Cultures of foreplay

Photo by Flickr user LLima. Click for sourceI’ve just read a fantastic article in the Journal of Sex Research on culture and how we decide what is a sexual disorder or ‘paraphilia’. It has a fascinating section where it talks about cultural variation in common or acceptable sexual practices and it touches on how foreplay differs between societies.

Kissing during foreplay, it seems, is not universal and seems to be a particular fetish of Western lovers.

Finally, in most cultures, sexual intercourse is preceded by some degree of foreplay—that is, sensory and sexual stimulation intended to induce arousal. This stimulation may be visual, tactile, or otherwise. When visual, it may be the sight of the partner or parts of his or her body or clothing, but these may vary across cultures (Bhugra, 2000). Kissing as part of sexual foreplay is common in the West but virtually unknown in other parts of the world (Ford & Beach, 1965). There are some cultures where penetration was the key element to intercourse, and neither foreplay nor afterplay was recorded. Ford and Beach pointed out that physical pain and biting are sometimes permitted as part of sexual foreplay and, therefore, such behaviors are likely to be readily incorporated into the sexual repertoire. Thus, individuals learn about methods of sexual arousal and sexual activity from their cultural habits and, in order to avoid being labelled and treated as deviant, they conform to prevalent and expected mores.

Unfortunately, the article is locked behind a paywall. Undoubtedly for your own good though. Imagine what would happen if you started to deviate from culturally accepted foreplay practices. Anarchy. And then where would we be?

Link to PubMed entry for article.

One Comment

  1. Maia Szalavitz
    Posted April 23, 2010 at 9:25 pm | Permalink

    I wouldn’t trust the early citations on lack of kissing in non-Western cultures. It was believed that non-Western cultures didn’t have romantic love for a while, too– something we now know is nonsense.
    I’ve seen research somewhere showing that tongue kissing as a human universal and given this, it’s hardly likely that it’s ever not used as foreplay!


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