Education, Health, and Safety

Yes, Blue Balls Can Happen, So Here Are the Best Ways to Beat It

Yes, Blue Balls Are a Thing, So Here Are the Best Ways to Beat It

You might not know what “blue balls” are (they don't usually cover them in health class!), but chances are you've experienced them. Described as epidydimal hypertension in medical terminology, they're that unfamiliar pain you get in your testicles when you're extremely aroused for a prolonged period of time, but unable to achieve the relief of orgasm.

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Masturbation or sex might be your immediate thought as an obvious cure, but 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. Read on for what he had to say about everything you need to know about blue balls, including answers to frequently asked questions.

1. What Is Blue Balls?

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 — 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,” says Garrison. “Which is how the phenomenon gets its name.”

2. What Causes Blue Balls?

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.

3. Blue Ball Symptoms

The more easily you're aroused, the more likely you'll suffer the wrath of blue balls. This is especially true for anyone young enough (or vigorous enough) to receive frequent, random erections.

“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.”

4. Can Girls Get Blue Balls?

The short answer? They sure can. When women become aroused, blood rushes to the clitoris in 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.”

“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.” 

5. How to Get Rid of 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.

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, any of those things would cause an immediate drop in sex drive,” he states. “Any immediate response like that will cause vasocongestion to go away faster.”

6. How to Talk to Your Partner About Blue Balls

If the person you're with is constantly giving you blue balls, you should probably talk to them about it. However, you don't want to bring it up in a way that makes it seem like you're pressuring them to do something that they're not comfortable with yet. How can you approach the subject, you ask?

According to dating and relationship expert James Anderson, the way you frame it is important.

“When you are talking to a woman about blue balls, you have to realize that many of them will not understand what it is, what causes it or what it feels like,” he says. “Broach the subject by saying that you know that both of you want your sex life to be as amazing as possible and that honest communication is critical for that. Just as you would want her to talk to you about anything causing discomfort in your sex life you want her to be aware of what blue balls is so you can prevent it together. You are not accusing her of anything here.”

Just make sure you're not coming off as a complainer.

“A confident guy doesn't need to whine or complain when it comes to blue balls,” adds Anderson. “Your best bet is to lay out the facts and approach it as an opportunity for the two of your to prevent this from happening in the future together. If you whine or complain at this point she is much more likely to think you are just using this as an excuse for more sex.” 

Truth be told, blue balls has a stigma that comes with it that you're going to be up against if brought up. To combat this, certified counselor and relationship expert David Bennett suggests taking your partner what it feels like for you.

“Many women simply don't understand that blue balls is an issue that many men experience when they are highly aroused, which causes intense testicular pain and pressure,” he says. “It's not simply a way of saying a man is sexually frustrated or desires sex, nor is it some sort of thing guys make up just to get sex. A guy should explain the pain that he feels at the moment and how it's treated via sexual release/ejaculation. However, he needs to explain it in a way that doesn't imply a woman should feel pressured into having sex with him simply because he has blue balls. A woman shouldn't feel pressured into doing something against her values over this.”

And if the two of you aren't there yet in terms of going all the way, sex expert Louisa Knight suggests exploring other ways of getting off together that you're more comfortable with in order to prevent blue balls.

“Reframe your understanding of sex to include a variety of sexual activities, including mutual masturbation,” she says. “This generally means that masturbation can be both a solitary and partnered activity, and a good way to connect sexually without full sex.”

If you're not on the same page sexually, Knight suggests addressing that as well in order to avoid blue balls.

“Talk to your partner about why your sex drives are currently out of line, and be sensitive to that,” she says. “Consider the times of day when you and partner typically have sex – are you defaulting to sex just before bed when you're both tired? Trying to find alternative times to have sex might more mutually rewarding and help you both feel more satisfied. Don't pressure a partner for sex even when you're horny, as nothing kills ardor faster than a sense of pressure and expectation.”

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