Why It's Time To Retire The Idea Of Foreplay

by Emma McGowan

Do a quick Google search of the word “foreplay” and you'll find plenty of articles with titles like “How To Prolong Your Foreplay!” and “6 Foreplay Moves She Loves!” You’ll also find a couple of different dictionary definitions, ranging from that Google definition at the top of the page (“sexual activity that precedes intercourse”) to the Urban Dictionary definition (“touching/kissing/licking each other in a stimulating manner, in order to become ‘turned on’ before having actual sex”). So we can all pretty much agree that foreplay is the stuff that happens before sexual intercourse, right?

It sounds pretty straightforward — but I think it's totally messed up. I’ve actually been thinking that it’s time get rid of “foreplay” for a while now, without even realizing. It’s come up time and time again when I read studies about the average amount of time that people have sex and I wondered what, exactly, the studies were talking about. When they said most people had sex for seven minutes, for example, did that only mean the time that a penis was going in and out of a vagina? What about all the other stuff, the “foreplay,” that happened before? Did that not count?

That seemed kind of weird to me and clearly I’m not the only one but I didn’t realize why until recently, when the issue was brought to my attention by the Huff Post Love and Sex podcast. Hosts Carina Kolodny and Noah Michelson mentioned the fact that they thought it was time to stop using the word foreplay because “it’s all just sex.” Yes! That’s totalIy what I’d been thinking too! I decided to do a little bit more digging into why, exactly, it feels like this word that has been used to encourage more sexual exploration (see again those articles I mentioned above) has run its course, so here are four reasons why it’s time to retire the idea of “foreplay.” But first, check out our video on sex positions for small penises:

1. It’s All Sex!

Oral sex, anal sex, hand jobs, fingering — it’s all sex! Some of those sex acts even have “sex” right there in the name! This is exactly why I found all of those studies about the amount of time that people spend having sex so confusing. For me, having sex includes everything — the kissing, the touching, the oral, whatever! — right up to the after-orgasm cuddle. The word “foreplay” makes it seem like there’s a separate act or stage or something and that’s just not accurate.

2. It Excludes LGBTQ Couples

The Urban Dictionary definition above is an excellent example of how so many people think of sex, which is that only a penis in a vagina is “real” sex. So, if that’s the case, then what are non-heterosexual couples doing in bed? I think it’s pretty fair to say that even a “gold star” gay man (which means a gay man who’s never had sex with a woman) who has been with multiple men is still have “actual sex,” even though there’s no vagina involved and never, in his life, will there be. So where does foreplay come into it for them, under this definition?

3. It Put Penis-In-Vagina Sex On A Pedestal

And it doesn’t even work all the time for couples who do have it! What if they want to do other stuff? What if they’re not into PiV sex but really like going down on each other or they just wanna rub up on it until they’re both satisfied? We already do enough in our culture to put PiV sex on a pedestal (like using “sex” as shorthand for penis-in-vagina but that’s a topic for another post) so let’s cut “foreplay” out, shall we?

4. It Doesn’t Stop When Intercourse Starts

A lot of the activities that are considered “foreplay” — like kissing, stroking, hugging, etc. — don’t stop when intercourse starts. By giving it a separate name, we’re acting like it’s a totally different activity, which it clearly isn’t. Foreplay is sex, not a part of sex or a prelude to sex, so I think it's time to stop giving it a special name.

Images: Andrew Zaeh for Bustle; Giphy (4)