Outercourse is a word that most people haven’t heard of – it’s a term used for sex without penetration. I remember asking my flatmates a couple of months ago: do you have sex without penetration? I was met with some judgement and a few harmless jokes, but there’s definitely a stigma surrounding the idea of penetration-less sex, which I’ve never really understood. I left with the feeling that I wasn’t having ‘proper’ sex. Sex has to involve penetration then, right? Wrong.
As a bisexual woman, I’ve found that outercourse is a great thing to try with partners of any gender – and sometimes I find it genuinely more enjoyable than penetrative sex. Many people with vaginas, can struggle with reaching orgasm through penetrative intercourse, and that’s okay! Sex should be pleasurable for both involved. Outercourse includes kissing, mutual masturbation, using sex toys, oral sex, fingering, erotic massage, and anything else that doesn’t include penetration. It’s easy to generalise outercourse as foreplay: everything but the sex part, but I think that diminishes the valid and important experiences that many of us have, and love.
Outercourse, sometimes also called outersex, allows you to be playful, experiment, and really understand what the other person enjoys; it’s a great way to develop intimacy with your partner. I think we’re so used to sex looking a certain way, especially with the influence of media (erotic films, literature and porn) but there is something special about making each other feel good without the end destination of penetration. Emily Nagoski is the author of the enormously popular Come as You Are: The surprising new science that will transform your sex life. She wrote ‘An orgasm’s value comes not from how it came to be or whether it meets some arbitrary criteria but from whether you liked it and wanted it.’ I think this is a vital message that we should all carry with us: sex doesn’t need to look a certain way. Any, and all, sex is valid as long as both (or all) are enjoying it.
If we step away from the idea that ‘sex = penetration’, we can explore so many new possibilities with sex, and discover different types of pleasure. It’s been said that people with vaginas can experience up to 11 types of orgasms (clitoral, g-spot, blended, nipple, clitoral, the list goes on…), each one bringing a unique sensation to the body. Outercourse is certainly a great way of discovering new ways of experiencing pleasure with a partner, with no expectation or pressure that sexual intercourse has to lead to penetration.
‘If we step away from the idea that ‘sex = penetration’, we can explore so many new possibilities with sex, and discover different types of pleasure’
So really, sex is something that should be viewed as the entire experience, including anything and everything that creates sexual pleasure; it isn’t only about the act of penetration
Let’s be honest, it’s hard to have good sex without foreplay. We’re so quick to get into the “main event”– which sometimes isn’t even worthy of being the main event. So why don’t we just make foreplay the main event? Many people write off non-penetrative sex as silly and childish, some think it is an activity just for people practicing abstinence. However, it can be extremely satisfying to people that ditched their V-card ages ago.
Outercourse is defined as ‘sexual activity between individuals that does not involve vaginal or anal intercourse’. Some people choose to use outercourse as a way to practice abstinence whilst still receiving sexual gratification, whereas for some people outercourse is the only thing they need to feel sexually satisified. It is completely down to personal preference.
In the mainstream media, we are typically only exposed to heterosexual portrayals of sex. However, there is not just one solid way that people have sex. Let’s look at the LGBTQ+ community for example; some lesbian couples will have different sexual preferences than other lesbian couples do- some may choose to stick to oral and manual stimulation, whilst some may opt to use a strap-on for penetrative sex. Trans men that are in homosexual relationships will have different sexual experiences than cisgender men in homosexual relationships. Sex is beautiful because it is so abstract and diverse, it is not something that comes with rigid instructions on how to feel good.
There are so many benefits to engaging in outercourse, whether you are in a relationship or having casual sex. In general, it allows you to forget that there is a “goal” in sex, enabling you to have fun and focus on the feelings and sensations that you’re experiencing in the moment. Similarly, you have the opportunity to explore your partner’s body and find out what really makes them feel good (instead of basing your performance on what you’ve seen in porn). Also, in long term relationships, often a switch-up in routine is necessary to spice up your sex life. If getting frisky with your partner has started to feel like a chore, sometimes it can be beneficial to try new things and explore other ways you can make one another feel good.
In essence, outercourse isn’t just something horny teenagers do. It can be an extremely fulfilling and satisfying experience for you to try out; and if it’s not for you then that’s okay. It’s like I said, sex is beautiful because it’s so individual, you just have to find what makes you feel good.