Article By: Libby Sheppard
Erotic massage can take the pressure off penetrative sex, can help you both to relax, can add variety to your sexual routine and can even help to fix specific sexual issues such as premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction, vaginismus and anorgasmia. Giving an erotic massage is a wonderful form of foreplay, a gentle way to return to sex after childbirth or surgery, and an amazing way to learn about your own body and your partner’s body.
Studies show that couples massage improves emotional and mental wellbeing, and the benefits are equal – whether you’re the one giving or receiving. You might mistakenly think that you have to have lots of training and qualifications to be able to give a good massage, but that’s not the case! Touch and tactile connection are an innate part of our nature as human beings. We are designed to want to touch and be touched. You already have all the basic wiring and equipment, it’s really just a case of remembering how to use it! You don’t have to study sports massage, or have a degree in physiology. You don’t need to know about effleurage or petrissage or other massage techniques. When you’re giving your partner a massage, you are not their physiotherapist or a spa employee; you’re not there to ‘fix’ them. So the thing that makes it an incredible experience, full of relaxation, pleasure and connection, isn’t necessarily what you’re doing to them, but how present you are with them, how relaxed you are and how responsive you can be to their body. If you want to know how to give an erotic massage, this blog will give you my professional tips!
I’ve worked with hundreds and hundreds of couples, and I’ve noticed that there are a few patterns or limiting factors (‘mistakes’) that people make that keep them from really enjoying and relaxing during erotic and sensual massage (and also during sex and intimacy more generally). I think this has a lot to do with an over focus on ‘performance’, on trying to ‘get it right’, on knowing how to communicate and a lack of understanding around how to really relax and be present.
So here I’m going to give you my professional tips for being really amazing at sensual, intimate touch. I’m not going to give you a long list of specific techniques, because (as the saying goes) it’s not really about what you do, it’s about howyou do it. This is why, in my online courses in genital massage there are chapters about breath, communication and self-touch before you get to all the lovely ‘techniques’ for touch. Follow the basics below, explore and play together, and I promise your intimacy and erotic massage experiences will move to a whole new level!
I see people touch their partners as if their fingers are in splints, or as if they’re trying to keep hold of something really heavy! Many people are using their hands habitually and without sensitivity for most of the day, for ‘doing’ rather than ‘feeling’ (scrolling, grabbing a door handle, carrying shopping bags, punching the keyboard etc), and subsequently the fluidity, dexterity and capacity to consciously receive information through them is limited. Shifting to a soft, receptive and relaxed state, waking up the hands and allowing them to be instruments of subtle pleasure can be a challenge, but learning to let your hands relax will create huge changes in the quality of your touch. Your partner will notice it and you will notice it: you will be able to feel more. Pay attention to your fingers, and the muscles and bones in your hands, whilst you’re touching. Can you soften them, can you let them melt? Can you let them flow through your partner’s body rather than pushing and poking around? As you pay attention to your hands, and what you can feel underneath them, you will notice that your arms relax, your shoulders relax and there is a ripple effect out into your whole body.
One of the ‘symptoms’ I see in basically every person I work with, that impedes their ability to relax and experience deep and full-bodied pleasure, is restricted breathing. This keeps you in the ‘fight or flight’ state – not so conducive to a sense of relaxation and pleasure! Your blood vessels constrict, your heart can’t work as efficiently, your muscles tense and fatigue quicker (not good if you want to give a long, sensual massage) and your body produces less energy. Fortunately, changing the way you breathe is also an incredibly simple and effective way to make a big difference in the state of your body and mind. So, when you’re giving massage to your beloved, be curious about your breath: notice if you hold your breath, strain or breathe shallow. Try and allow your inhale to flow through your nose, and your exhale softly through your mouth. This relaxes your jaw, your throat and all the way down into your belly. Try to combine your breath with your movement and touch, to create a sense of flow and ease in your body.
Our lives are intense, busy, packed full of mental stimulation and alertness. I see this transfer over into the way people touch and have sex. When you touch without being in a hurry, your partner will feel more sensation. Slow, flowing touch soothes the nervous system – especially on the back of the body where we have the densest collection of nerve endings that communicate through the C-Fibre pathway (specifically responsible for feelings of pleasure and safety). During your massage, spend time in stillness even! Just gently and lovingly rest and hold your hands on different areas of your partner’s body. This can create a sense of support, of being ‘met’, an understanding that there is no expectation or pressure. It gives your partner time to relax and really tune in to what they can feel in that area of their body.
