If you’re seeking new ways to feel close to your partner, you might be wondering how to give them a good sensual massage to help you connect. (And a downright sexy massage offers even more opportunities for intimacy.) Horny touching, including massage, causes our brains to release oxytocin, a.k.a. the “love hormone”, so an erotic massage is the perfect recipe for bonding, relaxation, and arousal—possibly even a better sex life.Read on as experts share how to give a sexy back massage to turn on both you and your partner—and maybe set the mood for more.Talk to your partner about what their dream massage would look like.There’s no one way to give an erotic massage, so before you pump up the Marvin Gaye and break out the “good” massage oil, ask your partner what they’d like to get out of this experience—and share your own desires too.“The ‘why’ of the massage should dictate the ‘how,’” Barbara Carrellas, an AASECT-certified sex educator who teaches erotic massage, tells SELF. So: Are you and your partner seeking connection, or maybe novelty? Are you wanting to take some pressure off of your sexual performance? Are you having trouble getting out of your own head and looking for new forms of foreplay? Do you just think their back is hot and want to love up on it a little? Find out!Once you’re clear on the “why” behind your sexy massage, decide together how you’d like it to feel. “Erotic massages can be therapeutic, relaxing, stimulating, healing, sensual, sexual, kinky, or whatever other intention you set,” Carrellas says.Check in about where and how your partner wants to be touched and if there are any no-go zones, AASECT-certified sex therapist Amanda Pasciucco, LMFT, CST, tells SELF.You should definitely ask whether your partner wants the massage to include overtly sexual contact. “Each person likes to be touched in a different way,” Pasciucco explains. “Some people love the adrenaline of just going toward the genitals, while many others enjoy long, slow strokes to build up anticipation.”Make your surroundings feel sexier.Use dim lighting, a playlist featuring gentle music, and candles to create an ambiance that helps your partner feel relaxed, Pasciucco says. (Just make sure the candles are securely placed far from the massage zone—catching your hair on fire would kill the mood.)One of the best—but often overlooked—massage tips isn’t about what you set up, but what you get the hell out of sight at home. Pasciucco suggests removing any potential distractions from the room, like pets, phones, piles of laundry, and family photos (you probably won’t want your relatives staring you down while you zealously knead your partner’s butt cheeks).If this kind of traditional massage setup feels slightly corny to you, Pasciucco suggests leaning into the cringe. “Making your bedroom look like a temple of love might not be your norm, but do it anyway,” she says. Trust that once you’re squeezing your partner’s thighs, you’ll probably both be too turned-on to feel embarrassed—and until you get there, it’s okay to laugh a little too.
Even though your butt is an erogenous zone (and a beloved one here at SELF), the fact remains that hot sex isn’t its primary function. The anus, a.k.a. your butthole, and the rectum make up the final sections of your large intestine, where shit comes out. So if you’re curious about bottoming but have only used your ass for bathroom purposes up to this point, you might be worried about pooping on your partner.If that’s the case, know that you’re not alone: Most anal-sex-having people deal with this anxiety in the beginning! Fortunately, the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim, and there are steps you can take to get your backdoor sex-ready. Here’s how to get cleaned up before you get into it. (“It” being your butthole.)Accept that anal sex might get messy, no matter what you do.Let’s start by clearing one thing up: Unless you urgently feel like you have to use the bathroom, or you have health issues that affect your gastrointestinal system, you’re probably not going to spontaneously poop during sex. A finger, penis, or sex toy would go in your rectum during anal sex, and that part of your body isn’t where your poop lives. (It’s stored further up and out of reach in the sigmoid colon until a muscle contraction called a “mass movement” empties it into your rectum.)That said, when poop passes through your rectum and out of your anus, some might get left behind. That’s normal! If you encounter some brown remnants during sex, it doesn’t mean you’re dirty or gross. “Any sort of anal play is going to potentially come with some fecal matter being part of the sexual experience, regardless of any cleanliness routine you go through,” Heather Edwards, MPT, an AASECT-certified sex educator and pelvic floor physical therapist, tells SELF.This might sound counterintuitive, but to quote Funkadelic, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.” Before you have anal sex, make sure you and your partner accept that, yes, you might see a small amount of poop. Talk through how you’ll handle that if it happens. Maybe you’ll decide to keep some baby wipes on the bedside table for a quick cleanup, or perhaps you’ll use barriers like gloves or condoms to prevent any fingers, genitals, or dildos from potentially coming into contact with poo. (Barriers can also be helpful if you want to follow anal play with other types of sex using the same body parts. By swapping out barriers in between sex acts, you can avoid spreading bacteria from your butt to places where it doesn’t belong—namely, other orifices—which can cause vaginitis or bacterial infections. In general, you should also check in about safer sex practices beforehand, since it’s possible to transmit STIs through anal play.)Having this conversation might feel embarrassing, but setting realistic expectations can help you have a hotter, better time. “The anxiety around having everything go perfectly isn’t going to allow the receiving partner to relax and enjoy it,” Edwards says, and the same goes for the giver.Wash your crack a few hours before having sex.The skin around your anus should be clean and debris-free before you get rolling. This is especially important before rimming, which is when you use your mouth to stimulate a partner’s butthole, since you can potentially spread and contract parasites, bacteria, and viruses through “fecal-oral” transmission.Carlton Thomas, MD, a San Francisco–based gastroenterologist who specializes in LGBTQ+ sex education, tells SELF that your best bet is cleaning just the outside of your hole with gentle, unscented soap in the shower beforehand. If you don’t have time to take a full shower right before sex, use a baby wipe or a bidet, if you have one, to freshen up your crack and remove any toilet paper detritus.If waxing or shaving your crack is part of your routine, make a point to check for any bumps before having anal sex. “Waxing and shaving may leave the external area very irritated for 24 to 48 hours afterwards,” Dr. Thomas says. That can make sex less pleasurable and more risky: Cuts and abrasions increase your likelihood of contracting STIs, according to Planned Parenthood.
