Partnered sex is great, but exploratory solo sessions might be even more important for experiencing pleasure-centred sex.
Not only does masturbation release sexual tension, reduce stress, improve your mood and just overall feel good, it can also benefit your partnered sessions. Self-pleasure is self-exploration, and if you don’t know your own body, you can’t guide a partner in getting to know your body either.
In the third episode of our Sex Sessions series starring sexual health and consent educator Samantha Bitty, we’re focusing on self-pleasure and common erogenous zones. As Bitty notes, “Sometimes, masturbation is what people actually need when they are seeking hookups.” So, instead of just diving into your next sexual encounter, try a solo session first and see if that quells the impulse to proverbially howl at the moon.
However, one of the biggest mind blockages to pleasure-centred sex is the idea that masturbation is “dirty” or “shameful.” Some may feel guilty about masturbating because of cultural, spiritual or religious beliefs. Harmful misconceptions about masturbation can also be attributed to patriarchal systems, and is particularly stigmatized for feminine spectrum people and people with vulvas.
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This mentality can be traced back, in part, to Freudian psychoanalyses from the 19th century, which argued that women must only achieve orgasm through vaginal penetration by a man. (It’s also worth noting that Sigmund Freud believed clitoral orgasms were “infantile.“) At one time, other forms of female sexual pleasure, including self-pleasure, queer sexuality and clitoral stimulation, were considered a sign of insanity.
Self-pleasure helps women and feminized people discover what feels good vs. what feels bad, and helps them identify what is consensual — and what is not.
Not only are these beliefs a barrier to pleasure for people with vulvas, as it relates to consent culture, it also contributes to sexual and gender-based violence. Self-pleasure helps women and feminized people discover what feels good vs. what feels bad, and helps them identify what is consensual — and what is not. It helps to articulate boundaries. In order to achieve pleasure-centred sex, we must acknowledge that pleasure is valid for pleasures’ sake, no matter your gender or sexual orientation. So, let’s get to the part about feeling good.
Arousal usually starts in the brain
The mind-body connection is key to experiencing mindfulness during solo or partnered sex. Factors such as timing, mood, partner choice and the type of stimulation can impact preference. This means scent, sound, touch, texture and language can all impact arousal. In some cases, people don’t have use of all parts of their bodies, or they don’t have a sexual relationship with their genitals. But the mind-body connection means that the whole body can be a pleasure centre. It really depends on preference, which is even more reason to start exploring.
To help guide your journey to self-satisfaction, here are some common erogenous zones that will help you map out the pleasure points of your solo journey. We’ll start with the primary and secondary sex characteristics.
What are primary and secondary sex characteristics?
Primary sexual characteristics comprise of external and internal genitalia, most often the penis and testes, as well as the vulva and ovaries. Secondary sexual characteristics, on the other hand, are those that emerge during the prepubescent through post-pubescent phases (think: breasts and body hair.)
Vulva: how it works and its pleasure points
Let’s start with the vulva. While stimulating this entire organ can be pleasurable, these are some of the most common feel-good areas to start with:
Clitoris: Externally, the clitoris is the pea-sized bulb located just under the clitoral hood. Because the glans clitoris has the highest concentration of nerve endings, it’s often extremely sensitive to the touch. Due to this extreme sensitivity, it’s often best to stimulate around this area first, working slowly towards the clitoris. Start gently and softly. Don’t play DJ and go in for the kill by forcefully scratching it back and forth. Nobody likes that. It’s called foreplay, and it’s very important to vulva arousal. If enjoying partnered sex, take time to communicate your needs.
Internally, there’s an expansion of clitoral tissue upwards into the pelvis, attaching to the pubic bone, as well as through and behind the labia, passing by the urethra, vaginal canal and towards the anus. This means pressure applied to the anterior of the vaginal canal can also be pleasurable.
G-spot: Technically known as the Gräfenberg spot, the G-spot is located two to three inches inside the front vaginal wall. Using a “come here” motion with your finger, move along the inside of the vagina to produce a pleasure response.
A-spot: Known as the anterior fornix erogenous zone, this is potential pleasure point is located four to six inches inside the vagina, between the cervix and the bladder, on the front vaginal wall. To stimulate this area, gently stroke the anterior vaginal wall with your fingers.
The public mound: Known as the mons pubis, this is the fleshy mound is at the base of the abdomen, right above the labia. Try pulling it, stroking it, applying pressure while also stimulating the labia and, if partnered, try dry humping, kissing and licking.
Cervix: As for the cervix, because it moves up and towards the front of the body when aroused, the canal is deep and requires a finger(s), penetrative sex toys or a penis to reach it. Ease into it and gauge what feels right.
