Turning off nociception

Written by Emily Nagoski, Ph.D.

We have nerve endings whose job it is to recognize stimuli that are potentially dangerous ("nociceptors").

These pain receptions limit the intensity of stimulation you can give your partner because they have a "threshold" of pain tolerance.

But you can raise the threshold and therefore increase the intensity of stimulation in a bunch of ways.

Here are four:

1. Get your partner very, very, very aroused, very turned on, slowly and lovingly, using all the tips and techniques you can think of. High sexual arousal increases endorphins, which block nociception.

When their body is highly aroused, you can get VERY intense and your partner's brain will interpret practically any sensation as erotic.

NB: Get their permission to do this first. Say, "I want to turn you on until you're writhing with desire, and then I want to spank you. May I?"

Or, "I want to bring you to the brink of orgasm and hold you there, trembling, while I pull your hair and bite your nipples. Would that be okay with you?"

2. Another way to turn them off is to "close the gate" on them: simply overwhelm the pain sensation with another sensation.

Like, you know how when you stub your toe, you grab it and rub it?

The throbbing of the pain is overwhelmed by the rubbing and pressure, so your brain only receives the other signals, not the pain.

Say you're spanking your partner. Don't just slap. Let your hand rest, gentle and warm, over the little red patch of skin you created. Close the gate on the stinging.

Layer sensation. Close the gate on pain by offering simultaneous, overlapping pleasure: pressure, light touch, gentle temperature.

3. Want another way to minimize pain sensation, so you can get really intense in your stimulation without hurting your partner? A third way to minimize the responsiveness of pain receptors is simply the numb them:

Ice. It numbs all but the deepest nerve endings, leaving access only to sensations of PRESSURE and STRETCH.

(Safety tip: keep the ice moving to avoid pain and damage! Never let it sit for long.)

Move the ice slowly over the area you want to numb, either the flat of an ice cube, or the edge. Use the flat on the broad areas of the body (like the thigh) and the edge of the fine-grained sensation areas of the body (fingertips and lips and arches of the feet).

Then suck.

Or stretch.

Or massage.

The skin.

The lack of access to pain sensation and light touch will allow pressure and stretch to feel more intense.

4. This one is actually my favorite:


Feeling supremely safe, affectionate, cared for, romanced and adored changes your partner's brain chemistry so that their sensitivity to pain is vastly reduced. (See: endorphins, above, but also oxytocin.)

Talk to them about your love for them. Feed them melty chocolate, sucked off your fingers. Touch their face, hands, feet and scalp. Make lots of eye contact, deep, genuine, vulnerable. Smile at each other. These are attachment behaviors and they'll shift your partner is a brain state with a maximized threshold for pain awareness.

You can share really, really intense sensations in the context of profound trust and love.

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