Sex and the Five Senses
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Sex and the Five Senses

Why do we not commonly use all five of our senses during sexual encounters? Why do many of us rely solely on the sense of touch while performing what many consider the most enjoyable act known to humankind? What are our senses for if not to stimulate sexual urges?

Even an elementary observance of the animal kingdom will show the significance of the five senses in the mating process.

From the mighty lion to the strutting peacock to the lowly junkyard dog, it’s what the female of the species sees, smells, and hears that determines whether or not she’ll permit coupling.  That’s precisely why nature provides the male of most species with impressive fur or feathers, an alluring odor, or an impressive call.  And it is quite often what the female feels or tastes during that encounter that decides if she’ll allow a second encounter.  So why should the human animal behave any differently when it comes to sex?  Why do we not commonly use all five of our senses during sexual encounters?

We acknowledge that it’s our sense of smell that enables us to savor the flavor of our morning coffee; our ability to hear that allows music to set or change our mood.  We’re aware that our sense of sight lets us take in the delicate curves of a fine automobile--or a fine rear-end; our sense of taste conveys the subtleties of a piece of chocolate cake or a bottle of fine wine.  And we know full well that we have our sense of touch to thank for the shiver we get from the feel of cool silk--or hot flesh.  In short, we know that it is our five senses that plug us into the world around us and enable us to be selective and discerning. Yet for some mysterious reason, when it comes to a sexual encounter, many of us choose to rely solely on our sense of touch to provide stimulation.  But, why?  Why do many of us automatically put our other senses on hold when it comes to performing what many consider the most enjoyable act known to humankind?  After all, what are our senses for if not to stimulate sexual urges?

Our Sense of Smell

Physical anthropologists believe the sense of smell was probably the first of man’s senses to develop acutely.  It’s quite likely that his very survival depended on his ability to distinguish certain odors--the smell of an approaching enemy or dangerous animal, good meat from bad, clean water from contaminated. 

And equally important, early men had to be attuned to the “in heat” hormones females secrete during the fertile stage of their menstrual cycle to attract sexual activity.  And though modern man doesn’t share his ancient brethren’s sensitivity to these primal triggers, science believes that most men still unconsciously respond to the scent of a woman’s body; the subtle odors emitted from her vagina and underarms. A natural facility that may have obvious benefits if acknowledged and purposely factored into sexual encounters.  And it is much the same for the females of our species.

Many women readily admit to becoming sexually aroused by the faint musky odor men commonly give off after vigorous activity. Many women enjoy wearing their boyfriend’s sweaty T-shirt to bed for that very reason. This is attributed to primal adaptability that permitted prehistoric women to distinguish their own clan members from outsiders, to discourage inbreeding.

And while comparatively few women are sexually attracted to what would be considered foul-smelling men, there appears to be a need of detectable odor for their selective mating senses to be activated. Thus, there seems little doubt that we are biologically hard-wired to utilize our sense of smell in mating, each participant responding to the smells emitted by the other. So why then do we not automatically utilize our lover’s scents during sex?  Isn’t that what nature intended?

Our Sense of Sound

And what about sound and sex? According to a number of surveys (going all the way back to the famous Kinsey and Hite studies), a great number of men and women find that certain sounds put them “in the mood.”  Ravel’s famous tribute to intercourse, Bolero, was written specifically to awaken passion in listeners--and has been played in countless bedrooms through the decades because of the heightened sexual behavior it can unleash. 

And what about “dirty talk”?  Also known as coprolalia or erotological, sexually-explicit utterances are a regular feature of many couples’love life, often the more explicit, the more intense sexual interaction becomes.  So why not then the subtle sighs that come forth when we interact . . . the moans and groans we release . . . the sounds our bodies naturally make when we engage in sex?  Why do we all not intentionally utilize the heightened state of arousal our sense of sound can provide?

Our Sense of Sight

Statistically, both men and women find erotic imagery and sexually-explicit videos arousing.  While it’s true that more men subscribe to “titty” magazines and visit pornographic web sites than women, almost an equal number of women peruse the pages of sex magazines and watch pornography, and nearly half the XXX video site memberships are held by women. So apparently, sexual imagery is just as likely to make a woman horny as a man. This may explain why copies of the Kama Sutra and erotic art have been standard features of women’s boudoirs around the world for centuries.

But if visual aids help lead to more fulfilling sex, why then do so many of us have sex in the dark or with our eyes closed?  Why do we put one of our natural senses on stand-by when we need them most? Do social standards determine what we will allow ourselves to enjoy in the privacy of our bedrooms even when they oppose our natural inclinations?

Our Sense of Taste

While it’s true that our sense of taste is actually an extension our of ability to smell (taste is greatly limited when we can’t smell), most men and women consider the mouth unsurpassed as a pleasure center. In fact, while a majority of women rate orgasm as the mark of an ultimate sexual encounter, they rate kissing as the most stimulating aspect overall.

And while some men and women only symbolically caress their lover’s body, others prefer to taste them; especially their lips, breasts, and sex organs.  And since nibbling, licking, and sucking the breasts, ears, neck, navel, (and often bottom) is considered common foreplay for some, tasting automatically becomes a part of it.  The various tastes of their lover’s body become pleasurable triggers for sexual interaction.  So why then do we not routinely set out to incorporate our sense of taste into lovemaking?  Go exploring more?  Why do we limit where and when we taste?  Is it because social convention says that oral sex is depraved; perverted?

Somewhere along the road to “civilization,” who we love, how we love, when, where, and why we love, somehow become the purview of our fellow man.  A handful of society builders assumed the responsibility of deciding what is acceptable sexual behavior for us all--even behind closed doors.  Many sociologists believe this may well be a major contributor to the divorce rate. 

And if you listen to the so-called moral majority, only perverts get off on porno, the scent of a lover’s underarm, or raunchy sex talk.  And even though religiosity has certainly had a major impact on our societal as well as individual sexuality, we continue to stifle our natural tendencies even in these enlightened and liberated times.  Could this really be as nature intended?  And don’t we have to ask ourselves who’s business it is anyway?  We're only cheating ourselves--and our lovers.


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Comments (1)

I think if folks were being 100% honest...with us and with themselves, they would undoubtly have to admit that all SIX senses have a great deal to do with who they choose as mate. Especially since we live in a world were you are to choose just one for life, then everything about said individual becomes of paramount importance.