Non-penetrative sex

Non-penetrative sex (also known as outercourse and dry sex) is sexual activity without vaginal, anal, and oral penetration, as opposed to intercourse, anal sex, or oral sex. The terms mutual masturbation and frottage are also used, but with slightly different emphases. NPS and outercourse are rather new terms, which is why such practices are sometimes still called "intercourse". ("Outercourse" is something of a misnomer, as it contrasts "outer" with "inter" but the "inter" in "intercourse" means "between two people." It does not describe being inside or outside of the body.)

No bodily fluids are intended to be exchanged, and outercourse is therefore often considered a practice of safer sex as well as of birth control (see below for exceptions). Outercourse in preparation for intercourse can form part of foreplay.

Types of non-penetrative sexual activity

Non-penetrative sex includes but is not limited to the following examples.

A number of BDSM activities do not involve penetration. However they are not generally considered under the same heading, possibly because they involve their own special risks or possibly because they are not considered substitutes for "having sex."

Mutual masturbation as a form of non-penetrative sex

Mutual masturbation is a sexual act where two or more people stimulate themselves or one another sexually, usually with the hands.

This may be done in situations where the participants do not feel ready, physically able, it is socially appropriate, or simply do not wish to have full sexual intercourse, but still wish to have a mutual sexual act. It is also done as part of the full repertoire of sexual intercourse, where it may be used as an interlude, a form of foreplay or simply as an alternative activity to penetration. For some, it is the primary sexual activity of choice above all others because it enables the individuals to see face to face and leaves the hands free to caress, as seen in frottage (see below).

Mutual masturbation can be practiced by those of all sexual orientations. If used as an alternative to penile-vaginal penetration, the aim may be to preserve virginity or to prevent pregnancy. Some may choose it because it achieves sexual satisfaction without actual sex, possibly seeing it as an alternative to casual sex.

The techniques of mutual masturbation resemble those of simple masturbation, with the exception that other persons are involved. The range of participation can be as simple as two participants masturbating in the same room at the same time without any physical contact to a group of people all stimulating one another. In the case of two participants, one partner may stimulate the other, each partner may stimulate the other, or one may stimulate both themselves and their partner.

Mutual masturbation 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 safer sex, and greatly reduces the risk of transmission of sexual diseases. As such it was encouraged among gay men by some safer sex organizations in the wake of the AIDS outbreak of the 1980s, as an alternative to anal or oral sex.

The terms "mutual masturbation" and "circle jerk" are sometimes also used as vulgar metaphors. They can refer to a situation, often in the workplace, politics or academia, where people are stroking each other's ego without producing anything of value.


Frottage, more commonly known as dry humping, is the act of achieving sexual pleasure with a partner or partners, whether naked or clothed, without penetration. This can include using almost every part of the body, including the buttocks, the breasts, abdomen, thighs, feet, hands, legs, and sexual organs. Frottage can include mutual genital rubbing, sometimes called genito-genital or GG rubbing and most of the other forms of non-penetrative sex.

There are many reasons a couple may choose frottage. The most common reasons are as a form of foreplay before intercourse or as a method to achieve sexual gratification without the more sexually explicit (and in some circumstances, forbidden) oral or vaginal sexual intercourse. Often young people will use frottage as an earlier stage of sexual intimacy before more explicit contact is desired, or as a substitute to intercourse to maintain a higher degree of chastity. Also, frottage can be done without getting undressed, and perhaps this is preferable. Panties, bras, pantyhose, socks, or stockings can aid in sexual arousal and stimulation. Those who are bi-curious typically try this out first.

Lap dances often involve clothed frottage. A modern dancing style which involves partners rubbing their clothed bodies on one another is called "grinding," "freaking," or "Sandwich dancing" and in Caribbean cultures where it is more accepted, it is referred to as "wining" or "flexing", known in the Spanish speaking territories as "perrear" ("dogging"). This term came from Puerto Rico and later became the famous dance for reggaeton.

The term frottage derives from the French verb frotter, "to rub."

Important distinctions in terminology

Three distinct terms derive from the French verb frotter, "to rub," that are not to be confused:

  • frottage: The sexual act, involving rubbing, described in this section
  • frotteurism: a paraphilia involving obsession with frottage or performing frottage nonconsensually (e.g., pressing one's genitals against a stranger on a crowded subway). This behavior was once called "frottage" but that use is no longer accepted.
  • frot: Refers exclusively to male-male genital rubbing without penetration. Confusingly, "frottage" is sometimes shortened to "frot" in informal use.

Part of the reason for the confusion is that consensual frottage may have once been considered a perversion and lumped in with non-consensual frotteurism. This view is no longer widely held. The 1995 book Eccentric and Bizarre Behaviors by Louis R. Franzini and Jon Squires declares frottage, in the appropriate context, to be a perfectly normal sexual behavior for anyone "male or female, homosexual or heterosexual."

Chikan (痴漢, チカン, or ちかん) is a Japanese term for frotteurism, or someone who commits such an act. Among other uses, the term is used to describe people who take advantage of the crowded conditions on the public transit systems to rub against others sexually.


  • "dry humping": two people engaging in clothed sex in a manner that simulates intercourse.
  • "scrumping": a colloquialism for dry humping. A portmanteau of scratching and humping.
  • "grinding", "dubbing", or "freaking": a modern dancing style that involves partners rubbing their clothed bodies on one another.
  • "frotteur geek": a colloquialism for a person with a devotion to a typical scenario for frottage.
  • "Princeton rub",, "Ivy League rub", and so on: slang terms, referring to male-male frot or interfemoral intercourse or both, presumably surviving from the days when these colleges only admitted men.
  • "g0y" (spelled with the number zero): alternative sexual identity for men attracted to other men but avoiding anal sex in favor of non-penetrative sex.

Health risks

Pregnancy risk

Interfemoral intercourse and genital rubbing, although notionally forms of outercourse, can carry a risk of pregnancy through transfer of the sperm-bearing fluids to the sex organs. The risk of pregnancy with oral sex is only through contact between sperm-bearing fluids such as semen or Cowper's fluid and female sex organs, though the sex organs aren't usually in close contact with oral sex.

Joycelyn Elders controversy in the United States

Dr. Joycelyn Elders, President Bill Clinton's surgeon general, tried to popularize outercourse as a means of sexual play for teens that would offer a safer alternative than sexual intercourse involving penile-vaginal or penile-anal penetration. However, her recommendation proved to be too controversial and she was fired by Clinton in December 1994.

See also


Further reading

External links

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