Perhaps one of the world’s greatest bedroom tragedies is the sidelining of breast play. There are a lot of moving parts to sex (literally), from all the body parts to think about, plus your technique, whether your partner’s having a good time and all those erogenous zones to remember. It seems like, in all that, poor old breasts get forgotten about. Speak to anyone with breasts who’s had sex and they’ll tell you a lot of sexual partners forget all about the fun bags — especially if those partners happen to be cisgender men.
Breast play is overlooked in partnered sex, perhaps because of the pedestalling of penetration above all else. But those who aren’t utilising breast play regularly in their sex are seriously missing a trick, as research suggests breasts are the best way to unlock heightened pleasure and stimulate orgasms in women.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine(Opens in a new tab) says that nipple stimulation activates the same areas of the brain as clitoris and vagina. The study aimed to map out and compare sensory responses to clitoral, vaginal, cervical, and nipple self-stimulation, and results showed nipple stimulation offered high-quality stimulation and mentally erotic association. That’s the sciency way of saying that feeling up boobs is a massive turn-on, like having your genitals touched. Who knew?
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Why do people forget about the boobs in the bedroom?
There’s a reason we forget about boobs. Tom Davies, sex expert and product lead at sexual wellness brand Bodyjoys(Opens in a new tab) tells Mashable, «Breast play is often forgotten about because we’re caught up in the moment and are too focused on ‘the Big Show’ i.e. our partner reaching orgasm. But breast play can be an exciting way to get there — and for some, it can even be achieved by only breast play.»
He adds that sex positions can often be an underlying reason why breasts are forgotten about. «Whether you’re attempting reverse-cowgirl or going down on your partner, it can be tricky to keep your mind (and your grip) on the task at hand,» he explains.
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«A key way to incorporate breast play is to introduce it [before penetrative sex, if that’s where you’re headed]. Take time to explore your partner’s breasts (and not just the nipple). With hundreds of nerve endings available for stimulation, you’ll soon realise that it’s not so easy to forget after all,» he explains.
And, as always with all sex, communication is key. As much as we’d love our sexual partners to read minds in the bedroom, you can’t expect them to know you want your breasts felt up if you haven’t told them. As Davies recommends, «Bring up the topic of breast play before you engage in sexual activity so you can find out what your partner enjoys and what they don’t.»
Why try breast play?
Well, everything we just said about how horny it gets people. And, it can be a really exciting way to work towards orgasm (if that’s your goal) in the bedroom.
Though it ends up getting prioritised in every which way inside the bedroom, penetrative sex doesn’t always do it for women. In fact, only 18.4 percent of women can reach orgasm from penetrative intercourse(Opens in a new tab) alone. They are actually much more likely to achieve orgasm through hand and oral play — all the types of sex that get shoved to the side as «foreplay.» Since this type of sex works best for most women, it’s time to make them the main event, and bring breast play along for the ride too.
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There’s a shockingly low amount of breast-related research into sexual desire out there (let’s do better, scientists!) but some research suggests that during sex, women want you to touch their boobs about as much as you want to touch them. A 2006 study(Opens in a new tab) (we know, it’s mad that this is the most recent breast play study) found that a whopping 81.5 percent of women surveyed received enhanced sexual arousal from breast play and nipple stimulation and wanted their partners to use it more.
Having said all of this, breast and nipple play is definitely not only for people with vulvas. Jess Wilde, sex expert at the online shop So Divine(Opens in a new tab), says it’s common that penis owners overlook chest play, thinking it’s not for them. «This is a myth, and many people with penises find chest and nipple play extremely enjoyable.»
She adds, «Most people have two nipples, which instantly doubles the potential for fun! And they’re located right on the front of the body, making them easy to access during solo and couples playtime, and in the perfect position for watching what’s going on.»
Basically, if you’re not prioritising breasts and chests in your sex, you’re limiting your own pleasure.
Can you orgasm from breast play?
In short, yes. Some people are able to achieve orgasm through breast play alone. Just like the genital area, your chest area also has many nerve endings, which makes it possible for some individuals to orgasm by stimulating the breasts.