Penis: how it works and its pleasure points
Similar to the clitoris, the penis can be an extremely sensitive organ. Some of the most common feel-good areas to start with include:
The head of the penis: Also called the glans, this is typically the most sensitive part of the penis. Try putting some lubricant on your fingers and stroking gently. If partnered, using a mouth can also feel great. Like the clitoris, this high concentration of nerve endings means starting slow may be best. Avoid too much pressure or friction at the start. Graze the fingers or lips across it, pull, press or suck gently. Again, if enjoying partnered sex, establish a responsive communication. Don’t make assumptions.
Frenulum: Located at the underside of the skin where the shaft and the head meet, the frenulum does well with gentle touching, or, if partnered, licking and sucking. Vibrations can also feel great on the head and frenulum, so try placing a vibrator against the area.
Foreskin (for uncircumcised people): When the penis is not completely erect, it can feel nice to stimulate the foreskin with fingertips (or if partnered) lips and tongue.
Scrotum and testicles: The testicles are extremely sensitive and it’s important to be gentle with this area, working up to what feels comfortable. Gently pulling, squeezing, stroking at a downward angle, rolling them in the hands or even tapping the scrotum and testicles can feel pleasurable.
Perineum: This is the skin between the penis and anus (also known as the “gooch” or “taint”). Stroking or massaging it can stimulate the root of the penis, and also indirectly pleasure the prostate. This exact spot can be pleasurable for women as well.
Prostate: Located about two inches inside the rectum, this area is sometimes referred to as the P-spot. It is a small muscular gland that produces the seminal fluid found in ejaculate. Because stimulating this requires penetration, a finger(s) or anal sex toy will get the job done. Lubricant is a good idea. To prep for this, going to the bathroom first can help bypass the feeling of needing to go when this area is stimulated.
*NOTE: Not everyone’s genitalia looks like this or operates like this. Please refer to this quick helpful guide about Sex and Disability.
Related: 11 signs a cheater will cheat again.
Common erogenous zones that are not genitalia
Genitals are often the first go-to when considering erogenous zones but, as mentioned, the whole body can be a pleasure centre. Here are some of the most common erogenous zones to experiment with, aside from genitals:
Mouth: The mouth is a major erogenous zone due to all the sensors in and around it. It’s also why kissing feels so good. The lips, tongue and even the teeth are all key areas to focus on.
Neck: From the nape to the jawline, the neck is another one of those hypersensitive, vulnerable areas of the body for some people. Light touching, kissing, licking or biting can feel amazing here.
Ears: From the tip to the lobe, the ears are full of sensory receptors. Light biting, licking or kissing feels good on their ears. Or if solo, pinching, rubbing or light tickling can feel great.
Scalp: Essentially the brain’s plastic wrap, the scalp has a ton of sensitive nerve endings. Scalp massages, hair pulling and dragging the nails or a scalp massager over the scalp can send ripples of pleasure through the entire body!
Armpits: The inner arms and armpits are such highly sensitive (and ticklish!) areas. Try using a light fingertip touch along this area for optimal pleasure.
Belly button and lower abdomen: Located near the genital region, these areas on the tummy are super sensitive. A gentle touch or tickle near these areas can feel especially nice during foreplay.
Hands: Like the feet, there are literally thousands of nerve endings in the hands that you can stimulate. Palms and fingertips are especially sensitive to light kissing, touching and licking. Slowly kissing or sucking a finger can also feel amazing.
Wrists: The skin on the inner wrist is delicate and sensitive. Use a light touch or drag fingernails along you or your partner’s wrist to stimulate this area. It’s also an easy one to do on yourself during solo sessions.
Nipples: Whether you have breasts or not, the nipples and the skin around the nipples (areolas) are super sensitive hotspots, related to sensations in the genitals. Sensitivity of people’s nipples can vary widely. Some people enjoy rougher play with biting and toys such as nipple clamps while some people’s nipples are so sensitive that they don’t enjoy any attention here at all.
Lower back: The small of the back is a delicate, sensitive and even vulnerable part of the body for some. Brushing or holding it during sex can feel very pleasurable and intimate.
Behind the knee: This is another nerve-rich area. Light fingertip touching or harder pressure in a massage scenario can feel really good here.
Inner thighs: The inner thighs are especially sensitive and ticklish for some people. A light touch along this area, moving towards the genitals, is often incredibly pleasurable for the receiver. It’s a great teasing sensation for foreplay.
Feet: They have many nerve endings and pressure points, so stimulating areas like the bottoms of the feet or the toes with massage or light touching can lead to pleasurable sensations.
See also: Here’s how not to ghost someone.
More homework: Educators and workshops to continue learning about your erogenous zones.
- The Nomadic Nympho: Jeneka Jool is a Caribbean-Canadian YouTuber and sexual health educator who gets candid about autonomy, experience, information, options and unlearning. She’s also a solo globetrotter and beacon for self-love and safe sexual practices.
- Messy Movement Practice: Actor, educator and podcast co-host of Queer & Married, Rashida Khanbey Miller seeks to uplift and support feminine spectrum people through storytelling and movement classes.
See also: 21 sex myths everyone thinks are true.