The Ultimate Guide to Foreplay: Ideas, Tips & Types

two women kissing under their bed sheetby Sara Youngblood Gregory

Let’s face it: Foreplay can get a little stale. It can be easy to fall into the same pattern with partners, even if you don’t mean to. You kiss. You fondle. You take off your pants. But foreplay is a time to connect, get creative, and get in touch with your sensuality and desire. There are so many types of foreplay to explore, and with the right foreplay techniques, you can go from an obligatory warmup to a totally new level of pleasure. 

For a full foreplay reset, check out our tips and foreplay ideas below.

What Is Foreplay?

Generally speaking, foreplay is anything and everything leading up to sex—including emotional, physical, and mental stimulation. Sex means different things to different people, so foreplay might look different depending on the person. After all, one person’s appetizer is another’s main course.

“Foreplay’s purpose is to arouse yourself and the object of your attraction, lubricating your emotions, your thoughts, and your body to a level that makes it easy for you to be present when you are sexual with your partner,” says sexologist Dr. Joy Berkheimer, PhD, LMFT.

Basically, anything that turns you and your partner on can be considered foreplay.

Foreplay Types and Ideas

You and your partner might enjoy something as subtle as a flirty text during the day or as daring as a mutual masturbation session. As you explore the different foreplay ideas below, talk about what you’d love to try and what makes you both feel excited. Remember: You don’t have to try every idea in just one hookup! Also—laughter can be part of foreplay, too, so have fun with it.

  1. Kissing Games.

    You can’t go wrong with kissing games. Think about how you typically initiate sex and where you can mix up your routine. If you usually start kissing in bed or on the couch, pick a different location to get away from old habits. Maybe you join your partner in the shower for a make-out session or you invite them to “distract” you while you’re on your laptop or doing chores. Build up tension by only kissing each other’s mouths, faces, necks, chests until you just have to use your hands and start touching.
  1. Oral Sex.

    Oral sex can definitely be the main event, but it’s also great for foreplay. Take turns giving and receiving oral sex with your partner—that way, you both have the chance to relax and focus on your bodies. Or if 69ing turns you on, explore mutual pleasure. For extra creativity, consider changing up where oral sex happens—like the shower, kitchen, or laundry room—and change up positioning, too, with standing and sitting. For a full rundown on giving great head, check out How to Give a Clit a BJ and How to Give a Blowjob.
  1. Dirty Talk.

    While this can be intimidating at first, even a simple phrase can take mental and physical arousal to the next level. Talk with your partner first: Do you prefer praise, teasing, or something a little more aggressive? Do you like instruction or encouragement? Once you know what the other likes, consider telling your partner how good they feel and how hot they look. You can also ask (or beg) for things you want them to do to you and vice versa.
  1. Sexting.

    Sexting is a great way to set the mood and build anticipation throughout the day, or while you’re away from each other. As always—and especially if you or your partner might be at work or around other people—check in to make sure it’s a good time to get flirty. Sexting can be as simple as describing how much you want your partner, or as fun as sending a luscious butt selfie or a new toy you want to share with them later.
  1. Mutual Masturbation.

    Mutual masturbation—or masturbating with or in front of your partner—is the perfect blend of voyeurism and exhibitionism. Watching your partner touch themselves, and feeling them watch you, is incredibly intimate. It’s also a way to build trust and connection with your partner even without touching. As you masturbate, watch how they pleasure themselves and what they enjoy, so when you do come back together, you can apply their techniques. For the more adventurous, you can also position a mirror while both or one of you masturbates.
two women kissing
  1. Slow and Passionate Kissing.

    Set the mood with candles, music, and soft lighting, and explore your most important above-the-belt erogenous zone: your mouth. Slow, deep kissing is the perfect way to connect with your body and your partner. If you tend to rush through kissing, or it often becomes an afterthought, set aside 10 minutes just for kissing. Start gently by kissing your partner’s fingers, hands, neck, and chest. Then, go to their mouth and incorporate your tongue for passionate kissing. If you or your partner don’t love wet kisses, press your open mouths together and sync your breathing—sharing one breath back and forth until you have to break apart.
  1. Sensual Massage.

    Another great option to connect with your sensuality: Take turns giving your partner a back, hand, or full-body massage. With massage, you can focus on giving your partner relaxation, and if they like it, you can praise how great they look and how much you love touching them. Incorporate a scented, body-safe, and skin-softening massage candle like the Dark + Sexy Massage Candle by Seagrape Apothecary. As an extra sensory experience, the massage oil feels warm on the skin.
  1. Teasing and Anticipation.

    If you’re looking to connect with your bratty side, teasing brings a ton of flirty tension to foreplay. Talk to your partner and decide who will tease who and what you’re comfortable with. Then, consider teasing through both touch and talk. Bring out your favorite external vibrator—we love the power and fluttering tips of VOLTA—and tease your partner’s inner thighs, nipples, neck, and genitals. Use VOLTA to stimulate your partner, and then pull away when they start to get excited. To build even more anticipation, you can blindfold your partner, so they’re not sure what you’ll touch next. Then, make them ask to be touched where they want, and have fun with it, saying you’ll only give them more if they ask very nicely.
  1. Roleplay.