This article is part of SELF’s Keep It Hot package, a collection of content that celebrates love and lust. Throughout February, we’ll be dishing out advice and inspiration for feeling hot, getting horny, and nurturing romantic relationships.In any long-term relationship, there are going to be times when sex isn’t as frequent as it once was—it happens! And it happens for all kinds of reasons. Maybe you or your partner are experiencing a lower sex drive due to stress, illness, medication, or aging. Maybe you’re raising kids and don’t have the privacy or time for regular sex sessions, or anything beyond the very basics. Maybe you’re worried about work—or the state of the world—and your brain just doesn’t have the bandwidth for desire. No matter what’s going on: It’s okay! If you and your partner find yourselves in a sex rut, that doesn’t mean your relationship is over—or that you’ll never blow each other’s minds again. It’s normal for desire to ebb and flow over time, and there’s no “right” amount of sex you’re “supposed” to be having. But if you and your partner aren’t satisfied with the current state of your sex life—or if your sexual slump is making you feel emotionally distant from one another—then it’s time to make some changes. Here, experts share how you can keep things hot, even and especially if they’ve felt a little drab lately.Share new experiences with your partner outside of the bedroom.When was the last time you or your partner planned a date that didn’t involve ordering delivery and watching a movie? A 2020 study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that couples feel more excitement and security in their relationships when they pursue novel activities together. According to Aliyah Moore, PhD, certified sex therapist and resident sex expert at sex toy company SexualAlpha, getting out of your comfort zone is the best way to strengthen your emotional bond. “You can go on a trip, try scuba diving, go hiking, or enroll in a Pilates class,” Dr. Moore tells SELF.Deepening your emotional intimacy by pursuing new experiences might kickstart your desire for one another. A 2018 study published in the Journal of Social and Personal Relationships found that higher levels of emotional intimacy are associated with higher sexual desire in long-term relationships, so trying new things with your partner is one way to build that feeling of togetherness—and set the stage for some fooling around afterwards.Maintain nonsexual touch.Even if you’re not ripping each other’s clothes off every day, maintaining some kind of physical connection with your partner can help you stay close and connected—and it’s especially important if the decline in your sex life is due to mismatched libidos. “Hugs, cuddling, caresses as you pass in the hallway—these can go a long way towards meeting the sensory and connective needs of the higher-libido partner without putting pressure on the lower-libido person,” Stefani Goerlich, PhD, LCSW, an AASECT-certified sex therapist, tells SELF.Getting into the habit of regular physical touch that doesn’t lead to sex can help the lower-libido partner feel more relaxed, which can benefit your physical relationship. “When you feel comfortable touching and being touched, without the expectation of more, that lowers the fight-flight-freeze-fawn reaction that lower-libido people can experience [in sexual situations], and can ultimately help them feel more receptive to sex in general,” Dr. Goerlich says.Take it slow—like, really slow—in bed.Dr. Goerlich recommends exploring each other’s bodies to identify your undiscovered turn-ons. “Take the idea of penetrative sex off the table for a while and experiment with other forms of sensation instead,” she says. “When was the last time you brushed your partner’s hair, for example? How would it feel to spend time just touching and stroking their body, without expecting anything beyond that? How would it feel to let them touch and stroke you without expectation of more?”Even if non-sexual touch doesn’t bring your sex life back online, physical contact with a partner can still improve your overall well-being. A 2022 study published in PLOS One found that women who embraced their romantic partner prior to a stressful event experienced a lower spike in cortisol—the “stress hormone”—than those who hadn’t embraced their partner before the stressful event occurred. Introduce something surprising to your sex life.Falling into a sexual pattern is easy, especially in long-term relationships—you learn what your partner likes and your partner learns what you like, so you keep coming back to the same sex acts and positions that “work.” But too much repetition and not enough variety can make sex lose its luster. “Couples may develop a low sexual interest if they become used to the same pattern over time,” Dr. Moore says. If that’s the case for you and your partner, then it’s probably time to mix it up.“Mixing it up” doesn’t mean you have to sprint to your local adult store and buy a full-body latex suit (but if that’s your thing, go for it!). Small, low-effort adjustments can do a lot to revitalize your sex life. Try a new sex position, have sex outside of your bedroom (hello, kitchen counter!), or use a vibrator together. A recent literature review published in Sexual Medicine Reviews found that across multiple studies, vulva-owners who use vibrators report better sexual functioning and more frequent orgasms.If you really want to shake things up between the sheets, you can try on a new persona. “Role play in the bedroom or elsewhere may be a fantastic outlet for sharing your hottest fantasies, trying new things, and exploring your kinks,” Dr. Moore says. You can play out a sexy professor/student or boss/employee scenario, or you can just be yourselves in different circumstances. Meet your partner at a bar and pretend you’re on your first date—then invite them home and see where the night goes.No matter what you decide to whip out of your bag of sexual tricks, it’s important that you and your partner are both on board with experimentation. “If either partner feels pressured or coerced into sex, something needs to change,” Dr. Goerlich says.Asking a partner to try something new in the bedroom can be nerve-wracking for everyone involved, so before you share your latest fantasy, make sure it’s a good time for a sex chat. “Choose a moment when both you and your partner are comfortable and ready to offer your whole attention to the conversation,” Dr. Moore says. Initiate the conversation outside of a sexual context—when you and your partner both have your clothes on—so there’s no pressure to attempt an unfamiliar maneuver right away.