The zone

Pub date October 20, 2009

Dear Andrea:

I read an article (I think it was in Redbook) that listed six little known erogenous zones or "hot zones." One was big toes, which they said has a direct connection to the genitals. And one was tip of the nose, which they said it is an erotic area because people get stuffy noses sometimes when they have sex. I don’t know. Is there really such a thing as an erogenous zone? What would it take for something to be a real erogenous zone? And is it worth learning these to turn my husband on? We have a good sex life, but sometimes it does seem like we just touch the same places the same way all the time.



Dear Look:

Well, don’t do that. You don’t need a list of unlikely or downright unerotic body parts (I have allergies; don’t touch it if you don’t want to get sneezed on) to inspire you to branch out a little. In the event that you do need such a list, here are some nongenital, sexually responsive spots for your perusal: nipples, necks, ears, armpits, lower backs, inner thighs, backs of knees, feet. Some of these are "erogenous" simply because they are adjacent to more traditionally eroticized areas (by the time someone’s got to your inner thigh, it’s a pretty good bet he’s going to keep going) and/or because the skin there is thin and well-supplied with both blood vessels and nerve-endings. Some do seem to have their own independent set of erotic responses (fingers, toes). And while we’re at the toes, some body parts seem to have sex lives all their own, quite divorced from any nearby genitals. Feet have their own admirers and magazines and special party nights at the sex clubs and more than 4.7 million Google hits. They don’t need a good address near the genitals to throw a party.

I think I found your article. It’s by Judy Dutton, who is, not at all coincidentally, the author of the book Redbook’s 500 Sex Tips. I guess I had Redbook filed as a "ladies’" magazine, but on closer examination, it’s more Cosmo (Dutton was an editor there too) than McCall’s. I found more "Six filthy things men want you to know" and "16 essential sex techniques you’ve never heard of" and "the top 26 mistakes you’re making in bed" articles from Redbook than I could count, though it appears the Redbook editors would have no trouble totting them up. There was even a "Top 40: excerpts from our steamiest sex articles." And in addition to what I think was our article, there were six other Redbook offerings on erogenous or "hot zones."

The Hot Zone was one of the books I read a few years ago while on an infectious diseases kick, after I had exhausted my household’s considerable stock of bubonic plague titles. So I don’t think I’m really comfortable seeing the phrase applied to, say, labia. "Erogenous zones" itself is a phrase so redolent of the ’70s, I can’t help imagining anyone who talks about them as a mustachioed gent in a denim and corduroy patchwork bell-bottomed suit. And that is not in the "hot zone," not for me. So, not knowing what to call them, here are some of the, uh, places in the article.

Big toe We’ve already established that toes and feet are both sexually responsive (to varying degrees) and the object of enormous sexual interest, but we have not established that there is any merit whatsoever to "reflexology." So there is no merit to the claim made here that stimuutf8g them "activates reflexology pathways connected to your genitals." Nor do we know that pressing on the soles of the feet can "cause energy to ‘bubble up’ the legs to the genitals." I’m not saying it can’t, mind you. Just that there’s no particular reason for it to do so.

Nose Swelling of the mucus membranes in there is a fairly common side effect of both Viagra and regular old sexual arousal. It just doesn’t particularly follow that nasal play adds to sexual arousal. And I wouldn’t pursue it during flu season.

Navel "Your navel and your clitoris have a lot in common. In the womb, these two regions grow from the same tissue, linking them neurologically in adulthood." I have no idea what this person is talking about. Also, lots of people cannot bear to have their navels prodded. It’s just too … internal. "It feels like you’re touching my soul," an old boyfriend once said. "And I don’t want you to."

We don’t really have to go on, do we? I have nothing against Redbook, but these list-type articles are a perennial favorite of lazy magazine editors, and writers gamely do their best to produce them, month after month after month. I once had a job writing lists just a tiny bit like this one for an only-just-passably-reputable men’s magazine, and you know how I managed it?

I made them up.



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