Everything You Need to Know About BDSM Edge Play

For some people, “living life on the edge” might mean going skydiving or telling your crush how you feel. But for other people, it could mean engaging in some hardcore kinks and sexual situations like edge play.

Edge play is an extreme form of sexual activity that falls under the BDSM umbrella, says erotic educator and founder of Organic Loven Taylor Sparks. It involves trying riskier activities for pleasure, arousal, and stimulation, explains Katie Lasson, a clinical sexologist and relationship advisor for online sex toy shop Peaches and Screams.

So whether you’re interested in edge play or just want to know more about it, we’ve teamed up with the pros to outline everything. Let’s get into it.

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What is edge play?

The first thing to know about edge play (which is also sometimes called “playing the edge”) is that it is very subjective, explains Sparks. The term essentially means to “push or be pushed beyond your own comfort zone,” says Sparks—but that, of course, looks different on everyone.

“What takes you to the edge could be another person’s ‘normal,’” says Sparks. And because people have their own personal limitations and definitions of what is considered risky, the the only person who can determine what your “edge play” looks like is you.

In general though, anything involving consensual intense physical or psychological pain is typically considered edge play, says sex therapist Liz Powell, PhD.

Related terms:

    What constitutes as edge play?

    By now, you know edge play varies from person to person, but there are a few different types of sex and activities that generally always count. Typically it’s anything that involves blood or breaking the skin, as well as the use of knives or needles during sex fall under the edge play category.

    According to Sparks, here are a few of the most common variations:

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      Again, it’s super important to note that not only is enthusiastic consent an absolute must, but international sex educator and creator of the Sex Hacker Pro course, Kenneth Play, warns many of these acts can be super dangerous, especially breath play.

      “Any time you are choking someone without the proper grip, you have the potential to collapse their windpipe, which can rapidly lead to serious consequences or death,” explains Play.

      So even though breath play is commonly seen in porn or films, BDSM pros don’t really advise trying it, especially for newbies. A good alternative is holding your breath for 10 seconds on and off—this way, you’re in control of when you can and can’t breathe.

      As for everything on this list, experts advise you and your partner agree upon a safe word prior to engaging in anything sexual. This safe word will let your partner know when something is going too far and you’d like to stop. Some examples of safe words are “red” or “pineapple” or a double tap on your partner’s leg if you are unable to speak.

        Is edge play different from edging?

        Even though edge play sounds a lot like edging, the two activities are actually very different. Edging refers to delaying orgasm for as long as possible with the goal of ultimately having a more intense one—it is actually a great way to increase the intensity and duration of your orgasms.

        But could the act of edging be something you would consider to be edge play for yourself? Potentially.

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        What safety precautions do you need to take with edge play?

        Understandably, there are a lot of precautions you need to be aware of when practicing edge play. Knowing a person’s physical and mental health history, having a deep understanding of the play you’re embarking on, having safety essentials (like scissors, if you’re practicing rope play) within reach, as well as having a first aid kit and information of how to use it is just the start, says Sparks.

        Additionally, you’ll want to practice RACK, which is the most BDSM acronym that stands for “risk aware consensual kink.” The general premise of RACK is not that you find a way to eliminate all risks, but that you holistically consider all of the risks that might come up, Dr. Powell explains.

        So before you start, you should “decide how you want to manage those [risks] and if that is a risk that feels good for you.” It’s basically like discussing the worst case scenario before the worst case scenario can happen.

        And in BDSM, if someone’s aware of the risks and consequences of the edge play they’re embarking on and they are willing to accept them, then the activity is considered RACK.

        What are the risks associated with edge play?

        The biggest risk is seriously injuring your partner or being physically or physiologically injured beyond the agreed-upon expectations. This can result in lasting trauma and/or death, and it’s something to be taken considered with the utmost seriousness.

        Discussing *exactly* how to handle an incident if something goes wrong, as well as implementing safe words and sometimes additional signals, is vital.

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        “When taking on this level of play, the plan is to push right up to the edge. Not over it,” says Sparks. But also, communicating your hard boundaries beforehand will better help you make your wants and limits clear.

        How to get started with edge play:

        Edge play takes a good deal of conversation, negotiation, understanding, and enthusiastic agreement, says Sparks. So much so that Play doesn’t recommend exploring edge play unless you’re very drawn to the idea and you have a deep level of trust and understanding with your partner.

        “Edge play can damage even the most trusting of relationships, so doing it with someone you don’t know well, or if you’re not sure you want it, can lead to serious consequences,” he explains. In other words, best to not engage in edge play with anyone you just met.

        Before just jumping into edge play, Sparks suggests discussing the following with your partner:

        • Whether or not you’re comfortable going to the “edge” of this type of play.
        • What “the edge” is for you.
        • What experience you want to have.
        • Why you want to give or receive this experience.
        • What the expected outcomes of this type of play are.
        • Negotiate everything that might come up.
        • Outline your safe words, signals, and plan in case something goes wrong.
        • Plan for aftercare.

          Play says education should also precede the experience. He suggests reading books like The New Topping Book or The New Bottoming Book by Dossy Easton and Janet Hardy. You can also look up BDSM educators like Midori or The Kink Academy for guidance as well.

          Bottom line: Figure out what you are interested in and make a detailed plan before attempting it, he says. Because the safest and sexiest way to experience edge play is to know exactly what you’re getting into.

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          Updated: October 17, 2021 — 3:38 pm
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