Non-penetrative sex

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This article is about non-penetrative sex among humans. For non-penetrative sex among other animals, see Animal co-opted sexual behavior#Types of non-penetration sexual activity.
Drawing by Franz von Bayros showing an act of fingering

Non-penetrative sex or outercourse is sexual activity that usually does not include sexual penetration. It generally excludes the penetrative aspects of vaginal, anal or oral sexual activity, but includes various forms of sexual and non-sexual activity, such as frottage, mutual masturbation, kissing or cuddling.[1][2][3] Some definitions of the activity, particularly when termed outercourse, include penetrative aspects (such as penetration that may result from forms of oral or anal sexual activity), especially oral sex.[4][5][6]

People engage in non-penetrative sex for a variety of reasons, including as a form of foreplay or as a primary or preferred sexual activity.[2][7] Heterosexual couples may engage in the activity as an alternative to penile-vaginal penetration, to preserve virginity, or as a form of birth control.[7][8] Gay and lesbian couples may also engage in the activity to preserve virginity,[7][9][10] with gay males using it as an alternative to anal penetration.[7][9]

Though sexually transmitted infections (STIs/STDs) such as herpes, HPV and pubic lice can be transmitted through non-penetrative genital-genital and genital-body sexual activity, non-penetrative sex may be used as a form of safer sex because it is less likely that bodily fluids (the main source of STI/STD transmission) will be exchanged during the activities, especially with regard to aspects that are exclusively non-penetrative.[11][12][13]


Though non-penetrative sex (or outercourse) is usually defined as excluding sexual penetration,[1][2][3] some non-penetrative sex acts can have penetrative components and may therefore be categorized as non-penetrative sex. Oral sex, for example, which can include oral caress of the genitalia, as well as penile penetration of the mouth or oral penetration of the vagina, may be categorized as non-penetrative sex.[4][5] The word penetration or penetrative may also be restricted to penile-vaginal penetration and therefore the definition of outercourse additionally includes penetrative anal sex, with the term outercourse used to contrast sexual intercourse as vaginal sex.[6][14][15] Oral sex may also be considered outercourse solely because it is not vaginal or anal intercourse.[16][17] Definitions restricting the terms non-penetrative sex and outercourse to penile penetration,[2][18] or to non-penetrative sexual acts that do not involve exchanges of potentially infectious bodily fluids,[4][11] also exist.

The term heavy petting covers a broad range of foreplay activities, typically involving some genital stimulation, but not the direct act of penetrative sexual intercourse.[19]



Frot: two men rubbing their penises together to create sexual sensations

Frottage is the general term for the act of rubbing any part of the body, including the buttocks, the breasts, abdomen, thighs, feet, hands, legs and sexual organs against the sexual organ of another person; this is done whether naked or clothed and is more commonly known as dry humping or dry sex.[20] When frottage includes genital-genital rubbing, it is sometimes called genito-genital or GG rubbing.[20]

Couples may engage in frottage as a form of foreplay or simply as a method to achieve sexual gratification without the penetrative aspects of vaginal, anal or oral sexual intercourse, which may be a way of preserving virginity[7][8] or a way of practicing safe sex.[11] Often, young people will engage in frottage as an earlier stage of physical intimacy before more explicit contact is desired.

Other terms associated with frottage are:

Mutual masturbation

1840 Johann Nepomuk Geiger depiction of mutual masturbation

Mutual masturbation (also called manual intercourse[25]) usually involves the manual stimulation of genitals by two or more people who stimulate themselves or one another.[26][27] This may be done in situations where the participants do not feel ready, physically able, socially at liberty, or willing to engage in any penetrative sex act, or a particular penetrative sex act, but still wish to engage in a mutual sexual activity. It is also done as part of a full repertoire of sexual activity, where it may be used as foreplay.[27] For some people, it is the primary sexual activity of choice. Types of mutual masturbation include the handjob, the manual sexual stimulation of the penis by a person on a male,[28] and fingering, the manual sexual stimulation of the vagina, vulva, or clitoris in particular, by a person on a female. Stimulation of the genitals while using the feet may also be included, and so may manual stimulation of the anus.[29]

Like frottage in general, mutual masturbation may be used as an alternative to penile-vaginal penetration, to preserve virginity or to prevent pregnancy.[7][8] It might result in one or more of the partners achieving orgasm. If no bodily fluids are exchanged (as is common), mutual masturbation is a form of safe sex, and greatly reduces the risk of transmission of sexual diseases.[11][12][13]

In partnered manual genital stroking to reach orgasm or expanded orgasm, both people focus on creating and experiencing an orgasm in one person. Typically, one person lies down pant-less, while his or her partner sits alongside. The partner who is sitting uses his or her hands and fingers (typically with a lubricant) to slowly stroke the penis or clitoris and other genitals of the partner. Expanded orgasm as a mutual masturbation technique reportedly creates orgasm experiences more intense and extensive than what can be described as, or included in the definition of, a regular orgasm.[30] It includes a range of sensations that include orgasms that are full-bodied, and orgasms that last from a few minutes to many hours.[31] However, this technique is not without risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections, in particular HIV. A person using his or her finger, with a small wound, to stimulate a woman's genitals could be infected with HIV found in her vagina's fluids; likewise regarding a man's semen containing HIV, which could infect a partner who has a small exposed wound on his or her skin.

