Can Temperature Play Heat Up Your Sex Life?
Written by: Kelly Martin
Published on: February 23, 2023
The merit of trying something new in the bedroom is that it might reveal a kink you didn’t know you had.
Temperature play, which puts feelings of hot and cold to work sexually, can be a low-stakes entry into sensation play. It’s a kink that doesn’t require whips or blindfolds—although you can layer those in, if you’d like—but can introduce novelty and a BDSM flavor to foreplay, masturbation, and partnered sex. Who knows, your partner might try running an ice cube down your body once and then you find yourself requesting all your sex toys chilled, please.
As a reminder, a kink is different from a fetish: A kink is something that turns you on and expands your sexual world. Something is a fetish when it must be present for you to get off.
Why do people like temperature play?
Focusing on the senses, including touch, is one way to get out of your head and into the moment. And it can help you get more pleasure out of sex. Touch triggers sensory cells, called neuroreceptors, in your skin. In erogenous zones, neuroreceptors don’t just turn on the sense of touch; they turn you on sexually, too. (Breasts, inner thighs, and the neck are some common erogenous zones, but everyone’s body is different.)
There are specific neuroreceptors that register temperature; those are thermoreceptors. When thermoreceptors are activated by hot or cold, they trigger a physical reaction in your body. Say they receive cold signals: You might get goose bumps. Warm signals: loosened muscles and sweat. And you might find that your body responds to hot or cold sensations in erogenous zones differently from how it responds to them generally. Maybe you’re not a fan of feeling cold all over, as you would if you jumped in a chilly pool, but you find that the sensation of cold grazing your nipple does something for you.
Temperature play is worth exploring if you haven’t tried it—you might discover something you like. And if it does excite you, you might layer in whatever other sexual kinks you’ve played with: A blindfold or a pair of handcuffs (these silicone cuffs from Crave are easy to put on and take off yourself) can build into temperature play well if you like surprises and power games.
7 Ways to Try Temperature Play
One of the most basic and inexpensive ways to get started with temperature play, if you’re interested in seeing what a little cold can do to rile you up: Take turns with an ice cube in your fingers, between your lips—however—and trace it up and down your bodies. Or pop one in your mouth as you kiss each other all over. Go slowly and pay attention to your body’s cues: Do you feel goose bumps, shivers, tingles? Are you sexually excited? Is your partner?
Metal or glass sex toys can be dropped into warm or cool water for 5 to 10 minutes to adjust their temperature however it thrills you. They also tend to be delightfully heavy. This dildo from Kiki de Montparnasse is wrapped in 24-karat gold. If you’re not trying to ball out, you can find stainless steel or glass versions, too.
Of course, there are boundaries here: As a rule, if a toy is too hot or too cold to hold in your hand comfortably and indefinitely, that’s too much. Wait a few minutes for it to shift back toward room temperature to be safe.
Some vibrators are made with a self-heating function that warms the toy to just above body temperature. The heat is typically pretty gentle, so a toy like this is a good starting point if you’re just starting to play with temperature and want to wade in slowly. You might find the warmth helps your body ease into touch—the idea is the same as using warm oils during a massage. (More on that in a minute.)
We made the goop Wellness Ultraplush Self-Heating G-Spot Vibrator with that idea in mind: It gets pleasantly warm—just above body temperature—to help relax your muscles and promote blood flow.
Heated Lube or
Heated lube can be a pleasure, too. Check out the lube warmer from Pulse, which touchlessly dispenses perfectly portioned dollops of warm water-based lube into your hand. Or swap out Pulse’s lube for pods filled with silky plant-based massage oil.
Body oil candles—like this one from Neom, which smells fantastic—melt at a low enough temperature for the hot wax to be poured directly onto the body and massaged into skin. They’re hot enough to excite but not so hot that they burn. (Avoid regular candles, which melt at a temperature too high for skin.)
Hot or Cold Water
Exploring temperature sensations in sex could be as simple as drinking something hot or cold before kissing or oral sex. Or take play to the shower or tub: A handheld showerhead can get you a long way, as can taking a steamy bath.
Ice cream, popsicles, or whipped cream can be a playful way to explore cool sensations. Chocolate syrup warmed in the microwave is great for hot ones. And you might find the fun is in licking it off of each other.
Tips for Playing Safely
What to remember when trying any kink, including temperature play: Play responsibly, and indicate a safe word before you get going. Safe words can be whatever you want, but it’s best to pick something that wouldn’t otherwise come out of your mouth during sex. That said, they don’t need to be anything especially creative. A green light/yellow light/red light system is a great way to talk through your boundaries during kink and BDSM play, and you might find it more comfortable than saying something silly like “pineapple.”
If you’re curious about expanding your sexual horizons, here’s a primer on common kinks and tools of the trade—paddles, ticklers, blindfolds, oh my.
Spicing things up in the bedroom is not all wax and whips, to be clear. Touching yourselves, together is a great way to reignite a sexual spark or teach a partner what you like.
The world of BDSM has so much more to offer than pleasure alone. Read author Liz Goldwyn’s essay on how bondage informed her understanding of boundaries and consent.
Bedside table need stocking? We rounded up our favorite sex toys, lubes, and more. (Happy shopping.)
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not, nor is it intended to be, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment and should never be relied upon for specific medical advice. To the extent that this article features the advice of physicians or medical practitioners, the views expressed are the views of the cited expert and do not necessarily represent the views of goop.