Martin van Maele's print Francion 15 depicts a couple engaging in foreplay outdoors

In human sexual behavior, foreplay is a set of intimate psychological and physically intimate acts between two or more people meant to create desire for sexual activity and sexual arousal. Either or any of the sexual partners may initiate the foreplay, and they may not be the active partner during the sexual activity. Foreplay lowers inhibitions and increases the emotional comfort of the partners, and implies a certain level of confidence and trust between the partners.

The desire for sex is an aspect of a person's sexuality, which varies from one person to another. A person who desires sexual activity with another person can provoke sexual arousal in the person. Depending on the type and intensity of the relationship between the two people, the stimuli may involve indicating to the person in some subtle and romantic way that he or she has that desire or by provoking other erotic stimuli. There are many potential stimuli, both physical, and/or mental which can cause a person to become sexually aroused, and which stimuli are invoked will depend on circumstances at a particular time. On the other hand, there are other things which act as turn-offs, depending on the person's preferences.


Initiating foreplay

Blowing or kissing on the lower back is an erotic stimulus
Lovers passionately kissing in a park

Any act that creates and enhances sexual desire, interest, excitement or arousal in a sexual partner may constitute foreplay. Communication of sexual desire can be through physical intimacy, such as kissing, touching, embracing or even biting the partner. Mental engagement can also create sexual interest, such as flirting, talking, whispering and teasing.[1]

Foreplay can begin with non-physical behavior that signals sexual availability. Nudity can create sexual interest, such as by one partner stripping or wearing sexually suggestive clothing. Creating a romantic, intimate, or overtly sexual atmosphere can be considered as a gesture of foreplay. The manual or oral touching of an erogenous zone may create sexual interest. Kissing or licking on the mouth, breasts, stomach, buttocks, back and inner thighs or other areas of the body may create sexual interest. A passionate or French kiss commonly indicates sexual interest.[2]

Verbally, foreplay may include compliments, subtle comments with double entendre, and intimate conversations. Non-verbally, foreplay can include provocative clothing, suggestive postures and motions, preening gestures, winking, licking or biting one's lips, standing inside a partner's personal space, and holding a gaze longer than would be expected from only a casual interest.

There are situations which act as turn-offs or which can affect the romantic or erotic moment that may have been created. Turn-offs can range from things like bad breath, body odor, excessive noise or a reference to an ex-partner. A person's sexual inhibition can also impact on creation or maintenance of sexual interest. Some people feel uncomfortable with acts such as French kissing, or the possibility of someone (e.g. children) intruding, or nudity, besides other situations.

Foreplay games

Bondage can act as an erotic stimulus.

Sexual role-playing or sex games can create a sexual interest.[3] Such games can be played either in the home or outside the home. A partner can initiate a sex game even when the other is still at work. This can involve calling the partner expectantly to give him or her a hint on what you have in mind for the night you are going to spend together. Short erotic SMS work the same way. This will start the partner fantasizing about the forthcoming encounter. People who work in an office can use the computer for chatting online with their partner. Erotic chat builds up sexual tension, even though there is no chance of intimacy. However, some may even like the fact that there is no intimacy.

A card or board game can be played for foreplay, a sensuous atmosphere can be enhanced by candles, drinks and sensual food. The objective of the game is for the partners to indulge their fantasies. The loser can, for example, be required to remove clothing or give the winner a sensual foot massage or any other thing that the winner wants to try.

Some couples create sexual interest by watching erotic and pornography videos, or by the use of sex toys. Some couples play games involving sexual bondage and blindfolding. Even the suggestion of such activities can for some people create sexual interest. Fetish activities, and BDSM can be considered foreplay, though they may continue into the sexual activity and not just precede it.

Role playing may involve the partners wearing costumes, to create and maintain a sexual fantasy. As a variation, the partners can make up a (sexual) story together. One of them starts with a sentence and then the other continues until the story becomes sexually explicit, and it provides an opportunity for the partners to express their sexual fantasies. 'Strangers for a day' is a role playing game which consists of the couple playing roles of the first meeting between them. In a public meeting place, the partners pretend to be strangers meeting for the first time. The objective is for them to flirt and seduce the other, without doing or saying anything that they normally would not do or say at a first meeting.

Tantric foreplay

Tantric foreplay is the first step in the lovemaking session, according to the tantra principles. Tantric sex is against rushing things for the purpose of reaching an orgasm, so tantric foreplay is a way to prepare the body and the mind for the union between the two bodies and the universe. The tantric rules say that foreplay must be focused on the preparation before sexual intercourse. Tantric foreplay may include sensual baths between the two partners in a relaxing atmosphere. Fragrance oil and candles may also be used to set up the mood.[4]

The tantric foreplay is only about giving each other time to connect spiritually and bind. Staring at each other while in a cross-legged position and touching the other's hand palms is a usual foreplay tactic used by tantra practitioners. Tantric foreplay may also include massages. The massage that is applied, according to the tantric philosophy, has not the purpose to reach orgasms but to give each other pleasure and connect at a spiritual level.[5]

Role of foreplay

Foreplay is important from at least two different considerations, one of them is purely physiological.[6] On the other hand, foreplay implies a certain level of confidence and trust between the partners and creates intimacy.

