Want Better Sex? Put the Senses in Sensuality

Couple in hot tub, outsideSex sells. Sex sells vacations, music, perfume, clothing, even salad dressing with both covert and overt sexual messages. Sex also sells products that will supposedly help us become sexier, such as exercise equipment. Even the medical community tries to offer us ways to be sexier and maybe have more sex.

But what about better sex?

The word “better” is relative, of course. What is good or great sex to me isn’t necessarily good or great sex to you. Let’s keep those potential differences out of this discussion because what I want to talk about is highly individualistic, personal, and literally at your fingertips and at the end of your nose—your senses, which can play a big role in sensuality. “Sensual” is defined as relating to, devoted to, or producing physical or sexual pleasure. Even the dictionary sounds sexy with that definition!

This discussion is about the impact of our senses on sexual arousal. Accessing and becoming more attuned to our senses, and then incorporating that skill into sexual experience, either with another or on your own, is often an automatic or secondary component of sexual experiences. Still, we have an incredible opportunity to put our senses at the forefront of our sexual experiences.

What the Science Says

Our senses contribute to the sexual arousal cycle. With some intention and perhaps experimentation, we can leverage what is sensual to each of us and our partners. Rachel S. Herz and Elizabeth D. Cahill (1997) found that men reported being aroused equally by visual and olfactory stimuli, while female olfactory sense was most powerful. In another study, 54% of men reported visual stimulation to be essential to their sexual arousal, while only 14% of women reported visual stimulation to be essential.

Touch is the most frequent method used to induce sexual stimulation. Skin is the largest organ in our body and has the most effective impact on sexual response. With practice, we can quiet the mind and listen to what the body is telling us about which types of touch are most arousing. We may think we know what touch is arousing based on previous experiences, but I challenge you to find new areas and methods of touch to add to your sexual experiences. As a simple example, we may recognize that having our calves massaged is pleasurable and relaxing; could this be added to your experience by asking a lover to massage your calves for the purpose of pleasure and eroticism?

The sense of taste as it relates to sexual response is a compelling but overlooked area of study. Obviously, we taste when we kiss and perform oral sex, but are we intentionally and mindfully tuning into this sense to explore a new dimension of our sexual experience? Consider this: phenylethlamine is a chemical believed to be produced during sexual acts and also released when we consume chocolate, cheese, and even salami! No wonder chocolate is a common part of Valentine’s Day—it’s sensuality in a box!

Incorporating the Senses into Daily Practice

A component of mindfulness is noticing what you are experiencing in the moment, which, of course, requires us to notice our senses. As I write this article, I am in a bustling, metropolitan coffee shop rife with opportunity for me to practice what my senses are detecting. Take a moment to practice this yourself. You may notice the lighting, the temperature of your environment, or the humming of traffic or conversation. I encourage people in therapy to sharpen their awareness to the information their senses are receiving by tuning in and detecting, just as I am asking of you.

Another daily practice is to take a moment and notice the thoughts, images, or memories each of the following words inspires. Now, no pressure here—I’m not suggesting you have to have a sexy thought, sexual image, or memory of a sexual experience. Set sex aside. Just take a breath, relax, and focus on each of the following words. Simply notice what you notice:

  • Sight
  • Sound
  • Smell
  • Touch
  • Taste

Do two simple practices every day to enhance your sexual experience by tuning into your sensuality:

  1. In everyday life, check in with your five senses. What are they detecting?
  2. In sexual experiences, check in with your five senses. What are they detecting?

One final thought: As a sex therapist, I am often asked, “So, how do I spice up my sex life?” It is important to keep the first steps simple, use your senses, and remember which senses you and your partner are likely to respond to most!

© Copyright 2014 GoodTherapy.org. All rights reserved. Permission to publish granted by Denise Onofrey, MA, LMFTC, therapist in Englewood, Colorado

The preceding article was solely written by the author named above. Any views and opinions expressed are not necessarily shared by GoodTherapy.org. Questions or concerns about the preceding article can be directed to the author or posted as a comment below.

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  • Trina

    Trina

    October 7th, 2014 at 10:21 AM

    I never would admit this to any of my girlfriends but I kind of like to watch a few sexy scenes before my hubs and I have sex because I think that the visual gets both of us a little more in the mood. I don’t feel threeatened and neither does he but it is all aboutt hat visual thing that will have the tendency to get us both very involved.

  • garrett

    garrett

    October 7th, 2014 at 4:11 PM

    All that this is is actually taking the time to do more than simply “have sex” but to put a little more effort into it than maybe you have been before.
    This can be playing her favorite music, getting some of her facorite treats, and yes this does excite the senses a little more but it also shows that you are paying just as much attention to her needs as you are to your own and I think that every woman on the planet will appreciate that.

  • Mac

    Mac

    October 8th, 2014 at 3:46 AM

    It can get easy to get off track with so many other things pulling at you- work, kids, household responsibilities… but I have found that if you keep the physical side of the relationship strong then that tends to make everything else a little easier to hold together. I am not saying that it is the only glue that holds you together but it is a big part of it for most of us and I think that couples who maintain a strong sex life together tend to work a little bit harder to keep the marriage stronger as a whole. It is just that physical element that most of us need to feel wanted and loved.

  • Louise h

    Louise h

    October 8th, 2014 at 11:26 AM

    I would have thought that my husband would be excited to try some new things and to add a little creativity to the bedroom but no matter what he sort of seems like he is bored with the whole thing and just wants to have sex and be through.

    I am getting a little worried that this could be a sign that he is not happy in the marriage but I don’t kno how to talk about it with him and I know that he will never be open to talking to anyone outside of the marriage to help us figure it out.

    Do you have any advice for me because we are really struggling and going down a path that I don’t necessailty think is a healthy one for us.

  • sims

    sims

    October 9th, 2014 at 11:34 AM

    Working on the sex life can be just as important as orking on the marriage as a whole. This is not just a small piece of the relationship- it is a HUGE part of the relationship and just like any other piece of that puzzle it has to be nurtured and cared for.’
    We can’t think that just ebcause something worked last week that it will automatically work again. Everyone needs to change things up every now and then else you risk being bored with one another.
    Try something different, put a little thought into it the next time, and that could give you just the little relationship boost that you have been craving. And who knows? Your partner could have been looking for the same thing, and by you doing it might encourage him to do the same!

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