"Shallowing" Is The Sex Trend You Probably Didn't Know You Love

Less is more.


Dr. Katie Spalding


Dr. Katie Spalding

Freelance Writer

Katie has a PhD in maths, specializing in the intersection of dynamical systems and number theory.

Freelance Writer

two fingers on a chocolate orange that has been cut in half, on a pink background

To keep this safe for work, here's a completely innocent picture of somebody enjoying a chocolate orange.

Image credit: July Prokopiv/

Everybody’s talking about “shallowing”, the new sex act guaranteed to increase Pleasure For Her! But what is this technique? Is it really as orgasmic as they say? Should we be worried? Or is this just another “fluid bonding” situation? Don’t worry you crazy kids; we’ve got your answers.

The term “shallowing” doesn’t have a long history behind it – it was first named in the literature just two years ago. But far from being some newfangled futuristic sex maneuver, it’s likely something you’re already intimately familiar with. After all, the report that brought it to the world’s attention – a survey of thousands of women from around the world and within the US – found that about six out of every seven respondents already used the technique to make sex and masturbation more fun.


So, what does it involve? Well, the name is actually pretty descriptive: the idea is to keep penetrative touch to the entrance, and just inside, of the vagina, rather than going further in. You can use fingers, a toy, a penis, a tongue – whatever gets you off, literally – just as long as you don’t go too deep.

“If you practice penetrative sex, you might have already found it pleasurable when the head of the penis creates pressure at the vaginal entrance before or at the very beginning of penetration,” she said. “[It’s the] same with a toy or fingers,” Cecile Gasnault, brand director of sex toy company SmileMakers, told Glamour magazine last year.

“The idea is to go in only by a few centimeters,” she said.

While “less is more” doesn’t always apply when it comes to sexy times – and what is and is not erotic is of course notoriously subjective – there’s some good science backing up shallowing for pleasure. While much has been made of the extraordinary sensitivity of the clitoris, the vulva – that is, the external female genitalia (because no, you cannot see a person’s vagina from the outside unless something has gone seriously wrong) – is also packed with nerve endings. 


As a comparison for our penis-endowed pals, it’s thought that the amount of sensation felt by the vulva is roughly the same as the scrotum, and we all know how squeamish you get about that.

“[The vulva] actually contains 90 percent of the vagina's nerve endings,” Gasnault explained, “which is why its stimulation can feel very pleasurable – be it with a partner or solo. So it's worth paying some attention to it.”

But the advantages to shallowing aren’t confined to just exploiting those nerve endings. Experts recommend using the technique slowly, as “[it] can be a great way to get more in touch with your nerve endings and how they pertain to your pleasure in your body,” Marla Renee Stewart, sexologist and sexual wellness expert for sex toy company Lovers, told Well+Good.

Other benefits include increased anticipation and excitement when having sex with a partner, sex therapist and licensed clinical social worker Chanta Blue told Well+Good – and it’s a boon for when deeper penetration “isn't pleasurable, comfortable, or possible,” she added.


So: shallowing. Give it a go! Or don’t, we’re not your sex boss. Unless


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