One of the first pieces of handjob advice I ever read was, "Hold your hand still and stiff on the head of a penis and rotate as if you're opening a tight jar." As I read this, my wrist bones cracked and my hand cramped sympathetically with every word. How was I ever going to be a good lover if my tiny, weak, and prone-to-inflammation hands weren’t up to the task? The demands for pussy-pleasuring sounded less intense, but why does it often seem more important—according to the "experts"—to do fancy finger work than to connect with a partner and smile (not grimace) through the process.

Hand sex—fingering, fisting, jerking someone off, giving a handjob, etc.—is a popular kind of sex, and for good reason. You can take it anywhere—no bed required. It’s loads of fun! Hand sex can serve as foreplay or stand alone, as time and desire permits. There’s no fluid exchange involved, and STI transmission risks are much lower than with other sexual activities. You don’t even have to take off all your clothes. It’s the ultimate pack-and-go sex activity. Hand sex is also a pleasure to give. Unless you have nerve damage, your hands are one of the most nerve-rich parts of your body, and are awesomely flexible to boot.

Unfortunately, sometimes hands don't work as they're supposed to. About three percent of Americans, for example, have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, and that’s only one of many medical conditions and injuries that can cause pain, numbness, or reduced movement in the hands. It’s high time we revise how we think about hand sex.

I think we need to consider hand sex, from the giver’s perspective, as something we can get deep pleasure and enjoyment from and as something we can develop into a talent all our own, based on our unique bodies and desires. So, don’t get too worked up about whether you can do the shuttlecock—which as far as I can tell involves holding a penis like a clarinet and waggling it between your hands. Don’t worry about whether you can do the Milker, or the Anvil or the Swirl. Go ahead and throw out your "ten steps to giving a handjob." They’re not going to tell you what your partner likes, and they’re probably not going to be that easy on your hands, either. You can develop a hand sex technique all your own, based on what you find hot, what your partner likes, and what your body can do. Here are just a few tools to get you started with that:

Talk…or Write…or Sign…or Morse Code

Communicate your needs and wants with your partner, and ask them to do the same for you. Find out what they like. If they reply with "surprise me" or "whatever you want to do is fine," go ahead and play, but try asking some yes or no questions like "Do you want lube?" "Do you like it hard or soft?" "Is this good?" and "How about this?" Even if you don’t know the person that well, getting some feedback from them will help both of you have more fun. Also, tell them what you can do. It could be that the unique way your hands work is a perfect fit for someone else’s body. In this interview, Eli Clare, a poet with cerebral palsy, describes discovering that his lover was aroused (rather than turned off) by feeling the termors in his hands as he touched their body.

Ergonomics Isn’t Just For Your Desk Chair

Unless sex is your job, most of you aren’t going to be doing hand sex for eight or more hours a day. If you want to prevent injuries, though, or manage current injuries or illnesses, following the principles of ergonomics actually works pretty well for sex.

Change It Up

Many hand sex guides tell you to find something that works and keep doing it. This might be great for orgasms, but doesn’t do much for hand-pain. Even if pain is your thing when it comes to sex, nerve or joint pain can signal problems leading to permanent damage. Even really good sex isn't worth that! So, change what you’re doing before those things happen.

It's Not All About the Orgasm

Remember that you don't have to get your partner off every time you engage in hand sex with them. Orgasm is just one component of sex. Even if you were the Energizer bunny, some people just can’t climax under someone else’s hands; they need their own touch and sense of timing to get it done. So relax and have fun. Even if it means just stroking your partner's cock for five minutes, or tickling their perineum between kisses. Even if you let them take over when they’re ready to get off, you can still snuggle up against them or look meaningfully into their eyes and whisper sweet nothings while you enjoy the show.


Isn’t just for intercourse. Find a position in which your body feels fully supported and relaxed. Pillows are your friend. Try moving around. If you've been kneeling on the bed, hovering over your partner, roll over on your back and let them hover for a while. Sit, stand, kneel, readjust those pillows. Get a sex swing and make the swing do the work. Have fun with it. One thing to keep in mind is that hand sex asks a lot of the little muscles in our hands and forearms. Try setting things up so your shoulders (if they’re in good shape) are doing the work. Or, better yet, if your playmate can move their hips, get them to do the necessary movement so you can stay mostly still. Speaking of which...

Be Still

When we think hand sex, we usually think movement — rapid circling of the clit, firm stroking of a cock. Try, instead, just laying your hand over your partner's genitals, maybe squeezing a little, maybe fluttering your fingers. Look into their eyes. Tell them a sexy story, or ask them to tell you what they’re thinking. Let the warmth and pressure from your hand arouse your playmate, and let the feel of their genitals under your sensitive fingers excite you too.

Don't Limit Yourself to Your Hands

As you engage in hand sex, be creative and get other body parts in on the action. Caress or tickle your partner with your hair, toes, the sole of your foot, or the fingers and nails of your other hand. Toys can also enhance your hand sex play. A toy with moving parts, like a rabbit style vibe or the Stronic, does the movement for you, leaving your hands free to roam. Vibrators are not known to cause permanent damage to healthy nerves, but if you have any sort of nerve damage, you should check with your healthcare provider about whether a buzzing vibrator will cause problems. Similarly, if holding a vibe causes you pain, stop. If you have access to a sex toy shop where they let you handle the toys, you could experiment to see which ones have less vibration in the handle and are easier for you to hold. Is grip an issue for you when playing with a penis? If you need something bigger to wrap your hand around, a penis sleeve might be the answer. A sleeve like this one will give you something squishy to hold, and these sleeves have firm plastic cases for better grip. Lube can also add more sensation to your touch, meaning your fingers don’t have to work as hard.

If It Starts to Hurt, You Can Choose to Stop

If you feel pain or numbness in your fingers, or your wrist is cramping, it’s usually a good idea to stop whatever you’re doing that might be making that happen. Then again, sometimes if you're majorly turned on you might decide to push through the pain. The decision to perservere needs to be a conscious one, though. You do not have to grin and bear it. I said it above, but it bears repeating: You don’t have to bring anyone to orgasm with your hands. In other words, you don’t owe them an orgasm. No matter how much the other person is enjoying themselves, it doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. It’s your choice.

Remember, sex is all play, and it should be fun.