She should borrow a van, park it out front with a "Acme Washing Machine Repair" sticker on it, don a baseball hat & fake mustache, then make like she's there on a service check per the terms of the warranty. Jeez, hasn't she ever seen a Peter Sellers movie?
We did this, years ago. Me, hubs, and my best friend were hanging out in the back yard playing Monopoly when we heard intermittent yelling and shrieking from a neighbor two or three doors down. We couldn't tell if it was good or bad shrieking. My best friend pointed out, "If she's being 'tickled,' she needs to know her voice is carrying. If she's not being tickled, she needs help."

I'm pretty sure we banged on the door and got no response. We called the cops. They showed up, banged on the door, and went upstairs. She was being tickled. Cops were amused and thanked us for our concern.

I have zero regrets. If she wasn't being tickled, she needed help. I would do it again. Dan's advice is sound. Find out what's going on with Marge, or her slave.
What if she's smoking dope and getting tickled, and then gets arrested for possession during the welfare check? What if Dan's Pastor Watch poster child has been falsely accused and his life is ruined by the related publicity? I am not advocating sitting on one's hands, nor do I wish to protect a slaver or a pedophile. But these choices can have big consequences, whether you take action or not. What to do, what to do...
My first thought is that she went out of town and he is making the noises with someone else.
Yeah, unless someone is screaming for help, the nosy, judgy, vanilla queen may not have a good grasp on what other people do for fun.
@3 That's why Dan advised to check with the remaining partner first. There may be a reasonable explanation for this. Perhaps she's injured and the sound are her just trying to get around. I know when I hurt my back there was a lot of groaning when trying to do everyday things. Maybe they're spicing up their sex life, maybe someone's hard of hearing and blasting porn. Best to check first and see if it's believable.
If you are on relatively good terms with the neighbors just ask him over the fence, " Fred what the hell is going on over there at night? It sounds like you're skinning cats!" If you don't know him that well, or if his answers sounds a little skeevy, then by all means call the cops and ask for a welfare check. "I'm sure there is nothing bad happening there, they seem like good folks" said John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer's neighbors. Until they found the severed heads in the refrigerator, that is. No, you really don't know what's going on over there on Wisteria Lane. Zed probably has the Gimp tied up in his footlocker. Dont be the one that says, "Shit, I should have said something," when the bodies turn up years later.
@3 nobody is getting arrested for smoking pot if a cop knocks on your door. Not unless you're Cheech and Chong level industrial toking, and probably not even then. Now if you're all sitting around on bales of weed, they might raise their eyebrows...
If nothing much wrong is going on, there aren't really consequences.

My nephew's girlfriend is quite short and slight, and has short hair in a boyish cut. He had just bought a house in a settled neighbourhood, and one day got a knock on the door - the cops had been called because the neighbours had seen him canoodling, through the picture window (hadn't bought curtains yet) with what looked to them like a 12 year old boy. When they met the 30 year old woman, they apologized and went away.

Now, my nephew is a teacher, so an actual accusation of this sort would be a serious thing for him. But a request to the police to take a look is not the same as an accusation. No lives were ruined, though his girlfriend started seriously reconsidering her hairstyle....
I got food poisoning when I was at college. I wasn't seen for several days by my classmates. No one came by to see if I was OK. When I went back to class, they said, "Oh, hi, we thought you'd been murdered by your roommate [whom we suspect is a bit of a psycho, to be honest]" but they never actually did anything to check on me.

I was fine, apart from the whole Vesuvius intestine thing, but I still wish they'd cared enough to check on me. It's the neighborly thing to do.
I call bullshit on this letter. The voice doesn't fit the narrator.
Yeah, who the fook is concerned about a neighbor's safety and takes the time to write a sex advice columnist for suggestions? Fake Fakey McFakerson, that's who.
Ugh. It's fake. It's a boring housewife who thinks she's worldly (she's not) and is bored and wants to see her words in print. The whole thing is boring and is poorly written.
My fake alarm went off on this one too. If there's noise that's keeping one from sleeping for multiple nights in a row, what suburbanite WOULDN'T call the police?

Texas @3/Agony @9: If this letter were real, you make some good points. I agree, most cops won't make an arrest if they find a smoking bong. But depending on what state Fakey McFakerson lives in, sodomy and/or BDSM might be illegal. Talking to the neighbour first, or doing the time-honoured neighbour approach of banging on the door and shouting "KEEP IT DOWN!!" is a better first step.
@14: The one that thinks it's cool to wait through three months of backlog for Dan to suggest what to do about all the gross yucky noises going on? If someone was legitimately being hurt, I doubt she would've been making fun of how they express themselves during sex.
The extraneous "they're fat and probably shop at wal-mart" additions probably made the other people in her Pilates class laugh and laugh until they were pantsed by their lululemon sweats.
I've been trying to figure out what this letter has to do with sex and think I've figured it out. It's about the discomfort that people feel around sex and the possibility of sex such that it paralyzes them.

