unSEXpected x Respect Week: the Intimacy of Foreplay Vs the Casualness of Hook-Up Culture 

Foreplay is a series of acts that build sexual arousal and pleasure, through physical touch, and mental and emotional stimulation. In the game of sex, foreplay is considered the pre-game.  

Like most things in life, it works on a case-by-case scenario. And, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t always start in the bedroom. For some, foreplay may be a home-cooked meal followed by a sensual back massage. For others, a passionate make-out sesh at the back of a dimly lit club, hours before crashing into a partner’s bed at the end of the night.  

You might also find that your favourite acts of foreplay overlap with your favourite forms of intimacy (how good!). 

Although they are not mutually exclusive acts, sex tends to be better with a healthy amount of foreplay beforehand. But establishing a foreplay routine can take time, effort, and passionate experimentation. All things (reasonably) rare in one-night stands, and still somewhat complicated with friends-with-benefits or semi-regularly ‘rostered’ sexual partners.  

So, how can we achieve foreplay in hook-up culture, where everything seems fast, non-committal and almost transactional? How can we enjoy the intimacy of foreplay when casual sex can so often feel like the antithesis of true intimacy?  

It’s hard out here. I don’t have it all figured out yet, but here are some things I’d recommend: 

  • You don’t have to explicitly talk about foreplay for it to exist, it’s a tension you feel bubbling between bodies, but it can’t hurt to address it. Take a breather. Have a chat. Align your expectations of each other. Although time may be of the essence, you can afford some quick dialogue. Even if it’s just a breathless check-in.  
  • Establish common ground. It’s likely you’ll have different interpretations of foreplay, and different needs. There’s just as great a chance you’ve been doing something really well, as there is you could be doing something better, and you’ll never know either unless you ask.  
  • If there’s anything that’s weighing on your mind, share it. If it concerns one of you, it concerns all of you. Intimacy involves honesty. If your head’s not in the game, then you’re not fully invested in the moment. And if there’s tension in your head, there’s tension in the rest of your body.  
  • Don’t be afraid to slow things down if you feel like you still need to build more tension. Sex is an organic process. You can go back and forth through the ‘bases’ multiple times. You make the rules as you go. Plus, unless you’re being explicitly asked not to slow down, it’s fun to modulate tension. Kind of like edging, but with your clothes still on (optional).  
  • Dismiss the notion of casual sex being transactional by considering sex as a form of connection instead of just a means to an end. If you learn to appreciate all forms of sex as intimate practices, then the intimacy of foreplay might not feel as daunting anymore.  

In your own time, think about what foreplay feels and looks like to you. This way, you’ll be better prepared for your next rendezvous.  

Have fun, and stay safe x. 

 UnSEXpected is a Glass column dedicated to the things we learn about sex and intimacy through conversations with friends. If you have any unique, funny or interesting stories you’d like to share, please get in touch! It’s the team’s goal to make this column a fun, safe and diverse space.

Konstanz Muller Hering
Konstanz Muller Hering

Konstanz (she/ they) is a Meanjin/Brisbane-based writer and QUT Creative Writing graduate. Konstanz was a Glass editor, and now contributes as an alumni.

Articles: 24

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