Sensate focus exercises – For prostate cancer problems

Sensate focus exercises may be a way to develop a new kind of intimacy when erection problems occur after treatment for prostate cancer.

Originally developed by Masters & Johnson, these exercises are typically done in stages over a period of several weeks.

How they start

One person starts as the “giver” or “toucher” and the other partner is the “receiver.”

Partners then switch roles until they reach stage 3, when there is mutual touching.

Stage 1

  • Touching, stroking, or kissing occurs anywhere on the body, except the breasts and genital areas
  • The non-dominant hand is used (the hand a person does not write with)
  • The giver starts with his/her partner’s face
  • Time is taken to explore every area of the body

Different types of touch may also be explored, including:

  • Rubbing
  • Squeezing
  • Tickling

Even if a man gets an erection, do not have intercourse or try to have an orgasm.  After 20 to 30 minutes, or longer, switch roles.  Practice this 2 to 3 times a week for 1 to 2 weeks

The goal is to experience the sensation of touching, not to try to arouse your partner.

Stage 2

  • Starts with stage 1 touching
  • The breast and genital areas are explored, but intercourse or touching that leads to orgasm is not attempted
  • After 20 to 30 minutes, roles are switched
  • Practiced 2 to 3 times a week for 1 to 2 weeks before moving to stage 3

Stage 3

  • Involves mutual touching, beginning with stage 1 touching, and then progressing to stage 2 touching
  • Even if both partners become aroused, sexual intercourse or engaging in touching that leads to orgasm is not attempted
  • Practiced 2 to 3 times a week for 1 to 2 weeks before moving to stage 4

Stage 4

  • Starts with touching exercises from stages 1 to 3
  • Partners get into position for intercourse, but do not have intercourse
  • Partners rub their bodies against one another
  • After one or two sessions, partners move to partial or full intercourse (if a man is able), or touching or other activities that lead to orgasm

Touching without talking


  • Do not talk during sessions as it can be distracting
  • Instead, they decide ahead of time what physical cues they can give each other to indicate when certain touching feels good
  • For example, if more pressure is desired, the receiver can press down on the giver’s hand
  • Or if touching is not pleasant, gently pulling a hand away is a signal

After each session is over, partners can freely talk about what worked — or what didn’t.


Sensate focus tips

  • Schedule sessions when both partners are awake and alert, will not be pressed for time, or be interrupted
  • Set the mood by lighting a candle, turning off the lights, or playing romantic music that both partners enjoy
  • Decide who is the giver before each session
  • Enhance touching sensations with scented oils, lotions, or massage cream


Back to sex after prostate cancer


Discovery Health. Sensate focus. Accessed January 27, 2009.

Stanford University. Sensate focus. Accessed January 27, 2009.

University of California. Sensate focus. Accessed January 27, 2009.

University of Michigan Health System. Sensual touch. Accessed January 27, 2009.

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