As we approach the weekend, try to engage in some mindful touching with yourself or with your partner.
Sensate focus therapy is an excellent way to get to know yourself and your partner(s)’ body, primarily the parts that aren’t always categorized as sensual, without the goal of orgasm.
Discovering new types of touch or areas of the body that feel good to you and your partner(s) can be erotic for both of you. Enjoy!.
What is sensate focus?
Sensate focus is about the acts of touching and being touched. This helps couples, “reawaken their own sensual (and sexual) feelings and establish a ‘new’ way of intercourse,” according to the book. During their studies, Masters and Johnson learned that certain barriers interfere with creating this type of sensuality, like the “wham, bam, thank you ma’am” approach (they actually use this phrase in the book) and leaving sex for the last thing at night when you and your partner are exhausted (truth), to name a few.
But touching, it turns out, isn’t as simple or straightforward as it sounds. The book devotes pages to describing the five steps of sensate focus. Here’s a summarized version:
Step 1: Non-Genital Touching
First, Masters and Johnson suggest getting undressed. One partner lies down to receive the touching, while the other is responsible for touching. For the person lying down, their responsibility is to simply take in the sensations they are feeling. There’s no reciprocating, commenting, or trying to turn touching into a sexual encounter. The partner responsible for touching is free to explore their partner’s body. However, the genitals are off limits. Masters and Johnson offer this advice: “Because starting can be awkward, some prefer to begin at one spot on the body—say, the neck or feet—and work their way up or down from there. Others don’t need a definite plan of action and simply explore the various textures and temperatures and contours of their partners’ body without any preconceived idea of how they will proceed.”
The point for both partners is to solely focus on the sensations they are individually experiencing. It’s not about trying to turn your partner on or offer a massage. As Masters and Johnson add, “The point is to try to live through your fingertips.”
Step 2: Genital Touching
Just like step 1, this step begins with a period of non-genital touching. But it can move into sexual touching, which includes the breasts and genitals. This step involves a technique call “hand-riding.” The partner being touched places their hand on top of the partner administering the touching. This allows the partner receiving touch to give silent cues to their preferences. If they desire a stronger touch, perhaps they press down on their partner’s hand, for example. Both take turns being touched and receiving touch while using the hand-riding technique.
Step 3: Adding Lotion
This step is the same as step 2 but incorporates lotion or oil. Masters and Johnson say, “One of the ways of enhancing sensory awareness is to alter the medium of touch a bit. Since we don’t have volume control knobs on our fingertips, the next best thing is to try the same sensate focus exercise described in step 2 with the addition of a lotion or oil to add a slicker, silkier dimension to your touching.”
Step 4: Mutual Touching
During this step, touching becomes mutual—there’s no more taking turns. You can use your hands, lips and tongue. Here’s what Masters and Johnson say about this step: “We suggest that the first time or two you try this version of sensate focus, you still refrain from kissing and from attempting intercourse. These simple steps help to prevent you from just reverting to your old, tried and true sexual behavior patterns. Remember, what you are trying to achieve here is a way of adding a new sensual dimension to your lives.” They add that it’s still not about making something “happen” for you or your partner, but rather about sensually exploring each other’s bodies. Big difference.
Step 5: Sensual Intercourse
This last step is titled “sensual” intercouse and not “sexual” intercourse for a reason. Here’s how Masters and Johnson differentiate between the two: “Sexual intercourse if often a very mechanical act, with an emphasis on thrusting and pushing toward orgasm. In this version of sensate focus, you extend the gains you have already made in emphasizing your awareness of physical sensations into the realm of penile-vaginal contact to find a stylistically different type of intercourse. Here again, there is no right way or wrong way of doing things; instead, the goal is to find out what feels interesting and pleasurable.”
This could be brushing the genitalia against each other. If insertion occurs, they recommend avoiding thrusting right away. Instead, remain still to feel the sensations of warmth and contact. Try breathing deeply or contracting certain muscles to see if this changes the sensation. Masters and Johnson suggest repeatedly removing and inserting any fingers or genitalia before moving into instinctive thrusting patterns. “However you proceed, try to keep your focus on your sensations as much as possible, and give yourself the opportunity to enjoy your ‘new’ way of having intercourse,” advise Masters and Johnson.
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