By Knude Society Team

Sexual intimacy without penetration: the what, why, and how

When it comes to sex and sexual intimacy, there’s a pervasive and annoying myth/idea/misconception that penetration (or penis in vagina) is the ultimate goal and source of pleasure.

But ask almost any woman or sex researcher and they’ll tell you it’s an entirely different story. Studies show time and time again that a significant percentage of women and vulva owners do not regularly achieve orgasm through penetration alone.

Let’s repeat that again: 70-80% of women and vulva owners do not regularly achieve orgasm through penetration alone.

So let’s do away with the idea that sex HAS to involve or end with penetration. In fact, in this article we’re going to explore all the ways to enjoy sexual intimacy and sex without penetration. With the ultimate goal of embracing a world of sexual pleasure and intimacy that transcend penetration.

Female pleasure and penetration

Before diving into the world of non-penetrative sexual intimacy, here’s a closer look at the stats and reality behind pleasure and penetration:

  1. The female orgasm: Did you know that only 18% of women have reported being able to orgasm from penetration alone? That’s means a majority of women need other stimulation as well. In fact, research consistently reveals that a majority of women require direct clitoral stimulation to reach orgasm.

    If you are unable to orgasm from penetration alone, this is normal.

  2. The orgasm isn’t the end goal: Yep, sometimes sexual pleasure doesn’t have to end with an orgasm. We can take our time just enjoying
    the sensations without the need to get to an end “goal”.

  3. The clitoris: This small but perfectly formed and powerful organ is usually the main epicentre for a woman’s orgasm. With literally thousands of nerve endings dedicated solely to pleasure the clitoris plays a starring role in almost all forms of non-penetrative intimacy.

  4. The erogenous zones: Some say there are as many as 30 erognenous zones. It differs from person to person, but what we do know for sure is that these are just as important in creating sexual intimacy. From inner thighs to nipples and earlobes. They all play their part.

  5. Penetration isn’t physically possible for everyone: From STIs to vaginismus, sometimes physical penetration just isn’t the one. But that doesn’t mean that pleasure can’t be on the table. It’ll just look and feel different.

Exploring non-penetrative intimacy

Now that we’ve established the what and the why, here’s the how:

Communication and emotional connection

As with all forms of intimacy, the best kind is founded on communication and connection. Be honest, open, and empathetic with you partner. If up until this point penetration has been the be all and end all to your intimacy, then an open conversation probably needs to happen first.

Personal pleasure can sometimes be a tricky subject for some. Which is why we put a whole blog post together on asking for what you want. But trust us when we say this should be your first step.

Sensual massage

Soft lighting, soothing music, massage oils or candles — a trifecta of delight.

Attentively explore your partner’s body. Experiment with pressure and heat. Try out those erogenous zones. Massage everything BUT the areas you really want to be touched. Build the desire and go from there.

Deep kissing

Kissing can sometimes be a forgotten tool in our arsenal. Go for passionate, lingering kisses that start building that desire. Concentrate on how the kissing makes you feel and helps you connect to your partner.

And don’t just do it as part of your sexual intimacy routine. Deep kissing can be done at anytime during the day. Grab your partner after they’ve given you a cuppa tea and give them a lingering kiss as a thank you.


For many women, oral sex leads to intense pleasure. And one that feels good even if your partner is learning the ropes! Guide and tell your partner what feels good. Take oral all over the body, don’t just focus on one place.

Mutual masturbation

Instead of talking about what you like, show your partner what you like. Mutual masturbation is where you and your partner pleasure yourselves while the other watches. It’s a different kind of intimacy, opening yourselves up to one another in such a vulnerable way. Plus you may tap into some desires you hereto didn’t know about.

Erotic literature

Try reading erotic literature together — it’s a way of sharing fantasies without having to directly put yourself our there. For women erotic literature can be liberating to read both alone and together. And sharing them with a partner can ignite passion and strengthen your emotional bond.


Don't underestimate the power of a cuddle. Whether it’s pre, during, or post-intimacy cuddling helps foster feelings of security and closeness, deepening your emotional connection.

Feeling secure with your partner is key to opening up to intimacy in its different forms. Plus, who doesn’t love a cuddle?