There’s one thing Sexperts and your average Aussie can agree on -sex plays an essential role in improving our mental health. So why not shake things up? From ice cream to sexy massages, Lovehoney’s Sexual Health and Wellbeing Expert Chantelle Otten takes us through sensory play.
What is sensory play?
Sensation play involves the enhancement of the senses. The goal is to engage all the senses to heighten pleasure during sex and can include impact (spanking or striking with an implement), temperature, restraint, scent and sound.
By putting the focus on pleasurable sensations throughout your body, sensation play can both heighten arousal and relax any inhibitions that often come with an exclusive focus on the genitals.
For many people, incorporating sensation play during sex can open up new horizons of intimacy and pleasure.
Interestingly, many Australians are already dabbling in sensory play. The 2019 Lovehoney Sexual Happiness Survey found that 42% of women and 33% of men would be interested in experimenting with sexy massages. Currently, of those surveyed, 29% of participants were reaching for the massage oils, and 17% are having fun with light bondage props such as handcuffs, spankers and ticklers.
What are the rules?
Sensation play can be emotionally intense, at times provoking feelings of vulnerability and anxiety. This rings true for those who have experienced trauma or have struggled with any aspect of their sexuality or body image –which is most people! Trying something new or exploring boundaries can often bring up difficult memories and feelings.
As with any sexual interaction, communication—before, during, and after—is essential to successful sensation play. Talk with your partner beforehand about your desires and boundaries. If at any time you feel uncomfortable, take a break to check in with your partner and make adjustments as needed.
You can create your own rules and build on the below list, but the main rules to stick to for sensory play are:
- Consent from both parties. Consent must be the foundation for every sexual encounter.
- Establish a plan for check-ins, mishaps and aftercare.
- Establish check-in words: “green light,” “yellow light,” and “red light” system to communicate “keep going,” “slow down,” or “stop and check-in”.
Types of sensory play
One of the best ways to explore sensory play is with temperature play. Ice is maybe the easiest option when it comes to temperature play as all it takes is grabbing a few cubes from your ice tray. You can drip melted ice water over your partner’s body or put the ice cube in your mouth and then go down on your partner or run your icy tongue along their erogenous zones.
Temperature play in a partnership can also involve glass toys, which can be heated up or cooled down for sensory exploration. The different temperature sensations can jolt you and your partner/s into sensation overload.
The fun doesn’t have to stop there. Consider adding a cooling or warming lube or sexy massage candle to your bedroom toolkit. Massage candles melt into a delicious-smelling oil that you can rub into your partner’s skin for a sensual massage.
Smell, taste and sound
Exploring the senses of smell, taste and sound can be incredibly simple -and incredibly hot. Eating during sex play combines two of the most sensually gratifying experiences that exist. Foods like ice cream, which is simultaneously sweet, creamy, cold and wet, are particularly suited to sensation play. You could also try blindfolding a sexual partner and feeding them strawberries or putting whipped cream on your body and getting them to lick it off blindfolded. If you want, you can try switching it up and putting it on their body and licking off. Cliche? Maybe – but it works! Flavoured lubes are another fun way to tickle your taste sensations during sex and sexual play.
Scent is another powerful sense to play with, as it’s strongly tied to memory. Spritz on some of that perfume or essential oil you adore to enhance your solo play. For couple’s play, wear the perfume you were wearing when you met your partner to spark a sense-memory of arousal. Alternatively, try breathing in the natural scent of your partner’s body.
For sound, pop on an erotic playlist of all your favourite songs to get you in the mood.
What about aftercare?
For many people, talking and processing with their partner after a sexual encounter can help to increase confidence, calm nerves and make the next experience even better. Cuddle up, discuss your session, share positive affirmations and have a chat about what you loved/didn’t love about the experience you’ve just shared. And remember that consent is an on-going conversation. After experimenting with different sensations, you and your partner may decide that some (or all) of what you have just tried isn’t for you. And that’s okay!
Finally, don’t be afraid to laugh—maintaining a sense of humour is the best way to confront the awkwardness that can come up when you try something new!
Chantelle Otten is an internationally educated Sexologist,Scientist and Sex and Relationship Expert. She is Lovehoney Australia’s Sexual Health and Wellbeing Expert, and a public speaker providing education and empowerment to Australian individuals and couples. Her education includes a Bachelor in PsychologicalScience and a Masters of Science in Medicine, SexualHealth/Psychosexual Therapy from the University of Sydney. Find her at chantelotten.com.