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Sensate focus is the art of focusing on the senses, and the sensations and emotions they unlock.


We often become so anxious or intent about rating our sexual performance or achieving orgasm that we don’t enjoy the lush, full experience of sensual/sexual engagement. Not only does this mean losing out on much of the pleasure of sex, but ironically it can prevent orgasm. Sensate focus exercises can help us let to go of these inhibiting anxieties and intent by tuning into the present.  


The Erogenous Body
Your body is endowed with many pleasure centers. Discovering your individual sources of pleasure is one of the thrilling aspects of gaining sexual self-knowledge. 

Developing Sensate Focus: The Cardinal Rule

To benefit from sensate focus exercises you must accept that you are not trying to have an orgasm. The purpose is simply to expand your awareness of sensation, without any other objective or pressure. Be completely in the moment, sensation by sensation.  


Exercises for Developing Sensate Focus

For Yourself


Hold your left foot in your hands. Feel the warmth and texture of your skin,  the weight of your touch, the shapes of your hand and foot. Are there areas  that ache, want to be touched? Are there areas that feel relaxed?


Begin to explore your foot with touch, focusing on the feeling of its

contours and textures. Try touching in different ways; light, tremulous, firm with long stokes, etc., and notice how each touch feels. What do you enjoy? Massage any areas that feel tense, tired, or hungry for touch.

Coordinate your breathing with your massage strokes.


You can touch your foot with more than your hand; try using your elbow, hair, other foot, mouth, etc.  

Allow yourself to express emotion through your touch.                   



Expand Your Range Patiently

Over a period of five days, expand this exercise to your whole body, including the genitals on the last day. Remember: stop before you have an orgasm. Orgasm is not your objective; sensate focus is.


With Partner Receptive

Repeat the exercise with a partner. The individual who touches concentrates on active giving; the individual whose foot is touched concentrates on passive receiving.


With Partner Directive

Now repeat the exercise with the individual who receives touch being as consistently directive as possible: clearly tell and show your partner which sensations feel pleasurable. How can their touch be made more pleasurable? Do you want deeper or lighter pressure, to be touched here or there, longer? Be clear about your desires, and take charge of getting as much pleasure as you can.


Switch roles.


Sensation Map

A sensation map is a chart of your body’s erogenous sensitivity zones. It’s a great tool both for developing your self-knowledge and for increasing intimacy with your partner. You can learn a lot about yourself and each other doing this fun and enlightening exercise.



For this exercise you need:

img3C1 A large sheet of blank paper. Construction paper will do – anything that you can lay out on the floor.

img3C1 A large mirror.

img3C1 A comfortable, private, well-lit place where you won’t be disturbed.


By Yourself

Draw your nude body on the paper. Draw your front and your back, using the mirror where you can’t see.


Starting with your feet and working to the top of your head, slowly touch your body and note which areas enjoy what kind of touch. You can rate the areas sensitivity to pleasure on a scale from 0 – 10. As you discover your sensitivities, map them on your drawing.


You can also use words, colors, and any other means of notation to describe your sensations.


Done? Study your map. Did you leave out any part of your body? If so, map it now.


With a Partner

Now your partner will draw you, and then touch you. You give them feedback on a scale of 0 – 10 on what feels pleasurable, and they’ll chart a map of your erogenous zones.


When you’re done, switch roles.


Take time afterward to talk about what you’ve learned.




File:Intertwined - Foto Giovanni Dall'Orto, 29 luglio 2010.jpgWe long for touch and physical contact from the moment we’re born. Our vulnerable clay responds to the molding language of touch long before we become verbally articulate. Children who are not touched often do not attain developmental social plateaus that are essential to our wellbeing. 


One of the main reasons relationships fail is the inability to share meaningful touch.


Jean-Louis: “No one ever expressed physical affection in my family. I cannot remember being hugged, touched, or held, even as a very young child. When I first went to bed with my girlfriend, I had no idea why she was so unfulfilled with me; as far as I knew, getting an erection was all sex was about. What else was there? 


Gratefully a series of experiences brought she and I emotionally closer, and with her courage in showing me her feelings through passionate and tender touching, I began to understand that touch is a form of communication I had never learned. It was difficult for me to open up; I had no idea this level of sensation and vulnerability existed. Eventually, I craved this intimacy more than anything.

