10 Foreplay Ideas That Can Be Even Hotter Than Penetration
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Think about the most magical hookup you've had. Does penetrative sex come to mind? Or is it something else—a deep conversation, a passionate kiss, or a totally different intimate act that happened before, after, or in place of penetration? Chances are it's the latter. In fact, many people consider foreplay the hottest part of sex.
There are two ways to look at foreplay, according to Jill McDevitt, Ph.D., resident sexologist at sex toy company CalExotics and teacher of their Foreplay 101 class. For one, you can think of foreplay as "sex acts that produce desire, arousal, and stimulation to get the body and mind ready for orgasm" (aka something that helps build arousal towards an eventual climax or maybe penetration). However, you can also think of foreplay as "any physical or intimate encounter, that you wouldn't do with a family member, that can stand alone as a sex act in its own right and be enjoyed without being a stepping stone to something 'more.'" Think: deep tongue kissing, dry humping, or any other physically intimate act you might do just for the fun of it.
Regardless of which type of foreplay you're enjoying, the key is to focus on your mindset during the acts. "Are you rushing through on autopilot just to get to something 'better,' or are you savoring, enjoying, and staying present with the sensations that are happening, without any expectations or assumptions?" asks McDevitt. (More here: How to Have Good Sex, According to Experts)
We could all benefit from (read: enjoy) reframing our perception of "sex" by playing with some fun, non-penetrative intimate acts that are just as hot—whether you use them in the build-up of arousal, or just do them as intimate acts on their own.
Linger In a Good, Old-Fashioned Makeout Sesh
A hot and heavy makeout sesh can set the tone for the rest of the hookup. There's something really hot about rolling around and kissing, says Gigi Engle, certified sex couch and SKYN Condoms' sex and intimacy expert.
Spend more time on first base by kissing your partner without rushing to take each other's clothes off. Enjoy the process and different intensities during your time kissing each other, making sure not to miss their neck, shoulders, hands, and wherever else their skin is already exposed. Pro tip: Dry humping while making out is the ultimate foreplay combo.
Start from Afar
Did you know that you can get sexual when you're not even in the same room? Building excitement through dirty talk, sexting, and phone sex help build the anticipation for when you're finally together IRL.
You don't need to be in an LDR to enjoy these acts, though. They're great for anyone who wants to heat things up before getting physical. That's because women typically need both emotional foreplay and sensual foreplay, according to Jenni Skyler, Ph.D., L.M.F.T., C.S.T., sex educator and resident sexpert at pleasure product company Adam & Eve. "Because emotional intimacy is a common gateway into sexual contact, women typically like to connect through conversation as part of foreplay."
Not to mention, it can be a great way to communicate what you want in bed, in a low-stakes atmosphere. "Dirty talk can improve your sexual experience when you let go of your inhibitions by telling your partner exactly what you want to do to them, and what you want your partner to do to you," says Fran Walfish, Psy.D., Beverly Hills family and relationship psychotherapist.
Get Wet Together
Try taking a shower or bath with your partner to get yourselves primed for sexual play, suggests Megwyn White, somatic sensuality guide and director of education at Satisfyer. "Not only is this soothing, but it can also be extraordinarily romantic when you add subtle touches like rose petals, essential oils, bath salts, etc.," she says. Plus, it'll ensure you're both feeling clean and ready to go for whatever happens next. To take your time in the shower or bath to the next level, bring in some waterproof sex toys too. (If you want to stay in there, read up on these other ways to have shower sex that's actually amazing.)
Give Your Partner an Erotic Massage
Spend time exploring each other's erogenous zones (with or without directly touching genitals) by giving each other massages. Not only is a massage sensual in nature, but it's also a great foreplay idea after one of you has had a long day of work, physical activity—or for no reason at all other than to provide each other with pleasure and relaxation. (See: The Mind-Body Benefits of Getting a Massage)
"Stimulating multiple erogenous zones—such as the nipples, clitoris, testicles, or G-spot—is a great way to increase satisfaction and anticipation leading up to sex," says Chad Braverman, COO of Doc Johnson, a California-based sex toy company.
Don't just stick to the obvious areas, though; try adding foot massages to your rubdowns, too. "According to Chinese reflexology, the center of the ball of the foot is a hot spot for the sexual organs," says White. "Massaging the feet can offer a huge unwind for the body, encouraging blood flow, and creating space to ground into deeper sensations." Believe it or not, massaging the muscle chains and fascia in your feet can also help unfurl the tension in your vaginal muscles and pelvic floor that can inhibit your pleasure during sexual experiences, she says.
