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Sunday, November 28, 2021

Column: Foreplay for the win

It’s a shame that foreplay has been relegated to the category of things guys grudgingly do to get laid. Foreplay is essentially the stimulation and accumulation of pleasurable physical and mental sensations, which is something you can enjoy regardless of your gender or the gender of your partner.

Now, I don’t mean to suggest that spontaneous, little-to-no foreplay sex is not fun –– it definitely can be. But I want to give foreplay its due, particularly because it is more difficult to define. For some people it means anything not involving penetration. For others it stops as soon as you touch the genitals, and so on. How you define foreplay depends on the people involved, the various anatomical features they have and what your boundaries are.

Foreplay is not necessarily limited to the bedroom. When it comes to going from neutral to turned-on, some people find that a clever line during dinner is the equivalent of a 20-minute back rub. So, when you’re out together and sexy-times are likely, ramp up your flirty dirty talk. Humor is your friend here because there is almost nothing better than a partner who can make you laugh before and after sex (and also during). Once you’ve turned on your partner with your words, it’s time to use your hands.

Hands are, in my opinion, the most underrated component of intimate encounters. For starters, they are useful in locating erogenous zones on your partner. These are places on the body that, when touched or stroked, cause arousal. The main erogenous zones are places like the genitals, lips, nipples and neck. However, most body parts can become erogenous via a conditioning process. These secondary zones can begin to cause arousal after the repeated action of touching them during sexual encounters. The condition, though, may be partner- and situation-specific –– you might feel no arousal when one partner touches a specific part of you, even though you felt it with a previous partner.

Good foreplay will make use of these zones. You and your partner can explore each other with your hands (lips and tongues also work well), and see how many you can find. If you’re in a teasing mood, and you know where a particularly sensitive spot is, you can apply quick, light touches to that zone. Romance novel-level begging for more may ensue.

Lubrication, both natural and synthetic, is also an important aspect of foreplay. The need for lubrication is the most likely candidate for why foreplay is considered a “chick” thing. For those of you without female anatomy, just imagine a dry sponge rubbing against a dry glass. That’s what sex can feel like without sufficient lube. But even with lots of warm-up and an attentive partner, additional lube may be required.

When choosing your lube type, there are properties you need to consider. For example, if you’re using any silicone-based sex toys, then a silicone based lube may ruin your toys. Water-based lubes may be stickier than silicone ones and also dry out faster, so some research might be worthwhile to find a type you and your partner like. One other word of caution –– do not use flavored lube for vaginal  or anal sex. It contains sugars, which can cause yeast infections, which generally suck.

As I promised, a few more words on protection. When it comes to foreplay, many people assume that applying protection will bring the action to a halt (male condoms are the common example). This is not the case. When you’re applying protection, keep doing all the activities you’ve been doing, like kissing and talking dirty. It will also help keep the energy going if your partner puts the protection on for you. And do not store condoms in wallets or anywhere they are exposed to heat. It can make them brittle, which damages their effectiveness.

Next week, we talk about touching yourself and why porn is not the devil.

SAM WALL wants to help you get more out of foreplay by contacting sewall@ucdavis.edu.

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