For me, the real importance of touch is in conveying emotion. That’s always what I look for; what touch expresses, conveys, reveals. It’s a world of emotion beyond words.”


Sela: "I remember being touched very lovingly and naturally by my parents as a baby. Then when I was around five, they stopped showing me any physical affection. I was bereft and very jarred by their sudden distance. They pushed me away, saying "you're grown up now" when I tried to hug or touch them. So it seemed that being an adult meant not touching or showing feeling through physical contact.


I became very self-conscious and restricted about touch, almost hyper-conscious about it. Then it became second nature to avoid it and I didn't think about it anymore until I had children of my own. I had to really work not to repress their affectionate natures in the same manner that I was repressed but, I'm so happy we're all connected by easy affection, and that they're comfortable being themselves. My husband also noticed my greater physical ease and comfort and it's made our relationship better, warmer, closer."


Exercise: Basic Touching


Phase l

Sit across from your partner. Feel the air between you.


Reach out your hands with the palms flexed. Feel the energy in your hands and in the space between you.


Then open your senses to receive touch, connecting at the very tips of your fingers. Let one partners hands move down the others fingers, palms, wrists, inner and outer arms, elbows and inner crook, biceps, triceps, shoulders.


Paint with your fingertips. Imbue your touch with different physical qualities; respond with to the different shapes and textures you feel. Express your emotions as they arise while staying attuned to your partners’.


img3C1Now switch roles.


img3C1Now touch each other simultaneously.


Phase ll

* Repeat the exercise with your whole body – caress your partner with your face, legs, back, soles of feet, backs of hands, eyelashes, breasts, etc. Take your time exploring how different parts of your body can move to create touch contact. Stay attuned to each other while you do.

When you’ve finished, share with each other what this felt like.


Phase lll

* Explore touching yourself and each other with different materials and textures; feathers*, flowers, silk: let your imagination roam!


* Synthetic feathers, please. Respect our fellow beings. 




Children are born vocally free. As we grow older, we learn to speak and utter sounds that are restricted to our throats, and project sounds from this high point in our bodies. Many of us learn to repress natural sounds during sex, or to become self-conscious about them.

During sex, we need to let the sounds come from our chest, belly and groin.


The more you can let yourself go and allow sounds to emerge during sexual expression, the more whole your experience is, and often, the more pleasurable.


Our partners can understand our responses and needs better when they can hear our feelings, too. 



Exercise: Finding the Source of Sounds


img3C1Put your hand on your throat and hum. Can you feel where the vibration is in your body? 


img3C1Put your hand on your chest and hum. Can you feel where the vibration is?


img3C1Take a deep, relaxed breath, put your hand on your belly, and project your hum from there. Can you feel where the vibration is?


img3C1Now put your hand on your groin, breathe, and project your hum from there. Can you feel where the vibration is?


img3C1How do these different centers sound and feel different?


Exercise: Adding Deeper Sounds


img3C1Try this same exercise with a sexual sound, a moan or grunt. Don't worry if  you feel forced or self-conscious at first. That's okay. Just stay with  it.


 img3C1When you come to your groin, keep practicing the exercise until you feel a sexual response. 



 It is said that the eyes are the windows to the soul. Yet although our society is predominantly visually oriented, this doesn’t mean that we truly see ourselves as we are, or our partner as they are. We have become accustomed to looking superficially, judging and evaluating based on shallow standards of beauty and desirability. We often don’t see deeply into other peoples’ eyes nor do we see the subtlety of their body language. We observe surfaces and miss complexities. Visually, as a society we function as if detached from our souls. 


Eye contact is intrinsic to intimacy. Making - love while looking into your lover’s eyes is much different than having sex with your eyes closed, isn’t it? When we see our partner’s hesitation or pleasure, tension or abandon, fear or longing or joy, it guides our actions toward one another and connects us in spirit. It abjures us from selfishly abandoning ourselves to taking our pleasure while excludes their needs, and creates a vulnerable bridge between our deepest selves. 


