Whether or not you’ve managed to find time and energy for feeling yourself this year (literally or figuratively), this homebound, stressful year has certainly shown us just how much merit there is in taking pleasure into your own hands. And while it can be a major stress-reliever to serve yourself up an orgasm straight up, time spent exploring all your other hot spots, or erogenous zones, is never time wasted.
“For some people, understanding their erogenous zones validates their experience and gives them permission to enjoy their sexuality in that place,” says Shannon Chavez, Psy.D., a psychologist and sex therapist in Los Angeles. And exploring these zones also allows you to give a partner a detailed map of your body, communicating where and how you like to be touched, adds Chavez.
No doubt Friends’ Monica Geller understood this when she famously explained 7 female erogenous zones — ears, lips, neck, breasts, butt, vagina, and inner thighs — to Chandler. The most powerful of those, in descending order: breasts, lips, neck, ears, and butt, according to research published in Human Andrology. The same study found that 95.3% of women had erogenous zones other than their genitals, and an overall 12% said they can orgasm following stimulation of these spots.
That said, there are more than a few reasons to learn more about female erogenous zones. Here, steamy, outside-of-the-obvious spots on the female body that experts recommend zeroing in on for a memorable, pleasurable time.
While ears aren’t necessarily the first thing that come to mind when you’re thinking about getting down and dirty, you quickly realize that they are fairly useful during a variety of sexy acts: dirty talk, heavy breathing, or simply hearing your own and/or your partner’s moans and sighs. The ears are also quite sensitive to touch, says Chavez, and we’ve been conditioned to think about them as a sensual body part — if only subconsciously. “If you think about every romance movie or even passionate scenes there’s always something about nibbling or whispering,” she says.
How to stimulate them: Chavez recommends starting with light stimulation and building up to see what you like the most. Your partner can caress your ear, push your hair behind it, stroke your ear, then graze the neck, eventually using their mouth and tongue to trace around the ear, maybe even using the tongue to penetrate the ear a bit, she says. “Breath is a great source of stimulation too — try breathing lightly into the ear while caressing or sucking,” recommends Chavez.
2. Nape of the neck
Any hot and heavy makeout sessions you enjoyed as a teen might have solidified your love of what a 1950s sex ed teacher might have referred to as “necking.” And given how sensitive and vulnerable the nape of the neck is, it’s no wonder touch there is bound to be stimulating, says Alexandra Fine, CEO, and co-founder of Dame Products. “The thinness of the skin combined with a high concentration of nerve endings make this a fun place to explore,” she notes.
How to stimulate it: Have your partner show your neck some love by licking, sucking, or gently tracing the delicate skin there with their lips, advises Fine. “Even light touch with the tip of their fingers could trigger chills up your spine,” she notes.
From Sir Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” to JLo’s “Booty,” there’s a reason so many pop songs celebrate the tuchus. It’s a sexy part of the body, and it makes you feel sexy when a partner admires your bottom — either non-verbally or by offering compliments, says Chavez. “It’s also very close to our genital area, especially depending on what position you’re in,” she points out.
How to stimulate it: “Whether it's a light touch or a firm hand, this area is one hyper-sexualized zone that often lives up to the hype,” says Fine. “Because the buttocks have both high muscle and fat content, they may respond better to a firmer touch or squeeze — or smack — than a lighter tickle.”
On the other hand, you might enjoy soft caresses or tension-relieving massage, especially if you sit on your booty all day for work, notes Chavez. “If your partner is giving you an erotic massage, it’s an area I recommend spending a lot of time on,” she says.
Along those lines, a pro-tip from Casey Tanner, certified sex therapist and an expert for sex toy company LELO, which recently partnered with BlackBook on the book A Woman's Right To Pleasure: “Have your partner tease you by running their fingertips along the crease where their butt meets their thighs.”
Speaking of fingertips, don’t underestimate the power of the sensitive pads we use to do everything from type to touch one another. “Designed to sense even the slightest of changes in texture and temperature, the fingertips are your access point to every other erogenous zone,” says Tanner.
Chavez adds that in addition to the fact that fingertips boast many nerve-endings, sucking or nibbling on them anatomically echoes penetration, which can automatically trigger desire.
How to stimulate them: “Take your partner’s hand, and place their index finger between your lips, biting very gently as you slide their finger out of your mouth,” advises Tanner. “Next, lightly suck on one of their fingertips as if you’re sipping from a straw. Imagine that their finger is either a clitoris or a penis — whichever you prefer — and mirror what you would do to that body part.”
