When asked to think about 'sex' - the act of penetrative sex will be the first thing that springs to mind for many people.
The problem is, penetration often doesn't fulfill the needs of one or both partners. Speak to a certified sex therapist, and you'll quickly realize that for many people, sex is something that needs to involve much more than a few minutes of penetration to be genuinely satisfying.
With this in mind, we've created a guide that explores foreplay in a lot more detail - including 19 tips and foreplay ideas that will almost certainly enhance your sex life.
Spoiler alert - oral sex is just a tiny part on this list. In fact, you might be surprised to discover the wide and varied range of ideas that'll get your partner's blood pumping!
The Importance of Foreplay
If you're reading this, you're no doubt already aware that sex can be (and should be) about much more than just quick penetration resulting in male orgasm.
To be clear, this isn't just an attitude that will make people consider you a good lover; it's a fact that's backed up by countless scientific studies that look at the health and relationship benefits that come with a fulfilling sex life.
From a mental health point of view, sexual pleasure is shown to reduce stress and anxiety, offer boosts in mood and self-confidence, increase your oxytocin levels to inspire trust and empathy toward partners, and improve brain health.
Focus on the physical benefits, and there's an even longer list of scientific proof that foreplay and sexual fulfilment is a must-have. As well as burning calories, you can also expect a boosted immune system, better sleep, a lowered risk of heart disease, and a reduction in the risk of prostate cancer - to name just a few.
So, what's the key to this kind of health and relationship-boosting great sex? According to virtually every article and study written on the subject - great foreplay is the answer.
Sex and foreplay shouldn't be exclusive
For lots of guys, we've been guilty of thinking about foreplay as a 'starter' - something optional that comes before the main event.
This is an attitude that needs quick and decisive reconsideration.
Despite what porn may try to teach us, foreplay isn't just ten necessary minutes of oral sex before the 'good stuff - foreplay is the good stuff. This is especially the case for women.
If you need more proof, it's useful to understand 'the orgasm gap'.
The orgasm gap
Also referred to as 'the pleasure gap' - the orgasm gap is a social phenomenon that looks at the imbalance between sexual satisfaction between men and women in heterosexual relationships.
In the background study into the topic, researchers found that 75% of men always had orgasms with their partner - but only 29% of women could say the same. What's more, very few women who orgasm (less than 30%) actually do so through penetration - usually requiring clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm.
Although we should always be careful not to stereotype the experiences of men or women, it seems clear that penetrative sex offers fulfillment for most guys - but for far fewer women. Put simply, if we want to feel part of a heterosexual couple who are both fulfilled, there's a responsibility for both people to initiate foreplay and explore far beyond just penetrative sex.
Expanding your sexual experience
Although the tips we're going to suggest here could be considered 'foreplay' - you'll see that all of them go much further than the idea of going down on each other for a few minutes before penetration.
In fact, actual foreplay is something that can last hours or even days before any penetration and often doesn't even require physical contact.
19 Proven Foreplay Tips and Ideas
1. Communicate with your partner (ask them what turns them on)
Sometimes, we forget that everyone is completely unique. What works for you sexually might be a complete turn-off for someone else.
So, how do we truly understand what turns our partners on? The answer comes from talking.
Clearly, any discussion about sex needs to be done carefully and thoughtfully. Asking what turns your partner on while they're frantically getting ready for work isn't going to result in a productive conversation - so choose your moment and setting carefully.
Gauge the mood and, when the time is right, ask some questions about what your partner likes. If you need some help setting the scene for your talk (which can be sexy in itself!) then consider putting a sexy movie on or offering a sensual massage to make sure you're both relaxed and feeling able to talk openly.
2. Explore your partner’s whole body
Again, no stereotyping here - but guys are sometimes guilty of trying to rush toward their own satisfaction. For many people, groping or direct stimulation is something that should be worked up to, rather than being a starting point for a sexual encounter.
People have numerous 'erogenous zones' - sensitive parts of the body that, when stimulated, can stimulate the pleasure receptors in the brain and encourage the production of sexual readiness hormones.
