Techniques in Touching to Revitalize Relationships
The skin is the most overlooked and underemployed sex organ of the human body. There are many areas of the body that you may consider nonsexual that respond pleasurably to stroking and caressing. To start developing comfort with touching and being touched, a simple massage of the skin is a good place to begin. A massage of the neck, the face, the temples, the eyes, the back, the buttocks, the legs, and even the feet may be pleasurable and nonthreatening. You may want to soak your feet in a container of soapy water while your partner massages them.
An illustrated manual or book such as "The Art of Sensual Massage" by Gordon Inkeles and Murray Todris can be helpful in learning to give and receive a sensual massage.
Establish ground rules, which might include the following:
• Determine who will be the first giver.
• Establish whether you and your partner will be clothed or unclothed.
• Choose a location where you both will be comfortable.
• Dim the lights and play soft music you both enjoy.
• Use plenty of pillows or a comforter.
• If you wish, use baby oils, scented oils, lotions, or powder.
• Tell the giver what feels good and what does not.
Sensual massage omits the genitals and breasts, which are discussed in the sensate focus section.
Begin with facial caressing. Normally the giver sits and the receiver lies flat on his or her back with the head resting on the giver's thighs. With the hands well lubricated, the giver begins with the chin, then strokes the cheeks, forehead, and temples. Caress the face as if you were a blind person seeking a mental picture of your partner. Then explore the ear lobes, lips, and the nose before returning to massage the temples for complete relaxation. Rest, talk about the experience, and reverse roles.
Massage the remainder of the body tenderly and be attentive to your partner's feelings. Then reverse roles.
Goals of the touching exercise include:
• to express in new ways needs and desires
• to find out how each likes to touch and be touched
• to explore new patterns of pleasuring that do not always have to be sexual
• to help the relationship grow.
Sensate Focus Exercises
Sensate focus exercises were introduced by researchers Masters and Johnson to treat couples with sexual problems. The exercises offer an approach to sexual enrichment. They are helpful to couples seeking exercises designed to correct nonphysical erectile problems and to enhance orgasmic response.
The exercises are divided into 4 progressive stages or sessions. Master each stage before moving to the next. Repeat all previous stages each time. The pace depends on your progress and comfort.
• The toucher learns from the one being touched. The one being touched takes the partner's hand and thus controls the degree of pressure as well as the pattern and length of strokes. This is a learning experience for the giver as well as the receiver.
• The learning hand of the toucher should not be his or her dominant hand. A right-handed person should use the left hand and left-handers, the right hand.
• Do the exercises when you and your partner are rested and not pressed for time. Don't do the exercises after a heavy meal or when you have had a disagreement.
• Do the exercises early in the morning because male testosterone levels are higher.
• At no time is there to be any attempt to have sexual intercourse even if it is the man's first erection in months.
• After the session, you will want to discuss what you think you have accomplished and share positive as well as negative feelings with your partner.
Stages of Sensate Focus:
The partners take turns being the giver and the receiver. Communication during the exercises is by guiding the hand of the partner giving the massage. Limit talking until after the exercises are completed.
• First stage: Limit touching and stroking to the areas of the body that are not sexually stimulating.
• Second stage: Touch, stroke, and explore the sensual responses of the entire body, including the breasts and genitals without intent to bring about erection or vaginal lubrication. At this stage some talk may be helpful.
• Third stage: Repeat the first two stages. Stroke the penis and clitoris and probe the vaginal opening with the finger. Note erectile and lubricative responses.
• Fourth stage: Repeat the first three stages. Caress and stimulate breasts and genitals. Use a lubricant, especially for the clitoris, the outer lips, and the vaginal opening of the pre- and postmenopausal woman as well as for her partner with less than full erectile response. When the man's erection is firm enough to attempt penetration, the couple will want to insert the penis and feel it in the vagina.
If the female feels her partner is losing his erection, she can initiate pelvic movements until it returns. Containment can produce anxiety for some men. However, there is no demand for either partner to perform. The exercise is never over as long as the couple feels comfortable with each other and are enjoying and savoring the good feelings.
The use of baby oil or body lotion is recommended for stages one and two of the sensate focus exercises. A sexual lubricant is helpful during stages three and four when the genitals are touched. Lubricants include Astroglide, K-Y jelly, and suppositories. Vaseline should not be used as a vaginal lubricant.
Written by James P. Semmens, MD.
Published by McKesson Health Solutions LLC.