    Roleplay involves taking on a new character or situation and stepping out of your normal role. This can be elaborate as meeting at a bar, picking each other up as “strangers,” and pretending to have a one-night stand, or it can be as simple as playing with more dominant and submissive personalities. If you’re not sure what to choose, you can watch porn together for some fantasy inspiration (which even by itself is hot foreplay).
  1. Striptease.

    Stripteases are hot, and they can be even more fun as a surprise. Pick out an outfit you know your partner loves, or buy a new set of lingerie or some new sex gear. Play your favorite music and have your partner sit back and relax. It can be hard, but try not to rush through. Build up anticipation by removing your clothing slowly and wait for encouragement. Flirt with your partner by touching their chest, grinding on them, or touching yourself as you take off your clothes.
two women holding hand playfully

Foreplay Tips

There are four core tips that will help make foreplay comfortable and pleasurable for you and your partner. Each can be applied to any type of foreplay (and sex). We break them down here:

  1. Communication.

    Just like with sex or anything intimate, communication is the key to understanding each other’s needs and boundaries. Before foreplay, talk about what you both want, how you’ll check in during intimacy, and what to do if one or both of you feel uncomfortable or need to take a break. During play, this can look like questions—“How does this feel?” or “Do you want more?”—and also direct statements like “I’m ready to switch positions.” Afterwards, talk about what you loved and what wasn’t for you, and open the floor for your partner as well.
  1. Take Your Time.

    There’s no rush when it comes to good sex. Part of the fun of foreplay is taking your time and enjoying the slow burn of connection and sensuality. After all, our bodies are wired to experience pleasure all over, not just in our genitals. Invest in your mutual pleasure by slowing down and enjoying the ride. Let the anticipation build up as both you and your partner get more and more turned on—and trust you’ll get to enjoy the full spectrum of sex when you’re ready.
  1. Use Your Hands and Mouth.

    Your hands and mouth are the true centers of pleasure for your partner. Use your mouth to kiss, tease, and suck your partner’s erogenous zones. Your hands can hold, grab, tickle, graze, and flirt with your partner’s body. Ask what feels especially great for your partner and give them more of what they like. Don’t forget to ask for your favorite techniques as well!
  1. Focus on the Clitoris.

    With any type of intimacy—oral, internal, and foreplay included—most vulva owners need clitoral stimulation to access orgasm.
    “Many people who have a vulva and vagina are more likely to experience orgasm through activities that are considered ‘foreplay.’ Hands, toys, and tongues are some of the preferred ways to get off for many vulva owners, even if they also like penetrative sex,” says sex educator Jules Purnell, M.Ed. Consider bringing a few clit-focused toys into the mix, like our powerful (but still quiet) VIM vibrating wand or NŌS, our vibrating c-ring that doubles as a handheld massager.
Woman holding 2 wine glasses

Foreplay FAQs

How long should foreplay last?

There’s no one-size-fits-all when it comes to foreplay and how long it should last, but it should be enough time for you and your partner to connect with one another and feel ready for more.

“Foreplay should last long enough for you and your partner to have let go of any distractions outside of the environment you are in and outside of the two of your bodies moving with each other. You should be able to move in rhythm with each other when foreplay has been long enough,” says Dr. Berkheimer.

As a good rule of thumb, set aside 15 to 20 minutes for foreplay and check in with yourself and your partner on how you’re feeling.

Is foreplay necessary?

Definitely. Foreplay can play a big part in emotional and physical comfort during sex. If you rush through foreplay, internal sex can be painful, as the vagina or anus won’t have had time to relax.

For those who have penetrative sex, getting the body ready for penetration is important to prevent things like tissue damage. Most vaginas self-lubricate, and foreplay helps make this possible. For anal penetration, warming up before inserting a toy or penis helps loosen the muscles and tissues in and around the anus, making injury or discomfort less likely,” says Purnell.

What if my partner doesn't enjoy foreplay?

Some people aren't that into foreplay and prefer to move pretty immediately towards internal sex. That said, all partners need to be heard in a relationship. If foreplay is important to you, it’s worth working towards compromise and finding foreplay techniques that you both enjoy.

Are there any risks associated with foreplay?

Like with any kind of intimacy, there are always certain precautions and risks you should be aware of. If genitals, fluids, shared toys, or anal contact are in the mix, it’s absolutely possible to spread STIs.

“Using condoms on toys and changing that condom between partners, wearing gloves for hand-to-genital or anal contact, and using dental dams or plastic wrap during oral sex all decrease that risk. Talk to your partners and test often so that everyone is aware of one another's status and can make informed decisions,” says Purnell.

Can foreplay lead to orgasm?

Absolutely. Some people orgasm from nipple play, rim jobs, external stimulation, grinding, and many other types of non-internal play. It depends on the person and the play, but orgasms are definitely on the table.

Can foreplay be done outside the bedroom?

Definitely! Kissing, teasing, flirting, and sexting can all happen outside the bedroom. This goes without saying, but always be aware of your surroundings and act appropriately for the situation. Foreplay is mental and emotional and doesn’t have to mean physical touch, so your imagination (and not your bedroom) is your only limit!

Sara Youngblood Gregory is a lesbian journalist and author of The Polyamory Workbook. A former staff writer for Vox Media's POPSUGAR, her work has been featured in the New York Times, Vice, Cosmo, R29, HuffPost, Jezebel, Bustle, and many others.

This post was written by a guest blogger, and all opinions and ideas expressed are that of the author. All ideas included are for educational and entertainment value, and do not constitute medical advice.

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