How Long Should Foreplay Last?
First things first. Hopefully, you’ll already know a bit about what foreplay is. But if you don’t, no problem. GASM is here for precisely this - helping you on your journey of sexual understanding at whatever point you’re at right now.
So here goes: Foreplay is any sexual activity between partners which takes place before penetrative sex. Foreplay’s purpose is to warm up the body and mind and make sure that everyone involved is properly connected before any intense sexual activity happens. Sometimes a passionate moment can completely overtake you and you’re tearing each other's clothes off and f**king almost immediately. Most of the time though, it’s better to build up to sex slightly more slowly. This is because, often, it takes a little longer for people to get into arousal, and when we’re aroused, sex usually feels better.
At GASM, while we love foreplay, we don’t necessarily love the word “foreplay”. It’s a word which suggests that penetrative sex is the “main event.” We know that sex can be immensely satisfying with a huge range of sexual activities of which penetrative sex is only one. We’d encourage you to explore all sorts of sexual practices alongside penetrative sex. However, if and when you want penetrative sex (and sometimes we really want penetrative sex) then foreplay is important to do beforehand.
Sexpert, and all round titan of the field, Ester Perel says: “Foreplay is not five minutes before the real thing. Foreplay starts at the end of the previous orgasm.” We should be thinking of Foreplay as all of the ways in which we meet our partner’s needs before sex, so that they can feel safe, secure and attracted to us. Without safety and security, desire is much harder to come by, no matter how hot our partner is. In short, how partner’s treat each other outside the bedroom determines the quality of what happens inside the bedroom. However, in this post, we’re going to focus more narrowly on foreplay in its traditional meaning of “the sexual activity in advance of penetrative sex .So let’s get into how long foreplay should last and how to go about it.
Foreplay isn't just the bit before sex; it's super important in its own right. Foreplay is any kind of physical and emotional bonding through kissing, touching, stroking, and talking (or whispering/teasing/begging/moaning etc etc). Foreplay is aimed at making everyone involved super hot, super into it and super connected. It’s vital prep work for the mind, body (and spirit if you’re into that sort of thing) so that everyone can get ready. Ready to bone.
The Importance of Foreplay
Emotional Connection: Foreplay is about seeing your partner and getting connected. Whether it's staring deeply into their eyes so you feel profoundly linked, or whispering absolute filth into their ears so they know precisely what you’re about to do to them, whatever flavor you’re going for it’s all about connection. Connection can be deep, it can be hot, it can be naughty, it can be kinky, it can be loving (or all of the above. And if it is all of the above…hats off to you.) Whatever you’re doing, get connected first. The more connected you are, the hotter your sex will be.
Physical Readiness: There are physiological changes in our bodies which need to take place too to make penetrative sex work really well. It’s usually helpful for penises to become erect. Vaginas meanwhile will, ideally, get wet. However, it’s important to know that many people, even though they are aroused, don’t always naturally get wet (Hooray for lube!). Sexual activity can also still be very enjoyable without an erect penis (for example if you have Erectile Dysfunction or are exploring prostate stimulation or soft penis pleasuring.)
Enhanced Pleasure: Foreplay increases the chance of orgasming for both partners. Particularly for women, a decent amount of foreplay can really help with an eventual orgasm. This is because the longer that foreplay lasts, the more oxytocin is produced in the body (oxytocin is the hormone which promotes relaxation, sexual pleasure and is vital to an orgasm.) There are also studies which show that longer foreplay leads to greater blood flow to the vagina, and therefore greater sensitivity and greater pleasure.
Reduces Stress: Foreplay helps in relaxing the body and mind, making sex more enjoyable and less stressful.
So, How Long Should Foreplay Last?
Everyone is a bit different when it comes to foreplay. There are a few things you should take into consideration when working out how long foreplay should go on for…
Individual Preferences: Listen to each other’s needs. Everyone needs and likes slightly different things. If your partner loves dirty talk, make sure you send shivers down their spine with your words. If they love being touched, get out the massage oils. If they get aroused very easily and love to get straight into penetrative sex, that’s great too, (so long as you’re also good to go). Listen to what your partner says and to what their body says. Listen to yourself and your body too.
Context and Mood: The amount of foreplay can depend on the context and mood. A quickie in your lunch-break is fine with shorter foreplay, whereas a romantic night might involve longer and more elaborate foreplay.
Communication: As with most things in the sexual world, get talking. The more you share about yourself and the more you know about what your partner wants, the better your sex will be. Crucially, this communication doesn’t have to take place during sex itself (lots of people don’t love talking during sex. Other people do. Learn what your partner wants.) Discussing sex before it happens and after is the best way of figuring out what you and your partner wants. Remember, communication is also non-verbal. Try and tune in to the physical cues that your partner is giving you during sex about what they do and don’t like. If you’re really connected, then you should be able to feel when everyone is ready to move on from whatever activity you’re currently on in the bedroom.
While there’s no universal rule, a study published in the Journal of Sex Research suggests that on average 20 minutes of foreplay can be satisfying for many couples. However, this is just a benchmark; some people will require more or less time.
Making Foreplay Effective
Variety is Key: Keep things fresh (and we’re not just talking about washing behind your balls.) Change things up by doing oral sex, sensual massage, mutual masturbation, different kinds of touch. Don’t be afraid of experimenting with toys, textures, outfits and different locations. Variety is the spice of life (and sex) so do change things up to see if something new might go down well with your partner(s) but be sure to check in afterwards for feedback.
Focus on the Entire Body: Rather than concentrating only on the genitals, explore your partner’s entire body to discover new erogenous zones. Feet, ears, neck, hands, back are all useful areas which can be profoundly exciting to explore before or while you’re also exploring mouths, penises, breasts, vaginas, bums and anuses.
Incorporate Non-Physical Acts: Foreplay isn’t just physical. Compliments, sexting, or sharing fantasies can also be part of it. Don’t forget to build anticipation even before you’re physically together. Take a look at our phone sex explainer here for more ideas.
Use of Toys and Accessories: Introducing sex toys or other accessories during foreplay can enhance pleasure and offer new experiences. Take a look at our sex toy deep dive here.
Quality Over Quantity: It's not just about the duration but the quality of foreplay. Attentiveness, creativity, and a desire to please your partner are super important.
Look, it’s not how long it is, it’s what you do with it that counts (lolz.) Seriously, the length of foreplay isn’t your main concern. Focus on getting connected and making your foreplay really fun, really hot and really right for both you and whoever you’re getting jiggy with. As we say above, 20 mins is a good benchmark. But once you start to get into foreplay, do it for as long as you and your partner(s) want. You do you babes. The more you and your partners play the more you’ll understand what you all want out of sex. Keep things connected, varied and fun.
Foreplay well people.