Nipple stimulation

Gabrielle d'Estrées's rouged nipple is tweaked by her sister, the Duchess of Villars, circa 1600.[1]

Nipple stimulation or breast stimulation is a common human sexual practice, either by itself or as part of other sexual activities. The practice may be performed upon, or by, people of any gender or sexual orientation. Adult women and men report that breast stimulation may be used to both initiate and enhance sexual arousal.[2]

The male or female breast, nipple and areola develop similarly in the fetus and during infancy. At puberty, the male's breasts remain rudimentary but the female's develop further, mainly due to the presence of estrogen and progesterone, and become more sensitive. All breasts have the same number of nerve endings no matter how large they are. Accordingly, smaller breasts are more sensitive while larger breasts may require more forceful stimulation.[2] Breasts, and especially the nipples, are highly erogenous zones, for both men and women, and have a heightened sensitivity, the stimulation of which may produce sexual excitement. Erect nipples can be a prominent indicator of a female's sexual arousal, and the female's sexual partner may, as a result, find this erotically stimulating.

Physiological response

Erotic lactation (oral nipple stimulation)

The stimulation of women's nipples promotes the production and release of oxytocin and prolactin.[3] During the stimulation of the nipples, large amounts of oxytocin are released, which would normally prepare women's breasts for breastfeeding. Besides creating maternal feelings, it also decreases a woman's anxiety and increases feelings of bonding and trust.[4][5]

The release of oxytocin in a woman's body can lead to sexual arousal, with a resulting physiological response, including the erection of the nipples.[3] Nipple erection is due to the contraction of smooth muscle under the control of the autonomic nervous system and is a product of the pilomotor reflex which causes goose bumps. Nipple erection can also be caused by a mild tactile stimulation or as a response to cold temperature in both males and females.[6] Nipple erection may also result during sexual arousal in females and males, or during breastfeeding. Both are caused by the release of oxytocin. An erection of the nipples makes them even more sensitive to the touch. Some women can achieve an orgasm as a result of nipple stimulation. A survey in 2006 has found that sexual arousal in about 82% of young females and 52% of young males arises or is enhanced by direct stimulation of nipples, with only 7–8% reporting that it decreased their arousal.[7][8] A 2011 study using magnetic resonance imaging has shown that the area of the sensory cortex in a woman's brain associated with the genitals, is aroused by stimulating her nipples. The same brain areas connected to genitals were aroused as well in men who stimulated their nipples.[9]

Prolactin produces sexual gratification after sexual activity. Prolactin represses the effect of dopamine, which is responsible for sexual arousal,[10] and is thought to cause the sexual refractory period following orgasm during which the individual (typically a male) does not desire any further sexual stimulation.[11]

See also


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  1. Hagen, Rose-Marie; Rainer Hagen (2002). What Great Paintings Say, Volume 2. Köln: Taschen. p. 205. ISBN 9783822813720. Retrieved 2015-10-22.
  2. 1 2 Levin, Roy J. "The breast/nipple/areola complex and human sexuality". Sexual & Relationship Therapy. Vol.21, Issue 2 (May 2006). p.237–249
  3. 1 2 Levin R, Meston C (May 2006). "Nipple/Breast stimulation and sexual arousal in young men and women". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 3 (3): 450–4. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2006.00230.x. PMID 16681470.
  4. "Physiologic Mechanism of Nipple Stimulation". Medscape Today from WebMD. Retrieved 2010-11-20.
  5. Lee HJ, Macbeth AH, Pagani JH, Young WS (June 2009). "Oxytocin: the Great Facilitator of Life". Progress in Neurobiology. 88 (2): 127–51. doi:10.1016/j.pneurobio.2009.04.001. PMC 2689929Freely accessible. PMID 19482229.
  6. " definition". Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  7. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, Vol 3, May 2006. by Roy Levin.
  8. Levin, R.; Meston, C. (2006). "Nipple/Breast Stimulation and Sexual Arousal in Young Men and Women". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 3 (3): 450–454. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2006.00230.x. PMID 16681470.
  9. Komisaruk, B. R., Wise, N., Frangos, E., Liu, W.-C., Allen, K. and Brody, S. (2011). "Women's Clitoris, Vagina, and Cervix Mapped on the Sensory Cortex: fMRI Evidence". The Journal of Sexual Medicine. 8 (10): 2822–2830. doi:10.1111/j.1743-6109.2011.02388.x. Surprise finding in response to nipple stimulation: Lay summary Check |laysummary= value (help) (5 August 2011).
  10. Haake, P.; Exton, M.S.; Haverkamp, J.; Krämer, M.; Leygraf, N.; Hartmann, U.; Schedlowski, M.; Krueger, T.H.C. (April 2002). "Absence of orgasm-induced prolactin secretion in a healthy multi-orgasmic male subject". International Journal of Impotence Research. 14 (2). pp. 133–135. doi:10.1038/sj/ijir/3900823. Retrieved 2007-07-30
  11. New Scientist article on prolactin function relating to sexUniversity of Paisley and the ETH Zürich
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