"Don’t undermine the power of nipple play," says Tatyannah King, a sex educator and sex coach with Blex Technologies, a sexual wellness company dedicated to the Black community. "A 2011 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine indicates that nipple stimulation activates the same areas of the brain as stimulation of the clitoris and vagina," King adds. The study aimed to map out and compare sensory responses to clitoral, vaginal, cervical, and nipple self-stimulation, and results showed nipple stimulation correlated with both superficial sensation quality and a mentally erotic association.
"The genital sensory cortex, which is the same region impacted by stimulation of the vagina and clitoris, is activated through nipple play." —sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD
"This may be attributable to the fact that the genital sensory cortex, which is the same region impacted by stimulation of the vagina and clitoris, is activated through nipple play," says Jess O’Reilly, PhD, sexologist and host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. "Scientists hypothesize that these shared neurons release oxytocin, which induces pleasure, relaxation, and spikes to peak levels just before orgasm." Likewise, this could be why some extremely lucky people can actually have a breast orgasm.
But the first rule of successful breast play? Don't neglect the areas around your areola. "Many folks actually pinpoint the area right above the areola as the most responsive to sexual touch," Dr. O'Reilly says. "And the breasts temporarily change in size and sensitivity as arousal increases, so experiment to see how different strokes feel during both the early and later stages of arousal."
Ready to learn more about how to play with boobs for a titillating effect? Below, four sexperts share their breast advice (couldn't help it) when it comes to breast play.
How to play with boobs during partnered and solo sex for added pleasure
1. Warm up your body first
"Making sure your partner's body is ready to receive stimulation is the key to titillating nipple play, especially since the nipples can be a sensitive erogenous zone," says sexologist Shamyra Howard, LCSW. "Start with a scalp massage to stimulate blood flow throughout the body."
From there, you can move on down, paying attention to the neck, the shoulders, and the collarbone. When you’ve worked your way down to the breasts, says sexologist Carol Queen, PhD, you want to make sure you’re minding more than just the boob.
“Touch more than just the nipples or breasts,” says Dr. Queen. “Since the whole skin is an erogenous organ, embracing, stroking, and other pleasurable forms of touch will set you up to really enjoy breast touch even more.” This is especially true for people who may have experienced not-so-pleasurable breast touch in the past, Dr. Queen adds.
And hey, you might even consider bringing up the heat in another way: A warming massage candle.
Seriously, massage candles could be worthwhile companions to many of the following techniques. This pick from Maude is great because it has warm notes of amber and cedar leaf, among others, and it’s made with jojoba and soybean oils, which are great for the skin.
2. Take your time
While it might be hard, it’s a good idea to resist the temptation to dive right in and arouse yourself with some delayed gratification.
"Hover your warm palms over breasts to tease and build anticipation," says Dr. O'Reilly. "Take your time brushing gently and casually up against the sides of the breasts, and the folds beneath them so that they’re aching for you to wrap your full hands right around them."
3. Use circular motion
"Lightly massage your partner’s breasts and areola with large, circular yet gentle strokes," says King. "You can also squeeze the entire breast to [heighten] anticipation and mix up the tempo."
4. Trace a swirl from the outside in
"Trace the tip of your finger from the outer edges of the breast, and slowly circle your way to the center," says Dr. O'Reilly. "Don’t rush—enjoy every moment, sensation, texture, and contour along the way."
5. Use your palms...and your nightstand goodies
"Open your hand and caress the nipples with the palms of your hands instead of using fingertips. Create circular and up and down motions," says Howard. "Think: wax on, wax off, but in a more sensual way. For added pleasure and comfort, add a small amount of lube or moisturizer to your hand before you begin."
6. Caress the breast from behind instead of the front
“It can be very sexy to slide your hands around a consenting person's breasts from behind,” Dr. Queen says. “You end up cradling them against you, with their breasts in your hands,” she adds. From there, you can stimulate the breasts with your fingers or palms. An added bonus: “Your face will be available for whispering in their ear and nuzzling their neck,” says Dr. Queen.
7. Increase the tempo
"Rub nipples with your fingers, slowly at first, because nerve endings in areolas make them sensitive to touch," King says. "Then gradually increase your speed and pressure as your partner becomes more aroused."
