The Oscar Pistorius Trial

“It’s Not Really Possible For A Man To Scream Like A Woman”

oscar pistoriusWhen men try to imitate the voice of a woman, they typically raise their voices to a higher pitch, and in the end, sound like men imitating women. Actually training a man to “sound” like a woman is enormously difficult and doesn’t have much to do with pitch, says Monique Rissen- Harrisberg CEO of one of South Africa’s leading communication’s training companies, The Voice Clinic.

The Oscar Pistorius defence team said his voice became as high –pitched as a woman’s when he cried out in anguish. The picture of Pistorius crying hysterically and screaming in a high pitched voice simply does not sound convincing. Three witnesses thus far are convinced that they heard a woman’s ‘blood curdling’ screams the night of the tragedy, which would indicate a primal scream of extreme fear. His attorney says when Pistorius gets anxious his voice pitches high and it sounds like a woman screaming.

When men stress, they increase the loudness of their voice, while women’s voices change into a shriek. So, it’s is not really possible for a man to scream like a woman, according to Rissen-Harrisberg.

A scream can actually generate around 100-125 decibels of sound pressure (loudness). “Women scream at a higher pitch than men to the frequencies where our ears are most sensitive 3000Hz,” says Rissen Harrisberg.

“One theory why people scream when they are scared is because they are releasing emotional energy. When a person is scared their adrenaline rises and they have to release the energy in some way. Another reason people may scream when scared, is to alert others that they need help. A visual example of a primal scream of intense fear can be seen in Edward Munch’s painting, The Scream,” explains Rissen-Harrisberg. This is what Pistorius said he did.

Some men do have high pitched voices. There is a variety of voice training techniques that can be taught in order to lower the pitch of the voice. Speech therapists consider ‘puberphonia’ to be a treatable condition, and most men are happy with the results. Voice training is usually successful, teaching individuals to access the lower register of voice notes.

A woman’s scream is rather more like the shout of a human subject of language in the face of death. A man’s shout delimits a territory; a woman’s scream has to do with limitlessness. “The difference between a man and woman’s screaming is not so much the sound quality of the scream but its placement. The screaming point is a point of the unthinkable inside the thought,” said Rissen-Harrisberg.

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