What most people associate with foreplay are various sexual activities that precede sex. However, it can be beneficial to understand foreplay as an integral part of the sexual act, and not just something separate.
What is foreplay?
Foreplay can be understood as a time-limited session aimed at arousing and thus preparing one's body and your partner(s) for penetrative sex. This is done by kissing, caressing, talking and by providing a pleasant environment, such as music and lighting. Many also associate foreplay with hand sex and oral sex.
An alternative understanding of foreplay
This understanding of foreplay is not wrong, but it can easily imply that sex is only equal to penetrative sex. We want to help challenge that belief - because penetrative sex is no more "real" than any other form of sex, even though it is often talked about as such. Both hand sex and oral sex are legitimate forms of sex in their own right. An alternative understanding of foreplay as a proper part of the sexual act can help prolong the session - as can breaking the expectation that cuddling must necessarily lead to penetrative sex. In line with this, the sexual act can be further prolonged by also considering the activities after sex as part of the act - you can read more about sexual aftercare here.
Foreplay and pressure of expectation
One of the most important considerations when having sex, is remembering yourself and your needs. That you experience a desire for the things you agree to take part in. Just as you can't expect others to want specific things or actions - you can't expect it from yourself either. Sometimes it can be hard to sense what you desire - and once you've engaged in kissing or giving or receiving hand or oral sex, the expectation of penetrative sex can feel enormous. Plus, the unspoken idea of what kind of sex you each want can contribute to performance pressure. It's perfectly normal and natural to experience - but it can be uncomfortable.
Talk to your partner(s) about foreplay and expectations
Desires change all the time - even during sex. So it can be a challenge to say exactly what you want before you have sex - because it can change along the way. However, it's still a good idea to talk about your desires, so you can put into words what you think and what you expect from yourself and from each other. An initial talk about expectations can help set boundaries and take some of the sexual pressure off. It may be that neither of you wants oral sex, but that you both think and expect it to be part of the sexual act. Check with yourself; what you want and don't want - and remember that you never owe anyone sex of any kind.
Read also: Explore your erogenous zones
Read also: Dirty talk for beginners