What Is Sensation Play?

Sensation play harnesses the power of the senses to heighten sexual pleasure. Learn more about it to discover new ways to get turned on!

What Is Sensation Play?

What Is Sensation Play?

What Is Sensation Play?

Updated
September 24, 2019
Medically Reviewed by
5 minute read

Think about the last time you were super turned-on. Chances are, it wasn’t the result of direct sexual stimulation, but something much subtler. Your crush’s hand brushing against yours, the feeling of someone’s fingers running through your hair, or even the unique smell of a person you’re attracted to can bring on a flood of arousal. Sensation play emphasizes the pleasure that can come from this type of sensual stimulation.

With the goal of engaging all of the senses to heighten pleasure during sex, sensation play can include impact (spanking or striking with an implement), pressure, pain, temperature, restraint, scent, taste, sight, and sound. By putting the focus on pleasurable sensations throughout your body, sensation play can help you to let go of the pressures and inhibitions that often come with an exclusive focus on the genitals—as well as heighten your arousal.

Sensation play can include impact (spanking or striking with an implement), pressure, pain, temperature, restraint, scent, taste, sight, and sound.

For many people, incorporating sensation play during sex can open up entire new horizons of intimacy and pleasure. Curious about giving it a try? Read on for a brief guide to sensation play in all its forms.

Experiment With Smell, Taste, And Sound

Exploring the senses of smell, taste, and sound can be incredibly simple—and incredibly hot. Eating during sex play combines two of the most sensually gratifying experiences that exist, intensifying them both. Foods like ice cream, which is simultaneously sweet, creamy, cold, and wet, are particularly suited to sensation play.

Scent is also a powerful sense to play with, as it’s strongly tied to memory. Spritz on some of the perfume or essential oil you were wearing when you met your partner to spark a sense-memory of arousal. Or breathe in the natural scent of your partner’s body.

Exploring the senses of smell, taste and sound can be incredibly simple, and incredibly hot.

Play with hearing by whispering in your partner’s ear, or increasing the volume of your moans, gasps, and other sounds of appreciation. Amplify sexy wet sounds by adding lube. Talk dirty, or put on some music that turns you on!

Get Kinky With Pain And Temperature Play

Some people find that the rush of endorphins accompanying pain is an incredible way to explore their boundaries and enhance their sexual experience. Spanking with a hand or paddle, pinching, biting, or clamping the nipples, and delivering an intense jolt to bare skin with a flogger or pinwheel are some favorite methods of inflicting pleasurable pain on a partner.

For some people, the sharp cold of an ice cube pressed to the skin can enhance arousal; others prefer the warmth of (carefully applied!) hot wax.

Tickling your partner, or placing a vibrator on a body part other than the clitoris (the butt, the head and shaft of the penis, even the nipples, lips, and soles of the feet) can be mind-blowingly intense. For some people, the sharp cold of an ice cube pressed to the skin can enhance arousal; others prefer the warmth of (carefully applied!) hot wax.

Explore Power Play In The Bedroom

Being restrained by your partner with cuffs—or just by your partner’s hands—can add a feeling of (controlled) vulnerability that can be incredibly hot, and make each sensation that much more intense. You can also try wearing a blindfold to enhance your other senses.

Sensation Play Tips For Beginners

Sensation play can be emotionally intense, at times provoking feelings of vulnerability and anxiety. Especially for those who have experienced trauma, or struggled with any aspect of their sexuality or body image (which is most people!), trying something new, or exploring their boundaries, can bring up difficult memories and feelings.

As with any sexual interaction, communication—before, during, and after—is essential to successful sensation play. Talk with your partner beforehand about your desires and boundaries. If at any time you feel uncomfortable with what’s happening, take a break to check in with your partner, and make adjustments as needed.

As with any sexual interaction, communication—before, during, and after—is essential to successful sensation play.

For many people, talking and processing with their partner after a sexual encounter can help to increase confidence, calm nerves, and make the next experience even better. And don’t be afraid to laugh—maintaining a sense of humor is the best way to confront the awkwardness that can come up when you try something new!

Sensation Play: Experimenting Safely

Finally, there are some aspects of sensation play that are best left to the very experienced—or avoided entirely. Keep in mind these safety tips when trying out new kinky play:

  1. Breath restriction should only be done in a way that gives someone the ability to take a breath when they need to (i.e., asking them to hold their breath): choking or suffocation should never be attempted.
  2. Using ropes for restraint without the proper technique can cut off circulation or cause serious abrasions; for all but the most experienced bondage practitioners, leather or fabric cuffs (never metal handcuffs, which can break the skin) should be used.
  3. Hot wax should be used with caution, and never applied directly to the face or genitals.
  4. While advanced techniques like electrical stimulation, cutting, piercing, and branding can be amazingly hot, they require a high level of experience to be done safely, and shouldn’t be attempted by those new to sensation play.

If you want to expand your sexual repertoire, intentionally exploring a wider range of sensations during sex can be a great way to do so. Best of all, you don’t need fancy equipment or tons of experience—just dive in, get creative, and have fun!

E.A. Klein

Reviewed for Medical Accuracy

E.A. is a freelance writer who also works at a small nonprofit. As a student of cultural anthropology, she researched and wrote about kink/BDSM, abortion, harm-reduction approaches to substance use in the LGBT community, and cross-cultural understandings of gender, sexuality, and the body. She has designed and implemented a sexual health curriculum for adolescent girls in the developing world and worked in a variety of community health settings. Her writing has appeared in The Establishment, Edible magazine, The Seattle Lesbian, Slog, and elsewhere.

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