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How a Massage Can Improve Your Sex Life

Discover the practice of Sensate-Focused Massage.

Sensate-focused massage was developed by sexual researchers Masters and Johnson in the 1960s. The main goal was to redirect the focus on genitals and penetrative sex toward the sensations you notice elsewhere in your body. It is a mindfulness practice which is a type of meditation, and it’s often used to treat sexual anxiety, body image issues, erectile dysfunction, orgasm issues, and arousal issues.

Continued research on sensate-focused massage has shown it to improve erectile functioning, sexless relationships, female orgasm disorders, and arousal disorders, and found that it can increase desire and reduce sexual pain. Couples having trouble connecting can find their connection again using sensate-focused massage. Even if you are in a relationship in which you find your sex life satisfactory. trying sensate-focused massage can make things even better.

The are three important rules of sensate focus:

  1. Focus on touch for yourself. This means focusing on what you feel instead of thinking about if your partner is enjoying it and what they feel. This has you practice mindfulness and what touch feels like on both ends instead of focusing on pleasure.
  2. Focus on sensations: temperature, pressure, and texture. Does it feel hot or cold, is the pressure soft or firm, and is the texture rough or smooth?
  3. Refocus when distracted. If you find your mind wandering just redirect it back to mindfulness.

These should be considered during each phase of the massage. The phases do not have any set time length or schedule. It can take a few weeks or a few months to go through them. You can practice them daily or as often as you’d like. You should take your time practicing each phase several times until both parties are ready to move to the next phase. If you find yourself needing to refocus often then keep practicing phase one. You are free to move back a phase if you feel you need to.

The phases of sensate focus massage:

  1. Sexual zones are not touched in the first phase and only your hands and fingers may be used. It’s crucial in this phase that anything sexual, including kissing, is off-limits. Each person takes a turn and they switch when done. You can determine being done with your turn whenever it feels right.
  2. Non-verbal touching. In this second phase, no area is off limits but nothing may be inserted. Just because the sexual zones are no longer off limits it does not mean they should be the only areas focused on.
  3. The third phase is non-verbal touching mutually, at the same time. Still, fingers and hands, and no insertion.
  4. Intercourse is added only in the final phase, but there should be no pressure to complete intercourse or have an orgasm.

If this is something you want to try with some guidance, find a therapist trained in sensate-focused massage who can help you through each phase in more depth than this post can. TTe feedback of a trained professional can help to make sure you are following the protocol properly.


Masters, William H., Virginia E. Johnson. Human Sexual Response. Toronto; New York: Bantam Books, 1966.

Avery Clark, C., & Weiner, L. (2017). Traditional Masters and Johnson behavioral approaches to sex therapy.

Brotto LA, Goldmeier D. Mindfulness Interventions for Treating Sexual Dysfunctions: the Gentle Science of Finding Focus in a Multitask World. J Sex Med. 2015 Aug;12(8):1687-9. doi: 10.1111/jsm.12941. PMID: 26289539.

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