Blue balloons
Danilo Batista

Sexuality in Conversation

Once in a Blue Ball: Demystifying the Tired Trope

Having a ton of buildup and no sexual release can be quite pleasant for someone with a vulva. Blood rushes to the entire area, causing an enjoyable ache in the vagina, labia and clitoris (which also sometimes does a delicious twitch). I’m just one heavy make-out session away from filling out insurance forms at all times. Because after a solid ten minutes of heavy petting, my basement is flooded. FEMA’s practically on speed dial, y’all.

But one of the advantages of having a vulva is if a steamy interaction doesn’t lead to a p in my v, a cat bath, or gettin’ rotary-dialed, my body returns to normal after a few minutes as if nothing happened. Penis-havers? That’s right. Blue balls.

I had heard the term blue balls throughout my life, and its usage seemed to peak around my early twenties, as it was essentially used as a bargaining tactic to pressure me into sex. I knew it was uncomfortable to essentially leave a scrotum on read, but as someone who doesn’t have one, I didn’t know how bad the sensation was, how long it lasts, or if it could—as some have claimed to me—do damage to the anatomy of the folks I wasn’t consenting to have sex with.

I wanted to know: Does repeated erection with no ejaculation have any long-term effect on the body?

“Any man can tell you ‘blue balls’ is a very real phenomenon, but the good news is that it’s nothing more than an unfortunate side effect of unrewarded sexual arousal,” says Dr. John Stites, a urologist. “[It] can be a bother but doesn’t represent a threat to future intimacy or reproduction. Interrupted climax, alone, will not cause any physical changes in potency, fertility, ejaculation or urinary function.
I knew it was uncomfortable to essentially leave a scrotum on read, but I wanted to know: Does repeated erection with no ejaculation have any long-term effect on the body?
While it can be quite a literal pain—for an hour or two, Dr. Stites informs me—you can rest assured nothing else will come of it.

And whether balls can ever turn blue? The verdict is in. And it turns out they can.

“Generally speaking, blue discoloration, or cyanosis, can occur due to trauma or loss of normal blood flow,” says Dr. Stites. “When associated with severe pain or swelling (which would send you to the doctor anyway), it can represent a bigger problem, such as injury or bleeding inside the scrotum, testicular torsion, or a severe infection. Hindered romance alone doesn’t lead to any such hazard.” So, let’s review. Someone twisting your junk like a Bop-It? Literal blue balls. Someone not consenting to sex? Not literal blue balls.

The cause of that painful sensation though, as if someone gave your package a black eye? No one really knows. It’s poorly studied, but it’s no surprise why considering it doesn’t take an expert to figure out the cure.

While blue balls might be uncomfortable, it should never be used as an excuse to pressure an unwilling person into having sex. Because you know what’s worse than blue balls? Having sex when you have a vulva and your body isn’t ready. Having sex with a vagina that isn’t sexually aroused is like trying to go down a waterslide with no water. Sex when not sufficiently wet (and excited) can result in pain and bleeding that can last for days, tearing inside the vagina (which also increases risk of infection, including STIs), and both mental and physical trauma.

So the next time someone leaves you high and (quite literally) dry, grab some lube, pop in that copy of Wild Things (I don’t know why you’re masturbating in 1999, but that’s none of my business), and finish the job yourself.

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