Sensate Focus Challenge


Sensate focus is a set of exercises created to help couples improve their focus on the senses during intimacy. Master's and Johnson, sex researchers, created this term and came up with various exercises for individuals and couples to do to create self and other awareness during intimacy. The purpose of sensate focus exercises is to realize that orgasm is not the main goal of sex, but, rather, for each individual to focus on their own sensations and learn about their partner to become fully be engaged in the intimacy that comes during intercourse.

Sensate focus is one of the most commonly used exercises in sex therapy, but could be beneficial to almost any couple. I have seen these exercises improve relationships in those who claim they already have an amazing sex life, those struggling with sexual dysfunction and those who have a past history of sexual abuse. Over the course of the various levels, partners are able to tune in to their own bodies as well as their partner's and make sex more relaxing, fun and enjoyable.

There are 5 basic levels of sensate focus proposed by Master's and Johnson: (1) nondemand touching and caressing without the breasts, (2) caressing including breasts but excluding genitals, (3) caressing including genitals, (4) penis in the vagina, and (5) intercourse excluding orgasm.

There are a few rules for the Sensate Focus Challenge:
1- Do not move until the next level until both individuals express they are comfortable with the current level.
This is usually where a good therapist gets involved and can check in with each partner. Make sure you are being completely honest with each other about your comfort level. This could take a matter of days or weeks or months. Definitely take your time. Enjoy the experience together!

2- Do not have intercourse until after completing Level 4.
I know what you are thinking. That's just crazy. How could it improve my sex life to not have sex?! But, trust me, it will. I've seen some couples that claim they just "have to have sex" throughout the whole thing, but they really don't get much out of the experience. It's worth it to go a few days or weeks without sex for improved intimacy. Talk to your partner and get him in on the plan.

I will post the assignment for each level every few days. Remember to follow the rules. Go at your own pace. Relax. Enjoy.

Here's the first assignment:

LEVEL 1: Nondemand Touching and Caressing

The first level is for you and your partner to practice nondemand touch for at least 30 minutes (15 minutes each) once a day. (You can modify this if needed. That's just my recommendation.) No genital or breast touching.

Maybe, start with your partners hands. Gently rub your finger over the back of their hand. What do you notice? Is it bumpy, smooth, dry? What does your partner notice? Is he/she pressing hard, soft, moving in a certain way? Gradually move up the arm asking yourself and your partner the same kind of questions. Touch the legs, The Face. Ears. Neck. Back.

Possible Modifications (Bonus Points):
Don't talk to each other. Cue in to each other's body language to see what each partner enjoys.
Turn out the lights or close your eyes.
Engage other senses. Light a candle. Face each other. Wear perfume.
Focus on one body area each day.
Spend an hour giving each other massages
Tell your partner what you like in their touch.
Grab his/her hand and guide them instead of just telling them.


  1. Very very great post! Thanks Alyssa! I'm way excited to see the next steps. This is something my marriage needs.

  2. Great blog! I was searching for dating and relationship blogs and found your site through another blog I found searching: www.burisonthecouch.wordpress.com

    I enjoyed their humor and insight. I'm glad searching led me your way. Thanks for the post! I'll be sure to follow.

  3. Does sensate focus need to be practiced several times or used for a long period of time before couples see real benefits from it?

  4. Beautiful post! Your topic is very interesting. Thanks for sharing your ideas and knowledge.

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