Taking time to explore each other's bodies in these areas can unlock some incredibly hot sensations:
- The nape of the neck
- The lips
- The lower back
- The pubic mound
- Inner thighs and inner knee
- The crease of the thigh
- The ears and earlobes
- The scalp
- The stomach
- Hands and wrists
- The inner elbow
- Soles of the feet
- Between the toes
- Around the ankle
- The labia minora (the inner lips of the vagina)
- The perineum
- The anus
- The prostate
- The butt cheeks
- The nipples and breasts
- The frenulum (where the penis shaft meets the head)
Sometimes, your partner will have never had these areas explored before - so this is a real 'try it and see' tip. Massages are a great way to explore each other's erogenous zones without it feeling like you're just ticking them off a list!
3. Use your breath
A quick Google search of breathing techniques and foreplay might give you the impression that tying breathing into sex is exclusively a tantric, spiritual thing - but that couldn't be further from the truth.
If the rise of ASMR (autonomous sensory meridian response) videos has taught us anything, it's that noise can create incredible feelings - and the noise of breath is up there with the very best foreplay ideas.
It's that noise can create incredible feelings - and the noise of breath is up there with the very best foreplay ideas.
When you're lying together, explore the idea of synchronizing your breathing. Focusing on your own breath draws attention to the body and increases awareness of sensations that we often just don't notice. Doing this in time with your partner eases nerves, builds anticipation of sexual contact, and helps us picture those breathy moans that come when someone is very turned on...
4. Take your time (don’t rush things)
Watch a typical porn movie or steamy Hollywood sex scene, and you could be fooled into thinking that rule number one is to get your partner's clothes off as quickly as possible.
While there is fun to be had in frantic sex, it's usually better to build anticipation slowly - including the undressing, then moving to the bedroom, and - importantly - taking your time exploring your partner's entire body.
Sex, like most things, is better savored slowly.
Think about the last time you had a delicious meal - you didn't stuff it all into your mouth and swallow it down as quickly as possible. Instead, you enjoy each bite - noticing the smells, the feelings, and the overall atmosphere.
Foreplay can be enjoyed in exactly the same way. Slow down, feel each touch, and enjoy the feeling of the blood flow and your heart picking up pace. Your partner will be enjoying all of these things too - and it can lead to amazing orgasms when the tension finally lets up.
5. Build anticipation
All too often, we think of foreplay as something that happens just before penetration - but no one says this has to be the case.
Foreplay starts when you both want it to start - and that can mean building anticipation long before you even get close to touching each other.
If you're not going to see each other until your work day is done or the weekend comes around, why not tell your partner that you're looking forward to pleasuring them? This is where technology is especially useful - a sexy message or picture can help to build anticipation even if you're miles apart.
The anticipation of sex can build all day, week, or even month if you're in a long-distance relationship. When you do get around to touching and kissing each other, the resulting foreplay can be explosive.
6. Use sexy underwear
Most people have day-to-day underwear and special-occasion underwear. For the first kind, comfort is key - but for the second kind, feeling sexy is a far more important factor.Sexy underwear is a fantastic way to slow foreplay down and really enjoy the moment.
If you're used to seeing your partner getting out of their work clothes, suddenly seeing them in revealing underwear can be a huge turn-on.
There are lots of reasons why sexy underwear works so well as a part of foreplay. Firstly, having it on can make you or your partner feel more desirable. Secondly, it ties into point 5 - the anticipation that you're wearing something that's going to turn another person on.
Buying sexy underwear for a partner is also a fantastic gift. Not only do you get to enjoy seeing them wear it - but you also send the message that you want to see them in it, making them feel desired.
7. Use sex toys
Sex toys are not just for solo fun. In fact, using sex toys together can elevate the experience to a whole new level.It's essential that you understand how sex toys fit into a couple's sex session though.
To be absolutely clear - vibrators, dildos, beads, wands, and the millions of other toys on the market are not there to replace you!
