Let’s talk about sex, shall we? Specifically, let’s talk about our definitions of “sex.” For most heterosexual people, “sex” means “penis in vagina.” Everything else — oral, anal, making out, whatever — is considered supplemental to “real” sex. And while penis-in-vagina sex is fun, it can also get kind of boring. I mean, it’s pretty clear what has to happen and when, right? Most of us have the mechanics down at this point, and all too many of us have fallen into a routine. Which is why I’m here to advocate for giving sex without intercourse a shot.
Now, you might be thinking something along the lines of, “What’s the point of that?” And I say, banish that thought from your head! Popular culture has us all brainwashed into believing not only that penis-in-vagina is the only “real” sex, but also that it’s the best sex. But there are all kinds of ways to have sex and be sexual that are just as fulfilling as intercourse.
And when you take into consideration the fact that so many people with vaginas have trouble orgasming, and that most of us require a lot of foreplay and stimulation in order to really get into any kind of sex, then I’d argue that non-intercourse sex could actually be way more fulfilling than p-in-v. Take that, tired old cultural belief!
Not only is having sex without intercourse fun, but you’ll also find that you learn a sh*t-ton of new things, both about yourself and your partner. For example, once you’re not so focused on putting your genitals together, you’ll discover new erotic zones on both of your bodies. Like, did you have any idea that a finger brushing the back of your partner's knee could do that before? Didn’t think so.
Now that I have you convinced that having sex without “having sex” is not only worth it but is actually going to blow your mind, here are six ways you can do it without "doing it."
1. Make Out Like Teenagers
Remember when you were a teenager and you could make out for hours without ever “going to third base?” Remember how hot that was? There's just something about the build up of making out without orgasm (or with a delayed orgasm) that's just unbeatable.
You can totally recapture some of that sexy energy as an adult by committing to just making out. Start with a "no below the waist" rule, and hold out for as long as you can. The longer you resist, the hotter it will be when you both give in.
"People sometimes forget how hot making out can be, especially if they've been in a relationship for a while," sex coach Myisha Battle tells Bustle. "As a sex coach, I have clients who skip this part completely because they have grown so accustomed to moving straight to other kinds of sexual stimulation. When I suggest that they should work this back into their routine, I often hear that both parties actually miss making out — they just thought the other wasn't into it anymore! Restricting sexual activity to kissing can be a fun way to pretend that you're still in that new relationship phase where you don't know exactly what's going to happen."
Battle says the best way to go about it is to be intentional AF. "Prolong the make out sesh for longer than feels normal. Extend the kissing to other parts of the face, neck and shoulders but stop there. The anticipation build-up can be incredibly fun to play with!"
2. Get Great At Hand Jobs
The hand job is seriously underrated. I know that when I was first having sex, oral often came before hand jobs, which means it took way longer than it should have to get good at them. Also, when I say "hand job," I mean it for both penises and vaginas. This is one of those great sex acts that’s inclusive of all genders!
If your partner has a penis, get some lube or spit worked up and get stroking! Circumcised penises can be a little more difficult to do right, as they don’t make their own lube, so be extra generous with them. If your partner has a vagina, focus on their clitoris and on giving the old come-hither motion for G-spot stimulation.
Regardless of your partner’s anatomy, it can also help to ask them to show you how they masturbate so you can understand what works for them — and what doesn’t. Also, be sure to pay attention to their face and body language for clues on how you’re doing. Finally, if you’re the one getting the hand job instead of giving it, don’t be scared to give directions! You are the focus of the show here, and it’s up to both of you to make sure that the hand job is the best it can be.
3. Go All-In For Oral
A lot of the instructions for hand jobs apply to oral, as the best oral is really a hand job plus. By which I mean: Your hands can (and probably should, depending on your partner) absolutely still be involved.
If your partner has a penis, you can hold the base of the shaft with your hand and stroke up and down in time with your mouth, which can move on the head and upper shaft. Don’t be shy to really get a lot of spit between your hand and the shaft, because that will make for a great lubricant.
You can also remove your hand to play with your partner’s testicles or, if the position you’re in allows it, use your other hand to give them some attention. If you’re focusing primarily on the head and shaft of the penis, experiment with different pressures when you’re sucking and with flicking your tongue around the head and frenulum, which is the little divot on the underside of the head. Everyone is different, but as you get to know your partner, you’ll get to know what they like.
If your partner has a vulva and vagina, you’re also going to need to do some experimenting! Start by asking what they like or, if they’re not comfortable talking about it, apply a flicking motion to their clitoral hood. As things heat up, it can feel nice for some people if you put two fingers inside their vagina and bend them back toward your face
On the flip side, receiving oral gives you each the chance to be the star of the show, something that can get lost when you’re having intercourse. Don’t be afraid to give instructions — and don’t be offended when your partner instructs you.
4. Set A Kiss Goal
Setting a kiss goal is similar to the making out like teenagers suggestion, but instead of general making out, we’re talking only about kissing here.
Maybe it’s something like “I’m going to kiss you 200 times” or, “I’m going to kiss every inch of your body.” The goal it self is kind of arbitrary, because the point is really to build up tension and explore each other’s bodies. Once that goal is set, go for it! Kiss ‘em all over! You might find you’re giggling at first, but the sexual tension will almost inevitably build as you keep going.
In addition to the build-up of sexual tension, setting a kiss goal can be a fun, light way to explore a dominant/submission dynamic. You can order your partner (or they can order you) to stay absolutely still, not touch their genitals, not touch you… You get the idea. It’s a sweet, fun way to play with that power exchange, without getting into pain, bondage, or some of the other elements that are more commonly associated with dom/sub situations. (If those elements feel good for you and your partner, go for it — just make sure to have a strong conversation about boundaries set first.)
5. Bring Toys Into Play
Oh, the possibilities! Bringing toys into the bedroom is a great way to explore each other’s bodies and turn-ons without penis-in-vagina sex. And while you might just think “dildos” or “vibrators” when you hear the word “sex toys,” there are so many more options out there these days.
For example, there are toys that help prevent pain during penetration, sex toys that can be worn as jewelry, amazing lubes, a smart vibrator that lets you track your orgasms with a graph, a range of butt plugs, and innovative vibrators that look nothing like that Rabbit you bought in college. All that to say: You got options, kid. Don’t let any preconceived notions about sex toys get in the way of your sexual pleasure and exploration.
Regardless of your anatomy, make sure the toys you’re buying are made from body-safe materials. And because there are no government regulations on what sex toys are made of a good way to do that is to shop at stores that you trust. I recommend Unbound for toys in general and Dame for cool (and cool-looking) vibrators. But definitely do your own research and go with companies that match with your own personal vibe. (Pun intended.)
One way to really tease your partner and work up some sexual tension is by picking a body part and commit to focusing only on that, for a set amount of time. Figure out how to stimulate that body part in as many different ways as you can. You’ll be amazed at how turned on you (or your partner) can get from a place that you never thought of as erotic before.
Ultimately, the thing that makes any of these options awesome is the tease factor. When you rush right to intercourse, you leave out the one thing that makes sex extra fun: buildup! All of these awesome ways to play will without a doubt result in serious buildup of sexual tension, which you can choose to release however you see fit — intercourse or no intercourse.
So what are you waiting for? Ditch that old intercourse-only sex routine and start playing!
This post was originally published on October 22, 2015. It was updated on August 20, 2019.