“Sensory sex and orgasms have a wide-ranging effect that support our bodies overall wellbeing,” including, “improving the radiance and glow of skin, strengthening muscles, and naturally engaging our nervous system to heighten the effects of pleasure.”
– Megwyn White, Certified Clinical Sexologist
We all know there are five senses, but did you know that all of them (or most of them) used together during sex can be a game changer? It’s called sensory sex because you use as many of your senses as possible to turn up the volume on pleasure. It works because it adds stimulation from multiple sources and broadens sensation and focus beyond the genitals.
At one time, there was some philosophical debate about sex as the sixth sense, but in the end it became known as a fusion of the senses, not a sense in and of itself. So, think about creating your own fusion with two, three, four or all five of your senses. Single people can experience sensory sex too, of course! But if you’re a couple, it has the added dynamic of encouraging and enhancing intimacy between the two of you.
Whether you’re a group of one or two, let’s all put on our sex-colored glasses and take a fresh look at the five senses and how they can elevate sexual pleasure to new heights.
More often than not, sexual encounters begin with kissing. But, in this context, a kiss is not just a kiss. Among other things, it’s sharing and experiencing the natural, unique flavors of each other's mouths. And, oftentimes, kissing doesn’t stop at the lips. Good thing that the entirety of our bodies offer endless opportunities for tasting – ear lobes, napes of necks, clitorises, toes, the inside of elbows and knees . . . so many spots, so little time.
At a primal level, we're attracted to sweet flavors because sweet signaled safety to our ancestors. The ancient Persians also appreciated the flavor of sweet. Their newlyweds drank a fermented beverage made with honey for a full month after they were married. It’s where the word honeymoon (“honey month”) comes from. To this day, one of the ways we express romantic love is with sweet edibles like chocolate. Personally, I can't think of a more delicious way to trigger a primal response.
Here are some ideas for adding taste (sweet and otherwise) to your sexual senses repertoire.
- Draw a map with the kind of whipped cream you squirt from a can - a map to the destination of your choice, as long as the journey begins and ends on your partner's body. Now imagine licking, tasting and swallowing your way from point A to point B. Sexy, right?
- Try tasting other sweet foods like fruit, honey, or warm chocolate. Chocolate-covered strawberries, are a popular choice but you may have another sweet treat or combo in mind. It’s about what appeals to you and your partner.
- Consider one of the many flavored, edible lubes on the market and try it on your partner. Then ask your partner to try it on you. Just like with food, make sure that the product you try has a taste and texture that you and your partner like (a lot).
- Shielding your eyes can embolden the other senses – and taste is no exception. Try a blindfold while your partner feeds you from a spoon and allow yourself to be immersed in sensation that is likely to transcend your taste buds.
- Take turns tasting each other. Experience your partner’s natural flavors and open yourself up to share as well. The two of you just might find this more erotic than chocolate covered anything.
Our sense of touch is capable of provoking pleasure well beyond the places we think about touching when we're engaged in sex - from the top of our heads to the tips of our toes. In fact, skin is our largest organ with touch receptors that feel hot and cold, textures, and vibrations – they can even detect moisture. So many things to try when it comes to touch! Here are a few ideas to start the ball rolling.
- Try touching your partner with a tickle or a rub, but really slow it down to increase sensation and build anticipation.
- Use firm pressure for a different sensory experience. Encourage your partner to be your guide so you know for sure how firm is firm enough - or when it's not enough or too much.
- The feeling of ice or a chilled glass dildo on the skin can ignite an erotically exciting response. Think erogenous zones and consider the possibilities. When playing with temperatures - hot and cold - be sure to test on the inside of your wrist before touching your partner's skin.
- Consider trying an air pulse stimulator. This is a sex toy that's made to stimulate the clitoris. It uses non-contact, pressure-wave technology to mimic the suction and pulsation of oral sex. Your skin's touch receptors will thank you (probably more than once).
- Experiment with different textures touching your skin. For instance, envelop yourself in softness with our Modal Poncho or use feathers to tickle (or be tickled) while you're on a bed covered in velvet or faux fur. And maybe this is the right time to discover what leather ribbon feels like when it's loosely tied around your wrists.
- A warm bath, for one or for two, and don’t forget the soap. Hands sliding on soapy, slippery bodies. Enough said.
- When it comes to our sense of touch, massage is a no brainer. The possibilities are endless and it's a way for you to craft your own happy ending. This kind of massage is a wonderful turn on for both giver and receiver.
- The thought of dripping wax from candles onto the skin definitely evokes a fifty-shades kind of vibe. But experimenting with this kind of play doesn't necessarily mean you're into BDSM. If you want to give it a try, look for low-temperature soy candles specifically made for wax play that does not burn the skin. Most of them are scented and some are even edible. Look for "massage" candles.
Sight is often the first sense we engage when we’re interacting with other people. If you're contemplating sex, that might mean you’re wearing a form-fitting negligee, a special piece of lingerie (like a Playlette) – or nothing at all – in a dimly lit room full of props. Sounds like the perfect backdrop for a night of passion.
When the lights go down, eyes dilate which is one of the ways our brains recognize attraction. So, think about transforming the room into your own personal red-light district with a colored bulb. Or use candlelight to create ambiance and set the mood. Select pillows and throws that will add textures and colors to your space. Think of it as setting the stage for sex.
