Pleasure Mapping: A How-To Guide

Ever wonder whether you or your partner has untapped erogenous zones? Pleasure mapping can help you find out.

Pleasure mapping is all about exploring and stimulating your most sensual zones to maximize arousal.

When done right, you’ll discover new ways to feel good and ignite passion.

Pleasure mapping can also reveal ways to put a new spin on known erogenous and erotic zones to keep things fresh in the bedroom.

Here’s how it works.

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Let go of expectations.

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We often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to act a certain way or like certain things when it comes to sex.

With pleasure mapping, we flip that idea on its head. Rather than expecting yourself to like or do anything, you’re encouraged to instead let go of any expectations.

If you orgasm during a pleasure mapping activity, that’s fine. If it doesn’t happen, that’s also fine.

The purpose of pleasure mapping isn’t to orgasm: it’s to discover parts of your body that feel pleasurable to touch and explore different ways of touching them. It’s a sensual data-collecting activity rather than an orgasm-inducing one.

Set aside dedicated time for exploration.

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It’s hard to feel sensual if you’re thinking about your to-do list or can hear your phone vibrating with notifications.

Approach pleasure mapping as if you were going for a professional massage or to see a stage play: silence your phone, leave worries at the door, and enjoy the experience.

This ties back into setting aside expectations.

You don’t go to a massage or a play expecting yourself to do much. Rather, you expect the experience to do a lot for you.

Try to think of pleasure mapping the same way. The activity is meant to be an enjoyable experience. It shouldn’t feel like work. Set aside at least twenty minutes, and settle in for a good time.

Warm up.

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Fingers tracing up your spine can feel sexy when you’re turned on, but creepy while standing in line at the post office. Context matters.

Before you dive into sensual touch and pleasure mapping, get comfortable. You can also try do things you typically find mildly arousing.

That might mean spending some time cuddling, kissing, or caressing familiar areas of the body. For some, it may mean talking about what’s about to happen or gently teasing one another.

Whatever does it for you and your relationship, do it! Your comfort and mood will set you up for success.

Use a guide to some things you want to try.

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While this activity is called pleasure mapping, you don’t have to build your map from scratch.

Download books or videos about erotic touch and igniting arousal. Or, if you’re feeling up to it, follow along with an instructional sensual massage video.

Consider tools other than your hands that might feel good as well. In my pleasure mapping class, we use satin scarves, feathers, scratchers, and pointed pinwheels to explore new sensations.

Toys, fabrics, feathers, leather, and metal all produce very different sensations. You can talk with your partner about whether being blindfolded or using earplugs might help with tuning into sensation.

Communicate what’s pleasurable (and what isn’t).

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While on the receiving end of a pleasure mapping session, it’s important to let your partner(s) know what feels good…and what doesn’t.

Many people find that a simple 1-5 scale works well. Saying ‘5’ or holding up 5 fingers means ‘this feels amazing’ while saying 1 or holding up 1 means ‘this doesn’t do anything for me.’ (Saying nothing or holding up 0 fingers can mean ‘I’m still deciding how I feel about this touch.’)

Some people find that using a scale like this pulls them out of the experience. If this is the case for you, a non-numerical system might work better.

For example, you could hold a partner’s arm or hand and grip to indicate how pleasurable (or not) something is. The tighter and longer the grip, the more pleasurable it is. A short grip means little pleasure if any.

Whichever method you use, remember that you can always stop what’s happening if you find a certain type of touch to be unpleasant or, goddess forbid, painful. A simple “stop” or non-verbal double tap on your partner’s arm should do the trick.

Remember to keep exploring.

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If you’re on the giving end of a pleasure mapping session, it can be tempting to default to areas you already know your partner finds pleasurable. Resist this temptation.

It’s certainly satisfying to have confidence in your knowledge of your partner’s body. However, the point of pleasure mapping is to explore new territory and new ways of engaging with the new areas you find.

For this reason, you should plan to explore multiple areas of your partner’s body and multiple methods of touch.

Tapping, pressing, circling, rubbing, etc. are all excellent touch methods. Spend enough time in each area with one form of touch to let your partner tune into the sensation and give feedback before moving on.

If you do find a new ‘level 5’ or ‘tight grip’-inducing area, it’s okay to linger on it for a while. Keep in mind, however, that orgasm is not the goal of pleasure mapping. You found a new pleasurable place to touch, and that’s great. Spend some time there, then move on to see how many more areas you can find.

If you find a ‘level 1’ or ‘no grip’-inducing area, remember that this feedback is not about you as a partner. It’s feedback about having that area touched. As you explore areas and touch your partner’s body, ask for feedback about each area, and thank them regardless of their rating or response. Remember, this is a data-collecting activity, not an orgasm-inducing activity.

Putting the pleasure data to work.

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Continue exploring erogenous zones with different methods of touch until the time you set aside is up, or until you decide as a unit that you’re interested in transitioning to something more sexual.

Whether you transition into sex right after pleasure mapping or sometime later, try incorporating what you learned about your and/or your partner’s body during the activity.

This could mean stimulating the areas that got a high rating and using the touch methods that worked best. It could also mean experimenting with new positions that allow your bodies to touch in these newly discovered erogenous zones, or that make it easy to kiss or nibble those areas if desired.

The great thing about pleasure mapping is you can do it more than once. In fact, I highly recommend making pleasure mapping a regular activity. Our tastes, desires, and needs change over time–not to mention our bodies. Types of touch that really got us going in our 20s will likely be different in our 40s, 60s, and beyond.

Exploring new pleasure frontiers?

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100 New Sex Ideas for Experienced Lovers

Meet sex & sensuality expert Shannon Burton, SXI

Shannon Burton, SXI

Hi there! I’m Sex Coach Shannon. I offer private coaching and classes both virtually and in my New Orleans studio.

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Published by Shannon Burton

Erotic Ignition Coach by day, poet and flash fiction author by night, I occasionally manage to get out of the house and enjoy New Orleans as it's meant to be.

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