Two adults may touch each other in neutral body zones (such as on the shoulder or arm) without any implication of intimacy. They can also kiss on the cheek as a show of friendship. When a couple engages in mouth-to-mouth kissing it may be a petting activity but more often it occurs between couples already in a sexual relationship as a precursor to sexual activity. Often there is some cursory touching of more intimate body parts as a lead-in to increased sexual intimacy. This is especially true where couples dance.
For men, being touched by a lover is emotionally significant. It’s very important to them because they look for signs that a lover finds them attractive and is amenable to sex. Men are often more aroused at being touched by a lover than when they touch themselves, especially genitally.
For women the issue is more emotional than sexual. They want to touch a lover to demonstrate affection. They want a lover to touch them to know that they are attractive and that a lover wants to enjoy their body. Most women only allow someone to touch her genitals when she is in love.
Kinsey commented that sex advice is often provided by middle class professionals who don’t appreciate that educational level affects men’s sexual preferences. He concluded that there is a correlation between how educated a man is and the degree to which he enjoys spending time on activities other than intercourse. He suggested that the reason for this may be that a more educated man is more likely to have a creative imagination, which is crucial to the enjoyment of both masturbation and erotic fantasies.
Educated men tend to appreciate eroticism: visual or imagined representations of nudity or sexual activity. They tend to masturbate much more frequently than less educated men. More educated men also enjoy their arousal by appreciating the opportunity to explore a lover’s body and extending the time they engage in enjoying sexual interaction with a lover.
Less educated men are not so fond of masturbation especially once they have a sexual partner. They are more inclined to insist on the real thing. Less educated men are not necessarily motivated to extend their arousal during sexual activity by exploring their lover’s body. They typically want to get straight to intercourse and have done with it. The quicker the better.
Petting was never originally intended to be for the woman’s benefit. It was simply a product of some men (more than others) being aroused by and therefore motivated to explore a woman’s body as a precursor to engaging in intercourse. No one has apparently ever wondered why women could not provide their own stimulation with a lover. There is no logic to assuming that a woman can only orgasm because a man knows how to (or is willing to) stimulate her in the correct way. If women were aroused with a lover, instead of being passive they would be motivated to stimulate themselves.
The activity was first relabelled foreplay after Alfred Kinsey identified the clitoris as the female sex organ. But foreplay makes no sense because of the array of female body parts involved. The clitoris was simply added to the list of female sexual anatomy that a man might stimulate to pleasure a woman. Later Shere Hite also suggested that that most women need explicit (rather than indirect) clitoral stimulation if they are to orgasm. The clitoris was identified by researchers as being critical to female orgasm but this has never been unanimously confirmed by couples in the general population.
Men are proactive lovers because they are aroused by a lover and the prospect of penetration. So it is typically assumed that it is a man’s role to stimulate a woman during heterosexual activity. Once the concept of foreplay was introduced, a man’s role was expanded to include the idea that he was now also responsible for providing the correct stimulation that a woman needed for orgasm. Men accepted this responsibility unquestioningly. Women’s sexual passivity and men’s inclination to be proactive during sexual activity made it a natural assumption. This is the origin of the popular belief that it is a man’s role to give a woman an orgasm.
A significant biological disadvantage of intercourse for a woman, it the possibility of being impregnated. Her increased vulnerability and her presumed social responsibility to raise a child mean that she wants to know that she will have a mate to help her. Having a mate involves sexual loyalty. A man will not be loyal unless a woman offers regular sex. This is still true today and explains why women feel obliged to provide the sex men need.
Foreplay does not assist with female arousal but it does bring some variety into a sexual relationship, which becomes incredibly boring for women if it always focuses on intercourse. The pleasure is not so great that a woman’s going to insist. A woman waits for a man to offer and if she feels in the mood for some sensual pleasuring she allows him to stroke and massage her body.
The sexual techniques which marriage councils and marriage manuals recommend are designed to foster the sort of intellectual eroticism which the upper level esteems. It depends on prolonged pre-coital play, a considerable variety in techniques, a maximum of stimulation before coital union, some delay after effecting such union, and, finally, orgasm which is simultaneous for the male and the female. (Alfred Kinsey 1948)