Sight, smell, sound, taste, and touch. How do our senses affect not only our real-life sexual experiences but also our fantasies? Can fantasies be built on only one or two of the senses, rather than all five? Do our senses contribute positively to our real-life sexual experiences? Does a certain gaze or scent, touch or murmur have the same meaning to men and women? Do you remember where you were during your last romantic interlude? The scent in the air, the feel of soft fingers on your skin, what he was wearing, the color of her eyes? How do the senses heighten our experiences? Let’s start with our sense of sight.
Vision is the one sense that has the greatest tendency to inspire romance in the first place, according to Dr. Laura Berman. Not only are we able to appreciate what we perceive to be a good looking woman or man, but let’s take this a step further.
“Women respond to strength because it makes them feel more feminine," says Olivia St. Claire, author of 302 Advanced Techniques for Driving a Man Wild in Bed. So in order for a man to make himself more attractive to women, he needs to not only strap a tool-belt around his waist, but do a few push-ups and bench presses every day to tone his torso.
But there’s more to it than just first impressions… without our sight, eye contact would be null and void. A knowing glance or stare between lovers is one of the most effective ways to acknowledge each other’s existence, as well as make a non-verbal connection, even from across a room. In fact, the Tantric technique of soul-gazing transmits sexual energy without ever saying a word or touching one another.
What about the sweet smell of her perfume or his heady, masculine cologne? Or the intoxicating aroma of flowers in bloom or burning incense? Scents seem to elicit certain emotions from us spontaneously, and they also imprint themselves upon our memory for years and years. It only takes the slightest whiff of a familiar fragrance to transport us back in time to a different place, perhaps among different people.
The nose is directly connected to the limbic system of the brain, which controls libido. So, sexual arousal is in fact quite literally triggered by certain fragrances. It’s hardly a surprise that our sense of smell is the ultimate ‘sex sense.’ Pheromones are imperceptible scents emitted from our bodies during times of heightened sexual arousal, such as when we see a good looking man or woman, or feel a sense of physical attraction.
Although pheromones cannot be smelled on a conscious level, they are identified by the brain and ultimately bring about the optimal, sexual response without us ever being aware of their existence. Since this is not a conscious choice, pheromones react on a cellular level and explain why we are attracted to some people but not others, why our natural “chemistry” is strongest with certain people.
Did you know that because of these little undetectable pheromones, our sense of smell is our only technically irrational sense? It bypasses the rational, cognitive, thinking part of our brain and responds intuitively, regardless of our feelings or thoughts. Fascinating stuff, huh? In fact, according to Dr. Berman, the limbic system is the “buzz center” for unforgettable sex and the unexplainable sexual chemistry we may experience between very different types of people.
In addition to pheromones, there are many essential oils on the market today that can heighten your sexual receptivity or that of your partner. Vanilla, patchouli, and ylang-ylang are three exotic, sensual fragrances sure to jump-start your love-life. Dr Berman reports the smell of lavender “increases blood flow to the male reproductive organs by 40% and the smell of licorice and donuts increases it by 32%.”
So what about sound? How does that impact our sexual experience? I’m guessing just the sound of your lover’s voice can be enough to send shivers down your spine… right? Well, there’s a reason for that, too, and it works both ways because familiar, associated sounds can either stimulate or repulse us, depending on the context and the situation.
For example, the tone of our voice is often far more important than what we are actually saying. And hours, or days, or even weeks later, we may not remember exactly what was said, but you can bet that our brain imprinted the way it was said indelibly on our long-term memory. This is vitally important to remember during an argument; be sure to allow your brain lots of time to process all the information and listen carefully not only to what is being said but how it is being stated.
Compliments are yet another way of imprinting fond memories and warm feelings on the heart and the mind without direct contact. Dr. Berman states, “The more a couple idealizes each other, the better their relationship.” She recommends trying to give at least one compliment a day, being sure that you really believe to your very core what you are saying. This helps to keep positive feelings flowing and your brain will in turn interpret these moments as indicators of a loving and valued relationship. For maximum effect, be sure to significantly outweigh your negative comments with compliments, especially since only one nasty word can minimize or eradicate lots and lots of praise and adulation.
Did it ever occur to you that sound can be just as powerful as direct touch? As Dr. Berman says, “Words are like invisible hands that arouse the body in unexpected ways.” Men are encouraged exponentially by positive affirmations from their loved ones within a sexual context. They draw strength and stamina from hearing audible pleasure expressed by their partners. In fact, you can actually boost your own sexual response in bed by being more vocal. Verbal self-expression of your wants and needs is just another way of ensuring success from your partner and getting exactly what you both want.
Don’t be fooled into thinking you have to pick up a slang dictionary or turn into a potty mouth, either. Again, remember that it isn’t so much about what you say but how you say it. So take a risk, open yourself up and try to find your voice, if not for yourself, then for the benefit of your loved one. Who knows? You might just find even higher sexual peaks ahead if you’re willing to vocalize a little more.
In addition to talking, soothing sounds such as environmental CDs or white music can help to inspire the right atmosphere for lovemaking. There are lots and lots of choices on the market as far as romantic music or lovemaking CDs and DVDs for your auditory pleasure. There is indeed something for everyone out there… you just have to look hard enough to find it. And if one thing doesn’t work, try something else. Consider it an investment in your relationship and your future happiness.
