Edging (also called surfing, peaking, teasing, and more) is the practice of stopping yourself from reaching orgasm right when you’re on the cusp — the metaphorical “edge” right before you fall off the cliff into sexual climax.
This practice has grown trendy in sexual health discussions as a form of “better orgasms,” but it’s actually more than a half-century-old treatment for premature ejaculation. In a 1956 paperpublished in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, James H. Semans introduced the “stop-start method” to help people last longer before reaching orgasm.
Essentially, this means stopping sexual stimulation before you come, waiting about 30 seconds, and then stimulating yourself again, repeating until you’re ready to orgasm.
It sounds like a quick win for better sex, but edging is more like a marathon. You can’t race your way to lasting longer in bed or having a better orgasm, as some who practice this claim.
On a more holistic level, edging can make you more keenly aware of your own sexual responses both solo and with a partner, bringing mindfulness into the bedroom.
“Experimentation is absolutely essential for a healthy sex life,” says Liz Klinger, co-founder and CEO of Lioness, a smart vibrator, to Healthline. She believes that having a greater awareness of how your body responds can help take the “edge” out of the anxiety that can arise in your sex life.
And when it comes to edging, you’re also learning about the four stages of arousal. Knowing these can help you narrow down when to stop and start stimulation:
- Excitement. Your skin starts to flush, your muscles get tense, your heartbeat gets faster, blood starts to flow quickly down to your penis or clitoris and vagina. The vagina gets wet and the scrotum withdraws.
- Plateau. Everything that happened in stage 1 gets even more intense. You feel yourself drawing closer and closer to orgasm. This is the stage where you should get ready to stop or slow down stimulation.
- Orgasm. A series of nerve and muscle responses occur, resulting in a feeling of ecstasy, increased lubrication in the vagina, and ejaculation of semen from the penis. But when you’re practicing edging, this is the stage you’re trying to avoid until ready.
- Resolution. After orgasm, tissues return to their non-aroused sizes and colors, and all your vitals normalize, too. This is also when the refractory period starts. It’s a temporary stretch of time where you can’t get aroused again. It can last for a few minutes up to a few days or longer.
The particular feelings you get during these four stages aren’t the same for everyone, though.
“Studies and literature support that one of the best indicators of a satisfying sex life is to masturbate and self-explore,” Klinger says. “If you don’t get to know your body and practice different techniques, you won’t know or become accustomed to your own body, which can affect your personal satisfaction, your health, and your relationship with your partner.”
If you’re interested in edging, start by focusing intently on what you feel right before orgasming and staying in that stage between plateau and orgasm. The key is to listen to your body and recognize your signs. It may take trial and error, and that’s OK.
Here are five ways to experiment:
First, let’s start with the most basic edging — the stop-start method:
- Make your environment ideal. Lock the doors, turn down the lights, put on some music, use an oil diffuser for atmosphere, and so on.
- Get in the physical mood. Close your eyes and start touching yourself until your penis gets hard or your vagina gets wet.
- Start masturbating. Stroke your penis, stimulate your clitoris, or whatever else you know can make you come.
- When you feel like you’re about to come, stop stimulation. Take your hands away or slow down your movements. Take deep breaths or open your eyes, if you need.
- Go back to focusing on how or what got you excited. Take note of how your body changes: Do you feel tenser? More excited? Sweating or shaking more?
- Start touching yourself again, or masturbating faster. After your break, repeat steps 1–3 again. Do this until you feel ready to orgasm.
- Let it go! Allow yourself to reach orgasm. You might notice your orgasm lasts longer or feels more intense. Pay close attention to the feeling and see if edging made any difference in how much pleasure you feel.
With a partner
- Get aroused, either through your favorite foreplay activities or positions with your partner. Try oral sex, stimulating their G-spot, licking or flicking or sucking nipples, or whatever else gets them going.
- Make sure they’re vocal or give cues about when they’re going to come.
- Reduce or completely stop stimulation until they go back to a plateau.
- Start the stimulation process again, then repeat step 3 until they’re ready to come.
Next, here’s a technique for people with penises — the squeeze method:
- Get aroused.
- Stimulate yourself to orgasm.
- Right before you orgasm, squeeze the head of your penis to stop your orgasm.
- Wait 30 seconds, then feel free to start stimulating yourself again.
And try this technique proven to help people with premature ejaculation — ballooning:
- Find an area on your penis that’s especially sensitive. Don’t touch any other area on your penis — just that one area.
- Gently move your finger around that area in a circle.
- Keep rubbing the area until you’re fully hard, and keep it up until you feel like you’re about to come.
- Stop touching your penis right before you orgasm.
