Great sex involves exquisite pacing

Try this touch exercise. Hold your arm out, palm up, and use your other hand to trace slow, very light circles around the inside of your elbow. Use the lightest touch you can, barely brushing the hairs on your skin if you can.

Give this a try right now.

Notice the tingling, almost ticklish feeling. Almost as if your skin is reaching for more. Do this for awhile, and notice how the sensation changes.

When you’re done, you can go ahead and rub or massage it out. And as you do, notice what that feels like. Very different, maybe like scratching an itch, more grounding. An exhale to the bated breath of the first one.

(Did you try it?)

The idea is that there can be touch that creates a desire for more touch… and touch that satiates. The first can be enjoyably tantalizing for a bit, but if you do it for too long eventually it can become irritating or aggravating. The second one fulfills and gratifies, but like the first, it’s not something you would want too much of—it runs its course quickly. Keep going and eventually it feels numb or painful. (Imagine scratching an itch and continuing to scratch with the same vigor long after the itch is gone.)

Somewhere in the middle there can be a touch that feels good and stokes desire. What exactly is this supposed goldilocks touch? You’ll need to discover it. But here are some things to know. It exists in between the extremes of too much and too little. Not that the extremes aren’t pleasurable—they can be great. But we get our fill of them very quickly.

And it’s a moving target. No touch feels good indefinitely, so don’t expect to set it and forget it. You will have to keep paying attention.

In sex, the shifting interplay of pacing, pressure, intensity, zeal, invitation, coaxing, teasing, responding, meeting, gratifying, pausing, continuing, etc., can allow the enjoyment of the game to continue indefinitely.

One thread running through all of it to take notice of, one particular nuance: pleasure that cultivates desire instead of ending it.

Imagine that you have a plate of delicious food, your partner’s favorite meal, and you’re feeding them. You decide which flavor is next and how big a portion. You savor each mouthful with them, raise the fork as they swallow, and reach their mouth just as they open to receive the next bite. Your pace feels dialed in.

Now… subtly, almost imperceptibly… slow down. Let the fork be a bit more leisurely in making its way to their mouth. Let there be a sense of anticipation. Allow them to want the next bite before it arrives. As you enjoy the meal vicariously with them, notice, too, how they lean forward slightly to meet the next bite, to take it. Follow their gaze as the fork moves. Let every bite be its own complete cycle of anticipation, desire, receipt, savoring, completion, and readiness. Let every bite be hungered for before it’s delivered.

This is an exercise for you in being dialed into your partner’s desire from instant to instant, and pacing not simply to maximize pleasure but to attend to and cultivate the hunger for that pleasure.

In sex, find a rhythm that maintains a hint of wanting more, even as the exquisite sensations intensify. Slow your pace just a hair, draw it out a bit. Allow them to hunger for more of you even as they’re devouring you. From beginning to end, never extinguish that feeling of wanting even in the throes of enjoyment.

If you or your partner sometimes check out during sex, it may be as simple as pacing. Failure to do this is also why people who try to fuck like they see in porn end up with such unsatisfying sex. The jackhammer technique can produce an incredible blast of sensation that lasts, oh, maybe 0.3 seconds. Then their genitals start to go numb. And they think the solution is to compensate by going even harder-and-faster, when what they really need to do is slow down enough for the nerves to recover the capacity to be pleasurably stimulated. They’re too involved with how it looks to notice how it feels. Porn is definitely not meant to demonstrate the art of somatic pleasure, what actually feels good to a sensitized body.¹

If you’re not feeling much in your genitals, think of overstimulation as the cause, not the solution. Ask yourself if the sex you’re having tends to sensitize or desensitize your body. Because sensitizing sex is one of the cornerstones of having sex that continues to get better over time.

Needless to say, this is a metaphor that extends beyond the bedroom. Consider the art of flirting. Think of flirting as a game of skillful pacing. A game that comes to a screeching halt the instant someone over-delivers (think: unsolicited dick pic) or under-delivers (think: no response for three days). A game that is enjoyed in the moment and fans the embers of desire.

Learn the skill in one arena and you will naturally sense how it applies in another. You’ve likely heard that seduction doesn’t end when the clothes come off. If you found this intriguing but too abstract to know what it means in practical terms, try this. Are you over-delivering, under-delivering, or just right? Just notice that one thing. Is every motion, every thrust, every touch wanted before it occurs? Is there as much flirting, teasing, inviting during your sex as there is leading up to it? Or do you switch gears and boff like bunnies in a race to the finish line? Do you go harder and faster to compensate for a lull when what you need to do is back off, under-deliver, so that desire returns and the next stroke can be fully felt? Do you maintain that feeling of wanting all the way through to the end? Is there still a hint of it remaining after you finish? Is there still enough juice between you after sex to flirt with each other? Or are you both so cooked, so done, that the idea of talking about your next sex is more off-putting than a turn-on?

Where else in your relationship can this sense of exquisite pacing come into play, so you stay in the zone between feeling oversaturated or undernourished, continually enjoying and wanting?

Play with it.


  1. This is not an indictment of porn. It’s a movie. Look up the top ten box office movies this week and ask yourself if even one of them is a good model for you to follow in your personal life. Get your education from educators.

Copyright © 2018 by Ken Blackman. All rights reserved.

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About the author:

Ken Blackman has worked with hundreds of couples from San Francisco to Paris to Sydney, and trained thousands of students in his workshops on intimacy and connection. His work has received attention everywhere from Cosmopolitan to Business Insider to Playboy. With nearly two decades of experience, Ken’s powerful, unapologetic break from conventional relationship advice is shifting the world conversation around love and committed coupledom.

Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash