The Power And Science Of Sexual Touch

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close up of couple smiling about to kiss
What happens in our bodies when we touch each other sexually? Why is touch so powerful?

A kiss. A cuddle. A stroke of the hair. Hands held. Noses nuzzled. Want to know the state of a relationship? Watch how a couple touches each other—before, during and after sex. As you very well may know, the sexual act is more than just penetration, and can take many different forms. Here are some examples:

  • Drunken college co-eds initiate intercourse with a massage on a dorm room bed. They have sex, pass out promptly and one leaves the other early the next morning. Both are relieved.
  • Couple in a new relationship feel as if they can't live without each other. When they have sex, they devour each other. Afterward, they stare into one another's eyes, stroke one another's face and breathe one another's breath.
  • Long-time lovers prepare for bed with their nighttime ritual. He helps her unfasten her bra. She rubs that sore spot on his back. They make love and fall asleep in the usual position, back to stomach: a spoon.

"Penetration may be the culmination," says Dr. Dorree Lynn, author of Sex For Grownups, "but sex is a process with a beginning, middle and end," with touch playing an important role throughout.

Before sex, you touch someone initially to let them know they are desired. The clumsy massage. The hand across the table. The grooming of a wayward combover. From their response, you know how to proceed. Holding Hands Is Ridiculously Good For You

During the act, of course, touch creates arousal and, ultimately, brings about the orgasm.

Afterward, touch completes the act, winding you down as it wound you up. In your vulnerability, you lay in each other's arms. Fingers slowly caress as bodies regain equilibrium. As you drift asleep, toes touch toes. The connection is not broken.

"Touching lets you know that your partner is involved with you, and that you're not just two genitals that have done their thing," says Dr. Lynn. "For women, touching is validation that she is more than a receptacle."

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