Sound machines are also good for more than just white noise: keeping your private sounds private. After all, how many of us have tried to share an intimate encounter in a houseful of people, or what about parents with young children at home. We all need some private time, some intimate time just for us. But we don’t need the entire world to hear, or even know about it. Worrying over whether or not we will be heard by others can ruin the mood faster than a blast of cold air. So crank up the stereo in the living room, or turn the volume up on the TV, or whatever you have to do to drown out your noises so you can relax and just be yourselves, as naturally as possible.
Who remembers the unforgettable scene between Kim Basinger and Mickey Rourke in 9 1/2 Weeks; where he blindfolded her and fed her small bites of a wide variety of succulent (and sometimes disgusting) foods? Have you ever tried your own version of this at home? If not, you are truly missing out on an amazing experience, for both of you. Be sure to try a few more exotic foods, things you wouldn’t normally buy, or eat, let alone peel and feed to your partner.
"Rare tastes are psychologically arousing because they seem almost forbidden," says Olivia St. Claire. She says she had an epiphany several years ago and has since been sharing her insights with the world through her writing. To date, St. Claire has written four books that offer simple, practical suggestions for maximizing intimacy and loving sexual experiences: 302 Advanced Techniques for Driving a Man Wild in Bed, 203 Ways to Drive a Man Wild in Bed, 227 Ways to Unleash the Sex Goddess Within, and Unleashing the Sex Goddess in Every Woman. She currently lives in Colorado .
Think about it… how do we first show our partner that we have an interest in them? Other than maybe a hug, the first intimate contact is usually a kiss. The mouth is just one of many external erogenous zones on our body, but it is linked directly to the brain via a multitude of nerves and receptors.
Quite literally, we can use our taste buds to spice up our sex life, and vice versa. Eating small, healthy meals spread only a few hours apart will jump-start our libido, and in turn, as we saw in 9 1/2 Weeks, the right foods served in an erotic way can really add an extra zing to our real-life sexual encounters.
Food is a natural pleasure and eating sensuously allows us to fuel our internal passions in anticipation of more oral pleasures soon to follow. After all, as Dr. Berman says, “The mouth is a portal to pleasure.” And food equals seduction when you share it with your partner. Experiment… live dangerously… have some fun. Feed each other, eat with your fingers, get messy and wild; try something new. And don’t forget to relish each and every taste from one another’s body right along with your gourmet meal of edible delights.
The final sense to consider is perhaps the most obvious in many respects: touch. Before the technological breakthroughs of sexual experiences, we would never have procreated were it not for touch shared between two partners. It is not to be underestimated, even now. Just think of how quickly you can drift into an erotic frame of mind from a simple body massage. Touch is the most obviously conspicuous of the five senses, but above all else, without touch, sex would not be possible.
But touch is so much more than just a sexual act. Touch merges and flows through every relationship we have, from holding a newborn baby to patting a youngster on the head to embracing a relative, to squeezing a friend’s hand as a way of offering reassurance. We use touch to consciously convey so many messages and feelings, thoughts, and ideas. Touch is the spark igniting the deepest levels of intimacy between two people.
In her book, The Anatomy of Love, Helen Fisher says, "Human skin is like a field of grass, each blade a nerve ending so sensitive that the slightest graze can etch into the human brain a memory of the moment."
One touch can say more than a thousand words, and often does. Touch produces oxytocin, aptly nicknamed the “cuddle hormone.” Touch relaxes our bodies and stimulates our brains on a primordial level. Simply put, “The more you touch, the better you feel and the more you want to be touched,” says Dr. Berman. Want to test this theory? Here’s an idea for you: use a washable pen (or body paint for even more fun) and write on each of your partner’s body parts exactly what you are going to do to it, or how. Then follow through and do it all, paying special attention to your partner’s reaction.
Much like with speech, the form of touch isn’t nearly as important as the nature of the touch itself. Though women, generally speaking, are drawn to more nonsexual touching and men tend to focus on more obvious contact. As long as you take the initiative to reach out and touch someone, you will almost certainly be exponentially rewarded.
One final important point to mention about sensory perception and response: according to Stanford University geneticist Bruce Baker, “Males and females may well perceive the world differently.” His research leads him to believe a man’s eyes, ears, nose, tongue, and touch will sense different environmental cues than a woman’s does. This difference occurs on a cellular level and is not related to cultural norms or mores.
Now that you know all of the possibilities, the ins and outs of the senses as they can relate to our sexual experiences, you can more carefully choose whether to single out or combine sensory stimuli for your partner’s pleasure (or your own). Try merging several different sensual ideas into one main event… a bubble bath together with scented candles, followed by a mutual body massage. Or maybe a gourmet feast of the senses; taking turns feeding each other some exotic, and maybe even messy but yummy foods, then dribble some flavored syrups all over your bodies as you listen to the sounds of a rushing waterfall before licking the edible delicacies from your bodies in the shower.
The world is your oyster… a sensual playground open to all. Enjoy, experiment, and share freely.