Foreplay: When you're not getting it, it seems like any will do. But the truth is, foreplay can get just as routine as intercourse. Sometimes it can feel like you're both going through the motions and can predict each other's moves like clockwork. A little kissing here, a hand on a breast or penis there, some oral sex that starts to feel downright obligatory. Before you know it, the excitement and variety of foreplay has turned into "boreplay".
It's easy to fall into the "boreplay" pattern, especially if you and your partner have been together for a while. Don't get me wrong: It's great to feel comfortable in your relationship. But when you get too used to each other, the mystery can fade. Knowing exactly how to get your partner off may mean that you put less effort into turning him or her on. You skip past the appetizer and go straight for the main course. And guys certainly aren't the only ones to blame. Some women just tend to assume that men don't care about foreplay, so they just fast-forward ahead to intercourse.
Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. In a 2004 study, researchers found that both women and men want more foreplay--about 18 minutes, on average (not that you should be timing yourselves!). Because this sexual buildup helps her to get lubricated and gives him a stronger erection, it's a crucial aspect of a hot, healthy sex life. Yet many couples only enjoy a few minutes of foreplay before moving on to intercourse. The simple fact is that the men typically orgasm more quickly, or with greater ease, than many women. The late Dr. Alfred C. Kinsey, famous for interviewing thousands about their sex lives, found that up to 75 percent of men ejaculate within the first few minutes of intercourse. And a recent report suggests that nearly 1 out of 3 men experience premature ejaculation.
Is it any surprise, then, that researchers from the University of Chicago found that men reach orgasm during intercourse far more consistently than do women, and that three fourths of men--but less than a third of women--always have orgasms as part of intercourse? Of course, women often know from experience and self-exploration that they can experience pleasure or orgasm from a variety of types of stimulation. By incorporating more types of sex play into foreplay, women often find that it is easier to experience the pleasure that they want. Many women and men also find that talking to each other during foreplay can help to build intimacy and arousal, at least as much as physical touch.
That's why I usually recommend aiming for about 15 to 20 minutes of foreplay. Of course, it's not just the amount of foreplay, but the quality that counts. My first piece of advice? Take your time, savoring every moment and touch. Remember when your relationship was still new? You probably spent some serious time just making out. That's why I advise keeping your clothes on at first: Everything feels different with a layer of fabric between your partner's hand and your body. Experiment with various textures--silk, satin, even cotton--for different sensations. Focus on kissing each other while slowly removing one item of clothing at a time. Take a new, scenic route to intercourse, appreciating more body parts along the way. Remember: 15 minutes of foreplay, well-applied, could rejuvenate your sex life!
Debby Herbenick, PhD, is a Research Scientist at Indiana University, a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure & Satisfaction.