(Published July 2013)
Sometimes also called “outercourse,” “othercourse” is a name given to a variety of sexual acts that do not involve penile-vaginal penetration for the purpose of preventing pregnancy.
Sexual expression aside from intercourse can take a variety of forms, including oral sex, anal sex, hugging, and mutual masturbation. Partners also can focus on eroticizing non-genital body parts, such as hands, feet, hips, and thighs. Fantasy and role playing; erotic conversation, videos, or books; and erotic bathing or showering can be incorporated.
The avoidance of penile-vaginal intercourse as a contraceptive technique is most successful when a couple can communicate effectively about sexual matters. For many couples, this approach will not prove satisfactory as a long-term method of pregnancy prevention, but it can be relied upon under certain circumstances, for example, during the fertile period for couples that practice a fertility awareness–based method.
There are no studies on the effectiveness of othercourse for pregnancy prevention. The contraceptive effectiveness of this approach depends on the couple’s attitudes and self-control to refrain from penile-vaginal intercourse.
- Risk of STIs with certain forms of outercourse (oral and anal sex).
Because this approach involves no devices or drugs, there are no associated health risks or side effects other than unintended pregnancy in the event that partners fail to use the method.
- No need for drugs or devices
- For some couples, enhancement of intimacy and understanding of sexual needs, preferences, and desires
- Risk of pregnancy even if used correctly
- Requires cooperation and self-control of male partner
- May be unsatisfying as a long-term contraceptive approach
- Lack of protection against STIs, including HIV/AIDS, unless contact with bodily fluids is avoided
- Couples that plan to use othercourse activities to prevent pregnancy should talk about their comfort levels in advance in regard to sexual practices. There should be a clear agreement—again, in advance, not during sexual activity—about what activities will take place.
- Couples that rely on this method should be willing to accept a relatively high risk of unintended pregnancy.
- In the event that this technique is attempted unsuccessfully, women should obtain EC in advance.
- At-risk women should be counseled about protecting themselves from STI transmission.
- Non-penile-vaginal sex does not protect against STIs and HIV/AIDS unless both partners avoid contact with bodily fluids that may contain infectious organisms (e.g., semen, vaginal secretions, blood, or broken skin) or use male or female condoms.
About Audrey Kelly, PharmD