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Sex: Why Foreplay Matters (Especially for Women)

Taking the time to let things heat up -- in sex, that is -- can be key to satisfaction.
By
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Whoever said the most important thing in life is to finish strong never had a frank conversation with a woman about the importance of foreplay. When it comes to sexual prelude, men and women don't always see eye to eye. As you ready yourself for slow, leisurely lovemaking, suddenly your evening turns into an Emeril Lagasse show: Things were cooking, and then … bam! It's over.

"It's particularly important for women to have successful foreplay because it takes a woman a longer time [than a man] to get up to the level of arousal needed to orgasm," says "Dr. Ruth" Westheimer, EdD, a psychosexual therapist, professor at New York University, and lecturer at Yale and Princeton universities. 

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A man can just think about sex and have an erection, but for most women, wanting sex is not enough, says Westheimer. Foreplay serves a physical and emotional purpose, helping prepare both mind and body for sex. Many women need to be kissed, hugged, and caressed to create lubrication in the vagina, which is important for comfortable intercourse.

Foreplay and the Clitoris

Foreplay also helps the clitoris fulfill its "O" so important role. "It has the same characteristics as the penis," Westheimer says. "Blood flows into the clitoris, and in order for a woman to have an orgasm, there must be lubrication in the vagina, but also the clitoris must get erect." Stimulation is the key to achieving pleasure.

But we're more than just our biology. After all, a girl's got feelings. Westheimer says a woman especially needs emotional assurance that the man she's about to have sex with really wants to be with her. The time and attention given during foreplay can communicate that message in a way the "Wham, bam, thank you, ma'am" approach simply cannot.

So let your guy in on the secret: Even Emeril allows his dishes to simmer for a little while before bringing them to a boil.

Foreplay Tips

Start off strong with these foreplay tips from Dr. Ruth:

Check it out. If anything "down there" hurts or isn't working the way you think it should, don't wonder about it -- see a doctor. For him, difficulty maintaining an erection and, for her, pain during intercourse always requires a medical evaluation.

Don't zone out. Many couples are embarrassed to ask their partner to stimulate erogenous zones that are very pleasurable but can be considered taboo. The nipples, the anus, the back of the neck -- all have nerve endings. So don't be shy. The only shame when it comes to foreplay is a missed opportunity for pleasure.

Stay the course. There is a moment before orgasm when many women give up, thinking nothing will happen. It's a self-sabotaging mistake. Stay with the stimulation and the orgasm will come.

Reviewed on October 27, 2009

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