sacred touch massage

Are We Missing the Language of Touch? How Sensation Play Helps Us Expand Our Vocabulary

A caveat before we begin: In this article, I'll be swinging between non-sexual touch examples (with my daughter) and more intimate touch. That might seem strange at first, but the language of touch is something we all need to learn, and I would argue from a very young age. And non-sexual touch will always be the starting point for developing the important skill of expressing your preferences and boundaries.
I still vividly remember the time my grandma told me she “didn’t like to be touched.” Even as a child, I was confused by this because my mom and I often traded massages, and I very much liked being massaged! When I grew up, and had my own child, she also told me, “I don’t like to be touched” and it’s been a phrase I’ve heard from other women, feeling touched out and overwhelmed, especially after having children, that they just weren’t interested in non-sexual physical intimacy.
The same goes for sensual touch. I experienced this first hand after breastfeeding two children for many years. My breasts, once an expression of sensual, sexy joy, were now reduced to a feeding apparatus. They were utilitarian. The thought of having my partner's mouth where my child's mouth once was...Hard Pass. I'd had other experiences of this as well: being touched in the same spot for too long giving me the heebie jeebies or not knowing quite why a partner's oral sex techniques weren't hitting the spot. Even when a partner was open to feedback, I was quite clearly missing the language of how to give helpful directions.
Feeling perplexed by this because I know how important physical touch is to wellbeing, I plopped face down on my massage therapist/coach/wisewoman’s table and queried why this might be? And she said something that will forever change the way I look at this issue - she said, “I think most people don’t have the full vocabulary needed to express their desires around touch.” She went on to give an excellent example,

“If you’re with a partner and what they’re doing feels ticklish, what’s needed to not feel ticklish anymore is more pressure. However, what might be verbalized instead is, ‘I don’t like that.’ What's missing is understanding the language that goes along with touch.”

Mind blown. Maybe at this point you're rolling your eyes at me, because this sounds very obvious when laid out like that. But when I turned my curiosity toward my “doesn’t like touch” daughter, I began to think about the kinds of touch I typically gave her - soft, sweet back scratches and hair stroking, but maybe that’s not what she needed. With her agreement, we decided to play with sensation. And her favorite? The Wartenberg Wheel. It looks like this:
Wartenberg Wheel sensation tool being used on woman's back
Yeah, that seems a little terrifying for a kid to play with, I agree, so it stays with me! But I learned something very important: it’s not that she didn’t like being touched, it’s that she hadn’t yet encountered the sensation that brought her joy, relief, and nervous system regulation. This is a long-winded way of saying I think we all have a LOT of work to do in the world of sensory play.

Mastering the Language of Touch Through Sensory Play

Just as our bodies require a variety of nutrients to thrive, our sensory systems crave a multitude of experiences for optimal health. Think of it as a 'sensory diet' where each type of touch is a different nutrient, vital for a well-rounded and balanced somatic state.
Our skin, the largest organ, is a complex network designed to detect a wide range of sensations – from the soft caress of a feather to the firm pressure of a massage, to the sting of a playful swat. Introducing a diverse array of sensations can help to stimulate our nervous system, encourage emotional release, and deepen our connection to our own bodies and to our partners.
Understanding and articulating our tactile preferences is akin to learning a new language - the language of touch. It involves not only recognizing our own sensory desires but also learning how to effectively communicate them to our partners. Just like we have a range of words to describe our emotions, we need a varied vocabulary to express our touch needs.

Describing sensations with specific terms like 'tingling', 'soothing', 'prickly', or 'warm' can guide our partners more effectively.

This explicit communication creates a deeper understanding and connection, and is much more helpful for your own understanding of how you like to be touched as well.
For example, if a partner's touch feels too light or fleeting, causing discomfort or ticklishness, instead of withdrawing, we can request a firmer, more grounded touch. Similarly, if a touch is too firm or intense, try expressing a reduction in percentages - "can you lighten the intensity by 10%?" This mathematical expression may only work for a certain type of person, but that's the point - you have to experiment to get to the right language for you and your partner!
Engaging in conversations about touch preferences not only improves the sensory experience but also builds trust and intimacy. Partners can ask each other questions like, "How does this feel?" or "Would you prefer a different type of touch?" Make a game of it where the sole purpose of that intimate connection time is to experiment with touch and challenge yourself to really feel into your body and name the sensation.
Through this kind of play, you might surprise yourself with what you like. Astonishingly, my daughter, after having the pokey steel pressure of the Wartenberg wheel, was then much more open to different sensations.

It’s almost like we found the key to unlocking her ability to appreciate different sensations.


What Are ‘Sensation Tools’?

Traditionally, everyday items repurposed for sensory play have been playfully termed "pervertables." Think using an old wooden spoon from the kitchen as a spanking tool or teasing your lover’s body with rose petals. This concept speaks to the ingenuity of individuals who seek to enhance their sensory experiences using objects not originally intended for intimate play. The idea is rooted in the belief that objects around us hold the potential for pleasure when viewed through a lens of curiosity and openness.
Sensation tools, or sensual touch tools as we like to call them, take this concept further. These are not repurposed items but thoughtfully designed instruments that cater to a spectrum of tactile experiences. From the lightest fluffy, minky fabric across the skin to the spicy sting of soft silicone strands, these tools are designed to awaken the senses, encourage presence, and promote an intimate exploration that's both physical and emotional.
Woman being draped in satin sensation tool by man

What's On the Horizon?

While we work on organizing retreats and workshops, we have already unveiled our full range of sensation tools! These products are designed to nurture closeness and trust between partners. These tools vary in texture and sensation, with the hope that they can help individuals know the full breadth of sensory experiences available to them.
Our sensation tools are an invitation to explore and say "Yes" to new experiences, to deeper trust, and to a more profound connection with your partner. It's an opportunity to rediscover the language of touch and the narratives our bodies can write together.
Complementing these products is our completely free SPARK Playbook, a guide to further the connection between you and your partner with sweet, experiential exercises. Check it out here: 
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