If you’re caught up on sex positive discourse, you’ve probably heard (or had) a conversation or two about the word “foreplay.” Too often, “foreplay” is used to describe any sex act besides penetration. This alienates a whole swath of people whose rich, satisfying sex lives don’t include penetration at all! Oral sex, grinding, mutual masturbation – “outercourse” is sex. I’m not foreplayed to completion just because I have vaginismus.
Instead, let’s talk about “foreplay” as it should be defined: sexualized acts intended to instigate physical arousal. All those fun, sexy things you do to rev the engine. Better yet, let’s talk about what tools we can use for foreplay – after all, this is a sex toy blog!
When we become aroused, blood gathers in our genitals. This creates swelling, erections (including clitoral erections!), and increased skin sensitivity. It’s why touching yourself (or using a vibrator) when you’re not yet “turned on” can feel so different from touching yourself when you are.
Pumps manually create this reaction by fitting a cup over part of your soft bits, then drawing out air to pull your flesh into the cup, temporarily swelling your skin and promoting bloodflow. Longer pumping sessions keep blood in place for erections.
A sensation toy is something used to create unique sensations, whether that’s pinching, tickling, or something else. They can also be about limiting your senses, such as blindfolds (which take away sight.) Playing with sensation wakes up your body, sensitizes your skin, and helps you transition into a sexual headspace.
Nipple stimulation lights up the same part of our brain as touching our genitals does. This is part of what makes it such a widely beloved erogenous zone!
Nipple toys include clamps (which create a painful pinch that really wakes up those nerves!), suckers (which pull to provide constant stimulation/ache), pumps, sensory toys (like ticklers and pinwheels), and vibrators. Some fan favorite vibrators for nipple play are the Noje Quiver, Inya Triple (which is also a pump!), and Satisfyer Sweet Treat.
Vibrators with deep, rumbling vibrations.
The clitoris is so much more than the external glans. Vibrators with rumbly vibrations that massage past the surface can stimulate the internal parts of the clitoris, promoting blood-flow and building fuller arousal. Grab your We-Vibe Touch or Tango and ride the lowest settings for awhile! If you’re not ready for direct clitoral stimulation, use the vibe on the outside of your clothes or on your outer labia first.
Sex toys that accommodate flaccid/resting penises.
Contrary to popular belief, physical arousal takes time for people with penises too – and for some, arousal doesn’t include an erection. Toys like the Hot Octopuss Pulse Solo or “Man” Wand Xtreme can be used on penises regardless of erection, either to help stimulate you towards hardness, or to enjoy your penis in its soft state. Depending on testicle sensitivity, you can use the Fun Factory Manta to cup your balls before switching to your penis.
Petite powerhouses like the We-Vibe Moxie or Temptasia Panty Vibe can be attached to any part of underwear (or thin bottoms) to offer some tease-oriented indirect stimulation. And yes, you can use them if you have a penis! Pass the remote to a partner and let them work you up until you’re ready to tear all your clothes off… well, except your undies!
Okay, it’s not technically a sex toy. But lube makes every stage of sex better, including foreplay! Some bodies produce lubrication of their own, but this often isn’t the case until you’re physically aroused. Lube can ease the friction in the meantime – and continue to do so throughout whatever sex act you enjoy next!
Not sure what the ideal lube for you is? If you’re using silicone sex toys, stick to water-based lube. If you need something long lasting for skin-only play, silicone lube might be your BFF! Oil-based lube can work for either, but it can degrade condoms.
-Betty Butch (they/she) is a queer sex and relationships writer. By blogging about their experiences as a fat, trans, autistic person, they hope to help change the narrative of who has sex and what sex "should" be. Follow them on Twitter and Instagram.