During sex, it's sometimes easier to get stuck on a passing thought than to stay tuned in to the sensation of your partner’s body against yours. Such cognitive distraction has been associated with low sexual desire, arousal, and satisfaction — not to mention fewer real orgasms and more faked ones.
So, what’s the solution? Mindfulness is the practice of noticing what’s going on in your body and thoughts, without trying to change anything and without judging yourself for what you’re thinking and feeling. Multiple studies suggest that using mindfulness-based techniques during sex can lead to more arousal, more desire, and more satisfaction, among other outcomes.
"Body mapping" is a great technique to try. During a body mapping exercise, you mentally and physically chart out how each part of your body responds to different sensations. “It’s bringing awareness to the different parts of the body and the sensations you experience. A lot of people don’t realize [that for them] their earlobes sucked on feels great but having a tongue in their ear is a no,” Dr. Britney Blair, clinical psychologist and Lover co-founder, says.
This type of awareness is great for staying present during sex, but it can also help you with another important part of good sex: communication. According to a study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, respondents who were more open with their partners about their sexual preferences were more sexually satisfied than those who weren’t. To be open about what you like, you need to know what you like. Body mapping can help you tell a partner what types of touch you’re into and direct them away from those you aren’t.
“Couples love this. It basically gives them a pleasure map to then provide to their partner,” Dr. Blair says. While charting your course to pleasure, this exercise also enables you to be super specific about your preferences in partnered sex, solo sex, and in your personal fantasy life.
Body mapping also helps you to check in with yourself about what you actually enjoy, rather than making assumptions or worrying about what you’re “supposed to” like or what you go along with because your partner likes it (or thinks you like it). Ego should never be a part of sex, but since sometimes it can be anyway, the experimentation of body mapping can make it easier to try different things and talk about what you experience.
Body mapping sounds simple, but it can be the difference between bad sex and good sex, and between good sex and great sex. Here’s one way to do it.
A Quick Body Mapping Exercise
Before you begin, you'll want to make sure you're in a distraction-free environment. Give yourself enough time so that you won’t feel rushed. Leave your phone in another room, or turn it on “do not disturb” if you need to use it as a timer. Get comfortable. And naked.
Whether you’re with a partner or by yourself, agree that genitals and breasts are off-limits for touch for the exercise. Then, set a timer for just five minutes. Start with the very top of your head and move downwards. “What does it feel like when your hair is pulled? What does a kiss on the forehead feel like? Work your way down the entire body to explore each sensation,” Dr. Blair says. Stroking, pinching, caressing, (enthusiastically consensual) slapping, and kissing can all be part of the sensations you try out. Vary the intensity, rhythm, pressure, and body parts involved to see what feels good.
If you’re body mapping with a partner, verbal feedback is key. Using a scale of one to five, where one is “nope” and five is “hell yes,” can be an incredibly effective way to let your partner know how each sensation feels. Remember, and make sure your partner knows, that the rating is about the touch and not about your partner or their technique. You’re exploring and sensing without judgement of either of you.
If you’re body mapping solo, stay as present as you can. Use the rating scale if it helps you to check in with yourself and your body. If not, try to simply observe what you feel and like.
When the timer goes off, you can keep going, switch turns if you’re with a partner, or take a break. You can also try a longer guided tour, like "The Body Tour" activity in the Lover app. Over time, body mapping will help you draw a specific, detailed map that just might lead you to the best sex of your life.