Are you touching enough to create emotional intimacy and sexual connection? For many couples I see, the answer is “no.”
Lack of time devoted to romantic and sensual touch slowly eats away at what Masters and Johnson called “the pleasure bond” between couples, leaving much of the time spent together feeling like a business meeting. Instead, you end up focusing on what’s for dinner, who paid the heating bill, an update on financial circumstances, or where the kids have to be driven this weekend.
Both international research
and American research indicates that loving touch between couples is a critical ingredient in relationship happiness and sexual pleasure.
But interestingly, there is some evidence that the association between good whole-body foreplay and sexual arousal may be stronger among women than among men. So straight men: Pay attention. And straight women: You might want take notes and show them to your partners.
To begin with, the amount, type, and quality of non-genital touching may be less significant to men’s sexual response than to women’s because, in general, men are more easily aroused. The research we have — and there’s quite a bit of it — suggests that men face fewer barriers to arousal than women do.
Men seem to find memories and visual cues stimulating enough to create arousal. Touching may be optional for some of them.
Secondly, a man who feels intense pressure for sexual relief (orgasm) may actually become frustrated by a long period of non-genital touching. He might seek to speed through this part of the sexual dance in order to get release.
Thirdly, misguided but common male sexual role scripts — like the one described by noted sexologist Dr. Bernie Zilbergeld — emphasize that men should take the more active role in sexual choreography and should be able to give women sexual pleasure through intercourse. There are plenty of men out there who don’t understand how precious non-genital touch is to women.
If you are interested in reading more about this, see Zilbergeld’s classic book, The New Male Sexuality.
I suggest that you check in with your partner to see how each of you feels about the amount and type of non-genital touching you are giving each other, both inside the bedroom and outside.
Do this at a time when you’re already feeling emotionally close, but not right when you are about to be sexual. Your relationship will benefit, I promise.
I would like to thank Dr.Adena Galinsky at Washington D.C. Metro Area — Senior Service Fellow at National Center for Health Statistics — National Center for Health Statistics for doing such a great review of the literature on touch.
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