Are blue balls actually a real thing?
There are a lot of sexual myths that some of us pick up as kids and young adults — thinking you can’t get pregnant on your period (you really can), the ridiculous idea that having sex with more people makes your vagina loosen (but having thousands of hard-pounding sessions with the same person doesn’t, apparently), not to mention the idea that female orgasms are “elusive”. And, due to a stunning lack of sex education, some elements of sex straddle the line between myth and reality — areas where we’re a little hazy on the details. Which brings me to one very important questions: Are blue balls real?
It might sound silly, but a lot of people out there don’t know the real status of blue balls. Are they an actual medical condition? Is it just sexual frustration? If they are real, are they dangerous? Again, these are all things that you would really, really hope would be cleared up in a sex ed class, but a lot of us just didn’t get the educations we deserved and have been sort of figuring things out as we go along.
So, are blue balls real? Here’s what you need to know- because people with penises aren’t the only frustrated ones.
Sexual frustration can be very real, whether you have a penis or not
Firstly, I find it really irritating that we only talk about “blue balls”, without there being a female equivalent. Yes, there may be science to show that there is an anatomical cause of blue balls (more on that in a minute), but sexual frustration is very real, no matter what your genitals happen to be. Too often, we use “blue balls” as a joke at a woman’s expense — showing women as withholding and prudish and showing men as desperate and crazed. Of course, sexual frustration can be very real and painful for men, but it’s important not to accept the running joke of horny men and frigid women — which is not just untrue, but insulting to...well, everyone.
Blue balls are connected to blood flow
So, rhetoric and sexism aside — are blue balls real? Yes, they're a real thing — there's even a real medical name for them. “Blue balls can happen when a male remains aroused without orgasm, causing a temporary buildup of blood in the testicles,” Medical News Today explains. “The medical term for this is epididymal hypertension.” Not as catchy as blue balls, but you get the picture. It’s a legit medical condition. The blood buildup can cause pain, an aching sensation, or even a feeling of heaviness, apparently. The good news? It shouldn’t be dangerous. Once the erection goes, the pain and suffering should go with it. Of course, if you have an erection you really can't get rid of then you may want to see a doctor — but in normal cases, blue balls will subside naturally and fairly quickly.
And there may even be a blue-ish color
It turns out, the blue of blue balls may be real, too. There’s some evidence that a prolonged erection can cause some of the oxygen in your blood to be absorbed by the tissue in your genitals. Urologist Richard K. Lee, M.D., also of Weill Cornell, told Men’s Health that when this oxygen is absorbed it can affect the color — and it can actually look a bit blue. But for it to actually cause discoloration, it would usually be caused by a blockage of some sort. “Erectile dysfunction drugs or blood flow-constriction devices like a penis ring could cause this, but it’s not likely to occur naturally,” he explained. So you may get an achy feeling or discomfort just from sexual frustration, but the blue-ish color is normally from something a little more extreme — maybe a cock ring that was too tight for too long or another toy.
BUT, blue vulvas are real, too
Hear-ye, hear-ye! Remember when I said we should have a phrase for the vaginal equivalent of blue balls, because everyone can get frustrated? Well, we do. Or should I say, the condition exists — it just hasn’t entered popular culture in the same way. Medical News Today writes, “Blue balls does not just affect people with male genitals. Females can experience vasocongestion, which people also refer to as ‘blue vulva’ or pelvic congestion.” CAN I GET AN AMEN!?!?
As you might imagine, blue vulva is very similar to blue balls. “‘Blue vulva’ can happen when blood flow to the female genitals increases with sexual arousal. It may cause feelings of aching or heaviness around the clitoris and vulva. This feeling will pass when blood flow returns to normal, either after orgasm or when the arousal subsides.” So if you feel so sexually frustrated it actually hurts, it’s not just in your head. That same achy feeling can exist for everyone, regardless of genitalia.
Blue balls — and the pain that goes with them — are definitely a real thing, though it's much less common that they'll actually be blue. But it's not just limited to balls — arousal causes a lot of blood flow and, if you don't have a release, the body can go through discomfort until things return to normal. Sorry, everyone — blue genitals can affect us all.