If there's any aspect of sex that's misunderstood, debated about and often under-appreciated, it's foreplay. But while many people think of foreplay as preamble, a required formality you have to go through before getting to the good stuff, it is great foreplay that sets the stage for great sex. Think of it like kicking off a meal at a fancy restaurant with a terrible appetizer. How are you going to get excited about the entrée ... or dessert?

So, in an effort to understand this important part of sex better, here are 10 things you may not know about foreplay. We've reposted them with permission from our friends at Clitical.com.

Foreplay is a crucial part of the sexual act

Done correctly, foreplay prepares the body for sex, it prepares the mind for sex, it builds anticipation, desire, intrigue, and excitement, it intensifies a sexual session, it makes sex more comfortable and more enjoyable, it helps to solidify your relationship, it increases intimacy, it lets your lady know you care about her, it increases the chance for more frequent and more passionate sex, and it increases the chance for orgasm. Heck, foreplay even helps to burn up calories, burning around 7.5 calories every five minutes or so. (Read more about sex's calorie-crunching potential in Skip the Gym, Get in Bed: 7 Health Benefits of Sex.)

Most women need it

Foreplay isn't optional. It isn't a luxury to indulge in only when you have enough time - especially when you plan to engage in intercourse. A woman needs time for her vagina to prepare itself for penetration and she needs time to get in the right frame of mind to make the sex better for both of you. Give her the time to prepare, and she will enjoy the experience on a higher level - and so will you, guys. Instead of diving right for her crotch, spend some time kissing her, touching her, and talking to her. This will help build anticipation and desire.

Most women prefer it to sex itself

Most women prefer sexual encounters that connect their bodies, their hearts, and their minds. Women want men to connect to their whole being, not just their vaginas. Their genitals are wired to their hearts and their minds. Make love with her heart and mind first. Reach in and touch her on the inside before you touch her on the outside. Your lovemaking will reach new depths when you learn to (and take the time to) penetrate the whole woman, instead of just her vagina.

In one survey, women were asked, "What part of your relationship would you want your partner to pay more attention to?" More than 65 percent of these women answered foreplay; only four percent said orgasm. (The irony is that it's foreplay that helps her get to the finish line. Read more about that in The No.1 Secret to the Female Orgasm.)

It shows that you care

Not enough foreplay makes it seem like you don't care about pleasing her and only care about your own pleasure. Show her that you're a man who not only knows how to, but desires to please his lady.

Lack of it is the biggest reason why women don't reach orgasm

In one study, more than 700 nurses reported that lack of foreplay is the highest ranked reason for ladies not reaching orgasm. You really care about your lady's pleasure, don't you? While many experts claim that men don't "give" ladies an orgasm, they sure can help give her what she needs in the form of foreplay to help encourage her orgasm.

It can stand alone

The name practically suggests that FOREplay must always be a preliminary to other activities, such as intercourse. I believe it would become a little boring and predictable if foreplay lead to intercourse every time. Foreplay can stand alone. It's a pleasurable activity in itself. Try having a night of just oral sex or other activities with no intercourse. Have you ever done this before?

Leaving intercourse out of sex can be a new experience. For most couples, making love has always included intercourse. Not engaging in intercourse allows you to explore a fuller range of sexual possibilities and pleasures that can be overlooked in the rush to get to intercourse and orgasm. This pattern of foreplay always having to lead to intercourse is destructive because you tend to become focused on where you are going rather than the pleasure of the moment.

It tends to decrease over time

In the beginning of a relationship, couples tend to spend lots of time on foreplay. In fact, they usually tend to spend more time on foreplay than they do on intercourse. Once we've been in the relationship for awhile, having sex can easily become a pattern of hurried foreplay so we can get to the intercourse quicker. The pleasures of foreplay - the touching, the kissing, the caressing, and the holding - are quickly forgotten.

It can mean more frequent sex

One of the biggest complaints from ladies is that their men don't spend enough time on foreplay before sex.

It leads to more orgasms

Studies have shown that after 21 minutes or longer of physical foreplay, 92.3 percent of women will orgasm at some point during your lovemaking session.

It takes many forms

The best foreplay takes many forms, and it begins long before you ever get into the bedroom. It is always present, anytime you are together with your partner.

Looking for some ideas for better foreplay? Check out the "Fifty Shades" inspired Dare Me Pleasure set from LELO.