As a relationship matures and you leave the first intoxicating months behind, feelings of sexual attraction often settle into something more comfy and less lustful.
But although a secure partnership is a rare joy, many couples long to get that excitement back in the bedroom. How to rekindle the spark?
Often we focus on what’s going on in our minds. Are we stressed? Overtired? Worrying about work or money issues? In my view, the best way to reconnect is to focus on our bodies instead, by harnessing all five senses. By understanding how their constant interplay can make the world seem bigger, brighter and sexier. Did you know, for example, that puddings taste sweeter if you serve them in a red bowl?
Or that when we’re cold, we’re more likely to splash out on indulgent treats?
Marketing guru Russell Jones, who has helped to market products and boost brands for over ten years, revealed how harnessing the five senses can ignite your sex life (file image)
Or, more to the point here, that sex is better if men can smell doughnuts or liquorice? These are the insights, from the worlds of neuroscience and behavioural psychology, that I use every day to market products and boost brands.
At the pioneering design agency I founded ten years ago — in the process inventing an entire industry — we approach everything we do from a multi-sensory point of view.
We humans might think we’re rational beings who make well-thought-out, intelligent decisions, but we’re not.
We’re emotional machines who make emotional decisions and then explain them rationally after the event.
And once you understand the science — and become aware of the way your senses constantly influence and change you — you have the tools at hand to enhance and intensify every experience of daily life, from eating to shopping to sex.
Over the years I’ve made ice creams taste better by making the cones sound crunchier when you bite into them. I sold David Beckham’s whisky by creating a fragrance that smelled just like it tasted.
I created sounds to enhance the taste of sashimi, as part of Heston Blumenthal’s famous multi-sensory dish Sounds of the Sea, which was served with headphones coming from a conch shell that played a recording of the ocean.
I even helped enhance the soft furnishing departments of John Lewis, by introducing nostalgic aromas and lowering the lighting to encourage shoppers to feel inspired.
Russell said the art of getting it on engages every sense both consciously and at a primal, instinctive level (file image)
Now I’m ready to share the secrets of my trade with you, so you can use them to improve every aspect of your life — starting in the bedroom. Having sex may well be the most multi-sensory thing we ever do.
From attraction to flirtation to intimacy itself, the art of getting it on engages every sense both consciously and at a primal, instinctive level. And while our tastes are idiosyncratic, I’ve learned there are certain sounds and aromas, colours and shapes that have the same physiological effects on us all.
Whether you’re in the lustful throes of a new relationship or in a decades-long marriage, these sensory signals can maximise fun and enjoyment at just the right moment . . .
DITCH CHANEL No 5
It might not be the first sense you think of in the bedroom, but scent plays a huge part in how we appeal to our partners — and can be the sole trigger for a night of passion.
Experts now believe the act of kissing evolved because it gets our noses and tongues involved at the closest range possible, enabling us to smell and taste the compatibility of a potential mate.
We’re unconsciously attracted to chemicals called pheromones, or hormonal aroma molecules that activate specific responses in us.
The scent of cinnamon, vanilla, anise and, errr, doughnuts are all proven to help build arousal
We’re influenced by them at an instinctive level in our quest for genetic advantage — in theory, they’ll help us sniff out and get busy with someone who has a different immune system to ours, in order to produce children who will be less susceptible to disease.
So the first rule of great sex is: go natural. If you’re planning a romantic evening, and feel in need of a shower after a day at work, don’t apply artificial scents afterwards — keep your skin unadulterated.
If you’re clean, you don’t need any scent at all. According to research by psychologist Rachel Herz of Brown University in the U.S., we’re much more attracted to a person’s natural odour than to any artificial perfume they apply.
Smell was more important for women than for men, but way up there for both. So if you’re together, the chances are you already have an instinctual affinity for the smell of each other’s skin.
PAINT IT CARAMEL
Research reveals people who have caramel-coloured walls have sex most often, averaging around three and a halftimes a week (file image)
In 2016, a survey asked over 2,000 Britons about their bedroom wall colours and sexual behaviours.
The results showed that people who have caramel-coloured walls have sex most often, averaging around three and a half times a week (the UK national average is around twice a week).
Tips to shop smarter
Research has shown we choose unhealthier food if we shop carrying a heavy bag. The weight transfers to a feeling of emotional burden, and we try to compensate by going for more calorific or comforting items.