Exclusively non-penetrative

Mammary intercourse, a form of non-penetrative sex between a man and a woman

Non-penetrative sex may sometimes be divided into acts that are exclusively non-penetrative and those that are not. Exclusively non-penetrative sexual acts include:

Non-exclusively non-penetrative

Hook-up culture

In many developed countries, there is a trend where young individuals (typically late teens and early twenties) engage in casual sex, also known as a hookup. This phenomenon has been termed hookup culture. The term hookup in this context loosely means participating in some type of sexual activity (whether it is non-penetrative or penetrative) with another individual or group of individuals outside of a romantic relationship.[49] Hooking up may be in the form of a one-night stand, where the sex acts are contained within a single situation or the individuals may "hook up" on a more consistent basis (sometimes known as being "friends with benefits"). In addition, hooking up can mean different things to different people. Some individuals believe a hookup is "anything but intercourse," which would include only non-penetrative sex acts.[50] These arrangements typically focus on the physical pleasure gained from a sex act instead of an emotional attachment, and they can be risky, especially if the sexual history of the sex partners are not obtained before the acts take place. Birth control may not be utilized if the individuals are not planning on engaging in a sex act. Being prepared for a hookup can help decrease risk. Using birth control and ensuring all individuals present understand that the activity is a hookup with no other expectations can maximize benefits while minimizing risk.[51] For individuals who do not have time for a committed, romantic relationship, a hook-up can be a positive experience, so long as they take precautions to minimize risk. The benefits of sex acts are various, and if an individual is concerned about sexual infections or pregnancy, non-penetrative sex acts (which carry a significantly smaller risk than penetrative sex) are sufficient and offer a wide variety of options to choose from.[52]

In addition, a hookup can be an opportunity for individuals who may be questioning their sexual orientation to try being with another individual in a casual setting, without having to be in a more serious relationship, so that they can determine if they enjoy the sexual part of this orientation. Since women's sexuality has been categorized as being more fluid than men's,[53] this could be an opportunity for a woman to try a sexual experience with the same sex or someone of a different gender identity; men may also use a hookup to sexually experiment.[50]

Health risks

There is a sociocultural viewpoint that because non-penetrative sex usually does not involve a direct exchange of semen or vaginal fluids, and because at no point (in exclusively non-penetrative sex acts) does anything penetrate the vulva, vagina or anus, these acts are risk free. Although the risks associated with non-penetrative sex acts are significantly less than those associated with penetrative sex,[11][12][13] there are still risks that can occur.[29][54] There is a slight risk for pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections (STIs) with certain non-penetrative sex acts.[55]

Pregnancy can still occur with anal sex or other forms of sexual activity where the penis is near the vagina (such as intercrural sex or other genital-genital rubbing) where sperm can be deposited near the entrance of the vagina and can travel along the vagina's lubricating fluids; the risk of pregnancy can also occur without the penis being near the vagina because sperm may be transported to the vaginal opening by the vagina coming in contact with fingers or other non-genital body parts that have come in contact with semen.[56][57][58]

Like non-exclusive non-penetrative sex acts, STI transmission varies for exclusively non-penetrative sexual activities; some common STIs transmitted through exclusively non-penetrative sex acts, and how they are contracted, are the following:[59]

With regard to non-exclusive non-penetrative sex acts, the risks somewhat increase because there is penetration (either of the vagina, anus or mouth) and there is the potential for bodily fluids (semen, vaginal secretions, saliva) to be exchanged. In addition to the aforementioned STIs, the following can be transmitted through non-exclusive non-penetrative sex acts:[60]

Many individuals are concerned about the risk of HIV/AIDS.[13] Generally, a person must either have unprotected sexual intercourse (vaginal or anal), use an infected syringe or have the virus passed from mother to child to be infected.[13] A person cannot be infected from casual contact, such as hugging; however, there is a minor risk that if HIV-infected blood, or genital secretions (semen or vaginal secretions), enter an open wound, the person is at risk.[13]

The only way for complete protection from pregnancy or STI risk is to completely abstain from all sexual activities. However, there are several ways to decrease the risk, should a person decide to be sexually active.

Some barrier methods include:

If a person is concerned about the minor risk of pregnancy from non-penetrative sex, there are also several hormonal contraceptive birth control methods that can be used. Dual protection (using both a barrier device and hormonal method) can be significantly effective at preventing both pregnancy and STI transmission.[61]

See also


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  7. ^ a b c d e f See here and pages 47-49 for views on what constitutes virginity loss and therefore sexual intercourse or other sexual activity; source discusses how gay and lesbian individuals define virginity loss, and how the majority of researchers and heterosexuals define virginity loss/"technical virginity" by whether or not a person has engaged in penile-vaginal sex. Laura M. Carpenter (2005). Virginity lost: an intimate portrait of first sexual experiences. NYU Press. pp. 295 pages. ISBN 0-8147-1652-0. Retrieved October 9, 2011. 
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Further reading

External links