Do It Better

A Handy Guide to Hand Sex

| 02/03/2021

hand sex guide Illustration by Sophi Gullbrants

For this Valentine’s Day, our theme is Stay Tender: There’s nothing quite like a personal touch, especially at a time when personal touch is hard to come by. Don’t be afraid to reach out with a little tenderness—to others, and to yourself.

The common understanding of hand sex is that it isn’t “real sex.” Real sex, of course, being p-in-v intercourse. We need to throw out this archaic, completely BS notion and start from scratch. 

Let’s get a few things straight here.

Firstly, intercourse is not “real sex”— all sex acts are real sex. Whether you’re licking a butt, sucking a clitoris, having anal sex, touching a penis, having vaginal intercourse, or fingering someone, you’re having sex. There is no hierarchy. This is a pernicious falsehood we’ve been taught by a patriarchal society. “So many people equate PIV sex as the ultimate sex act,” says Charyn Pfeuffer, sex and relationships writer and author of 101 Ways to Rock Online Dating. “So, it’s pretty common for hand sex to be framed as the warm-up to the main event – if it’s not skipped over entirely in lieu of oral sex. The hype from penis-havers that hand sex is for partners that are too lazy to give a blow job doesn’t help the manual stimulation mission.”

Secondly, hand sex is not some simple, junior varsity sex act that can “doesn’t count.” Hand sex is a distinct sex act that has its own merits. Giving great hand sex takes curiosity and a little panache. When done well, it can be highly enjoyable. The idea that having hand sex is “easier” is misguided and has led to more dry handjobs than a six-week sleepaway camp.

Without further ado, here is your handy guide to hand sex.

Lube it up, buttercup!

Do not get anywhere near anyone’s genitals without lubing up your hands first. You can also apply lube directly to the partner’s genitals. The Golden Rule of Hand Sex: The Wetter The Better. Dry hand sex is “literally a form of torture; I’m surprised the CIA hasn’t tried it on prisoners,” says Courtney Kocak, co-founder and co-host of Private Parts Unknown, a podcast exploring love and sexuality around the world. “You must add wetness by any means necessary: put your mouth on it, spit on your hand and/or the [genitals] being serviced, grab a squirt of lube if you have some handy.”

Giving great hand sex takes curiosity and a little panache.

Silicone or aloe-based lube (like Dame’s Alu lube) are best for hand sex because they have good staying power. Slipperiness that lasts is essential for good hand sex.

Take it slow

We’re often so quick to jump ahead of ourselves during hand sex, treating it like some pre-sex chore we need to do to get our genitals prepared for the main event. If you enter into sex with this mindset, you wind up missing out on a big portion of fun.

Savor everything about the hand sex you’re having, whether giving or receiving. “Go slow and touch for your own pleasure, soak in all the yummy details of your partner’s body and genitals,” Kristine D’Angelo, a certified sex coach and clinical sexologist.

Taking it slowly means warming up the whole genital region and beyond, rather than zeroing in on the clitoris or penis right away. “Don’t rush into touching the hot spots [like the] clitoral head [and] frenulum [of the penis]. You want to focus on waking up all of your partner’s body first and then slowly move towards waking up their genitals,” D’Angelo says. Start with kissing your partner’s neck and inner thighs. If they have a vulva, run your fingers over the inner and outer labia to up the intensity. For penises, you can gently rub the perineum, the scrotal sack, inner thighs, and base of the penis before moving into full strokes.

Know your anatomy and guide your partner

“Not being able to find the clit is less hilarious than popular culture would lead one to believe,” Kokak says. “It actually sucks to be on the receiving end of an explorer as inept as Columbus navigating a new route to India — we all know how that turned out.” The only way to know what you like is by practicing on your own first.

Warm up the whole genital region and beyond, rather than zeroing in on the clitoris or penis right away.

Masturbate, masturbate, masturbate! 

In fact, Pfeuffer suggests starting with mutual masturbation as a kind of masterclass in Learning What Your Specific Partner Likes. “Initiate mutual masturbation to get a sense of how they like to touch themselves,” she explains. “Obviously, they have tons of practice and know how to get it exactly right, but as a visual learner, it’s a useful starting point. If you’re both engaging in self-pleasure at the same time, it takes the spotlight off a partner to perform and inform and creates a more playful, interactive space to talk about what feels good.”

Try different moves

When giving a handjob to a penis, moving your hand up and down, over and over again can be a bit of a snooze. “Instead of using just an up and down motion, stroke up, twist around the head, over and down” says Kenneth Play, international educator and Creator of the Sex Hacker Pro Series.

Kenneth’s go-to moves: “Clasp your hands around the cock and use the pads of your thumbs to stimulate the frenulum in a rhythmic motion. Or, use this move we’re calling the penis sandwich: imagine the penis is the meat of the sandwich and your palms are the bread, so sandwich the cock by using one hand to hold the penis from the back and the other is on the front. Keep the back still and with the front hand, stroke up and down the front of the penis, keeping constant pressure on the frenulum, where most of the nerve endings are.” 

Sex Hacker approved, pals.

If you’re touching a clitoris, try moving in consistent circles, right to left, or up and down. You might experiment with direct or indirect clitoral touch, depending on your partner’s sensitivity. Do not forget to ask your partner how they like to be touched. Inquire: Is this working for you? Does it feel good when I touch you like that? How would you like me to touch you? Communication is a cornerstone of good sex.

Remember: There doesn’t need to be an orgasm!

This is true of all sex acts. Orgasms are great, but they aren’t the main point of sex. The most important thing in sex is pleasure. “There’s something to be said for a slow sesh of deliberate hand sex,” Pfeuffer says. “Orgasms are great, but the end goal of hand sex doesn’t have to be an orgasm. The tension and momentum can be just as pleasurable.”

Whether you engage in hand sex as foreplay, moreplay, or all the play, it can be a pleasurable addition to anyone’s sexual menu. There are no limits to how you can enjoy sex. So get curious, let go of shame and labels, and live your life, babe.

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