My scrotum is a thin sack of skin that contains part of my reproductive system. Insert a needle, add a liter of saline, and it is apparently transformed into something more rewarding.
I've been interviewing body-modified humans for years and have frequently heard the phrase, "I like the pain." They always explain it the same way: In the brain, your pain and pleasure neural pathways overlap—so the two feelings are never all that far apart. I'm familiar with people pushing and punishing their bodies to extremes, but I was specifically interested in how that pleasure/pain dichotomy plays out in a sexual setting.
Wanting to learn more, I turned to Bella van Nes, owner of Melbourne's Piercing HQ. Bella and her partner Paulus have run Piercing HQ for three years. Although they specialize in genital piercings, they offer every modification imaginable—except tattooing. They also host various workshops on topics such as staple and superglue play, micro branding, medical play, scarification, piercing, spanking, and flogging. One, titled "From Finger to Fist," is a beginner's guide to anal fisting. Between them, their involvement within the fetish community is vast and notable.
Unsure if I wanted to permanently mark myself, Bella suggested a saline session. These can involve little injections of saline just under the skin—not into the actual muscle. Breast and scrotal infusions are the most popular, but labia, buttocks, clit hood, pubic mound, and penile shaft are all common requests too.
Each injection distributes 50 milliliters of saline. With many of the modifications calling for a liter of fluid, a session can involve a lot of needleplay. If that doesn't sound like something you're into, you can opt for an infusion. Here your selected body part is hooked up to a saline drip bag. Depending on the bag's volume, the stream's speed, and your own personal tastes, this can feel like a regular IV, or something much more painful.
Bella says saline infusions and injections are commonplace throughout the kink community, but getting exact figures on their prevalence is difficult as most participants "balloon" in private residences and behind closed doors. However, the sheer number of boys brandishing their ballooned balls on the internet is testament to its increasing popularity. But this didn't make me any less nervous.
Apparently sensing my remaining apprehension, Bella assured me that the body completely absorbs the saline within 48 hours. Meaning if I did choose to inflate a body part, I'd be back to normal in a couple of days. Speaking to the couple in such a relaxed, matter-of-fact way eased me over the edge. I decided to inflate my nutsack.
According to Paulus the testes actually become less sensitive after the procedure, as they're suspended in saline. "If we were to slap your testicles before the infusion, it would hurt," he explained, "but afterward we'd be able to give them a nice tap around." Other than being able to be more rough than usual, he adds that he personally likes the sensation of the weight during sex, "as they swing back and forth."
With a mild pinching sensation, the cannula that would deliver half a liter of saline was inserted into my scrotum. Surprisingly, this was less painful than expected, but as the cold liquid started steadily flowing into my sac, I began to feel light-headed.
Casually, Paulus tried to reassure me. "For a momentary discomfort it's a lot of fun," he said soothingly, "although there's only 500 milliliters in a bag, I usually put a liter in. Once all the saline comes out of your body, your balls are back to normal, there's no adverse effect. The most liquid I've held in my sac has been around 1,400 milliliters." He raised his hands as if holding out an invisible basketball.
Despite his assurances, I still harbored some concerns for the long-term fate of my gonads. This had nothing to do with the setting, Piercing HQ looks impressively sterile. Bella wore medical-grade gloves and inserted the cannula into my scrotum with practiced ease, thankfully avoiding any potential nerve damage and missing my testes. She swabbed the insertion point before and after the procedure, and unwrapped new equipment prior to use.
I was told to be aware of my own physical limits, listen to my body, avoid bodies of water like baths or lakes that could harbor bacteria, and to play gentle with my freshly inflated sac. If I abided by these simple instructions any risk of scrotal cellulitis (infection of the skin) would be avoided.
While pumping a small milk bottle's worth of liquid into my balls, Paulus explained that pain is the body's way of protecting itself. But if you can push past it, your body realizes the pain is not going to stop, so it starts releasing chemicals to try make itself feel better.
"I've done my fair share of drugs over time," Paulus continues, "and I'd say that the [organic] drugs that get released from heavy-impact play are far better than any chemical drug I've taken."
Perhaps noting my unease, Bella told me, "If I'm putting in a couple of liters into the balls, then you'll start getting expansion in the shaft of your cock and also around the pelvic area; you'll start to see that get a bit puffy." But in my case, I've insisted we keep the amount of fluid to a minimal and confined to the scrotum, so "it's like filling up a balloon."
For all the casual chatter of balls swinging during sex, they were very professional about the whole thing.
Soon my attention turned from our conversation back to my balls, which were becoming increasingly uncomfortable. As the saline inflated them, my testes sought asylum inside my abdomen. After 45 minutes of this I'd had enough. Gazing past my navel, it was hard to see objectively whether my sac looked enlarged or whether it was an optical illusion caused by my dick retreating like a frightened tortoise into its shell.
"Gee, Fareed," remarked Bella encouragingly, "you look like you've got a decent-sized package now." I appreciated the support but didn't feel like much of a hero.
Although I had taken on only 250 milliliters, increasing my ball size from prune to fig, I waddled home as though lugging an awkward tumor between my legs. Since my testes were encapsulated like small yolks in inordinately large eggs, the liquid acted like a shock absorber. Experiencing this, I could envisage that filled with a whole liter of saline, the sensation of having them smacked around could be pleasurable. But the discomfort was so overwhelming and foreign that I ensconced myself in bed.
I woke up the next morning to find that the saline had nearly completely dissipated; my scrotum was back to his usual wrinkled self.
It should go without saying, but if you do have a desire to inflate any part of your body remember to seek out a professional. Do not try this at home.
Follow Fareed on Twitter.The author awaiting saline infusions