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Exploring Sex and Intimacy Without Intercourse

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Updated September 05, 2012

Sexual Intercourse = "Real Sex"

When most people talk about sex, and when researchers say they are studying sex, usually they mean intercourse. And not just any intercourse, but specifically penile-vaginal intercourse. Even without a lot of sex education, most people move into adulthood with the understanding that intercourse is, or should be, the core of healthy sexuality.

Variations focus on finding a new sex positions now and then. There are other sexual activities, like masturbation, oral sex, phone sex, massage, writing love letters, etc... but these are additions, not the main event. Even the term 'foreplay' inisists that no matter how much fun it is or how much pleasure you get from it, everything before intercourse is just a set up to the big show.

To be clear, there’s nothing at all wrong with intercourse. But the truth is that it doesn't work for many of us, and even those people who can do it and enjoy it, if they live long enough they are going to experience times when intercourse either doesn’t work physically or it just isn’t doing it sexually, emotionally, or spiritually.

Those are the times that most people start searching for sex beyond intercourse. If you’ve stumbled on this article and you’re not there yet, let me suggest that broadening your sexual horizons before it’s necessary is not only a fun thing to do, it will serve you well in the future.

Getting Beyond Intercourse

It’s hard for people to get around this. If intercourse has been working for you there may not have been a good reason to challenge the status quo definition. There are, however, some predictable times when intercourse stops working for couples, and they need to broaden their sexual horizons:
  • When two people have been in a long relationship and sex seems boring.
  • If you or your partner are undergoing, preparing for, or recovering from medical treatment or procedures.
  • If you or your partner are dealing with depression, anxiety, or other acute mental health issues.
  • If you or your partner are living with chronic or temporary pain.

If you’re game, here are three not-so-easy steps to discovering the pleasures of sex that doesn’t involve intercourse.

Think About It

You probably already have your own definition of what sex is. But have you taken the time to really think about how you define it, what counts, what doesn’t, and why you think about sex the way you do? There are no right or wrong answers here (including the answer that sex IS intercourse). What’s most important is asking yourself the questions and giving yourself time and permission to think about the answers.

Talk About It

If you’re already having intercourse you’ve already figured out how to find a sexual partner. The next step to moving outside of the socially sanctioned sexual box is to start talking to your partner about what you think about sex.

Do It

You may already have the thinking and talking part dealt with. But pick up most sex manuals and they still focus on intercourse as the main event. They offer you 365 positions for intercourse, but nothing on what else you can do. Below is a seriously incomplete, but hopefully inspiring, list of ways of “doing it” that don’t involve intercourse.

More sexual tips and techniques.

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