The Quality of Presence in your Hands

Not all touch involves sex and not all sex includes touch. But most of us, for a steady diet, prefer the kind of sex that does include touch. Indeed, most of the time, touch is the major ingredient.

This is why most teaching about sex is about touch of some kind – some kind of stroke, technique, how to touch this or that. This is understandable. It’s the easiest thing to teach; it’s what you can see. Do this and then do that.

But it misses something crucial. Sex is not what you do. It’s what you feel. It is a subjective experience. It’s that thrill, that turn-on, that expression of desire, all those wonderful feelings. It is those feelings and the mutuality of them, that make it sex – not the anatomy. A medical exam of your sexual organs is not sexy at all. And your lover can caress something as ‘unsexy’ as your elbow and make your knees melt. So what is it?

What makes the difference?

First, it’s not about strokes. It’s true that certain ‘strokes’ or techniques tend to be enjoyable, other factors being equal. But other factors are never equal. Maybe it’s not what you like at all or not what you want at the moment, maybe your desire is taking you in a different direction. Maybe you’re going along because it’s what your partner likes to do.

Or maybe that stroke is being delivered by hands that are tense, rough, unconfident, tentative, careless, or clueless. There is a myth that if we just get the right technique our partner will melt and fall into our arms. Not true.

What is true is that there is a quality present in certain touch that will trump technique any day. Without it, technique is worthless, even annoying. With it, technique becomes secondary, pointless, distracting.

What is ‘quality’ in touch and how do you develop it?

It’s easy to say we want our hands to have presence, care, sensuality and so on, but how do you even define these, much less develop them? They sound so intangible. Just deciding doesn’t work.

In my work as a sexuality coach, I have touched and been touched by more people than I can count, and in more ways than most people have heard of. Here is what I have noticed about hands that possess that luscious quality of sensual presence.

First, they are relaxed. Relaxed hands tend to drape over the contours they are touching, fingers are not stiff and held off, palms are usually in full contact. They are soft.

They feel welcome where they are. They are not tentative. They know, right into their bones, that they have permission to be there.

They are perceptive. They take in as much as they ‘give out’. They notice textures and shapes, they notice the level of tension or relaxation in the body they feel, and they notice changes in that, moment by moment.

They are not on a mission to get somewhere – somewhere else. That means all their attention is on the present, right where it belongs, and right where it is the most delicious.

They are not repetitive or predictable. They tend to roam and explore, even if the area involved is fairly small.

Almost always, they are fairly slow. It is extremely difficult to feel anything, take in anything, be perceptive, if your hands are moving quickly. Slowly and quickly are relative of course, and almost everyone moves more quickly than they realize. And usually the more tense the hands, the faster they move.

And sometimes, when the context is right, they convey a desire of their own. Hands love to feel. It’s their nature, and when there is context and consent, they can express the most exquisite curiosity, enjoyment and even hunger. And it is precisely these qualities that invite the person they are touching to melt into surrender.

How to find these magical qualities?

First, they do not happen by trying harder. Trying harder creates more tension, not less, so it is completely counterproductive.

There is only one way. They must stop working altogether. They must stop trying to get the stroke right, stop focusing on technique. Not stop partly – stop completely. 100%.

The key ingredient is to stop the ‘out-flow’ – the intention to give and do the right thing – and open the ‘in-flow’ – the taking in of sensation, perception and enjoyment. You will not find the ‘in-flow’ by turning the out-flow down a bit. You must turn the out-flow OFF. Completely. You have to set up a situation in which your hands are not allowed to ‘give’ anything at all, are allowed only to feel, to explore, to be curious, to drink in and enjoy themselves.

This is not easy! But it is essential. Until you close the out-flow you will not find the in-flow. When you find the in-flow your hands will relax and become perceptive and exquisitely sensual. You will enjoy it more; your partner will enjoy it more.

This requires consent – of course! I don’t advise suddenly changing your plan and starting to grope. At best it would be confusing, at worst, offensive.

What you will need is to set up a context you both agree to, to experiment. You can, of course, ask permission to feel any part you like, but I can tell you from the experience of many hundreds of people that starting with ‘sexy’ body parts does not work well. Your habits are too strong there and you will get onto your usual mission.

Start with something like hands, arms, elbows even. Hair is great too, and faces. The point is to let your hands learn to be curious. It will feel odd at first. Most of us have long since forgotten how to be truly curious and are hell-bent on doing the ‘right’ technique to get the ‘right’ result. All at the cost of the present moment.

To find the quality of presence you are looking for, you must set aside all out-flow – ‘giving’, technique, all of it. This takes time and coming back to it again and again. Over time, it becomes natural. Your hands relax, wake up, and show up with a presence you had not known possible.

Then – when you do choose to open the ‘out-flow’, the intention to give pleasure, to serve, to offer your lover those things he or she loves, the presence, sensuality and perceptiveness stays with your hands. Once it’s open, it’s open.

What about that consent?

It sounds like this: Honey, I’d like to try something new, an experiment. Do you mind if we take turns feeling each other? Of course I will respect whatever limits you have on what you are willing to let me feel. I’d like to start with just feeling your hands so that I can learn how. Are you okay with that?

Or this: Mmm.. I sure would like to get my hands on those beautiful shoulders of yours. Do you mind if it just take a nice selfish feel for myself?

Or maybe this: May I run my hands through your hair? I love to feel it in my hands.

Or this: I’ve been admiring your legs all day. Do you mind if I sit you down right here and cop myself a nice feel of them?

Or this: I love this small of your back here, and rounded butt. Do you mind if I just stay here awhile and let my hands enjoy themselves?

Or this: May I feel your hands and explore them?

Only one rule here.

Always, always, stick only the the part of the body you have consent for. Never sneak or accidentally spill over the edges onto something else. First, it’s only fair. Second, it builds trust, and the more you explore this, the sweeter and sometimes hotter it gets, and you will need that trust. The more trust-worthy you are, the more freedom you have.

But that’s another article.

About Betty Martin

Betty is a former holistic health care professional and loves the interplay of emotions, body and that ineffable notion called spirit. She serves men, women and couples but most of her excitement these days is in training and mentoring other SI’s in the area of professional clarity, assessment, boundaries and consent.
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