Foreplay


Foreplay refers to a wide variety of erotic stimulation that precedes "real" sex or sexual intercourse. However, behaviors that commonly are labeled as foreplay are pleasurable sexual activities in their own right and need not be thought of only as preliminary to other activities.

In the era of AIDS, there has been growing emphasis on sexual contact that does not lead to intercourse. Some forms of this behavior, in which orgasm occurs without inserting the penis into the vagina or any other body cavity, have been referred to as outercourse.

As part of a broader sexual interaction, foreplay is considered to be an essential component that stimulates and prepares the body and the mind/emotions to move through the phases of the sexual response cycle in preparation for orgasm.

Erogenous Zones

Touch is a key element of foreplay because the surface of the body is covered with many receptor cells (nerve endings) that transmit pleasurable sensations to the brain. Some parts of the body, particularly the clitoris, penis, nipples, fingertips, palms, lips, tongues, and soles of the feet have more densely packed nerve endings.

These sites are sometimes called the erogenous zones, although, in fact, the entire surface of the skin has been referred to as the body's largest sex organ because all forms of pleasure during foreplay are transmitted through the skin. Consequently, caresses, hugging, holding hands, and related acts of physical intimacy, in addition to expressing key cultural meanings about caring, safety, and arousal, are important acts of foreplay.

Light Touching

Many people also find light touching or tickling of the surface of the skin to be especially stimulating. Back rubs and massages(with or without massage oil or other artificial lubrication) are considered to be very erotic by some. Others prefer more intensive hand to body caressing and exploration of the erogenous zones, commonly referred to as petting.

People vary considerably in the potential erogenous zones they find to be most sensitive. Some people like to have their neck stroked or kissed, an experience that conveys great pleasure and sexual excitement. Others enjoy having their fingers and/or toes nibbled or sucked.

Kissing as Foreplay

Many people find kissing to be the fundamental act of foreplay. Kissing involves a range of behaviors from very light lip-to-lip contact, to what is often referred to as "deep" or French kissing, in which partners rub their tongues against each other and over other mouth surfaces.

Generally, kissing is considered to be an extremely intimate and pleasurable act because it involves direct face-to-face contact and because the mucous membranes that cover the lips and mouth have an especially dense supply of nerve endings. Some individuals are particularly sensitive around their ears, inner thighs, or lower stomach, while breasts and nipples (for both women and men) often are highly preferred places for caressing and oral stimulation.

In addition to various sites around the body, most people are quite responsive to manual or oral contact with their pubic area, although the precise spot that is most arousing varies.

For men, the underside of the full length of the penis, the head of the penis, the scrotum, or the area between the end of the scrotum and the anus (called the perineum) are often quite sensitive. Oral stimulation and sucking of these areas is referred to as oral sex. Oral stimulation of the penis is called fellatio.

For women, the clitoris, vulva, and surrounding areas are especially sensitive. Oral stimulation of these areas, especially to the point of orgasm, is known as cunnilingus. There has been considerable discussion in recent years of various highly sensitive spots within the woman's vagina. The most discussed is called the "G-spot", named after its discoverer, Dr. Ernst Grafenberg. It is a small location inside the vagina on the anterior wall just behind the pubic bone. Stimulating this site is reported for some women to set off the production and ejaculation-like expulsion of fluid from the Skene's gland, the female counterpart of the prostate gland.

For both women and men, anal stimulation may be highly stimulating (although others may find manual, oral or penile stimulation of the anus to be repulsive).

Mental Stimulation

It is sometimes said that the human body's most erogenous zone is the mind. Foreplay, as a result, is not merely an issue of physical stimulation but also one of emotional and mental stimulation. Some people, for example, are stimulated by the physical location and setting in which foreplay occurs.

For some, public displays of affection are highly erotic. Most people are also responsive to verbal stimulation and can become aroused by compliments and strong expressions of affection and caring. Some have personal fantasies about particular locations or activities that they find highly stimulating (e.g., a warm fireplace on a cold night). Consequently, arranging locations or the role-playing of particular desired interactions (sometimes in costume) may be incorporated into foreplay.

Foreplay Requires Open Communication

Some fantasies may involve activities or circumstances, such as acts of dominance or submission, that are only pleasurable as fantasy and would be otherwise unacceptable. Generally, these activities require open communication, a fair degree of disinhibition, and a willingness to appease one's partner. For some people, even light to moderate pain may be stimulating. Biting or light scratching are common acts of foreplay, but some people prefer spanking or other forms of light physical punishment.

Bondage is also considered quite arousing by some people. Acceptance or rejection of these behaviors varies, and unless a behavior is mutually enjoyable it will not contribute to providing the pleasure and sense of deep relaxation that is the central function of foreplay in human sexual interaction.

Various rubber and electrical devices (such as vibrators), sometimes called "sex toys," have become popular in recent years. These are readily available in many areas at stores that specialize in adult merchandise. Generally, these stores also sell sexually explicit magazines and videotapes, which some couples incorporate into their foreplay activities.

The basic ingredients of foreplay are physical and mental/emotional stimulation, trust, and the expression of caring. Acts of foreplay that some individuals or couples find highly erotic may be completely unacceptable to others. Consequently, open discussion, sensitivity, and acceptance are vital to a healthy approach to foreplay.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute

Related Articles