Outercourse means different things to different people. For some people, outercourse is any sex play without vaginal intercourse. For others, it is sex play with no penetration at all — oral, anal, or vaginal.
Now, at first I just laughed and said, "duh, if you don't have sex you won't get pregnant," but then I stepped back and thought about it. Some people might call "outercourse," an "abstinence" method without the sex-negative message, and I would agree. Obviously, if there is no sperm getting anywhere near an egg, then pregnancy isn't happening, but I had never really thought of oral sex and dry humping as methods of birth control. Alas, I was wrong. Choosing to engage in sex acts that don't run the risk of sperm and egg meeting is a form of birth control. Yes, my mind is blown a little bit.
So, now that we have accepted "outercourse" as a form of birth control (or at least I have), let's talk a little bit more about it. The big question: how effective is outercourse at preventing not only pregnancy but also STIs?
Outercourse is nearly 100 percent effective at preventing pregnancy. But pregnancy is possible if semen or pre-ejaculate (pre-cum) is spilled on the vulva and gets into the vagina.
Outercourse also greatly reduces the risk of HIV/AIDS and many other sexually transmitted diseases — unless body fluids are exchanged through oral or anal intercourse. Some infections, like herpes and HPV, can be passed by skin-to-skin contact. Using latex and plastic barriers can reduce the risk of infection.
So, condoms and dental dams are important in outercourse to protect you from STIs. Flavored condoms are an alternative to plain old latex condoms that might taste funny. And of course flavored condoms can be turned into dental dams just like normal condoms. (See Sunday Sex Ed Tips: CONDOMS for info on how to turn a condom into a dental dam).
But of course outercourse isn't only about oral sex or even anything that involves the removal of clothing. Kissing only non-genital body parts is a form of outercourse that doesn't require any sort of STI protection. (Of course you can get other things like a cold or flu from kissing, so don't make out with that girl down the hall who has strep throat!) And kissing and oral sex aren't all! Planned Parenthood's list of possible forms of outercourse includes: kissing, masturbation, manual stimulation, body-to-body rubbing (aka dry-humping), fantasy (for example watching porn, phone/cyber sex), sex toys, oral sex play, and anal sex play. I would also like to add snuggling, spooning, and dirty dancing to this list. That's a lot of fun in one birth control method!
The most important thing about using outercourse as a form of birth control is knowing and setting boundaries. Talk to your partner about what you want to do and what you don't want to do. If possible, talk to your partner about outercourse before becoming involved in an intimate situation, as it will be easier to set and agree on boundaries. Remember that it is always okay to say NO or STOP if any form of outercourse is making you uncomfortable physically or emotionally.