Foreplay isn’t optional. It’s not something that you can half-ass for two minutes before rushing into P-in-V or P-in-B sex. Foreplay is something you should take your time with to get both your partner and you in the mood. After all, you shouldn’t be feigning excitement or mindlessly going through the motions just for your partner’s sake. Foreplay is something that should turn you on as well.
Honestly, the term foreplay is somewhat of a misnomer because it implies that what comes next—the actual “play”—is somehow better. But that’s not always the case. Most people with vulvas can’t orgasm through penetration alone. They require clitoral stimulation in order to climax, which can happen with manual stimulation, oral sex, or sex toy action.
That said, sex isn’t all about orgasming. The rubbing, touching, kissing, and talking you have before penetrative sex should be enjoyable in and of itself.
Now to get the best foreplay tips, we spoke to various sex experts, therapists, and psychiatrists. Try one, two, or all of the foreplay tips below the next time you start fooling around and just see what happens.
1) Sext throughout the day
Foreplay doesn’t simply start in the bedroom. It can start from the moment you wake up. Little texts like “Can’t wait to get naked with you tonight” can get your partner excited before you even set foot in the same room. If sending nudes is something that turns your partner on, go ahead and swap some sexy photos with one another. Then you can text what you want and plan to do to her naked body.
2) Add some temperature play
Ice cubes and candles that double as massage oil are a fun and easy way to turn up the heat on your foreplay, explains Sofiya Alexandra, co-host of the podcast Private Parts Unknown.
“Hold an ice cube between your teeth and draw it down your partner’s body,” Alexandra says. “Or, if you’re more into heat, like me, you can get candles involved—one of my college boyfriends and I used to use just regular soy candles to drip wax on each other for a little BDSM fun,” Alexandra says.
That said, a massage candle is a safer way to dip your toe into wax play if it’s new to you. “Drip high at first to cool the oil down before initial contact with skin, and take your time slowly massaging it in for maximum pleasure,” Alexandra says. “You want your partner’s body to buzz like a hive of murder hornets.”
3) Take your time removing articles of clothing
Foreplay is a marathon, not a sprint. You’re in no rush to finish it. (Though if you are pressed for time, here are the best sex position for quickies.) Instead of quickly stripping down, start by taking off her shirt. Wait a few minutes before you take off her pants, then her bra, and so on. You can then focus on that newly revealed body part. So after taking off her pants, massage her legs. Once the bra is gone, you can lick and gently suck on her nipples.
4) Get wet together
If you’ve ever attempted to have sex in the shower or in a body of water, you’ll know that it’s nearly impossible to thrust when your body is submerged in liquid. That’s why Courtney Kocak, co-host of Private Parts Unknown, suggests using the tub as a means of foreplay. “I feel like sexy fantasies that involve candlelit bubble baths or steamy showers are ingrained in us,” Kocak says. “Enjoy stripping down with your partner before you get in—maybe set a playful tone by taking turns underdressing each other.” Just make sure to keep the water hot so you can stay in for a while and really explore the intimacy of touch.
5) Give her a strip tease
In a similar vein, go ahead and give her a little strip tease. (If you need inspiration, you can always check out the SNL skit with Chris Farley and Patrick Swayze auditioning to be Chip ‘n’ Dale dancers.) If you dance poorly, at least you come off as endearing and funny, but if you do in fact strip well, she will want to pounce on you.
6) Wear sexy underwear
Sexy undergarments aren’t just for women. If you find the right fit, you can really turn her on. (If you’ve never tried low-rise briefs, we highly recommend them!)
7) The precoital erotic massage
Before having penetrative sex, give your partner an erotic massage that both relaxes and teases them. Prior to even touching them, you’ll want to set the mood with lighting and music, and then go ahead and whip out the massage oil. From there you want to start massaging them, and at first, it shouldn’t even seem like an erotic massage. But once they’re really relaxed, that’s when you start massaging those naughty bits.
8) Ask what turns her on
When in doubt, just come right out and ask what she likes during sex. “Most women appreciate men who want to make sure they’re satisfied,” says Barbara Bartlik, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at Cornell University. “If she notices you’re working hard to please her, she’ll be more likely to return the favor.”
9) Focus on quality, not quantity
Improve the quality of foreplay and she’ll never again bug you about the quantity. “If you act as if you’re just going through the motions to get to the sex, she’s going to notice, and it will take longer for her to get excited,” says Michael Perry, Ph.D., a sex therapist in Encino, California.
In other words, do what you want to do, and enjoy it while you’re doing it. If you like how her calves feel, stroke them in appreciation. If you like her butt, kiss it. “When a man is loving what he’s doing, it’s going to show through and turn her on, too,” says Perry.
