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When it comes to talking about orgasms, we tend to focus on two questions: How often do you come? And is it partnered or solo? But beyond the inquiries about frequency and type, lies the ultimate question—how is it? With the recognition of the orgasm gap (which proves that female-identified people tend to have fewer orgasms than their male-identified counterparts), people have found themselves laser-focused on the quantity of their orgasms. In an age where output is prioritized and numbers are constantly crunched, it’s easy to get caught up in efficiency, and forget to take pleasure in the process. You might find yourself frantically googling “normal amount of orgasms per week,” rather than tuning into your own libido and desires.
So, how do you embrace quality over quantity when it comes to your orgasms? One of the best tools out there, and an unsung hero of the modern sexual toolkit, is edging.
Edging is the practice of bringing yourself or a partner to the brink of orgasmic inevitability, then backing off, thus building up to a more powerful orgasm. In effect it’s, quite literally, bringing them, or yourself, to the edge. You can repeat this process as many times as you’d like, before finally allowing the big release. There are myriad techniques under the edging umbrella that appeal to a wide variety of end goals, from increasing sexual stamina, to simply having bigger, more satisfying orgasms. Additionally, as you begin to explore those finer points on the road to orgasm, you may find that you’ll get to know yourself better along the way.
If edging is all about approaching the edge, how do you define where that point of inevitability is for you? What’s the difference between “close” and “RIGHT THERE”? Well, only you can figure that out by paying careful attention to what’s happening in your body right before orgasm. How are your legs positioned? What’s your breathing like? What are you thinking about or watching? If you allow yourself to be a non-judgemental observer of your own experience at the brink of climax, you’ll find there’s a lot for you to learn!
Once you’ve noticed how things feel in your body at the point of orgasmic inevitability, and during the lead-up to it, you’ll learn how to delay that point. Maybe it’s about sitting up when you’d normally be lying down. Maybe it’s about taking a deep breath, and slowing down or changing stimulation. Finding little ways to switch up and interrupt your habits is the first step to getting yourself out of your existing routine and elongating your orgasm process. Exploring these variances is particularly fun for self pleasure. Too often when people know they’ll be playing solo, they rush through things, moving immediately to the types of stimulation, both physical and visual, that they know will work quickly. But what if you treated yourself to a little foreplay by taking a bath, drinking a glass of wine, or watching a video as it develops, rather than racing to the “good parts”?
Setting a timer is another great way to draw out solo play, even if it's just for five or ten minutes. Use that time to tease yourself, but don’t let yourself orgasm until the timer is up! If you would normally watch a video, try listening to an erotic audio story, which allows you to use your imagination. You can use your fingers instead of a trusty toy, or test out a new toy and allow yourself as much time as you need to explore.
If you really want to experience delayed gratification, you can begin edging yourself in the morning, say for five minutes, before you head to work, and then pick up where you left off when you get home. This process can be stretched out over days if you’re really into it! When racing to the finish line is no longer your goal, it really allows you to luxuriate in getting to know your body, and you might even end up surprising yourself with things you didn’t even know you liked.
Once you’re equipped with the knowledge of how to edge yourself, you can then begin to introduce the practice into partnered play. It might sound strange to decenter orgasm for one or both partners in partnered sex, but it’s often outside of your comfort zones where the most growth happens.
Start by communicating with your partner. Your interest in trying something new doesn’t have to come off as criticism. Quite the opposite! Your interest in something new should be framed as an opportunity to explore new frontiers together. It’s exciting! And it can be introduced by simply saying, “Hey, I came across this article today and I’m really interested in trying edging together. What do you think?”
Partnered edging can look like beginning sexual activity together and taking breaks, or pivoting to different kinds of stimulation. Like switching from penetrative sex to oral, oral to digital, or even just stopping to kiss. If you’re into other types of sensation play, these breaks are a great time to integrate those. Basically what you’re doing is removing the concept of “foreplay” from the beginning of sex, and instead taking a more holistic view of sex as something that isn’t necessarily linear, but can include all kinds of variation. And who doesn’t like a little variety every now and then?!
If you’re interested in throwing a little power play into the mix, you can try out negotiated and consensual orgasm control and denial. Orgasm control is exactly what it sounds like—one partner has control over when and how the other is allowed to orgasm. Some people practice this within a limited timeframe with their partner, others give their partner orgasm control over them for the duration of their relationship. And all kinds of shades exist in the middle.
Some ways to play with orgasm control might include:
The bottoming partner must ask the topping partner for permission to orgasm during play. Maybe the topping partner grants it, maybe they don’t!
The topping partner instructs the bottoming partner to edge themselves leading up to a time when the two will be together. For example, the bottom has to edge for five minutes every hour on the hour, and depending on the comfort level in the relationship, send a photo of themselves after each session to prove they did it on time.
The bottoming partner is only granted permission to orgasm if they can recall a factoid or satisfactorily do mental math (at a moment when this is nearly impossible).
The topping partner can physically complicate orgasm for the bottoming partner, for example they can restrain the bottom in some way that makes accessing their favorite stimulation a little more challenging.
For those with vulvas, orgasm can be a sensitive topic. Some may come with ease, others might have trouble accessing the necessary level of comfort to come during partnered play, and still others do not come at all. Society has presented “sex” as wholly centered on a penetrative, penis-driven experience, and based on the anatomy of most vulvas, that just doesn’t cut it. So when accessing orgasm to begin with is pretty fraught and, at times, emotional, you might wonder why oh why would you delay or complicate that?
Well, sometimes in order to best understand something, it’s extremely helpful to understand its opposite. And self edging allows you to really dial into what works for you and your body, rather than being focused exclusively on your partner’s needs or what you’re “supposed to” enjoy. Fully understanding your own orgasms by delaying them shows you what’s going on in your own sexual ecosystem, and allows you to appreciate your orgasms that much more when they do come!
If you’re curious about edging, beginning to play with it can be as simple as delaying your orgasm by a couple of seconds. Try taking a deep breath as you approach the edge. And in that space between almost there, and there, see what you start to learn!
Click here to listen to Lina's favorite Dipsea story. Or, if you're ready to try solo edging, check out this guided session.
Lina Dune is a 24/7 collared submissive, passionate writer, kinky memestress, and, most importantly, a fairy submother to all who seek her advice. Her name is derived from two Anais Nin stories, “Lina” and “Woman On The Dunes.” She is based in Los Angeles and lives on Instagram.