A hickey —also known as a love bite — is a bruise that results when tiny blood vessels under the skin are broken due to suction. Usually the product of a passionate make-out, hickeys are often associated with teenagers or people just starting to experiment with sex, eager to explore but not too concerned with discretion. Due to social stigma, particularly for women and femmes, many adults are reluctant to sport visual evidence of their status as sexual beings. But hickeys aren’t just for the kids: Giving and receiving a mark of your desire can be sexy and satisfying for people of all ages. Adding this move to your repertoire can make foreplay more intense, or turn kissing into the main event, making it a great way to connect deeply with a new partner or keep things interesting with a current one.
Want to experiment with hickeys? Read on for some suggestions—no scarf necessary.
1. Location, location, location.
The most popular place to plant a hickey is the neck—for good reason. The neck is close to the face, has tons of nerve-endings and exceptionally tender skin, and it’s a natural place for kissing nibbling, and sucking. However, this is also the most visible spot for a love bite.
If you’d like to give or receive a hickey, but don’t want to advertise this aspect of your intimate life, aim for another part of the body. The inner thigh is a great choice: Just as sensitive as the neck, but perfectly discreet. The butt is another good spot: Many people welcome a little roughness with this tough and resilient part of the body, making it a great place to bite a little harder and suck with all your might. Some people with breasts love the sensation of strong suction in this delicate region. There’s no reason to limit hickeys to erogenous zones: You can get creative by sucking on your partner’s lower back, belly, or inner arm — all areas that can easily be covered with clothes.
2. Get wet.
A hickey can be delicate and subtle — or it can be expressive, voracious, and joyfully sloppy. Instead of simply sucking on your partner’s skin, experiment with licking, lapping, and getting your whole mouth involved. (This move is better suited to a long, steamy, session, rather than a quickie.)
3. Go big.
You can give a single hickey as a token of your affection — or you can cover a larger area of your lover’s body. Since some people love the feeling of suction, it can be a huge turn-on to have your partner lie still while you cover their body with love bites. Best to keep this one to areas of the body other than the neck if you don’t want lots of questions from friends, family, and the dreaded coworker — unless you want to show off your hickeys!
4. Timing is everything.
Many people give hickeys in the heat of the moment — usually during a fierce make-out sesh, and often in a relationship’s fiery beginning. But you can bring the fun of uncontrollable passion to your next run-of-the-mill kiss: Turn a routine morning snuggle into a wild romp by planting a hickey just above your partner’s collar bone.
5. Use tools.
While most people just use their mouths to create the tell-tale bruise, for those who particularly enjoy the feeling of suction on their bodies, you can incorporate tools for creating larger, stronger, or multiple hickeys at once. Cupping is the ancient practice of creating mechanical suction using cups or jars, the air inside which is heated with a small flame to create a vacuum.
Traditionally used as a healing modality, cupping can also be practiced in an erotic context. When done properly, cupping using heat is safe. But as with activity involving open flame, great care should be used to prevent accidents and injuries. Silicone cups and pumps are also available for those who don’t want to play with fire while playing with a partner.
Although many people enjoy the sensation of mild suction, it’s important to get consent before trying anything new — especially something that can leave a mark. If you want to give your partner a hickey, always ask: Even if they’ve enjoyed receiving hickeys in the past, it’s important to check in each time you want to give one to make sure they’re in the mood.