Find a position that lets you, the giver, be relaxed and comfortable. Too often when I see people giving their partner a massage they believe they have to be ‘working really hard’ or ‘enduring’. They are straining their bodies, tight and contracted with effort, and subsequently they get tired, giving massage isn’t enjoyable and that is felt in the body of the receiver: so many times in couples sessions I’ve seen the receiving partner tense and on edge, and when asked what’s going on for them they reply ‘well I just feel like he/she is really uncomfortable and I’m worried/feel like it’s not OK for him/her’. If your torso and core are relaxed it is easier to breathe and relax your hands (see tip 1 and 2) so your touch can be more connected and in tune with your partner’s body. If you are relaxed, they will be relaxed. Ultimately it’s your receiving partner that needs to be the most comfortable: don’t let them adapt to you, allow them to get comfortable first. Then, to ensure you can both stay relaxed, give yourself some back support, sit against the head of the bed, or lean up against the sofa on the floor, use cushions, use a meditation chair, invite your partner to drape themselves in your lap so that you can both be comfy, soft little cats!
Asking ’How do you want me to touch you today?’ is one of the most useful and effective tools you can use to ensure maximum pleasure and satisfaction for all! Allow time at the beginning of your intimate massage to check in and find out what your partner really wants, know they enjoy or are curious about experiencing. Unfortunately, the answer might often be ‘oh, I don’t know – just do what you want’, and that (in my experience) really highlights one of the biggest gaps in people’s enjoyment of receiving. The idea that we have a choice in how we are touched, and can ask for what we want without judgement or ‘being selfish’, is pretty alien for a lot of people. As the person in the giving role, you have an opportunity here to support your partner and let go of your own agenda. You don’t have to guess or be on autopilot when it comes to intimacy. Listen, be curious, ask them what kind of touch would be yummy, where on their body they do (or don’t) want to be touched, where they would like you to begin and where they would like you to end. Then, consider: can you give what they ask for with a full heart? Respect your own limits – there may be something you’re not comfortable doing. If so, let them know ‘I’m not comfortable doing that, but I could do this…’ or ‘Hmmmm…I’m not sure what you mean, could you tell me a bit more or show me on your body?’ For a deeper understanding of the dynamics and communication around giving and receiving I highly, highly recommend reading ‘The Art of Receiving and Giving: The Wheel of Consent’ by Betty Martin.
Rather than asking ‘is this ok?’, ‘is this nice?’ or ‘do you like it?’ (which are all ‘closed’ questions that illicit a ‘yes or no’ answer, and are rooted in performance and pleasing) make it easier for your partner to guide the experience they want by asking ‘do you want lighter or firmer here?’, ‘would it be more yummy if I move faster or slower?’, ‘how can I make this touch even more delicious for you?’, or invitations like ‘I’ll just stay with this until you let me know you’re ready for me to move somewhere else’. If you have clear communication like this, you don’t have to guess and get stuck in that pleasing and performing mode, and your partner is actively engaged and free to have the experience that will bring them the most pleasure and relaxation. This open dialogue around desire and intimacy is so empowering and can create much deeper bonds of trust, vulnerability and connection between you.
This means paying attention to what is actually happening rather than what you think should be happening, or what your habitual routine might be. We all develop our comfort zones when it comes to touch and intimacy – you might have a set of ‘moves’ that you believe are ‘effective’ and ‘successful’ but, again, these are often rooted in the goal-oriented, performance based approach to intimacy that requires you to achieve something and ‘be good at sex’. The thing is, what works for one partner won’t be pleasurable for another. Even if you’ve been together for 40 years, and you think you’ve pretty much got it sussed when it comes to pleasuring your partner (stroke here, tap there, twiddle this and like a predictable machine we’ll get to the goal), your lover is brand new every day. By approaching them with the intention to get a certain response or result from their body you are limiting the experience of sensation and pleasure. So, in collaboration with all the previous points, allow yourself to be curious and pay attention to the subtle and non-verbal responses of their body: how they breathe, tense up, relax, move, make sound etc. This approach has the potential to bring you into a far more meditative ‘flow state’ during massage and intimacy, and opens up the opportunity for new, tender, erotic, unexpected and orgasmic connection.
If you and your partner want to learn more about how you can deepen your intimate experience and give an erotic massage then please get in touch to book an in-person couples coaching course (3 x 2 hour sessions that explore all of the above points, and can also offer guidance in genital touch).