Your neck, your navel, your armpits, your earlobes, the soles of your feet, your inner thighs: What do all of these body parts have in common? They're all very ticklish spots, true. They're also some of the parts of the human body most receptive to sensual touch and stimulation.

Our individual sexual arousal patterns could be likened to our fingerprints: unique and complex designs, they help to identify who we are as sexual beings. Our erogenous zones are like hot spots on a sensual map marking the sensitive territories of our bodies. When touched, kissed, or stroked, these parts of our bodies awaken.

The genital areas of our bodies are of course considered erogenous zones. But there are several more mysterious nooks and crannies and surprising expanses of our bodies that can be quite responsive and sensitive to stimulation. Why are these body zones so enjoyably receptive to contact?

Tickle and touch

For many people, the more sensitive and nerve-rich areas of the body are also the most erogenous. With dense populations of nerve endings, the genital areas are usually the liveliest of erogenous zones. During the excitement phase, the body floods these regions with blood, and they become hotbeds, so to speak, of sensory response. Exploring the rest of the body, we may encounter stimulation in unlikely places... like the armpit? Or the feet? Yep, for some, sexual arousal works from the ground up. But where one person feels a turn-on, another feels a tickle.

The mechanics of tickling may explain a bit of why the soles of our feet, the tips of our toes, or the small of our back can be erogenous zones. When we feel the first brush of a tickle, our skin's nerve receptors sense the touch and send a message to the brain saying, "Hey, we've been touched!" Then the brain processes that you were, in fact, touched by someone other than yourself.

Next, for unexplained, possibly evolutionary reasons, our bodies respond with a complex and, to many people, pleasurable reaction, one full of reflexive muscle contractions and twitches, not to mention goosebumps and that ticklish tingling. Toss in passionate feelings and some romantic lighting, and you're right there in the excitement phase of sexual response - all flushed skin, quickened pulse, and accelerated breathing.

Seek out the sensitive spots

Our skin contains nerves that respond to sense temperature, pain, light pressure, and deep pressure. Multiply these by a person's individual tastes and fetishes, and the routes to arousal seem endless.

Remember that the areas where nerves are more densely packed and concentrated tend to be the most senstive. When you're hoping to excite your partner, think tender flesh: the back of the knee would obviously be more responsive to touch than the kneecap (though again, you can't account for individual taste!).

Seek out the earlobes, neck, feet, lips, armpits, navel, inner thighs, and nipples. And don't rule out the busy brain! Our minds are a bit different from the other erogenous zones - of course, you can't touch, stroke, or kiss a mind directly. But you can finesse the mind with the sorts of sensory input that it most enjoys. Sights, like your partner's face or the romantic lighting in the room, the scent of perfume, powder, or those enigmatic pheromones, the sound of a lover's voice... all of these can certainly be compelling short-cuts to a zone of arousal.