Foreplay: Your Helpful Guide

Foreplay: Your Helpful Guide

Just the thought of sexual foreplay may get your juices flowing. 💦 Kissing, touching, sucking, biting, bathing — we all have our own unique ways of turning on our taps.

But what does foreplay mean really? And how can you maximize the fun?

Let’s dive in.

In this article: 📝

  • Why does foreplay matter?
  • How long should foreplay last?
  • What is foreplay?
  • Examples of foreplay

Why does foreplay matter?

Well, for starters, it’s really enjoyable, and that should be reason enough alone.

But there’s more to it than that.

Particularly if you are having penetrative sex, lubrication is really important because it gets you prepped for what’s to follow.

Moisture helps to keep friction at bay — and in doing so, irritation and pain too.

This is one instance where you really do want a slippery slope.

But like all things sex, the story is complex.

If you experience painful sex, it’s not simply a case of “needing to be more into it”.

A number of factors can lead to vaginal dryness, including the hormonal changes that come with menopause and health conditions like endometriosis and infections in your reproductive system.

(Heads up, wherever you’re at, lube is your friend. The most vagina-friendly types are either water or silicone-based.)

The difficulty is, many women who experience painful sex don’t discuss it with their partners.

Know that sex is supposed to be enjoyable — and it’s not supposed to hurt.

Pain during sex can affect your life beyond the bedroom.

As this study found, it is linked to your physical and mental health, as well as the health of your relationships.

It’s hard to talk about these things, but if you are experiencing pain during sex, know that you’re not alone.

Talking to your doctor can be a great step towards finding a new lease on your sex life.

How long should foreplay last?

The short answer? Foreplay should last exactly as long as you want it to.

There’s no one way to do this thing — nor an exact timeline for how long for.

And the research backs this up. How long foreplay “should” last really depends on who you’re asking.

According to this study, the average time it takes for a woman to orgasm is eight minutes.

And it may take more time when you’re with a partner—about 14. 45% of respondents in this poll from 2019 said that foreplay lasted somewhere between five and 10 minutes.

Others said it was usually less than five, while some for over 20 minutes.

So, you get the picture — there’s no one way to do this thing, and there’s not a specific length of time it should take.

Absolutely no pressure.

And with that all in mind, we’re about to drop a bombshell: foreplay may not even exist. But you just said…? We know. Read on.

What is foreplay?

So here’s the deal:

The word foreplay — as much fun as the activities associated with it are — is a little misleading. Why?

Well, this kind of play is not only about what comes before.

In reality, the sucking, biting, licking, whispering, and touching that we call sexual foreplay is really just sexual play.

It’s not just a pre-game party, the opening act, or the precursor to the “real deal” of penetration.

Some people get their orgasms from their clitorises, and that is their “main event”.

Others can reach their peak with the right nipple stimulation.

LGBTQIA+ couples (for example) may not engage in any penetration at all.

And even if penetration is a big part of your sexual fun, foreplay doesn’t have to only be a means to an end.

It can be part of the experience, something you continue to revisit as you go on the journey.

So yes, it’s time to rethink the term “foreplay” and bring it up to speed with lived experience.

Right. Time to break down what’s involved in the act formerly known as foreplay. (And while we’re at it, start coming up with some new terms.)

Examples of foreplay

Before we get going, full license to stop reading at any point and put into practice anything on this list.

And also, know that this is by no means a one-size-fits-all.

Different people are into different things. Thank goodness.

You do what tantalizes you.

But if you’re after some examples of foreplay to see what works for you, here you go:

Kissing and cuddling

Yep, this never gets old — and as it turns out, our brains agree.

Kissing and skin-on-skin contact release a flood of chemicals in our brain — namely dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin.

This love cocktail increases our feelings of desire and anticipation, promotes bonding, and relieves stress.

No wonder it gets you in the mood.

Oral sex

If you like to be on the giving or receiving end of oral sex — or both — you’re certainly not alone.

This 2010 study, showed just how big a deal oral sex is for young women, with all the respondents who reported to having had sex at all reporting to having had oral sex too.

And it seems to matter as our lives go on.

As this study explains, oral sex may form an important part of maintaining relationships when we get older.

If you’re new to it all, start slow and communicate your needs to your partner.

Welcome other body parts to the party — mouth, tongue, lips, hands. Respond to what’s happening in the moment.

And if it helps, there’s no such thing as a perfect vagina. Each one is its own artwork. And yes, they have a natural smell and taste.

If it makes you more comfortable, shower beforehand. Otherwise, feel free to ditch the doubt.

A quick note: While oral can be an awesome addition to your sexual playbook, it is still possible to catch STIs this way.

The CDC recommends some sort of barrier method of contraception, like a condom or dental dam, to prevent the spread.

Give each other a hand

In this recent study, only 18.4% of women reported that penetrative sex was enough for them to reach orgasm.

The rest? Well, they needed the clitoris to come to the party in some way.

You may know from first-hand experience.

Having a hand in it all may lead to the best sexual experience you can have — hands-down.

And then, here are some other fun options you might want to try:

Putting on a show

A sexy dance? Lingerie? Candlelit rooms?

Yep, they all work wonders.

And if you don’t want to put on the show yourself, watching something sexy can also be a fun way to kick things off.

Bring out the foodie in each other

Yes, you’re totally allowed to play with your food.

In fact, we highly encourage it.

Feeding each other (or eating off of one another) can be highly pleasurable activities.

Explore your magic touch

Massages can be a wonderful way to explore each other’s bodies and get in the mood.

It may also be an ideal method to find out where those really sensitive areas are.

Toy with each other


Bringing sex toys into the mix can open up a world of fun.

Heat things up (literally)

And there are so many ways to do so.

Hot wax, hot baths, warming lube.

Talk dirty

This can be hard to get into at first.

Try not to overthink it.

Respond honestly to the moment and tell your partner what you would like to do to them.

You may be surprised by your own creativity.

The most important thing? Have fun.


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