A fun fact about nipples? They're one helluva erogenous zone. "Don’t underestimate the power of nipple play," says sex educator Tatyannah King, a sex coach with Blex Technologies, a sexual-wellness company dedicated to Black communities. "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.
- Carol Queen, PhD, sexologist at Good Vibrations
- Jess O'Reilly, PhD, sexologist and relationship expert
- Joy Berkheimer, PhD, LMFT, Florida-based sexologist and licensed marriage and family therapist
- Shamyra Howard, LCSW, licensed clinical social worker and sexologist
- Tatyannah King, sex educator, sex writer, and sex coach
"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 sexologist Jess O’Reilly, PhD, host of the Sex With Dr. Jess podcast. "Scientists hypothesize that these shared neurons release oxytocin, which induces pleasure and relaxation, and spikes to peak levels just before orgasm." This could be why some people can actually have a breast or nipple orgasm (the total opposite of sad nipple syndrome, when touching the breasts brings on feelings of melancholy).
"The breasts temporarily change in size and sensitivity as arousal increases, so experiment to see how different strokes feel."—sexologist Jess O'Reilly, PhD
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," says Dr. O'Reilly. "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." Keep in mind, too, that the physical changes breasts undergo during pregnancy, periods, or menopause can also play a role in the emotional impact of certain breast-play techniques.
Ready to learn more about how to play with boobs for a titillating effect? Below, five 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. "Try starting with a scalp massage to stimulate blood flow throughout the body." From there, you can move on down, paying attention to the neck, shoulders, and 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. “Since all of your skin is an erogenous organ, embracing, stroking, and touching [the skin around the boobs] in other pleasurable ways 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, by incorporating a warming massage candle. Don't go looking through your tool drawer or dinner-party kit for any ol' candle, though; be sure to only use a candle made with body-safe wax to avoid burns.
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 instead, to go for some delayed gratification.
"Hover your warm palms over the 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 areolas 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," suggests 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 hands, 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 hands before you begin."
6. Caress the breasts from behind
“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 the 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 with nipples alone? Swirling an ice cube in-hand is a good DIY option. Or, 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. Drip something on the breasts
The anticipation of watching something slowly drip onto your breast, and the accompanying feeling after, can be incredibly arousing, says sexologist Joy Berkheimer, PhD, LMFT. Borrow the technique used in wax play: start from high up, and slowly drip breast oil, massage oil, body-safe candles formulated for wax play, or even honey or milk, onto the breast.
Thicker, more viscous substances will lengthen the wait time, and can turn up the anticipation and arousal. Depending on the substance you choose, you're also playing with texture and temperatures that can contribute to arousal on multiple fronts. "With something like honey you have the double sensation of watching it move, and knowing that [your partner is] going to lick that off you," she says. You could also do this as part of a self-pleasure ritual and look at a mirror to watch the drips.
10. 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," says Dr. O'Reilly.
Dr. Queen offers up this technique for using 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 keeping it still before gradually beginning to move it around.
11. Use your breath
Something as simple as your breath could be the hidden hack for upgrading 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."
The licking is key to creating the temperature effect, says Dr. Queen. “[The wetness] will amp these temperature changes up a little bit and extend their duration while the skin is moist,” she says. “There will also be the light sensation of the air touching sensitive skin, so this is a nice tease as someone gets warmed up.”
12. Put the nose to work
You might not think to use your nose on a partner, but it's a useful stimulator when it comes to breasts. "The tip of the nose can provide 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 also want to explore different ways to increase pressure or change the sensation, which Howard says you can do “by alternating between breathing and blowing air through your nose and mouth onto your partner's breasts."
13. Don’t be afraid of a little bit of pain
To be clear: Absolutely no one is saying that you should hurt your partner. But 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 areolas, 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 some 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,” adds Dr. Queen, as a note of caution.
14. Use a rope to create a Shibari breast harness
Utilizing Shibari, a type of rope bondage that originated in Japan, to create a chest harness is another tit-illating way to play with breasts. "Tying rope specifically around your breasts creates that pressure and sensation of being held," she says. You can tie yourself or a partner can tie you, and you can change the sensations and focus on your breast area depending on how you tie the rope.
To learn how to tie the harness, Dr. Berkheimer recommends watching YouTube tutorials from Voudou Ropes. She adds that having someone tie you adds a level of connection and care that can deepen your bond and your arousal.
15. Do an open-handed squeeze to play with pressure
Try taking your full open hand over the breast, slightly tucking your fingers, and squeezing. Testing the threshold for pressure and slight pain (safely and with consent) by squeezing the breasts tightly can be especially arousing and exciting because of that experimentation, says Dr. Berkheimer. "We don't really know how much pressure we can take until we go there, and once you test your threshold, you might realize how much pleasure comes from that," she says. Combine this method of breast play by stimulating yourself or your partner somewhere else at the same time to really turn up the dial.
Experimenting safely requires communication, so check in with your partner (and yourself), and empower them to share how this sensation makes them feel. With that safety measure in place, keep in mind that you won't know what you like in terms of breast play until you try different sensations—which is why Dr. Berkheimer advises letting your curiosity lead the way. "We miss out on so many levels of orgasm because we just won't try [something new]," she says.
16. And finally, try experimenting with breast-focused sex toys
Though air-pulsation sex toys replicate sucking motions and rhythms typically used on the clitoris, these toys can also provide sensations equally pleasing to the nipples.
“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 nipples.
Regardless of how you opt to use nipple clamps, Dr. Queen has a word of caution: “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.”
It's also important to be especially careful when applying nipple clamps on yourself, says Dr. Berkheimer, because you want to maintain a steady grip on the clamp, so it doesn't pinch your nipple too hard.
Now that you have several answers for how to play with boobs to maximum effect, get out there and give your or your partner's breasts the pleasure they deserve.
- Komisaruk, Barry R et al. “Women’s clitoris, vagina, and cervix mapped on the sensory cortex: fMRI evidence.” The journal of sexual medicine vol. 8,10 (2011): 2822-30. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x
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