4 min

Spring training for your libido

Imagine skin as a sexual smorgasbord

There are many things I pine for during the long winter months: the warmth of the sun, outdoor concerts, people you haven’t seen for months crawling out of the woodwork and into the streets. Sometimes I even miss mosquitoes. But most of all, I miss the skin.

I’m not being prurient or suggesting that I’m prone to leering at the scantily clad. My interest in skin is purely aesthetic. The curve of a neck glowing in the sun on the first day warm enough to sit on the patio. The confusion of legs at the starting line of a 5K race. The moon turning everyone’s skin into shades of blue on a night where it’s just too nice to stay inside. The revelation of skin charts the unfolding of spring and the coming of summer.

People often say that the brain is the largest sex organ, but my vote goes for the skin. I’m no size queen, but according to National Geographic, the average human skin, if stretched out in one piece, covers 1.9 square metres. That makes it the biggest organ in the body, and every inch of it is covered in nerve endings, 600,000 of them, wired directly into the brain. It’s enough to make your hair stand on end.

In fact, hairy skin has a thinner epidermal layer than hairless skin, making the nerve endings that much more sensitive. Hair follicles all have a little hair erector muscle and a special kind of nerve ending that responds to a chill or a lover’s touch.

You may have noticed that a friendly touch feels different on different parts of your skin, hairy or not. That’s because you have several other kinds of nerve receptors scattered throughout the dermal layer of your skin. There are three kinds of receptors that allow you to feel pressure, all with their own character. Glabrous or hairless skin has one of its own, and shares another with its hairy neighbor. Free nerve endings are scattered all over the body, a web of sensation that responds to changes in temperature, pain and your own internal movements. Some receptors register only the beginning and ending of a sensation, others give you the full show. The Krause corpuscle is reserved for the magical skin of the lips, tongue and genitals.

You can tell I’m a bit of a geek, right?

What I find really interesting is that there are a couple of receptor types that respond to sound, each at specific frequency ranges. Think about the last time you stood in front of the speakers at a really good show. Remember that overwhelming rush, the complexity of sensation like being washed by a wave of sound?

It turns out that deaf people are pioneers in the manipulation of these nerve endings at more civilized volumes. There is a device known as a tactile vocoder that is used to supplement lip reading, a sensual way of communicating to begin with. The device amplifies sound in specific frequencies to add information about volume and emphasis to the wearer.

At the risk of revealing my two-track mind, it strikes me that this technology could spark a revolution in the development of sex toys, not to mention computer interfaces. Add it to your chat room and know exactly what your virtual consorts are implying. Turn the device around and broadcast a personal one-on-one message directly to your lover’s skin. Develop an intimate oral vocabulary of touch shared by you and your lover alone. Combine it with a keyboard and inspire a new generation of writers. Feel free to steal that idea and invent your own variations. If you can figure out how to build it, I’ll be your first customer.

This little anatomy lesson translates into a prescription for great sex. Think of it as spring training for your libido. Your poor skin has been cooped up all winter, unable to breathe freely, with only the occasional fire and bearskin rug frolic to keep it happy.

Indulge it. Your skin protects you and gives you great pleasure. Say thank you by treating it to an hour or two of pampering. Moisturize, exfoliate, it probably deserves a good massage too.

Then clear your schedule and set out to explore your special friend’s sense of touch (the single and the celibate can enjoy a good sensual journey too). You won’t need any sophisticated implements for this science experiment, just your own skin and a good rapport. Oh, you might want to throw in a blindfold to help the subject of the experiment focus on tactile sensations.

Start with a general survey of the territory, enjoy the scenic vistas and ask for directions to local hot spots. Once you have the lay of the land, try to identify the different kinds of skin receptors and where they live. Try different kinds of touch pressure, and don’t forget to use your lips, hair, tongue and other parts of your own freshly buffed skin to explore promising sites. Keep an inventory of your discoveries for future reflection.

Don’t forget to indulge all your senses and draw a complete sensual map. Enjoy the scents of the different environments, speak to the locals in a variety of tongues and listen to the responses you get. As you go, be sure to share the details of the amazing landscape verbally with your travelling companion.

You’ll probably want to take a meandering route and check out all the back road scenery. Be sure to save deep exploration of your companion’s favorite locales to the end. Scientific curiosity doesn’t preclude enjoyment of a good tease.

I guarantee you that if you try this exercise you will have no shortage of ideas about where to head next, if, in fact, you want to be anywhere other than where you already are.

When we are being bombarded by sex-in-a-bottle advertisements that reduce sexual expression to a rush of blood to the genitals, it’s nice to indulge in the sexual smorgasbord that skin can be. Forget the orgasm count, don’t sweat the wood, skin is the medium of sex for the sake of feeling really good.