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File:Martin van Maele - Francion 15.jpg

Martin van Maële's print Francion 15 depicts a couple engaging in foreplay outdoors

In human sexuality, foreplay is sexual activity leading up to sexual intercourse. Foreplay may foster sexual arousal and sexual consent. Although foreplay is typically understood as physical sexual activity, nonphysical activities, such as mental or verbal, may in some contexts be foreplay. In animal sexual behavior, similar activity is sometimes termed precoital activity.

File:Nipping the Nape.png

Foreplay by kissing a woman's back



A woman doing roleplay by wearing a sexualized version of schoolgirl uniform at Fantasy Fest, USA, 2009.

Sexual role-playing or sex games can create sexual interest.[1] These games can be played in a variety of situations, and have been enhanced by technology. This type of extended foreplay can involve SMS messaging, phone calls, online chat, or other forms of distance communication, which are intended to stimulate fantasizing about the forthcoming encounter. This tantalization builds up sexual tension.

A card or board game can be played for foreplay. The objective of the game is for the partners to indulge their fantasies. The loser can, for example, be required to remove clothing or give the winner a sensual foot massage or any other thing that the winner wants to try. A sensuous atmosphere can also be enhanced by candles, drinks, sensual food or suggestive clothing. Even a suggestion of the use of sex toys or the playing of games involving fetish, sexual bondage, blindfolding or sploshing is an indication of sexual interest.

Some couples create sexual interest by watching erotic and pornographic videos. Role playing may involve the partners wearing costumes, to create and maintain a sexual fantasy. For variety, the partners can make up a (sexual) story together. One of them starts with a sentence and then the other continues until the story becomes sexually explicit, and it provides an opportunity for the partners to express their sexual fantasies. 'Strangers for a day' is a role playing game which consists of the couple playing roles of the first meeting between them. In a public meeting place, the partners pretend to be strangers meeting for the first time. The objective is for them to flirt and seduce the other, without doing or saying anything that they normally would not do or say at a first meeting.


Tantric foreplay is the first step in the lovemaking session, according to the tantra principles. Tantric sex is against rushing things for the purpose of reaching an orgasm, so tantric foreplay is a way to prepare the body and the mind for the union between the two bodies. The tantric rules say that foreplay must be focused on the preparation before sexual intercourse. Tantric foreplay may include sensual baths between the two partners in a relaxing atmosphere. Fragrance oil and candles may also be used to set up the mood.[2]

Tantric foreplay is only about giving each other time to connect spiritually and bind. Staring at each other while in a cross-legged position and touching the other's hand palms is a usual foreplay tactic used by tantra practitioners. Tantric foreplay may also include Tantra massages. The massage that is applied, according to the tantric philosophy, is not for reaching orgasms but for giving each other pleasure and connecting at a spiritual level.[3]


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A woman engages in foreplay by removing her partner's clothes.

Foreplay is important from at least two considerations, one of which is purely physiological.[4] On the other hand, foreplay implies a certain level of confidence and trust between the partners and creates intimacy.

Psychologically, foreplay lowers inhibitions and increases emotional intimacy between partners. Physically, it stimulates the process that produces sexual arousal.

Foreplay has important physical and psychological effects on women. The biggest issue related to the ability of achieving orgasms is thought to be solved with the right foreplay techniques.[5]

However, the subject of the effectiveness of foreplay continues to be a point of discussion. An example of this is a European survey of 2,300 women in Prague which showed that foreplay is not the key in a satisfactory sexual act. Instead "the duration of intercourse – 16.2 minutes on average – is the clincher".[6]


Foreplay can vary dramatically based on age, religion, and cultural norms. Scientists from McGill University Health Centre in Montreal, Quebec, used thermal imaging to record baseline temperature change in the genital area as the definition of the time necessary for sexual arousal, specifically the time required for an individual to reach the peak of sexual arousal, and concluded that, on average, women and men required almost the same time for sexual arousal — around 10 minutes.[7] This, however, does not take into account the amount of time necessary to become mentally aroused.


There are many historical references to foreplay, with many artistic depictions. The Ancient Indian work Kama Sutra mentions different types of embracing, kissing, and marking with nails and teeth.[8] It also mentions BDSM activities such as slapping and moaning as "play".[9]


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  1. Template:Cite web
  2. Template:Cite book
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  4. Template:Cite web (dead link 21 August 2019)
  5. Mental foreplay for women Retrieved on 2010-02-24
  6. The Telegraph. "Foreplay is overrated, researchers claim" 2010-02-24.
  7. Thermal Imaging Shatters Arousal Gender Gap Myth; Study Shows Women Become Aroused As Quickly As Men
  8. translation, biting types, using nails
  9. slapping Kama Sutra