Russell recommends keeping your coat on to avoid splashing out when shopping
WEAR YOUR COAT
The feeling of air on the skin can change decision-making, and if you’re cold you’re more likely to opt for an indulgent food option than a healthy one. Shops know this! One survey measured the temperatures inside a range of high street stores and found the more expensive shops were all colder. Keep your coat on and you’ll avoid splashing out.
We link green wrappers with health foods because green reminds us of nature — even if the calories are sky-high. The same goes for packaging with a rough texture. For all you know, the food might be full of chemicals, but we’re so influenced by our senses that an apparently recycled package makes us believe whatever’s inside is eco friendly.
LISTEN TO THE MUSIC
In one study, a wine aisle in Tesco played French music, and the next week German oompah. Usually people bought four times more French wine than German, but when French music was playing, the ratio hit roughly eight to one. However, when oompah was playing, German wine outsold French around two to one.
Interestingly, only two per cent of people acknowledged it had affected their choice. The other 98 per cent denied it had anything to do with it!
The researchers believe that’s because of a learned association between the colour and the pleasure of eating caramel and chocolate, and the link between chocolate and sex.
Can’t afford to redecorate? A nice amber glow in the room, created using coloured lightbulbs or just an amber lampshade, is the nearest lighting can get to a sumptuous caramel — and it also links sensorially to the warm scents of vanilla and nutmeg, with each element enhancing the other and creating an enveloping sensual atmosphere.
KEEP THINGS CURVY
Human beings on the whole prefer the appearance of curved, fluid lines rather than straight and angular shapes.
In 1947, Cambridge psychologist Robert H. Thouless suggested that because curves are fundamental to the human body, sexual desires are at the root of our aesthetic appreciation of them.
In the world of product design and packaging, this is taken very seriously — because it works.
You’ll notice that the more pleasurable the product, the more fluid shapes are used in graphics, fonts, logos and packaging.
When you decorate and furnish your bedroom, look for rounded contours in 3D shapes. Choose patterns on bed throws and rugs with curved and fluid designs to create a pleasingly decadent environment.
One somewhat startling U.S. study appeared to prove that the smell of pumpkin pie improved a man’s erection by 40 per cent!
Many of the other successfully arousing aromas were also food-related — doughnuts, for example, or liquorice — and one reason for that might be evolutionary.
It was after our ancestors came back from hunting that they were more likely to get lucky. Maybe for British men, you should light a candle scented with familiar treats such as rhubarb crumble or strawberries and cream.
What we should take from these results is that men respond physiologically and emotionally to enticing aromas. The key qualities of these baked desserts are warmth, spice and sweetness.
Cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla and anise are key ingredients in the top three scents in the study. Lighting a sweet-scented candle creates a feeling of warmth, and the scent of these food-related ingredients will help things get under way.
WEAR FOXY RED
Researchers in New York found men ask women more intimate questions and sit closer to them, if they’re wearing red (file image)
No surprises here, but red really is a powerful seductive tool. In mating rituals throughout nature, many species perform some kind of display that involves red, perhaps revealing the colour on their plumage and ruffling it in the direction of a potential mate. Humans are no different, and researchers suggest that red is an in-built instigator of what they call ‘reproduction-relevant behaviour’.
A study in New York showed that during flirty conversation, men asked women more intimate questions and sat closer to them if the women wore a red shirt than if they wore green or blue. Another study showed women judged men in photos to be more attractive both when the men were wearing red and when standing against a red background. This innate connection may partly explain the attraction of red lipstick. The use of red across the ages to symbolise sex, lust and passion stems from this primal trigger.
PLAY THE CLASSICS
Professor Daniel Müllensiefen who is a music psychologist at Goldsmiths University in London, discovered men’s top choice of song for before and during sex is Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye (file image)
Research shows men make more effort to play music they think their partner will want in the bedroom, while women are more likely to play their own favourite music. If you want some ideas, Professor Daniel Müllensiefen, a music psychologist at Goldsmiths University in London, ran a survey of 2,000 men and women in 2012, asking for their top musical choices before and during sex. Unimaginatively, the favourite choice for men was Let’s Get it On by Marvin Gaye, while the top choice for women was the soundtrack to the film Dirty Dancing.
The consistent qualities of the tracks that get people in the mood were ‘relaxed’, ‘tender’, ‘peaceful’, ‘happy’ and ‘low-key’.
Another study suggested that music with intertwining melodies — such as Ravel’s Bolero — encourages closeness in the throes of passion, as lovers get caught up in the music and feel it represents themselves intertwined together.
THE ‘SKIN ORGASM’
There are other qualities of music that can add to the physical act of love, as well as heightening it emotionally.
