Should I stop touching her breasts?

Dear Alice,

My girlfriend and I have been together for two months now. When we kiss, we both enjoy it. I touch her head, neck, arms, hands, and legs, but when I go to touch her breasts, she grabs my hand and pulls away. She lets me touch them over her clothes, but not when I go up underneath her shirt. Should I stop trying to touch her every time we make out? Or, how should I talk to her about it?

— Mr. Confused

Dear Mr. Confused,

Your inclination is on point — stop trying to touch her breasts every time you two make out; that is, until she tells or directs you otherwise. Your girlfriend is sending you signals about how she likes to be touched; although non-verbal, it seems clear that touching her breasts (under her shirt) is off-limits. People communicate with one another in many ways — in this case, your girlfriend is using body language to tell you something, and you're trying to interpret and translate, or figure out how to respond.

Right now, the only way to figure out why she wouldn't like to be touched in that particular spot is to speak to her about it. You sound open to that, which is great! Now, to get to the how of talking to her. Often, conversations such as these feel much harder than they actually are — it’s the anticipation and the not-knowing of how the other person will react that can feel difficult. You may want to find a time outside of the bedroom (e.g., when you’re not making out). This will hopefully take some of the pressure off. You can say something like, "I want to ensure that everything we do is pleasurable, and I'd love to understand more about what makes you feel pleasure and what doesn't. I've noticed that when I touch your breasts above your clothing, you're as into it as I am, but when I try to touch you skin-to-skin, you pull my hand away. Can we talk a little bit more about that? I also want to know what sorts of things are off-limits or may be hard boundaries for you.” The next step: Listen.

She may give you a reason why she doesn’t want to be touched on her breasts or she may not. Either way, opening the door for conversation is a great start. Maybe it's too early on in the relationship and she hasn't yet established a comfort level that will allow her to enjoy the feel of your touch; maybe it feels unpleasant to her when someone touches her bare breasts; maybe she's self-conscious about that part of her body; maybe she has not had any or much experience being physically intimate with another; or maybe it's all or none of these reasons.

The concerns with non-verbal communication is that it can be misinterpreted. Maybe you can make an agreement that the next time you're intimate together, you both use words to communicate what you want and when, and if and how you want to take things to the next level. You may even find that consistent verbal communication during intimacy adds a dimension to the experience and enhances pleasure for both of you! 

Everyone has different likes and dislikes in terms of sexual activity and intimacy. Learning about your partner's needs and desires, and communicating your own needs and desires, serve as key steps toward a pleasurable, healthy sexual relationship.

Last updated Oct 15, 2021
Originally published Jul 09, 2004

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