Many people learn about sex as an act between a heterosexual cisgender couple, in which the man inserts his erect penis into the woman’s vagina and thrusts until he reaches climax. The cultural concept of “virginity” is an extension of this limited idea, in which a person is believed to no longer be a virgin once they’ve experienced vaginal intercourse.
This definition of sex excludes the experiences of many queer people, gender nonconforming people, folks with disabilities, and those for whom intercourse just isn’t all that enjoyable. It prioritizes the most conservative definition of sex, one that says the ultimate aim is reproduction, and not pleasure, intimacy, or self-expression.
“Outercourse” refers to sexual activity beyond intercourse, and can include kissing, massages, grinding and other external stimulation, sex toys, and dirty talk. Some might treat outercourse as a form of foreplay to the main event. On the other end of the spectrum, some people who practice abstinence might see outercourse as an exception to “regular” sex. Yet for many people, outercourse on its own is sex.
What “counts” as outercourse?
There is some debate about whether or not other forms of penetration, such as digital penetration (i.e. fingering), the use of insertable sex toys (i.e. dildos and strap-ons), or oral sex (i.e. fellatio and cunnilingus) count as outercourse. In most contexts, these distinctions are arbitrary. Are you comfortable with the sex acts taking place? Are you communicating with your partner[s]? Are you having fun? That’s what matters. Outercourse can be a useful term to know when exploring your sexual desires, but this isn’t school and you won’t be quizzed later.
A study found that 81.6% of women don’t orgasm from intercourse alone. Orgasms, of course, do not need to be the central focus of sex, but they are certainly nice to experience. The same study found that 36.6% of women require clitoral stimulation to achieve orgasm, either through touch, toys, or oral.
There are other erogenous parts of the body that are left out during vaginal intercourse. Every body is different, literally. Some erogenous parts of the body include the nape of the neck, earlobes, breasts, nipples, upper thighs, the prostate, feet, armpits, and/or the lower belly. Spend some time by yourself or with a partner exploring what feels good.
Outercourse is a preferred method of sex for many people who want to avoid pregnancy but don’t have access to birth control, or for those who are concerned about the spread of STIs. There is still a risk of transmission during other forms of sex; some STIs can be transmitted through skin-to-skin contact or through bodily fluids. Regular screening for STIs (i.e. every year or with every new partner) is recommended. You can also use the barrier method (i.e. condoms and dental dams) for oral sex.
During the pandemic, a lot more people started to experiment with long distance forms of intimacy, such as phone sex, video chatting, and sexting. These proved to have benefits even once it was deemed safe to get within six feet of each other; there is an appeal in having sex with a stranger without having to leave the comfort and safety of your apartment, or in expressing things over text that you might not have the nerve to say in person. Feeld facilitates virtual sex through the introduction of Cores, which allows users to make connections all over the world.
Outercourse is an almost necessary part of group sex, sometimes for practical reasons (it can be physically impossible for every present hole to be filled, though god bless you if you try). It can be helpful for emotional escalation; perhaps you and your partner are new to threesomes, and while the thought of watching them with someone new is exciting, you aren’t quite ready to watch them have sex with someone else (or vice versa). Kissing, fondling, or otherwise a stimulating a person who is being fucked can be hot, as can performing oral sex on one person while being penetrated by someone else.
Many kinks don’t involve intercourse at all. Instead, the focus is on experiencing different physical sensations, or the mental aspect that comes with power exchanges. In BDSM, the main events can include (but aren’t limited to) spanking, bondage and restraints, humiliation, edging, orgasm denial, and forced chastity. Dollification foot worship, cucking, role playing, exhibitionism, voyeurism, and other kinks are about reinventing what sex can look and feel like.