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Attention Men: Special Nerves in the Skin Can Help You in Bed

Touch-sensitive C-tactile nerves help men last longer and boost women's arousal.

Throughout the lifespan, premature ejaculation (PE) is men’s leading sex problem. And throughout the lifespan, many women complain that men discount foreplay and are too fixated on the genitals and intercourse. Both problems can be minimized—and possibly eliminated—when men appreciate the erotic impact of special, little-known nerves embedded in every square inch of everyone’s skin.

Introducing C-Tactile Nerve Fibers

All five senses can be gateways to sexual desire and pleasure. But most “sense-uality” research and commerce focuses on just two—smell (perfumes and other fragrances, a $50 billion a year industry), and sight (pornography and lingerie, $10-15 billion).

Meanwhile, the skin, the body’s largest organ, is critical to sexual pleasure, but surprisingly little research has focused on the erotic impact of touch. A recent study by European researchers shows how gentle touch fuels erotic arousal and enhances lovemaking—but affects men and women differently.

Before I delve into pleasurable erotic touch, let’s consider the physiology of pain. Burns, bee stings, broken bones, and other noxious sensations activate pain nerves in the skin. Bioelectric information races into the brain and impels us to recoil and say, “Ouch!”

But the skin also contains other touch-sensitive nerves few have ever heard of: C-tactile fibers. They’re activated by gentle massage anywhere and everywhere from head to toe. C-tactile nerves play a key but unheralded role in sexual arousal and pleasure. When stimulated, C-tactile fibers alert the brain to pleasure, and impel us to say, “Ahhh.” C-tactile nerve activation also stimulates release of the hormone oxytocin, which increases feelings of relaxation, happiness, and attachment—emotions central to great sex.

A Touching Study

Researchers in Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands recruited 70 healthy adults (42 women, 28 men, age 18 to 36) who completed a survey assessing their sexual desire and function. Then the investigators used a machine fitted with a brush made of soft goat hair to deliver a range of gentle, massage-like strokes to participants’ forearms. The various types of touch all activated subjects’ C-tactile nerves. Afterward, the participants completed the questionnaires again.

The men and women received identical touch, but reacted much differently. The women called the experience significantly more sexually arousing. They said C fiber-activating touch increased their desire to make love.

The men considered the touch less arousing, but those who reported the most enjoyment from C-tactile nerve activation also reported the longest-duration intercourse—better ejaculatory control and less premature ejaculation.

No Training Necessary

This study has two important implications for men. First, if you want your partner to feel erotically aroused, before you reach between her legs, touch her gently everywhere else from her scalp to the soles of her feet. Most men call this “foreplay,” because it precedes intercourse. But gentle touch from head to toe is key to women’s erotic responsiveness. Sex therapists generally urge lovers to initiate intercourse only after you’ve enjoyed at least 20 minutes of mutual whole-body massage. (If you make love to music, that’s five or six typical songs.) Tender touch activates women’s C-tactile nerves, which provides sensual pleasure, arouses their interest in genital play, and is likely to get you higher marks as a lover.

Unfortunately, many men discount “all that touchy-feely stuff,” and can’t wait to jump into hardcore action. Big mistake. Gentle massage may not be a huge turn-on for you, but chances are it is for her. In fact, many women say they have difficulty enjoying genital sex without extended warm-up based on gentle whole-body massage.

Mention massage, and many men picture a special table and a therapist trained to deliver the specific strokes associated with the various schools: Swedish, shiatsu, trigger point, whatever. Gentlemen, you don’t need a massage table or any formal training. Just use your fingers and palms (and maybe some massage lotion) to gently touch her all over. Ask for coaching: “Is this okay? Would you prefer gentler? Firmer? Please tell me. I want you to feel pleasure.”

You’ll Last Longer

The study also showed that the men who derived the greatest pleasure from C-tactile nerve stimulation also reported the least trouble with premature ejaculation. PE affects one-quarter to half of men of all ages, which makes it men’s most prevalent sex problem. Over the past 60 years, sex therapists have developed a program that helps around 90 percent of PE sufferers learn reliable ejaculatory control. A key element of this program is gentle whole-body massage that activates the C-tactile nerves.

Compared with women, the male nervous system is more excitable, largely an effect of the male sex hormone testosterone. When erotic touch disregards most of the body and focuses largely on the penis, Mr. Happy gets too excited too quickly—and you ejaculate before you want to. But when men appreciate whole-body massage, when they embrace 20 or more minutes of C-tactile pleasuring before jumping into genital play, arousal and excitement get distributed all over the body. This takes pressure off the penis and you last longer.

Whole-body massage also encourages slow, deep, meditative breathing, another element of the sex therapy cure for PE.

For more on learning ejaculatory control, see my e-booklet, “The Cure for Premature Ejaculation.” It carries a money-back guarantee through PayPal, so it’s risk-free.


Bendas, J. et al. “C-Tactile Mediated Erotic Touch Perception Relates to Sexual Desire and Performance in a Gender-Specific Way,” Journal of Sexual Medicine (2017) 14:645.