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The Ultimate Guide to Sensation Play

Written by Alice Child, Somatic Sexologist


Sydney-based Somatic Sexologist and Sex & Intimacy Counsellor Alice Child explains sensation play and how to use it to mix up foreplay and increase arousal.

A hand drips oil and a rose on a back for sensual sensation play

This guide contains general advice only. If you need more tailored advice, please book in a session.


Sensation Play is one of the 18 different sex and intimacy games in Pillow Play - check it out for more ideas.


The aim is to give your partner (or yourself!) as much sensory excitement as possible, slowly building up anticipation, pleasure and arousal. Think about all five of the senses - what touch, smells, sounds, sights and tastes could you experience?

Picture this.


You’re lying down, eyes closed. You feel safe, relaxed and excited. Your lover's full attention is on you. Every breath you take, every tense of a muscle -they notice. Your skin feels warm and exposed, and with your eyes closed your senses are heightened - you can feel the silk of the blindfold, smell the candles in the air, strain to hear every movement of your lover over the sound of your excited breaths.


You are filled with tension and anticipation, not knowing how they will touch you... where they will touch you. You shiver as something light and soft brushes across your collar bone, and again as it traces down your ribcage…you feel their presence move on top of you and after a long pause you feel a few drops of warm massage oil land onto your chest. You gasp, and feel the warmth of one drop move down your side and another drop down onto your belly…


If this sounds delicious - welcome to the world of sensation play!


What is Sensation Play?

As the name suggests, this experience is all about playing with the five senses in a game of anticipation, teasing and pleasure. One partner usually plays the role of ‘giver’ while the other surrenders into the receiving role. Taking turns at both roles is encouraged!


You can also give yourself sensation play without a partner - you will be amazed at how much you can surprise yourself with the right erotic tools and a curious mind.


Is Sensation Play foreplay to sex?

Although sensation play can be extremely erotic - and can be amazing foreplay - it can also be amazing on its own. Orgasm, edging, sex toys or penetration might all be a part of your sensation play experience - but they are not the goal. The goal is PLEASURE.


The aim is to give your partner (or yourself!) as much sensory excitement and sensual touch as possible, slowly building up anticipation, pleasure and arousal. Think about all five of the senses - what touch, smells, sounds, sights and tastes could you experience?


Touch


Slowness and constantly changing up the sensation is key, allowing the body to fully relax and trust whatever might be given next while maintaining excitement and anticipation for what comes next.


See the entire body as an erogenous zone - from the tips of the fingers to the lobes of the ears. Get creative, and enjoy discovering and exploring the entire body. The longer you explore it, the more it will feel.

Things you might try:

  • Using a feather to trace down their hips and down their inner thigh

  • Dribbling warmed oil onto their chest and stomach then rubbing it in with your hands or other body part

  • Lightly running the prongs of a cool fork or wattenburg wheel across the surface of their skin

  • Blowing cool/warm air onto their inner thigh

  • Using a vibrator down their hip bones and towards their pubic bone

  • Running an ice cube very slowly across a collarbone and around a nipple


When we use both heat and cold to stimulate the body, this experience is further heightened. Temperature awakens the nerve endings all over the body, and helps us get turned on faster.

  • Cold heightens sensitivity in the nerve endings on the skin and builds anticipation and arousal

  • Warmth increases blood flow, relaxation and arousal (and physical arousal and engorgement is ALL about blood flow - no matter what’s between your legs!)


Sound

Put on an erotic playlist like a tantric playlist or sensual music to help the receiver get into their body and stay present.


Smells

Set the scene by lighting candles and using massage oils that smell amazing.


Sight

Make the space feel visually appealing with soft lighting, candles and a tidy room.


Consider using a blindfold. When we remove the sense of sight our other senses become heightened. This is great for anyone who ever ‘gets in their head’ - it’s very hard to be in your head when warm massage oil is being poured onto your skin!


Taste

Make it a full sensory experience with your partners favourite flavours and brining in erotic and sensual eating, for example:

  • Kissing wine into your lovers mouth

  • Feeding them a square of chocolate



How do I try Sensation play at home?


  • Set the scene: Set up your environment so it feels as pleasurable as possible for the senses. Think about music, candles, lighting, and fresh bedding. Set aside a time and a place where you can both relax and not worry about kids walking in or the alarm going off!

  • Gather your tools: Get as many different items around you as possible to play with.  Think about different textures (hard, soft, fluffy, silky, sharp, wet), temperatures (warm, hot, cold), and types of touch (strokes, massage, tickles). Some ideas could be:

    • feathers

    • a flower

    • a fork

    • warmed massage oil or lube

    • ice cubes

    • silk/fur

    • nails

    • a vibrator or massager

    • wine to kiss into your partner's mouth.

  • Communicate desires and boundaries: Agree on who is the one giving/receiving (or if you are taking turns), and discuss any boundaries the receiver might have -for example:

    • is there any touch they don't want, or anywhere they don’t want touching?

    • How long will the giving/receiving take?

    • Do they want a blindfold or do they prefer to watch?

    • What kind of communication do you want to use to check in with each other as you go?