«Stimulating the nipples triggers the same region of the brain as the genitals, so it’s clear why some individuals are able to achieve an orgasm this way,» Davies explains. «Those who’ve experienced orgasms through breast play tend to indicate that the experience is far more intense.»
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Of course, this is all subjective. Orgasms, depending on the type (clitoral, G-spot, nipple), differ from person to person. What might be intense for one person may be mild for another. Everyone is different so not all people with boobs will be able to have an orgasm through breast play. But it’s fun to give it a try!
How to play with breasts
As with all sex play, wetter is better, so it’s a good idea to involve lubes or oils in breast play. For a full breast massage, Wilde suggests using a good quality massage oil to enhance glide and sensation, and make the chest glisten with glory.
«Be selective when it comes to aromas, and choose one you both like the smell of,» Wilde advises. «The close proximity of the chest to the face makes it a perfect opportunity for adding a little aromatherapy to playtime. The sandalwood and fig massage oil by So Divine(Opens in a new tab) is perfect for this.»
The same goes for nipple play, where you can use oils, lubricants or your own saliva to keep things wet and create more sensations. «Adding this to nipple stimulation heightens sensation whilst preventing overstimulation or soreness. Water-based lube is great, but a silicone lube will feel even better as they help things stay slippy for longer,» she adds.
Now for what you’re actually going to do with your hands…
There’s no wrong way to play with breasts. Like all play, it’s about trying different movements and sensations and keeping a dialogue going so you can adapt to what your partner likes, and doesn’t.
There are a few techniques Wilde recommends as a place to start, though:
Add a drizzle of massage oil to the palm of your hand and vigorously rub your hands together (this warms the oil). Then proceed to coat the chest with oil, spreading it everywhere you’d like to caress. Follow up with a gentle massage, varying between using your fingertips to your whole palm to awaken the skin. Slowly move closer and closer to the nipples to increase the intensity.
Using a slippery finger (lube up!) delicately circle around the nipples, focussing on the areola and the very edge of the nipples.
Make a relaxed ‘peace sign’ or ‘Vulcan salute’ and place a nipple in the space between your fingers, allowing the inner surface of your fingers to rest against the sides of the nipple. Now stroke back and forth, and squeeze the nipple.
Holding a nipple between your finger and thumb experiment with stroking up and down, gently rolling the nipple side to side, and lightly pinching and tugging, to see what feels best.
If you like the sensation of pinching, step it up a notch. Squeeze the nipple for as long as it’s comfortable and release. This imitates nipple clamp play in the way it temporarily limits blood flow to the nipple. Once released, blood flow returns to normal and provides a pleasurable throbbing sensation.
Remember to be mindful of nipple piercings during play and be careful not to catch or snag jewellery.
Davies adds that hands aren’t your only tools for exploring breasts. «Your mouth can also be a great way to stimulate your partner’s breasts and nipples, whether you choose to use your tongue, lips, or teeth,» he explains.
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«If your partner feels comfortable, gently nibble the outer breast area, working your way towards the nipple. Again, if they consent, you can increase the pressure you’re applying. Having a safe word for instances like this is a great way to communicate if the pressure becomes too much,» he added.
Your tongue is another great technique for breast and nipple play. Davies suggests trying to kiss the breast as if it were your partner’s mouth, incorporating your tongue if you and your partner feel comfortable. «You can also change the shape of your tongue to apply different levels of pressure and sensation. Think pointy versus flat — and see which they prefer,» he advises.
How to spice up breast play
If you’ve done breast play a few times and you fancy yourself an expert, you might be looking for ways to spice things up and experience new types of pleasure.
For this, Davies suggests trying a little wax play. With the sensitivity of breasts and there being a surface area to pour wax on, breast play makes for the perfect opportunity to try this activity. We have a guide on everything you need to know about wax play.
