Sex and communication...
One of the most common problems I hear from couples I work with is that they’re not confident in communicating what feels good and what doesn’t and that’s resulting in a dissatisfying or non-existent sex life. Some people feel shame about discussing their sexual desires with their partners, or just really aren’t sure how to be specific about what they like. We all get into habits, making love the same way, in the same position, and we end up spending too much of our sex and intimacy time enduring touch that just doesn’t quite hit the spot.
Here is a playful but powerful exercise (inspired by Kenneth Ray Stubbs) for couples who wish to…
- rediscover each other’s bodies
- break down habitual patterns of sex (or lack of sex)
- draw a new erotic map of body sensations
- practice communicating ‘yes’ and ‘no’
A map to pleasure...
‘Pleasure Mapping’ begins with one partner (the receiver) resting naked or almost naked on a bed or a massage table. The other partner is the ‘pleasure researcher’. As the ‘researcher’ you will explore touching your partner in different places and in different ways. You can set boundaries on this at the beginning of your mapping session: perhaps on Monday you will map the legs, on Tuesday the arms, Wednesday the breasts etc. With each touch the ‘receiver’ communicates a number – the degree of desirability or undesirability of each sensation. A response can range between ‘plus three’ and ‘minus three’. ‘Zero’ is neutral, ‘plus one’ is ‘I like it’, ‘plus two’ is ‘I really like it’, and ‘plus three’ is ‘Oh WOW!’ For minuses, a higher number means a more undesirable sensation.
If you are touching, pay close attention to your partner’s verbal responses. You could take notes to better remember your partner’s feedback if you like. You can map your partner’s body with different levels of pressure: in some areas very light caresses won’t be felt, while in others they will send ripples of goosebumps and pleasure through your partner’s skin. You can also vary the direction of the touch and type of touch, for example, light pummelling engages nerve endings in a different way from light fingernail scraping. You might use oil, feathers, silk or even vibrators. You could have your partner lie on the floor and then map their body using your toes and feet. Some lovers map each other’s bodies with kisses or with licks of the tongue. Start simple and get as creative as you like. It’s all in the name of research!
Be clear that this is an information gathering exercise and try to avoid progressing into sex. The attentiveness and exploration that you bring to this mapping process can create a deep bond. It really helps to set a timer and agree which areas of your partner’s body you will map in that time.
There are two simple guidelines for this exercise…
- First, pain is not the objective of this exercise, so when you hear negative numbers, don’t repeat that same type of touch in that same area. As an alternative to this practice you could engage in a BDSM exercise of ‘pain mapping’. In that case, the ‘touches’ might include biting and using clothespins for example.
- Second, as the ‘researcher’ you should not seek out only ‘plus threes’. Notice if you go into patterns of ‘pleasing’ or ‘doing the right thing’. The intent here is to gather information that will inform future lovemaking – it will help to know what is NOT pleasurable!
It is delicious to end the mapping session with some long, sensual strokes up and down the body, where the receiver doesn’t have to give feedback but can just enjoy the ending of this important research!