The function of foreplay is to assist with female arousal

Men are proactive lovers because of their arousal. Men enjoy exploring women’s bodies because it is arousing for them. Foreplay existed well before any knowledge of the clitoris. A woman allows a man to stimulate her to the boundaries of her sense of propriety. I was just as passive with a lover as any other woman. The only activities I could consciously decide to engage on involved pleasuring my partner. I had no idea what I could do to achieve erotic arousal with a lover. My masturbation technique, of using surreal fantasies alone, was not suitable for use in a social scenario.

In pornography we see a fair amount of foreplay. Both partners are proactive about offering to pleasure their lover. But these scenarios are more like a group sex scenario that a man might pay for, than anyone’s sex life. They are based on a scenario where a woman is being paid to provide sexual services for men. In our own sex lives, we might have these pornographic scenarios in our heads as a model but we don’t act out similar scenarios for long. They tend to be at the beginning of relationships when couples explore. Women may feel that they would orgasm if foreplay was offered but they are not motivated to ask a partner to supply it. Sex becomes an activity that is initiated by a man to satisfy his immediate needs.

It has always been clear to me that men can enjoy a woman’s body in anticipation of thrusting into her vagina until they ejaculate, which is definitely a heterosexual man’s preferred means of ending sexual activity. Already by the 1950s, Kinsey had concluded that some men (often the more educated) are much more interested in eroticism and activities peripheral to intercourse than others. Kinsey also noted that this peripheral activity was not continuously applied to consistent anatomy. He concluded that when women masturbate, they stimulate themselves (the clitoris) up until orgasm as men do. He concluded that women are slower to respond with a lover because of the discontinuity of sexual stimulation that men supply.

In later decades, the greater awareness of the role of the clitoris in female orgasm, meant that the clitoral glans was added to the list of anatomy that men were told to stimulate to arouse a woman. Consequently, most women most of the time are assumed to orgasm from cunnilingus, manual stimulation of the clitoris or even the breasts. The variety of anatomy is never rationalised. The comparison with male orgasm techniques, which always focus on the penis, is never made. Most men focus on intercourse for their own sexual release, so if they offer foreplay (stimulation other than intercourse) at all, it is often to ensure that a woman’s vagina is lubricated.[i]

[i] Many men have a completely genital approach to sex. Sex play is not play to them, but a series of mechanical manoeuvres to get the woman ready for what they really want. (Shere Hite)

Excerpt from Understanding Sexual Response (ISBN 978-0956-894762)