A Field Guide To Sensory Deprivation.
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A Field Guide To Sensory Deprivation.

Published
Aug 09, 2021
Author
Eliza Dumais

You’d be wise to raise your eyebrows at the (oxymoronic) notion of sensual sensory deprivation. Is sex not about sensory information? Why deprive yourself?

Certainly an apt question—but when it comes to kink culture, sensory deprivation isn’t about obstructing any sensory information. Instead, it’s about eliminating some forms of sensory information to heighten others. Think about it: At a base level, something as minimal and thoughtless as shutting off the lights before intercourse is a small form of sensory deprivation. It helps rule out all the visual distractions in a room, thus elevating the sense of physical intimacy between you and your partner. And for those more invested in the project, you might expect things like blindfolds, earplugs, or even nose plugs. 

Of course, there are plenty of folks far more invested in all the available sensory information: scented candles, mood lighting, playlists, the list goes on. And while that’s all well and good, the motives behind deprivation are a bit more particular. Whether or not you’ve got access to a full-scale deprivation chamber, you want to set the stage for a particular sensory experience (rather than one that’s merely sultry writ large). Perhaps you plan to lean into temperature play or a form of bondage. Maybe you experiment with food. Either way, your chosen form of sensory deprivation will help underscore whatever sensation it is that you’re attempting to spotlight. And that sort of project requires a bit more curation than, say, shoving some cotton balls in your partner’s ears. 

In any case, forms of sensory deprivation require firm consent at every juncture. But for those enthusiastic about attempting a little depravity of their own, consult the below before getting started. 

Sight

Perhaps your simplest foray into sensory deprivation is merely eliminating sight. Whether you go in for a proper silk blindfold, or you make use of an old bandana, the idea here is ensuring that sight is not an option—which typically means you’re blind (get it?) to your partner’s next move. And that kind of giddy anticipation can be a major turn-on. 

This is a great time to play with heightened physical sensation: try temperature play with hot wax or a melting ice cube. These kinds of overwhelming textural, skin-level experiences will feel that much more potent without sight taking up all its requisite cognitive space.  

Sound

Earplugs may feel a bit silly as a sexual accouterment—so most folks recommend alternative sound as a way of depriving you of aural info. Whether you go for a sound machine or dialed-up white noise, drowning out the possibility of other sonic information can help you stay present and invested while you’re getting it on. Plus, watching your partner moan without hearing it can certainly feel like a spicy, cinematic experience.

Touch

In the realm of touch, most sensory deprivation revolves around motion restriction—which can mean any number of things. You might try handcuffs, shibari, or even a more basic form of rope play (you need not be a rope master to tie your partner’s limbs to their bedposts). For folks in the BDSM community who feel particularly responsive to dominant or submissive roles, the full restriction of motion while someone else is responsible for all the pleasure-giving can certainly have an outstanding effect.  

Taste/Talk

While eliminating sight or movement might be an excellent time to play with taste (feed your partner dark chocolate, cherries, oysters, you name it, and likely their salivary experience will be heightened). But in the realm of deprivation, when it comes to mouths, the most common approach is merely speech restriction—which generally requires a gag. Like with any form of bondage, this is typically most common among folks with dom/sub kinks—but the inability to moan (or, for that matter, kiss your partner) can certainly make other aspects of your intercourse feel more potent. 

Smell

Perhaps least common in the scope of sensory deprivation is the elimination of smell. While nose plugs are certainly an option, for most folks, smells associated with sex are not the most distracting nor meaningful. That said, one way to neutralize scent (without blocking an airway) might be to light a neutral scented candle or utilize a diffuser with a fundamentally tempered smell to drown out the presence of any other wafting olfactory information.

A Field Guide To Sensory Deprivation.

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