To the uninitiated, the idea of stopping an orgasm right as it's about to happen may sound like torture. But for those who have tried it, this method called "edging" is used to enhance sexual pleasure like never before.
Also known as surfing, teasing, or peaking, edging is what happens when you repeatedly halt sexual play before experiencing an orgasm. And yes, this continuous denial is done on purpose with your utmost pleasure in mind. While the goal of this practice is for you or your partner to eventually experience a hugely intense orgasm, there are also some health benefits that come from edging, too.
Zachary Zane, author of Boyslut: A Memoir and Manifesto and sex expert for lube and condom brand Momentum Intimacy, says edging can help with erectile dysfunction in particular, since it "increases blood flow to the penis." It can also increase arousal and libido, since it's the opposite of what most people try to accomplish during sex. And though many people try edging with their partners, it can also be done via solo masturbation with your fingers or a sex toy. (We love the versatility.)
So if you're interested in learning more about edging — maybe you want to incorporate it into your sex life or maybe you just want to understand the health benefits more — you've come to the right place.
What Is Edging?
Edging is the ultimate (and easiest!) way to tease yourself. Zane says edging happens when "you (or your partner) bring yourself right to the brink of orgasm, but then, instead of climaxing, you stop, rest, and repeat." There's no exact timeline on how long you should be doing this — it could be anywhere from five minutes to an hour — eventually, when you finally allow the orgasm to arrive, it will feel much stronger and more intense than if you hadn't edged your way there.
If you're thinking, "OK, but will this hurt?" the answer is no. While it can feel counterintuitive to stop stimulation when an orgasm is right around the corner, edging is completely safe. "There may be some slight discomfort if you edge for a very long period of time," Zane says, "but any discomfort would be resolved once you do allow yourself to orgasm."
How Long Should You Edge For?
As previously mentioned, you should edge yourself or your partner for as long you want — so long as everything continues to feel good. Emily Morse, a sex expert and host of the popular podcast Sex With Emily, says "folks should listen to their bodies and see what works for them." For more specifics, she advises that people do it between "two to five times," before allowing an orgasm. If you're new, "start with two, and build up from there."
What's the Difference Between Edging and a Ruined Orgasm?
A ruined orgasm is a BDSM practice that emphasizes power and control. Though it's similar to edging — they both involve stimulating someone to the brink of orgasm, and then stopping right before they're able to orgasm — the objective is different. With edging, the goal is for the person on the receiving end to be denied orgasms in an attempt to have a large, more intense one. But with a ruined orgasm, it is a form of BDSM control, and the goal is minimized physical pleasure.
As always — but especially as it relates to BDSM — make sure you talk about your hard limits, boundaries, needs, and wants with your partner, prior to engaging.
How to Edge Yourself
The hardest part about edging yourself can be resisting the urge to let the orgasm happen. We have been so conditioned to believe that an orgasm is the be-all and end-all to a fulfilling masturbation experience, rather than embracing the pleasure itself. Edging can be a way to reclaim that side of the masturbation narrative.
When you decide you want to try it, Zane suggests bringing your entire body into the experience. You can start by stimulating an erogenous zone — like your anus, vulva, penis, etc. — and when it feels like you're nearing an orgasm, you can switch to a different zone. You can also try to mix up your pace. Depending on what area of the body you're stimulating, you can start slow and work your way up to a faster movement. Then, you can go back to a slower movement as you feel your breathing escalate.
Zane recommends also focusing on touch — specifically with how hard and soft you're touching yourself. If you're stimulating your clitoris or penis, you can start with a soft touch, then a harder touch, then a harder one, and then go soft again. "Switching between very light touches to firm ones is a great way to edge," confirms Zane. "When you feel like you're getting close to orgasm, return to the lighter touches."
Regardless of what you choose, spend some time loving your body in new and interesting ways. Once you feel ready to build back to the edge of orgasm, start again, and repeat as many times as you like.
How to Edge Your Partner
It's imperative to get prior consent that your partner wants to try edging, or they might feel you are denying them an orgasm for a malicious reason. Once consent is established and everyone is on board, you'll want to keep in mind that edging a partner can be very different from edging yourself. This is mainly because you don't know exactly how they are feeling in a given moment.
For this reason, understanding how your partner responds to orgasm is crucial. To make the sexual technique as effective as possible, you should discuss with your partner what physical cues they show when they are getting ready to orgasm. Zane says some people arch their hips or deepen their breath, while others might go completely still and silent. Once you know the physical cues, discuss whether you want your partner to tell you when they're close to orgasming or if you want to decipher it yourself.
Once this is all agreed upon, you can begin stimulating your partner in whatever way you both enjoy — whether that's with fingers, a sex toy, or body part. Just as you would during masturbation, when your partner indicates that they're close to orgasm, slow it down and start over again. You can do this by adjusting the pace of which you're moving, how soft and hard you're touching, or the area you're stimulating.
When you're ready to let your partner orgasm, indicate this to them and ask how they'd like to finish.
Don't just focus on having (or not having) an orgasm. Putting this pressure on yourself is a surefire way to limit your ability to fully embrace all those feel-good sensations. Instead, focus on the experience and feeling the way your body responds to the sensory overload.
Be patient with yourself and your partner. This is a marathon, not a sprint. Don't be discouraged if the first experience isn't what you're expecting: no two orgasms are alike, and it can take time for your body to understand this new method of pleasure you're introducing it to.
Have a safe word discussed prior to engaging in play. You can use a term like "pineapple" or "red" to indicate when you want the edging to stop. This ensures everyone feels comfortable and, if one person is pushed too far, they can easily halt play immediately. If you are on the receiving end of your partner using their safe word, you should immediately stop.
Don't forget the foreplay. Think about it this way: you will have multiple rounds of stimulation before you experience a big orgasm. With this in mind, try to mix it up as best you can. You don't have to directly stimulate someone's penis or vulva every time. Instead, get creative with it, and don't be afraid to throw in some sexy licking, kissing, and rubbing into the mix.
— Additional Reporting By Haley Lyndes