What Is Edging During Sex? Certified Sex Experts Explain What to Know

Updated: Jun. 05, 2023

Could the key to a more satisfying sex life be…not having an orgasm? Experts say whether you're flying solo or romancing with your mate, edging during sex could take you to new heights.

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We all have our own preferences—and whether you’re up for anything or you like to keep things traditional, the road to more satisfying sex could be contrary to what you think—no batteries required. A generations-old technique called edging during sex is making a comeback, experts say, thanks to the promise of better orgasms through a mindful approach to sexual experiences.

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Here’s what edging during sex means

Explains Evie Plumb, an accredited sex educator: “Edging is a technique during sex or solo play where you bring yourself to the brink of orgasm and then stop.” The effect of edging during sex, from a purely logistical standpoint, is that sex lasts longer. This invites more time for creativity, experimentation and intimacy-building.

But allowing intense sensations to build up and subside can have full-body effects. Sexual responses like orgasms require a coordinated effort between our parasympathetic nervous system (associated with rest and calm) and our sympathetic nervous system (associated with fight or flight responses). Arousal gets the body into a focused state while pumping blood to our genitalia, increasing physical sensitivity. Meanwhile, the brain gets flooded with hormones and activity that encourage feelings like anticipation and excitement—and then the sympathetic system kicks in, pumping up the heart rate, blood pressure and the physical sensations associated with orgasm.

With edging, the idea is that by stopping this physiological process before orgasm, you create a cycle that grows more and more powerful. By sustaining a heightened state of sexual arousal for longer, the theory is that anticipation, excitement, brain activity and sensitivity to touch may all intensify—and for some, so does the eventual orgasm.

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Possible benefits of edging during sex

Aside from the bigger O, edging is a go-to technique to improve sexual stamina, Plumb says, including those who experience premature ejaculation, erectile dysfunction or who struggle to orgasm in general. Turns out it’s not a new trick: In 1956, a urologist published research in The Journal of Sexual Medicine that advocated for the “stop-start method,” what some are now calling edging, as a treatment for premature ejaculation.

Premature ejaculation affects an estimated 30% to 40% of sexually active men, according to the Cleveland Clinic. Sex research suggests the condition is not frustrating only for people who experience the symptom. A scholar studying sex from the University of Zurich found that men who experience premature ejaculation try to overcome it by focusing on controlling ejaculation. The research suggested this can backfire and lead to a poor sexual experience for both partners. Some data also show that this can lead to disconnection and sometimes threaten relationships.

Michele Waldron, PsyD, LADC-I, CSCT, a licensed psychologist and certified couples and sex therapist says practicing edging can help build a sense of confidence in people. “It can be really positive,” Dr. Waldron says, “teaching someone that sense of control, building up a kind of muscle.”

Edging during sex also brings a bit of mindfulness into the bedroom. “It allows you to sit with pleasure for longer rather than rushing to the finish line,” Plumb suggests. “On top of this, it is a great way to understand your body, be mindful of your pleasure, and slow down to find your sweet spot.” This could be a game-changer for the roughly half of all women who MedlinePlus reports aren’t satisfied with how often they climax.

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How to practice edging

Plumb says one way to see whether you’re comfortable with edging is to try it on your own. It it feels like a fit, you can invite your partner to join in.

This accredited sex educator says the best way to do a practice run with edging during sex is to consider the following steps:

  • Set the scene: “Edging is about mindfully experiencing pleasure and taking time, so ensure your surroundings fit that,” she says. “Dim the lights, light a candle and turn on the sexy playlist.”

  • Experiment with different sensations: “Toys, fingers, both simultaneously, or try using the opposite hand,” she recommends.

  • Notice how you become aroused: “Is your breathing different?” she says. “As you near climax, what is happening in your body?”

  • Right before climax, stop any stimulation: “Focus on your breath,” she says—then: “Wait about 30 seconds and then start again, and reflect on how it felt.”

Keep in mind that everybody’s different. “Some people don’t particularly like edging, and certainly some really do,” Dr. Waldron says. It’s all about experimenting and finding that fine line for yourself. “I’ve had some people say: ‘Well, if I hold it for this long, it’s a really great orgasm, but if I hold it for too long, it’s not that great.'” Ultimately, she says, it’s a way to really get to know yourself sexually—which helps you advocate for your needs better with a partner.

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