10) Take it easy at first
Yes, the clitoris is the obvious place to focus your attention. Still, many men do wrong by it. “Direct stimulation of the clitoris can actually be painful,” says Cathy Winks, author of The Good Vibrations Guide to the G-spot. “It’s much better to rub the clitoral hood [where the tops of the labia meet] or to rub along the side of the clitoris than it is to go straight for the head of it.”
When playing with the clitoris during oral sex, Birch’s advice is to “focus on the clitoris, then don’t focus on the clitoris.”
“The clitoris reacts best to being teased, so you want to lick it and suck on it a little, build a little tension, then back off on it a bit before going at it again,” she adds.
11) Expand your repertoire
There are plenty of ways to expand your oral sex repertoire, and you should always be looking to add new moves and mix things up. For starters, trying lying perpendicular to her body and stroking her clitoris with your tongue in a horizontal motion, rather than up and down. She’ll appreciate the change in stimulation, hopefully enough to return the favor.
12) Drive her wild with the figure-8 technique
The figure-8 tongue technique is one of the most tried and true ways to get things going below the belt. When you’re at her service down below, work the supersensitive area around her clitoris in a figure-8 pattern. Arouse her with gentle sucking until the little button swells, then carefully expose the area with your fingers.
Use the slippery underside of your tongue to circle it to the left and then to the right. With the rougher top side of the tongue, flick from right to left and then up and down. Finally, work up to figure 8s, alternating between your tongue’s smooth underside and firmer tip. Constantly vary the degrees of pressure you use.
13) Don’t overlook the labia
Oft overlooked as mere barriers to the vagina, the labia are packed with nerve endings and shouldn’t be ignored. Hold each one between your thumb and forefinger and massage it, working your way up and down.
Or, using all of your fingers and your palm, “smoosh” the labia together, almost like you’re (gently!) kneading dough.
14) Explore her entire body
Don’t just zero in on her genitals. The body is filled with erogenous zones like her neck, thighs, and breasts.
“Genitals are fascinating and fun, but try to spend some time focusing on your partner’s entire body instead of going straight for her crotch,” says Cassie Fuller, cofounder of Baltimore sex-ed company Touch Of Flavor. “Try caressing, licking, or nibbling other erogenous zones, such as her neck, back, ears, belly, or wrists.”
15) Try a toy
A vibrator buzzing around her erogenous zones can be just as stimulating, if not more, than your hands alone. Bring one in for the assist during foreplay, touching her everywhere but her vagina with it.
16) Don’t talk too much
Be careful what you say when you’re trying to set the mood and build arousal.
“Weird, clichéd phrases can cause the mood to die quickly,” she April Masini of AskApril.com. As a general rule, keep dirty talk simple and personal: Pick a body part and tell her how sexy you think it is, or describe a fantasy you have involving her.”
Then again, don’t zip your lips altogether. “Women want mental stimulation,” says Ian Kerner, Ph.D., author of She Comes First.
17) Pay attention to how she feels
Everybody is different, so make sure you’re able to read how she responds to what you’re doing. It shouldn’t be hard to tell what’s working, and to then use this information to keep a good thing going.
“If she winces when you talk dirty, move onto your next play,” says Masini. “Or if she’s really into making out on the sofa, don’t try to move it to the bedroom.”
18) Pay attention to how you feel
If you’re worried about getting off too early during intercourse, try becoming more aware of your pre-orgasmic sensations.
Most men only recognize that last, no-turning-back feeling, that occurs just before ejaculation, says David Copeland, author of How to Succeed with Women. By then it’s too late to do anything about it.
Try to become familiar with the two or three more subtle sensations that precede that one, so that you can slow down at the right time.
19) Don’t forget about kissing
Don’t forget what got you here in the first place.
“Women get their greatest erotic pleasure from frequent, passionate kissing,” says Patti Britton, Ph.D., clinical sexologist, and author of The Art of Sex Coaching: Expanding Your Practice. “If you get the sense that she’s starting to lose interest, kissing is always the best way to bring her back into it.”
Just remember that passionate kissing doesn’t always mean frantically swabbing out her tonsils. Try to mix up your tongue play with the occasional closed-mouth kiss on her nose, eyes, and forehead.
20) Reward her bravery
When she initiates the action, make an extra effort to please her sexually and to let her know how much you approve. Tell her you loved how she got things going. Sometimes women wonder if you’re going to perceive initiation as negative or if it might make you uncomfortable.
21) Know when to skip it
If you already have good sexual chemistry, it’s perfectly all right to occasionally skip foreplay.
“When you’ve been creating a larger sexual context in your relationship, you’re basically operating in that [state of foreplay] all the time,” says psychologist and relationship therapist Tracy Thomas, Ph.D. “If you’ve been together for a while, you should know her well enough to know when it’s okay to jump straight to the main event.