An effect sometimes referred to as ‘skin orgasms’ has been shown to be induced by musical passages that ‘violate our expectations’.
Scientists at Purdue University in Indiana claim people who ate or drank something sugary rated potential partners as more attractive (file image)
One study showed that around 80 per cent of subjects experienced shivers down the spine when listening to music that contained sudden changes in harmony, unexpected moments, or places where there’s an unusual discordance between two elements.
Almost 40 per cent of the people in the study connected the sensation to sexual arousal.
Pieces of music that have been shown to generate skin orgasms include Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No.2 and Someone Like You by Adele.
Make a playlist of music that causes this sensation and put it on in the background, making your skin more sensitive while you focus on the intimacy of the moment.
FEED HIM SUGAR
If you’re in a new relationship, your feelings towards each other will be spurred on by eating something sweet.
Scientists at Purdue University in Indiana showed that people who ate or drank something sugary rated potential partners as more attractive and were more interested in starting a long-term relationship with them.
TOUCH WITH A BRUSH
Renowned sex therapist Linda De Villers, claims it’s possible to forge deeper levels of connection by spending time stroking each other’s arms and back (file image)
In an average relationship, men are the main touchers in the first year, after which women take over the role.
But the amount we touch tends to drop off as time goes by.
Learning how to touch each other again is one of the best ways to reconnect.
The feel of skin is the most sexually stimulating texture on a physiological and emotional level; gently caressing each other releases oxytocin, ‘the love hormone’, which has a role in how many orgasms we have and how much we enjoy them, and in helping to forge romantic bonds.
Renowned sex therapist Linda De Villers is an exponent of what she calls ‘non goal-focused sensual touch’.
She recommends spending time stroking each other’s arms and back, getting comfortable with being both a giver and receiver of touch, in order to forge deeper levels of connection.
She suggests a multi-textural exercise for couples that can help you explore the textures and sensations you most enjoy. She suggests collecting up to ten different objects of varying materials, textures and temperatures, for instance: a fur mitt, a piece of satin ribbon, an ice cube, an emery board, a soft artist’s paintbrush and a toothbrush.
Lie down and close your eyes, letting your partner (or yourself) stroke the side of your body and noting what you like or dislike, and the sensations that you’re feeling.
…but there are also far more than five senses
We all know about the five senses — but there are many more than that. We actually have anywhere between nine and 30-something, depending on the view of the scientist counting them.
They include proprioception — our sense of where our limbs are in space; it’s compromised when drunk, which is why people can’t walk in a straight line.
Kinaesthesia is the ability to sense movement, which is fooled when you sit on a motionless train, watch another one next to you pull out in the opposite direction, and for a second think you’re the one moving.
And interoception is an awareness of internal sensations, such as hunger. Here are just a few of the astonishing secrets of our senses . . .
Russell said regardless of where people are in the world, they are most likely to agree the taste of a lemon is fast and sharp (file image)
- Is the taste of a lemon fast or slow? Answer without thinking and I bet you said fast. I’ve asked the question to a room of 200 people and they’ve all shouted out ‘fast’ in unison. It’s an example of synaesthesia, where two or more senses are experienced together. Regardless of where they are in the world, people will more than likely agree that the taste of a lemon is fast and sharp, high-pitched and brightly coloured.
- In-flight food is made saltier to compensate for the noise of jet engines. That’s because loud background noise can dull our other senses. If you ate those meals at home, they would taste really salty.
- They say ‘silence is golden’, but true silence can be terrifying. An ‘anechoic chamber’ is a room suspended on springs, its walls covered with an extreme version of the soundproof foam used in recording studios. All outside noise is nullified and the sound inside is dull and dead. If you spend a few seconds inside, you lose your sense of space and your balance starts to go. Then you start to hear the inner workings of your body — the pulse in your neck and the blood pumping around your ears becomes deafening.
- Smell is a deceptively vital sense. Research at the University of South Carolina, shows that 76 per cent of people with anosmia — total loss of smell — suffer depression, anxiety, and feelings of vulnerability. This figure is way more than those who lose their hearing or sight.
- Humans analyse personality by looking at another person’s face, and make judgments in as little as one-tenth of a second. Round features, big eyes and baby-like characteristics, for example, instinctively create trust. In a review of 506 small claims court hearings, researchers identified that people were more likely to win, whether they were plaintiff or defendant, if they were baby-faced or attractive — because of our innate visual prejudices.
SENSE: Unlock Your Senses and Improve Your Life by Russell Jones is published by Welbeck on 20 August, hardback £12.99.