Close your eyes for a moment, and think back to one of your favorite, most pleasurable sexy times/sex experiences. When and where was it? What else was going on in your life? How were you feeling, physically and emotionally? Were you solo or with other(s)? How was your relationship with yourself and any partner(s)? What kinds of sex acts did you do?
Since creating this exercise for my workshops a few years ago, I’ve led hundreds of womxn through it. In our discussion after, participants mostly talk about trust and affection; how they were really feeling themselves that day; or, the special occasion that particular sexy time celebrated. When sex acts do get mentioned, I mostly hear about all the things except intercourse—at the least, how they had at least one orgasm before intercourse.
In other words: the sex acts we call “foreplay” typically bring womxn the most pleasure.
Let’s burn down the sexual hierarchy
In our heteronormative society, one act stands above the rest as “real” sex: penis in vagina intercourse (PIV). The terms get used interchangeably, even as both anecdotal and scientific evidence suggests that PIV isn’t what brings many people, especially those with vulvas, the most pleasure.
Under PIV there’s oral, hand sex, and various other sex acts like kissing and outercourse. Kink puts, well, a kink into the order; however, people still judge and dismiss it for a variety of reasons including it not being “real” sex.
Putting PIV at the top of the sexual pyramid stems from society’s Puritanical roots, obsession with procreative sex, and stigmatization of pleasure. It puts cis, heterosexual men’s needs first. It also serves to dismiss and stigmatize those who don’t have or enjoy PIV, from people with disabilities to LGBTQIA+ individuals, cis women struggling with pelvic pain, and more.
All sex acts are created equal
The entire sexual hierarchy is a myth.
Whatever sex acts feel good for you and your partner(s) is real sex. Think about kink, for example. Having hot wax dripped on your body objectively doesn’t look or sound very sexual. Yet, for no small number of people, it leads to ecstasy.
How does that make you feel? Hopeful? Angry? Skeptical? Relieved? Whatever comes up for you is OK—I promise, I’ve heard it all! Ask yourself: what is this emotion trying to tell me?
What if you love PIV?
Burning down the sexual hierarchy doesn’t mean you don’t get to have likes and dislikes. It equalizes everyone’s desires. It means sex is more like the Cheesecake Factory’s menu than a fancy prix fixe one.
Plus, sexual preferences change over time. No one should feel ashamed for not liking or wanting PIV, now or in the future.
What would change if you ditched the idea of “foreplay”?
If you valued all the things that bring your pleasure?
- Would you have more sex (using it in the broadest, most all-encompassing sense)?
- Be more willing to?
- Would you experience more pleasure?
- Would you feel guilty about not meeting a partner’s needs?
- Would you embrace your sexual freedom and expansiveness?
- Would sex be more fun?
Only you can answer these questions. Take some time to meditate and/or journal on them.
However you get off is real sex
At the end of the day, the only thing that matter is that you and your partner(s) are satisfied with your sex life. It doesn’t matter how similar or different it looks to your friends’ or some vague Cosmo-driven societal standard. Your sex life is yours alone. Let the comparison go and embrace finding freedom in pleasure, however that looks for you.