A woman stroking the head of a man with pleasure
Love Matters

Sensate Focus – beyond penetrative sex!

Sex can and should be about more than penetration. Learning your partner’s body through touch can be just as sexy and intimate as penetration itself.

Today I would like to share the fact that sex can go beyond being just penetrative. Let me introduce you to the sensate focus technique.

Can I use this technique with my romantic partner? Sensate Focus is a form of sex therapy that involves graduated touching exercises that can be done under the guidance of a certified sex therapist (who will vary technique depending on couple’s needs) or can be used by any couple who would like to explore a new kind of intimacy.

What is Sensate Focus exactly? Sensate Focus exercises allows one partner to be pleasured by the other, and the partner being pleasured will let go of any responsibility to reciprocate the pleasure that they are receiving. You can then exchange roles, so that you can both experience what it feels like. These exercises are also typically done in steps or stages over a period of several weeks. The goal is to experience the sensation of touching, not to try to sexually arouse your partner.

Read also: Sex Without Penetration

Who started this technique? Sensate focus was initially developed by sex therapists – Masters and Johnson – in the 1960’s. The couple performing these techniques could be you and your partner; and that might mean two men; two women, or a woman and a man – the procedure would be exactly the same (Keesling, 2006; Weimer & Avery-Clark, 2014).

Is it true that this type of therapy is used to treat sexual difficulties in couples? Yes, under the guidance of a certified sex therapist, these exercises can also be used to help couples overcome any sexual difficulties in their relationship. Couples can overcome performance anxiety and other distractions that impair many couple’s ability to focus on the sheer pleasure of sexual interactions (Levay, Baldwin & Baldwin, 2015).

So, what would this look like in practice? Step by step please… sure thing, but first here are some things to consider and prepare for before you start:

·         Make some time and find a private place with no chance of interruptions – remember this is your time together – just like penetrative sex, you would not want to interrupt the flow. Plan for several sessions as there are four different stages.

·         Get comfortable in your private space; undress, and get into it by lying face to face, or against each other with partial or full body contact.

·         Start with gentle breathing; this will allow you both to relax.

·         Try not to talk during your sessions; it can be distracting and will not allow you to focus.

·         Decide ahead of time what physical cues you can give each other to indicate when certain touching feels good (perhaps the receiver caresses the giver’s hand), or if you want more pressure (the receiver can press down on the giver’s hand).

·         If you do not like the touching, gently pull your loved one’s hand away.

·         After each session is over, you can discuss what worked, or what did not.

All set? Here are the four stages of sensate focus:

·         When you are both ready you can start by touching, stroking, and/or kissing each other; you can do this anywhere apart from the breasts and genital areas. Take your time and explore each other’s bodies and do experiment with different types of touch (rubbing, squeezing, tickling). The goal is to experience the sensation of touching, not to try to sexually arouse your partner. Even if your loved one gets aroused, do not try to have an orgasm. After 15 minutes (or longer, if you like), switch roles. This is stage 1.

·         Stage 2, is best started with the stage 1 touching to get you both warmed up, then you can progress to explore the breast and genital areas, but please do not attempt intercourse, or touching that leads to orgasm. After 15 minutes, switch roles. This will bring you to stage 3.

·         For stage 3, you will be able to engage in mutual touching, beginning with stage 1 and then progressing to stage 2 touching. Again here, even if you both become sexually aroused, do not engage in touching that might lead to orgasm. After 15 minutes, switch roles. This will bring you to stage 4.

·         For stage 4, please start with touching exercises from stages 1-3, then get into position, as if you are going to have intercourse (but please do not have intercourse). Move your bodies against each other, so that both partners’ genitals can rub against each other. After one or two sessions at stage 4, you can then progress to partial or full intercourse or touching or oral sex that may lead to orgasm.

Source: Sensate exercises

By reading this, can you imagine the build up? This exercise takes away the anxiety that can be felt by partners to “perform” or reciprocate sexual or sensual touch. It is also a great way of discovering each other’s preferred preference to different kinds of touch and as you will both be communicating to each other throughout the different stages, you will be learning about each other. This can help build intimacy and passion in your relationship, whether you have been together for a day, a month, or many years.  So, if you are reading this today and would like to try a different way to connect with your partner, give it a go. Remember safety and consent matters so please ensure that both you and your partner are ready and accepting! ?


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  1. Hi Symo, thank you for…

    Hi Symo, thank you for getting in touch. What happened to you today?

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