How To Step Up Your Outercourse Game, Even When You're Not Planning On Having Intercourse

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When it comes to consensual sexual expression, the sky's the limit. Although heteropatriarchy might define "real sex" as intercourse — and P-in-V at that— there are just as many ways to experience pleasure without penetration. "Outercourse" (aka all the arousing acts that involve the outside of the body) is less frequently discussed but an equally important part of any sensual encounter. And in fact, research suggests that many women rank outercourse over intercourse as their preferred route to orgasm.

"Think about sex being a small part of SEXuality," Amy Levine, sex coach and founder of Ignite Your Pleasure, tells Bustle. "Communication, knowing what you like through solo sex, experimenting with things like sex toys, G-spot stimulation etc, taking care of your sexual health are a few of many 'out of the box' options." And they're just as valid as any other part of your sexuality.

A recent study helmed by Debby Herbenick, Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and a research fellow and sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute assessed survey data from 1,055 women ages 18 to 94. After analyzing their responses to an in-depth sexual questionnaire, Herbenick and her colleagues found that only 18 percent of women reported being able to climax during intercourse from vaginal penetration alone. About 36 percent reported that they required clitoral stimulation in order to orgasm during intercourse, and an additional 36 percent said it enhanced their sexual experience to have both kinds of contact.

The bottom line? Outercourse doesn't only have to be the appetizer to the main (inter)course. Here are six pleasurable ways to partake in outercourse, whether you're planning on having penetrative sex or not:


Making Out

Locking lips is usually our first foray into sexual contact (hello seven minutes in heaven), and yet extensive makeout sessions often get passed up when we're older and/or in a time crunch. Kissing prompts the brain to release dopamine and endorphins and it's a great way to prime the pump for further sensual escalation — so why not get back to basics?


Giving Or Receiving Sensual Massage

Whether you're down with hot oils, cool lotions, or light caresses with no lubrication, a little massage goes a long way. Skin-on-skin contact will reduce stress, boost intimacy, and light up your pleasure centers every time — even if you start slow and on neutral territory. Sure a shoulder rub doesn't necessarily seem sexual, but done just the right way under the right circumstances and it's definitively foreplay.


Using A Vibrator

A vibe is a tried and true friend for those hell bent on the path to O-town. Although some are made to be rode hard and put away wet, external use only vibrators can be just as much fun solo or with a partner — no penetration required!


Dry Humping

Don't laugh — dry humping is serious business. I mean, I don't know about you, but those long, luxurious teenage make out sessions got pretty intense when fully clothed grinding was added to the mix. Dry humping, though often derided, is truly a lost art that should be revived. Just think of all the kinds of clothing you can wear to play with different forms of friction!



Many BDSM activities privilege outercourse over intercourse. From spanking to temperature play to foot worship to rope bondage, getting kinky often don't involve penetration at all, and can be extremely exciting to explore for those looking to spice up a session.


Clitoral Stimulation

For many women, the holy grail of outercourse is, of course, cunnilingus. To reiterate the findings of the previously mentioned study, clitoral stimulation was more likely to cause women to climax than penetration alone. And Herbenick and her associates confirmed the increased intensity of a woman's enjoyment if oral sex is involved in addition to intercourse. (No shocker there.)

So while we don't need a study to know how important outercourse is, it's a welcome reminder that sex is far more nuanced than just "sticking it in," and that pleasure can indeed come in myriad forms.