Sight Mirror Exercise: Starting with Yourself

For this exercise you will need:

- A full mirror

- A hand mirror

- A private, comfortable space to work undisturbed 

Allow yourself to visually adore your body as you gaze on your nude self in front of a full mirror. Caress yourself with your eyes. Admire your uniqueness; your skin and posture that expresses who you are, your sags and lines that proudly tell the story of your life.  


Look at your genitals in a hand mirror. Study the fabulous colors, textures and shapes. Countless magnificent poems, sonnets, works of art and sculpture and photography are dedicated to the beauty of the human genitals, and yours belong in the pantheon!  


img3C1Touch yourself lovingly. As you explore your body, watch your sexual response build and see how intense, involved, and beautiful you look.   


Shared Sight Exercise

In this exercise you will share visual caressing with a partner. The person to be caressed first should be naked. You may both be if it makes you more comfortable together. It can, however, be powerful to experience this exercise naked while your partner is not. 


img3C1Allow your partner to see and caress you with their eyes from the bottom of your feet to the top of your head. Feel the touch of their eyes upon your skin. 


Show them your genitals and breast/chest. Open your beautiful folds and crevices to their sight. 


Touch yourself erotically and fully allow them to see your reaction. As you explore your body, let them watch your sexual response build and see how intense, involved, and beautiful you look.   


Switch roles. 


The Open Eye

This exercise appears simple, but like many things that do, it has unexpected depths.  

*    Sit across from your partner in a comfortable position. 


*    Make eye contact. 


*    Look into each other’s eyes. Relax, and try not to blink or block your emotions. 


*    Don’t let your concentration wander. Continue for as long as you can without growing physically tired.




guy profile serious noseSmell preferences are very individual and very personal. It is not one of the senses that modern mass culture encourages developing – after all, what are you smelling when you’re watching television, texting, or using your computer! – but scent is pivotal to sexual response. 


Pepita: I really don’t like stinky genitals on a man. Unwashed dick is rank to me! Presented with the same penis after a shower I’m delighted to suck and nibble. My partner is the diametric opposite; he loves my pussy swampy. The more pungent the better. At first we couldn’t relax with each other at all because we both thought the other was weird. Now we get it; to each their own. He showers for me and I exude for him. We’re both happy. 


What parts of your body to you enjoy smelling?  

*    Are there any parts you don’t enjoy smelling? Do you want to change that? Are you comfortable after a day without washing, or to you prefer your body smelling clean? Do you like the scent of fresh sweat? Of your own breath, or your partners, when it’s minty or sweet or sour? 


* Try smelling the natural secretions of your genitals. Do you like the smell of these secretions more after you’ve washed, or when they’ve marinated on your body awhile? What about your partner’s genitals? 


* Do different foods affect your body smells? For example, do you smell differently after consuming garlic or asparagus? Meat or vegetables? 


* What scents touch off your erotic feelings - smells that you associate with memories, or which excite your pleasure centers by arousing, uplifting or relaxing you? Explore the possibilities by approaching your body care differently and by immersing yourself in the scents of different oils, herbs and spices, plants, and environments. 


Q & A with Shain Stodt

Q. I usually like anal sex. It’s my favorite form of penetration. Recently met a woman who likes it a lot, too, but I’m put off by her fecal smell. This isn’t like me; I’m mostly pretty at ease with bodily functions and smells. Her smell is stronger and more pungent than anything I’ve encountered before. Any suggestions?


A. The three main factors that affect fecal odor are diet, health, and hygiene.


1. If your partner is unwell, this might cause an unusually strong anal odor. (An unusual body odor of this nature is worth reporting to her doctor).


2. Much more commonly, the cause of body smells is diet. Diet affects not only our fecal odors but the smell of our breath, sweat, urine, and other exudations. A change in diet will often result in a different smell. Going Vegan is the frequent remedy for a strong fecal smell, because a diet of fruit, grains and vegetables will usually bring about a much lighter fecal smell than a meat diet.  


A change in body smell will probably not happen the moment someone alters their diet; the body takes a while to cleanse. If your friend is willing to change her diet, you will probably notice a change in her fecal scent within a few days to a couple of weeks.


3. Lastly, simple hygiene can make the difference. The skin and hair around the anus can build up an unpleasant odor l if not washed regularly. This is easily remedied by washing this area daily and if desired, before sex.


