We're all used to the idea of foreplay. There's making out, which might turn into dry humping. Clothes come partially off, and mouths and fingers travel across the skin, perhaps pausing to stimulate genitals.
Oral sex, hand jobs, and fingering, these are the ingredients we know as "foreplay."
Because when you relegate activities such as oral or manual sex to the category of "foreplay," you view them as less important. They become obligations before the "main event." You may rush through them with slipshod effort or skip them altogether.
And this wouldn't be a huge deal if everyone got what they needed or wanted from penetrative sex alone, or if they could jump right into penetration comfortable.
But that's rarely the case.
This is especially true for women. Research has found that many women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm, and others prefer clitoral stimulation along with penetration/vaginal stimulation. Most women focus on their clits when masturbating, too. While I wouldn't want to make the mistake of describing the purpose of sex as orgasm – intimacy, release, and pleasure can be achieved even without getting off – there's no reason why women should have to "suffer through" sex without an orgasm if they wish to have one.
For many women, what has traditionally been called "foreplay" is really essential to a positive sexual experience. Some men may also prefer those activities to penetration alone. Many people across the gender spectrum may find that they require the additional time provided by foreplay activities to become relaxed, which is crucial to becoming aroused. And without proper arousal, sexual activity may not feel as good – and may even hurt – and is less likely to provide your desired results.
What's the solution to this problem, then? We need to redefine sex. Sex isn't just anal or vaginal penetration. After all, if that were the case, you could argue that many same-sex couples have never had sex, and this is clearly not true. Perhaps the reason why so many people misunderstand how lesbians have sex is that we have so rigidly defined the act in the past.
The language we use colors our worldview. Revising the definition of sex will only help us all have better sex. But if we take a broader view of what counts as sex, what do we do with the word "foreplay?" I've read the suggestion before that we create a new category: coreplay. I think this is a wonderful solution both practically and linguistically.
Calling pleasurable activities that may not involve penetration "coreplay" reminds us how crucial they are to our pleasure and encourages us to provide adequate time and attention to them. By removing the "fore," we can also reorganize how we have sex. We no longer have to view fingering, for example, as something that must always come before sex. Instead, it can happen at any stage of the sexual experience. But even if coreplay activities are still followed by penetration, giving them due diligence allows for greater arousal, increased pleasure, and a higher likelihood of orgasm.
When you're able to stop looking at some parts of the sexual experience as lesser than others, you can discover how significant those activities can be. Remember when you were a teenager who had not yet have had sex? Making out was intensely stimulating and even orgasmic. But once you crossed that sexual threshold, you were less likely to simply stop making out altogether or rush it in a perfunctory fashion. We often do the same thing for cuddling, viewing it as something that must lead to sex with a partner instead of as a fulfilling activity in itself.
But coreplay activities can be an endgame in themselves. Your session in the sack can feel complete if you "only" engage in coreplay. All partners can be satisfied, and no one has to be left out in the cold.
Redefining sex helps to level the playing field for those partners who might not be best served by the rigid way we currently frame sex, and, yes, those people who are the most disenfranchised are usually women.
Of course, not every sexual encounter will be long enough to explore a variety of activities, but you don't have to have sex a particular way just because that's how you've always done it. Even if you don't buy into the idea of "coreplay," examining how you have sex and why can shed light on a subject that's so often in the dark.
Most importantly, you might realize that you've been a selfish lover who always expects – and receives – pleasure in the bedroom. Or you might discover that you're on the other side of the coin and have had a lifetime of mediocre sex because you put up with what you believed sex was "supposed" to be without asking to have any of your needs met in the bedroom.
I often discuss how we need to shift the way we view and talk about sex, and this is just one example of doing that. When we peer more closely at our sex lives, we can see areas that need improvement while taking stock of our strengths. So the next time you crawl between the sheets with a partner, take a good, hard look. When you actively include coreplay, you'll know it's a job well done because of how enjoyable sex will be for you and your partners.