Sensory Deprivation: Unlocking Heightened Pleasure Through Sensory Play

You’re probably familiar with mainstream kinks like BDSM choking, but another trend has steadily become popular in recent years – sensory play and sensory deprivation. 

Sensory Deprivation

We engage in mild sensory play all the time. From lighting scented candles to turning the lights 

off before sex, we toy with our senses to boost our arousal and sensation. 

Oftentimes this means cutting off one of our senses from stimuli – AKA “sensory deprivation.” 

What Is Sensory Deprivation?

In the bedroom (or wherever you and your partner go at it), sensory deprivation is when you reduce or take away one sense to improve another. We’ll dive into what this means for each sense later on. 

For now, think about being blindfolded. You naturally focus more on your other senses when you can’t see. Being touched feels more exciting and noises seem clearer. 

  • Reducing or removing stimuli from one or more senses (smell, touch, taste, sight, and sound) is referred to as sensory deprivation.
  • Sensory deprivation in a therapeutic setting can help you relax, reduce stress, and help you manage anxiety and depression.

Benefits of Sensory Deprivation for Sex

Benefits of Sensory Deprivation for Sex

The concept of sexual sensory deprivation is simple – turning off one sense heightens the others. It’s like how a blind person may have better hearing than someone who can see, though not quite as extreme. 

If you’re an overthinker like me, cutting off one or more senses can also help you stay in the moment and enjoy sex without getting distracted.

  • Sound can help you step outside your thoughts and give more context for the moment.
  • Both blindfolds and earplugs can heighten your sensitivity and pleasure by blocking out sight and noise.
  • Restricting speech (e.g., using a ball gag) can flip the power dynamic and make the assertive partner take a more submissive role. Alternatively, it can make a submissive’s kink even more pleasurable.
  • The deprivation of certain senses will affect different people in unique ways; not everyone will enjoy sensory deprivation, so it’s best to explore carefully.

Using Sensory Deprivation in Sex

Sensory deprivation involves removing or reducing your ability to taste, touch, smell, see, or hear during sex. The methods you use will be unique to each sense. 

Everyone is different, so don’t expect to feel the same way as any other kinky couple when experimenting. For example, you might find that a blindfold takes your orgasms to the next level or makes you extremely uncomfortable.

Always establish consent, have a safe word, and be ready to stop when experimenting.

Visual Deprivation

Visual Deprivation

This can be as easy as finding a scarf or blindfold, but you can upgrade to advanced toys if you like. Most of us treat vision as our primary sense, so losing it can make us feel exceptionally vulnerable.

  • Sight deprivation is the most popular sensory play.
  • This depends on trust. If you trust your partner, it can be exhilarating to anticipate their next move.
  • If you’re blindfolded, your partner can experiment with sensations you don’t expect. This can be standard touch, hot or cold temperatures, or even different sounds that can be surprising and sexy.
  • Focus on stimulating your other senses while blindfolded. Sight deprivation is a great place to start because, if you aren’t bound, you can take off the blindfold at any time.
  • You can upgrade to blackout lenses or kink hoods if you get tired of using a basic blindfold.

Auditory Deprivation

Auditory Deprivation

Being unable to hear – especially when combined with a blindfold – can be incredibly distressing. Some people love that feeling because it heightens their sexual sensation, but others don’t enjoy it at all.

  • Ear plugs are a cheap way to experiment with auditory deprivation, but you can also use noise-canceling headphones. When paired with a blindfold, it becomes nearly impossible to predict your dom’s next move.
  • Auditory deprivation makes it difficult to communicate, so the other partner usually controls the sex.
  • Overload can have a similar effect to deprivation. If you have any other kinks (e.g., horror movies, sci-fi, etc.), then playing loud, immersive music with those themes can increase your pleasure.
  • Using headphones to listen to music can also detach you from your surroundings and achieve a similar effect to deprivation.

Physical Deprivation

Physical Deprivation

Physical deprivation can refer to the inability to feel through touch, but it usually means the restriction of motion. 

In layman’s terms, it’s often about being tied up or cuffed.

  • Tying up your partner is one way to physically deprive them of movement. You could tie them to bedposts, handcuff them, or find a more creative way to bind them.
  • Fetish clothing, such as latex suits, can erotically alter or restrict your sense of touch.
  • When your partner is already deprived of sight and sound, even the lightest touches can feel stimulating. Depriving them of your touch while they’re immobile can be intensely erotic.

Taste/Speech Deprivation

Taste Speech Deprivation

Most people don’t play around with taste too much, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Speech, on the other hand, is a common way for one partner to deprive the other.

  • Ball gags (or anything else you have on hand) can limit one partner’s ability to speak. This makes it difficult to use a safe word, so you need to work out another form of communication.
  • If you and your partner are into food play, then it can be exciting to restrict or deprive them of foods they might normally taste in the bedroom.
  • Speech deprivation can be great for submissives, but it can also be exciting for dominant types who want to take a step back and try a new role.

Olfactory Deprivation

Olfactory Deprivation

Like taste, smell is an uncommon but totally possible sense to play with. Smell has a strong connection to taste, memory, and even emotion. 

You can plug your nose if you like, but the role of smell in sensory deprivation is more about what it adds than what it takes away.

  • Adding a smell associated with one of your partner’s kinks can be arousing. You can also use smells they hate (if that’s something they want to experiment with) or alternate between them.
  • Your sense of smell is stronger while other senses are dulled, so getting closer to your partner and making your smell stronger can be enticing.

Safety and Communication

Safety and Communication

When any of your senses are dulled, it becomes more difficult to communicate with your partner. You need to establish consent before any act of sensory deprivation, and you need to have a clear way to communicate during sex.

  • If your partner is tied up, make sure that none of the restraints are cutting off circulation. Have scissors nearby in case you need to cut the bonds quickly.
  • If your partner is gagged, establish nonverbal communication, such as a double-tap, that functions as a safeword.
  • When gagging your partner, make sure the gag does not completely obstruct their airway.
  • Never leave a bound person unsupervised.
  • Check-in with your partner regularly during sensory deprivation sessions.

Sources: Lovehoney, Sex Therapy in Philadelphia, Netdoctor, Submissive Feminist, Medium


We have access to more sensory stimuli today than at any time in human history, and it can be absolutely overwhelming. For some of us, turning off these senses can intensify our pleasure and make old sensations feel new and powerful. 

Sensory deprivation, however, is often about vulnerability. Never try it with someone you don’t trust completely, and always establish clear boundaries beforehand. Our ability to sense and communicate is how we control our safety relative to the world around us. Giving up that safety can be exhilarating, but it does come with some risks. 

That said, limiting your senses can take your physical pleasure to heights you haven’t felt in years – or maybe never felt before. A simple blindfold can add surprise back into routine sex life, while headphones or restraints can help you stay present and focus on your pleasure. 

In short, sensory deprivation is easy to experiment with and can supercharge your sex life – why not give it a try?

Aliyah Moore

Aliyah Moore

Aliyah Moore (she/her) is our resident sex expert at SexualAlpha. She’s a certified sex therapist with a Ph.D. in Gender & Sexuality Studies. Aliyah is a proud Black, bi-sexual femme passionate about empowering minority voices to embrace their sexuality and identity. She loves to write about everything sexual wellness and gives no-nonsense sex and relationship advice.

Got Questions? Ping me on Twitter.