Often, we associate sensual touch with sex. Sensual touch may lead to and be a part of sex, but it doesn’t have to be sexual.
Sensual touch is about touching yourself or someone else in a pleasurable way. It can be about bonding, showing affection, and relaxing. Sensual touch doesn’t necessarily lead to oral, anal, or penile-vaginal intercourse, but can increase intimacy.
Some people use sensual touch as a form of foreplay, while others prefer sensual touch to sexual activity. Whatever you feel, there are a couple different ways to explore sensual touch on your own and with a partner.
Solo sensual touch can be a great way to get into masturbation, but if you don’t want to do that, that’s OK! Sensual touch can be a fun way to pass the time, bond with yourself, and practice self-care.
Soothe your muscles and relax your mind with a bit of self-massage. Self-massage is a great technique for getting rid of any aches and pains you might have, but it can also be used as a part of sensual solo touch.
Try using massage oils to incorporate your sense of smell during your massage.
Exploring sensual touch on your own allows you to find your own erogenous zones. Erogenous zones are parts of your body that are particularly sensitive to pleasure.
While some usually think of sexual activity when it comes to erogenous zones, discovering these pleasurable places doesn’t have to entail masturbation or intercourse.
Run your fingers all over your body and allow yourself to figure out which sensations and areas feel good. If it feels good, use different pressures and strokes to see what might feel even better.
Ice, feathers, and silk
Unusual textures and temperatures can be a great tool in solo sensual touch. Things like ice, feathers, and silky fabrics can probably be found in your home, along with other sensual objects.
As you touch these items to your skin, try to focus on the sensation. How does it feel? Do you like it? Is it uncomfortable or irritating? These questions can help you figure out what textures you like.
Showering or bathing
The sensation of water — whether it’s water spraying on you from a showerhead or water surrounding you in a tub — can be very sensual.
Showering or bathing can offer you a great opportunity for sensual solo play. The sensations of cleaning your skin with a sponge or your hands can feel great. You can incorporate these items into a sensual shower:
- soap suds
- bubble bath
- massage bars
- fragrant shower gels
Soft blankets can be very pleasant. Whether you’re clothed or totally naked, lying down in soft blankets can feel amazing against your skin. Focus on the sensation of the softness, wrap yourself in one and allow yourself to feel safe, or use one during a much-needed nap.
Partner sensual touch can be a great form of foreplay. However, it doesn’t have to lead to genital touching at all. It can be very pleasurable in itself, and if you can’t, or don’t want to, engage in any type of sexual activity, this can be a great way to bond, relax, and have fun.
Partner sensual touch can help you connect with your partner, show and receive affection, and relax.
Cuddling is a classic way to bond with your partner, and its benefits can’t be overstated. Oxytocin, which is often called the ‘cuddle hormone,’ is released when we snuggle up with one another, according to
Interested in changing up your cuddle session? Try cuddling in different positions, or taking off your clothes before snuggling for an added layer of intimacy.
Massaging one another can be a great way to relax after a long day. Whether you’re massaging one another’s back, feet, hands, or scalp, massage can help you bond with your partner and release some of the tension in your muscles.
Try using aromatherapy oils when massaging each other. It can help you destress, and it smells amazing.
Exploring your bodies
Try touching your partner all over using light, varying sensations. Go slowly, and check in on them to see whether any sensation feels particularly good, then return the favor.
Discovering pleasurable places on your body can be super exciting, especially when done with someone else.
Home items with unusual temperatures and textures are always great for sensual play, whether you’re on your own or with a partner. Take turns introducing new items to one another.
To up the intimacy, consider having your partner wear a blindfold as you apply new items to their skin. This way, they can focus completely on the sensation.
A shower for two
Showering or bathing can help you relax and bond with your partner. You can take turns washing each other, giving each other scalp massages, and enjoying the sensation of warm water all around you.
The sensation of warm, melted chocolate, whipped cream, and even cool fruit can be sensual and fun. Try to incorporate your favorite food items into sensual touch with your partner.
Remember that food should generally stay away from your anus and genitals, as it can cause an infection in those sensitive areas.
Contrary to popular belief, bondage isn’t all about sex. It can also be pretty sensual, too.
There are a few ways to incorporate sensual touch into bondage. For example, one partner can tie up the other and massage, tickle, or kiss them. You can use specially developed rope, handcuffs, belts, or even scarves to tie your partner up.
Some people expect sensual touch to lead to sexual touch, while others don’t. Perhaps you’d like to do one activity while your partner would prefer another.
To set boundaries with your partner, discuss what you’re comfortable with beforehand.
If you’re not used to having these conversations, it can be a little tricky. You can use phrases like:
- “I’d like to do X, but not Y.”
- “It would be great if we could do X and then move on to Y.”
- “Could we stick to doing X? I prefer it.”
- “I’d rather not do Y.”
To ask what your partner would prefer, use phrases like:
- “What do you enjoy?”
- “Would you like to do X and then Y?”
- “Do you want to do Y after a while?”
- “Can we do Y?”
Remember that you can withdraw consent at any time. If you agree to do something, you can change your mind later. The same goes for your partner.
Both partners should respect each other’s boundaries, whether they were discussed beforehand or not.
According to Tufts Medical Center, sensual touch without a sexual focus can help someone feel less anxious about sex and intimacy. It can also improve your relationship with your partner and explore what sensations you like. Solo touch can help you feel more in tune and comfortable with your body.
There’s some scientific evidence that touch can be beneficial for our social, physical, and mental well-being. A 2014 study showed that couples that cuddled after sex were more likely to be happy with their relationships, concluding that showing affection after sex was important in building intimacy.
Massage can also improve our immune systems, according to a 2010 study on the benefits of Swedish massage. It found that a single session of Swedish massage could cause the release of oxytocin, which led to an improved immune system. It also reduced cortisol, the stress hormone.
Research from 2016 also found that cuddling and other forms of intimate touch could act as a ‘stress buffer,’ helping your body and mind cope with stressors better.
While further research is needed in specific areas, there’s certainly some scientific research to suggest that touch has a number of benefits.
Sensual touch, whether it’s with yourself or a partner, can be pleasurable, relaxing, and fun.
It can be a great form of foreplay, or it could be pleasurable by itself. It doesn’t have to lead to sex but it can be a great way to boost your intimacy with a partner or yourself.