8. Cool things down
When in doubt, you can't go wrong with temperature play. All you need is something frosty-cool to sip or suck on before you send serious shivers down someone's spine...and elsewhere.
"Put ice in your mouth before sucking on your partner’s nipples to send chills throughout their body," says King. "Afterward, suck their nipple into your mouth and mimic a vacuum suction to stimulate extra blood flow and increase overall sensitivity." Playing alone? Swirling an ice cube in-hand is a good DIY option. Or maybe you'll opt for a tingling lube.
If you want something that gives a fresh breath of coolness, you might consider adding this KY lube to your cart. Take this Amazon review to determine whether or not this would be a good purchase for you: “Without getting too personal, this is a product that you are either going to love or hate. I am a woman, and let’s just say that this turns the intensity up, WAY up. Almost too much, which is perfect for me, but probably not for everyone.”
9. Use your tongue
This technique probably works best on someone else, because, well…it might be tough to lick your own breasts if they’re on the smaller side. "Twirl your tongue around the areola, avoiding the nipple for a minute before sucking the whole thing into your mouth," Dr. O'Reilly says.
Dr. Queen offers up this technique for how to use your tongue to play with boobs: “Very lightly take the areola between your teeth and flick your tongue back and forth.” You might also consider putting your tongue over the areola and keep it still, then gradually begin to move it.
10. Use your breath
Sometimes your breath is the hidden hack to upgrade your orgasm. "Lick with a flat, wide tongue to create wet spots, and then open your mouth and breathe warm air over them," says Howard. "Alternate with cool air by pursing your lips."
Dr. Queen adds that this is also a subtle form of temperature play, because we exhale warmer air. “Licking the breast or nipple first will amp these temperature changes up a little bit and extend their duration while the skin is moist,” says Dr. Queen. “There will also be the light sensation of the air touching sensitive skin, so this is a nice tease as someone gets warmed up.”
11. Put the nose to work
Yes, this sounds weird, but it makes sense. "The tip of the nose provides electrifying sensations throughout the body," says Howard. "Just rub the tip of your nose over the breast and nipple as you would do if it were your tongue.” You might want to explore different ways to increase pressure as well as different sensations, which Howard says you can do “by alternating between breathing and blowing air through your nose and mouth onto your partner's breasts."
12. Don’t be afraid of a little bit of pain
While no one is saying that you need to torture your partner, Dr. Queen says that a little bit of pain might be a good answer to the question of how to play with boobs. “Gently grasp the areolae and pull,” she suggests. To be sure, you only want to apply enough pressure for this to be considered light pinching.
She also says that folks might enjoy rough-ish play, which includes pinching, twisting, light biting (start with simple teeth scraping the surface of the breast, toward the nipple), light slapping, and grasping and squeezing the whole breast. “Go very easy, or avoid altogether, activities like slapping and squeezing if the person has augmented breasts,” says Dr. Queen.
13. And finally, try experimenting with sex toys
Though air-pulsation sex toys replicate sucking motions and rhythms designed to stimulate the clitoris, these toys can also provide sensations that will be equally pleasing to the nipples—make it the perfect answer to the how to play with boobs question.
“If you’re looking to explore a hands-free breast orgasm, consider using a toy like the Womanizer Liberty, which use tiny changes in air pressure to create a really unique sensation,” says Dr. O’Reilly. “I’d describe it as a cross between sucking, licking, and kissing.”
If you’re into a little bit more intense pain, Dr. Queen says you might consider adding nipple clamps into the mix. Not sure how? There are two main ways to do so. “One is to pinch the breast tissue of the areola,” says Dr. Queen. “The clamps are then seated right behind the nipple, which is generally more sensitive. This will give a milder pinch and might be preferred by some.” As you might have gleaned, the other way is to place the clamps directly onto the nipple.
Regardless of how you opt to use a nipple clamp, Dr. Queen has a quick heads up: “People using clamps should know that taking the clamps off can feel more intense than putting them on or wearing them,” she says. “The clamps force much of the blood out of the area of the pinch, and when you remove them, blood flows back in and wakes up the nerves. This effect will be more intense the harder the pinch and the longer the duration, so factor that in as you use them.”
Now that you have several answers for how to play with boobs, get out there and give the breasts the pleasure they deserve.
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