I'll tell a funny story. I walked outside on a fine sunny day and heard cries of "Help! Please! Help!" I figured it was the neighbor kids playing some sort of game, tried to ignore it, but the cries kept going and sounding more mournful. I tried to look in the backyard but couldn't see because of the position of the houses and one tree or another. Finally I knocked on my neighbor's door, said that I'd been hearing cries and had to check. She yelled to the kids "Knock it off! You're scaring the neighbors!" I smiled and explained that I was 99% sure it was nothing but considered how I'd feel on the 1% chance that something really was wrong and no one thought to help a kid. We shared a laugh, and that was that. I don't want to be seen as the worrisome scared sort bothering her neighbors over healthy kids playing pretend, but whatever. These are great neighbors. Nice people. Mostly we all mind our own business, but I like to think we look out for each other when needed.

Add sex to the equation, and the (mostly good) desire to mind our own business increases. That's what the LW was trying to stress. When there's no thought of sex, when it's just loud noises of someone being tortured and that person no longer being seen, then common sense says that you check with elderly guy next door and ask what's going on. Hell, you might call the police on a noise complaint the same as you would with loud music in the middle of the night. Once your thoughts turn to sex, normal good intentions turn to stone.

If everyone was comfortable with sex, and if the noises are from loud harmless sex, then the neighbors could say "hope we're not making too much noise," and the LW could say "actually you are," and the whole exchange could be as awkward as mine with my neighbor-- in other words, not very.

@Fichu. Very good. I agree completely.
Is it a fake letter? Who knows. But here's the takeaway: if you hear or see something out of the ordinary from neighbors--not just unusual, but unusual for them, you should check it out. If one half of a couple who used to be visible no longer is, ask the other how they're doing. Not because you suspect the partner of any foul play, but because they might need help--their partner might be ill or incapacitated and they might be overwhelmed. Or maybe the no-longer visible one died and the surviving partner, usually a very private person, could use some support and sympathy. Or the one you still see may have murdered the one you don't. But there's no need to go into interrogator mode; just ask in a friendly way if everything's alright and take your cues from the response you get, including sudden nervousness.

If distressed-sounding noises start coming loudly from a house where they weren't heard before, and nothing else has obviously changed, do something. If distressed-sounding, really loud noises start coming from a house whose occupants have never produced them before and one half of the couple, usually visible, is nowhere to be seen, call the police, yo! What the heck--you have to mull it over and write to a sex-advice columnist first? Kitty Genovese, anyone?

The police have seen it all--I guarantee it. You won't get in trouble for a false alarm. If it turns out that the neighbors have just decided to let their freak flags fly and get an awkward surprise visit from the cops, they might come by to apologize for scaring you/making too much noise, or they might come by to say, "mind your own business, prudes." Either way, a brief, hopefully good-natured conversation ensues and someone apologizes. What's the big deal?

How would you feel if you saw these changes, heard these noises, and did nothing because it was going to be awkward or embarrassing for you and your neighbor, and it turned out that someone was being tortured and/or used as a sex slave--either the wife or someone else? You'd feel a whole lot worse than merely awkward or embarrassed.
Be a mensch and if you come off like an uptight prude to noisy neighbors, so be it. At least, that will teach them to turn the volume down, and both of you will get a (albeit different) funny story out of it.
@19: I will point out that what's widely believed about Kitty Genovese is a myth. A few people in the neighborhood heard a general sound of "someone shouting in the street," but (1) no one was certain who was shouting, (2) no one was certain why they were shouting, and (3) it wasn't uncommon in that neighborhood to generally hear loud voices, as there was a bar nearby and sometimes the crowd got rowdy. Hindsight makes it sound horrifying that more was not done, but without the benefit of hindsight, there were very few people who heard or saw anything out of the ordinary that night.

It's also worth noting that someone did call the police, and the police blew that person off for wasting their time. The police started emphasizing the "bystander effect" angle to take the heat off them for ignoring what turned out to be a serious situation.
@20: Thanks, I'm not surprised that's the reality to the myth.

@19: The lady is just so judgy and florid of prose that I can't see the post as anything but an exaggeration to give herself a story to tell. I don't necessarily disagree with you, but she doesn't sound as worried as she does entertained/annoyed.
@20: Yeah, I knew someone was going to bring that up. Nevertheless, I used the name Kitty Genovese because people are familiar with it and the official story and I was tying to make my point that bad things happen to people and if you have reason to suspect that something bad is happening, you should call the police. I would rather risk being blown up at by a police officer for wasting their time, than to not make that phone call and come to find out that someone was being hurt.