The face is another place where emotional tension mounts. Try a soothing face massage before genital play as "a wonderful way to expand your arousal into more of your body by engaging more of your nervous system and dissolving emotional tensions and inhibitions," says White.
Don't Leave Out Mutual Masturbation
Masturbation doesn't have to be a solo endeavor. Finn says that a lot of folks tend to forget how amazing our hands can be as primary sex tools. Because they're so versatile, "you can create shapes by using one or two fingers for targeted touch, the palm of the hand for broad strokes, squeeze or press to add pressure as a stimulation, whatever feels great!" she says. "Plus, having the reach of your arms means that you can play with positions—from having intense eye contact, to lying lazily side-by-side as you get off together." Grab a bottle of lube and give your partner a hand (or two).
White also suggests practicing "personal foreplay" prior to partnered foreplay. Vagina owners can insert kegel balls to get that ~ball rolling~ ahead of time. "Explore squeezing the muscles around the ball before things progress into touch foreplay as a way to excite confidence, and get juices flowing," she says. (PSA: Working out is great foreplay for anyone, no matter their sex or gender.)
Read Erotica or Watch Porn Together
Try reading erotica with your partner and talking about any parts of the story that you may want to act out together, says McDevitt. (Check out these woke new sex apps for high-quality erotica you can get right on your phone.)
Don't like to read? Watch videos together instead.
"It's absolutely fine to have weird fetishes, fantasies, and porn habits," adds Walfish, as long as they're safe and you receive your partner's enthusiastic consent first. "Whatever your fetish or sexual fantasy is, the key to healthy relationships is open communication and two willing partners." If you aren't sure how they feel about participating in a certain act, kink, or interest, check in to make sure you're both on the same page before and during play.
Focus On Oral Sex
Oral sex is a huge part of getting the female body ready for penetration, says Engle. Why? Because it's the sexual act that most vulva owners can orgasm from, she says. "If possible, have an orgasm via any form of non-PIV stimulation, like oral, manual, or a vibrator, before moving on to other kinds of penetrative play," says Engle. "This will help get your vagina lubricated and ready for sex, which makes for more pleasurable, comfortable experiences."
But if you or your partner can't orgasm, don't stress it. Oral can be fun to give and receive (69ing, anyone?), no matter if an orgasm is the end result. (Read up on these tips on how to give anyone amazing oral sex.)
Slowly Undress Each Other
Despite how badly you want to, refrain from ripping each other's clothes off so quickly. (This of it like a form of mindfulness meditation.)
"If your partner tends to be very visual, begin with a disrobing ritual, slowly removing each article of clothing," says Skyler. "Using sensual foreplay to tease someone is also exciting, especially if genital touch is frequently part of the teasing." This doesn't mean that you need to put on a sexy striptease for your partner (though if you want to, go right ahead!) It means there can be an unexpected added thrill from simply taking your time and teasing each other instead of immediately getting naked.
Play with Sensation
Spanking and other kinds of impact play with floggers, crops, or paddles (which are all sensation toys you can use to carefully whip, hit, or smack your partner's body parts) can be hot for a number of reasons, as well. They're a way to play with taboo, involve power dynamics through submission/dominance, or add a little bit of (pleasurable) pain, says Lisa Finn, sex educator and brand manager at Babeland. "With impact play, you leave a heightened sensation on the impacted area afterward, so soft touch can feel even more intense—and if you really get into it, maybe you even feel that tender tissue long after your play is over, which can serve as a sexy little reminder of the night before," she says. (More here: The Beginner's Guide to BDSM)
Engle also recommends using your sense of smell to get turned on. "Your body is hardwired to use your sense of smell to decide whether you're attracted to someone." You can't do anything to make this response happen—it's just a natural bodily occurrence that happens when you and your partner have complementary genes. "But if you want to incorporate smell as a sense-tactic in erotic play, think about the scents that turn you on, maybe like vanilla or cinnamon," and look for healthy lubes, candles, massage oils, or perfumes in those scents.
Speaking of being dressed—why not dress up like a totally different character? Maybe you want to adopt a new persona or try something you've always wanted to do in bed but didn't feel comfortable asking for.
"Roleplay allows people to be someone else and really relax and enjoy a sexual experience," says McGrath. She adds that roleplay encourages people to be vocal about what they want and escape into their fantasies.
If you or your partner are apprehensive about role play, consider which scenario may be most interesting to you, like a nurse/doctor or teacher/student scene. Can't come up with any ideas? Get some inspiration by watching porn together. Again, always make sure that all parties are consenting so you can both have the most pleasurable sexual experience possible.