First of all, let's get it straight once and for all: "Blue balls" is a real thing that happens. In fact, feel free to show this article to anyone claims otherwise, because you're about to learn all expert-backed facts about blue balls you need to know. It's pretty much a law of physics that any time you try and stop something short mid-act, there will be negative ramifications involved. In this particular case, we're talking about that pain in your balls.
Of course, we all know what the obvious cure is here. But if masturbation isn't in your immediate future, is there anything else you can do in order to achieve some relief? Also, what's actually going on down there when blue balls occur? Do they ever really turn blue? Do women ever experience the equivalent? To answer all of these questions and more, we spoke with Eric M. Garrison, clinical sexologist, best-selling author and professor of masculinity studies at William & Mary college. Read on for what he had to say about everything you need to know about blue balls.
1. Why Do Blue Balls Happen?
You probably know the simple answer: Because you got all hot and bothered but stopped short for whatever reason, and never actually finished the job. As Garrison explains, the occurrence of blue balls is all a matter of blood flow. "Blue balls, or 'involuntary testicular vasocongestion' happens when the male sex organs aren't able to release the blood that swells during the arousal process," he explains. When men are sexually aroused, their organs start to swell with blood necessary for penile erection. That blood is not released until either after a short period of time, or very close to orgasm." When you become aroused sans release, you're stuck with too much blood in your male member. And that's where the 'blue' part of this situation comes into play. "If there's too much oxygenated blood in the penis, this will make the testicles look blue," Garrison says. Which is how the phenomenon gets its name.
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2. Who Do Blue Balls Affect Most?
The more easily you're aroused, the more likely you'll suffer the wrath of blue balls. Particularly, if the fountain of youth has blessed you with frequent, random hardons. "Young teenage men might have it worse," says Garrison, "because young men are more easily stimulated. For a teenager experiencing those constant erections, plus probably a lot of outercourse and heavy petting, there may not be that release. Plus, they may not be familiar with the process, or know that masturbation can get rid of it."
Speaking of masturbation, your jerk off technique of choice could lead to a higher chance of having blue balls down the road if you're squeezing too hard — as one such former "death grip" enthusiast found out the hard way (pun intended). "Death grip is a really common thing for guys that people are just starting to talk about," says JB, 27. "Basically, you grab your business too hard when you jerk off, and it gets you used to a level of tightness that's totally not possible. So you can get really, really close with women, but it takes forever to get off — which has lead to a ton of blue balls for me. I always thought it was totally normal to have sex with some poor girl for three hours, and I've rarely gotten off from blow jobs alone."
3. Is There A Female Version Of Blue Balls?
They sure can. When women become aroused, blood rushes to the clitoris the same way it does for men when they get an erection. "Women get erections," explains Garrison, "but we only see a small portion, since the clitoral legs go back and down into the female anatomy."
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"Blue lips" mimics the same feeling men get when things get stopped short, and though it's common, it's less recognized. "I've never heard a single person describe it as blue lips, but it can be described as that," says Garrison. "I hear more cases of that vasocongestion in the labia than I do the scrotum." And yes, the lips do turn blue in some cases as well.
4. How To Cure Blue Balls
Of course, the obvious, quickest fix is to rub one out — or become unaroused. "If a person is experiencing that vasocongestion, the only thing that will alleviate it is if they walk away from feeling aroused," says Garrison. "Eventually everything goes back to normal. Or if if that's not the case, they can have an orgasm, which will allow everything to pack up and go home." But if getting yourself off isn't in the cards, and you're impatient about this whole waiting to become unaroused thing, there's something that may bring you relief faster.
If you've seen the movie The 40 Year-Old Virgin, you'll likely recall the scene where Steve Carell's character calls a hotline to ask for advice on how to get rid of his boner — without masturbating. The hotline specialist recommends that he light a match, blow it out, and rub the embers onto his wrist to "focus the brain elsewhere." You probably shouldn't take things that far — but according to Garrison, anything that'll immediately take you out of the fantasy or situation that's turning you on will help get rid of blue balls faster. "If you were right in the middle of sex and you heard someone behind you start a chainsaw, or if lightning struck, or you heard your in-laws shout, 'We're here a day early!,' any of those things would cause an immediate drop in sex drive," says Garrison. "Any immediate response like that will cause vasocongestion to go away faster."
And this method has been successful. "To get rid of blue balls in college I'd grab whatever bottle of alcohol we had in the freezer and put it directly on my stomach," says Steve, 24. "Without fail, I'd get home from a date that ended with no sex but lots of making out, which would leave me super horny and dealing with blue balls, and my roommate would be fully awake and playing some video game. Which made jerking off impossible, especially due to our shared bathroom situation in our dorm flat. For whatever reason, putting a freezing glass bottle on my stomach was the quickest way to stop the blue balls. And then I'd end up playing whatever stupid video game my roommate was into that week, which kept me from replaying what had just happened on my date in my head (and having to go through the whole process all over again)."