If you’re one to mindlessly rush through foreplay — or have a habit of skipping it entirely — know that you’re missing out. Adding more of it to your repertoire can make your sex life a whole lot better.
Before we dive into all the steamy tips, let’s clear something up. People generally treat foreplay as an optional precursor to sex — the appetizer to penetration’s main course. And while that’s sometimes how it goes, we also need to recognize that acts that are often considered foreplay (think: fingering, having oral sex, or using toys) can be satisfying entrees all on their own.
“It reinforces the idea that intercourse is the ‘main event,’” he told HuffPost. ”Of course, anything that helps increase erotic desire is good. And anything referred to as foreplay can be a complete sexual or erotic experience unto itself.”
“I like to think of foreplay as really creating that erotic connection and focusing on stimulation — both yours and your partner or partners’ — and just kind of enjoying the ride of arousal,” he added.
“Foreplay also includes … showing up in ways that make life easier for your partner — doing a load of laundry, taking the kids to the park, making sure bills are paid on time.”
– Tom Murray, sex therapist
Plus, foreplay has the power to make the sexual acts that follow, whatever they may be, more pleasurable. Physical touch that feels good when you’re turned on may be uncomfortable or even painful when you’re not.
“That includes not going right for the sensitive spots — nipples, clitoris, head of the penis,” Siegel said. “They have to be worked up to in order to ensure the sensations are pleasurable and not irritating.”
We asked sex experts to share some of their top foreplay tips you may not have considered before. Find a couple that appeal to you and try them out with a consenting partner.
1. Start by being a good partner outside of the bedroom.
“For way too long, common conceptions of foreplay focused on the minutes prior to penetration: lick here, touch there, kiss this, whisper that. Foreplay also includes daily events where you demonstrate a desire for your partner as a person: showing up in ways that make life easier for your partner — doing a load of laundry, taking the kids to the park, making sure bills are paid on time — and certainly ensuring that you’re not doing shit that makes life harder, like breaking promises or being unreliable. Kindness and consideration are sexy!” — Tom Murray, sex therapist and marriage and family therapist
2. Reveal your secret kinky fantasies to each other.
“Play a little game of confession with each other and share a kinky fantasy that you’d like to try, but are perhaps a bit nervous about. Then choose a night to ‘make’ one another take the leap! Sometimes having a little encouragement is all we need to really go there. Just play it safe, communicate and set up a safe word in advance if needed.” — Nazanin Moali, sex therapist and host of the “Sexology” podcast
3. Tap into all five senses: sight, sound, taste, touch and scent.
“It keeps us present in the intimate moments that matter most. For example, when you’re making out with your partner, listen to their breathing. The way they hold their breath in anticipation of what you’re going to do next or the pleasure sounds they make as their body relaxes into your embrace. Sometimes a perfume or even laundry detergent can have a pleasant impact on the way you fit together during foreplay.
Getting in a mirror and watching the way their face reacts to your touch is a supremely underrated experience as well. Pay attention to the softness of the lips, the firmness of the nipples against the wetness of the tongue or the smoothness of their skin. Being sensual adds layers to the pleasure and makes foreplay more engaging for everyone.” — Goody Howard, sexologist and educator
4. Send some saucy sexts earlier in the day to set the mood.
“You can engage in foreplay before you physically meet up. Mentally stimulating your partner beforehand is underrated foreplay. Imagine how excited you would feel reading a hot message from your lover. Words of their desire for you, hints or straight-up detailing what they fantasize about doing later. That builds excitement before you’re actually together.” — Robin Wilson-Beattie, a disability and sexuality advocate and educator
5. Play hard to get.
“Since foreplay is really about increasing erotic desire, sometimes that can be done by building up to the sexual experience by letting them know that can’t have you. If you have something planned, for example, start sending texts or pics during the day of what they won’t be getting later. Even while you are both already preparing or getting undressed, continue to playfully deny. This kind of teasing can be suspense-building and kick the passion up several notches.” — Siegel
6. Suggest a game of strip poker.
“People definitely know about strip poker and other variations on strip games, but likely don’t have them in their go-to foreplay routines. Playing strip poker or another goofy game you add stripping to is such an amazing way to add playfulness and flirtation into your encounter and bring back some of that early relationship spark!” — Eva Bloom, sex educator and YouTuber behind the channel “What’s My Body Doing?”
7. Figure out which stressors in your lives are messing with your desire. Then try to eliminate a few of them.
“Learn about the dual control model of arousal, or what I call the ‘gas and brakes’ of your sexual arousal. Remember: Better sex isn’t always about adding more excitement. Most people focus too much on pouring on the gas of arousal while forgetting to take pressure off the brakes.
Explore what’s putting the brakes on your ability to relax into the pleasures of foreplay. Some brakes we can control easier than others. It is far easier to manage the distractions of dirty sheets or asking your partner to shower before initiating sex than it is to get a new job that doesn’t drain you. But even taking a little pressure off the brakes can go a long way.” — Chris Maxwell Rose, founder of PleasureMechanics.com and host of the podcast “Speaking of Sex With The Pleasure Mechanics”
8. Objectify each other on purpose.
“I know, I know. Objectification’s becomes a dirty word. People’s minds naturally go to the eons where women, in particular, have been objectified exclusively for their sexuality. Nevertheless, viewing one’s partner and being viewed by one’s partner as a sexual object is essential for desire. Of course, no one wants to only be objectified. People are complex and multilayered; they want to be appreciated for their many attributes. Nevertheless, if you’re not objectifying your partner and encouraging your partner to objectify you, then desire will elude you.” — Murray
9. Go skinny-dipping.
“Getting naked in the water can feel super sexy. You get bonus points for sneaking around a hotel, your apartment complex or even late night at the beach.” — Moali
10. Read erotica together.
“While cuddling or during mutual masturbation, have one partner read the other erotica poetry, or take turns reading sections of an erotic anthology. It can be incredibly intimate, help get you into a sexy mood and give you inspiration for things you’d like to explore together. This is also a great idea for long-distance couples or partners who can’t see each other because of the COVID-19 guidelines. Simply open FaceTime and get to it!” — Bloom
11. Slow things way, way down.
“It can be all too easy to rush through sex, eager to take advantage of the opportunity. But rushing through pleasure doesn’t leave us satisfied. Slow everything down. Linger on the kiss before getting naked. Lavish one another in full-body massage. It takes confidence to slow down, and the less you rush the more you will feel.” — Maxwell Rose
12. Experiment with temperature play.
“With temperature play, you’ll stimulate the sensory nerves on your skin, heightening arousal. For the cooler side, try experimenting with ice cubes or putting dildos — especially glass ones! — in the freezer. For the warmer side, try dripping wax from a candle on each other’s body or using a warming lube.” — Moali
Responses have been lightly edited for clarity and length.