What you need to know about erogenous zones, the surprising pleasure points that can trigger orgasm
When it comes to heavy petting, we all have our usual sweet spots: the clitoris, the nipples, the lips, etc. Touching these areas in the right way can be enough to send us into orgasm—or at least make us feel really, really good. These pleasure points are known as erogenous zones, and our bodies are covered in ’em.
“An erogenous zone is an area of the body that has heightened sensitivity and can lead to a sexual response. Although there is some consistency among individuals regarding which zones are arousing, each person may have unique arousal patterns based on their biology and their experiences,” sex educator and relationship coach Niki Davis-Fainbloom tells HelloGiggles.
The most common erogenous zones are the mouth, the neck, the breasts, the ears, and the genitals—specifically including the clitoris, the cervix, the vagina, and the testicles. However, it’s important to know that any area that arouses someone is considered an erogenous zone, so “pretty well any body part could be one depending on one’s biology and experiences,” says Davis-Fainbloom.
If you’re interested in kicking things up a notch in the bedroom—and who isn’t?—here’s what you need to know about the arousing power of erogenous zones.
How do erogenous zones cause arousal?
“Most orgasms arise from stimulation of the genitals, but a number of factors play a role in triggering orgasm. The brain, for example, is involved in the entire process,” Dr. Jess O’Reilly, host of the @SexWithDrJess Podcast, tells HelloGiggles. “The pituitary gland lights up, the nucleus accumbens and ventral tegmental areas are activated, the hypothalamus goes into overdrive, and the center of reasoning and behavior shuts down momentarily during sex.”
Multiple nerve pathways may also be involved, says Dr. O’Reilly. For example, the pelvic nerve transmits sensations from the vagina and cervix in women and the rectum and bladder in both men and women, while the vagus nerve communicates signals from the cervix, uterus, and vagina, bypassing the spinal cord. “These distinct nerve pathways illustrate the complexity of sexual response and orgasm, and support anecdotal evidence of orgasms from various sources of stimulation,” she says, which explains why you can reach orgasm from stimulation of multiple body parts ranging from the obvious (genitals) to the more surprising areas of the body.
For example, says Davis-Fainbloom, feet are next to the genitals in the brain’s sensory map. As a result, the connections between these areas can sometimes get crossed and the feet can become an erogenous zone for some people, based on their proximity to the genitals in the brain’s sensory map.
Unexpected areas to explore
Curious to explore areas that differ from the usual erogenous zones? Dr. O’Reilly shares with us some body hot spots to investigate intimately.
The belly button
Because of the navel’s positioning in proximity to the pubic mound, coupled with the density of nerve endings in the region, it is a particularly sensitive indentation and common erogenous zone. Some folks say they experience sensations in their clitoris through the belly button, which may be attributable to a nerve pathway that connects the navel to the spine through the pelvic region. To stimulate, spiral your tongue around the belly button’s perimeter before sliding it in and sucking gently with your lips against your partner’s tummy.
The area right above the areola
Breasts are often at the forefront of sex play, and for good reason! Not only are they soft, round, and beautiful to look at, but they are a primary source of pleasure for many women and men. In fact, some women can actually reach orgasm from breast and nipple stimulation alone. This may be because the genital sensory cortex, which is the same region impacted by stimulation of the vagina and clitoris, is activated through nipple play. Scientists hypothesize that these shared neurons release oxytocin when stimulated, which induces pleasure and relaxation and spikes to peak levels just before orgasm.
The lower back
Some folks say that their lower back is the most sensitive area of their body, and a handful report that stimulating this area can result in intense arousal and even orgasmic sensations. For some, it’s a matter of relaxation (this area helps them to be more at ease with the experience) and for others, it may have to do with sensory mapping.
How to explore your body with and without a partner
“Often times you may not realize what your erogenous zones are until you take the time to explore yourself and your partner’s body,” says Davis-Fainbloom, who adds that exploring erogenous zones can begin with a body massage where you take note of which areas feel good when stimulated.
However, Dr. Jennifer Wider, a women’s health expert, warns that you don’t want to overstimulate a certain area. Instead, “tease your partner—the skin in certain areas is very sensitive; just using light touch, back of a hand, light finger brush is often enough to trigger a response.”
Bottom line: it all comes down to communication. “Many times, people don’t communicate readily in the bedroom and fail to discuss what feels good,” says Dr. Wider. “In order to have a healthy sex life, it’s vital to know your body and what turns you on.”
Which is why Davis-Fainbloom suggests people of all genders take the time to play with their bodies. “When masturbating we often develop routines, however, exploring with new areas can lead to more pleasure.”
So don’t be afraid to explore every inch of your body with or without a partner. You might just tap a hot spot that feels “o” so good.