A solicitous note: make sure you are using a kind of lubrication that is specifically designed for anal sex. Rectal tissue is thin and not very elastic, and it requires a thicker lube than traditional vaginal-oriented products (and a gentle approach).



Taste is absolutely primary to sex, yet it’s another sensory factor that we tend to neglect. Just as you want to enjoy your lovers’ body tastes, you should feel comfortable and confident about your own taste. Try tasting your genital secretions: do you like your taste more after you wash, or when you haven’t washed for a day?


Do you like the taste of your skin, your sweat, your breath? What factors are present when you like your tastes, and when you don’t?  


Do you like the taste of your partners’ skin, sweat, breath? What factors are present when you like you’re their tastes, and when you don’t? Are you comfortable telling them? 


What you eat, your state of health, and hygiene are the main factors influencing the taste of your genitals, skin, and mouth. If you want to change these factors, you can adjust your eating habits, life-style, and hygiene routine accordingly. Light, plant based foods tend to give the body and its’ secretions a lighter smell. Applying a consistent approach to healthy living on all levels will improve your health and body odor, and simple hygienic habits such as washing your genitals regularly, brushing your teeth, and using a natural mouthwash will alter your body tastes.  


Tip: If basic hygienic care does not improve your bodily tastes, then there may be a medical cause that should be investigated. Inform your doctor of unusual or unpleasant body odors.


Expand Your Palette

What other tastes do you find sensually arousing? Do you enjoy the flavor of minty chocolate melting in your mouth, or warm maple syrup? Maybe spicy or salty flavors excite your senses? Licking warm honey off your fingers or your lover’s body? The possibilities are delicious! 


Try the following partner taste experiment:

*  Select several delectable taste treats: chocolate syrup, honey, fresh fruit – whatever appeals to you (be specific).  Decorate your partners’ body lovingly with them one at a time, and devour them. Mmmmm! And of course -make sure that the edible delectable you place on your partners’ body are neither too hot nor too cold for their comfort. 


A World of Sensation

Most of us don’t tap into our sensory capacity as fully as possible. The hustle and bustle of daily living becomes a dulled, habituated pattern of experience, devoid for the most part of the resplendent powers of sensory -awareness that we actually possess. It’s as if we exist in a gray world instead of one vibrating with all the colors of the rainbow.

We forget ourselves.


Developing sensate focus and getting in touch with your senses is an antidote, lifting the dull grey veil of obliviousness by enabling you to become more grounded in your body, connected to your partner, and vibrantly alive to the pulsing sensory universe within and around you.  


Q &A with Shain Stodt

Q. Touching is a large part of a relationship to me. Affection, love, sensual and sexual pleasure – to me touch is one of the major means of expressing these things.

Finding partners I want to be with in a total way is hard. Not many guys I’ve been with understand or seem to feel touching as I do. I’m with someone now I care for very much, whom I’m compatible with in most ways – but he doesn’t really get touch.

Is this a universal woman – man problem? Is it always a source of dissatisfaction?

A. Women and men are often conditioned differently from birth on in our society. Girls may be touched more freely, with affection and tenderness, while boys may be touched with reserve and expected not to need touch, love, physical comfort. Girls get positive reinforcement for affection (within limits) while boys are repressed if they express this need. It creates an unnatural separation of "the sexes” that solidifies into polarized sex roles.

When this happens, and it happens a lot, it does lead to an incompatibility. But it can be bridged with conscious effort, and many loving couples have done so. There are several sections with helpful exercises on this issue on the website: Communication, Massage, Sensate Focus, and Touch are the first I would look at.

I would specifically do so in that order, starting with communication, because communication is the heart of a fulfilled sexual relationship, the basis for growth and intimacy. It’s what makes partnerships exciting and satisfying. And like sex itself, good communication is skill that we need to learn. Lack of communication is the main reason relationships fail.  

Once you are communicating clearly, the path is open to developing a more sensate – oriented, touch imbued relationship with your partner. Be patient, open and articulate about your feelings and needs, and receptive to his.  

Also – and this is always - put aside special time for your sexual relationship. Don’t hope to improve your sex life if it occurs as an afterthought when you’re tired at night. If touch and sensate focus is as important to you as you indicate, it’s well worth your while to create a relaxed, private, undisturbed space to explore your sexual growth together in. 

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