Foreplay 101

Foreplay is an important step to take before engaging in any sexual act. Not only can it help set the mood and put you into a better, more peaceful mindset, it can also help induce natural body reactions that can aid in your sexual experience as a whole. For some people, foreplay is the only way for them to have pleasurable sex in any capacity. But what exactly is it, and how can it differ between people?

As described by Stefan Bechtel in the Practical Encyclopedia of Sex and Health, if intercourse is like an entrée, then foreplay is the appetizer. Look at cocktail hours or parties where they only serve hors d’oeuvres. You can be just as satisfied with an abundance of the little things as you would be for an entire meal. Foreplay is very similar to this mentality. It is the accumulation of little aspects that lead into something more pleasurable. In some cases, this might include intercourse, but in many others, it can be used to extend pleasure over long periods of time. This takes away the idea that foreplay’s sole purpose is to lead to intercourse, which for a number of reasons might not be the case. Whether extending pleasure, remaining abstinent, or simply exploring your own desires on your own, foreplay can be utilized.

Instead of associating foreplay with sexual intercourse, it’s much more accurate to associate it with arousal and pleasure as a separate entity entirely. Whether people realize it or not, forms of foreplay are a lot more common than you think. In its simplest form, kissing can be considered a type of foreplay just like cuddling or petting your partner. The beauty comes in how subjective it is. For some, it needs to be soft and gentle like tracing your fingertips across your partners abs or breasts. For others, it can be much more aggressive, such as heavy grinding while entangling your tongues together. It can even go deeper when including other forms of sexuality within things like kink, where someone feeling rope encasing their body or restraining them can be just as stimulating as petting, grinding or teasing their erogenous zones. The thing that all of these different forms have in common is that they all help spark arousal in an individual. This arousal increases desire and can aid in getting endorphins buzzing in the brain, making many different stimuli even more pleasurable than they already were. 

But is foreplay necessary?

Well, yes and no, because  it can be subjective to the person. While some people do not care much for foreplay, many others require it. In one study, 709 vulva owning nurses were asked to rank the importance of things that affected their ability to reach orgasm. Their biggest complaint was the amount of time spent with foreplay. Further analysis of this study by Paul Gebhard, discovered that only 7.7% of surveyed people failed to reach orgasm after 21 minutes of foreplay. So foreplay is a big deal for a large percentage of people for different reasons.

A penis owner, for example, might need elements of foreplay in order to have an erection -- especially with age, older penis owners might find that they don’t get erect as easily as they did in their teen years. For these individuals, foreplay is crucial in order to be able to masturbate or have intercourse with their partner. Vulva owners may have similar instances where, rather than having an erection, they may not be able to self lubricate enough in order to have pleasurable penetration or be slick enough to properly stimulate their labia and clitoris the way they like it. This can often also be attributed to age, and in some cases, there are vulva owners who cannot or have very little self lubrication at all. If it is being utilized for penetrative intercourse or masturbation techniques, foreplay is necessary to not only create the ability to have pleasure, but also to have lasting pleasure that can continue throughout the duration of their sexual act. 

Types of Stimulation

Mental stimulation can be useful if you create an atmosphere that allows you to focus on your senses. Pheromones are the body’s natural chemicals released in order to affect the behavior in another person, commonly to attract. It’s important to know that these are involuntary actions within the body and happen all the time, but that doesn’t mean that pheromones can’t be exploited or utilized more aggressively. Using things like pheromone oils, perfumes and colognes mixed with your body’s natural pheromones can create new and unique scents that affect your partner’s brain in different ways. Just like how these scents on their own might make you feel sexier or more confident, they can be just as useful with or without a partner. 

Stimulating or narrowing in on your senses can be a creative, simple way to explore foreplay. For example, by softly touching your partner or self, you allow sensations to build. Using a feather for tickling, your nails for sharper scratching, or even biting can build even more arousal. Another easy technique is restricting sight through the use of a blindfold. When we limit one sense, it can enhance the other senses. Sound feels more intimidating, a touch feels softer or more aggressive, tastes more flavorful. All of these methods and more can be powerful tools in manipulating your mind into creating more pleasurable sensations.

