From what we’re taught in sex-ed, to portrayals in porn and popular media, it’s easy to get the impression that sex means penetration—perhaps with stops along the way for making out and manual or oral stimulation. But sex can be so much more!
Tuning in to the sensual aspects of sex, can bring a new level of richness and intimacy to sex play. It can also be a creative way to take things slow, accommodate an injury or disability, or heal from trauma, allowing you to be sexual together in a context where intercourse isn’t necessarily the end-game.
Tuning in to the sensual aspects of sex, can bring a new level of richness and intimacy to sex play.
Focusing on each of the five senses is a great way to bring more sensuality into the bedroom. If you’re ready to incorporate new ways of being intimate with a partner, read on for some simple suggestions.
Talking dirty, putting on music to set the mood, encouraging our partner with moans, gasps, and screams—sound is something many of us already incorporate into our sex lives. Talking dirty can be a wonderful way to build tension and amp up arousal without ever laying a finger on your partner.
Tell them what you love about their body, what you’re feeling, what you’d like to do to them or have them do to you. If you find yourself tongue-tied when it’s time to talk dirty, reading erotica to your partner can be a super-sexy way to incorporate aural pleasure—without the pressure of having to come up with something yourself!
Music is nearly universal in its appeal and power to evoke feeling. Check out a sexy playlist on Spotify, or make your own.
What it’s great for: Particularly for those in long-distance relationships, sound can be a great way to stay connected. For people who want to get to know their partner better, exchanging fantasies, reading to each other, or trading sexy playlists can be a wonderful way to get closer.
Eat together! Fruit—sweet and juicy, with many varieties resembling vulvas— is one of the sexiest foods there is. Slowly savoring a ripe peach while letting its juice drip down your chin—while your partner watches, of course—can be just as erotic as a strip-tease.
Drizzle each other with honey or paint each other with chocolate, and revel in the combination of sweetness and the natural saltiness of their skin. Yum! Just remember, don’t put these on the genitals because they can cause yeast infections.
Talking dirty can be a wonderful way to build tension and amp up arousal without ever laying a finger on your partner.
What it’s great for: If you want to experience something deeply sensual with your partner, but aren’t quite ready for genital play, taking pleasure in food and a variety of tastes together can be extremely sexy. For people who have experienced body dysphoria or struggled with their body image, enjoying food in a sexual context can be a liberating way to redefine their relationship with food and their bodies.
Watching porn together is a classic way to enhance a sexual experience and spark conversation around preferences, boundaries, and new things you might like to try. Beyond porn, though, there are numerous ways to have a sexy visual experience.
An erotic coloring book can be a fun way to explore new sexual territory in a low-stakes, playful context. Playing dress-up, or experimenting with different makeup looks, can allow you and your partner to explore diverse roles, play with gender, and bring a sense of fun to your sexual expression.
What it’s great for: Like sound, sight can reach across distance: if you have a phone or webcam, you can put on a show for your partner, no matter how far away you are. For gender-diverse individuals, exploring different looks with your partner can be intimacy-building, and increase your confidence. Sexy coloring or drawing is a wonderful way to spark conversation around what turns you on and what you might like to try without the expectation of full-on intercourse.
Scented candles, essential oils, and perfumes all have their place. But there are many ways to bring your sense of smell alive during sex play.
Although many of us have been taught that natural body odors are offensive, in reality, the wealth of pheromones and other volatile compounds in your partner’s sweat, breath, and genital aromas can be among the most powerful aphrodisiacs in existence! Close your eyes and inhale your partner’s unique aroma - because smell is so closely tied to emotion and memory, you may be surprised by what it evokes.
What it’s great for: Reveling in the natural scents of your partner’s body, and witnessing them enjoying your own, can be a tremendously powerful way to unlearn body shame and unlock new horizons of sensual pleasure.
There are many ways to enjoy sexual touch—from massage to sensation play. Gentle stroking with fingertips or a toy, even playing with your partner’s hair can all be great ways to share pleasure and build intimacy.
Sensual touch away from the genitals can be especially suitable for people who are uncomfortable with genital touch—because they’re experiencing body dysphoria, processing trauma, recovering from an injury, or simply aren’t interested—being touched in a caring, sensual way by a partner who isn’t expecting the encounter to end in intercourse can be tremendously healing.
What it’s great for: Having a safe place in which to experience sensual touch without the pressure to have penetrative or oral sex can be affirming, healing, and intimacy-building.
Close your eyes and inhale your partner’s unique aroma.
Even if you usually want sex to result in intercourse, exploring diverse ways to experience sexual pleasure can enhance your sex life and your bond with your partner (and yourself!).