Three Sensual Practices To Do With Your Partner Tonight (That Aren’t About Sex)
“These three practices all have the key quality of inviting pleasure while reducing stress.”
Happy couples don’t necessarily have sex, but they definitely have intimacy. There are plenty of reasons a couple may not want to have penetrative sex—grief, stress, injury, or specific physical concerns that make penetration difficult. But there’s a lot more to sharing intimacy and sensuality than penetration! These three practices all have the key quality of inviting pleasure while reducing stress (which can go a long way toward putting sex on the table).
Feel free to try just one or do them all and see how you feel. If sex has been an issue with your partner, you may like to make an agreement together that these practices will not lead to sex. Often, the pressure to have sex in and of itself can shut down desire. Stick with the sensuality for now and let it do its magic—the sex may come later, and if it doesn’t, these practices feel so good you won’t care!
1. Mindful Tasting
At its base, mindful eating is about pleasure. It’s a practice of paying full attention to the smells, tastes, textures, and sensations of food that is nourishing to your body.
Wine and cheese are classics because their flavors can change so much depending on the pairing. Take a sip of wine, close your eyes, and slowly roll it around your tongue. Tell your partner a word or phrase that the wine makes you think of—you don’t need to know anything about wine, just go from your gut and your imagination. Notice if the word or phrase your partner chooses is anything like yours. Take a bite of cheese and another sip of wine and repeat, noticing if the word or phrase has changed.
You can do this practice with anything—fruit, chocolate, sparkling water, kombucha. The point is that you are slowing down and fully experiencing the sensual pleasures of the food and communicating that sensual experience with your partner as best as you can.
2. Take a Hand
Set a timer for five minutes. Establish consent with your partner, ensuring that either partner can stop at any time for any reason. Take your partner’s hand in yours. Their job is to receive, to simply relax their hand and receive your touch. Using only your hands, touch your partner’s hand for your own pleasure. Explore the field of your partner’s hand with your fingertips, tracing, squeezing, caressing, whatever you want to do, with the sole intention of experiencing pleasure. After five minutes, switch partners. You may discover how truly pleasurable it is to give as well as to receive.
3. Ayurvedic-Inspired Body Oil Massage
Abhyanga is a classic Ayurvedic self-massage practice that is traditionally done alone before a bath or shower. It is calming, grounding, medicinal, and deeply self-loving, not to mention great for your skin and hair. We can use this lovely medicinal practice to learn about sensual communication with a partner. You may like to choose one body part to massage, like the feet and calves, the back, the scalp, or the shoulders, however much you’re comfortable with.
Warm about 1/4 cup of oil in a mug surrounded by hot water. Make sure the oil is warm, not burning hot. Establish consent for both partners. Gently massage the oil into your partner’s skin in gentle circular strokes, generally in the direction of the heart.
As you massage your partner, they can groan, say “yes,” “I like that” and otherwise offer positive feedback. Only positive feedback here—any negative feedback can be communicated simply through silence. Your job is to massage in such a way that elicits that positive feedback. After some time (depending on how much of the body you are massaging), switch partners. Now it’s your partner’s job to elicit positive feedback, and your job to say “yes!” when you like what’s happening.
Want more on the subject? Check out our article, “Sex is Great Medicine.”