Solo Foreplay

While all of this seems like it can only be done with a partner, don’t neglect its uses within a self love and self care routine. Masturbation, for example, can often separate someone from their sexual desires if they only masturbate to have a quick orgasm and be done. It takes away the sensuality and little details that bring about arousal to begin with, as well as creates this illusion that engaging in these sexual desires is meant to be short term and straight to the point. How many times have you heard the phrase, “It’s not about where you’re going, it’s about how you get there.”? The same principle can be attributed to foreplay. Sure, a quick orgasm has its time and place, but it should never take away your ability to have lasting pleasure. By incorporating foreplay into these self love routines, you allow yourself to expand your idea of self pleasure and potentially learn new ways of being aroused in general. Using sensual care products for self-pleasure, enjoying a warm bath while masturbating, teasing yourself, and setting the mood for yourself are all ways to enjoy foreplay while playing solo. 

So maybe you’ve always done the bare minimum for foreplay. Whether it’s alone or with a partner, you feel like you’ve tried it all and you’re wanting to step up your game a little bit with some new ideas to explore. Where do you start? Remember, everyone is different and what might work for some people might not work for all, so make sure you communicate with your partner if trying anything new with them. Here are some product recommendations and techniques to try the next time you feel the urge to satisfy any sexual desire.

Use your words!

Communication is key, but that little bit of sexy talk with a partner might help them develop a mental image of what you want to do with them before you even start touching each other. For this, you can be as graphic or vague as your comfort level entails and if you add a personal touch to it, it might just send them over the edge. The point of sexual interactions is to enjoy yourself, so have some fun with it!

Play a game!

There are plenty of games that you can play to help ease into the mood while still enjoying time with your partner. Things like Strip Poker or products from Kheper Games, ChronicleBooks and more can all help make things more sensual for those with a competitive streak. Some are straight to the point, like position dice that can tell you who does what, and others help build communication by having you answer questions based on your deepest fantasies. Play a couple rounds and make a few bets, you might just find yourselves all tangled up under the sheets with your partner!

Bath or shower time!

Soaking in the tub or having a nice warm shower can be extremely relaxing. Use it to your advantage! If you’re taking a bath, find a bath bomb that has all of your favorite colors and properties you love, maybe light a candle or two and just absorb the relaxation while stimulating yourself. If a bath isn’t your style, essential oils are extremely potent in smell and mix well in the steam that comes from a shower. It’s the same idea as lighting a candle to get those special scents, only these become much stronger due to the potency. Pheromone oils also work very well in the shower, only they do not have the unique properties they would have when being worn.

Give yourself or a partner a striptease!

You don’t have to be a pro, but feeling yourself in the moment and getting lost in your body can be just as stimulating for yourself as it is for a partner. Stripping often has a stigma, but in reality, it often boosts confidence, feels liberating and even can be good for your health! Similar to other flowy movements like yoga, it can help you feel more comfortable in your body and loosen you up in preparation for intercourse if that is the goal, or just for general self love!

Give a massage!

You might think you’d need a partner to give a massage, but it’s not too difficult to give yourself the same sensations on your own. Using different massage oils and massage candles, a gentle massage over the body can help relax both you or a partner and potentially help with blood circulation. Alone, the only difference is you’re stimulating your own body at a different angle, so the same relaxing properties can come from just feeling yourself and exploring different parts of your body.


You don’t need to be an Academy Award winner to fulfill your wildest dreams and fantasies, but a little effort to fill the role for yourself or your partner can go a long way. Roleplay can manipulate the mind by bending reality to fulfil your desire. This can help someone feel heroic in a role that makes them a savior or aid someone in feeling like their favorite character in a game or television show. Ultimately, this can help raise endorphins and serotonin levels creating similar euphoric sensations mentally to other more direct forms of foreplay.

Overall, foreplay is a useful and in many cases, necessary tool for pleasure exploration both alone and with a partner. It doesn’t need to be physical or even direct stimulation to the genitals to be effective, all you need are the tools to associate pleasure with something new and tame. Similar to what Stefan Bechtel said, foreplay is the preparation for something greater. The missing piece to getting you to the place you can derive your pleasure from. Foreplay can be whatever you make of it; whether for a quick orgasm or one that spans hours, but a little extra effort can make all the difference.


What are some of your favorite foreplay activities?