Guest Written by Bobby Box (@bybobbybox) is a freelance writer and editor whose work on sex and culture has been published in countless publications, including: Playboy, Elle, NewNowNext, Billboard, Daily Beast, Them., The Advocate, Women’s Health, Mel Magazine and AskMen.
Somewhere in our history we got real confused about sex. Unfortunately, our society is one that’s governed by patriarchy and heteronormativity. It taught me, a young and confused queer boy sitting anxiously in class, that sex occurs when a penis penetrates a vagina; an act that, as far as I was told, was solely for procreation. It was such a narrow perspective on a subject so complex that it provided me with a false sense of identity. Let me explain.
- The Pleasure Gap: How Often After People Having Orgasms?
- Why Do Some People Prefer Outercourse?
- How to Have Outercourse: 12 Fun Alternatives to Penetrative Sex
What is the Orgasm Gap?
I always knew I had an affection for boys, but part of me liked girls, too. Because no part of my school’s sexual education so much as mentioned sexual fluidity or queerness (let’s not even get started on gender), I assumed everybody felt the same way I did, but since we’re “supposed” to get married and have babies, we simply dated and had sex with the gender that made that happen. How sad.
It’s for similarly ignorant reasons that heterosexual women, in particular, are having less than satisfactory sex. Sure, we’re taught about abstinence and STI prevention (using fear-based tactics, of course), yet we’re never lectured about the clitoris, the only organ in the human body solely dedicated to pleasure.
This lack of knowledge has been evidenced in numerous studies, which have found heterosexual women are least likely to orgasm during partnered sex. One of the more prominent studies surveyed over 50,000 adults and found that while 95 percent of heterosexual men “usually” or “always” orgasm during sex, only 65 percent of heterosexual women do.
The fact of the matter is that 75 percent of women require clitoral stimulation to orgasm, and only 25 percent are consistently orgasmic during vaginal intercourse. Not to mention, sex on average lasts 5.4 minutes and it takes women 13.4 minutes to orgasm, so there is ample data that supports the inclusion of outercourse.
Gay and bisexual men are all about it, too. Researchers surveyed over 25,000 men who have sex with men and found that only 35 percent had participated in penetrative sex during their most recent hookup.
Since intercourse is often served as the main dish, it doesn’t have to be. So I’d like to emphasize the importance of outercourse (non-penetrative sexual activity), whether it be in tandem with intercourse, or on its own. Who knows, it may be the key to unlocking more less rigid and more satisfying sex. But, of course, there’s only one way to find out.
Why Do Some People Not Enjoy Penetration During Sex?
There are many physical, mental and social reasons one may not enjoy or prefer penetrative sex. These things include erectile difficulties, a tight pelvic floor, vaginismus, health and body image issues, performance anxiety, disabilities, fear of STIs and HIV, chronic pain, a well-endowed partner, vaginal dryness, past trauma, the list goes on. And yet, outercourse is a concept we’ve only recently begun acknowledging.
Though its usage dates back to 1986 according to Dictionary.com, “outercourse” was only taken seriously around 2017, as the aforementioned research on orgasm disparities produced such disappointing results. As such, outercourse and clitoral stimulation were popularized as a means of closing the orgasm gap.
More recently, in 2013, sex therapist Dr. Joe Kort created the term “side” as a moniker for folks who favor outercourse. This month, Grindr added this preference to their dating app, and is the first to acknowledge the community. Though initially created for gay men who don’t enjoy anal sex, people of all genders and sexual orientations can (and do) identify as a side.
The ugly truth is that penetration as the climactic sexual act stems from social scripts that are homophobic, ableist, sexist, and grossly outdated. The reality is that humankind is beautifully diverse, so to think everyone would enjoy penetration, or one way of having sex, is foolish and ignorant. So the first step toward embracing outercourse is accepting that sex is so much more than penetration. The next step is exploring your options.
12 Alternatives to Penetration
Mutual Masturbation: Mutual masturbation is hot for a number of different reasons. It blends voyeurism with solo pleasure and serves as a valuable lesson should you take note of the ways your partner stimulates themselves. Reach for your favorite lube, throw on some porn (or some sensual music), and splendor in the sights of your partner pleasuring themselves while doing the same.
