10 Expert-Approved Fingering Tips
When it comes to satisfying your partner's sexual desires, enthusiasm and a willingness to experiment will usually get you pretty far. But it also helps to constantly be brushing up on your core skill set, and if your partner happens to have a vulva, those skills should include knowing how to finger them.
And knowing what not to do is just as important as knowing what to do. "Remember that fingering someone's vagina isn't meant to look or feel like a jackhammering penis — unless your partner specifically asks for that! — so the fast in-and-out rigid finger thrusting we often stereotypically associate with fingering likely won't be the way to go," says Anne Hodder-Shipp, an American College of Sexologists (ACS)-certified sex educator. "Remember that your fingers have joints and can curl and bend."
Here, Hodder-Shipp and other experts share their 10 best tips for ensuring your next fingering — aka hand sex — session is a steamy hit.
1. Keep It Clean
It might seem rather basic, but Hodder-Shipp encourages anyone prepping to finger their partner to be sure their hands are clean, and their nails are trimmed and clean.
In fact, it might be fun for someone to exfoliate and moisturize their hands before playing with their partner, advises Jamila Dawson, LMFT, an interdisciplinary sex therapist.
If you have longer nails or a special manicure: Hodder-Shipp recommends taking a nitrile glove and putting a cotton ball at the tip of each finger, so when you wear it, the cotton creates a cushy barrier between the manicure and your partner's body.
2. Consider This Anatomy Lesson
Porn would have us believe that when it comes to any kind of penetration of the vagina, deeper is better, but that's not always the case. The majority of a vagina's nerves are located in the first one-third of the vaginal canal, points out Hodder-Shipp, so going super-deep isn't really necessary unless that's the sensation you would like.
3. Reach for the Lube
"Lube is an absolute must during hand sex," points out Gigi Engle, ACS, a certified sex educator and author. "The fingers against a clitoris — or inside a vagina — require a barrier and some extra lubrication to not feel like sandpaper pushed up against your nether regions. Always generously lube up your partner's fingers and the clitoris before moving forward."
4. Start Slow
"Keep in mind that the vagina 'tents' and elongates when aroused," explains Hodder-Shipp. For that reason, you'll want to be sure your partner is especially aroused and receptive to penetration before inserting a finger — or anything else, for that matter.
One sexy move to try as you're working on getting your partner hot, bothered, and ready for more: "Cupping the vulva to let the heat of the hand transfer to the vulva can be very sensual," advises Dawson.
In general, it's ideal to go slow anytime you start a new sexual activity, says Hodder-Shipp. That way, you can see how it feels and get into the groove of it. Not to mention that, at times, fast movement in the vaginal area can feel uncomfortable, especially as you get started, she notes. All of that said, be sure to ease into penetration of any kind.
5. Zero In On the Clitoris
As you begin to ramp up the intensity of the act, Engle advises "definitely focusing" on the clitoris — especially the outer part at the top of the clitoris. "This organ is the only one in the entire human body whose purpose is pleasure," she notes. "It has 8,000 nerve endings in the external glans alone, which is double the nerve endings in the glans of the penis."
She continues, "Much like with oral sex, hand sex will most likely deliver an orgasm when your partner moves in a consistent motion over the glans clitoris." However, unlike oral sex, you'll want to be a bit more gentle when you're using your fingers. "If you press down too hard, it can become uncomfortable," she says.
The giving partner should use their pointer and middle fingers to make clockwise circles around the clitoris, advises Engle. Then, they can try moving the fingers up and down, side to side, or in a figure eight.
If you're the receiving partner, listen to your body, and don't be afraid to ask for something else if it isn't working for you, she says.
6. Spend Time at the Very Front of the Vaginal Opening
Although the clit is often essential for reaching orgasm, you'll also want to stimulate the very front of the vaginal opening, as it's packed full of nerves, explains Engle.
"The bottom of the opening, called the fourchette, is an excellent place to tease and touch," she says. "Try pressing your fingers around the vaginal opening. Perhaps slip a finger inside. Don't stop there, touch and tease the labia. Perhaps you'd enjoy some gentle tugging. Your labia cover the internal legs of the clitoris. Try different things and see what works for your body."
7. Remember That the Receiving Partner Is in Charge
"If you're the one doing the fingering, your partner is really the one in charge," says Hodder-Shipp. "Only they know how it feels and what adjustments they might need for it to feel pleasurable, so it's essential to be present and ready to receive feedback and pay attention to what your partner's voice and body language sound and look like."
Although some people make noises and will say exactly what they want — or don't — it's important to bear in mind that not everyone feels comfortable making vocal noises as they receive pleasure, says Hodder-Shipp. So while quiet isn't necessarily a bad sign, it's a sign to check in and ask things like, "how does that feel?", "do you like that?", or "want some more lube?"
And don't be nervous about switching things up in the moment in order to find your groove. Kristine D'Angelo, a clinical sexologist and certified sex coach, says, "While stimulating the clitoris, switch between using your fingertips, full length of your fingers, and even the palm of your hand," she recommends. "Ask your partner, 'More pressure or less pressure?' Some people need light pressure while others like a lot of pressure."
8. Once You've Found a Rhythm That's Working, Keep It Up
Though you might be looking for a go-to cadence that's guaranteed to leave your partner breathless, there is no one "best" rhythm to follow, notes Hodder-Shipp. "Every vagina responds to finger and hand simulation differently," she explains.
Still, once you find a rhythm that seems to be working — either because your partner is moaning and saying "yes, exactly like that" or their hips are lifting and moving along with the motion of your fingers — do not switch it up. "Keep that rhythm until your partner says they're done or orgasm happens," says Hodder-Shipp.
9. Try This "Twist"
When it comes to penetrating your partner with more than one finger, D'Angelo recommends trying this variation: "Make a V with your index and middle finger," she advises. "Twist those fingers as if you're crossing your fingers for luck but keep both fingers fairly straight as they curl. Use your crossed fingers to penetrate the vagina, and begin to slowly twist your wrist creating a swirling effect."
10. Know When to Hit the Brakes
If, as the receiving partner, anything hurts or feels uncomfortable or unpleasant, or it feels like your partner has to push their fingers inside, take a break or stop and do something that you enjoy better, advises Hodder-Shipp.
If you're the giving partner, keep communicating. As Engle notes, "Always remember that if you're not sure if something is working, simply ask: 'Does this feel good? I want to make sure what I'm doing feels good to you.'"