What is Foreplay?

Historically foreplay is a type of sex that is thought to happen before penetrative intercourse. However, that’s only one way to think about foreplay and our experiences of sex is much more diverse. In this post, we’re going to take a closer look at foreplay including the types of foreplay, the risks of foreplay and why it’s about time we change the way we talk about sex. Read on to find out more…

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Why foreplay?

People have foreplay for several reasons. Foreplay can prolong sexual excitiment, but It can also help get the body ready for penetrative sex. While vaginas are naturally lubricated, this doesn’t happen immediately, and having penetrative vaginal sex without lubrication can lead to pain during sex

As well as giving extra time for the physical signs of arousal to happen, foreplay can also help with anxiety around having sex, or help with challenges such as erectile dysfunction or vaginismus. It can also boost emotional connection, between partners as it offers a less invasive way of having sex.

Types of foreplay

Foreplay isn’t just one thing. When it comes to pleasure, preferences and tastes vary widely. There is no set idea of what foreplay is. However, some types of foreplay include:

- Kissing
- Touching
- Using sex toys
- Sharing fantasies

Non-penetrative sex is still sex

The idea of foreplay becomes more complicated when you consider that many people don’t have penetrative sex. The word foreplay presumes that types of sex like oral sex or using sex toys is simply an introduction to the ‘main event’. This implies that non-penetrative sex is somehow less important, and in doing so, devalues others’ experience of pleasure. Here at Natural Cycles we celebrate sex in all it’s forms, and want you to have the kind of sex that feels good for you.

Most female orgasms happen due to direct stimulation of the clitoris (rather than through penetrative sex on its own). If we continue to think of penetrative sex as the ‘real’ type of sex then we also contribute to denying female pleasure is real and as important as male pleasure - this can, in turn, lead to what’s known as the orgasm gap - a discrepancy between male and female orgasm.

What is outercourse?

Outercourse is very similar to foreplay, but it’s not necessarily thought to lead to intercourse. Outercourse is often talked about as a form of abstinence - by not having penetrative penis-in-vagina sex you can avoid pregnancy. However, outercourse is definitely still a type of sex, and there are still risks that come from sexual activity besides pregnancy.

Foreplay, outercourse, and STIs

You don’t have to have penetrative sex to spread sexually transmitted infections, these can also be passed on through unprotected oral sex and genital touching. Using condoms or dental dams can help protect you from STIs during all types of sexual activity.

Talking about foreplay and other types of sex

While it might seem daunting, talking about sex is important. Communicating about what does or doesn’t feel good can be beneficial both in the short and the long term. Sex that you don’t enjoy isn’t fun, and even can put you off having sex altogether - especially if it becomes painful. 

You should never have to have any type of sex if you don’t want to, and it’s important that your partner values how you feel about this. Remember that foreplay is different for everyone, including how long it lasts and what feels good. Clear communication with your partner helps build trust, and also lets them know what you’re really into!

Natural birth control tailored to you

Thanks for reading! We hope you learned lots about foreplay, outercourse and talking about sex. Here at Natural Cycles we are passionate about spreading knowledge about reproductive health, from understanding our anatomy to talking about birth control there’s lots to learn about our health.

When it comes to preventing pregnancy, there is no one-size-fits-all birth control method. At Natural Cycles we provide a hormone-free alternative. Natural Cycles uses basal body temperature data to get to know your cycle, and identify the days when you are fertile. You can then abstain from penetrative sex or use protection on those days to prevent pregnancy. 

Ready to get started?

Jen on the roof terrace at Natural Cycles headquarters.

Written By

Jennifer Gray

A writer with a passion for women’s health, Jennifer Gray has years of experience writing about various reproductive health topics including birth control, planning pregnancy, women’s anatomy, and so much more.

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Scientifically Reviewed

Jack Pearson

With 10 years of experience working in the field of fertility, Dr. Jack Pearson is Natural Cycles’ in-house expert. As Medical Affairs Manager, he dedicates his time to conducting groundbreaking research and educating healthcare professionals.

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