You hear a high-pitched ping to your right, a sound that reminds you of glasses being clinked together at a party. Instinctively, you turn your head, but you can’t see through the blackness of the blindfold. You wait, straining to hear something more, but nothing more comes. The bed shifts under the weight of your partner. As more time passes, you can feel your muscles tense in apprehension. A splash of ice-cold liquid falls onto your nipple. You inhale quickly and jump in alarm as the liquid rolls off your side. More drops fall onto your chest, along your sternum, and onto your stomach. Suddenly something feels different. You realize that the last one stings — not from intense cold, but from heat. More drops land on your skin as you struggle to distinguish hot from cold, doubting yourself as the sensation from the next drop begs for your attention.
Sensation play refers to a cluster of sexual activities that are focused on the exploration of physical sensation. Most often, sensation play is thought of as a BDSM activity. However, while it certainly can include pain for the masochistically inclined, sensation play can also just be soft and sensual. It’s a way to slow down and enjoy the different effects that you and your partner can have on each other’s bodies. It can also lead to creative experimentation with household items that are not normally sexualized.
Perhaps the easiest way to begin a journey into sensation play is simply by exploring touch. Consider the range of pleasurable sensations that you have felt — not only those that were sexual. Maybe you have an obsession with cashmere or fur, or you love the way that a chain necklace feels when lightly moved against your skin. Of course, there are also several sex toys made for sensation play, like ticklers made from chain or rubber. But the great thing about sensation play is that common items can be incorporated into foreplay. Feathers, makeup brushes, loofahs…take a quick run through your home and you’ll see that the possibilities are endless!
For those that may want to experiment with combining pain and pleasure, there are even more options. You may want to consider abrasive materials, like sandpaper or hard-bristled brushes. Sex toys for this sort of play include a wide variety of pinwheels (the most common being the Wartenberg), and clawed gloves, like these impressive bear paws. Impact toys like paddles and whips can also fall into the realm of sensation play. (A separate post on impact play safety tips is soon to come.)
Another commonly explored sensation, as described in my opening paragraph, is extremes in temperature. (This is sometimes specifically referred to as temperature play.) Cold water, ice cubes, and metal objects chilled in ice water are common ways to provide your partner with cold sensations. For the hot side of the spectrum, many people turn to melted wax. Be sure to do plenty of research into wax play safety before beginning. (Nobody wants nasty burns.) White paraffin candles are generally a good choice for beginners — as they burn at lower temperatures. However, for an even lower melting point, you can use massage candles. If those are still too hot for your enjoyment, there are also warming massage oils that barely get above body temperature.
The reverse side of sensation play, sensory deprivation or the absence of sensation, can also be fun. Some individuals enjoy total deprivation of their senses, while others prefer the impairment of one sense in order to enhance the experience of others. Blindfolds, earplugs, and/or earphones with music playing can all be deprivation tools. This places a person in a sort of bubble where they are solely focused on sensations of touch. Because blindfolds are a very successful crossover from BDSM to vanilla sex, sensory deprivation can be a great way to break into sensation play without feeling too intimidated.
No matter the type or intensity of sensations that you are comfortable exploring, sensation play can be considered as one more tool in your sexual repertoire — and an opportunity to spend an hour or two figuring out how to make your partner tremble.