Sensual Massage: There are few things more intimate than sensual massage. Exploring your partner’s body with oiled hands is a fantastic way to relax and bond without pressure to take things further. If you’re both comfortable, slowly yet firmly massage the curves and folds of the bum, breasts and genitals. If you’re really into feet, show them some love as well. Just light a candle, play some calming music and take your time exploring each other’s bodies.
Tease with Toys: Sexual anticipation is hot, and if you’re looking for new ways to tease and tantalize, use vibrating or pulsing sex toys to trace the erogenous zones of your partner’s body from head to toe. While some are shaped for internal stimulation, they can feel just as good (if not better) when used externally against the neck, clitoris, scrotum, anus, feet, breasts, nipples, etc.
The Magic Wand Mini, ($99)
Oral and Digital Sex: There are so (so!) many sexual acts that require no penetration at all. Cunnilingus, analingus, blowjobs, rubbing, licking, sucking the clit, scrotum and testicles, pinching/clamping nipples, and so on. These are a few of the deeply satisfying options you and your partner can share without penetration.
Frottage: There is a reason we humped pillows as we discovered our sexuality. And nothing says high school like making out, groping and dry humping on the couch. Bring back the glory days and act like horny teenagers.
Get Kinky: Truth be told, this article could have just been a list of non-penetrative kinks, because there are many. And if things click, exploring kinks can lead to some of the richest and deepest forms of intimacy you’ve ever experienced. When polling my audience online, the most popular non-penetrative kinks were: impact play, watersports, rope play (shibari), pet play (pups), and foot worship. If you’re keen, give them a try and see how it goes!
Sportsheets Saffron Loop Handle Paddle, ($24)
Quality Cuddle Time: Sometimes when we want sex, we’re ultimately craving intimacy, and cuddling is a great way to relax into each others bodies and experience extreme closeness. Pair cuddling with other intimate activities, like tracing shapes on your partner’s back and shoulders, kissing their neck, whispering sweet nothings in their ear, pulling them in nice and close with a gentle squeeze. Be cute!
Electro Sex: Erotic electrostimulation (e-stim, electrosex) is a sexual practice involving the application of electrical stimulation to the nerves of the body, with particular emphasis on the genitals, using a power source. Electrostimulation has been associated with BDSM activities, and erotic electrostimulation is an evolution of that practice. Try the KINK Electro Play Wand.
Explore Dom & Sub Roles: Exploring dominant and submissive roles can create a deeply erotic environment, even outside of the bedroom. For example, a particularly dominant friend of mine likes to take his sub on a date and make all the decisions for him. He decides what they will eat at dinner, who they can flirt with at the bar, and will make his sub watch as he flirts with other men. It’s a different take on dom/sub play that builds sexual tension and anticipation throughout the evening.
Fun Factory Be One V2, ($70)
Intercrural sex: Also known as interfemoral sex, intercrural sex is a type of non-penetrative sex where the penis is placed between the receiving partner's thighs and friction is generated through thrusting. Though this is the defining intercrural fold, the thigh isn’t the only fun place to fuck. Try between the breasts and butt cheeks, in between folds of fat, armpits, etc. Because these areas don’t produce their own lubricant, be liberal with lube.
Sexting: If your schedules are hectic or your partner is out of town (hell, even if you’re free as a bird), sometimes it’s really hot to explore fantasies by exchanging raunchy messages, sexy nudes, videos, or Facetiming your partners and masturbating together. Witness your partner like they’re the porn star of your dreams.
Arcwave Voy, ($99)
Penetrate a Toy Instead: Don’t enjoy penetration? There are toys for that. For people with pensises that may not be particularly fond of bottoming, there are dual strokers that are open on both ends that you can both fuck at the same time. Lovers suggests the Arcwave Voy or the Zolo Double Penetration Stroker for two unique sensations. For people with vulvas, each can wear a finger vibe and stimulate each other (like Fun Factory’s Be One Finger Vibrator). Think mutual masturbation…but with sex toys. The options are endless.
Want more great sex tips?
Follow us on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, TikTok, and YouTube: @LoversStores
Your Everything-to-Know Guide to Outercourse: Cosmopolitan
I'm Always Horny, but I Hate Having "Normal" Sex: VICE
Outercourse is the "New Sex" & Here's How to Try It: Her World