Intercourse, outercourse … or both?

As a therapist, I find it quite disheartening when I see couples who have given up sex entirely because they cannot or do not want to have intercourse. They are missing out on so much sexual pleasure and intimacy!

Are you one of these couples?

Ask yourself these questions:

Do you feel you are not ready for intercourse, but you want your sexual relationship to deepen?

Do you want to explore your sexual experience with your partner without intercourse?

Are you worried you will disappoint your partner the first time you have intercourse, so you don’t want to try?

Are you not having any sexual intimacy because you feel it will lead to intercourse and you don’t want to get pregnant?

Are you finding the pressure on you for intercourse is causing relationship issues?

As a sex therapist, I have heard countless reasons why life in the bedroom has taken a hiatus because one or both partners are refraining from intercourse. (This often is called “bed death” in couples.)

This does not need to happen!

Couples have so many options to enjoy sex without penetration, which many define as intercourse. What if you chose outercourse instead? I like to call it sex play without penetration.

Outercourse is a term that generally describes any type of non-penetrative sex – any type of stimulation outside the body for sexual pleasure.

Even though many consider intercourse the only course, let’s explore why outercourse can be a wise and healthy choice and one that can ignite your sex life.

I would like to clarify that outercourse is not abstinence or asexuality.

Why would couples or individuals choose outercourse?

  • They don’t want to risk pregnancy.
  • They don’t have to worry about having protection (eg, condoms or other forms of birth control).
  • It will help avoid STIs (Remember: rubbing body parts can still spread to infection; anytime outercourse includes genital contact or sexual fluids, your risk increases for STIs).
  • One partner may not want penetration but may still want to enjoy sexual intimacy.
  • One partner may have had a bad experience or trauma, or physically may not be able to have intercourse. Post-menopausal women, for example, may find vaginal intercourse too painful, and some men may not be able to get an erection.
  • One or both partners may not be ready to have intercourse.
  • They want to understand their own body more before having intercourse.
  • They want to learn more about what their partner likes and does not like. Outercourse gives them an opportunity to explore their pleasures.
  • They may want to wait until marriage to have intercourse.
  • It takes the pressure off. Many view penetrative sex as the main source of pleasure and are worried about their “performance.” Through outercourse, couples can enjoy orgasms without penetrative sex.
  • It reduces stress. Many couples worry about pregnancy or STIs; outercourse can reduce these worries.
  • They don’t have to fake it. Some couples feel they must have an orgasm when having intercourse or their partner will not be satisfied. Outercourse can relieve this worry and free them to enjoy sex without pressure. In fact, studies have shown that building arousal through outercourse can stimulate an orgasm and one that is mind blowing.

What counts as outercourse?

Here are a few:

  1. Dry humping: rubbing your genitals against each other often while still wearing your clothes.
  2. Kissing: this can be a simple, fun and very erotic activity.
  3. Mutual masturbation: partners can touch each other at the same time. This also is a great outercourse activity over the phone.
  4. Massage: rubbing, stroking and exploring your partner’s body with your hands can be extremely erotic. Add some scented candles and mood music and the rest will just happen.
  5. Tribadism (also known as scissoring): two women can stimulate each other by rubbing their genitals against each other.
  6. Vibrators and other sex toys: these are a great way to reach orgasm without intercourse. (Remember not to reuse the sex toys without cleaning them first.)
  7. Fingering and handjobs: some may consider these “intercourse” because the vagina or anus is being penetrated, however, others find it a pleasurable outercourse activity.
  8. Oral sex: even though oral sex cannot get a woman pregnant, it still has the potential to spread STIs.
  9. Talking about fantasies: this can increase your sexual satisfaction, build intimacy and even lead to an orgasm with intercourse.
  10. Experimenting with BDSM or other fetishes: talk about these kinky activities before you begin to make sure your partner is willing.
  11. Sleeping in the nude or touching and caressing each other’s bodies: these can bring so much pleasure.
  12. Taking a shower together: discover water stimulation.

Please note: many couples have their own definition of outercourse. They may believe, for example, that fingering or using sex toys crosses the line of outercourse. That’s why it is important to talk with your partner to determine the lines between outercourse and intercourse before embarking on an outercourse adventure that can shut down your sexual experience quickly.

I suggest that when therapists are working with clients who have not chosen intercourse to help them:

  • navigate sexual interactions when one partner wants intercourse, and the other does not.
  • develop erotic compassion toward one another.
  • find creative and fulfilling ways to be sexual outside of penetration.
  • talk about common physical struggles with painful intercourse.

Communication is key when engaging in any sexual activity. Knowing expectations and boundaries, what you like and don’t like, and what feels good and leads to an orgasm is key to a successful sexual relationship. Just remember to practice safe sex.

Take a lesson from the early days of your relationship when you spent a lot of time touching each other in erotic ways before engaging in intercourse. Those times were pretty hot and heavy.

Try not to abandon your erotic life; you have so many outercourse choices.