Or, food can be incorporated into breast play. Think sweet treats, like chocolate spread, honey, or cream. The person receiving breast play can smother their chest in something, while the other person licks it off. Then you get all those incredible sensations and a light snack! «A little can go a long way, so experiment with different flavours,» Davies adds.
What types of toys can be used with breast play?
«Once you and your partner have experimented with breast play using your hands and mouths, you could try toys,» Davies suggests. «See which textures and sensations work well for you, from feather ticklers to nipple clamps, finger vibrators and even household items like ice cubes, there are plenty of options.»
Nipple suckers are fantastic little toys which apply gentle suction to each nipple to increase sensitivity and make them more erect. They are especially useful for people with inverted nipples as the suction can help to coax a shy nipple out for playtime.
Then there are the more kinky options. «There are lots of sensual and arousing bondage accessories you may want to explore for breast play, Davies says. «Nipple clamps can add another layer of excitement to breast play. These work for both solo and partnered sex. Of course, this is dependent on your pain threshold — however, there are different types of nipple clamps, some of which clamp harder than others.»
Wilde explains that nipple clamps come in a wide range of styles and intensities, but they certainly don’t need to be painful. «For first timers, pick up a set of lightweight, adjustable nipple clamps with silicone-coated tips for a beginner-friendly introduction to nipple clamping. Adjustable clamps like this put you in complete control of the level of pinch, from a barely-there squeeze, to a thrilling tweak,» she recommends.
Whether you use a vibe, a sucker or a clamp, there’s a few things to keep in mind to ensure your own safety, and that you’re comfortable. First, always use a drop of lube to enhance comfort and pleasure.
Don’t feel pressure to keep clamps on for a while and take note of your own comfort levels while using them. «How long you can wear nipple clamps depends how tight they are squeezing the nipples,» Wilde says. «An intense squeeze should be removed after around 10 minutes, whilst a loose clamp can be worn for up to 30 minutes.»
Never wear nipple clamps for longer than 30 minutes, as this could result in injury. During wear make sure to check the tip of the nipple often, ensuring it hasn’t lost sensitivity and is still a normal, healthy-looking colour.
How to use breast play in masturbation
Breast play doesn’t just have to be a partnered thing. In fact, some of the best breast play sessions come out of masturbation, or solo sex.
Wilde says finding out what you enjoy is often the best part of masturbation and makes for a great environment to discover what you like without any specific expectations. Don’t put pressure on yourself to have an orgasm; simply use this time exploring breast play as a period of self-care and self-exploration.
«Using techniques such as nipple stimulation and chest massage (don’t forget the lube or massage oil), you can discover what you like and don’t like,» Wilde explains. «If you feel comfortable, you can incorporate this into your regular masturbation routine and see what it adds to the experience.»
If you don’t know where to start, gently run your fingertips over your chest area. «You don’t have to concentrate on one particular area (nipples, areola, etc.), but explore it fully. Even this simple action can provide you with plenty of sexual stimulation,» she says.
Davies notes that bringing toys into solo breast play can up the ante. «Vibrators can be used in both hands and you could use one for your genitals and the other for your breast area,» he suggests.
«Although your mouth might not feel like an option during solo sex, there are ways to utilise it during solo breast play as well. Try applying lube to your breasts and blow on the lubed up area,» he adds. This can create a really intense sensation, especially if you use lubes with tingly sensations.
If you want to make breast play a regular course in your sex menu, talk to your partner about your desires and how you’d like to play with them together. Wilde points out that even if your partner isn’t playing with your breasts, you can also play with them yourself during partnered sex. In fact, this is one of her favourite ways to introduce breast play to a partner.
«While your partner pleasures you in other ways, increase your enjoyment by using your available hand(s) to play with your chest,» she recommends. «This usually leads to one of two results. One is that your partner will see how much fun you’re having (and how hot it looks) and will likely want to join in. Or they will ask you about it.» After sex, she advises taking a moment to say how much fun you just had together, and make sure to compliment something they did. Then, ask them if they can try breast play the next time you have sex. Then, you’ve opened a dialogue about breast play and trying something new together.