What is pleasure mapping?

woman flexing her legs

Have you ever heard of pleasure mapping? It’s okay if you have not ever tried it before. It’s a bit of a new idea in the world of sexual wellness.

Pleasure mapping is a self-intimacy and self-pleasure practice to help you explore what feels good, pleasurable, and exciting. It’s something you can (and we encourage you to) do on your own and with a partner, which we’ll dive into below!

Pleasure mapping isn’t once and done–remember your body & desires aren’t stagnant. They change and shift and grow, and making space to explore them regularly can be a pleasure practice. 

What are the benefits of pleasure mapping?

Imagine you’re on the couch with a new partner. You’re cuddling, kissing, hands beginning to wander, and they pull back to ask you, “So…what do you like?” 

Have you ever been in that situation? It’s a question that can leave many of us reeling, unsure how to answer, and maybe even anxious about how we’d respond. Perhaps because we can’t get out of our heads during sex, we have no idea how to answer. Maybe because we don’t have the skills to be comfortable talking about our own pleasure. Maybe we’ve never been able to explore sexual pleasure outside of a socially scripted formula.

There are many reasons the question can trip us up, many having to do with not being prepared to explore or honor our pleasure. While our culture is expectant that sex will exist in our lives, it is not necessarily a pleasure-positive culture. And because sex and pleasure are so intertwined, that can leave us in a really confusing place–we know we’re supposed to have sex with our partners (the cultural messaging many of us receive telling us sex is okay as long as it’s not too often or too infrequently or with the wrong people or outside of committed relationships or traditional gender roles, etc.). Still, we don’t actually know what we like about it. How can we enjoy sex if we don’t know how we get pleasure from our bodies and the bodies of others? Pleasure mapping is a helpful exercise, not only for this kind of instance, but for your own relationship to your body and pleasure.


woman flexing her shoulder

How can you try pleasure mapping by yourself?

We call pleasure mapping a self-intimacy or self-pleasure practice because that’s precisely what it is. While, unlike perhaps, when you masturbate and orgasm is the goal (though, we hope after trying this, you learn to enjoy pleasure whether or not orgasm makes an appearance!), the goal here is to notice all sorts of sensations that bring you pleasure. Here are some tips for getting started with pleasure mapping: 

Give yourself time: 

Pleasure mapping isn’t a quick or rushed practice. It’s not something to sneak in in just a few minutes. When you’re rushed or pressured to finish quickly or “make the most” of your time, you can’t fully get out of your thinking brain and into your feeling brain. You’ll be too distracted or feel too much pressure to feel fully embodied and able to be mindful and receptive to pleasure outside of your regular routine. Block out an hour at least for your pleasure mapping practice. 

Trust yourself: 

While you can definitely find guided touch videos or audio, it’s beneficial to see where and how you’re drawn to explore yourself. If you decide to incorporate guided videos or audios further down the line in your practice, that’s fine! But ensure you still leave time within your practice to follow your instincts and desires because that’s when you’ll learn the most about yourself. It can feel comfortable letting someone else take the lead when you’re unsure about your own desire, but strengthening your connection to your pleasure can only come from intentional practice. 

Go slow:

You can set the mood so you’re relaxed. There’s no rush in getting started. Turn some relaxing music on, light a candle, and turn the lights low so you feel comfortable and at ease. Don’t skip over parts of your body when you begin touching yourself. Don’t skip over any ideas you have. Start with just your hands, touching all different regions all over your body in any way you think of, noting where touch feels good, the type of touch, etc. If you have toys, go ahead and explore with them as well. Don’t just fall into whatever your masturbation routine is–if you have a vibrator, use it on a different part of your body and see how it feels. Does it make you want to try it somewhere else? Follow your instincts. Let go and notice everything that feels good.  

Can you try pleasure mapping with a partner?

Pleasure mapping isn’t just something you have to do solo. Sometimes the things we like on our own and the things that feel good with others are different–and sometimes, things that aren’t exciting on our own are suddenly immensely pleasurable with another person. Pleasure mapping with a partner can help you learn more about what feels good to you & your partner and how the two of you can feel good together. 

Pleasure mapping with a partner would follow the same pattern as solo pleasure mapping, except you would be touching your partner rather than yourself. You & your partner will have to be more vocal about what feels good; since you’re not just making a mental note, you’ll actually have to tell your partner what you’re thinking. 

If you’re looking for help with pleasure mapping, working with a sex therapist may help. Sex therapy will allow you to explore the stories and beliefs you hold about your sex life and your sexual self and to expand what sex and sexuality mean to you. Get in touch with us today to get started with an expert sex therapist.

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