Non-Penetrative ‘Outerplay’ Can Lead to Powerful Orgasms—Here’s How To Try It, According to Sexperts

Getty Images/Eric O'Connell
When it comes to having pleasureful sex, penetration is really just one tool in the toolbox—and one that isn't even necessary for reaching orgasm. Not to mention, rushing to penetration could mean missing out on all sorts of stimulating sensations, and for vulva-owners especially, doing so may even come at the cost of reducing the chance of an orgasm—which tends to happen fastest with external clitoral stimulation. To that end, engaging in non-penetrative sex acts with a partner isn’t just fore-play, or an appetizer for the main course. Rather, it's a satisfying route to orgasm in its own right—a route which sex therapist Rachel Wright, LMFT, calls “outerplay.”

Experts In This Article

You can think of outerplay as any type of sexually inspired play that happens between partners without penetration, says Wright. “It presents a fun opportunity to get to know each other’s bodies more intimately,” she adds, and because of the exploratory nature of it, it tends to involve more intentionality and curiosity, too.

“Outerplay presents a fun opportunity to get to know each other’s bodies more intimately.” —Rachel Wright, LMFT

“I find that non-penetrative sex offers people greater opportunities for sexual communication because we often ask for or provide more direction for the hand, mouth, level of touch, erogenous zone, and so on,” says sexologist Rebecca Alvarez Story, founder of the intimacy marketplace Bloomi.

Homing in on non-penetrative sex acts can also help strip sex of preconceived (and often limiting) expectations around penetrative performance and refocus it as a meaningful experience of pleasure, says Wright. And just like frottage sex, which involves rubbing erogenous zones together, the full suite of outerplay sex acts are, of course, accessible to those who don’t want to or can’t participate in penetrative intercourse.

Regardless of whether or not you’re into or able to practice penetration, though, non-penetrative sex acts can be a wholly orgasmic addition to your sex repertoire. And if you’re in a sex rut with your partner as of late, this kind of outerplay may be just the thing you need to switch up your routine and infuse it with that much more pleasure. Below, the experts share their steamiest tips for reaching orgasm with a partner, no penetration necessary.

Here’s how to make the most of non-penetrative sex acts with 5 outerplay tips:

1. Focus on the clitoris.

“We know that the clitoris is the organ of the body specifically built for pleasure in people with vulvas, thanks to thousands of nerve endings,” says Story. And because it’s often best stimulated without penetration, a handful of non-penetrative sex acts can lead to clitoral orgasm. “Learning how to stimulate the entire clitoris, and not just the bulb, can be incredibly satisfying,” Story adds, suggesting exploring with various levels of pressure or light suction, or incorporating a clitoral vibrator (more on that below).

2. Demonstrate how you masturbate.

You don’t even have to touch much less penetrate a sexual partner to engage in this show-and-tell sex act—but just watching could be every bit as hot. Masturbating in front of a partner also serves the dual purpose of teaching them exactly what feels good to you. “We know our bodies so well that it’s incredibly helpful to actually guide someone through what pleasures us,” says Wright. Not to mention, the experience of demonstrating your own arousal technique to a partner could be arousing for both you and them, in and of itself.

3. Get (really) into oral.

To be clear: Oral sex is sex. You’re likely familiar with this particular non-penetrative sex act as a foreplay technique, but if it’s done well (and with patience), it can be the main orgasmic event. And for vulva-owners, because it stimulates the clitoris, oral sex may also be a more effective pathway to orgasm than penetration alone.

“Your mouth is warm, wet, and soft,” says Story. “This provides a highly arousing combination that can help you slow down to enjoy sex and orgasm.” She’s a proponent of the Kivin Method, in particular, for anyone with a vulva. “This is where you lie on your back and bring your knees to your chest or place them over your partner’s shoulders while they lie sideways and use up-and-down motions, which go side-to-side on you,” she says.

But of course, this is just one method, and both Story and Wright suggest taking your time and getting exploratory with different lip-and-tongue motions to see what feels best for you. Another way to (quite literally) spice things up? Incorporate flavored lube, suggests Wright. It’s designed to bring the sensual experience of taste into the bedroom—and give you just one more reason to move your lips closer to any part of a partner’s body.

4. Discover a new erogenous zone.

“People can orgasm from stimulation to erogenous zones we may not consider often enough, like the nipples, neck, prostate, anus, and inner thighs,” says Story. For vulva-owners, breasts may very well win the award for most under-appreciated erogenous zone, as one small 2011 study showed that when stimulated, the same region of the brain (the genital sensory cortex) that lights up during vaginal and clitoral stimulation is activated.

That said, there are also a host of other lesser-known erogenous zones worth exploring, from the forehead and eyelids to the area between the breasts. You can start by warming up your body—try this somatic exercise to get the blood flowing and release tension—and then use your fingers or lips to trace over your partner's body and uncover the zones that spark a sensation for them (or you). Or, put all of the above to work at once: Stimulating two or more areas at the same time can help you achieve a blended orgasm, says Story.

5. Use non-penetrative sex toys with each other.

And we’re not just talking about the sex toys that are designed to be used by couples. It’s very possible to incorporate any or all types of sex toys into partnered non-penetrative sex acts, so long as you have a conversation before diving into sex in order to chat through who’s using what on whom and how.

“It’s exciting to try new things with toys and even help our partners experience pleasure in new ways,” says Wright. And if you’re in the market for new toys, she adds, it could also be a really fun date night to either go to a sex-toy shop or pick out a toy online together.

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