Written by: Kate Rancourt

From time to time, most of us are quick to jump straight into the hot and heavy, super stimulating sexual activities with our partners. But researchers and sex therapists have long known that focusing on sensuality – that is, becoming absorbed in moment-to-moment sensory experiences – opens the gates to enhanced sexual pleasure. So rather than speeding up to get to the “finale”, slowing down and focusing on the sensations of sex might do you and your partner good every once in a while.

Touch is a great way of enhancing sexual pleasure. In romantic relationships, touch is a key way that we express sexual interest or feelings to our partners [1]. For many couples, sexual touch is so powerful that their touching becomes focused on achieving a certain outcome, like orgasm. Sometimes this occurs at the expense of noticing that touching feels good for other reasons, such as fostering a close physical or emotional connection.

Image of two hands holdingImage credit: Brett Sayer

Believe it or not, touch is one of the most essential human behaviours [2]. From the time we are infants, frequent loving touch from caregivers plays a key role in helping us feel safe and secure. Touch also serves this same function in adult romantic relationships. Touch is a primary way that we communicate with our partners to express support, love, and affection. Not surprisingly, touch is associated with all kinds of good outcomes [2]. It helps build intimacy, it positively influences well-being and quality of life, and it helps people better manage their emotions. Touch from a romantic partner also has health benefits; numerous studies have found that touch from a romantic partner actually reduces physical markers of stress, such as cortisol and heart rate, in people that are exposed to stressful situations.

So how can you and your partner channel the many benefits of touch to enhance your relationship, your well-being, and your sex life?

  1. Give one another long hugs on a daily basis. Physical contact like hugging and cuddling increases oxytocin, a hormone that helps boost intimacy [2]. No wonder oxytocin has been dubbed the “love hormone” and “cuddle chemical”!
  2. Spend time cuddling with one another. For many couples, this creates sexual feelings, but it doesn’t always have to; research suggests that while cuddling often leads to or follows sex, most couples cuddle for non-sexual reasons such as love, closeness, or comfort [3],
  3. During sex, take the time to shift your focus away from touching with the purpose of bringing yourselves to orgasm, and towards touching to notice what else feels good [4]. Explore! Touch different body parts, use different pressures and speeds, and give one another feedback about what does (and doesn’t) feel good.

So go channel your inner Janet Weiss, and “touch-a touch-a touch-a touch” your partner – who knows what will happen?

 

Sources:

1 Curtis, Y., Eddy, L., Ashdown, B. K., Feder, H., & Lower, T. (2012). Prelude to a coitus: Sexual initiation cues among heterosexual married couples. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 27, 322–334. http://doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2012.734604

2 Gallace, A., & Spence, C. (2010). The science of interpersonal touch: An overview. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 34, 246–259. http://doi.org/10.1016/j.neubiorev.2008.10.004

3 van Anders, S. M., Edelstein, R. S., Wade, R. M., & Samples-Steele, C. R. (2012). Descriptive experiences and sexual vs. nurturant aspects of cuddling between adult romantic partners. Archives of Sexual Behavior, 42, 553–560. http://doi.org/10.1007/s10508-012-0014-8

4 De Villers (2014). Getting in touch with touch: A use of caressing exercises to enrich sensual connection and evoke ecstatic experience in couples. Sexual and Relationship Therapy, 29, 87-97. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14681994.2013.870336

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