Much of your sensual style and your tolerance for intimacy was formed early in life. Every family has its informal (usually unconscious) rules about touching, smelling, tasting, and how people should talk to each other. In some families meals were devoured with great gusto, sunsets were savored, and on Sunday mornings the children piled into the family bed and cuddled and played like a litter of newborn pups. In other families food was fuel, touch was taboo, and sensuality was forbidden.
• Return in your imagination to a time before you were ten years old, and re-create the tactile and sensual environment of your early childhood — the smells, sounds, colors, textures.
• What were the aromas of love? What did your father smell like? Your mother? What scents do you associate with care? Baking bread? Tobacco? Whiskey? Baby powder? Perfume? Freshly washed sheets?
• Who touched whom? In what ways? How much touching and cuddling was there? What did you mother's body feel like? Your father's? What physical punishment was there? Violence? Sexual abuse?
• How much permission did you get from your parents to be sensual as distinct from being sexual?
• What objects did you find beautiful? What textures delighted your skin? A teddy bear, a cuddle blanket, Mother's fur coat, denim jeans, a hot bath?
• Describe a friend, a lover or mate, and a child with whom you are now intimate, using only sensual language, without any evaluation. What aromas, tastes, sounds, and kinds of touch do you enjoy in your multiple modes of loving?
• How closely do you link sensuality and sexuality? Do you have permission to be sensual with members of the opposite sex without being sexual? With members of the same sex?
• Experiment with escalating the sensual element in your relationships. Without doing violence to your sense of proper proximity and boundaries, put your hand on a friend's shoulder, touch the arm of an acquaintance who is telling you a funny or sad story, hug your teen son (even if he is a hedgehog), massage the shoulders of someone who complains of a headache, walk arm in arm with your best friend. Open your nose and break the taboo against smelling. Become a connoisseur of human aromas. Listen to the changing tones, cadences, and moods in the voices of the people you meet during the day.
The world makes sense only when the senses make love.— Sam Keen in To Love and Be Loved