The Low Down on th Rub Down

We’ve all seen the magazine covers that advertise the latest tips to “drive women” or “drive men” wild. Want a tip for some really hot sex? Try sensual massage.

Sensual massage is about expanding the sexual experience to incorporate the entire body and all the senses. Sensual massage can increase intimacy, build communication between partners and increase sexual pleasure. In addition, those who choose to postpone or abstain from sex may find massage to be a great way to be intimate with a partner without intercourse. It also can help partners experience pleasure if one partner has a sexual dysfunction or an injury or disability that affects sex.

Sensual massage is a time to focus on your partner’s entire body. It may lead to sex, but the purpose of sensual massage is not necessarily arousal or orgasm. During a sensual massage, partners have an opportunity to focus on giving and receiving sensual touch and pleasure, which can build the connection between partners.

Creating the Right Atmosphere
Because sensual massage is about awakening all of your senses, it is important that the environment for the massage helps you achieve this.

The physical location should be comfortable. The room should be warm or cool enough if you plan to be naked. You might also want to light candles or dim the lights. In addition, try to make sure your space is private and uninterrupted. Make sure you have enough time. At least 30 minutes to an hour should be carved out; you can’t rush relaxation.

Next, set up your needed materials. A sheet to cover the couch, bed, etc., some extra towels and baby oil or scented massage oils and lubricant nearby. For genital massage, water-based lubricants (such as Astroglide or Wet) may be gentler (and won’t wear down latex). Your partner may also want pillows to cushion their head, back and hips during the massage.

Talk with your partner about whether this is a sensual massage or simply a body massage and if there are any areas that they don’t want to be touched. Remember what happens when you assume! Additionally, massage can sometimes bring up powerful feelings of love, joy, connection and sometimes sadness or other feelings that partners may need to talk about either during or after the massage.

A Touching Moment
When both partners are ready, ask the receiver to lie down on their stomach on the sheet. The giver should warm the massage oil in their hands before applying it to the receiver’s body. Ask your partner if they have any injuries or soreness. You’re probably not a trained masseuse, so avoid painful or injured spots.

Most massage guides suggest beginning at the neck and shoulder and moving down the back to the small of the back and the top of the buttocks. The giver can also move down their partner’s buttocks, to their thighs and calves and to their feet. The giver can alternate between heavy and light touch, using fingertips, palms and knuckles to massage the receiver’s muscles.

While massaging your partner, pay special attention to sensitive areas. Touching their feet and toes, inner thighs, small of their back, scalp, fingers, neck and ears can be especially erotic. Even though the focus of the massage is not genital, your touch can brush near your partner’s genitals to increase the sexual arousal.

Once you have massaged your partner’s back, you may ask them to turn onto their back or you can switch and then become the receiver of touch.

Genital massage
During genital massage, the same rules apply as before. Your partner’s genitals are an extension of their body and you can alternate touching your partner’s genitals with the rest of their body. Communicate with your partner about what feels good to them and how they like to be touched.

If you are using latex barriers or condoms for safe sex, be sure to keep them away from the massage oils and lotions as they will break-down the latex.

Better to Give than to Receive?
Sensual massage can be a moment for both partners to experience giving and receiving, either of which can be challenging. Regardless of the role you’re playing at the time, pay attention to the sensations, pleasure and feelings you experience.

The giver of the massage should also pay attention to the pleasure they are experiencing when giving the massage. Many people believe massage is for the person receiving it, when in fact the giver should fully experience the sensations and pleasure of touching their partner’s body.

Next week, we’ll feature an interview with Terri McCarthy from the Greater Community AIDS Project discussing the upcoming AIDS Walk.

Kim Rice and Ross Wantland are professionals in the fields of human sexuality and violence prevention. E-mail them at

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