[This article was first published in 2017]
The word erogenous comes from the Greek eros which means love, and the English genous, meaning producing.
An erogenous zone is an area of the human body that has heightened sensitivity, which, when stimulated, may create a sexual response such as relaxation, thoughts of sexual fantasies, sexual arousal and orgasm.
There have been many studies and articles about just how many erogenous zones we have in our body, including the iconic scene portrayed on Friends when Monica teaches Chandler about the seven female erogenous zones. However, there may be others.
The human body is highly sensitive to touch and experiencing sexual pleasure is different for everyone - what feels sexually arousing for one person may be repulsive for another.
When anybody talks about erogenous zones, their immediate thoughts go to the obvious body parts, such as the breasts, nipples, clitoris, G-spot and penis as these are the sexual areas of our bodies and are more erogenous than others due largely on the amount of nerve endings located in that area. The genitals undergo a process called vasocongestion, which causes increased blood flow to these areas, making them highly sensitive when aroused and touched.
However, there are many areas on our bodies that have less nerve endings but can still be erogenous, depending on the way in which they are touched, such as the eyelids, forearm, abdomen and head which can elicit a sexual response.
Spending time exploring your own body and that of your partner is a pleasurable way to discover exactly what turns you on sexually and what you really don’t like.
Understanding erogenous zones is also important to people who experience decreased sexual sensation as a result of illness, disease, disability, injury or following surgery to ensure that they can still enjoy sexual pleasure and function. This also applies to people undergoing gender reassignment surgery or breast augmentation.
We all know the familiar erogenous zones, but Samantha Evans, a former nurse, and sex expert explains there are parts of your body that you may be neglecting which can produce a sexual response.
Not commonly thought of as an erogenous zone, the brain is in fact the largest on the body as it makes the connection between visual stimulation and physical touch.
As humans, many of us enjoy sensual touch though gentle caresses and feather like kisses, but the brain reacts just as strongly to seeing another person being caressed, according to research from the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden (2011).
Being in the right frame of mind also affects how you perceive sexual stimulation, so concentrating on what is happening to your body is important.
Who is touching you
The gentle breath on the back of your neck, a brush of the knee or feather like kiss on your hand can produce a sexual sensation, depending on who is delivering the touch and to whom.
In 2012, The California Institute of Technology measured brain response in heterosexual males who were gently touched on the leg whilst they were being scanned in an MRI scanner. They watched a video of a woman caressing their leg and then watched a man repeating the same touch.
The men reported the experience as pleasurable when they thought the touch came from a woman and aversive when they thought it was a man and their brains showed the same response.
Unknown to the subjects they were touched by the same woman on both occasions but it felt different for them when they believed a man versus a woman was doing the touching. This shows that the brain not only responds to basic touch but also the emotional and social message conveyed through touch.
Not considered an obvious erogenous part of the body, just looking at a person in a certain way or being watched can create sexual pleasure and sensations, from shivers down your spine to feeling breathless. Pupils dilate when we are aroused, making us appear more attractive to the opposite sex. The longer the eye contact between two people, the greater and deeper the intimacy.
A kiss is like a drug triggering a cocktail of hormones and neurotransmitters to flow through our bodies and brain. Kissing keeps our bodies busy interpreting numerous signals distributed by billions of small nerve connections.
Some women can experience an orgasm from prolonged kissing without genital contact, which may seem unusual, but our lips are the most exposed erogenous part of our bodies. They contain a huge number of nerve endings which send a flood of information to our brains, making us feel good. They are 100 times more sensitive than fingers.
How and where you are kissed can create sexual arousal too. Many people are gently aroused when their eyelids, eyebrows, temples, shoulders, hands, arms and hair are subtly touched either by fingers, hands or lips.
The neck, collarbone area and the back of the neck are very sensitive in both males and females, which can be stimulated by licking, kissing or light caressing.
Many people who experience spinal cord injury can enjoy sexual pleasure and sensation through sensual touch of the body above the injury. Some individuals find the skin surface around the neurological level to have heightened tactile sexual response and is found to be extremely erotic and pleasurable.
The lesser known orgasm
We’ve all heard of clitoral and g-spot orgasms but have you ever had a cervical orgasm? Commonly referred to in tantric sex, a cervical orgasm is felt throughout your body with continuing waves of pleasure. This can feel like pleasurable tingling and vibrations throughout your whole body and being, and can keep going for hours, as opposed to a clitoral orgasm, which typically lasts for seconds. Most women can achieve a cervical orgasm through penetrative sex or using a longer, girthier sex toy.
Body mapping is a simple self-exploration technique in which people who experience decreased sexual sensation as a result of conditions such as multiple sclerosis can enjoy sexual pleasure. This involves gently touching all parts of your body to identify sensual pleasure, discomfort or sensory change. This is not only helpful for people with MS, but generally to find areas on your body you weren’t even aware were sexually arousing.
Sensate focus is a technique commonly used for sexual therapy which involves exploring each other’s bodies to find areas that are highly erotic. One person sits with their back against their partner’s chest and legs around each other. The person on front concentrates on their breathing and relaxing while their partner explores their body through gentle touch. They then switch. This can also be done in front of a mirror.
Used for centuries to stimulate organs, reflexology restores the body’s natural balance and promote the healing process and can boost your sex life too.
The inside and outside of the ankles are sensitive spots with many nerve endings that correspond directly to the most important erogenous zones of the body; the vagina, penis, uterus and prostate.
The reflex areas located just below the ankle bones correspond to the ovaries and testicles, responsible for helping fertility, increasing libido and improving sexual performance.
The middle/upper part of the soles of the feet respond to the chest and can send waves of sexual energy to the breasts and nipples.
Our bodies are covered in skin, one of the most erogenous zones in our body due to having some many nerve endings. However and wherever you enjoy being touched, finding your own erogenous zones is fun and will increase your sexual stimulation, so start exploring - you may be surprised at what sets your sexual pleasure soaring.
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