Sexual Wellness Resource Center
For Adults over 50.

Think Outside The Box: The Beginner's Guide To Enjoying Outercourse

Laura NewcomerOutercourse
By Laura Newcomer

There’s a common misconception in our culture that sexuality and sexual activity go by the wayside as we age. It may be true that some kinds of sexual activity, such as penetrative intercourse, are more challenging as our bodies change. But that doesn’t mean anyone’s sex life should end after age 50.

In fact, opportunities to enjoy sex abound thanks to outercourse, or non-penetrative sexual activity. Shifting the focus to outercourse can open up a whole new world of sexual experimentation, excitement, intensity, and pleasure. Read on to learn how sexuality is affected as our bodies age and how to keep things spicy in the bedroom—no matter what—by exploring the joys of outercourse.

How Sex Changes as We Age

As people grow older, sexual relationships and abilities naturally undergo a variety of shifts. Not surprisingly, these changes manifest differently in men and women.

For women, changes in sexual appetites and abilities are often linked to the natural drop in estrogen levels typically experienced around the age of 50. Because estrogen is responsible for keeping the vaginal area moist and elastic, a decrease in estrogen contributes to a drying, tightening, and thinning effect—all of which changes the sensitivity of the vulva, vagina, and clitoris. Older women may also discover it takes longer to feel aroused and reach orgasm, or that vaginal thinning and dryness make penetrative activities too painful. Both women and men may also struggle with positive body image as they age.

For men, sexual changes may result in the form of less firm and less frequent erections, premature ejaculation, a slower buildup to being turned on, and the need for manual stimulation over fantasies in order to get aroused. Erectile dysfunction (ED)—or the inability to develop or maintain an erection during sex—is also a common complaint. In fact, approximately 40 percent of 40-year-old men and nearly 70 percent of 70-year-old men report experiencing ED.

If that all sounds discouraging, here’s the good news: Adults of any age are capable of enjoying erotic pleasure. Man or woman, gay, straight, or anything in between: The important thing is to focus on all the ways you can enjoy sexual intimacy instead of fixating on the ways you can’t. That’s where outercourse comes in.

Experiencing Sexual Pleasure Through Outercourse

Outercourse is a wonderful way to feel connected to your partner and enjoy sexual intimacy without penetrative activities. It’s also a great way for women to experience orgasms (since many women require more than penetration to climax) and for men to be sexual without worrying about how they’ll perform during penetrative intercourse. In fact, men can orgasm during outercourse even if they aren’t able to sustain an erection. Here are some of the many ways to get in on the action:

Kissing A classic element of foreplay, kissing sometimes gets overlooked when we’re fixated on reaching orgasm. Rediscover the thrill of a good make-out session by taking the time to really focus on kissing your partner. Experiment with kissing each other not just on the mouth, but all over each other’s bodies.

Erotic talk Build arousal over the phone, online, or in the bedroom by describing what you want to do to each other, using dirty talk (if you’d like) and/or reading erotica to each other out loud.

Manual stimulation or mutual masturbation This can include touching each other’s genitals with your hands and fingers, but don’t stop there: Caress your partner, re-learn the shapes and textures of their body, and establish deeper intimacy and appreciation for each other through all-over touch. You may also want to explore erotic massage.

Masturbation Masturbating in front of each other can be very arousing. It’s also a great way to learn how your partner likes to be touched and apply that knowledge to future mutual masturbation sessions.

Body-to-body rubbing Also called “dry humping,” “frottage,” or “grinding,” body-to-body rubbing consists of rubbing your bodies or sex organs together in a way that is mutually pleasurable and potentially orgasmic.  

Role playing This can be a fun sexual activity at any age. Dig up old fantasies (or create new ones) and revise them to fit your new sexual abilities and proclivities.

Sex toys Sex toys offer plenty of opportunities for experimentation. While vibrators and dildos are popular options, the world of sex toys is very broad; experiment to find the toys that most appeal to you and your partner.

Bathing together Taking a shower or bath with your partner can be very erotic and intimate. Touching each other’s bodies while submerged in the water can make things even steamier. Just be aware that water may render lubricants less effective, and be sure to communicate with your partner what does and does not feel good.

Oral sex Cunnilingus and fellatio are highly stimulating options, especially for partners intent on achieving orgasm. As alluded to above, men don’t need to be capable of maintaining an erection to feel pleasure from oral sex.

No matter your preferred method(s) of outercourse, keep the following tips in mind:

Communicate with your partner Talk to each other about your desires and boundaries prior to engaging in sexual outercourse. During sexual activity, don’t hesitate to let your partner know what does and does not feel good.

Invest in feeling sexy When you feel good about yourself, sex can feel even better. Feeling clean, wearing clothes (or lingerie) that make you feel attractive, exercising, and doing anything else that helps you feel confident is likely to increase your sexual appetite. Regularly remind yourself that—contrary to the messages our culture sends us—being sexy doesn’t have an expiration date.

Slow down Take your time exploring your partner’s body and allowing them to explore yours. Instead of rushing toward orgasm, try to slow down and enjoy the fun, excitement, and sensuality of achieving orgasm.

Break routine Regardless of the kinds of outercourse you choose, sexual intimacy can be more exciting if you try new activities, positions, or locations. That’s because novelty increases dopamine levels in our brains, and dopamine directly contributes to increased arousal.

Don’t forget the lubricant There is a huge variety of lubricants to choose from—so don’t be shy. Look for a water-based lube and experiment with different brands to find the one(s) that feels best for you and your partner. Water-based lubes are preferable because they’re safe to use with most sex toys and contraceptives.

Remember that you’re still at risk for STIs Regardless of age, people who are sexually active are at risk for contracting Sexually Transmitted Infections (STIs). If you have more than one partner or you’re just getting to know a new partner, practice safe outercourse by using condoms or dental dams during oral sex.

Keep the romance alive As acclaimed sex educator Dr. Ruth says, our brains are our most influential sex organs. If you and your partner connect emotionally and feel good outside of the bedroom, you’re more likely to feel intimate inside of it. Try designating a “date night” at least once a week during which you’re completely present with each other. And everyday expressions of care always make for great romance-kindlers. Cook dinner for your partner, bring home some flowers or a favorite treat, or offer to give your partner a back massage.

Sexual intimacy doesn’t have to vanish as we age. In fact, by embracing outercourse and exploring activities including mutual masturbation, oral sex, erotic massage, and toy play, older adults may find their sexual landscape expands with age. Embrace new approaches to sex, and you may find your sexual enjoyment is just getting started.

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About the Author

Laura Newcomer

Laura Newcomer is a writer, editor, and educator with several years of experience working in the health and wellness space. Formerly Senior Editor at the health site Greatist, Laura is now a professional freelance writer and editor based in Pennsylvania. Her writing has been published on Washington Post, TIME Healthland, Greatist, DailyBurn, Lifehacker, and Business Insider, among others. She's covered a wide variety of topics related to sex and relationships, from open relationships, to the pros and cons of being "friends with benefits," to sex positivity. A former counselor for victims of sexual assault and domestic violence, she is a strong advocate for cultivating healthy and fulfilling relationships and sexuality at every age.

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