What Is Foreplay

Medically Reviewed by Carmelita Swiner, MD on July 07, 2023
3 min read

Foreplay -- also called “outercourse” -- is any sexual activity that happens before sexual intercourse. You can think of it like the warm-up to the main event, although foreplay doesn’t always have to lead to intercourse. Foreplay can include things like kissing, cuddling, touching, or just talking.

Foreplay can make sex more exciting. For example, kissing releases oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. These feel-good hormones can reduce stress and help you get out of your own head while you’re with your partner and enjoy sex even more. 

Foreplay also helps get your body ready for sex. When enjoying foreplay, you may notice your heart pounding. Foreplay causes an increase in blood flow to your genitals and helps lubricate the vagina. This makes sex more pleasurable and helps prevent pain during intercourse. 

One major myth about foreplay is that partners who don’t do it are lazy or selfish. But a lack of sexual confidence or experience is much more likely to be the cause. The best way to overcome this hurdle and add foreplay to your life is to keep the lines of communication open. Keep sexual talk positive. Don’t accuse or shame your partner. Take the lead if they don’t seem inclined toward foreplay. 

It’s important to keep in mind that, for some people, foreplay is a very important aspect of sex. In fact, many women can’t reach orgasm from intercourse alone. Foreplay can help make orgasm more likely. 

Adding foreplay into your relationship can help you and your partner(s) grow closer by triggering hormones that deepen your connections.

One of the best ways to enjoy foreplay is to talk with your partner or partners ahead of time about what works for you and what doesn’t. Everyone enjoys different things, and you shouldn’t expect the other person to know what you want until you say it.

For example, some people enjoy light touches up their arms during foreplay. For others, gentle touches may be too overwhelming, so they might prefer a firmer touch. Clear communication about what works for your bodies can help make foreplay enjoyable. 

Foreplay means different things for different people. Some people may enjoy it so much that they never get around to intercourse. As long as everyone consents to the activities, the most important thing is that you’re enjoying yourself. 

Foreplay can start long before you’re in the same room with your partner. Leaving a romantic note, sending a sexy text, or preparing a romantic dinner to share can all be considered forms of foreplay. These can be great ways to begin adding more arousal into your life. Also try: 

  • Inviting your partner to dance
  • Giving your partner a sensual massage
  • Talking to your partner about the sexual activities you want to engage in
  • Taking a bath or shower together
  • Watching a sexy movie together
  • Exploring kinky toys and activities with your partner
  • Having fun with food
  • Manual stimulation and consensual nipple play

The more open and honest you can be with your partner about the sexual activities that excite you, the more likely you are to enjoy sex, which can lead a fulfilling sex life. 

Show Sources


Cosmopolitan: “Foreplay.”

Healthline: “38 Things to Know About Sex and Foreplay.”

Thought Catalog: “10 Strategies To Get More Foreplay Into Your Relationship.”

Psychology Today: “The Folly of Frequently Foregoing Foreplay,” “The Neurochemistry of Love.”

Boston Medical Group: “Don’t Ignore the Foreplay.”

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