Sex & Dating | December 15, 2020 6:07 am

How to Give a Massage That’s Actually Better Than Sex

Expert tips on bringing the art of massage into the bedroom

massage
Put those hands to good use.
Justin Pumfrey/Getty

I once dated a guy who insisted that, given the choice between the two, he would almost always take a massage over sex.

I was initially skeptical of this claim, as it seemed to violate the sacred social dictate that all men are bound to a state of perpetual horniness and would cut off their own arm in exchange for sex at any and every opportunity. In addition to my disbelief, I also took some irrational offense at this dubious preference for not-sex over sex. Did he really like massages that much, or did he just hate having sex? Or worse, did he just hate having sex with me, specifically?

It only took one massage to make a believer out of me, however, and these days I, too, would probably take massages over sex if I could only have one for the rest of my life.

Fortunately, barring an oddly specific scenario I’ve yet to consider, I can’t really envision a situation in which anyone would actually be compelled to make such a choice. A small bright spot in an often cruel and unfair world, there’s no reason we can’t have massages and sex. In fact, bringing massage into the bedroom can actually improve your sex life, enhancing sexual experiences for both you and your partners.

“Incorporating massage into your sexual repertoire can make sex last longer and provide opportunities to explore erogenous zones that are often overlooked,” says Casey Tanner, certified sex therapist and an expert for sex toy company LELO. “While some might resist massage because it doesn’t seem overtly sexual, massage actually attends to your two largest sexual organs: your skin and your brain.” Massage also increases blood flow, adds Tanner, leading to more sensitivity and lubrication, all of which ultimately translates into more orgasms.

Massage can also help partners become more familiar with each others’ “touch language,” says Eric Joppy, licensed massage therapist and owner of SenseFuel Massage. “Massage helps you relax and become more comfortable with each other’s bodies,” ultimately leading to “a deeper, more intimate connection,” says Joppy.

While, as Tanner notes, massage is often incorporated into a sex as foreplay or aftercare preceding or following a more explicit sex act, it can also be enjoyed as a standalone experience that need be no less intimate or erotic than sex itself.

“While sex is an incredible tension reliever, I wouldn’t call it relaxing to the body,” says publicist Melissa Vitale, who considers it a “karmic blessing” that she recently entered a relationship with a man currently training to become a certified massage therapist. “Massages help me feel rejuvenated, cared for and supported all at once, and it can be incredibly arousing,” she tells InsideHook. “I find the afterglow of a good massage can be just as blissful as post-orgasm.”

Below, a few experts share tips on how to massage your partner into a state of post-orgasmic bliss, no orgasm required.

Set the mood

“When it comes to sexy massage, what you don’t have in the environment is just as important as what you do,” says Tanner. “To the extent possible, remove reminders of life stressors; put your pets away, wash dirty dishes, and turn off the technology.”

As for those life stressors that can’t be eliminated — like loud traffic sounds or neighbors — relaxing music or a white noise machine should do the trick, says Rachel Beider, massage expert and author of Press Here! Massage for Beginners: A Simple Route to Relaxation and Releasing Tension.

“Tailor the ambience for sensuality using your five senses — taste, touch, sight, smell and sound,” says Tanner. Low lighting is a must, while scented candles can do double duty when it comes to sight and smell. Beider also recommends burning incense, using essential oils or scented lotion.

“Basically, you just want it to be as comfortable as possible,” says Beider. “Temperature is also really important,” she adds. The room should be comfortably warm, and Beider also suggests making use of a heated blanket.

Taylor Sparks, erotic educator and founder of intimacy retailer Organic Loven, suggests both partners begin with a warm bath or shower, whether alone or together, in order to relax and unwind pre-massage. Sparks also recommends laying out anything you might need — oils, pillows, towels etc. — ahead of time, putting everything within reach so you can easily grab it during the massage without breaking physical contact with your partner.

A massage is an “exchange of energy” between giver and receiver, says Sparks. “If you can always keep one hand on your partner at all times while you get more oil or a towel, the energy will stay constant.”

Communicate

“One of the most important things in massage is communication,” says Beider. “It’s a good opportunity to practice consent and to ask for what you really want, which can also be helpful in other parts of the relationship. Massage fosters trust. It helps you express vulnerability.”

With that in mind, the best way to begin a massage is to simply ask your partner what they want. “Similar to professional masseuses, ask your partner if there are any regions of your body they’d like you to focus on or avoid,” says Tanner.

It’s also important to continue checking in with your partner throughout the duration of the massage. “Ask them what they want and confirm things like pressure, speed, pace or location,” says Beider, who suggests establishing a number system to help communicate the right level of pressure: “If ten is way too much pressure and zero is boring, maybe you want to be massaging someone at a six or a seven.” Partners can then communicate their desire for more or less pressure more precisely.

And even if you think you’ve got it down, don’t hesitate to continue checking in with your partner periodically. “I think sometimes people are afraid to say something, so it’s really important that you check in with them during the session,” says Beider, who also stresses the importance of asking for specific feedback rather than accepting a simple, “It’s fine.”

Strokes to know

Your partner probably isn’t expecting you to become a master masseuse, but figuring out where to put your hands and how to move them in a way that constitutes an actual massage instead of just a random rub down can be intimidating for a massage newbie. For those who really have no idea what they’re doing, Beider breaks down two foundational strokes to keep in mind.

“The basic stroke in massage is called effleurage,” says Beider. “It’s those long, relaxing, gliding strokes, and it accomplishes two things: it spreads oil across the surface that you’re working on, and it also introduces your partner to the touch that you’re providing, fostering trust.”

The second stroke Beider recommends is petrissage, a deeper, kneading stroke good for breaking up adhesions, or “knots.”

“This feels really good, especially in between shoulder blades, around the lower back and the neck,” says Beider, who suggests creating flow throughout the massage by using long effleurage strokes in between areas that have been worked more deeply.

“Start on the back so your partner can start to relax and become more comfortable with your touch,” says Joppy. “Then move from the back to the neck and down to the lower body. Try to use long strokes going from the bottom of the back to the top of the neck, or from the bottom of the legs to the top of the glutes.”

And if your hands need a break? “A sure fire way of giving a great massage is to turn to that large ‘massager’ in the drawer,” says Sparks. Yes, you can (and probably should) use a vibrator on your partner during sex, but a vibrator can also come in handy during not-sex. Vibrators that double as body massagers are capable of reaching 9,000 rpms and “can work out the kinks just about anywhere you put them,” says Sparks.

Relax (and don’t forget to breathe)

“Don’t forget that massage isn’t just about the person being touched; the masseuse can get just as much out of this sensual experience,” says Tanner

But to reap those benefits, you’re going to have to relax, be present, and go slow.

“It is just as important for the giver to be relaxed and in a comfortable position before, during and after the massage,” says Sparks. “This is an exchange of energy, and the giver must be in a mood to give.” While you should stay focused on your partner, listening to their breathing and responses both verbal and physical, it’s also important to “focus on your own breathing and state of mind,” she adds.

“Breathe,” echoes Joppy. “Deep, conscious breathing will naturally sync your two bodies, resulting in a deeper, more intimate and sensual connection.”

Like sex, a good massage requires communication, consent, and enthusiastic partners who are both present and willing to engage physically and mentally.

“Listen to your body, and that of your partner,” says Tanner. “When in doubt, just ask.”

Subscribe here for our free daily newsletter.