The police are there to do more than kill unarmed black people, after all. Seizing on the fact that the Genovese case didn't unfurl exactly as originally reported doesn't alter the fact that this lw has been given some compelling reasons to call the police and have them investigate.

My best guess in the case of this particular letter is that the marriage ended and the husband is going hog-wild either with professionals that he's hired or just with women he's met online, but I'd rather rule out some sort of horrible situation, and I would call the police if I were the neighbor.
@21: The New Yorker had a good story about the realities of the case a while back. And the killer, Winston Mosely, just died and the story was revisited again quite extensively by the New York Times The Washington Post, and the English tabloid The Daily Mail.

I don't get the same vibe from the letter that you do, but in any case, my comment @19 was meant to be a general one, not tied specifically and exclusively to this letter. If this was a prank letter, my point remains the same. If the lw is an insensitive asshat, my point remains the same.
Props to Xiaogui @20 for pointing that out (I just read a 'historical myths that are widely believed' post that covered it).

Agree with @22 that the gross interpretation of the Genovese case as being pure bystander effect need not apply to derive a lesson about this LW's neighbor noises.
@8 That is absolutely not true for some zip codes, skin tones and socioeconomic statuses. Pot may be no big deal where you live, but if a cop wishes to fuck with you in most states it makes it super easy and legal for them to do so. That's not even considering all the people who will lose their jobs and ability to get another one with even a ticket-level drug charge.
@25, maybe so, but sadly those "zip codes, skin tones and socioeconomic statuses" also tend to have the highest incidences of abuse and violent crime, so whatcha gonna do? Make the friendly inquiry first, but don't ignore your intuition that says, "something's wrong."
Another way to come to the same conclusion has to do with knee-jerk liberalism. If you live in the world where Ethnic Group X has the reputation for being cheap or criminal or stupid or whatever, and if you're sensibly on guard against your own prejudices and lumping everyone in Ethnic Group X together as following the stereotype, then you're in a quandary when one Ethnic Group X individual actually does turn out to be cheap, criminal, stupid, or whatever. You're at risk of letting yourself be taken advantage of, or of letting yourself become a crime statistic because you ignored your better instincts. You weren't paying attention to what should have been obvious.
I often hope the original writer comes back to post or write to Dan to follow up about how it all turned out. I do hope this one does (assuming it isn't fake, which never occurred to me), even if s/he feels silly about how the wife is now working the late shift and the husband has really gotten into YouTube water buffalo videos.
@27: "Another way to come to the same conclusion has to do with knee-jerk liberalism. If you live in the world where Ethnic Group X has the reputation for being cheap or criminal or stupid or whatever, and if you're sensibly on guard against your own prejudices and lumping everyone in Ethnic Group X together as following the stereotype, then you're in a quandary when one Ethnic Group X individual actually does turn out to be cheap, criminal, stupid, or whatever."

So what use is this dumb, kneejerk parody of "liberalism", and why is this ridiculous line of discussion happening outside of a Trump rally?
Why do people think every letter is fake?
@30: More importantly, why does it matter whether they are or aren't?
29-undead-- The LW seems to be fighting the stereotype that anyone who enjoys sex or enjoys kinky loud sex must be a psychopathic torturer/killer to the extent that she's ignoring the possibility that something might be wrong in her neighbor's house.
@32: Oh fuck off, she's too busy being confused that "people who look like Walmart shoppers" like sex and that some make "hippo noises". She's so busy being judgmental of people who aren't like her that she can't determine whether someone is actually being hurt or not.

That doesn't follow your weirdass and quasiracist attempt to dismantle "liberalism".
@30: People don't always think letters are fake. People think certain letters are fake when the LW adds "color" and tons of unnecessary details to the point where it leads one to think that at best, she's exaggerating both the grunts and her own concern.

It's a story about her, not her neighbors.

Dan is right to take it seriously, as are other commenters. But humans are natural storytellers, and they do fib a great deal for various reasons, mostly attention-based.
@34 I'm with you - if you take the time to make the lame 'Walmart' description the odds that you aren't a judgmental prick are nearly 0. And the letter has a lot to do with her and I can't see how that's relevant unless she just wants some attention here. That said, all this behavior from her neighbors is very new (assuming this is not a fake), so there is some legitimate cause for concern in my mind.

Can we get an update on this?
I'd love to hear that, though Dan would have posted an update in the letter if she gave him any response to his advice. The issue seems to have resolved itself.
Bake a cake, go knock on the door, and ask for Marge.
@31 even if it is fake the advice given is more intended not for the asker but people in similar situations. I think the LW's situation is common enough that even if it fake the advice given might help someone else.

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