Manual stimulation is one of the hottest sex acts—here's how to make it as pleasurable as possible.

By Gabrielle Kassel
April 15, 2020
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Getting handsy. Hand hanky-panky. Call hand sex whatever the heck you want, just quit pushing it to the side (or relegating it to middle school) like it doesn't deserve a regular place in your sex life.

"I firmly believe that the best sex toys in the world are literally at the end of your arms—your hands," says sex educator Sarah Sloane, who's been coaching sex toy classes at Good Vibrations and Pleasure Chest since 2001. "They can grip, grab, go fast or slow, thrust, stoke, circle, tap." And (!) they can adapt based on how your partner reacts. "In a split second, you can increase (or decrease) the pressure, speed, and rhythm-based on their reactions." (No shade on sex toys, but no vibrator can react lickity-split like that.)

Wondering how to finger someone or how to give a handjob that's so pleasurable it can serve as a main course? Here's everything you need to know—from experts on hand play and all things pleasure—about giving your partner a hand (orgasm).

1. First, make sure they want it!

Babes, manual sneak attacks are assault. So please, for the love of consent, make sure your boo wants to be pleasured by your hand before reaching between their legs. K? And if goes without saying, but make sure you are also crystal clear about what you want in this department before a partner touches you too.

Some lines you might try:

  • "I'd love to feel how [insert adjective such as hard, wet, slick, thick, etc] with my hand. Can I take off your pants and touch you?"
  • "Do you want me to stroke you under your underwear?"
  • "Do you want to take these [*gesture to underwear/pants*] off so I can tease you with my hands?"

2. Consider a finger cot or glove.

PSA: The risk is low, but it is possible to contract an infection via hand sex—especially if the giver's hands/fingers have little cuts (hangnails, paper-cuts, etc.).

Sexually transmitted infections are also a risk. The hand can act as a vector, explains Sloane. "If your partner has an STI and you touch them, and then touch yourself without putting on a glove or washing your hand first, the infection can be spread."

That's where finger condoms and latex gloves come into play. "These safer sex barriers go over your fingers during digital sex, to prevent bodily fluids from ending up on your actual skin," she says. (See: What Is Safe Sex, Exactly?)

Even if there's no chance of an STI being passed between you and your partner (aka you've both been tested and are monogamous) and the giver's hands were just freshly manicured, you still might consider donning a glove for hand play. Why? Because gloves make your hands smoother. "Putting a glove on gives you the smooth glide of a glass sex toy, but the dexterity of a using your fingers," says Sloane.

Beyond that, putting on a glove signals to your partner that you want to worship them with your hand, she says. "In kink communities, in particular, the glove symbolizes that a hot scene is about to take place. It's used as a tool to build anticipation."

3. Work from the outside in.

This is arguably the single best piece of advice on how to finger someone or how to give a handjob that's pleasurable: "The biggest mistake people make during hand sex is going right for the money spot," says Sloane. Instead of immediately stroking your partner's shaft, making circles on their clit, or thrusting into them, spend some time teasing their outer and inner thighs, belly, pubic mound, and labia. This will ramp up anticipation and build arousal. "Before you know it, they'll be begging you to grab hold or dive in," says Searah Deysach, a long-time sex educator and owner of Early to Bed, a pleasure-product company in Chicago that ships world-wide.

If you get the green light, you might also touch their perineum—the skin between the bum hole and genitals. "This patch of tissue generally responds well to being stroked because it's nerve-dense," says Sloane. And for people with prostates, it indirectly stimulates the prostate. (Related: 8 Male Erogenous Zones You're Probably Ignoring During Sex)

"Many penis-havers also find that getting the testicles in on the action can be a great bonus of using your hands," adds Deysach.

4. Experiment with different strokes.

"Regardless of the shape of your partner's genitalia, using varied strokes is a great way to start off your manual activities," says Deysach.

If your partner has a penis, "try using long strokes up and down a shaft, twisting your wrist just a bit as your stroke," she says. "Or grip the shaft with both hands and use your thumbs to make circles on the underside of his penis, right at the frenulum [the edge of the head] where many people are super-sensitive."

