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Outercourse 101: how to have non-penetrative sex

By Maya Khamala

Research shows that just 18% of women can orgasm from penetration alone, and that anywhere from 50-80% of women report rarely or never having an orgasm during penis-in-vagina (PiV) sex. Indeed, experts say most women need clitoral stimulation to cum—only about 8% of women have consistent orgasms with penetrative sex alone. 

Given that we live in a society that portrays penetrative sex (even sans foreplay) as typically ending in simultaneous, brain-busting orgasms for all parties involved, these numbers may seem and tad…misaligned.

Here’s the red pill you’ve been waiting for: for people with pussies, orgasm is largely the result of outercourse. 


Outercourse can have different meanings depending who you are and what you’re after. To some, it means no penetration whatsoever, which includes anal sex, fingers, and sex toys. Others understand it as anything except PiV penetration. And others simply conflate it with dry humping. Although its definition varies, outercourse is broadly understood as including non-penetrative sexual activity that stimulates the clitoris, vulva, and other erogenous zones

There’s more than one reason to try outercourse

Reasons to get more intentional about making outercourse a main course include the following:

- Having amazing sex despite having a condition that makes penetration painful. There are many reasons penetration may cause pain, from vaginismus, to vulvodynia, or even the effects of chemotherapy. Life is messy, and the best we can do is find our pleasure, whatever form it takes.

- Avoiding messy period sex. Period sex can be hawt AF and should 100% be encouraged. Nonetheless, there may be scenarios when you have your period and don’t want to embrace the full-on flow, for whatever reason. You might instead engage in outercourse with your tampon or menstrual cup still in place.

- Getting more in touch with head-to-toe pleasure. You and your partner both have a capacity for sensual pleasure which includes the body’s many delicious (but oft-neglected) erogenous zones. In outercourse, stimulation of some of the more obvious erogenous zones (i.e., mouth, nipples, vulva, breasts) are often treated as the main event, rather than a sideshow. Apply the same principle to a solo pleasure sesh for mind-blowing masturbation.

- Building intimacy with your partner by trying new things. Exploring new things and learning to set boundaries is instrumental to building intimacy and trust with a partner. For many, outercourse is just that: new and deeply intimate territory to explore and learn from. Not to mention, sometimes those things we think of as ‘foreplay,’ or making out, are just hotter than penetrative sex in a given moment.

- Re-learning what you find pleasurable postpartum. Regardless of the tenor of your sex life during pregnancy, many doctors recommend waiting about six weeks after childbirth before having PiV sex again. This may be to prevent the tearing of stitches, or just to give the body a chance to heal and readjust. If the desire is there, what better time to explore other avenues to sensual pleasure?

 - Avoiding pregnancy. While it may or may not protect you from STIs, for some, practicing outercourse is a preferred mode of contraception.

A few ways to approach outercourse

Dry humping, AKA frottage is a form of sexual stimulation achieved by rubbing or grinding oneself against another person or object. It can be performed solo, or with a partner, with clothes on, or naked. If you’re clothed, different materials will result in different sensations—for instance, jeans will provide more friction than light cotton panties. Experiment to find what feels best for you. You might also explore different positions, like Thigh Tide. 

Mutual Masturbation has two variations. The first is when two or more people masturbate in front of each other. The second is when they simultaneously stimulate each other's genitals. Whether you use toys, hands, or both, once you try it, partnered masturbation can be an indispensable item in your sexual repertoire. And because you can enjoy mutual masturbation without touching or being touched, long-distance lovers can delve deep too. 

Oral pleasure is all about the mouth, that ever-potent purveyor of pleasure. Kissing, licking, nibbling, or even biting any and all erogenous zones (with consent!) are all deliciously fair game. While your clit (or your partner’s) can, of course, be the focus here, don’t forget the surrounding territory too. The labia, for instance, is hyper sensitive! And the perineum (area between your vulva and anus) is often neglected and yet so much pleasure is situated there!

Massage is a fantastic way to approach outercourse slowly and sensually, without an immediate focus on the genitals. While some may prefer to work up to a yoni massage, there’s no rule that says you need to go there at all (or that orgasm needs to be the aim). Not enough can really be said about the extent to which a simple, relaxing massage can make a difference in your experience of sex. It also happens to be an incredible way of fostering intimacy.

Sex toys come in both penetrative and non-penetrative varieties, so depending on your personal definition of outercourse, take your pick! Vibrators are a timeless go-to, and the Pebble is the perfect example of a non-penetrative toy that’s cute, compact, and designed to help you access your pleasure, stat.

Outercourse safety

While outercourse presents much less of an STI risk than intercourse, there is still a risk. STIs such as HPV can be spread via skin-to-skin contact, and other STIs can be spread via oral sex. 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. It’s also always a good idea to get tested regularly if you’ve introduced a new partner since your last STI test.

Bottom line: your approach to outercourse will be just that, your own. The above ideas are meant to get your bad, beautiful motor humming and strumming. Feel free to combine and tweak these techniques as you and your partner(s) see fit! 

One love, baby. <3

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