Other than bemoaning wrinkles and slathering on moisturizers at night, who among us pays attention to our skin? Yet, that tough, resilient, and underappreciated mantle that covers our entire body performs a variety of complex and vital functions, not the least of which is to make sex the delicious experience that it is.
Our skin protects us from outside invaders, regulates our body temperature, and acts as the brain’s window to the world. Its outer layer (the epidermis) is stain-resistant and waterproof, yet it is thinner than plastic wrap. The middle layer (dermis) is a web of hair follicles, tiny blood vessels, glands that excrete sweat, oil, and hormones, and nerve endings—lots of them.
“Indeed, the skin is a powerful interface between the mind, the body, and the external world,” writes Dr. Bernardine Healy in US News and World Report. “The emerging concept of a neuro-immuno-cutaneous-endocrine network recognizes the skin as an almost independent, untamable intelligence.”
Not only is our skin the body’s largest organ, but all those nerve endings also make it incredibly sensitive to touch, and we humans need touch in order to thrive physically and emotionally. Touch releases oxytocin, called the “bonding” or “cuddle” hormone. Some researchers suggest that men may need loving touch more than women, who tend to have greater opportunity for cuddling in the normal course of events.
Due to this exquisite sensitivity, our skin, then, is often considered the body’s largest sex organ. “At the very heart of sex is our need for touch,” writes Sandra Blanton in her doctoral dissertation. And touch is at the heart of our skin’s function. This concept gives us an expansive new erogenous zone—a giant sexual playground—to explore in bold and subtle ways. Here are suggestions for beginning the discovery: