Monday, August 29, 2011


by Kathleen Bradean

Edging is delaying orgasm to extend the delicious anticipation of release. It doesn't seem to appear as often in heterosexual erotica as it does in gay erotica, but this is a game that anyone can enjoy. It can be part of light or heavy power exchange play or, in the case of fans of tantric sex, it can be all about self-control. Try it sometime. Get yourself or your partner to the brink then back off on stimulation until orgasm is no longer imminent. Repeat the cycle until there's no holding back, or until your partner begs nicely for release.

Years ago, Patrick Califia said that writing erotica is topping the reader. They have no idea where you're taking them and no control. So play the edging game with your reader. Trust me, they won't mind.

Sometimes it's fun to plunge right into sex and go balls-to-the-wall until the climax. That's sort of the equivalent of having the psychopath axe murderer jump out at the main character ten seconds after the opening credits of a horror movie and spend the next hour and a half in constant peril with little or no respite. I'm not saying that couldn't be an intense, well-done movie. I'm just saying that isn't the only type of horror the audience likes to see. The same is true or erotica. Sometimes the readers want it fast and hard and graphic (but never artless).

But other times, you might want to linger over the sensations so your reader will enjoy the journey as much as the destination. That's the time to get a little- pardon the term- cruel. Tease them unmercifully. Apply each layer of stimulation with delicate care, like the whisper of a sable brush over engorged flesh. Each word, sentence, and paragraph should build to a crescendo as that delicate whisper turns into a light pinch followed by stronger, bolder, focused touch. Get your reader tingling, then panting, and squirming.

Since you can't actually touch all your readers, you're going to have to seep into their imaginations and get them to do the physical work. Grab out your toolbox of sensory writing because that's the key to the lizard brain's cage. Go deep with your sensory input. I don't mean long sentences of purple prose. Use direct, focused writing with strong verbs and words that pack an emotional impact.

I wish I could remember the movie director's name, but he said (paraphrased) that the difference between porn and erotica was suspense. (Not that there's anything wrong with porn). Erotica readers expect that there will be sex. So where does the suspense come in? Delicious delayed fulfillment. Weave the spell of words around them so they want to get off as much as they want to hold back, and the conflicting desires have them breathless with anticipation. Hold them on the brink as the cliff grows narrower and their grip more perilous. Then do them a favor and shove them over the edge.


  1. You've expressed this far better than I did, Kathleen! Thank you.

    I'm of course familiar with the technique of "edging" but I've never heard the term before. Thanks twice!

  2. Lisabet, I was tempted to simply put "what she said" as my etry, but I can't claim your wonderful excerpts.

  3. This is a great description, Kathleen. And as you say, doing this in words alone is a distinct art form. :)

  4. Jean - every time I type the word lizard, I think of you.

  5. I've never encountered the concept of writing erotic fiction as topping the reader but now you've put it in my head it seems entirely appropriate.

    No wonder writing erotic fiction is so much fun.

    It also gives me a different perspective on what it means when a writer loses their edge.

    Great post


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