A sex educator shares her best foreplay ideas

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“Tension is foreplay’s best friend.”

When people think of foreplay, their mind often goes straight to oral sex. It’s one of the most common ways to get down and dirty and let’s be honest, it gets the job done. But if oral stimulation isn’t your style, there are many other ways to engage in foreplay that don’t involve the mouth – or even physical touch at all.

For those unfamiliar, foreplay is one of the most important things when it comes to sex. It helps build sexual tension and arousal and in a lot of cases can be more enjoyable than the act itself. But where do you even start?

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Whether you’re a freak in the sheets looking to spice things up or a complete newbie when it comes to sex, there are a number of things you can try to amp up your foreplay game.

With this in mind, I asked Naarm-based sexuality educator, sexologist and proud First Nations woman, Lauren French, to help me come up with a list of foreplay ideas you can try at home (or wherever else you choose to do the deed).

Set a timer

Lauren tells me that when it comes to foreplay, a lot of people forget the importance of adding time. “For women or those with vulvas and vaginas, it can take between 30 to 40 minutes to get aroused,” she says.

“So if you engage in a solid half-hour of foreplay or oral sex, you’re giving the body enough time to get to peak arousal or reach an orgasm – if that’s your goal.”

Next time you’re feeling frisky, try setting a 30-minute timer and enjoy the foreplay for that duration. Whether it’s oral sex, kissing, touching or caressing, take it slow and allow you and your partner to experience the full 30 minutes. 

Dirty talk

No surprises here, but good old dirty talk is another excellent form of foreplay and it doesn’t have to involve physical intimacy at all. Lauren says that “mental foreplay” is extremely important for building arousal.

“If you know you’re going to have sex, start early,” she says. “[For example] if you’re seeing someone later tonight, think about how your text messages can build into a sexual connotation. It’s all about getting the mind thinking about sex for a long time before actually having it.

“A good go-to is telling your partner what you want to do to them,” says Lauren. “It’s a classic, but it’s a classic for a reason because it causes you to fantasise.”

Lauren tells me that this might include actual face-to-face talking, texting or even having both parties write a short erotica piece to exchange with each other. This ensures that both of your brains are super turned on when you see each other. “You build up the tension – tension is foreplay’s best friend,” she says.

Avoid the genitals

Yep, you read that correctly. One of Lauren’s biggest tips for foreplay is to avoid touching the genitals for as long as possible. This may involve touching your partner’s ears, neck, thighs, stomach or back, and kissing or caressing their body in different places.

“This builds tension so that by the time you get to their genitals, it’s such an amazing feeling,” Lauren says.

Change up your surroundings

Another way to spice up foreplay is to change the setting where it’s done. Lauren says starting in the shower, or even while you’re making dinner can help to set the mood in advance.

“While you’re making dinner or in a place where you’re not actually going to have sex, try subtle touches, butt squeezes or dirty talking,” she says.

Sensory play

Lauren says that sensory play is a fun way to experiment with foreplay. “This can be as simple as removing a sense like hearing or sight to enhance the foreplay experience,” she explains.

Try having fun with a blindfold or noise-cancelling headphones, or even playing sexually arousing music to get you in the mood. Adding in taste elements can also be fun – food and sex? Yes, please. This could involve feeding your partner or experimenting Samantha Jones-style with things like whipped cream (or you know, covering your entire body in sushi).

Experiment with erotic mediums

If you’ve tried watching porn with your partner to get you both in the mood, this one’s for you. Moving away from traditional porn and experimenting with different mediums can really change the foreplay game.

“Thinking about your audio space is important,” Lauren tells me. She says that adding music to your environment or even audio porn can help with arousal, particularly if dirty talk isn’t your thing.

This can also mean reading erotica together or watching something without the intention of replicating the video.


Another classic, but perhaps a more intimidating one. Toys are a great way to spice up foreplay, especially if you’re keen to try new things. Lauren says if you’re relatively new to sex toys and have one that you already use (like a vibrator) start by introducing this to your partner as a way to get toys involved in a less awkward or daunting way. 

“If you’re comfortable with toys, I always say it’s important to figure out what you’re trying to stimulate and know which toys are best for different bodies,” she tells me.

This can be playing with things like a clitoral suction toy or using a cock ring to experiment with erection and blood flow. Moving away from the genitals, you could try something like a nipple clamp, or a butt plug if you’re into anal play. 

“Combining nipple clamps or rings with something like a butt plug can help provide a sensation overload,” says Lauren.

Mutual masturbation

Fairly self-explanatory, but we’re all experts when it comes to our own genitals and what we like in sex. Mutual masturbation is as simple as, for lack of a better term, getting off alongside your partner, which can be combined with kissing, touching or dirty talk. 

“You get to watch your partner and their pleasures and that can feed into your pleasure,” Lauren tells me.

Take note of what your partner is doing and as you get more aroused, you can try doing the same thing to them. Sex, and especially foreplay, is all about communication and it’s important to know how your partner pleasures themself.

Some additional things to know

Lastly, Lauren gives me some general tips for approaching foreplay and sex. “The easiest sentence to ever use is ‘What do you like?’,” she says. “Give your partner the opportunity to open up and try new things together.”

If you’re trying something new with your partner, check-in with them to see if they’re enjoying it. If they are, try incorporating more of this into your sexy time. If it doesn’t take their fancy, ask if you can try something else to make it better. Again, communication is key.

“My biggest advice with foreplay is to have fun and laugh,” Lauren adds. “Sex can be funny and awkward – you don’t need to pretend it’s like the hottest porn… it should be about sensation and feel.

“If something is funny, laugh,” she says. “If someone queefs or falls over, it doesn’t have to end the mood. And don’t feel like [sex] has to be symmetrical or equal.” As Lauren says, someone might enjoy giving more than the other and that can be an active choice if it’s consensual.

For more on foreplay, try this.

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