If your partner has a vulva, try stroking from the top-down if your partner has a sensitive clit, and down-up if your partner likes more direct stimulation, suggests Sloane. "You might try moving your fingers in counter-clockwise circles, clockwise circles, and diagonally across the clitoris," she says. "And if your partner enjoys penetration and wants it, you might try fingering them." (Related: An Insider's Guide to Sleeping with Another Woman for the First Time)

P.S. Don't hesitate to get both hands in on the action. "You might try thrusting two fingers (or more) into your partner's vagina while using your other hand to stroke their clit. Or cupping your partner's testicles with one hand while stroking down the shaft with another," says Deysach.

5. Play a game of show and tell.

If you're wondering how to finger your partner or how to give a handjob that they'll definitely like, "the best way to please your partner is to understand how and where they like to be touched," says Rebecca Alvarez Story, M.A., sexologist and founder of intimate care marketplace Bloomi. The best way to learn? Watch them masturbate. "It gives you a front-row seat to a hand-sex coaching session," she says. (Related: A Handy (Ha!) Guide to Mutual Masturbation)

If your partner has a vulva: Are they favoring the right side of their clit or the left? Are they touching over the clitoral hood, or spending a lot of time rubbing their labia? Are they fingering themself or keeping it external?

If your partner has a penis: Are they twisting their hand as they stroke up and down their shaft or moving in a straight line? Are they stimulating their balls or perineum from time-to-time? All of this is intel for you!

If your partner is on the shy side, you can also put their hand over yours so they can guide you into a rhythm they enjoy, says Sloane.

"You might even turn it into a mutual masturbation session where you're both watching the other masturbate," says Deysach. Halfway through, maybe you'll both switch from touching your own body to touching each other, she says.

6. Add lube!

Repeat after me: There's no sex act that is *not* made better with lube. "When dry, skin on skin contact creates a lot of possibly-painful friction," explains Deysach. Lube helps your fingers glide over your lover's bits as opposed to sticking to and snagging them. Ouch. (Plus, it's a must if you're planning to get the anus involved—but we'll get to that down below.)

Generally, Deysach recommends silicone-based lube like Uberlube for hand sex. "It lasts way longer, so you don't have to apply it as frequently." However, silicone-based lube can't be used with silicone toys, so if you have any plans to bring in a silicone vibrator later in the evening, you're going to want to opt for a water-based lube (like Sliquid Sassy) instead.

"If your partner has a vagina, you might try CBD-enhanced lube, which can help bring blood flow to the genitals to reduce pain during penetration or enhance the sensation," says Deysach. (Or go for an arousal oil, which has a similar effect.) If you're using latex gloves or plan on using latex condoms later in the evening, opt for GoLove CBD Lube, which is water-based. Otherwise, popular oil-based CBD lubes like Foria Awaken and Quim Intimate Serum are A-OK. "Flavored lubes are also an excellent choice for hand sex that will transition to or be combined with oral sex," she says.

7. Think about your own pleasure.

Using your hand to make your partner squirm, scream, and even squirt can be H-O-T. Still, it's totally fair if you're craving some stimulation for your own genitals, too!

One option: Use one hand to stroke yourself and another to stroke your partner. (Again, STI transmission can be a risk if you use the same hand on yourself and your partner).

Another: Bring a toy into the mix! If you have a vulva, you might try clipping a panty vibrator, like the We-Vibe Moxie (Buy It, $159, ellaparadis.com), into your skivvies for clitoral stimulation. The fun part about the Moxie is it can be controlled with either a remote control or an app, which means you can hand over the controller to your partner and let them vary the vibration. (Related: The Best Vibrating Panties to Wear On the DL).

If you have a penis, you might try wearing a vibrator such as Lelo Tor 2 (Buy It, $140, lelo.com), a vibrating cock ring that can deliver buzzy vibrations to your balls, or the MysteryVibe Tenuto (Buy It, $150, mysteryvibe.com), which delivers vibration from head-to-sack that can also be app-controlled.

