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By Bellesa Team

Merriam Webster defines outercourse as “sexual activity between individuals that does not involve vaginal or anal intercourse.” While outercourse is indeed a way to engage in sexual activity without having intercourse (also known as penetrative sex), in practice, the definition is not always so cut and dry.

What is Outercourse?

Outercourse means different things to different people. Some take it to mean no penetration of any kind, which includes anal sex, fingers, and sex toys. Others define it as everything except penis-in-vagina (PIV) penetration. 

Since the definition of outercourse varies, the activities that count as outercourse all depend on who’s practicing it. Outercourse might (or might not) include any of the following activities, among others:

- Kissing, an integral element of making out, is often underrated, but can be a great way to explore your partner’s body and build intimacy, as can massage. 

- Many find dry humping AKA frottage (whether clothed or not) to be intensely arousing. It is also a great way to test out different positions and clothing textures. 

- If your definition of outercourse includes mutual masturbation, it might involve kissing, cuddling, and voyeuristic pleasure—not to mention it’s a great way to demonstrate what turns you on. 

- Sex toys, which can be penetrative or surface-only, offer a fun avenue to climax without intercourse. 

- Manual stimulation includes activities like hand jobs and fingering. You might take turns exploring one another, or pleasure each other simultaneously.

- Oral sex can include blow jobs, cunnilingus, and rimming, all of which are popular ways of pleasuring a partner without having intercourse.

- Anal sex can involve a penis, fingers, or sex toys, and can be very pleasurable for people of all genders.

Reasons for Having Outercourse

The definition of outercourse often depends on a person’s reason for choosing it. Some choose outercourse as a safe sex alternative, eliminating the possibility of any sexual activity that might cause pregnancy or STIs. Others who may be dealing with specific sexual/reproductive health conditions such as vulvodynia, vaginismus, endometriosis, or fibroids might choose it as a way of avoiding pain or discomfort during sex. 

Health considerations aside, others might enjoy outercourse as a form of foreplay, a way of prolonging sex if your partner suffers from erectile dysfunction, or a way of simply switching up their usual sexual routine. Outercourse actually offers a lot of potential for exploring kink, BDSM and roleplay sessions, as many standard activities like bondage, blindfolds, and whips don't typically involve penetration. Forgetting the condoms is yet another good reason to explore outercourse.

Outercourse vs. Abstinence

Much like outercourse, abstinence can mean different things to different people. Some practice abstinence because they’re simply not ready for sexual activity of any kind. In this case,  abstinence may rule out outercourse as well. For those who define abstinence as a simple avoidance of penetrative or PIV sex, however, there may be an overlap between abstinence and outercourse.

Outercourse Risks

Outercourse tends to present much less of an STI risk than intercourse, as the outer skin is not as absorbent as the mucosal tissue found inside the mouth, vagina, and anus. That said, outercourse can pose certain risks.

Engaging in oral sex can expose you to any STIs your partner may be carrying. Using barrier methods like condoms or dental dams is a smart idea for some forms of outercourse, particularly if you and/or your partner are non-exclusive. Speaking of which, it’s also a smart idea to get tested regularly if you’re doing anything that might put you at risk contracting an STI.

While pregnancy as a result of outercourse is unlikely, accidentally dripping semen on the vulva, or fingering the vagina after touching it make pregnancy a possibility. Taking breaks to wash hands or shower between activities can help eliminate this risk.

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