Foreplay is commonly considered to be the activities that happen “before sex.” It’s the appetizer. Depending on who you ask, foreplay might include kissing, making out, hand sex, oral sex, or BDSM. In this script, sex involves foreplay beforehand, consists of penis-in-vagina penetration, and ends with a (male) orgasm, since it’s less common to have an orgasm from penetration alone if you have a vagina.
Traditional thinking about foreplay gets a lot wrong about sex. For one thing, it frames sex as an appetizer (foreplay), an entree (penis-in-vagina penetration), dessert if you’re lucky (orgasms), and coffee (catching your breath). In fact, sex is more like small plates. There’s a huge range of activities from which to choose, every single time.
Yet a study of heterosexuals published in JAMA found that only 81% of respondents considered anal sex to be sex and that only 41% considered oral sex to be sex. Other studies generally find the same thing: that there’s a sort of hierarchy of sex, with many people considering penis-in-vagina intercourse to be sex, disagreeing about whether oral and anal are sex, and considering kissing to not be sex. Other activities don’t even merit attention. Even for those interested mostly in penis-in-vagina sex, this approach to sexual pleasure is extremely limiting. For the rest of us, it’s erasing. For everyone, it’s boring. There’s so much more to sex than penetration!
If you’re wondering how to bring passion back into a relationship, expand the way you think about sex. The activities that make up foreplay aren’t an appetizer. There are no appetizers. Instead, view foreplay as coreplay: an essential part of the menu to maximize your pleasure all the way along.
The Early Throes of Passion
Do you remember in the early stages of your relationship how you’d spend hours thinking about your partner before a date? Maybe you’d wear something special or sext about what you wanted to do together that evening.
In your head, and maybe with your partner, erotic foreplay would begin earlier that day, not five minutes before getting naked. Once you were finally in the same room, you’d make out, roll around with your clothes on, caress one another, and explore, sometimes for hours.
For many people, the quality of erotic connection fades as soon as the new relationship energy does. The consequences are significant.
Better Coreplay Means Better Sex
When you reintroduce erotic exploration and coreplay into your standard sexual repertoire, your sex life gets better. Period.
Spend some time making out with your partner. Kissing is an art and takes practice to perfect. Explore the many erogenous zones of your body and theirs. Try out some dirty talk and see how your bodies react — after all, desire is often responsive. Remember, coreplay doesn't have to start just before you have sex. It can start in the morning with that first sext over coffee.
Slow down, savor and enjoy coreplay, and don’t rush straight into penetration. If you have a vulva, coreplay is one of the most pleasurable acts of sex. If you have a penis, coreplay can create the time needed to build an erection, especially if you’re older. For everyone, coreplay can help you relax, get excited, and stay present. It can also help you have bigger and better orgasms.
Don’t Forget About Aftercare
Coreplay should be part of sex all the way along, and “aftercare” describes what you do afterwards. This can happen in the moment, and depending on what everyone prefers, in the hours or days that follow. It’s a little like dessert — and when you order dessert off a menu, it’s a good idea to start by talking about what everyone wants.
Before you have sex with a new partner, you may even want to ask them directly, “What aftercare are you into?” If you’ve never talked about it before with an established partner, try something like, “I read on the Lover blog that aftercare is a really important part of sex. What do we do or not do after sex that makes you feel good, and that you’d want to do more of?” Listen, share what you like, and figure out where you line up.
Aftercare can look a lot of different ways. Some examples of aftercare include cuddling, spooning, hand holding, talking about something you loved about the experience, sharing a snack or a coffee, or a text a few hours later about that one hot moment you can’t get out of your head. If you explored something new, talk about what you loved and what you’d like to do differently next time. Even if you both like quiet space and don’t like touch after sex, resist the urge to jump out of bed, roll over and go to sleep, or pick up your phone. Spend some time simply breathing together and enjoying the feeling of being in your body. Make this your relationship goal!
Coreplay might seem like it’s mostly about sex, and aftercare might seem like it’s mostly about connection — but that’s not strictly true. Both create space to explore, share physical and emotional connection, and experience pleasure.
Download the Lover app to learn more about how coreplay can help you to have more pleasurable and satisfying sex.