Pleasure is something we as humans are constantly seeking in all of its many forms. When we uncover something that gives us pleasure, we do whatever we can to achieve said pleasure again, and as much as possible. When we experience one of life’s many pleasures such as joy, we seek to feel this joy again through repeating the act which caused it or replicating the situation it stemmed from. When it comes to arousal and sexual pleasure, these inclinations are similar.
Though, for some reason, most people do not put as much time and mindful effort into exploring what gives them sexual pleasure as they may explore what gives them pleasure in other aspects of their lives.
Sex Educator, Kenneth Play, and sex-positive individuals such as himself, advocate wholeheartedly for sexual liberation in the form of self-discovery and uncovering what it is that gives you pleasure. *Note* pleasure doesn’t always need to be in reference to orgasm. Our bodies are capable of giving us endless amounts of stimulation, arousal, and pleasure, we just need to play and work with them to unlock the keys to these instances. “I encourage things like pleasure mapping and play labs to learn with your partner in a non-performance based setting (when you’re not actually having sex. These conversations are much easier when you’re not having sex. We have two states, when aroused and when not aroused, and they’re both very different learning environments.”
Psychological Arousal vs. Physical Arousal
There are different types of arousal, the physical aspect and the psychological.
“Psychological arousal is what turns you on. This may be an act (anal, for example), a specific context, a person or type of person, etc.” Basically, psychological arousal is what you fantasize about and what really gets you going. Physical arousal is how you like to be touched, what you like in sexual scenarios, etc.
The tricky part is that in a fantasy something that might arouse you may do nothing for you in real life.
For the most part, our fantasies wouldn’t actually give us pleasure if we were to act on them in real life. For example, maybe bondage is something you love to watch and think about, but something you might not actually enjoy in practice. So, all this said, it’s important to ask yourself what arouses you both physically and psychologically and draw a distinction between the two.
“When it comes to touch, everyone has different preferences, just like with food. Some people like spicy, some like sweet, etc. Everybody has their specific preferences. it’s not limited to one type of preference, it’s an ongoing discovery. Touch has a number of different variables which can attribute different degrees of pleasure: pressure, friction, speed, pattern, and angle. When you play with those variables, you can find the type of sensations you like. This is usually being touched by a hand or another body, but you can also use tools like vibration, suction, and different textures.
Calibration: What Do You and Your Body Like?
In terms touch, it can be difficult to understand/ask for precisely what we want. Sometimes it’s hard to put into words, and sometimes we’re just not sure! If you aren’t yet familiar with your individual tastes, there’s always room to learn. Calibration is the understanding of what feels good for you.
To do so, it’s important to take into account the following:
-Pressure: How much pressure is being applied at any given moment
-Friction: Is the contact point in motion or stationary? If in motion, how much friction is
-Speed: How fast the point of contact (finger or hand, for example) is moving
-Angle: Which direction the contact is coming from and pointing towards
-Pattern: Do you prefer a consistent pattern, random bursts, edging (being brought close and then back down), etc.
Your preferences in terms of all of these factors need to be mapped out, and this is how Kenneth coined the term pleasure mapping. Pleasure mapping is a series of questions and exercises to perform with a partner or solo (Kenneth recommends with a partner, but it is not 100% necessary.) Pleasure mapping is designed to help you unlock your sexual pleasure, find out what you like, how you like to be touched, and how to get the most out of your sexual encounters.
Kenneth’s main piece of advice when it comes to finding out what gives you pleasure?
“When you find something that’s pleasurable, keep doing it and don’t change it.”
When you’re pleasuring mapping yourself or your partner, do what feels good! It’s that simple. In terms of calibration, Kenneth has a few methods he typically recommends. One of our favorites: Click Clocking
“Imagine the clock face, pointing up towards your nose is 12:00 and then clockwise from there. Which area is the most pleasurable or sensitive? While you’re moving around the clock try different pressures or amounts of friction. Some people are righties, some lefties, some like right below the clit, everyone’s different. Also, try cross-strokes, going from 12:00 to 6:00, for example, is the downstroke, and the opposite is the upstroke.” This method for self-discovery is also a great way to communicate what you want to a partner in a visual, easily-understandable way. Use this clock as both a way to learn your body and pleasure, as well as a guide for your lovers.
