By Christina Bartson
During a recent Sunday brunch with my crew, my girlfriend was retelling her night’s sexscapades and blurted out a now infamous line her guy dropped right before things got hot-and-heavy. They’re making out, and he comes up for air, takes her by the shoulders and says completely seriously, “Ok, wanna make a game plan?”
He wanted to make a game plan for sex. We’ve laughed over this a thousand times, and frequently reference it in conversation because it’s funny, sure, but it’s also an ingenious sex-positive concept. A game plan for sex—both parties are collaborating to make decisions together, both people have equal power, both are consenting verbally. It warrants communication, and most importantly, a game plan means a thorough warm up. I’m talking about foreplay—a critical time for partners to turn up the heat and set some game rules. Anyways, you know you play better when you’re properly limbered up.
Foreplay gives partners a chance to build trust.
In the words of a good friend, foreplay is our time to, “physically and emotionally feel each other out.” You’re establishing your level of comfort, and guiding each other around your bodies the way you feel secure and respected. You learn each other’s style of communicating—how your partner responds and invites. You discover what makes them arch their back and bite their lip, respectfully exploring the wonders of their body. During foreplay, you can show your partner that they can rely on you to respect and honor their limits and preferences.
Trust increases pleasure.
Our bodies can sense when we are feeling unsafe. Our muscles are tense when we feel anxious, and when our bodies are not relaxed, they’re not ready for sex. Foreplay serves an important purpose in sex in preparing our bodies, warming us up not just emotionally, but bodily, too. This is important for everyone, but especially for people with vaginas. When bodies with vaginas become aroused, the muscles pull the uterus up and it makes more room in the vagina. This is called vaginal tenting and it creates more space to make penetration more comfortable and satisfying. Foreplay also helps boost natural lubrication—an ingredient that can make sex more enjoyable for all parties involved.
Communicating for consent and pleasure
How do you know when you’re partner is feeling ready to rumble? Talking about it, of course.
A common misconception is that talking during sex ruins the moment. Well, this is a ridiculous myth largely constructed by Hollywood—those flawless choreographed sex scenes where the individuals in the shot don’t need to communicate because they both already read the screenplay. In real-life sex, however, communication is necessary, and it makes it better, too. Personally speaking, hearing someone care for your body and emotional well-being is very sexy. Asking for what you want is empowering, and in return, inquiring about what feels good for your partner shows reciprocated attention to their experience.
For best results, try: How are you? Does this feel good? Is this okay? What do you want? These questions enhance sex, prolong it, and extend it (pardon the pun). Also, they’re a crucial step in foreplay and should be continued throughout. Keep asking, and never assume that one “yes” covers it all. Being attentive to your partner puts you fully in the moment and this makes your experience more fulfilling, too.
Foreplay, or More-play?*
Foreplay is about more than just hands on body parts—it’s the ways we communicate and establishing consent every step of the way in a creative, sensitive, and sexy manner. It’s the hushed talking at the corner in the party or the whisper in an ear on the walk home. It’s the firm hand-holding when you walk across an icy sidewalk, and the “Hey, watch your step, it’s slippery.” It’s the eye contact. It’s being present. It’s showing you’ve got the hots playfully, openly, and respectfully.
However, foreplay should not be reduced to just pre-gaming. Yes, it serves as a warm up, but it can be a main event, too. Why not try thinking of foreplay as sex? Perhaps we need to rethink our definition of sex. Sex is not just a means to an end. It’s everything leading up to the finale, too. We shouldn’t limit sex to homeruns, or scoring. This language ignores and forgets foreplay, and how the process can be equally as enjoyable and important as the end of the game.
Foreplay dedicates time to having those crucial conversations between partners that help sex and sexy feelings come from empowered places, not embarrassed or uneasy places. Next time you’re about to get it on, follow the wise words of the game-plan-guy and revel in the fervent functions of foreplay. Limber up, players.
*Cheesy pun courtesy of Nicole Mazzeo.
One survivor’s thoughts after a rape. Names have been changed.
I’m writing you to share my feelings about our interactions in the past couple of weeks. Some of your actions have been hurtful to me, and I thought that maybe if I put my thoughts into writing, you might be able to see where I’m coming from.
When you came up to me for the first time in the market, I assumed that your interest in me was based on my body, including my whiteness. That was fine with me – my body is a part of who I am and I enjoy when people enjoy it. I wasn’t looking for anything serious, and I was totally cool with enjoying each other’s bodies, as long as I felt safe and my boundaries were respected. I had a lot of fun cuddling with you. I was really missing touching someone and being touched. You were very sexy and it felt good.
But I was clear about the fact that I wasn’t comfortable with kissing you or doing anything more than cuddling. I told you that crossing that line could ruin my relationship with my boyfriend, and how sad that would make me. I wasn’t sure whether or not you enjoyed cuddling without having sex, and I didn’t want us to be doing something that was only fun for me, so I asked you. You said you liked it.
I was excited to go to the bar with you, and I had a good time there. Your friends were nice and I had fun talking to them. I accidentally got drunk (I know it’s weird, but I’m sensitive to alcohol and two drinks is a lot for me) to the point where my eyes kept closing and I felt like I needed to lean against something to stay upright. I assume you noticed how drunk I was, because I’m not subtle. I also told you, “I’m really drunk; I’m trying to slow down.”
This was around the time that we went to the jungle gym and you kept trying to kiss me. I kept avoiding you, but I still liked being close to you, so I didn’t move away completely. Eventually, I was too slow and you caught my lips with yours. I didn’t kiss you back at first. I think I was making it pretty clear that I didn’t want to kiss you, by telling you and avoiding your kisses.
At your house, I repeatedly moved your hand away from my vagina while we were kissing and cuddling. At some point you started fingering me and I said, “No, no, stop, please don’t, let’s not do this, no” etc. until you stopped. I think you could see that I was upset by this, because when I tried to sleep on the couch, you asked me if I was okay. You eventually convinced me to come back to bed by promising over and over again that you wouldn’t go inside me again. I trusted you when you said this. Then you insisted that I let you rub your penis on my vagina. I told you that I wasn’t comfortable with that. I don’t understand why you didn’t care about whether or not I was comfortable with the things you wanted to do with my body.
You promised again that you wouldn’t go inside me. Eventually I let you rub yourself on me because I wanted you to fall asleep so I could be alone, since the situation was making me uncomfortable.
Your rubbed your penis against me for a little bit, and then started fucking me. Again I said, “No, no, I don’t want this, stop, let’s not do this, please stop” etc. You didn’t stop until you came.
I know that you didn’t use violence against me, you didn’t force me to go to your house, you didn’t hold me down. But you did completely disregard the fact that I didn’t want to have sex with you. You ignored me when I said no. If you have sex with someone when they say no, that is rape. It can be traumatic even if it isn’t violent.
I’m asking you to please be considerate of what a woman wants when you want to have sex with her. If she doesn’t want to, please stop there. Sex should be pleasurable for everyone involved. I feel violated and disrespected by the way you treated me.
I am only writing you to ask you to think about the way that you treated me, and whether or not that is how you want to treat women in the future. I am not interested in contacting the police or anything like that. I don’t trust the criminal justice system and I think it often makes people worse off. I’m leaving for the US tonight and you’ll never see me again. If there is anything you want to say to me, you can contact me at [email address].