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How to Start (or Restart) Your Sex Life With Touch

Use touch to get a kiss—or much more.

Welcome back to The Attraction Doctor.

This week, I will conclude our discussion on the importance of touch in dating and relating. We will learn a bit more about how to flirt with touch—not to mention build attraction, persuade, and enliven a relationship! Thus far, if you've missed it, we have looked at:

Now, we will turn our attention to blending these two effects to get the sex life you want. Learn to "turn on" your date or mate. Get them to kiss you, nuzzle you, or make love more easily. Read on and learn how to get your partner to say "yes" to some physical intimacy with a pat, hug, or rub of your own. Learn to be sexy with touch!

Many Kinds of Touch

Touch is a central way that we share emotions with others. From a simple touch, a person can infer messages of anger, fear, disgust, love gratitude, sympathy, happiness, and sadness (Hertenstein, Holmes, McCullough, & Keltner, 2009). Clearly though, different types of touching convey very different messages. A handshake differs from a hug, which further differs from an intimate caress.

To make some sense of these different types of touch, Heslin (1974) divided touching into five basic categories of increasing intensity and intimacy:

  1. Functional/Professional: touching used with coworkers, bosses, and subordinates (handshakes).
  2. Social/Polite: touching used with acquaintances (arm or shoulder touching).
  3. Friendship/Warmth: touching used with close and caring friends (hand-holding and hugging).
  4. Love/Intimacy: touching reserved for intimate partners (cuddling, kissing, nuzzling, face touching).
  5. Sexual/Arousal: touching especially for foreplay and sex (caressing, kissing, and licking erogenous zones, as well as sexual activity itself).

Within the domain of creating loving and satisfying interactions, touch is essential. In the course of a loving relationship, individuals often progress through the hierarchy above in order - from initial social touching, to more loving and sexual contact. This pattern often has the characteristic of beginning with non-vulnerable body parts (hand, arm, shoulder, and upper back) and moving to more vulnerable body parts (lower back, face, neck, chest, and genitals) as the interaction becomes more intimate.

How to Increase Physical Intimacy With Touch

To build passion and "chemistry," it is important to increase the intimacy of touch over time (in just the right way). Don't avoid touching your date or mate. Don't try to lurch forward too quickly either (like going for a kiss after hours of not touching). Instead, follow a slow, steady progression of increasingly intimate touch.

More specifically, use Heslin's (1974) categories as a guide:

  1. Begin with social touching: Touch a partner's hand briefly to highlight an emotional point. Touch their shoulders softly to get their attention. Briefly handle interesting objects that they may have (cell phone, lighter, jewelry). Keep it light, playful, and fun.
  2. Move to friendly touching: As attraction and influence grows, you will notice your partner becoming more comfortable. At this point, hold their hand for a moment or two. Give them a hug. Nuzzle a bit during calm moments. Get close and touch shoulders or legs as you sit next to each other.
  3. Introduce intimate touch: After getting comfortable, work on cuddling them close to build more passion. Throw your arm around them. Brush the hair away from their face. Hold hugs closer and for longer periods of time. Then, when the moment is right, kiss.
  4. Find a place for sexual touch: Moving from intimate, loving touch to sexually arousing touch requires a bit more time and privacy. However, if you have been followed the general touch and courtship progression thus far, moving to sex will be comfortable and easy. Simply follow the steps above, then increase the passion of your kissing. Use tongue. Kiss and caress more vulnerable parts—including the neck and chest. Move your hands over the lower back, rear, thighs, etc. Then take it from there into foreplay and sex.

Following this progression works in long-term relationships as well. Too often, couples look for sex at the end of an evening, when touching has been absent throughout the day. Perhaps a mate tries to jump too quickly to sexual touch, without laying the attractive, passionate, and affectionate foundations of touch that precede it. As a result, it is often difficult to bridge the distance and sexual interest dies out. Or, more accurately, the attempt to request sex is not "influential" without the proper use of touch.

To alleviate that problem, remember to touch your partner routinely throughout the day. A hug here. A nuzzle there. Quick kisses during a free moment. An arm over the shoulder and a little cuddling on the couch. Don't forget the "satisfying" relationship physical affection behaviors—backrubs/massages, caressing/stroking, cuddling/holding, holding hands, hugging, and kissing.


Routine touching will help build passion in your relationship, whether it is a first date or a long marriage. It will also keep your partner more satisfied and agreeable. Cooperation will improve. Sex will get better. Not to mention a little pat on the hand or a small hug and kiss will make your partner more agreeable to your requests. So, don't forget to touch - then ask for what you want!

Until next time ... happy dating and relating!

Dr. Jeremy Nicholson
The Attraction Doctor

© 2012 by Jeremy S. Nicholson, M.A., M.S.W., Ph.D. All rights reserved.


Hertenstein, M. J., Holmes, R., McCullough, M., & Keltner, D. (2009). The communication of emotion via touch. Emotion, 9, 566-573.

Heslin, R. (1974, May). Steps toward a taxonomy of touching. Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Midwestern Psychological Association, Chicago, IL.

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