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This month’s theme, SEX AND THE SENSES, offers many opportunities for reflection on one’s sexual self. So, as we move between sensations and discover how they can influence and enhance our sexual experiences, we invite you to take a moment after each and reflect on how you might implement or be implementing sensation play during masturbation or sex and what the pros and cons could be. 
 

What is Sensation Play? 


Often associated with BDSM, this concept refers to sexual practices that aim 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.” (Chantelle Otten, Rescu.com)

Things to keep in mind:

✨Make sure there is CONSENT before you engage in sensation play. 

✨Establish check-in words, or even questions, beforehand.

✨If you want to try something in any “extreme” way (e.g. breath restriction, hot wax, ropes), be careful and start slow, emphasizing the safety of yourself and your partner.

✨Always have some aftercare practices. Whether that’s laying down and talking about what just happened or simply cuddling. 

✨Be ready to receive, give and stay mindful. Remember it’s called sensation P L A Y. 

👀 Sight:


Eye Contact:

Emphasizing eye contact during sex is often regarded as a tantric experience for couples and frequently used in sexual counseling. Mutual gaze has even been found to increase feelings of affection, warmth and attraction (Kellerman et al., 1989). 

Sustained, steady eye contact can be powerful and deeply intimate. Maintaining it throughout all phases of a sexual exchange can lead to what Harrison Voigt describes as “a merging of oceanic dimension.” (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 1991).  

Setting the Scene

There are endless ways that you and your partner(s) can play with lighting, scenery, setting, and style during intimate moments.

Have you played with the lights on or off? (Try doing the opposite if you do only one a lot.) Do you like the flicker of candlelight? How about colored lighting? Depending on your sensitivities you could even try out strobe lights, black lights, daylight creeping in through various sources, soft lights or harsh lights, depending on the scene you want to set.

More than anything, the key to using light is to *experiment* and see what works for you. Communicate with your partner(s) about why or why not some lighting turned you on.

Sight Deprivation

When one of the senses are deprived or eliminated, humans will experience a phenomenon called “neuroplasticity.” This is the brain’s way of coping, in which it channels more brain power and attention to all other senses, making them much more heightened.

The most popular way of translating this phenomenon into sex is via a blindfold. Cutting out all light and the ability to see will allow your body to focus on the other senses during sex.

👃 Smell:


Body Odors

According to Johanna Bendas from the Department of Psychotherapy and Psychosomatic Medicine at Dresden University et al. “A high olfactory sensitivity was associated with reports of a more pleasant sexual experience as well as high frequency of orgasms in women.” (Archives of Sexual Behavior)

Yes, our sense of smell is powerful. And it isn’t the smell of cinnamon or lavender that has the biggest chance of turning us on…it’s actually BODY ODORS. 

“The perception of body odors such as vaginal fluids, sperm, and sweat seems to enrich the sexual experience.” (Bendas et al., 2018)

Aromatherapy

If you find yourself feeling anxious, especially during sex, using aromatherapeutic techniques may be helpful. Here are a few ideas for using essential oils to manipulate the energy or mood:
  • Eucalyptus: cooling, refreshing, rejuvenates the mind
  • Rosemary: relaxing, anxiety-reducing
  • Sweet orange: anxiety-reducing, anti-inflammatory
  • Peppermint: reduces stress, alleviates headaches and nausea
  • Lavender: anxiety-reducing, alleviates pain

👅  Taste:


Our sense of taste can definitely play a role both prior to and during sex. For centuries, people have believed in the power of certain foods to get us in the mood or boost our libido. However, while many of the foods regarded as aphrodisiacs can improve certain functions of our reproductive system, they don’t actually make us feel turned on.

The Myth of Aphrodisiacs

It’s mostly culture. Take oysters for instance;  “when Aphrodite the Greek goddess of love, sprang forth from the sea on a shell and promptly gave birth to Eros, a working aphrodisiac was born” (R.J. Rodrigues, MD). 

It was this association that prompted people to think of oysters as aphrodisiacs. Even though they can boost sperm production, there’s no existing research to back up any effects of their consumption on sexual desire (West, E., & Krychman, M., 2015).

The Exception

Herbs are one of the only exceptions to this myth, and not just one or two, but many of them. Maca, ginseng, fenugreek, and tribulus are claimed to boost libido via increased blood flow and hormone levels. 

🤏  Touch:


Touch is intensely related to both intimacy and sex. By increasing oxytocin levels in your body, touch has the power to make you feel calm and in a safe space, thus reducing your feelings of anxiety and stress.

Context of Touch 

However, the context in which you are receiving touch is crucial to your reception of it. “In romantic relationships, the sensual caress of the partner is experienced as wonderful, while the same touch by an unfamiliar person feels repulsive.” (Kreuder et al., 2017)

Because of the production of oxytocin, touch between consenting individuals is regarded as “one of the strongest signals of intimacy and emotional bonding” (van Anders et al., 2013).

Exploration

Touch can be incredibly grounding, helping you stay present during sex when you’re feeling distracted or in your head. It can also be great for exploring pleasure. Try changing up texture, pressure and temperature. Suppressing other senses, like sight, can amplify or alter the sensation of touch (both giving and receiving).

👂 Sound:


The Power of Voice

Hearing a “sexy” voice can definitely be a turn on. And the inner workings are quite simple:

✨ Males who have higher levels of testosterone usually have lower voice pitch. (Dabbs & Mallinger, 1999) 
Therefore, deeper voices suggest a higher chance of conception. 

✨People with vaginas often have higher voices during menstruation as estrogen levels change throughout their cycle. The more fertile you are, the “better” your voice sounds to a potential mate. (Borkowska & Pawlowski, 2011)   

What does that have to do with anything? Welp, it’s all about reproductive quality. As animals, we are instinctively trying to find the best fit for possible future offspring. We are just trying to save the species! 

Music:

Using music to set the mood can be a game-changer in the bedroom! It provides a rhythm for you and your partner(s) to move to, can trigger arousing memories, be a uniting factor, and, just overall get you feeling good! (Check out our numerous playlists on Spotify and YouTube curated monthly by MusikRx.)

Carnal Theory:


Episode 20: “Connecting Mindfulness to Sensuality”

Listen in on our conversation with Intimate Health Yoga founder, Courtney Avery, where we discuss how mindfulness can enhance our sexual experience through the senses.

Courtney also walks us through a couple of introductory techniques and exercises meant to improve your ability to slow down, be present and receive pleasure–both in the bedroom and out.

Writing Prompt:


❥ What are 5 ways I can incorporate sensory exploration in my sexual experiences?
❥ What are 5 ways I already have incorporated sensory exploration into my sex life?
  • What did I like? What didn’t I like? Why?
❥ In what ways do I struggle to be mindful during partnered sex or masturbation? 

This voluntary monthly prompt invites you to explore your sexual biography.
Tips on exploring this: Set aside 20 minutes with your phone on silent and relax in a comfortable space with a pen and paper. Go slow. Start with what comes to mind from your first read of the prompt. Continue writing your stream of consciousness. 

Mantra of the month


I will take time every day to slow down and take in moments completely and without judgment.
 

Researching our sexual biographies:


How often do you make the effort to explore your senses during sex?
 
Often       Sometimes      Almost Never
 
Each month we ask a question in support of our leading mission at My Sex Bio. As we grow we plan to help fund and supply research for sex education. The results of these questions may be shared on social media as well as the following month’s newsletter. These results will also help curate relevant content for our readers, like you, moving forward. Responses are voluntary and anonymous.

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