Outercourse at a Glance
- Sex play that keeps sperm out of the vagina to prevent pregnancy
- Safe, effective, and convenient
Is Outercourse Right for Me?
Here are some of the most common questions we hear people ask about outercourse.
What Is Outercourse?
Outercourse means different things to different people. For some people, outercourse is any sexual activity without vaginal intercourse. For others, it's sexual activity with no penetration at all — oral, anal, or vaginal.
How Does Outercourse Prevent Pregnancy?
Outercourse prevents pregnancy by keeping sperm out of the vagina. Pregnancy cannot happen if there is no sperm present.
How Effective Is Outercourse?
Effectiveness is an important and common concern when choosing a birth control method. Like all birth control methods, outercourse is more effective when you use it correctly.
Outercourse also greatly reduces the risk of HIV/AIDS and many other sexually transmitted diseases — unless body fluids are exchanged through oral or anal intercourse. Some infections, like herpes and HPV, can be passed by skin-to-skin contact. Using latex and plastic barriers can reduce the risk of infection.
How Safe Is Outercourse?
Anyone can use outercourse — it has no side effects.
What Are the Benefits of Outercourse?
Outercourse is simple, convenient, and free. It has many benefits.
People like outercourse as a birth control method because it
- has no medical or hormonal side effects
- can be used as safer sex to help prevent STDs if semen and vaginal fluids are not exchanged
- can increase trust and closeness between partners
- may make sex last longer
- can be used when no other birth control methods are available
- can help people better understand their bodies
Sexual activity without intercourse can also help women learn how to have orgasms. Women have very different sexual response cycles than men. Men usually have one orgasm, and it is usually some time before they can have another. Women can have frequent and multiple orgasms. But many women don't have orgasms from vaginal stimulation. Most of them can have orgasms when the clitoris is stimulated — whether or not they are having vaginal intercourse.
Men also enjoy outercourse — even if they're shy about it in front of their partners. Outercourse allows men to be erotic without worrying about how well they "perform" during vaginal intercourse.
Advantages for Teens
Outercourse can completely satisfy both partners and take a lot of pressure off young women and men. Outercourse helps partners learn about their bodies and how to give themselves and each other sexual pleasure.
What Are the Disadvantages of Outercourse?
Outercourse has several disadvantages:
- Women and men may let outercourse lead to intercourse without being ready to protect themselves from pregnancy or infection.
- Some people may find it hard to abstain from intercourse.
- Sperm may come in contact with the vagina.
How Do I Have Outercourse?
There are many ways to be sexual without intercourse:
- Kissing — Many people explore different ways of kissing. They may also explore kissing different body parts.
- Masturbation — Many people enjoy touching their own sex organs. It's the most common way to be sexual. Partners can masturbate alone or together. They may hug and kiss while they do it. They can also watch each other — which can be exciting and a good way to learn what kind of touch a partner likes.
- Manual Stimulation — Many couples fondle each other's sex organs using their hands. Some also use their bodies or mouths.
- Body-to-body rubbing — frottage, "grinding," or "dry humping" — Many couples rub their bodies together — especially their sex organs — for pleasure and orgasm.
- Fantasy — Couples can read or watch sexy stories or pictures together. They can also share or act out sexy fantasies. People do it in person, on the phone or Internet, or through e-mail or instant messaging. (Using online technology for sex is called cybersex.)
- Sex Toys — These include vibrators and dildos. Toys can be used to explore and caress the body. Condoms can be used on toys that go into the vagina or anus. Condoms need to be used if partners want to share the same toy. Use a new condom for each partner — and for each part of the body. Sex toys need to be cleaned — different toys have different cleaning instructions.
- Oral Sex — Many people like to use their mouths on each other's sex organs. Oral sex on a vulva is called "cunnilingus." On a penis it's called "fellatio." It cannot cause pregnancy. But it can pass infection. Using a barrier can reduce the risks. Condoms that have been cut open, Sheer Glyde dams, dental dams, and plastic wrap make good barriers for oral sex on a vulva. Condoms make good barriers for oral sex on a penis. Many people use latex or plastic barriers that are non-lubricated or flavored for oral sex.
- Anal Sex — Many people enjoy anal sex play. Partners can explore each other's buttocks, anus, and rectum with their hands, mouths, sex organs, or with toys. Anal sex play cannot cause pregnancy — but it can easily pass infection. Using a latex or plastic barrier can reduce the risks. Using lubrication can make it more comfortable.
It is important to talk to your partner about the kinds of sexual activities that you do and do not want to engage in — including outercourse. But it may not be easy to talk about at first.
Here are some tips for talking about outercourse:
- Think about what kinds of sexual things you want to do and don't want to do.
- Practice having a discussion with your partner. What do you want to say? What are all the possible things your partner could say?
- Try to have talks with your partner before you get into a sexy situation.
- Talk when you both have time and privacy for these discussions.
- Be very clear about the limits you want to set. Remember that your partner cannot read your thoughts. It's important to talk about what you want and how you feel. It's important to hear your partner, too.
- If you are feeling nervous or embarrassed, tell your partner. Maybe your partner feels the same way you do. Sometimes sex is hard to talk about. It's okay to say that.
- Ask how your partner feels about outercourse. Being honest with each other can make a relationship more fulfilling.
- Set limits upon which you both can agree.
- Keep talking about the sexual limits you set together. What feels good? What may not be working out so well?
Find Dr. Cullins' Answers to Common Sexual Health Questions
Q&A with Dr. Cullins