Good sex starts in your senses


good sex starts with heightened sensual awareness

By Barbara Carrellas

Every sexual episode starts in your senses. Whether it’s a touch, a taste, a scent, a sound or a sight, arousal starts in the brain. Often it happens long before you even consciously think about having sex.

Your five senses bring in an extraordinary amount of primal information in a split second. When you are able to be more aware of each moment during this flood of sensation, you can explore and build each little thrill into a prolonged ecstatic experience.

The trick is learning to slow down. That can be challenging at first, but stretching out the arousal stage of sex is a major factor in achieving orgasmic bliss. Think of this as a sensory mindfulness exercise. Give yourself time to absorb every aspect of whichever sensation your body is experiencing in each moment.

Each sensation will build upon the next until you’re bursting with pleasure.

Sensory turn-ons: figuring out what you like

Your specific turn-ons and responses are unique to you. While I love the smell of rosemary, you might prefer sage. I really enjoy the feel of warm wax on my skin but you might get a rush from the sensation of ice cubes sliding up your thigh.

The world around us is full of advice and propaganda about what “should” turn you on or off. Instead, honor your unique sensory likes and dislikes. Discard and dismiss anything that does not amplify your pleasure. Embrace and enjoy everything that delights you.

When it comes to your senses and sex, everything is cumulative — so choose wisely. Information from one sense builds on the others to create a time-release sensory explosion — but only if each sensation is one you enjoy.


Every day you breathe in a massive amount of sensory information through your nose. Your nose can catch the tiniest whiff of a scent well before your brain can process it enough for you to identify it. Your sense of smell is tied closely to your ability to taste, and without it, eating wouldn’t be nearly as much fun.

You can be profoundly turned on — or turned off — by smells. If you’re going to be making love with a partner (or even having an intimate dinner), check in with them about their preferences for perfumes, colognes, and other scented body products before you douse yourself in a fragrance. For example, I am generally turned off by commercial perfumes but usually like most essential oils. Even better, I prefer natural scents that fill the entire environment.

You might set the mood for sex with incense or an essential oil infuser. (Just make sure that everyone involved agrees that the chosen scent is a turn-on.) One incense you might try is Triloka, an especially lovely brand of herbal incense.


Low lighting or candlelight will set the sensory mood for an erotic evening. There's science behind this effect: lowered lighting causes your pupils to dilate, which is one way the brain recognizes attraction. In other words, mood lighting can help you appear more alluring.

Beautiful, lush fabrics, colorful pillows and exotic accessories help create a cozy, safe cocoon. Reds and purples are traditional “sexy” colors, but you might be turned on by electric blues or feel relaxed and ready in a room filled with peaceful sea greens. Wearing something special, or asking a partner to dress a certain way, are fun visual stimulators too. Costumes or special ensembles can be very exciting, and little silky, satiny items not only look sexy but also feel good to rub up against.

Add some fresh flowers to bring sweet, natural color (and gentle fragrance) into the room. I like the combination of pale roses and deep purple calla lilies, but you might get off on spiky red gladiolas, or big, bright sunflowers.

One of the simplest visual boosters is a strategically placed mirror (or two) nearby. Mirrors can add a real charge to your visual sensations and can help you appreciate just how beautiful you are when you’re turned on.

turning on your senses can help you discover what you like sexually


While touch is the most obvious sexually-active sense, there are ways to boost the joy you get out of it. The number one, most effective technique? Slow down! When you stretch out your sexual anticipation, you’ll get to hover on the brink of full intensity. Very hot.

Massage is a wonderful prelude to, or even a simultaneous component of, sex. Have you discovered the delights of massage candles? These lower-temperature soy candles provide the perfect combination of sensual lighting and luxurious sensation. And, you can pour the warm soy wax directly onto skin.

Scented massage oils and creams are great too. I like ones scented with ylang ylang, amber and sandalwood. Any basic aromatherapy guide will explain the properties and effects of different essential oils to help you choose the right scent for a particular experience.


The sound of sex plays through music — and there is an infinite variety to choose from. Music is intoxicating, and it both separates your lovemaking space from the outside world and provides you with your own unique soundtrack.

Create a sensual playlist with a partner or surprise them with one of your playlists to set the desired sexy mood. If you’re not feeling creative, simply choose instrumental music with a gentle beat. Or try Buddha Bar — it’s world music with a mysterious, erotic vibe. If you’re into it, classical music can work too.


Our taste buds are as unique as our fingerprints. Many so-called sexy foods may delight you. Others may be total turn offs. My short list for sexy foods includes champagne, sparkling water, raw oysters, dark chocolate and blueberries. What are yours? Do you like savories or sugary things? Or both? I find a combination of protein and sweets to be the most satisfying.

And the way you serve your snacks can be part of the turn-on. For twice the fun, turn your lover into a snack tray — put whipped cream and chocolate on their body and lick it off.

Think of your senses like categories on an elegant restaurant menu — you get to choose what you want and how you want it served. I hope you'll try everything at least once.





Read more from Barbara Carrellas about how to have better sex more often.

Last updated on 10/03/2018