Much ink has been spilled in the service of helping us experience BIGGER, BETTER ORGASMS, with tips ranging from the benign (blindfolds, more foreplay) to the, uh, creative (“Put a donut on his dick!”). Often overlooked in these sexy guides, however, is the simple and incredibly effective technique known as edging.
What is edging?
Not to be confused with the lawn-maintenance term that also bears its name, edging is a technique for bringing yourself (or others, or all of you together!) to the brink of orgasm—the edge, if you will—then backing off. Do this enough times and your body will become a giant, pulsating nerve of sensation; and your orgasm, if and when you are brought over that edge, will be that much more intense and powerful.
Edging is also known as “peaking,” “surfing,” “orgasm training” and “orgasm denial,” and shares similarities with “slow masturbation” in Alex Comfort's book The New Joy of Sex, and the “Venus Butterfly” technique in The One Hour Orgasm by Leah and Bob Schwartz.
It also can and is used as a technique to help those with penises gain better control of their ejaculation. And in that capacity, it is sometimes called the “stop-and-start method.”
Fun fact! To make things a little more confusing, edge play, which has nothing to do with edging, is a BDSM term that involves taking someone to their psychological edge. Edge play activities vary widely, but are often deeply taboo, intense, emotional, occasionally violent, yet also highly erotic. (One example is breath play (erotic asphyxiation), which restricts one’s supply of oxygen.) Every person has a different edge, so every person’s edge play will be different. But, that’s a topic for another How to Sex!
Why does edging feel good?
Better orgasms aren’t enough for you? Fine. Here are more perks.
For those with penises, the appeal of edging is often that sexual encounters last longer. (The median duration for hetero penis-in-vagina sex is 5.4 minutes, according to a 2015 study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, so take that as you will.) No orgasm also means no refractory period is needed, so one is less likely to fall asleep on their beleaguered partner, who just wants to get off one time this year, Jason!
In addition to living the Boyz II Men dream of making love all night long (or even just longer than 5.4 minutes), edging appeals to people because it allows them to stay in a heightened state of sexual arousal. Building up one’s arousal in this way also allows people with vulvas time to warm up, and increases the chances that they’ll have their own orgasm—should their partner decide to grant them one, you kinky birds.
How do you use edging with BDSM?
Speaking of kink, dominants and submissives also practice edging, albeit by adding an additional element of psychological or physical control to the practice of delaying or outright denying themselves or their partners an orgasm. The heightened arousal still applies, but with a power twist to amp up the fun.
For tops, edging a partner can increase their sensations of power and control—but it also works in reverse. A top who wants to test the control they have over their own body and desire might practice edging. For bottoms, edging can increase feelings of submissiveness, consensual objectification, and surrender.
Taken a step further, from edging to outright denial of orgasm, this can be used by tops to increase a bottom’s tolerance for certain kinds of stimulation, act as erotic torture (chastity belts, cock cages, cuffs, etc.), and even serve in training someone to cum on demand, which is not just a fun party trick.
How long should you edge before you orgasm?
That's up to you!
If you don’t have a skilled top at your disposal, you can practice edging on your own through masturbation. Knowing your body and how it responds to sensations, pressure, and rhythms is immensely helpful not just for edging, but any sexual activity. As the Ancient Greek aphorism put it, “Know thyself.” And, considering that it was the Greeks, we can infer it may very well have been about masturbation.
The basic approach to edging involves masturbating until you feel like you might come, then stopping for a short period, but not for so long that you lose interest and, like, start Instagramming. Do that a few times and see how it makes you feel, not just your genitals, but your whole body. The more you practice, you might find the longer you can go on edging, and the more explosive the eventual release becomes.
For those with penises, another method to try is the “squeeze” method. This involves getting themselves close to the edge, then when they are about to orgasm, stop and squeeze the tip of the penis for about 30 seconds, and then starting the build-up once again.
Is edging good for you?
There's no solid science suggesting that edging has positive health benefits. But, we live in an orgasm-centric culture, and while there’s certainly nothing wrong with getting off—and doing it efficiently—the fact that we are goal-oriented instead of pleasure-oriented can produce a lot of anxiety, shame, and not to mention, fake orgasms. I'd bet that contributes to the high number of people who are anorgasmic (someone who has extreme difficulty reaching orgasm), or who have never had an orgasm (10-15% of adult women haven’t orgasmed, according to research). By taking orgasms off the table, even for a short period of time, we free ourselves from the burden and duty of end-game sex and can instead focus on pleasure, playfulness, and savoring our bodies’ erotic responses the way we would a delicious, multi-course meal. Radical.