Internal clocking is important too, Kenneth tells us “start by just touching the vaginal opening and push/stretch is down. See how flexible the opening is. Then, put your finger in the see how deep it is – how deep until you hit the cervix. Then search for the spongy, rough spot on the top, which most people refer to as a G-spot. The G-spot is not a specific spot you need to touch to make someone cum, it’s just located in such a way that it can move the back of the clit from the inside. It hits it where it sits in the tunnel. So, sometimes just the in and out movement doesn’t always do this. A technique I love teaching is going up and down rather than in and out with my the fingers. It creates a rumble throughout rather than just brushing by. The way to achieve that in penetrative sex is by tilting the angle so the penis is hitting either the upper wall of the bottom of the vaginal tunnel.”
How Do You Masturbate?
“You can also think about the way you masturbate, the patterns. Sometimes I have my partners close their fists and pretend the space in between their thumb and hand is the vaginal opening, and the clit is the upper crease. I ask them to pretend they’re masturbating and show me how they touch themselves. I also ask them how they start, how they bring up the sensation, how they wrap themselves up, and how they finish. Do they change patterns when they’re about to climax? How long does it typically take them?”
Think about it like this: you’ve (likely) spent years masturbating and figuring out what exactly gets you off. Use your personal experiences and findings from your Pleasure Mapping (if you’ve done it solo) to guide and encourage your partner. If you take time to think about and understand how you masturbate you have a better chance of being able to ask a partner to do it; Kenneth recommends discussing what you want in bed in a non-sexual setting.
If you’re having trouble expressing yourself in bed or asking for what you what, Kenneth recommends trying these conversations outside of the bedroom. “It’s much easier to have these conversations when you aren’t in a turned-on state.”
“If I am taking an action, whatever it is, if I get a positive response to my action then by behaviors are encouraged. ”If you’re not quite comfortable directly asking for what you want, you can lean on what Kenneth likes to call The Pleasure Loop. This is the same idea as the Positive Feedback Loop. Give positive reinforcement to behaviors that give you pleasure, this way your partner will take note and (hopefully) repeat.
“The first thing that I think is really important for someone to understand about their partner is how they express themselves when they feel really good. Some people are very verbal, for some people talking is a nightmare because it takes them out of their headspace. So it can be verbal, sounds, movement, breath, or a combination of these things. Some people quiver, for example, but don’t say anything. So, try to take out the guesswork out of it by looking for these signs.”
If all else fails, you can straight-up tell your partner what your pleasure reaction commonly looks like so that they know what to look for. If you’re non-verbal but you arch your back or bite your lip when you’re enjoying yourself, it couldn’t hurt to let them know.
Understanding The Data
For Kenneth and us here at Psych N Sex, sexuality is many things, and one of these things is a science. Just like any other science, we must collect our data, and move forth with our findings. “The idea is to really understand the data. You want to be able to interpret what you’re learning” Kenneth tells us.
Collect as much data about yourself or your partner as possible and go over what you’ve learned. Are you a person who loves a specific amount of pressure but is fine with any type of pattern? Do you have a specific erogenous zone (perhaps that you came across during your clit clocking) that drives you wild? Take note of all of this info. Discuss it, allow it to translate into your sexual encounters and allow yourself to feel as much pleasure as you are able.
Pleasure Mapping is a wonderful introduction into the world of sex positivity. Committing to being a lifelong learner is something we should all embody in all aspects of our lives. There is so much we don’t yet know about ourselves and those around us, and this is especially the case when it comes to sex. These tips and exercises for Pleasure Mapping are just the beginning, the full experience which Kenneth leads his clients through is far more in-depth, and we would highly recommend it if you’re in Brooklyn and looking to improve your sex life.