When we hear the word ‘sex’, most of us imagine a bit of foreplay followed by intercourse, with orgasm at the tippity top of the mountain as the goal. Society places an insane amount of importance on penetration, whether each partner climaxes from it every time, how long it takes everyone to finish, and a host of other details.

In my experience, prioritizing intercourse can be hugely limiting. I hate the pressure it puts on everyone to perform.

“Am I wet/long/hard/tight/slow/fast enough?” Worries like that are sure to put a damper on the fun.

I’ve also found that when we set P-in-V as the default finish line, we miss out on endless other ways to foster pleasure and intimacy.

I’ve always adored foreplay for the act itself, with or without penetrative sex afterward. There’s no set-in-stone script or specific physical requirement to fulfill. It’s just a comfy, delicious time to explore, enjoy, and find out what you and your partner REALLY like.

Ready to go off script? Here are some tips for amping up your foreplay game.

1. Stop worrying about orgasms.

Getting off is nice, but worrying about being able to finish or how long it’ll take to get there can make it impossible to do so. Do everything you can to help your partner climax, but don’t panic or take it personally if it doesn’t ultimately happen for either of you. There’s always next time!

Enjoying foreplay for its own sake can actually lead to more orgasms in the long run. By cultivating a greater sense of ease in your sex life, you’ll make more space for pressure-free pleasure.

(That being said, if not being able to come is a consistent problem that’s putting stress on your relationship, find a good time to bring it up with your partner and discuss the options at your disposal. Not worrying about orgasms doesn’t imply that you don’t want to have them.)

2. Put aside a chunk of time to play.

Quickies can occasionally be fun, but if you’re rushing through sexytime on a regular basis, you’re missing out on a metric fuck-ton of potential awesomeness.

Turn off your phones, clear your minds of obligations, and allow yourselves to be in the moment together.

Foreplay is all about indulgence, not just some chore to get your partner hot and bothered enough for intercourse.

To indulge even more, try using some foreplay enhancers, like clitoral balms or nipple play gels! Bijoux Indiscrets makes a whole line of "Slow Sex" products designed specifically to help you slow down and really enjoy your foreplay!

3. Create anticipation beforehand.

Foreplay starts in the mind. You can awaken your partner’s sexual core hours before meeting them in person. Send a text telling them what you’ll be wearing, or request that they wear something specific. Threaten to tie them up and ‘torture’ them slowly when you get home.

Send them a picture of a fun new toy you just bought, or some sexy art you like.

(Note: Make sure to get the green light before sending salacious pics of any kind. They could get in trouble if you send nudes to their work phone or tablet, for example.)

Read: An Etiquette Guide for Sending and Receiving Nudes

4. Build intensity as you go.

There may be days when you and your partner will want nothing more than to rip each other’s clothes off and get right to it. Most of the time though, you’ll want to ease into the headspace and build arousal over time.

Start off slowly and softly. Be curious and pay attention to your partner’s reactions. When the time seems right, kick up the speed and intensity a notch, moving along bit by bit.

5. Focus on fostering relaxation.

With all the impossible sexual standards floating through pop culture these days, it’s natural to feel nervous while we’re getting intimate. Foreplay is an opportunity to truly relax with your partner.

Exchange massages. Get lost in rounds of seemingly endless kisses just for the fuck of it. Run your fingers over every inch of their skin.

What relaxes you might differ from what relaxes your partner. Ask questions to find out what makes them melt.

Read: The Ultimate Guide to Sensation Play

6. Activate all 5 senses.

There are many ways to craft a seductive and enticing experience during foreplay. Try approaching sensuality from a variety of angles.

  • Sight: What types of images turn you and your partner on? Maybe you’d enjoy looking at erotic art, photography, or even porn together.
  • Touch: Learn your partner’s erogenous zones by exploring their body with your hands and/or toys. Experiment with different sensations. Does your partner like soft caresses, pain, or a little bit of both, depending on the mood? Talk about it and see what works.
  • Smell: Aromatherapy can be both relaxing and arousing. Subtle scents are better than overpowering ones. Try lavender, rosemary, lemongrass, or whatever appeals to you and your partner.
  • Taste: Feed your partner delicious things like chocolate-covered strawberries and other goodies. You could also seduce them by cooking them an amazing meal. The way to the heart is through the stomach, as they say.
  • Sound: Create playlists with different moods for sexytime. Is it an R&B type of day or would death metal be better? Choose your own adventure!

Alternatively, you might consider taking away one or more of your partner’s senses while you play. Sensory deprivation can include blindfolding someone or having them wear headphones playing a certain type of sound. This kind of play can be great for heightening your partner’s remaining senses and creating a focused, receptive headspace.

Read: Top 6 Underrated Erogenous Zones to Discover

7. Let one person lead.

“I find you irresistible and wanna give you head, you sexy scoundrel.”

“No, I wanna give YOU head, my breathtaking goddess.”

“Just lay back and relax, gorgeous man.”

“No, YOU relax, ethereal queen and light of my life!!”

Jesus Christ. I mean, generosity is sweet and all, but generally speaking, there needs to be some give-and-take for magic to happen during foreplay. Find a balance by letting your partner take the reins when it feels right. You can return the favor later when they’re feeling more receptive.

Remember: satisfying you satisfies them. (Or at least, it should.)

8. Communicate.

“Is this turning her on? Does she like how this feels? Does she still think I’m sexy? Hope she didn’t notice that little zit by my ear. I wonder if she has some secret kink she’s too embarrassed to tell me about. Is this enough pressure? Am I going too fast?!”

These are the thoughts of a lover who lacks information. Help them out by speaking up when you have something to say. If you want it harder, softer, faster, slower, etc., let them know!

Chances are, they’ll be happy to oblige. If there’s something in particular you’d like them to do, ask. If you’re respectful about it and honor their freedom to say no, they’re not likely to get offended. They might even be aroused by your request. See if your partner is into dirty talk and find out which words light up their mind.

Read: Dirty Talk 101: The Art of Using Your Words

Also, empower your partner’s confidence by telling them what you like about them. Chances are they’ve got beautiful eyes or a gorgeous smile or a great butt or soft skin or strong hands or a hot dad bod or the cutest ears you’ve ever seen or WHATEVER. Just let them know! A small comment like that can stay with someone forever.

9. Masturbate together.

You might think, “Uhhhh, why watch my partner when I could jump in and help?” You are a giving soul and I commend you, but hear me out. There’s much to be learned by sitting back and observing.

You’ll get a sense of how your partner warms up, how they like to touch themselves, what motions they use, and much more. And beyond that, watching your partner get off is hot. ‘Nuff said.

Read:

10. Try out some toys.

Foreplay is a great time to try new things together. Take your partner on a date to a sex shop and pick out a few things you’d both like to try. You might buy a flogger, anal plugs, a vibrator, or sexy costumes for roleplay.

Be open-minded and see where your adventure takes you!

If you need inspiration check out: .

11. Don’t forget the lube.

Foreplay can involve many kinds of activities. You might want to have some lube on hand to help ease things along at some point.

Remember, silicone lube can’t be used with silicone toys. Also, oil-based lube may interact badly with certain types of plastic. Water-based lube is your safest bet, but will probably have to be applied more often. Make sure the toys and lube you choose are compatible.

Enjoy yourself, courageous explorer!