If touch is essential so too is sight which triggers arousal. Lovers are also aroused by the close smell of their partner's skin, hair and genitals. And they are further excited by the sound of their partner's voice and changes in his (or her) breathing. They can taste each other too and so every part of the body, no matter how small, is a potential source of sexual pleasure.
Primary erogenous zones
Primary erogenous zones are the areas of the body that, when stimulated, can trigger orgasm.
A man's primary erogenous zone is confined to the penis, particularly the glans (head); the foreskin that covers the tip is stimulated by the thrusting movements during intercourse or masturbation. During intercourse, the glans is also stimulated by rubbing against the back wall of the vagina.
A woman's primary erogenous zones are the clitoris and vagina. The clitoris is stimulated by touch or friction while the vagina has very few nerve endings. However, the vagina is sensitive to the increased blood flow that occurs when sexually aroused and it also responds to the contractions of the vaginal wall muscles, the muscles at the base of the vagina and the muscles that hold the vagina in place.
The complex interplay of vaginal muscle contractions, and heightened vaginal sensitivity, due to increased blood flow during intercourse, can result in orgasm (without manual stimulation of the clitoris).
Secondary erogenous zones
Secondary erogenous zones are areas of skin or mucous membrane tissue which, when stimulated, trigger arousal in the primary erogenous zones, contributing to, and heightening sexual pleasure and excitement. Despite their importance, stimulation of these areas is not necessary for orgasm. Sometimes during moments of intense excitement or if a couple just want "quick sex", either alone or with a partner, they can dispense with the preliminaries and simply cut to the chase.
Men's secondary erogenous zones extend from the penis to the scrotum and include, in addition, the inner thighs, perineum and the area around the anus. In other words, the areas that are close to the primary erogenous zones. His nipples may also be sensitive to touch.
Women's secondary erogenous zones include the skin and mucous membranes extending from the pubic area to the buttocks, including the labia majora and the labia minora, the entrance of the vagina, perineum and anus. The breasts and nipples, located at some distance from the primary erogenous zones, can also trigger arousal.
Potential erogenous zones
In theory, the entire body can be stimulated to trigger arousal in primary areas, bringing about erection of the penis or moistening of the vagina. However, not all people are equally sensitive or receptive, with the degree of sensitivity depending on an individual's likes and dislikes, their sexual skill and their ability and willingness to experiment and learn. Just as some people naturally have a good ear for music, so some individuals are more erotically receptive and sensitive than others.
In addition, physical contact with parents, and particularly with the mother, during early childhood, plays an important role in developing a child's sensory perception; a baby who experiences only functional attachment, without any tenderness, will have no particular pleasant memories.
However, a child who is caressed, kissed and touched in a tender, playful and loving way, will retain pleasant memories of skin contact. Baby girls are often kissed and cuddled more often than boys, which could partly explain why women have many more erogenous zones than men.
A time for erogenous discovery
Childhood isn't the only time for sensory development. During adolescence, and at the beginning of adulthood, a young person can take time to experiment, playing with different sensations, arousing their own bodies in a variety of ways. But, once again, the woman is at an advantage here. Normally, a young man will just focus his attention on his penis, while a young woman can derive pleasure from spontaneously caressing her stomach, shoulders, the top of her thighs, the genital area or, of course, her breasts.
This early form of apprenticeship may explain why some women can reach orgasm by squeezing their thighs, or rubbing their breasts; other women just need to contract their abdominal pelvic muscles rhythmically; and others still are aroused by a mere stroke of the knee or breast.
Sexuality and sensuality will develop naturally but the development of sensorial receptivity takes time. A mother needs to spend time cuddling her baby; lovers need to take time to touch and stroke each other; and we all need time to learn about our bodies and discover what we like and what works best for us.
Dr Yves Ferroul