learning to strike a balance between being self aware about how her sex life affects her flatmates without being so self conscious that she ruins sex for herself.

“Having nice flatmates helps.”

Tips from a sex educator 

Home ownership in New Zealand reached a record low in 2018, causing house-sharing to become a longer-term reality and it’s part of why Adulttoymegastore sex educator Emma Hewitt wants to share her tips on upholding sex etiquette in flats. 

Adulttoymegastore sex educator Emma Hewitt. Image: supplied. 

“Whether solo, partnered or battery-powered, everybody should feel confident in their ability to indulge in sexual pleasure in their own home,” Emma says. 

She says respecting the privacy and comfort levels of your flatmates can be a hard balance to strike so you need to be clever about tending to your needs without neglecting them. 

Here are Emma’s tips:

  • Minimise noise

Emma recommends familiarising yourself with your flatmates’ schedules so you can have sex or use loud vibrators when you know when they won’t be home. 

Alternatively, you could buy quieter vibrators, non-vibrating toys or waterproof ones because using them in the shower or bath will muffle some of the sound, she says. 

  • Keep sex toys and products out of sight 

Don’t leave toys out in communal spaces and don’t use them there either — the one exception is the bathroom, Emma says. 

If you use toys in the bathroom, keep it quick, don’t do it at a busy time of day and put them back in your room when you’re done, she says. 

If you are someone that forgets to put things away, Emma says it might be best to hide sex objects in plain sight. She recommends finding lubricants that are packaged to look like beauty products and vibrators that come in subtle cases. 

  • Figure out how to talk to your flatmates about sex 

The way you approach talking about sex will depend on whether your flatmates are your best friends, colleagues or randoms, Emma says. 

“Do it in a time and situation where you are both calm, no high emotions running, especially if you're the flatmate who is unhappy with your fellow flatmates’ sex behaviours,” she says. 

“Be calm but honest.” 

  • Be open to feedback 

If your flatmates call you out because your sexual activity has made them uncomfortable, Emma recommends being receptive, saying sorry and trying to not do it again. 

“Don't make a huge deal out of it, keep the conversation short. Don't keep bringing it up and apologising constantly if it was a one off,” she says. 

“The sooner you can move past it, the better it's going to be, have that chat asap.” 

  • Be extra considerate if you’re bringing different people to the flat 

If you’re frequently sleeping with different people, Emma says it becomes harder to lay out ground rules, especially if you’ll only see them once. 

Your flatmates might feel uncomfortable if you regularly bring over strangers that they have no familiarity with. 

If that’s the case, Emma recommends sticking to your room, making sure your sexual partners aren’t lingering in communal areas and being more quiet than usual. 

It might be worth being upfront with your flatmates, asking if any issues have arised in the past because of it and if there is anything you can do to make them more comfortable, she says. 

“At the end of the day, our own needs do come first but not without a healthy dose of consideration and respect for the people we live with.”


More stories: 

Dental dams make oral sex safer. Why don’t we use them more?

If you’ve never heard of dental dams before, you’re not the only one.

An employment lawyer on what you need to know before your first job

Contracts, pay negotiation, HR and more.

Not every Māori cloak is a korowai: Māori cloaks explained

“Kākahu Māori are a beautiful visual expression of Māori identity.”