In most human endeavors, preparation is key to success. Intimacy is no different.
Foreplay, or sexual touching, flirting and other activities leading to intercourse, is often dismissed as an unimportant waste of time before the ‘main event.’ But nothing could be further from the truth. Adequate preparation for sex is critical for sociological, physiological and psychological reasons:
- Pre-coital sexual touching is expected in Western society, and without it, we feel that something is missing.
- Foreplay gets our bodies and minds ready for sex. It provides arousal and excitement, gets the heart pounding, and facilitates changes in our genitals, such as natural lubrication and erections—to make intercourse more satisfying. It also releases the hormone oxytocin and reduces stress hormones to put us ‘in the mood.’
- Touching is connected with comfort and safety in our minds from early infancy on, and brings us closer to the other person.
Without foreplay, we often face intercourse distracted, misunderstood, and anxious—hardly a recipe for transcendence. Research says both men and women want more sexual touching than they normally receive, so why is this step so often left out?
Ignorance, poor communication and anxiety are all part of the mix. If you don’t understand how the body works, don’t tell your partner what you want, or have a fear of intimacy, the sometimes time-consuming practice of foreplay can be overlooked. In some cases, one or both partners feel the need to rush, due to a concern that either the erection or the willingness will not last. If your early sexual experiences involved secrecy, guilt or anxiety, you might not have learned the value of slow erotic exploration.
Why It May Take Women Longer
It will probably not come as a surprise to you that most women often feel frustrated with the lack of foreplay in their relationships.
While little research has been done on the topic, we can guess at why this is the case:
- Biologically, female sexual arousal is more complex than male arousal.
- Spending time with caresses and kisses can be seen as less masculine by men who feel they are the initiator and should ‘get things rolling.’
- Women get trapped in patterns of passivity and silence, and don’t tell their partners what they need or actually know what they need or want.
But the foreplay issue is not just a woman’s problem. A University of Chicago study found that functional sex problems were double in women and triple in men who did not practice foreplay.
To Each Their Own
Everyone makes love differently; there are no rules except for what works for the two of you. Kissing, massage and various oral sex techniques are the most common ways to get your partner ready for intercourse.
Some other things to try include: setting the stage with music, a cocktail, or candles; doing a striptease; leaving a trail of chocolate kisses into the bedroom; using your feet instead of your hands to stroke certain body parts; kissing parts you normally ignore; making a date night; and putting on sexy lingerie. Options…so very many options!
For some people all of the time, and most people some of the time, going straight to penetration works fine. But whether or not you usually engage in foreplay, I suggest you give it a try now and then. I have found in my sex therapy practice that a pattern of patient sexual attention before intercourse helps both partners feel loved and not just ‘serviced.’ It is the “whole” encounter that is vital to a satisfying and functional sex life.