Instead, they can be used to enhance your foreplay. Maybe you can lie together and use toys on each other - or maybe you can encourage your partner to let you watch as they get themselves off.
Even shopping together for sex toys can be a thrilling experience. Stay open-minded and you could discover things about each other that you might never otherwise have known.
8. Make it all about enjoyment and fun
If you're not careful, foreplay and sex can become a bit of a formula that couples get into the habit of following every time. Often, this is watching TV, then a few minutes of foreplay followed by penetration. This is especially true for couples who've been through that exciting honeymoon stage and have fallen into comfortable routines.
If you think back to the early days of a relationship, the possibility of spontaneous sex is one of the most exciting parts of being together. Love is important, but there's a lot to be said for lust too. The more exciting you can make foreplay, the better.
Try to get it out of your head that foreplay is simply 'necessary' and try to start thinking of it as where the most fun happens.
Try initiating foreplay outside of the times you'd normally have sex. Try passionate kissing and touching outside your normal routines. If you can both reignite that desire to make each other cum anytime or anywhere, you'll start to see each other through those lustful eyes you enjoyed before!
9. Get kinky (if that’s what you both want)
No one suddenly becomes interested in kinks immediately upon becoming sexually mature. Usually, it's an interest that's been fuelled by previous experiences or seeing things that turn you on in movies or porn.
Kinky means something different to everyone - but some of the most popular kinks involve light bondage and rough play. Hopefully, it goes without saying that this doesn't mean you have to buy restraints and a whip straight off the bat! Instead, start very light - perhaps some gentle hair pulling, spanking, using a firm grip during your play.
It's essential that you seek consent as you go - a simple "do you like that?" or "does that feel good?" will help you quickly understand if your partner is enjoying what you're doing.
As per our first tip, the post-sex conversation can then be useful to see if they'd like to do it again, take it further, or perhaps turn the tables and be a little rougher with you.
It's important to remember that it's not just your kinks and desires that should be catered for. Try to get into the mindset that you'll do things that help your partner get off.
It goes without saying that you must be comfortable with what you're doing - but you'll often find it's an incredible turn-on just to see your partner's body responding to the kinky things they enjoy!
10. Plan ahead
The idea that all good sex is spontaneous and unplanned is simply not true. In fact, the idea of planning a fantastic sex session often works as part of the foreplay.
It doesn't have to be hotel suites with a bed full of rose petals either - even just telling your partner that you've bought a massage candle and planned for an early night is a step in the right direction. This builds anticipation and can make each of you feel sexy and desired long before you start undressing.
Think about what you both enjoy and agree to safeguard some time to make it happen.
Examples might include:
- Choosing a night where you'll switch your phones to silent, enjoy a meal together, then treat each other to a massage afterward.
- Agreeing on a night where you'll go to bed early so you can shower together and enjoy some lingering foreplay.
- Booking a night away somewhere nearby so you forget your daily routines and can just enjoy each other's bodies.
Make sure you tell your partner that you'd like to plan something - this helps build the anticipation and feelings of lust for both of you.
11. Play with your feet
We've already talked about erogenous zones in the second tip on this list - but feet deserve special attention.The soles of the feet contain more nerve endings than any other part of a woman's body - and this is perhaps why playing with feet is such a popular kink.
Whether or not you have a foot fetish doesn't matter - because caressing your partner's feet can be a massive turn-on.
Again, a massage is a good place to test the water here. Start with a foot rub then mix up the techniques you use, perhaps using some light gentle tickles, gently caressing the toes, or even some light kissing or licking.
Most people will burst into laughter at the feeling of having their toes nibbled and sucked - but after this initial overwhelming feeling, it can be a serious turn-on. If your partner responds well, you might even ask them to touch themselves while you carry on with the play - you'll have a great place to watch them from too...
12. Use whispering
One of the biggest thrills of sex is the idea that you're doing something naughty that no one else needs to know about. Naughty secret plans almost always involve some whispering - so it can be a huge turn-on to start whispering your lustful thoughts into your partner's ear.
