From Encyclopedia of Sex and Sexuality
In previous generations authors of popular marriage manuals gave a good deal of attention to “foreplay.” By this they meant all the sexually stimulating behaviors that prepare a woman to enjoy sex and reach orgasm. Even today many people use the word in nearly the same sense. However, there are biases and sexist implications in the term that make it unsuitable for a modern approach to sexual behavior.
Women are not passive, chaste innocents, waiting to be awakened by their husbands, as was portrayed in the past. They have an equally strong libido as men and may come to bed just as ready and desirous of sex as any man. Nor must all sexual activity have orgasm as a goal. Sexual activity that has been termed foreplay—kissing, hugging, massaging, licking, or stroking—should more correctly be seen as pleasuring one’s partner, whether or not intercourse is begun or orgasm is reached. Many of the pleasuring or arousal techniques can be used on one’s self to learn more about one’s own erogenous zones so as to be better able to communicate this to a sex or love partner. Thus, the use of vibrators and other autoerotic devices can play a role in pleasuring one’s self or another and bringing excitement and variety to sexual interactions, with or without the goal of orgasm.