And, of course, you can always ask your partner to lend a hand.

8. Try new sex positions.

No shame in the missionary hand sex game. But receiver on their back, stroker between their legs isn't the only sexy manual sex position. (P.S. you don't have to masturbate in the same position every time, either.)

Doggy style is a great option for any receiver who enjoys feeling a little submissive, and vulva-owners who enjoy deep penetration.

If you're planning to incorporate your mouth (head here for expert oral sex tips), you might have the receiver sit on (or just below) your face. Because this can put your shoulders in an uncomfortable position, "switch positions if you get uncomfortable!" says Sloane. "It'll be better and more enjoyable for both of you if you're not thinking about a sore arm or muscle cramp."

Sneaking off for a coat closet quickie? Or up for getting wet 'n wild in the shower? "So long as both partners are able to support their own body weight for a period of time, standing hand sex can be amazing," says Sloane. Just reach between their legs and bada-bing, bada-boom. (Related: How To Have Shower Sex That's Actually Amazing)

9. Add a few (or more…) fingers.

One or two fingers feel good? Go ahead and add another. And if that feels good? Another. "One of the things some folks enjoy about being penetrated is the sensation of fullness," says Sloane. "For some people, the girth of three or four fingers feels really good, and for others, the girth of a fist is what feels even better."

If you're never exploring fisting before, you're probably envisioning an actual fist—like, say, the one on the Feminist Power sign. But that's not how it works. Instead, think about how you'd contort your hands if you were going to try to into the pickle jar to grab that last slice of dill way at the bottom. You'd probably make a beak-like shape—this is the same shape you'd use to put all five fingers into the vaginal canal.

"Once your hand is in, you can experiment with different rocking or rotating motions to help hit the internal hot-spots," says Sloane. (See: 4 Deep Vaginal Pleasure Zones You Should Check Out) And, you can also begin to expand your hand to intensify the sensation of fullness to an even greater degree. Everyone's vagina has a different shape, so it may take a little trial and error and communication to figure out what the right angle and movement pattern is, she says.

10. Bring in the back door.

Ah, yes. The bootyhole. The too-often-ignored mecca of pleasure potential. "There are tons of sensitive nerve endings in the anus, around the anal sphincter, and on the bum itself," says Deysach. And that's true for folks of all genitals, which is why she says, "for many folks, the addition of butt play to the manual genital stimulation can lead to even more explosive orgasms." Pretty compelling, no? (See More: How to Prepare for Anal Sex, According to Experts).

Now, before we get too deep into *how* to add the ass into your hand play, know this: You should never go from the butt back to the vagina with the same hand without cleaning it. Doing so will carry the bacteria from the butt over the vagina, which, in folks with a sensitive vaginal microbiome, can mess with the vaginal pH and cause annoying infections like yeast infections, bacterial vaginosis, or urinary tract infections, explains Sloane. "[These infections] can all be cleared up with meds, but it's better to avoid infection altogether," she says. Fair!

If your partner has a vagina, one solution is to have a "vagina hand" and an "anus hand." Another is to put on a glove before going for the back hole and disposing of it before returning to the front hole. Or, you can use your mouth, a butt plug, a string of anal beads, or prostate massager to stimulate the nerve endings in the butt and keep your hand where it is.

If your partner has a penis, however, there's less risk of cross-contamination. "Using a well-lubed finger to massage the ring of nerves at the opening of the anus can feel really great," says Deysach. "If your partner enjoys that sensation and consents to penetration, you might add more lube and slide your finger inside the hole." Start by using slow, rhythmic strokes to help your partner adjust to the sensation of being filled.

After a while you're there you might try to find their prostate (aka the male G-spot). "Located about two to three inches inside the body towards the front of the body, P-spot pressure and stimulation can lead to explosive, full-body orgasms in some people," she says. (ICYWW: that's one of the reasons pegging can be so pleasurable.)

Oh, and the receiver can always just wear a butt plug for a sustained sensation of anal fullness. If you don't own any anal sex toys, check out this list of sexpert-recommended anal toys.

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