“You’re so kinky!” is what I have been told when introducing sensory play to partners. I certainly had not thought that a little ‘slap and tickle’ was kinky but just part of enjoyable sex for me. It is easy to understand this disparity if you google sensory play. The majority of links are for childhood development, people with disabilities, kink and BDSM. There is limited discussion about the importance of becoming attune with our senses as adults. After all, adults are far too serious to be involved with ‘play’.
However, there are numerous physiological and psychological benefits to spending time heightening your senses at any age. This article will focus on sensory play for adults that is not BDSM driven. (Sensory play in BDSM tends to include levels of physical or psychological discomfort, pain and/or power exchange to ignite sexual arousal and/or the release of endorphins).
Sensory systems in the body
When thinking about our senses we can easily identify five being: sight (visual), touch (tactile), taste (gustatory), smell (olfactory), and hearing (auditory). However, there are at least three additional senses recognised within the medical community that are commonly overlooked: body movement (vestibular), input to muscle and joint receptors (proprioceptive), and awareness of internal body processes (interception).
As an introduction to sensory play, this article will not discuss the myriad of options available but rather spark your interest in finding out more and experimenting yourself. To add to the complexity we are all unique in how our body processes sensory information so what works for you may not work for your partner/s. So let’s explore some pleasurable, not painful, sensory play you can try.
Not being able to see heightens our other senses. While you may feel a little anxious excitement, trusting your partner/s will hopefully allow you to open yourself to the sensuous treats in store for you!
Our skin is designed to provide us with a variety of different sensations, mostly to warn us of potential harm or damage. However, there are a range of sensations you can create to tantalise the body. Here are a couple of suggestions.
Cold play – Dig into the freezer and get some ice. Explore the sensation of melting ice on arms, legs, lips, the neck and more sensitive areas like the labia or scrotum. It is not for everyone but you could be surprised. If you want to contain the liquid dripping off your partner’s body you can always invest in a specifically designed play sheet.
Tom of Finland – Water Sports Sheet – Amina
Heat play – A sensuous feeling for the body is that of warm, melted wax. WAIT! Don’t use regular candles, it will burn and that’s not sexy at all. There are a range of candles specifically designed to be used on the body without creating burns. In my experience the soy candles melt well but do not hold the heat and there is little effect on the body. I have come across some cheap candle brands that say they are for use on the body but in actual fact they burn the skin – definitely not the desired effect. With the right candles, dripping wax is a wonderful sensation on the skin and safe to use anywhere externally.
Master Series – Fetish Drip Candles – Amina
The impact of being touched, cuddled, and cared for lovingly is a part of being emotionally healthy. There are many articles about the importance of touch and the impact it has on us as humans such as:
Your hands and fingers can be used to arouse your partner and it doesn’t mean you are limited to the genitals. The human body is covered with erogenous zones and from research it seems that men and women have some of these in different areas of the body. If you are not sure where they all are have a quick read of the following articles:
In addition to using your hands why not try some alternatives for different touch sensations like feathers, a silk scarf or a sensation wheel. Using other parts of the body like nipples, hair, the penis or even your hot breath all work.
Our sense of smell is closely linked to our memory and emotions. Smells you like induce a sense of calm, some smells are aphrodisiacs while others can take you back to a specific time or event. While you may not be able to recreate that perfect soufflé to take your partner back to a special romantic dinner, there are options like flowers, perfumes, and my favourite – aromatherapy. Essential oils have shown to assist the body and mind in specific ways and quite a few are aphrodisiacs as well. Whether using an oil burner for the room or smearing your partner/s with an aphrodisiac essential massage oil , you can lead your sensation play to calm serenity, swellings of love or back to a special moment in time that will arouse more of your partner’s senses as their mind recalls the emotions and physical feelings they experienced.
Olíur & Krem Archives – Amina
Sound has profound effects with the ability to impact our moods, thoughts, heart rate, breathing and in some cases physical sympathetic vibration. Knowing your partner/s response to certain sounds or music can be utilised in sensory play. Some ideas include playing music through headphones for an immersive experience, using your voice to speak or whisper, or filling the room with environmental sounds like waves.
Whether you start with one sense or more there are a myriad of ideas to explore in sensory play.
As ever, you are welcome to share your ideas and experiences with me or make contact if you have questions. firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Rachelle Elliott is a sex educator with over ten years experience in the areas of sexual health and polyamory. A focus of her work is on self-acceptance and communicating sexual needs.