5. Lower back
Whether you’re aggressive in the gym or suffering from the sedentary aspect of staying safe at home, you might occasionally contend with an achy lower back. It’s a vulnerable, sensitive zone — not to mention one that a partner often holds onto during sex (think: while in a doggystyle or even side-by-side position) or snuggling, points out Chavez. Plus, it’s an area that’s tough for you to caress yourself, which makes a partner’s touch there even more appealing.
How to stimulate it: Tanner suggests lying on your stomach and having your partner place each palm on either side of your spine, avoiding the bone and focusing on soft tissue. “Using their body weight, they can lean into your back, slowly moving their palms in a circular motion,” she notes. “Alternatively, they can use their fingertips to gently tickle your lower back, sending shivers down your spine.”
6. Inner wrists
Just like early makeout sessions might be the origin of your love of neck kisses, hand-holding can give way to a love of inner wrist touch, says Chavez. It’s also just another area on the body where the skin is thin and delicate — and therefore more sensitive than other, thicker-skinned spots, she notes.
And again, don’t discount what you’ve seen in movies. “We see in passionate, rough sex where a partner pins a wrist against a bed or wall in sexual play,” points out Chavez. Depending on how you involve the wrists, they can bring to mind an erotic feeling of (consensually) submitting to your partner.
How to stimulate them: Chavez encourages light stimulation on the wrists, either via kissing or using the mouth to stimulate the skin with varied pressures.
And because wrists are homebase for major arteries (you check your pulse there, thanks to the radial artery on the thumb side of the wrist), you might want to play with warming and cooling sensations, says Tanner. She recommends a partner wet their lips before moving them gently along the inner wrist. “Alternatively, they can run their index finger vertically from the crease of your wrist to the crease of your elbow, tracing the nerve that spans the length of your forearm,” she advises.
Given how good a scalp massage feels, it’s no wonder many people enjoy feeling their partner’s fingertips running through their hair. “This can range from lovingly sweet to extraordinarily hot,” points out Tanner.
How to stimulate it: Encourage your partner to start from the hairline and move their hands towards the center of your scalp in a relaxed claw-like position, recommends Tanner. “When they reach the center of your scalp, they can move their hand away from your head slowly and let your hair run through their fingers,” she notes. And because the scalp is positioned between two other erogenous zones — the ears and the nape of the neck — you might enjoy your partner brushing against these areas as they massage your head, she notes.
An often-neglected area, especially for women, the stomach is made up of multiple erogenous zones from your navel to the inside of your hips, points out Tanner. “Furthermore, your abdominal muscles are connected to those of your pelvic floor, such that by touching one you’re stimulating the other,” she says.
Plus, because we hold so many emotions in our stomachs, the experience of letting go and allowing your partner to touch you there can be a major intimacy booster, says Chavez.
How to stimulate it: From a spooning position, your partner can wrap their arm around your waist and place the palm of their hand gently on your belly, says Tanner. Stroking softly, they can run their fingertips from the navel across your ribs over and over before making their way down to the lower stomach and hips.
While this spot isn’t for everyone, armpits are full of pheromones that, when picked up on by a partner, can elicit a sexual response, points out Tanner.
How to stimulate them: Chavez says it can be super-steamy to have your partner lift your arm up, touching or kissing first your fingertips, then your wrists, and finally your armpit in order to hit all three erogenous zones.
Your partner can also use the pad of their thumb to create small circles in the center of the armpit, creating a warming sensation, adds Tanner. “And if you or your partner have armpit hair, take advantage by pulling on it gently and playfully,” she says. “You may get a bit ticklish, but who’s to say that laughter can’t be sexy?”
The bottom line on female erogenous zones:
If you enjoy being touched on a part of your body that’s not reflected by Monica’s list or expert opinion, you’re not alone. “Erogenous zones differ vastly from person to person, and while certain areas of the body are undoubtedly more sensitive by design, the body is as social as it is biological,” says Fine. “That means cultural practices and social environments do play a role in determining which erogenous zones are preferred for each individual. Past sexual experiences, as well as physical and emotional trauma, can also affect which and how many zones each person enjoys.”
Ultimately, all that matters is maintaining a healthy curiosity about what feels best for you. To that end, Tanner advises starting at the top of the head and working your way down — or simply beginning with body parts you feel most comfortable with. “Either way, do your best to stay mindful of what happens in your body as you or your partner explores each part,” she advises. “You might experience anxiety about what your partner is thinking or feeling as they touch these erogenous zones, but do your best to stay centered on your own experience. After you’re finished, debrief the experience. Take stock of which parts felt especially good so that you or your partner can be sure to add them to your sexual repertoire.”