Here are some more ideas that just might make you see fireworks:
- If you’re a couple, gaze into each other’s eyes. The longer the better, because prolonged eye contact is believed to release phenylethylamine (a natural amphetamine that also stimulates your recognition of attraction) and oxytocin (the feel-good “love chemical”).
- Keep the lights on. Dimly lit is good, but keep enough light on to see and be seen. According to Emily Nagoski, author of Come As You Are: The Surprising New Science that Will Transform Your Sex Life, "women tend to respond genitally when they see anything sexual.” So, the quicker you see each other the better.
- You can imitate Demi Moore doing it on screen or come up with some moves of your own, but either way, a strip tease is a great way to stimulate your partner’s sense of sight. And turnaround is fair play. Both of you may enjoy taking a turn starring in your own strip tease.
- Position mirrors so you can see yourself and each other and watch as skin touches skin.
- Try a blindfold and heighten your other four senses.
- Watch a movie together. Maybe a romantic rom com will get the two of you in the mood. Or maybe you'd prefer something a little more to the point, like porn. Whatever you decide, it should have a subject matter that makes you both feel comfortable and turned on. If you choose porn, remember that this genre does not necessarily come with a realistic depiction of bodies and situations. And it’s not intended for instruction, it’s intended to light your fire.
Music ignites the same parts of the brain as food, drugs, and sexual pleasure. And most of us have experienced its power in some form or another. So music is an obvious choice when it comes to sensory sex. It’s a powerful way to influence mood in general and your sexuality in particular. But there are other sounds that can add additional layers to pleasure - the softest whisper, the not-so-quiet sounds of passion, seductive language.
Here are some ideas to engage your sense of hearing.
- Use your words to tease and titillate. If you start before you’re in the bedroom together, the temperature will already be hot when you arrive.
- Music can transport you to another world – where only the two of you exist and only what you’re doing right now matters – it can also guide movements and bring an energy that you only get from music. But the songs that strike the right chord for sexual activity are highly individualized. So, give it some thought and create a playlist that is a turn on for you and your partner.
- Try humming to your partner – and vice versa. This simplest of sounds will add a new dimension to pleasure when it’s happening during cunnilingis and felatio. But don’t stop there, the soft vibrations that happen when you’re humming will feel delightful anywhere lips touch skin.
- Don’t be shy about your own sounds of arousal and pleasure – and encourage your partner, if needed.
- Many people who consider themselves straight-laced when it comes to language, still enjoy “dirty” talk in the bedroom. Erotic lingo is different for different people, but it will likely have the desired effect, regardless of vernacular.
Have you heard of the limbic system? It’s the area of the brain that governs our emotions, long-term-memory and sexual impulses. Smell is tied to the limbic system, so stimulating this sense can be highly erotic.
Smell is intricately linked with taste, but it also has its own place among the five senses. Imagine your bedroom filled with the aroma of vanilla or sandalwood or Ylang Ylang – all considered scents of desire. Try scenting your space with an aroma that appeals to both you and your partner to set the tone. Here are some ways to do it.
- Light scented candles.
- Rub your partner with scented massage oil.
- Use a diffuser to fill the room with an essential oil that puts you both in the mood.
- Light some incense to create a sense of calm sensuality.
- Spray a favorite perfume to trigger old memories and inspire new ones.
Perhaps the most erotic aroma of all is each other. The smell of our bodies is unique – like fingerprints - and pheromones and copulins (sexual arousal messengers) are detected through this very powerful sense. However, feeling comfortable with our natural essence can be complicated. Many of us feel shy about sharing this part of ourselves, because we’ve been taught not to. The truth is, the smell of us does not need to be altered with products developed to cover and disguise. Masking the aroma of our own bodies has always been a practice inspired more by marketing than reality. And the message has been clear - we’re not appropriate and desirable unless our vaginas have the fragrance of flowers. Time to reject unhealthy notions of femininity and to accept all of the things that make us individuals - including the way we smell.
One of the things our natural scent is designed to do is attract and send messages to potential sex partners. So embracing it may enhance your sexual experience in unexpected ways. Not to mention the boost to intimacy between partners that can happen when you're sharing this basic and primal part of yourselves.
So there you have it - ideas to stimulate taste, touch, sight, sound, and smell for amazingly sensory sex. Try upping your game by focusing on one or two or go for it with all five. Either way (or any way in between), the point is trying new things to rev up fun, adventure, and sexual pleasure. You also might get to know yourself and each other a little bit better in the process.
Glamour, What Is sensory sex? Here’s how to engage all five senses to boost your sexual wellness, pleasure and intimacy, Lucy Morgan, November 2, 2021
Women’s Health Network, Good Sex Starts in Your Senses, Barbara Carrellas, June 9, 2021
Psychology Today, Is Sex a Sixth Sense?, Carolyn Purnell, Ph.D., June 9, 2020
Women’s Health, What Exactly Is Sensory Sex? Your Guide to Engaging All Five Senses To Boost Sexual Wellness, WH Staff, November 3, 2021
Life Coaching and Therapy, How Your Sense of Smell and Taste Affects Your Sexual Experiences, Amanda Pasciucco, September 23, 2019
Men’s Health, Engage Her Senses to Build a Better Orgasm, Stockbyte, March 26, 2015