  • Communicate and check in: Don’t forget to keep checking in with your partner in the way you agreed. There are lots of different ways you could check in with your partner as you play with them - for example:

    • Simply ask open-ended questions such as ‘how does this feel?’, ‘how could this touch feel even better?’ and ‘Do you like it when I….’?

    • You could also try a ‘red’ ‘orange’ ‘green’ system. The giver says ‘green’ when the touch feels amazing, ‘orange’ when it’s an average touch or they are close to their comfort zone, and ‘red’ when they don’t like it and want the type of sensation/touch to stop.

    • The giver could also try giving each type of sensation a rating out of 5, with 1 being the least pleasurable and 5 being amazing.

  •  Go slowly: With sensation play, the slower the better. Watch their body and see how each sensation makes them react. Try slowing down the touch even more, and be curious about new places on their body to explore. You might find an amazing 5 out of 5 erogenous zone right next to a 2 out of 5 zone. Go slowly and build that anticipation!

  • Keep it varied: While giving the sensations, try and keep things as varied as possible. Remember to tease and explore your partner's whole body- Sometimes the most amazing pleasure can come from unexpected places!

  • Be okay with getting it wrong: Not all sensation feels amazing to everyone - and that’s okay! Be okay with trying new things and not getting it ‘right’ every time. What feels amazing to one person might feel uncomfortable or icky to somebody else - keep an open mind and don’t get defensive if your partner doesn’t love something you try.


What are the benefits of sensation play?

Sex is supposed to be fun, exciting and most importantly pleasurable for all involved. After all, sex is how we express ourselves sexually and it's where we can be most playful, intimate and connected with our partners.


But it’s very easy to fall into sexual routines. Overtime, this can make sex feel predictable, habitual or even boring. And nobody wants that!


Sensation play is a great way to spice up routine sex, keep things exciting and fun between the sheets, and it comes with heaps of other benefits, including:


  • Increased pleasure, orgasmicity and sensation - When we take our time to explore our entire body with curiosity and an open mind, we feel more. This can lead to full-bodied pleasure experiences such as full bodied orgasm, better/stronger orgasms, and increase sensitivity to touch and stimulation. Anticipation and teasing can also be huge aphrodisiacs, heightening our pleasure and arousal.

  • Learn new forms of sexual pleasure and erogenous zones -Sensation play can teach us new pleasure we didn’t know we were capable of. We can also discover incredible new erogenous zones on our body that were previously ignored, such as our ears, hips, inner thighs, ribcage, neck, or the back of our knees.

  • Playing with power - By playing the role of ‘giver’ and ‘receiver’ you might discover new sexual dynamics in your relationship. Do you enjoy the feeling of completely ‘surrendering’ and being submissive to the touch of your partner? Or do you prefer teasing your partner and being in control of their pleasure? Or both?! You can bring these dynamics into the bedroom in lots of new ways, not just sensation play.

  • Amazing foreplay - Sensation play is also a great foreplay activity. It allows anticipation, arousal, relaxation and pleasure to build in the body, before the more energetic action takes place! It also forces us to go slow, rather than jumping straight to penetration before we are truly ready for it.

  • Connection to partner -Being the centre of your partners attention and focusing fully on your partner's pleasure creates feelings of closeness and intimacy. There is also a lot of trust involved in shutting your eyes and letting your partner explore your body - and this also leads to enhanced feelings of connection.

  • Stay present and in the moment - Rather than falling into sexual routines or ‘going through the motions’ which can lead to really disconnected and unsatisfying sex, sensation play forces both people to stay present and in the moment. You are far less likely to get distracted thinking about work when you are teasing your partner with hot wax!

  • Fun and playful - Sensation play can also be incredibly fun, silly and playful! It’s great to add a bit of novelty and newness into the bedroom, and it is a good game to play if you’re looking to get away from pressure and back to pleasure in the bedroom.

  • Great for sexual concerns - Because sensation play doesn’t need to involve penetrative sex, it is a great thing to try for any couple who have experienced any form of sexual concern that has added strain or pressure to their sex life. For example sensation play can be great for couples that have struggled with mismatched libido, erectile difficulty, premature ejaculation, difficulty orgasming, painful sex, and low libido/desire.

  • Less reliance on porn and fantasy - Many people rely on their brain to turn them on, through internal fantasies, porn or other erotica. Although these are useful erotic tools, if we become over reliant on them we risk loosing the ability to rely on the sensations in our bodies to build our arousal. These people may feel ‘desensitized’, and find it hard to stay present with the sensations or connection they are experiencing in the present moment without the addition of porn or fantasy. Sensation play helps us reconnect with our body, and stay present to what our body is capable of feeling when we pay attention.


Can I try sensation play on my own?

Yes! If you're single, mix up your self-pleasure practice and blindfold yourself. Give yourself the sensation play with your eyes closed as you breathe, move and explore.


Sensation play is such a fun, exciting and connective experience to try -either alone or with a partner. It brings novelty, excitement, anticipation and connection back into the bedroom, and ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’ can be arousing for very different reasons. Give it a go and see what you discover!


Enjoy!

Alice


Alice Child - Somatic Sexologist, Sex Therapy & Sex Counsellor - helps people achieve happier and healthier sex lives through 1:1 sex coaching, couples sex counselling, hens parties, and workshops. Book a session here.


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