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What Is Dry Humping?

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on June 27, 2021

Dry humping generally involves rubbing or grinding your genitals against your partner’s body or genitals. In many cases, one or both partners are at least partially clothed. Since dry humping can lead to orgasm, it can be pleasurable without the risk of pregnancy or sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or during times you would prefer not to have sex. Dry humping may happen in addition to sex with penetration, or may act as foreplay. Dry humping can also be done alone by rubbing your clothed genitals against a pillow or piece of furniture.

Other Names for Dry Humping

Like many sexual acts, there are plenty of alternate words for dry humping. It’s known as frottage, dry sex, outercourse, and grinding. While everyone might go about it slightly differently, there’s one common theme: the act is “dry.” Body fluids are not exchanged between partners. 

What Is the Difference Between Dry Humping, Masturbation, and Sex?

Dry Humping vs. Sex

Dry humping doesn’t involve direct genital contact or penetration. Usually, partners still have some clothing on, and no body fluids are exchanged. The lack of skin-to-skin contact provides some important protection from ST D s and pregnancy for many people.

Dry Humping vs. Masturbation

When performed as a solo act, dry humping is another form of masturbation. It is an act of self-stimulation of the genitals. In this case, dry humping may also be called bed humping or pillow humping. 

Myths and Misconceptions about Dry Humping

Dry humping is commonly performed by younger people or people who want to wait to have fully penetrative sex. This does not make it a “lesser” sexual act. In fact, many people may find that they prefer dry humping to other sexual acts because it provides more effective stimulation. In particular, people with clitorises sometimes find that dry humping provides a comfortable balance of stimulation without overstimulating themselves.

How to Explore Dry Humping (Solo or with a Partner)

It may be simplest to try it on your own first. In your bed or somewhere comfortable and private, you can try humping a pillow, cushion, or blanket.

If you decide to try dry humping with a partner, talk about your limits in advance. Some people may view dry humping as an act of foreplay, while others may not want it to lead to penetration or other types of sex. Discuss your boundaries and expectations to make sure that you are on the same page and that you have full consent before dry humping with a partner. 

Safety Advice and Special Considerations

As with any sex act, it’s important to take some precautions when dry humping, with a partner or on your own. Because of the friction that dry humping can generate, wear soft, smooth clothing to prevent chafing on your genitals or inner thighs. 

Furthermore, it’s possible for dry humping to stop being “dry” if you aren’t cautious. STDs are typically spread through skin-to-skin contact. The less clothing separating you from a partner, the more likely that your genitals will accidentally come into contact. It’s a good idea to have other forms of pregnancy and ST D protection on hand. This preparation can help you stay safe in the moment if you decide to go further. 

WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

CDC: “Genital Herpes.”

Cosmopolitan: “You Can Quote Me on This: Dry Humping Is Better Than Sex.”

Dictionary.com: “Masturbation.”

Dictionary.com: “Sexual intercourse.”

Go Ask Alice (Columbia): “Bed humping = Bad habit?”

Go Ask Alice (Columbia): “What is outercourse?”

Scarleteen: “Dry Humping?”

Scarleteen: “Quickies: Sexual Consent Basics.”

SexInfo Online (UCSB): “Dry Sex.”

Sexography: “The Dry Humping Guide for Adults.”

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