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What is Foreplay and Why is it Important for Intimacy?


couple discussing what is foreplay before intimacy

Have you ever tried to go down a waterslide that wasn’t wet? Think about how that would feel for a second. That’s why foreplay is so important for sexual pleasure.


What Is Foreplay?


So, what is foreplay exactly? According to WebMD, it is sexual acts that lead to intercourse. Foreplay is what helps your body prepare to have sexual intercourse, although foreplay doesn’t have to lead to sex to be enjoyable. It can include engaging in things such as kissing, touching, sensual massage, dirty talk, or cuddling.


You may also feel a physiological response within your body while engaging in foreplay. Some of the things you may feel could be: increased heart rate, sweating, blood flow to genitals, and vaginal lubrication. Additionally, there are also responses happening in your brain. For example, your brain releases dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin while kissing. These are the feel-good hormones that can help diminish stress and increase happiness.


Dr. Ruth, prominent sexual health educator and therapist, also has something to say about foreplay. She states, “It’s particularly more important for a woman to have successful foreplay because it takes women longer than men to get up to the level of arousal needed to reach orgasm.”


If foreplay is something that everyone can enjoy in the moment, doesn’t this seem like a win-win for all involved? Who wouldn’t want to pleasure their partner(s)?! This also explains our body’s physiological desire degrees, responsive or spontaneous desire.


Why Is Foreplay Important For Your Sex Life?


If you’re struggling with how you can incorporate foreplay into sexual activity, let’s dive a bit deeper. Sex education plays a big part here. To add onto that neurobiological aspect mentioned previously, due to the hormones that are released during foreplay, this can help you and your partner(s) experience connection on a deeper level. With that, this can also make orgasm more of a likely outcome with sex. If you’ve heard about the orgasm gap, this can help to close that, and assist all partners are walking away feeling happier and more fulfilled once sex is over.


Yes, foreplay helps with physical intimacy, but it also helps with emotional intimacy. Hence, why it not only begins, but continues, outside of the bedroom. There have also been studies conducted, and, according to The Journal of Sex Research, “male and female identified folks have reported their orgasms were more pleasurable when there is a greater buildup of sexual arousal and desire beforehand.”


In addition, other research has shown that the more diverse techniques of foreplay utilized is relative to the length one is able to last in bed. Ideally, the ideal duration of foreplay is 18 minutes, while on average, studies have shown that realistically, foreplay lasts closer to 13 minutes.


Are you feeling more inclined to incorporate foreplay into your sex life yet? Talking about sex, or learning to talk about sex and your personal desires, isn’t easy. However, it is not impossible.


Need Ideas? Try These Foreplay Tips


Now that we’ve discussed WHY foreplay is so important, you may be wondering, “Well what can I do to enhance this sexual experience with my partner(s)?” Below are some tips that may be helpful for you. Try to keep in mind that sex is not a one-size-fits-all experience. It can be extremely helpful to have an open and honest conversation with your partner about what they like, what they don’t like, what feels good to them, what their hard/soft limits are, etc. This conversation can also be a form of foreplay if used correctly.


  • Prepare the room for sex
  • Keep sexual talk positive – don’t shame your partner for their interests
  • Slow the moment down and take time to build anticipation
  • Incorporate fun, sexy games (card games, board games, sex toys, etc for partners)
  • Kissing, cuddling, sensual touching
  • Incorporate massage oils, lubricants, or flavored products
  • Act out a fantasy
  • Make a yes/no/maybe list
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate about wants, needs, and desires
  • Practice aftercare


When it comes down to it, the best thing to do is to learn what works best for you, your partner(s), and relationship. There may be times when it seems hotter to just get right to it and ditch the pregame altogether! Which is perfectly fine too. Remember, foreplay starts outside of the bedroom, so start having these conversations together, and more fulfilling sex can follow.

Modern Intimacy is a group therapy practice, founded by renowned Psychologist and Sex Therapist, Dr. Kate Balestrieri. This inclusive blog is designed to provide a wealth of information and resources for mental health, relationships, and sexuality. Subscribe today to get the latest information from our expert contributors from all around the world.


Author Bio

Raquel VanLoon, LCPC, CSAT, CADC, is a Clinical Associate for Modern Intimacy. Raquel feels passionate about helping individuals through their journey on becoming their most authentic selves in any relationship or setting. Raquel works with people to develop and maintain healthy boundaries.



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