What Is ‘Outerplay’? 10 Non-Penetrative Sex Ideas To Try for Powerful Orgasms

Photo: Getty Images/ Sirawit99
When it comes to sex, penetration is often thought of as the de facto last step, but it doesn’t have to be. In fact, outercourse, or non-penetrative sex ideas, can be just as pleasurable, if not more. Outercourse can be similar to intercourse in that, for some, the end goal is climax or orgasm, explains somatic sex educator Kiana Reeves, chief education officer at Foria.

However, it’s also worth incorporating into your sex life on its own as it can let you further explore what you find pleasurable without the same-same routine of penetration. Think of outercourse as creative intimacy: “It’s a fabulous way to get to know your own body, as well as your partner’s, and what brings you both pleasure,” Reeves adds.

“It’s a fabulous way to get to know your own body, as well as your partner’s, and what brings you both pleasure.” —Kiana Reeves, somatic sex educator and chief education officer at Foria

To better understand non-penetrative sex, we enlisted some experts to break down outercourse 101 and tips for sexual alternatives to penetration and intimate non-penetrative sex ideas and activities.

Experts In This Article

What is non-penetrative sex?

Non-penetrative sex ideas like outercourse, “[are] acts of sex or pleasure that do not involve penetration,” says Reeves. This can range from acts like “kissing, masturbation, role play, oral sex, touching, massage, and other forms of pleasure like listening to erotica, rubbing, or performative dance)” she adds.

To this end, outercourse is not the same thing as abstinence, as it includes things like oral sex, mutual masturbation, and toy play. For these reasons, it’s also possible to contract an STI with outercourse.

What are the benefits of having non-penetrative sex?

The point of outercourse, or other non-penetrative sex ideas, is to feel pleasurable and intimate with yourself or with a partner. As Reeves explains, “for some people, especially those with conditions like PCOS, endometriosis, mobility challenges, or sensory disorders, penetrative pleasure can cause pain or discomfort.” And for others, many types of outercourse may already be part of your regular foreplay and pleasure routines, Reeves adds.

By prioritizing outercourse rather than thinking of penetration as the “last step”, some people may find that they’re able to “explore boundaries and new forms of pleasure they didn’t know existed,” Reeves explains.

10 non-penetrative sex ideas that are just as sexy as intercourse

1. Engage all your senses

“Outercourse can be a great time to delve into senses other than penetration and even physical touch,” says Reeves. Think about your five senses and how you can incorporate visual, auditory, physical, or even taste-related sensations into intimacy with your partner, Reeves says. She adds that “whether it’s putting on steamy erotica, playing a sexy card game, or blindfolding one another and feeding each other delicious treats,” this is a great opportunity to get creative with your partner.

2. Use friction as your friend

Yes, we all know lube is a game changer when it comes to sex, but outerplay is kinda the exception to the rule here. Reeves explains that “while we typically think of friction as a bad thing, mind-blowing outercourse can actually be built on a foundation of the good kind of friction” AKA dry-humping.

As you’ll see, non penetrative sex ideas can often involve creative sex toy usage as well. You can also utilize friction in a good way here, like by trying a sex toy that nestles into the clitoris, Reeves adds. Look for ergonomically shaped toys like iroha+ KUSHI that you can “set-and-forget” so to speak. You can tuck the toy into your vulva so it stimulates your clitoris, or you can lay the toy against a pillow, cushion, or your bed and lower yourself onto it.

3. Massage each other

Other great non penetrative sex ideas can include giving your partner a massage (or have them give you one) without the expectation that said massage will turn into penetration, Reeves adds. “The massage and sensual touch itself can be the end goal, ” she explains, adding that as a bonus, you’ll also “get lots of tension relief and the relationship-building benefits that come with feeling your partner’s hands on your body.” Done right, a massage can be “so nurturing and truly an act of selflessness,” Reeves says.

4. 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,” says sexologist Rebecca Alvarez Story, founder of intimacy marketplace Bloomi. Story also suggests exploring with various levels of pressure or light suction, or incorporating a clitoral vibrator (more on that below).

5. 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,” explains sex therapist Rachel Wright, LMFT. 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.

For couples who are living apart, this is also a great suggestion for phone sex or other ways of exploring intimacy from a distance. Because who said non penetrative sex ideas are only for couples who are physically together?

6. 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 orgasm1 than penetration alone. Oral sex is also great for couples who may struggle because of sex with a small penis, as both parties can still give and receive pleasurably.

“Your mouth is warm, wet, and soft,” Story explains. “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.

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.

7. 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.

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 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.

8. 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.

9. Take a shower or bath together

Getting clean while getting dirty? Why not? While taking a bath or shower together is often packaged as a precursor to intercourse, it totally doesn’t have to be. Instead, focus on the actual intimacy between you and your partner during your bath or shower.

10. Have phone or video sex

Having phone or video sex is a tried and true staple for many couples, especially couples who might be in long-distance relationships. If you and your partner don’t live together (or if one of you is on a work trip or something), spice things up by bringing video or phone sex into the mix.

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  1. Kontula, Osmo, and Anneli Miettinen. “Determinants of female sexual orgasms.” Socioaffective neuroscience & psychology vol. 6 31624. 25 Oct. 2016, doi:10.3402/snp.v6.31624

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