Touch is one of the first and most important senses that we experience when we emerge in this world. Infants who have been fed but deprived of this basic stimulation have died for lack of it. A classic animal study showed that when baby monkeys’ and other primates’ physical needs were met but they were denied their mothers’ touch, they grew up to be extremely maladjusted (Harlow & Harlow, 1962). Touch forms the cornerstone of human sexuality shared with another (Kluger,
2004) . In Masters and Johnson’s evaluation:
Touch is an end in itself. It is a primary form of communication, a silent voice that avoids the pitfall of words while expressing the feelings of the moment. It bridges the physical separateness from which no human being is spared, literally establishing a sense of solidarity between two individuals. Touching is sensual pleasure, exploring the textures of skin, the suppleness of muscle, the contours of the body, with no further goal than enjoyment of tactile perceptions. (1976, p. 253)
The body’s erogenous zones are especially responsive to touch. For example, about 81% of women and 51% of men reported that stimulation of their breasts and nipples caused and/or enhanced their arousal (Levin & Meston, 2006). However, touch does not need to be directed to an erogenous area to be sexual. The entire body surface is a sensory organ, and touching—almost anywhere—can enhance intimacy and sexual arousal. Different people like different types and intensities of touch, and the same person can find a certain touch highly arousing one time and unpleasant the next. It is helpful for couples to communicate openly about touching.
Contrary to the stereotype that sexual experiences of gay men are completely genitally focused, extragenital eroticism and affection are important aspects of sexual contact for many male couples. "Compared to other men, gay men are often able to have more diversity, self-expression, and personal enjoyment in their sexual contact" (Sanders, 2000, p. 253). Hugging, kissing, snuggling, and total-body caressing are important. A survey of gay men found that 85% liked such interactions more than any other category of sexual behavior (Lever, 1994).
Rubbing genitals together or against other parts of a partner’s body can be included in any couple’s sexual interaction and is common in lesbian lovemaking. Rubbing one’s genitals against someone else’s body or genital area is called tribadism. Many lesbians like this form of sexual play because it involves all-over body contact and a generalized sensuality. Some women find the thrusting exciting; others straddle a partner’s leg and rub gently. Some rub the clitoris on the partner’s pubic bone (Loulan, 1984).
Manual Stimulation of the Female Genitals
The kinds of genital touches that induce arousal vary from one woman to another. Even the same woman might vary in her preference from one moment to the next. Women can prefer gentle or firm movements on different areas of the vulva. Direct stimulation of the clitoris is uncomfortable for some women; touches
above or along the sides are sometimes preferable. Insertion of one or more fingers into the vagina can enhance arousal. One technique for G-spot stimulation is for the partner to insert two fingers and firmly stroke the urethral sponge with a "come here" motion (Taormino, 2011). Most women approaching orgasm commonly need steady, consistent rhythm and pressure of touch through orgasm (Ellison, 2000).
The vulval tissues are delicate and sensitive. If not enough lubrication exists to make the vulva slippery, it can easily become irritated. A lubricant such as Astroglide, a lotion without alcohol or perfume, or saliva can be used to moisten the fingers and vulva to make the touch more pleasurable.
Manual Stimulation of the Male Genitals
Men also have individual preferences for manual stimulation, and, like women, they might desire a firmer or softer touch—and faster or slower strokes—as their arousal increases. Gentle or firm stroking of the penile shaft and glans and light touches or tugging on the scrotum may be desired, as shown in I Figure 8.4. Some men find that lubrication with an oil, lotion, or saliva increases pleasure. (For heterosexual couples, if intercourse might follow, lotion should be nonirritating to the woman’s genital tissues.) Immediately following orgasm the glans of the penis may be too sensitive to stimulate.