Timing and orgasms are tricky factors during sex that partners care a lot about: If the sex is too long or too short by one partner's standards, someone could get frustrated. One of the more popular tricks to making sex last longer includes a technique called "edging." Essentially, the goal of edging is to creep to the peak of orgasm — then just stop. You can approach the proverbial edge over and over until you decide it's time to orgasm, and you can do this while having sex with a person or while masturbating.
Why would you waste all that hard work by avoiding orgasms? Some people say that edging makes the orgasm you do finally reach feel more intense, and others do it to just make sex longer overall. People with penises and vaginas can both edge, and many people with penises do it to avoid premature ejaculation, which affects an estimated one-third of all men.
Edging is different from delayed ejaculation in men, because it's something you're doing on purpose. There's also something called anorgasmia, which means you can't orgasm, though there are different reasons why that happens (some people can orgasm only in certain conditions, or without their partner, for example). And for whatever reason, many women just haven't ever had an orgasm, and that's totally normal, too.
It's also important to note that edging won't "condition" your body to only have a delayed orgasm, says Peter Stahl, MD, Director of Male Reproductive & Sexual Medicine at Columbia University Medical Center. Orgasming is actually a complex neurobiological process, so in theory any repeated behavior could lead to conditioning, Dr. Stahl says. "That being said, voluntary delays in orgasm don't usually lead to any conditioning at all."
There are a few different ways you can edge, including the "stop-start" technique, in which a person gets close to reaching climax and just stops. Or the "squeeze method," for people with penises, in which you or your partner squeeze the tip of the penis to stop stimulation for a few seconds. People with vaginas can edge by stopping or changing the intensity of physical stimulation when they feel like they're about to reach orgasm. Edging makes a lot of sense as a practice, and of course there are different reasons (ranging from medical to emotional) why someone would try it, but is it possible that you could get, you know, "backed up" if you edge too often?
"No, that's not possible," Dr. Stahl says. "If anything would get backed up, it would be the prostate and seminal vesicles, which produce and store the majority of the semen." If you dig deep on some message boards, you might find people saying that edging could cause "retrograde ejaculation," which is when semen is expelled into the bladder, instead of coming out of the penis. "This is completely unrelated to edging, and occurs as a result of disease or injuries that affect involuntary nerves," Dr. Stahl says.
There's also no research that suggests edging or "delaying orgasm" could lead to any form of incontinence in men or anorgasmia in women. And actually, there is research that suggests that premature ejaculation increases the risk of depression in men and women, and can lead to low self-esteem, feelings of inferiority, anxiety, anger, and disappointment. That, plus the fact that many sex therapists recommend edging to make sex last longer, could be reason to do it.
If you're concerned that your masturbation habits are messing with your ability to orgasm with your partner, there are things you can do to change that, like taking a break from your vibrator or finding a different masturbation technique altogether. Bottom line: There is no one-size-fits-all approach, so if you like living on the edge, go for it.