Feel Me UpThe Incomparable Intimacy of Second Base

We have learned to successfully flirt our way into mutual attraction.
We have consent.
We’ve had some hot make outs.

First base is known.

You may find yourself thinking, as I did: What exactly are the other bases anyway? And how far can you go with this metaphor without knowing anything or feeling any curiosity about baseball?

I did some research on how the bases have traditionally been understood (I couldn’t find anything on whether it is intentional that these sex metaphors are based on a game that is mad slow and rarely exciting, #lowshade).

What I learned is that after kissing there’s second base—feeling/getting felt up and fondled. Third base is oral sex. And then fourth base is generally penetration: activities ranging on the spectrum from fucking to making sweet love!

(It’s a bit unclear where fingering and handjobs fit in. Some sources I consulted said it’s not a base, but more of a shortstop between second and third bases. Others placed it as a part of the spoils of second or third base heading toward fourth. For some, fingering or hand jobs are the peak of the sexual experience. For me it’s a crucial part of third base that sometimes covers the ‘needs’ of fourth. But I invite you to place it on your…field…wherever feels right for you.)

I want to spend some time on each of these bases. We’ve covered first, so let’s start with second base.

First of all: Feeling someone up and getting felt up are art forms!

Second, most of us are given none of the right frames or tools or colors for this art form. After delightful chemistry and hot kisses, we get lost in the landscape of touch. I am offering up the following areas of focus as a sort of corrective ‘feeling people up’ map.


Quickies have a separate name for a reason: They’re supposed to be a special, different activity, where you and your lover do sex things really quickly because of time or capacity constraints. But, a quickie pace can become the norm if we aren’t paying attention. We live in the age of a 24 hour-news cycle. As soon as something happens to us, we are supposed to react, publicly and coherently. Everything is speeding up and by. Pornography suggests sex should be a sprint to see who can come fastest.

In all that speedy socialization, it may feel indulgent to take time to actual feel another person. Second base is about slowing down and feeling the texture of your lover, where they are soft or hard, where they need touch, gathering them up in your arms, noticing what thrills them. And then, as your systems light up, speeding up together.

Intimacy grows with each breath you offer another, each breath you spend focusing on connection. So does the quality of the sexual encounter.

Quality of Touch

Speaking of quality, second base is also the place where you get to set a standard for the quality of touch you will bring to each other.

In my somatic training, we talk about the distinction between touches—a touch that is present or a touch that conveys absence; a touch that explores versus touch that observes. There are all kinds of touches that wouldn’t be great in bed (or wherever you’re doing your feeling up). Think about the way the medical industry objectifies our bodies, it is often the touch that is looking for what is wrong. Or the touch of a masseuse who does the same set of moves on each client. Or the way people touch you when they are approaching you as a sex toy more than a lover. (If that’s what y’all are into, cool. But if not, it doesn’t feel good.)

Second base is a great place to learn the quality of touch you want, and what your lover wants. It’s also a great place to figure out the unique pace and connection between you and this lover. Do they touch you right? Do they respond to your touch? Do you feel comfortable telling them when/if you need something to be softer, more firm, slowed way down, etc.? Can they hear your needs without getting defensive?

Setting a standard for quality of touch actually sets a standard for all contact between you, but it can be really hard to talk about. You generally can’t just yell “harder!” when someone is stroking your thigh. But you can say, “I want you to grab me. Really get a hold on me.” Or “I love when you touch me like that” when the quality is just right.

If you aren’t comfortable communicating your needs here, you might want to slow down before going further.

Groping and Fondling

Feel the flesh! Feel the flesh.

Grab handfuls of your lover, flatten your hand and feel the texture of your palm distinct against the texture of her thigh. Pull his hips to you and find the softest parts of him. Hold each other.

Become one. When we touch, there are clusters of organized atoms coming into contact, becoming one from two or more bodies. Separation is an illusion.

Feeling Your Body Whole

Second base is when the intensity of the kissing and desire gets to spread to the entire body. From grabbing your lover’s hair tight with the promise of future topping, to stroking your lover’s jaw, tracing your fingers up their back, all the way down to a foot rub, this is your time to get to know the erotic landscape of your lover.

This can be healing for those of us who move through life with a practice of compartmentalization—living a life in parts: parts you can touch, parts to ignore. For a long time I didn’t really let lovers touch my belly or my limbs. I didn’t include those parts in my sexual landscape because I wasn’t confident in them. I was a big smile and boobs. It’s been through lovers moving slowly that I’ve learned that basically all of me feels amazing, and my erogenous zones are…unexpected. Second base is where you learn what opens up the pleasure between you and your lover.

Hot and Heavy Homework

The next time you’re getting it on with a new or ongoing lover, double the time you spend at second base. Get curious about how long you can spend feeling each other up, and notice what new sensations come up in your body as you slow into the contact.

by adrienne maree brown
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adrienne maree brown is a pleasure activist, writer and facilitator living in detroit. Co-editor of Octavia’s Brood, author of Emergent Strategy: Shaping Change, Changing Worlds 

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