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Temperature play 101

By Maya Khamala

Chances are, you’ve given thought to “spicing up” or “heating up” your sex life at some point. Whether you’re in a long-term, committed relationship, are courting ‘n sparking with a brand-new love interest—or, really, anything in between—it’s only natural to want to experiment with new and exciting sensations.

Provided that you and your partner are both on the same page, there’s nothing to stop you from quite literally heating things up in the proverbial bedroom…or cooling them down, as the mood dictates. Enter temperature play.

What is temperature play?

It is what it sounds like: an erotic form of consensual sensation play that uses heat or cold to stimulate neuroreceptors under the skin as a way of provoking a sensual reaction—or, in other words, to heighten the senses. Temperature play is a technique used in BDSM and vanilla foreplay alike.

Substances used to create the desired effect can include water, oil, candle wax, ice, chocolate syrupwhipped creammelted butter, chilled fresh fruit and steamed vegetables—to name just a few. Objects might include cutlery, ball chains, or necklaces, often pre-heated in hot water or chilled in ice water. Space heaters, radiators, and other sources of heat can also be used for stimulating sensory arousal. On the more extreme end, fire play is a high-risk variant of temperature play that involves using flame on or very close to the skin (this one is for those more experienced in the art of temperature play).

No matter what you decide to use, safety precautions should be used which are appropriate for all materials, techniques and body parts involved!

How to try temperature play

The great thing about temperature play is that it's 100% adjustable and adaptable to your needs. You can do it solo, partnered, with a toy, without a toy, etc. The options are never-ending. Need suggestions? Feel free to try any of the following sexpert-suggested ideas on for size:

- Perform oral sex after drinking a glass of cold water or a cup of hot tea (without spices or sweeteners!)

- Lick ice cream off your partner’s bare chest

- Chill a glass or metal dildo or butt plug before inserting it vaginally or anally

- Let an ice cube melt on your partner’s nipples or other erogenous zones

- Stroke your partner with a heated vibrator

- Direct pressure with warm-hot water from the shower head onto the vulva

- Drip hot oil, or wax from a body-safe candle onto your partner’s back—and massage it in

- Warm or freeze a towel and place it on your partner’s neck

A note on ice play

Playing with ice directly after heat can feel really euphoric/intense. One way to do this is for the giving partner to place an ice cube in their mouth before running it along different body parts belonging to the receiving partner—something akin to cold, tingly kisses. Putting the ice in one’s mouth also ensures it is melted down enough not to stick to the receiver’s skin or burn it. Another way to avoid sticking/burning is to run it briefly under cold water. If you’re not a beginner and looking to up the ante, the giving partner might have the receiving partner put a plastic bag full of ice in their underwear until they utter a safeword. Even more intense, and not for beginners or the faint of heart: have them slide a condom-contained ice dildo in their vagina or anus (use lube). 

A note on wax play

Wax play has much of the thrill of fire play, with a lower risk, making it a great intro to temperature play. The idea is to heat up the wax from a candle, and use the melted wax on your own or your partner’s skin. The composition of the candle is important, because what it’s made of (soy, paraffin, beeswax), any added fragrances, and/or dyes will all affect its melting point. It’s best to buy candles made specifically for kink—ones that mention the melt temperature and aren’t toxic. Always be sure to avoid candles with ingredients you or your partner are allergic or sensitive to. Finally, figure out where you’re going to play. For instance, the bathtub can make the feeling of hot wax less intense for beginners, and has the added bonus of making cleanup easier. Otherwise, it’ may be smart to use a surface protector to prevent stained sheets. Oh, and be sure to blow out the candle before you start playing. What else? Drip the wax from a higher distance for starters, because it will cool a bit as it travels through the air. 

Tips ’n tricks

Depending on what form of temperature play you and your partner decide to start with, consider the following tips ’n tricks for sexiness and safety, in equal parts:

- Start slowly and carefully. Especially if you’re a beginner. You don't want to dive in with the more edgy forms of temperature play like fire play, branding, or ice dildos.

- Consider blindfolding and/or bondage. Temperature play is sometimes combined with blindfolding and/or bondage because restricting the receiving partner’s sense of sight and/or movement can further intensify hot and cold sensations, making them more delicious than ever.

- Be scared of fire. Whether or not you’re doing actual fire play (highly discouraged for beginners) or simply using fire to light a candle, a first aid certification is an asset. Barring that, having a safety kit on site, complete with a flame-retardant blanket is a smart idea, as is having access to burn creams and aloe—even if no one was actually burned. And good old-fashioned hair elastics help ensure that no one’s hair is in the line of fire. Finally, it’s always a good idea to have a water bottle nearby for hydration purposes.

- Prep ice in advance. If you’re looking to play with ice, make sure to fill your ice trays advance to avoid a frantic run to the store. Alternatively, you might store glass or metal toys in the fridge in advance of your temperature play session (glass or metal are best as they take on surrounding temperatures most effectively).

- Use water. The quickest and most body-safe way of cooling or heating your sex toys is by submerging them in cold or hot water.

- Keep blankets and warm socks around. If your cold play involves being exposed to snow or freezing temperatures, be sure to have warm-up props immediately and readily available. Toe and finger warmers are a bonus.

- If you're not into it, don't pretend. Not everyone is going to be interested in temperature play. Not wanting to play with ice or heat doesn't make you a boring lover. And if heat gets you going, but you detest the cold, say so—or vice versa. Communication is always hot.

The important thing is hot (or cold) AF sex for all, as aligned with your innermost desires! <3

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