You have your go-tos to get her in the mood: the neck kiss, a back massage, that thing you do with your tongue. But while physical foreplay gets all the attention, there’s a lot you can do to get her in the mood without touching her.
“Sex is really primarily thought of in terms of touch,” explains Dr. Ian Kerner, sex therapist and author of She Comes First, but sometimes “we become reliant on a repetition of a sequence of physical behaviors and we really neglect psychological stimulation, which is incredibly important.” And sometimes, women won’t be in the mood without it.
“For a lot of women, they need to feel emotionally connected and emotionally safe,” explains Dr. Kate Balestrieri, licensed psychologist, certified sex therapist, and founder of Modern Intimacy. “Touch can sometimes be a part of what helps them get there—but often, touch is what comes after they already feel safe.”
Think of it this way: “Foreplay starts the minute our last sexual experience is over,” she says. “How you treat your partner in the in-between moments is part of your foreplay, it’s the cumulative effect of all your interactions.” And you can do so much from inches, feet, and even miles away if you activate the senses that go beyond touch.
“Know the triggers for her sexual arousal, with a focus on the visual, auditory, and olfactory ones and try to have them present,” suggests Dr. Lori Brotto, a professor at the University of British Columbia and author of Better Sex Through Mindfulness. And make a habit of incorporating them into your life before you’re even ready to do the deed. As Kerner says, “If you think you might have sex, live that day in a way in which prioritizes the sex.”
Here are some ideas that day could include.
15 Ways to Get Her in the Mood Without Touching Her
1. Eat appetizers instead of a full meal
What kind of food do you have on a first date when you’re barely eating through those early attraction butterflies? Small bites. Think a dozen oysters you slurp from the shell, a bowl of brothy mussels in a savory wine sauce, grilled bread dipped into luscious whipped burrata. Or if you’re a jalapeño popper kind of couple, share a few of those. You get the idea: have foreplay-like appetizers to the main event. “Just be careful not to over-indulge because when we eat too much, a lot of our energy goes toward digestion instead of eroticism,” says Balestrieri. “You have to save room for orgasms.”
2. Exercise together to get your blood pumping
Sex gets your body moving, your heart racing, and your blood pumping, right? So mirror those elements by exercising together. Whether it’s cycling, climbing, kicking it at the gym, or taking a hike on an early date, the activity releases endorphins, increases circulation through all of your body parts, and activates the sympathetic nervous system that studies have shown can enhance her ability for sexual arousal.
3. Make lingering eye contact
Look into her eyes for longer than you usually do. “Really be intentional to make eye contact in a way that’s not like super intense or scary, but gentle, and with eyes that dance with a little bit of flirtatious energy. If she asks, “What?” say, “I just love looking at you.” It’s a gesture that could be especially welcome in a long-term partnership. “A lot of people in relationships are breaking eye contact as they’re getting more and more comfortable, or as there might be resentments festering,” she says, which makes you feel disconnected.” Reconnect through eye contact that playfully communicates openness.
4. Reminisce about a sexy time you had
Take her down a tantalizing memory lane. “Reminisce about a particularly sexy time you had together,” says Kerner. Like the time you made out the rain, spent a Saturday naked, or stumbled on the nude beach in Greece together. Even if you’re just going on your third date, it’s electrifying for her to be reminded of the first night you locked eyes. “Engaging our erotic minds can increase the power of psychological arousal,” he says. You can also talk about a sexy time you want to have. “With her consent, tell her a fantasy you have about the two of you,” suggests Brotto. “Perhaps a place or an act that you’ve not engaged in before.” Or, suggest that you each share a fantasy. If she feels self-conscious about it, make it as fun and approachable as possible with your weirdest, out-there, never-going-to-really-do-it ideas. Because, while it may start with fun and games, you’ll be tapping into real desires that could get her in the mood.
5. Play the music that makes her feel sexy
Find out or really pay attention to what music “allows your partner to feel disinhibited, to feel alive in their own skin, and allows them to feel sensual or sexy,” says Balestrieri. And play it. “Music is right-brain activating, so it speaks to our emotions and to our nonverbal brain in a way that can create a lot of opportunity for arousal.” And if the music gets her up and dancing, all the better. “Dancing is the perfect way to get your bodies moving in arousing ways without engaging in sexual touch.”
6. Compliment her on something specific
“Women want to feel desired, so tell her what makes her stand out specifically,” says Kerner, as opposed to, say, any woman you could have swiped on an app. Yes, tell her she looks sexy or gorgeous, then tell her why: “Your back looks amazing in that dress,” or “Your hair looks beautiful pulled off your face.” The more clear it is to her that you’re desiring her, the more attractive and excited she’ll feel with you.