The key to sexy whispering is to start fairly innocently and build up the intensity of what you're saying or suggesting.
Perhaps begin with some compliments. You might get close and explain that you just had to tell your partner how good they look or why their ass looks especially good in what they're wearing.
You'll be able to tell from how they respond if it's something they enjoy and whether you might want to take it further. If they like it, you could perhaps start telling them how much they're turning you on - or what you'd like to do together.
As with lots of the other tips on this list, whispering is a great way to make the other person feel sexy and a little naughty. As men, we can enjoy sex regardless of how turned on our partner is - but the best sex sessions come when a partner is feeling as sexy as possible. Feeling sexy and confident is an amazing way to lose inhibitions (and clothes!)
13. Get innovative
Lots of couples have 'maintenance sex' - sex that's inspired by a feeling that you should be having sex, rather than sex that's driven by passion.
Not every sex session needs to be mind-blowing - but it's certainly good to mix in some passionate sessions to make you both feel desirable and fulfilled.
One of the best ways to do this is to mix up the kind of sex and foreplay you have. Always have sex in bed? Why not take a shower together? Always have sex at night? Perhaps close the bedroom door when you're both in from work and enjoy each other's bodies earlier than usual.
Being innovative doesn't necessarily even mean making big changes to sex. You might decide to just experiment with some different positions, involve a sex toy, watch each other masturbate, or do anything else you don't ordinarily do.
14. Pretend you’re strangers
The idea of sex with a stranger is one that taps right into our innermost feelings of self-confidence. On some level, everyone likes to feel desirable - and if that means you're turning on a stranger to the point where they want to have sex with you, then you're definitely desirable!
The good news is, you don't have to start inviting strangers over to play this fantasy out. This is something you can do together without pushing boundaries too far.
Put some thought into how you'd like the fantasy to look - and don't be afraid to make it realistic. Perhaps you could pretend you're someone coming to fix something in the house - or maybe you could arrange to be in the same bar at the same time and 'get chatting'.
You might decide to dress a little differently from your normal clothes - or even introduce yourself using a different name.
Think about what turns you both on and give it a try. When things do start to get intimate, refer back to tip 13 and mix things up a little - after all, if you did meet a stranger, they're unlikely to follow your usual playbook!
15. Set the mood
Lots of people think that creating the right atmosphere for sex has to involve dozens of roses and a carefully curated sex playlist - but in reality, there are other, more important things to think about.
A lot of the time, ordinary life gets in the way of great sex and new foreplay ideas. With this in mind, one of the best things you can do is create a space that helps you both forget about other 'life' stuff.
One of the best things you can do is create a space that helps you both forget about other 'life' stuff.
Got an overflowing basket of washing to do? Put it in the closet. Is the bedroom a little untidy? Find places for everything and make the room look good. Order a nice take-out rather than worrying about kitchen chores. Messages never stop coming through? Switch the phones to silent.
Also, if your bedroom light is bright - light a candle instead. Even the most body-confident partner will usually feel sexier by dimmed candlelight.
All this adds up to create a space where you're focusing on each other, rather than the million and one other things that get in the way of your desire and passion for each other. With the mood set, you can think about some of the other ideas on this list - perhaps some sexy underwear, heavy breathing, or playing out some of your fantasies together...
16. Use your lips properly
When it comes to your lips, it's easy to be in the mindset that they're there for either kissing or sucking when it comes to foreplay - but they're much more versatile than this.
Most things that you can do with your fingertips can also be done with your lips. What's more, your lips are generally much softer, so caressing your partner's body becomes even more intimate when you're doing it with your mouth.
Teasing is a fantastic way to put your lips to good use. Use them to gently glide across your partner's erogenous areas and see what they respond to. Don't be too quick to head for the tried and trusted areas either - just spending a little while exploring your partner's breasts or thighs with your lips can whip them up into a frenzy of anticipation.You should use your lips to mix up your kissing techniques too.