Psychologically, foreplay lowers inhibitions and increases the emotional comfort of the partners. Physically, it stimulates the process that produces sexual arousal.

Foreplay has important physical and psychological effects on women, but maybe the latter is slightly more important. The biggest issue related to the ability of achieving orgasms is thought to be solved with the right foreplay techniques.[7]

However, the subject of the effectiveness of foreplay continues to be a point of discussion. An example of this is a European survey of 2,300 women in Prague showed that foreplay is not the key in a satisfactory sexual act. Instead "the duration of intercourse – 16.2 minutes on average – is the clincher".[8]


Foreplay can vary dramatically based on age, religion, and cultural norms. In spite of the clichéd modern folklore that women demand more foreplay and require more time to become physically aroused, recent scientific research refutes that myth. Scientists from McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Canada used the method of thermal imaging to record baseline temperature change in the genital area as the definition of the time necessary for sexual arousal. Researchers studied the time required for an individual to reach the peak of sexual arousal and concluded that, on average, women and men spend almost the same time for sexual arousal — around 10 minutes.[9] This, however, does not take into account the amount of time necessary to become mentally aroused.


There are many historical references to foreplay, with many artistic depictions. The Ancient Indian work Kama Sutra mentions different types of embracing, kissing, and marking with nails and teeth. [10] It also mentions BDSM activities such as slapping and moaning as "play."[11]

See also


  1. ^ foreplay
  2. ^ Foreplay Tricks To Improve Your Sexual Relations: Deep kissing Retrieved on 2010-02-18
  3. ^ "Fore Play Games". Retrieved 2010-03-31. 
  4. ^ Van Lysebeth, Andre (2002). Tantra: the cult of the feminine. ISBN 9788120817593. 
  5. ^ Tantra foreplay techniques Mental Foreplay online portal. Retrieved on 2010-02-18
  6. ^ "Female Foreplay Before Intercourse". Retrieved 2010-04-05. 
  7. ^ Mental foreplay for women Retrieved on 2010-02-24
  8. ^ The Telegraph. "Foreplay is overrated, researchers claim" 2010-02-24.
  9. ^ Thermal Imaging Shatters Arousal Gender Gap Myth; Study Shows Women Become Aroused As Quickly As Men
  10. ^ translation, biting types, using nails
  11. ^ slapping Kama Sutra

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  • foreplay — (n.) in sexual sense, by 1911, from FORE (Cf. fore ) + PLAY (Cf. play) (n.). Earlier as a theatrical term (by 1857). In fact the poem which Mr. Brooks has translated is but the prologue to the swelling theme, the fore play to the actual drama of… …   Etymology dictionary

  • foreplay — [n] fondling action*, caress, cuddling, heavy petting, kissing, lovemaking, making out, necking, oral sex, petting, sex, sexual activity; concepts 375,388 …   New thesaurus

  • foreplay — ► NOUN ▪ sexual activity that precedes intercourse …   English terms dictionary

  • foreplay — [fôr′plā΄] n. mutual sexual stimulation preceding sexual intercourse …   English World dictionary

  • foreplay — [[t]fɔ͟ː(r)pleɪ[/t]] N UNCOUNT Foreplay is activity such as kissing and stroking when it takes place before sexual intercourse …   English dictionary

  • Foreplay/Long Time — Song infobox Name = Foreplay Artist = Boston Album = Boston Released = 1976 track no = 3A Recorded = 1975 Genre = Rock Hard rock Progressive rock Length = 2:25/7:47 (with Long Time) Writer = Tom Scholz Label = Epic Producer = John Boylan Tom… …   Wikipedia

  • foreplay — noun Date: 1929 1. erotic stimulation preceding sexual intercourse 2. action or behavior that precedes an event …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • foreplay — /fawr play , fohr /, n. sexual stimulation, usually as a prelude to sexual intercourse. [1925 30; FORE + PLAY] * * * …   Universalium

  • foreplay — noun In human sexual behavior, the acts at the beginning of a sexual encounter that serve to build up sexual arousal, sometimes in preparation for sexual intercourse or another act meant to bring about orgasm …   Wiktionary

  • foreplay — Stimulative sexual activity preceding sexual intercourse. * * * fore·play .plā n erotic stimulation preceding sexual intercourse * * * fore·play (forґpla) the sexually stimulating, usually pleasurable activity preceding intercourse …   Medical dictionary

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