Sex & Relationships

It's Not a Race: What We Gain From Sex Without Orgasm

Experts say delaying orgasm can enhance everyone's pleasure.

Photo Credit: Karve/Shutterstock

It is often said that human beings operate around agendas. If a group of people goes to a bar, some will get drunk. If they go out to eat, many will get full. While it’s hard not to arrive without an end goal in mind, some argue that we should try harder to live for the experience. When it comes to sex, an orgasm is often expected. So what are people getting by going without one?

Edging, also known as orgasm control, is a sexual practice that requires a person to delay their orgasm. Those who do it say it leads to more intense orgasms once they are achieved. While both men and women can engage in the practice, the conversation tends to sway in one particular direction. After all, sex tends to come to an end once the man achieves orgasm. 

According to a 2008 study, penetrative sex typically lasts anywhere from three to seven minutes. In a separate study, Brendan Zietsch, a psychologist from the University of Queensland, asked 500 couples from around the world to time themselves with a stopwatch while having sex. The average session lasted just 5.4 minutes. But even that seems generous compared to the generations before us. As Rachel Hill notes in her book The Sex Myth, “Kinsey’s 1948 studies that 75 percent of American men orgasmed within two minutes of commencing intercourse.” 

Now there’s nothing inherently wrong with those numbers, except for the fact that penetrative sex is a dance that requires a partner. And if that partner happens to be a woman, those numbers don’t exactly add up in her favor. Some women say it takes them upwards of 20 minutes to reach orgasm. Other experts round that estimate up to 40 minutes. And that’s just the women lucky enough to experience an orgasm during sex. According to a Cosmo survey of over 2,000 women ages 18 to 40, just 57% were able to orgasm during penetrative sex (the majority cited masturbation as the most reliable path to orgasm).

If you operate on the premise that everyone deserves equal access to pleasure, you might want to think about what you can do to make that a reality. That’s where so-called edging comes in. If you’re a man and you feel like you're going to hit your mark before your partner has a chance to get there herself, there are a few tricks you can employ to delay orgasm. Switching positions is one approach. Changing the speed and pattern of your thrusts is another. Others say squeezing the base of the penis can help hold off an orgasm. Of course, those are all penis-centric approaches to the problem. And penises are just one part of the equation.

If you feel yourself getting close to orgasm, try pulling yourself out of it (pun intended). We all come armed with fingers and tongues, and those are powerful tools to whip out during sex. Mutual masturbation is another way to experience intimacy. It might help you learn a thing or two about your partner, and what she needs to get off. The ability to derive pleasure through someone else’s pleasure isn’t something to be shrugged off. The Hindis even have a name for it, mudita, or “joy in the good fortune of others.” Sometimes, slow and steady really does win the race. 

They say most great things in life are worth waiting for, and that may as well include orgasms. It might just pan out to be a good thing, and these days, we need as many good things as we can get. And besides, who really wants to rush through sex?

Carrie Weisman is a writer focusing on sex, relationships and culture. 

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