When most of us think of sex, we think of the physical part first. But sexual pleasure can be drawn from many sources and experiences.
Physical touch feels good. We all know that. But did you know it is also essential to human growth and survival? Some of the potential benefits of affection include lower blood pressure, an increase in oxytocin, a reduction in stress hormones, pain alleviation, heightened immunity, and lower levels of anxiety.
Physical touch activates regions of the brain associated with thought and emotion. It lowers both heart rate and blood pressure and increases levels of oxytocin, the feel-good chemical associated with bonding.
And the benefits of physical touch flow in both directions—to the giver and receiver. A study found that when women touch their partners as a sign of support, there is more activity in their own ventral striatum, a region associated with reward processing.
As you experiment with physical components of seduction, you don’t need to think about why it affects you, but rather how it affects you and your lover(s). Different types of touch may be suited to different lovers, different areas of the body, and also different moments in time. The way a partner wants to be touched on Monday night after a long day might be different than how they want to be touched on a lazy Sunday morning.
Erogenous zones are areas of the body associated with sexual excitement and arousal. Of course, the whole body represents one big potential erogenous zone, but there are specific spots that tend to be more sensitive to physical seduction and touch. They vary from person to person, as no two bodies are alike. While you may love a gentle tickle against the back of your knees, your best friend might find it irritating or uncomfortable. This, of course, brings us back to the necessity of talking to the person(s) with whom you are having sex.
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: if you want to have the sex, you have to talk about the sex.
When it comes to erogenous zones, you might find that your most sensitive spots vary from day to day and that your mood, health, partner, and even positioning play a role in which areas are most responsive to erotic touch. For example, Jenni, who identifies as kinky, has a special and tenuous relationship with the nape of her neck:
I can have an orgasm from having my neck and back touched, kissed, stroked, and flogged. But at the same time, I will curl up and recoil if you kiss it at the wrong time or in the wrong way. Sometimes it’s actually about the partner and not about me.
So I would say the nape of my neck is both an erogenous zone and a no-go zone, which makes my body a little complicated. This is why before every scene—regardless of whether it’s a regular partner or someone new—I have to be very clear about what I’m in the mood for. And during the scene, I give specific directions. Now. Not now. Lower. Higher. I’m very specific. I’ll even say I want you to increase the intensity by 10%. It doesn’t sound sexy when I say it now, but it is hot in the moment, because not only am I in control, but I’m utilizing a part of my body in a way that most people know nothing about. Can you imagine having an orgasm simply from an ice cube rubbing against your neck? It’s powerful stuff, but it really does require that I communicate excessively, which is worth it to me.
With the right touch (or touch avoidance), any area of the body can ache with desire and swell with arousal. Consider seducing your partner with gentle, but purposeful touch of the following potential erogenous zones:
Suprasternal notch: This area, located at the center of the neck just above the collarbone, is highly sensitive to gentle touch, and you will not want to apply much pressure, as it overlies the airway. You can pique your partner’s interest by simply tracing your fingertips around this notch with featherlight touch. Alternatively, kiss their collarbone with your lips and tongue and then breathe gentle, warm air over this indentation to arouse their interest. The more you prime an area for pleasure, the more likely they’ll be to experience pleasurable sensations in the region during heightened arousal and orgasm.
The sides of the chest: The stretch of skin beneath the under arms can be highly responsive to pressure, temperature, texture, and other forms of touch. Use the backs of your hands to trace your fingernails from under their arms to their hips, or play with a leather or feather prop to heighten awareness of this area while you’re working your way down and warming them up for oral.
Philtrum: The entire face can be highly sensitive to erotic touch, and if you’ve ever experienced an orgasm during which your face tingles, you likely consider your lips, cheeks, chin, forehead, and eyelids highly erogenous. The word philtrum is derived from the Latin for love potion, and it refers to the sensitive groove right at the center above the upper lip. Try gently brushing up against it with the tip of your nose while you snuggle, or running your lips sensually along it while you kiss.
Belly button: The belly button is not only associated with sexuality for its close proximity to the genitals, but it has a history of primal and erotic associations. It is the giver of life and is rich in nerve endings. It has been painted as both visually and tactilely erotic, and its exposure has been banned as indecent in dress codes as a testament to its taboo sexual associations.
If you play around the edges or stimulate the shallow part of its groove, you may experience pleasurable sensations in the surrounding region across the fibers that lead to your spinal cord, which also relay information from your bladder and urethra to your brain. This is why some folks report feeling tingly sensations in their genitals via stimulation of the belly button and others find that orgasmic sensations are intensified via direct contact with the belly button.
Treasure trail: The path between the navel and the pubic mound can be particularly responsive to erotic touch, and you might find that your hair-grooming practices affect how you interpret these sensations. If your partner has pubic hair, trace your fingertips gently around, swirling to create a bit of heat and friction. If they are bare, use the backs of your fingers to gently awaken their nerve endings, and breathe warm air along the trail with a wide-open mouth to arouse interest and draw awareness to the pelvic region.
Perineum: This is the space between the scrotum and the anus or between the lower vulva and the anus, depending on your anatomy. You might also hear it referred to as the “taint, gooch, or chode.”
If you have a vulva, a smooth flat toy like the We-Vibe Touch or a powerful vibrator like the Hitachi Magic Wand can create rumbly sensations against this erogenous area.
(For those with a penis, you may be able to access the inner bulb of its base through the perineum—press firmly with several fingers or a toy right behind the balls. Pulse or slide with pressure or use a vibrating toy. The We-Vibe Verge is a penis ring that wraps around the base of the penis and balls and vibrates against the perineum. It can be worn in multiple positions depending on your preference, but if you want to stimulate the sensitive penile bulb, allow the vibrating extension arm to press firmly against your perineum.)
Pucker: You do not have to go inside to have anal sex. Good stuff happens on the outside too. The pucker (bum hole) tends to be sensitive to light touch from a finger, tongue, or vibrator. Twirl your way around it before pressing gently on the outside with your thumb, or use your tongue to lick petals around it as though it is the center of a daisy.
Shoulders: Though stimulation of your shoulders is unlikely to result in a deluge of orgasmic pleasure, the shoulders may hold the key to desire and arousal. Many of us harbor tension in this region, so a shoulder rub may be all we need to let go of our stress and feel more connected to both our own body and our partner’s.
The nape of the neck and ears: A cross-cultural study of nearly 800 participants found that people of all genders rate the nape of the neck and ears as highly erotic, with a high “ability to facilitate sexual arousal.” Plant soft kisses here when you’re out in public to build anticipation and give them a taste of what’s to come.
Nipples: Folks of all genders can derive exceptional pleasure from nipple play, and some people can reach orgasm from nipple stimulation alone. The genital sensory cortex, which is also activated through stimulation of the vagina and clitoris, may be involved in this process. Research suggests that nipple play releases oxytocin, which induces both relaxation and pleasure.
Enough book learning. Sex is a skill. It takes practice. Now it’s your turn.
More Inspiration: Check out this great article on the science of laughing.
Author: Dr. Jessica O’Reilly is a teacher, author and sex educator whose doctoral research focussed on brief interventions designed to improve teachers’ knowledge and comfort level with sexual health education. Her practical relationship advice reaches millions each month and she travels extensively across the globe to work with couples to transform their relationships.You can find her online here.