Remember back in high school when you could just make out for hours, and it was basically the best thing ever? Then we all became adults and heavy dry-humping sessions were traded almost exclusively for seven minutes of sub-par penetration that didn’t even result in an orgasm? Yuuuup, me too. And it sucks.
But if you’re like me and find yourself missing some of that horny build-up you experienced when you were a teen, let me put you on something you’ve been seriously sleeping on: outercourse.
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The term was developed in the 1980s when “safer sex” became a household thing, says Good Vibrations sexologist Carol Queen, author of Exhibitionism for the Shy. The purpose was “to help people differentiate between intercourse and all the sexy things that can be enjoyed without penetration,” says Queen.
And yeah, it’s pretty freaking great. Allow me to explain everything to know about this sexy, consensual act that just might become your new fave form of sensual expression.
What is outercourse?
Outercourse is a sexual activity in which people receive non-penetrative sexual pleasure. “The details of what this means is subjective from person to person based on their boundaries,” says Tyomi Morgan, certified sexologist and pleasure coach. “Some people consider outercourse everything but penis in vagina. Others exclude penetration of any kind including fingers, sex toys, and anal sex.”
This means that pretty much everything sexual you do that isn’t penetrative counts as outercourse. Think: making out, touching, massages, external toy play, and some BDSM activities make the cut, says Queen.
“Many people think of outercourse as pretty vanilla, but depending on what you like, it can include as many slaps or spanks as light-fingered strokes. It is truly a variable type of play and very much worth exploring.”
Plus, outercourse can result in high arousal and orgasm. Concentrating on it and and actively removing penetration from the equation can actually bring way more pleasure into your life than you think.
What’s the difference between outercourse and foreplay?
The two terms can be loosely used as synonyms, but Queen notes: “I am not crazy about the term ‘foreplay,’ because it implies that you are doing activities that proceed the real main event.” But FWIW: Many people have great sex and never even have intercourse, says Queen. “Penetration is an option, not the definition of sex.”
By calling a sexual act “outercourse” instead of foreplay, it implies that it can start and end as outercourse. There’s nothing that needs to proceed it or come afterward.
What are the perks of outercourse?
There are pretty much infinite reasons why you might opt for outercourse over intercourse, but here are a few biggies Queen and Morgan want you to take note of:
- You can get super kinky since lots of BDSM and role play sessions don’t actually involve penetration. Think: handcuffs, blindfolds, floggers, and whips.
- For whatever reason, you want to abstain from penetrative sex (maybe it feels uncomfy to you, maybe you’re not comfortable doing it on your period, maybe you’re more likely to orgasm from clitoral action, etc.)
- You can prevent pregnancy without the use of barrier or contractive methods.
- You can prolong sex if your partner struggles maintaining an erection.
- You suffer from painful sex due to endometriosis, vaginismus, fibroids, or scarring (physical and mental) from sexual trauma.
In addition to alllll of the above, outercourse is also a great way to build your bond as a couple (and add some spicy new options to your sexual repertoire). “Outercourse can be just as satisfying as penetration (if not more so),” reminds Morgan.
Are there any risks involved?
Good news: Outercourse is often significantly less risky than all forms of intercourse (especially where STI transmission is concerned). Your outer skin isn’t as absorbent as the skin found in the mouth, vagina, and anus (known as “mucosal tissue”), so touch is often way safer. That said, outercourse doesn’t come without its own risks.
If you’re partaking in oral sex, that mucosal tissue exposes you to anything your partner could be carrying (like STIs). Make sure you talk beforehand regarding when the last time you were tested. Generally, utilizing barrier methods is a smart idea for some forms of outercourse.
In addition to health risks, it’s imperative to make sure everything you’re doing is consensual. “It’s no less important to make sure your partner wants to do the things you’re planning to do when engaging in external touch,” says Queen.
So, how do I incorporate outercourse into my sex life?
The simplest way to partake in this nostalgia-filled fave is to simply start. But instead of breezing through this portion like you may normally with foreplay, take your time and don’t rush into penetration or even genital stimulation. Talk about your fantasies, give each other tantric massages, and try to get each other to orgasm without any penetration at all, recommends Queen.
And if you want the best outercourse (and potentially best sex in general) or your life, “try edging,” urges sexologist Shamyra Howard, author of Use Your Mouth.“During mutual masturbation, attempt to bring each other to orgasm but stop right before orgasm occurs. Repeat this at least three times for an intense, mind-blowing climax.”
It might seem simple, but bringing the fun form of sex back into your bedroom is one act you won’t want to be left out of. Trust me, your 17-year-old self insists you give it a try.
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