fbpx What You Should Know About Dry Humping

Sex - Exploration | November 1, 2022, 6:00 CDT

What You Should Know About Dry Humping

This act reduces STI and pregnancy risk, but you should still do research and take precautions.
Tabby Kibugi

Written by

Tabby Kibugi
A grey camel is walking against a blue and green patterned background.
Illustration by Jaelen Brock

For many people, the thought of dry humping evokes memories of sexual exploration during their teenage years. You might recall discovering self-pleasure for the first time by grinding up against fabric or an object to satisfy your pent-up sexual desires (or frustrations).

However, dry humping isn't just for teenagers. It's a pleasurable activity that you can engage in through solo or partnered sex.

Also referred to as frottage or outercourse, it involves friction produced by grinding or rubbing of genitals and is mostly done through clothes. It's viewed as a lower-risk sexual activity because there is no exchange of bodily fluids.

Can you get pregnant while dry humping?

The risk of pregnancy when dry humping with a partner is very low.

"If you have thick fabric covering both of your genital areas, it would be exceedingly difficult for sperm to find its way up to the vaginal canal to fertilize an egg," said Indigo Stray Conger, a sex therapist who is certified by the American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors and Therapists (AASECT). Conger works at Mile High Psychotherapy in Denver.

"As long as there isn't any penetrative sex, it's quite unlikely that you'll get pregnant while dry humping," she concluded.

Can you get an STI?

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) noted that a person with a sexually transmitted infection (STI) can pass it to others through contact with skin, genitals, mouth, rectum or bodily fluids such as semen and vaginal secretions. This contact can be through vaginal sex, anal sex or oral sex.

Human papillomavirus (HPV), herpes simplex virus (HSV), syphilis and trichomoniasis are some examples of STIs that can be spread by skin-to-skin contact. Others, such as chlamydia and gonorrhea, are transmitted by the exchange of bodily fluids.

"When an active STI like HSV or HPV is present, this raises the risk of transmission while dry humping since sexual fluids would not have to be present for exposure to happen," Conger explained. "If you have thick fabric covering the breakout area, risk would be extremely minimal."

How can you minimize the risk of contracting STIs?

"The most important safety precaution is to wear clothing thick enough to ensure that there is no bodily fluid being exchanged," Conger advised. "Wearing only undergarments could potentially allow sexual fluid to seep through the fabric and come in contact with another's genitals."

Being naked with a sheet or blanket between the two of you would mean the fabric may not be secure. In the heat of the moment, such a fabric could shift, allowing sexual fluids to come in contact with your genital areas.

Therefore, it's best to keep your clothes on for safety purposes.

"Taking extra precaution by wearing a condom or dental dam can also help to reduce the risk of passing an STI in the event bodily fluids are exchanged,” added Amanda Major, a sex therapist and head of clinical practice for Relate, a counseling service in the United Kingdom.

Benefits of dry humping

While it's often underappreciated, frottage poses various benefits. Dry humping is a great form of foreplay that can set the mood and build up to the main sexual activity, or even be the main activity.

"The clitoris often doesn't get enough stimulation during penetrative intercourse, yet can also be very sensitive to direct touch," Conger said. "Therefore, it's an excellent way to build friction against the clitoris without direct stimulation feeling too intense."

There's also the risk-reduction angle. Trepidation about pregnancy or STI transmission can put a damper on your libido. Adding a layer or two of clothing can make you both feel safer and more willing to explore.

"Replacing intercourse with dry humping means minimal exposure to STIs or risk of pregnancy," Conger explained. "This also reduces the need for conversations such as [those about] birth control."

If you want to experience sexual pleasure without engaging in penetrative sex, dry humping can be a great alternative.

"For individuals who have difficulty with penetrative sex, perhaps due to anxiety or erectile issues, taking penetration off the table can result in fantastic, stress-free orgasms," Conger said.

If you experience pain during penetration, Major added that dry humping might be worth exploring as an alternative.

However, any pain should be checked out by your healthcare professional.

How to explore dry humping

If you're exploring frottage during self-pleasure, grinding against an object such as a pillow, mattress or any other soft object can be quite exciting and even lead to orgasm.

Feeling safe and comfortable are important starting points for any sexual encounter. Therefore, it's best to avoid sharp edges, sharp objects or clothes with zippers that may cause harm to your genitals.

"Avoid rubbing up against anything where you're likely to get stuck," Major advised. "For instance, getting a penis stuck inside an inanimate object."

If you're exploring dry humping with your partner, it's important that the activity feels great for both of you.

You can try rubbing your clothed genitals against erogenous zones like your partner's genitals, thighs, bum or any other part of the body that feels good. Certain sex positions, such as side by side and missionary, can enhance the pleasure for both partners, Major said.

Incorporating some of your sex toys into the mix can also elevate your dry humping experience.

"A vibrator, particularly one with multiple settings for vibrations and intensity, can be incorporated over the clothes and placed between partners while grinding," Conger recommended.

Alternatively, you can try slipping a vibrator into your pillowcase while dry humping to enhance the sensations.

Whichever technique you try, dry humping could be just as pleasurable as other forms of sex and is a great way to enliven your sex life.

Tabby Kibugi

Written by

Tabby Kibugi