Sexual Wellness

Orgasm Control: What It Is, How To Do It, Why To Try It

| 02/05/2021

Orgasm control? Isn’t the whole point of orgasm losing control and riding a wave of ecstasy to pleasuretown?

Of course, in most cases.

But also consider:

  • The point of walking along a bridge is ordinarily to get to the other side – not to jump off the bridge at the end of a bungee cord.
  • The point of getting onto a plane is ordinarily to get to the destination safely – not to hurl yourself at the ground, hanging from a parachute.
  • The point of watching a movie is ordinarily to enjoy yourself – not to get scared out of your wits.

Clearly, there are times that people deviate from the ordinary in order to accomplish something very different.

In those three examples, people may bungee jump, skydive or watch horror movies to get their adrenaline flowing, overcome fear, build self-confidence – or simply to discover a new way to enjoy themselves.

That’s similar to the reasons that people try or practice orgasm control. They can gain a measure of control over the hormones that rage during sex; they can build confidence in, and a new level of control over, their sexual performance; they may last longer and enjoy their orgasms more than ever.

That is, unless the orgasm control is part of BDSM play.

Wait…what?

This calls for a deeper understanding of orgasm control, its potential benefits, and who can benefit from it.

What Is Orgasm Control?

It’s basically what the name implies. Orgasm control allows you to decide when to climax, instead of allowing hormones, muscles, and the involuntary nervous system to determine the timing of your orgasm. Other terms sometimes used to describe orgasm control are edging and peaking, because the technique involves stopping a climax right at the “edge” of orgasm or at the “peak” of sexual excitement.

There’s no magical switch you can throw to let you time your orgasms, of course. Orgasm control is a skill, which takes time to learn and a lot of practice to perfect.

The human sexual response cycle (desire, arousal, orgasm, resolution and refractory period) is a blend of physiological and emotional factors – very few of which are normally controllable, and all of which are ingrained over years of sexual experience. Gaining control over the process requires difficult physical and mental adjustments to an individual’s learned sexual behavior patterns.

Believe it or not, a form of orgasm control has been used for nearly seventy years as a treatment for premature ejaculation (PE) in penis-havers. The doctor who developed the method, James Semans, described it as the “stop-start method.”

And it was really an early version of “modern” orgasm control. The patient’s partner manually stimulated the penis-haver, stopping when they sensed that climax was imminent, with the process repeated multiple times. When the patient was able to hold off “indefinitely,” the therapy started again, this time with lube to simulate the feeling of vaginal penetrative sex.

The stop-start method was the first PE treatment that didn’t involve medications like stimulants or sedatives, but relied instead on a form of behavioral therapy – a therapeutic approach that, combined with modern medications (often SSRIs) and counseling, is still used today. In fact, stop-start is still utilized by some sex therapists, although it’s now known as the “pause-squeeze method.”

That’s one way in which orgasm control can be valuable. What are the others?

Reasons to Try Orgasm Control

How do “lasting longer,” “better orgasms” and “better sex life” sound? Those may seem like exaggerations, but many proponents of edging say it can produce all three of those unquestionably desirable outcomes – enhancing sexual health and wellness in the process.

(Incidentally, orgasm control isn’t strictly for those with penises, even though it’s usually described that way. Vulva owners can practice and benefit from edging as well, although – for obvious reasons – it’s more difficult for their partners to recognize the signs that they’re about to reach the point of no return.)

Greater self-awareness is another potential benefit of orgasm control, at least for those who understand the contributions that mindfulness can make in the bedroom. During edging it’s crucial to be fully aware of your own body and its responses to sexual stimulation. That helps ease any anxiety that might surround sexual encounters, reducing or eliminating dysfunction and increasing self-confidence – leading to better sexual performance.

A related benefit of edging: it helps some people recognize the control they can exert over their actions and their life in general. The ability to control a seemingly uncontrollable bodily response may reinforce belief in their power to achieve other, seemingly impossible tasks.

