It’s Time to Really Incorporate Your Senses Into Your Sex Life — Here’s How
It’s Time to Really Incorporate Your Senses Into Your Sex Life — Here’s How
When it comes to sex, everyone likes things a little differently.
Some people want their sex to have a storyline — so they love roleplay. Some people want their sex to feel naughty — so they love dirty talk. Some people want their sex to feel romantic — so they love soft and intimate lovemaking. And some people just want to feel things.
This last group of people might be first in line for what’s known in the kink community as “sensation play.”
Sensation play is about boiling sex down to the pure physical sensations — in fact, you might even be throwing the ‘sex’ part of it out the window, in the sense that sensation play doesn’t require any form of penetration, or even genital contact necessarily.
But what is sensation play, really? And how can it unlock new kinds of sexy experiences for you and your partner(s)? To give you the lowdown on this exciting erotic realm, we spoke to a handful of sex experts. Here’s what they had to say:
What Is Sensation Play?
Sensation play describes a very wide range of potential activities that could work in either kinky or more vanilla sex lives.
“Sensation play, as the name suggests, involves engaging and stimulating the senses in order to elicit pleasure,” says adult filmmaker Inka Winters of ForPlay Films. “This can involve touch, smell, taste, sound and/or vision. This broad definition leaves a lot of room for creativity in your play, and makes it that most likely there is some [variety of] sensation play for anyone.”
If you find yourself worrying about being stuck in a “routine,” or you want to find a way to make your sex life more gratifying overall, sensation play is an accessible and fun way to elevate your bedroom game — whether you want to experience kink, vanilla, or virtually any other flavor of fun.
“Sensation play creates different arousing sensations and can elicit pleasure or pain depending on the desired effect,” says Lisa Lawless, Ph.D., CEO of Holistic Wisdom. “In some cases, one may enjoy oscillating between pleasure and pain to heighten enjoyable tension, sexual arousal, and anticipation.”
“Sensation play is also beneficial for engaging in some erotic and sexual stimulation without having to necessarily have sex,” says sex educator Javay da BAE, founder of The Millennial Sexpert.
As well, she notes, sensation play can be a “great avenue for arousal,” which is helpful if you or your partner have trouble syncing up your libidos, or one of you needs more time to become fully aroused.
Different Forms of Sensation Play, Explained
Whether you’re new to sensation play or not, it’s always good to consider that “some activities focus on the individual senses, and others, a combination of the five senses,” says Javay.
For instance, “feather ticklers and Wartenberg wheels are great for physical sensation play, but you can also play with both sight and taste by blindfolding and eating aphrodisiacs,” she adds. (A Wartenberg wheel is a rotating pinwheel attached to a handle).
All told, as long as your sensation play aspirations are safe, sane, and fully consensual, “the sky’s the limit,” Winters says.
For beginners, a common gateway to sensation play is simply experimenting with physical touch on the skin, as such with a feather tickler.
Winters also suggests experimenting with “various objects like silk scarves, the tines of a comb, a tooth brush, your tongue, your nails or temperature play with ice cubes, cold or heated metal.”
For quick reference: the application of hot or cold to the skin is also known as temperature play. If you fancy a little spanking or play with a riding crop, that is also known as impact play.
Lawless explains: “In some cases, impact play can feel soft and subtle, while firmer impacts can provide consensual pain” — which means there are various degrees to which a person might desire pain, so always check in with your partner and never assume.
“If you would like to incorporate a little bit of pain you can use a Wartenberg wheel, hot wax or an electric wand,” Winters suggests. However, “these are generally more advanced [applications of sensation play] and need some research and training to be done properly and safely.”
In other words, educate yourself and use common sense — don’t literally jump right into the hot wax or go from “zero” to any kind of extreme. Take your time…and enjoy the journey.
Also, on the more pleasurable side of sensation play, don’t overlook your ears.
“We get many member requests for erotic ASMR content,” says Angie Rowntree of Sssh.com. “One of the biggest triggers out there for pleasure-inducing tingles is a simple whisper in the ear. Try it with your partner — even when you’re not in bed, this simple yet sensual act can have a powerful effect.”
Additionally, some people also take their exploration of “taste” and translate it into “splooshing” sessions. Splooshing is the act of rubbing food all over yourself or your partner’s body.
“For most people this is easily enjoyed with a can of whipped cream,” says Rowntree. “But as long as you aren’t dealing with scalding hot food, or exposing the genitals directly to food, you can get more imaginative too. And for similar but non-food fun, there’s also body paint.”
The Benefits of Sensation Play
If you’re one of those people who is always in your head, or you find that you can’t stop your thoughts from racing at times, you might think of sensation play as a means to achieving your “sexual zen.”
“Trying sensation play can help you to be more connected to your body and fully embody and experience all the different sensations,” says Javay.
Winters agrees: “We are so busy, distracted and stressed most of the time that we often miss cues and sensations that can help us experience pleasure. Sensation play helps us practice mindfulness by bringing awareness to our sensations.”
Additionally, in the context of your relationship or partnered sex life, “Sensation play can enhance intimacy and trust and allow couples to better explore and understand their bodies and preferences,” says Dr. Lawless. “It can also be sexually empowering as it often involves clear communication, consent, and boundary-setting.”
Incorporating Sensation Play Into Your Sex Life
Dr. Lawless suggests: “Start by learning more about sensation play, as well as discussing boundaries and safe words with your partner. If you’re exploring it solo, set limits for yourself.”
And if you do happen to be flying solo, “you can engage in sensation play by yourself by adding a blindfold to your masturbation sessions, or by using a feather tickler on yourself, or engaging in temperature play,” says Javay.
Or it could simply take the form of using a favorite masturbator toy with a warming lubricant, for instance.
Solo or coupled, sensation play can be as elaborate or simple as you want. Rowntree explains: “Sensation play can be as basic as you running an ice cube over your partner’s nipples and blowing gently to deliver chills and thrills.”
Kinky couples might also enjoy combining their sensation play with restraints, “which can include rope, bondage tape, binders (handcuffs and legcuffs), shackles, spreader bars, and yokes,” says Lawless. “These can increase feelings of submission and a desired helplessness. They should always be used with a safe word that lets partners know when something is uncomfortable.”
Of course, don’t feel obligated to go there if it’s not your speed.
“There’s really no singular ‘look’ or ‘practice’ for sensation play, and it does not have to involve a power-exchange dynamic,” says Rowntree.
“Rather, it’s all about what you and your partner find mutually pleasurable,” she explains. “If a sensation play scene in an erotic film inspires you and gets you both talking about what you’d both like, that’s wonderful. However, don’t take your cues just from what you see on a movie screen — always look to each other and keep the lines of communication open.”
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