There are countless ways to kiss - from light tickling of your lips against theirs to full-on, open-mouth passionate kisses.
The more you mix up how you use your mouth and lips, the more likely you are to hear a groan of ecstasy when you hit just the right spot with the right pressure.
17. Play with food
Combining food and foreplay might have you thinking about bananas and licking whipped cream off each other's bodies - but there are plenty of ways to crank up the anticipation and pleasure without being so direct.
Food works amazingly well as a part of foreplay because there are so many different tastes, temperatures, and textures to play with.
Why not start by setting the scene, then closing your partner's eyes or suggesting a blindfold? Then, take pieces of chopped sweet fruit and tickle their lips with it. Even better, rub the fruit on your lips and let them kiss or lick your lips in an effort to guess what you have.
As your game progresses, you can rub the fruit, chocolate, cream, caramel, or other sweet treats over whichever parts of your body you choose - letting them lick, suck, and guess which part of you they're tasting. When the time is right, have them blindfold you and play the game again - the body parts they have you licking and tasting will give you a good idea of where they'll like you to focus your attention later too...
18. Give them an erotic massage
Massages are a hugely under-appreciated part of foreplay. Not only do they give you an opportunity to rub and explore all your partner's different erogenous areas, They're also an amazing way to rid their body of the day's stresses.
Not sure where to start with a massage? Don't worry - there are literally tens of thousands of basic massage guides to be found on YouTube.
Many have super-simple techniques that you can learn quickly and easily.
A big part of giving a great massage is using the right massage oil. Be careful though - if your massage is likely to turn into sex, you'll want a product that's made with women's health in mind.
Choose a non-tacky water-based option that's designed for massages and as an intimate lube so you don't have to worry about breaking for a shower before things hot up.
You can even choose products that add a little extra fun and stimulation to your massages too - scented, flavored, and even warming products can bring a whole new dimension to a neck or shoulder rub.
19. Talk dirty
Dirty talk is something that a lot of people shy away from because they feel it's too easy to end up embarrassed or sounding a little creepy. If you can get around these feelings and find some boundaries, it can be amazingly hot and a great way to build anticipation and experiment with different kinds of play.
It's useful to think of dirty talking in the same way you would try out a kink. Go slowly and gently at first, then step things up if your partner responds positively.
Try starting with a whispered question - perhaps asking where your partner would like your hands or lips to explore.
Not only does this help to get them playing with some dirty talk in return, it also establishes how they like their body referred to. Not everyone is comfortable with very dirty talk - so let them lead the way with their own names for yours and their intimate areas.
As your foreplay heats up, you can push the boundaries a little if it feels appropriate. You might give them instructions for what to say - getting them to use your new dirty talk to encourage you to do something harder, gentler, or longer.
Inhibitions drop significantly when you're enjoying foreplay or sex - so encouraging some dirty talking is a great way to get heat-of-the-moment ideas about fantasies or other exciting things you'd both like to try.
Amazing foreplay ideas: A summary
You'll notice that many of the best foreplay tips here don't focus on physical acts of foreplay. Of course, this isn't to say that your fingers and mouth aren't going to be put to use - but instead, we've tried to focus on a massively under-appreciated female erogenous zone - the brain.
You only have to take a glance at a couple of 'porn for women' categories on your favorite tube site to see that there's often a big difference between what turns men and women on.
Porn that's designed to press women's buttons will almost always be more sensual, more fantasy-driven, and involve far less frantic penetration.
Whether your partner is your wife or a one-night stand, the best foreplay comes you've cranked the desire and anticipation up to the maximum.
This often means foreplay starts a long time before you're even in the same room.
Focus on making your partner feel like the most desirable person you've ever met - then, when the time's right, talk about what turns them on. Keep listening, and you'll get all the information and guidance you need to have the most mind-blowing foreplay and sex sessions you'll ever experience.
Of course, the more selfless you are with foreplay, the more your partner will give back too - giving you the chance to turn these tips around and explain exactly what's going to make foreplay incredible for you too.