7. Text her a sexy message
“What I often hear from women is that their relationship lacks what I call the romantic or erotic thread, the space in between sexual events,” explains Kerner. And why limit the sexy things you can say to your partner to what you can say in her presence? The next time you’re apart—whether you’re both at work or she’s out running errands—text her some sensual thoughts appropriate to your intimacy level. Maybe it’s “Instead of being here doing _______, I wish I was laying beside you” or “Can’t stop thinking about your beautiful _________.” Or maybe your relationship is on the level of, “Oh, the filthy things I wish I was doing to you right now” or “You know what I want to do to you later? I’d love to show you.”
8. Do the dishes
Uh…sorry, what’s that? “This seems trite, but there is so much evidence that domestic activities, which are heavily gendered, are a killer of sexual desire,” explains Brotto. “It’s important for male partners to really think about emotional labor and domestic labor, and how they’re actively working to create a collaborative and mutually decided understanding of how to balance all of those needs in their partnership,” adds Balestreri. This is especially true if you share a home or have children together. “So many men default to women being in charge of all things domestic and relational because they’re conditioned into that,” she says, but if the majority of it falls on her, “that decreases desire for women because they feel more like a parent than a partner.” Which can turn sex into another chore on the list. “When women see their male partners putting an effort without having to be directed or instructed,” says Balestrieri, “that’s like some of the best lubricant ever.”
9. Embrace a different kind of dirty talk
Speak from the bedroom heart. “Understand what turns your partner on, then align your words and your nonverbal communication to match that,” suggests Balestrieri. “So if a partner likes a more dominant partner in bed, what language conveys that to her? What tone of voice turns her on when you’re in a dominant mindset?”
10. Let her see you sweat
We’re not talking about a nervous or “it’s boiling hot in here” kind of sweat. This is about an “I put in some serious effort” sweat. Get active. Work out. Haul away the air conditioner. And reap those evolutionary biological benefits, Make sure she sees those beads of sweat before you hop in the shower. “Whenever we see somebody being active, it can create some sort of awareness in our mind that this is a healthy person,” says Balestrieri. And along with the sight of your sweat, “there is a pheromone exchange. When we get sweaty, our bodies breathe in those pheromones differently, and it communicates a more primal connection.”
11. Draw her a bath
A hot bath is famously sexy—even if you’re not in it with her. A woman can feel the most pleasure “when she’s not distracted from outside stressors and present,” says Kerner. “If you can lower her anxiety and stress, you’ll increase her ability to become sexually aroused.” So, draw her a bath, scent it with essential oils or a bath bomb, light some candles, and lay out a towel. It can shift her mindset, calm her down, and open the door to something more.
12. Do a novel activity together
If neither of you has tried ax throwing, pickleball, or the new restaurant in town yet, doing it together can prime you for bonding in sexier ways—especially if you’re in a long-term relationship “when we start to blend into the wallpaper and don’t see each other as vibrantly as we once did,” says Balestrieri. “Novelty allows you to be playful, learn new things, and be amazed by one another, and all of that can create great opportunities for sexual tension and fun.” You can also take a tried-and-true hobby you both love, and “reinvigorate that with a new lens,” she says. “If you love to go camping, get a new tent or a new outdoor blanket. It’s a message that says, ‘I’m thinking of you and our intimate time together.’”
13. “Perform” for her
“Let her watch you perform from a distance such as giving a talk or engaging in a talent,” suggests Brotto. “Sometimes desire emerges when you sense others’ admiration for your partner.” What will resonate in the room for her “is the comfort, self-confidence, and self-esteem.” That is always attractive.
14. Wear what she thinks looks good on you
If she swoons for you when you’re in a particular suit, T-shirt, or glasses, wear it in her presence. The sight of you can give her that zing of attraction. If you don’t know what she finds attractive, ask her: “Hey, I want to look hot. What should I wear?” And if you’re in a playful place in your relationship already, suggest you each choose the clothes you find one another sexiest in. “It creates an opportunity,” says Balestrieri, “for there to be mutual eroticism and mutual appreciation for each other’s turn-ons.”
15. Buy a sex toy—for your partner to use solo
Think about what turns her on when you’re with her in the bedroom—then give her a sex toy that can provide that pleasure in a similar way on her own. Why? Because “a lot of women are socialized to give their sexuality to a partner and haven’t really given themselves the time and space to be with pleasure on their own,” says Balestrieri, but “when that is embraced and championed, it can be a lot easier to then find that sexual energy and bring it to a partner.”
Amy Spencer is a Los Angeles-based writer and author of Meeting Your Half-Orange: An Utterly Upbeat Guide to Using Dating Optimism to Find Your Perfect Match and Bright Side Up.