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Sensation Play: Build Your Pleasure Map

No matter where you are on your sexual wellness journey, sensation play can open up worlds of delicious pleasure for your body. Below, I’ll list the how and why you should add this practice into your list of sexual experiences.

Why I Recommend Sensation Play

Our bodies are literally wired for pleasure: every nerve fiber in our body offers us a different experience of the universe of pleasure within. Some sensations you experience will be deeply pleasurable, some will be intense, some with be deliciously painful, and others annoying. There’s no ‘right’ way to explore here: all you need is curiosity and willingness to play and learn more about your beautiful body.

The goal of sensation play is to learn more about our body, and also play with the idea that sex needs to have an ‘end goal’ of orgasm. We can practice sinking into pleasure… just for the sake of pleasure! In this practice we will separate the idea that sex has to be this linear process, and instead we’re really going to drop into the sensational aspect of it so that we can refocus on the body, refocus on the experience of pleasure, and find hopefully some new ways to explore sensation in your body.

This sensation play practice is one way to explore non-goal-directed sexual play, and can help us feel more sensation in our body. You get to play and find out what our skin and our genitals and our mouths might be able to experience. Maybe arousal will build, maybe orgasms will happen, and maybe not!

You can do this practice alone or with a partner! If you’re doing it with a partner, it’s a chance to explore using your voice and asking for more/less, harder/softer, faster/slower calibration to make it about YOU.

How to Set the Stage for your Sensation Play Practice

The most important elements here as you set up your sensation practice is comfort and setting aside focused time. To set up the space, build yourself a little nest with pillows, blankets, and other cozy things so that both the giver and receiver are comfortable. You can do it on the bed, on the floor, or a massage table if you have one.

Second, get a timer ready. The timer on your phone is the easiest option, but for more vibe I like Insight Timer. It’s a free app that allows you to create timed ambient sounds, such as rain, binaural beats, chimes, and more. Setting the time is really important because it allows us space to really relax into the moment, without wondering… for how long are we doing this? Then, we experiment! I’d suggest starting with at least a half hour to start and lean into many sensations.

If you’re doing it with a partner, you’ll take turns giving and receiving, and practicing a range of sensation on each of your bodies.

If you’d like to see this in action, check out the first two episodes of Sex, Love & Goop. I think this show is really well-done, and the first episode offers a window into this sensation practice that is super beautiful to watch.

Setting up your Tools for Sensation Play Practice

You’ll be using these items on your body or your partner’s body in gentle, curious ways: you are the explorer and helping them find out new things about their body! How fun is that?!

As the giver, you’re being playful and curious, checking in and asking calibration questions like do you want more/less, harder/softer, faster/slower. As the receiver, you can ask for calibration to make it about YOU: I like this, more please, OOOH, I don’t like that! It’s all about sensation, pleasure, and curiosity. There is no right answer, only what feels good or interesting.

As you set up your tools, be sure to include ALL your senses: what can you SEE, HEAR, TASTE, FEEL, AND TOUCH that might feel good or interesting? There is literally an endless amount of ways to play with sensation for your body, and no shortage of pleasure toys available for purchase. But you don’t need to buy anything: you can start with everyday household items and some random ‘pervertables’ from the house (ie: everyday objects that you can make WAY more exciting)!

Here are some options for household items that can be made sexier: hair brush, makeup brush, heavy book, clothespins, kitchen tools, massage oil, corn starch, ice cubes, things that vibrate, things that might tickle, things that are soft and fuzzy or silky or rough.

❃ SMELL: include food, essential oils/perfume, your own body scent, fresh flowers.

❊ Taste: you can include delicious little morsels (berries, chocolate, sour candy, a sip of wine or whisky, ice cubes). You could go in a really wild direction and explore all the stronger flavors that are available to us. Maybe you have a little plate with some soy sauce or some mustard or some wasabi and some strawberries and some chocolate just to surprise your taste buds with whatever that might be. Adding in taste is especially powerful with a blindfold.

❋ Sight: You can blindfold yourself or your lover for sight deprivation, which can help expand our other senses. If you don’t want to be blindfolded, you can dim the lighting, light candles, or add some small pretty lamps to set up the space.

❊ Sound: What sounds feel good? You can use meditation bells or chimes from Insight Timer, or do a fun, wide-ranging playlist of hip-hop, R&B, jazz, or my favorite, lo-fi chill vibes (see playlist below).

❈ Touch: This is where things can get really wild and playful! You’ve already gathered all the pervertables from your house, and now we explore how to use them in different places on the body. You’re going to explore the WHOLE BODY to really be curious explorers of your own pleasure map. You can do a pleasure mapping exercise with just your hands as tools, but by bringing in the other tools, it allows us just to try some new sensation. Drag a hairbrush along your arm, try an ice cube on your nipples, use a fuzzy sweater on backs of legs, try pinchy clothespins on your hands, and use a kitchen spoon for gentle thudding on the bum or arms.

One of my absolute favorite sensation tools to play with is cornstarch (or potato, tapioca, etc). While I’ve used it for years in the kitchen, it also makes an AMAZING massage ingredient. Some folks don’t love using oil on their skin, and cornstarch is a great way to explore soft, silky touch—it feels like powdered silk on the skin. Note that starch doesn’t work if you’re sweaty, and don’t get it anywhere where it’s very wet (so definitely avoid the genitals). Rub it all over each others bodies, enjoy the silkiness, and then poof, it just falls off and you can vacuum it up.

For your listening pleasure, I made you a sexy lo-fi playlist:

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