Updated: MAY 18, 2020

Petting is an informal term for sexual activity without sexual intercourse. The term originated because it is a lot like the loving way people stroke or caress animals.

Kissing and caressing are two of the most common forms of petting. Petting involving contact underneath clothes or below the waist is often called heavy petting.

The term petting has been around since the early to mid-1870s but became popular in the 1940s. Many young people see the term as outdated today, although the practice still exists.

The term petting is often called necking and making out. More modern alternatives include outercourse and dry humping.

More About Petting

Regular petting typically involves kissing and touching the upper body. Some contact below the waist may occur, but only with clothes on. Heavy petting is more sexual, although it still does not involve sexual intercourse. Undressing and genital stimulation, either directly or through clothes, is heavy petting. Oral sex, hand jobs, fingering, and mutual masturbation are also forms of heavy petting.

Petting can help couples build sexual intimacy in a low-risk way. It can be great fun, whether it’s the main event or a precursor to sex. It puts the focus on pleasure in the moment and encourages couples to remain present. Couples who aren't ready for sex find petting can relieve some pressure in their relationship. Women are also more likely to reach orgasm through petting than sex.

Petting can also be a great way for couples to learn what they enjoy and become better lovers. Learning how to please your lover in new ways can expand your enjoyment and make all sex more gratifying.

Communication makes petting even better. Saying what you enjoy, asking questions, and encouraging one another can all improve petting. Remember to listen to verbal and nonverbal cues. Petting should also be gentle. Fingering and hand jobs, for example, are not pleasurable if they are too rough. Sex toys and lubricants can also enhance petting.

As petting does not involve sexual intercourse, it is very safe sex activity. However, heavy petting involving genital touch can transmit STIs. Condoms and dental dams can lower the risk.


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