Most of the time, people emphasize how much foreplay matters to women – which it does – but men's sex lives can also benefit from putting some extra effort in before intercourse. "Foreplay helps to maintain intimacy. Physical intimacy but also emotional intimacy," says urologist and sexual health expert Dr. Jennifer Berman. Not only is foreplay a great way to enhance sex for both you and your partner (regardless of your gender), it can also improve your relationship outside the bedroom, says Berman.
Science has shown that building up to intercourse can lead to longer sex and better orgasms, even during solo sex. A recent study published in the Journal of Sex Research had male and female participants masturbate to orgasm while being monitored. Both sexes reported that their orgasms were more pleasurable when there was a greater buildup of sexual arousal and desire beforehand. Other research that surveyed people ages 16 to 64 found that the more diverse sexual practices people include in their romps – like vaginal intercourse, kissing, cuddling, oral sex, and manual stimulation – the longer they lasted. This was especially true when oral sex and self-stimulation were involved. Coincidentally, several studies also show that both men and women wish they spent more time on intercourse and foreplay. In one survey of 152 couples, the two sexes even reported the same ideal duration for foreplay, about 18 minutes. (The average they reported it lasting in real life was closer to 13 minutes.)
Foreplay is especially important for long-term relationships. "Over time, when life gets in the way – our kids, our work, our stress, financial whatever it is – being able to maintain a connection, an intimacy with our partners, is really, really important and foreplay helps to do that," says Berman.
If you are at the point where you're looking to improve your foreplay abilities, you should recognize that foreplay amongst partners is a team effort. In order for you to know how to turn on your partner, they should know first. "What I tell my patients is that they need to understand their body, their anatomy, their chemistry, their physiology in order to be able to enjoy sex," says Berman. Both partners need to be open to discovering what they like and hearing what the other likes because everyone has different preferences (read: one sex trick does not fit all). Berman says that some of the best ways to communicate your wants with your partner during sex is through sounds and body language because lectures mid-session are a definite don't. If that doesn't work, talk to them about it later, at a non-threatening time, and make sure to pile on the compliments if you have any criticisms.
Of course, paying more attention to foreplay isn't the only way to have successful sex but, for most people, it's important in the big picture. What really matters is that both partners are sexually satisfied because that will benefit the relationship as a whole. So, if your partnership thrives on occasional quickies, there's certainly nothing wrong with that, just so long as you're making sure that's truly fulfilling for both you and your partner.