Intercourse’s claim as the be-all-end-all of sex may be about to take on a challenger.
Introducing ‘outercourse’. You probably haven’t heard the word before, but we’re betting you’ve experienced it – especially if you are someone who doesn’t orgasm through penetrative sex alone.
Research from the Centre for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University found that of the 1055 women aged 18 to 94 surveyed only about one in five (18 per cent) reached an orgasm through intercourse alone.
The other 82 per cent of women? Well, they needed something else. They needed outercourse: kissing, massaging, using vibrators, touching erogenous zones, clitoral stimulation, oral sex or toe-sucking. Basically, everything else that might come with sex, but isn’t penetration.
“But isn’t that just foreplay?”, you ask. Well, not really. For the 36 per cent of women surveyed who only orgasm with clitoral stimulation, (as well as the further 36 per cent who say it enhances sex), it’s an integral part of the main event – not just a precursor that can be skipped if necessary.
And that’s why we need to start changing the way we think and talk about sex, says sex therapist and clinical psychologist Dr Janet Hall.
Dr. Hall tells Mamamia the problem with using the term “foreplay” to describe all the other stuff that isn’t penetration is that it signals that it’s not important to the female orgasm – and it very much is.
“Penetration is the male model of ideal sex and they forget that it is the journey and not the destination that is most to be enjoyed,” the Melbourne-based sex therapist says.
Dr. Hall says her data – collected over 15 years through a questionnaire on her website – mirrors the US research, finding that only 20 per cent of women orgasm through intercourse.
“In my clinic, most women say they need clitoral stimulation from any source in order to have an orgasm. Though some can have internal stimulation by partner’s fingers or by vibrator or dildo and have G-spot and A-spot (near cervix) orgasms,” she says.
Dr. Hall says women can feel embarrassed or ashamed when they can’t orgasm thanks to penetration alone and this shame can push a woman to fake an orgasm – just to please her partner.
“This is fed by movies and novels where the woman appears to have an orgasm by being breathed on,” she says.
“Young men are also very ignorant about women and how to facilitate her orgasm. Because a man doesn’t give his partner an orgasm, he facilitates it.”
Dr. Hall blames the single narrative of foreplay-then-intercourse on the fact that our idea of sex is still skewed towards men and their experience of sex.
Backing this up is the most common answer to the question on her survey: “How do you know the sex is finished?” It’s something along the lines of “when the man has ejaculated” –, especially inside a vagina.
“Sex should be about giving and receiving pleasure to the entire body – not just genitals and certainly not just inside the vagina,” she says, adding that the vagina doesn’t even have many pleasurable cells.
In fact, Dr. Hall says some couples she sees will agree to not include penetration in every second sex session, so they can “take their time in exploring total body pleasure”.
Dr. Hall’s advice for women who want to enjoy sex more is pretty simple: have fun with it and don’t expect to ever have sex “mastered”.
“Read books and find websites online which encourage you to try different things out. Use your imagination.”
“It should be a lifetime interest! No-one ever really masters sex. It is a never-ending experience, full of surprise.”