- Let yourself get a little soft, then rub that area again until you’re close to orgasm.
Repeat this as many times as you’d like, but don’t come. Ballooning is purported to help make you last longer by training yourself to control when you orgasm, so refraining from orgasm is key to making this exercise work.
And if you’re feeling extra adventurous, try a vibrator:
Some vibrators even give you biofeedback on what’s going on in your body as you move the vibrator in and out of your vagina and stimulate your clitoris.
With a vibrator, you can explore different angles, levels of penetration, vibration speeds and rhythms, and much more. Use your imagination!
- First of all, remember that there’s no such thing as a “normal” orgasm. Sexual pleasure is highly subjective. Some may find pleasure in keeping themselves from orgasm, but it’s all right if you prefer to get a quick release.
You might be wondering, Who even thought of doing this in the first place?
Edging can have a few different benefits for improving masturbation and sex:
1. Help people, especially those with vaginas, achieve orgasm more easily
A 2014 study of 96 women found that those who masturbate are more likely to reach orgasm. Much of this seems to relate to the anxiety that many people feel around pleasuring themselves and others.
If you haven’t spent a lot of time getting to know your own body, you may not even know what arouses you or gets you there — and that can translate into unfulfilling sexual experiences and contribute to your feelings of anxiety about sex.
2. Reduce feelings of embarrassment by building body awareness and confidence
A 2006 study of nearly 2,000 women found that up to three-quarters of them reported female sexual dysfunctions but felt too embarrassed to talk about them with their doctor, in addition to feeling like their doctor had no time, interest, or training to discuss sex at all.
Learning more about yourself through edging can give you more “data” and confidence in approaching your doctor or even your partner about any questions you have or issues you face in your sex life. This can translate into better health outcomes.
3. Remove the emphasis of penetration for more holistic partnered sex
Lastly, a 2018 study of more than 1,000 women found that many (about 36.6 percent) can only achieve orgasm through clitoral stimulation, while only 18 percent can reach orgasm through sexual intercourse alone.
These results show how important it is to experiment with activities like edging that allow you to explore numerous ways to pleasure yourself. Even if you’re one of the few who can come from penile/vaginal intercourse, learning to control when you want to orgasm can bring an extra bit of fun to the experience.
It’s up to you! If you’re edging solo, feel free to let yourself orgasm whenever you feel ready.
If you’re edging with a partner, listen to them. Communicate with them. Talk to each other or come up with some other kind of sign or safe word to let them know (and so they can let you know) when you’re ready to come. Listening is the key here.
Also, be mindful of whether delaying your orgasm might lead to something called a half ordisappearing orgasm. When this happens, you may not feel the full-body effects of orgasm, like vaginal contractions, or feel like you’re getting right to the edge but never actually reach orgasm, even when you’re ready.
Timing stimulation with the whole-body experience that comes along with having an orgasm can be challenging when you finally feel ready to come, but don’t get frustrated! Practice makes perfect.
If you have a penis, you may feel like you’re about to come, but the tension leading right up to ejaculation disappears. You may also feel like you’re coming but nothing comes out. This is known as a dry orgasm.
Dry orgasms are nothing to worry about. This is all natural and may not happen every time. They don’t reflect on your sexual potency, and in many cases don’t impact your fertility. But if you’re concerned, see a doctor or sexual health professional for a checkup.
A condition called delayed ejaculation often comes up in these conversations. However, the effects of this condition are typically psychological because of the stress and anxiety that not being able to ejaculate can cause if you aren’t choosing to do so.
Another common misunderstanding about edging is that it leads to epididymal hypertension in men, known better by its nickname “blue balls.”
There are false claims about the “harm” that can result when you get aroused but don’t come. But blue balls don’t have any long-term health effects on your sexual health. In fact, people with penises can relieve “blue balls” by using the Valsalva maneuver. Just hold your nose and exhale until you feel like your ears are clearing out.
One major side effect to consider with edging is how you approach this practice. If this method becomes a priority in your sex life or relationship, it can lead to personal distress, reduced sexual satisfaction, and relationship conflict. Never delay someone’s pleasure without their consent. An orgasm isn’t the be-all and end-all of sex, nor does it define a sexual encounter.
If you are concerned that you can’t ejaculate even when you want to, see a doctor or sexual health professional for advice.
Any kind of sexual experimentation can help you discover yourself and what turns you on. Not everything will work for you, but that’s OK.
Basically, you won’t know if you don’t try. Edging may seem challenging at first, but you may find that standing on the “edge” may be simply exhilarating, especially when you decide to let yourself come and feel the extra intensity of finally letting yourself jump off the orgasm cliff.
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