And here’s one more. When practiced with a partner, orgasm control can bring couples closer. It enhances their intimacy and overall sex life, moving “sex” far beyond the quest for climaxes into the realm of true sexual pleasure.

Speaking of sexual pleasure, we haven’t yet mentioned the physical benefits of being able to control the timing of orgasms. When you are able to build up to the brink of orgasm and then slow down for a little while, that prolongs the encounter (or the pleasure, during masturbation). And when you finally reach orgasm, the climax is often much more intense than if you had just let yourself go the first time.

Let’s end up where we started. Sex therapists still believe that successfully being able to control orgasm is one of the best holistic treatments for both premature ejaculation and erectile dysfunction. On the flip side, it helps some with vulvas take more control of their own sexual enjoyment, and overcome anxiety issues that might otherwise get in the way.

There’s one other matter left to discuss.

Orgasm Control and BDSM

We know this nugget we dropped at the start has been nagging at you. Let’s explain it.

Orgasm control is often (but certainly not always) one element of Dominant/submissive play. It gives the dominant partner a powerful tool for control of their sub, who is not allowed to climax until given permission.

Orgasm denial is the version of edging that’s most commonly practiced in BDSM encounters between vulva-having Dommes and penis-owning submissives. The sub is instructed to masturbate until they are almost at the point of ejaculating, but then denied permission to climax. The cycle can be repeated as many times as the Domme desires, and it is their ultimate decision whether to give the sub permission to ejaculate.

There are other variations of this D/s play as well. The submissive may be told to touch other erogenous zones to stimulate arousal which is then not allowed to be satisfied; the sub may be placed in restraints to limit their ability to masturbate; or the submissive may be fitted with a chastity belt or other device that prevents them from touching their genitals.

To be clear, orgasm control or denial is simply one of the many ways that those who enjoy D/s play may express and enjoy their sexual desires – and of course, it’s always practiced with full consent and safe words. Many Doms and subs don’t enjoy the activity. Those who do, however, find it greatly intensifies their play and satisfaction.

How to Learn and Practice Orgasm Control

The first time you try edging – and probably the second, and the third – it will probably feel frustrating, pointless, and perhaps even impossible. It’s quite likely that at least once or twice during the process you won’t be able to regain your erection (or for vulva-havers, your previous state of arousal).

That’s normal and understandable. You’re trying not to do exactly what your body is telling you to do. Give it time, though. You won’t really know whether the benefits of orgasm control are worth it until you’re able to master the technique.

Before starting, you may want to give yourself an extra weapon. Doing kegel exercises (and no, they’re not just for those who are pregnant, or those with vulvas), can strengthen the pelvic floor muscles you’ll need to control the muscle spasms that accompany orgasm.

Even if you plan on practicing edging with a partner, start with your own body and masturbate. But don’t fall into your normal pattern; play very close attention to how your body responds as you approach climax. You may start to breathe more heavily, your muscles may clench, your toes may curl.

That’s when – as difficult as it may be – you must take your hand off your penis, or move your vibrator (or hand, or other sex toys) away from your clitoris. Give yourself 20-30 seconds, and start again. When you’re able to repeatedly bring yourself to the edge of orgasm and stop, you’re ready to involve a partner.

No touching yet, though. Watching comes first, because your partner must also be able to recognize when you’re approaching the brink. After all, you may not remember to tell them to stop in time; if they understand how your body responds as you get close, they’ll recognize the signs of impending climax once they get into the action. If both partners will be edging, each should watch the other practice for a while.

Now, you’re on your own. You may simply want to use orgasm control as a form of foreplay or a twist on oral sex. You may want to use it to prolong the length of your sex sessions, or to build up to an incredibly powerful climax. You may want to take the next step, to Dom/sub play and orgasm denial. Or you may simply decide that orgasm control isn’t your cup of tea.

Many people, though, have found that the ability to control their excitement and climaxes adds a new dimension to their sex life and sexual well-being. It might be worth a try.

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