Friday, March 06, 2009

Down with ‘foreplay’ (by Suzie)

           I like a lot of the activities labeled "foreplay." But we need to get rid of the term itself, which is too vague and devalues what it describes.
          Too many people think of sex as penis-in-vagina (PIV) intercourse, with everything that comes before called “foreplay.” They don’t talk about “afterplay” because, if the man orgasms during intercourse, sex is over. Even people who don’t have views this, um, rigid often place more importance on PIV intercourse than other sexual contact.
          A site on sexual counseling defines foreplay as:
A term used to refer to sexual activities other than intercourse. The term comes from the view that some individuals hold that all activities of a sexual nature are merely designed to lead up to intercourse.
          According to the Wikipedia definition, you can “lead someone on” with “provocative clothing” or licking your lips, and that might count as foreplay. But you can’t know what is or is not foreplay until sexual activity is over.
Direct manipulation of naked erogenous zones is not considered foreplay when it is not preparatory for further sexual acts. For example, mutual masturbation and oral sex are often considered final sexual acts; as final acts with no expectation of further sexual congress, these are not considered foreplay.
         So ... foreplay is anything done before intercourse, even though those same acts may constitute sex on their own. If one person comes during foreplay but, within a reasonable time period, engages in PIV intercourse, was what the people did beforehand still foreplay? What if two people planned to have intercourse, but one or both came, and they didn’t do anything else? If a couple has oral sex and then anal sex, was the oral sex foreplay?
          Because of cancer, I had most of my vagina removed. Once, an oncologist gave me a questionnaire to determine my level of sexual dysfunction. My inability to have PIV intercourse hurt my score. (I still like to get good grades, even on a sexual dysfunction questionnaire.) It didn’t matter if my partner and I were having the best sex ever, or if I had a partner without a penis.
          Many women with perfectly fine vaginas cannot reach orgasm with PIV intercourse. For them, what gets defined as foreplay may be much more satisfying, and they would be better served if they focused on those activities. Not surprisingly, PIV intercourse works much better for men. A typical study found 75% of men and 29% of women always have orgasms with their partner. Meanwhile, almost all women can have an orgasm by themselves.
          Heterosexual sex for women? FAIL.
          Or, to paraphrase Feministe, if you think of sex only as PIV penetration, and everything else as foreplay: Yr doin it wrong.