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What Lies Beneath: Real Men Share True Tales of Blue Balls

We asked men to re-live their most traumatic, painful, and weirdly touching experiences with blue balls so we could determine whether it's real, imaginary, or going to send our boyfriends to the hospital.
Photo by Boris Jovanovic via Stocksy

"It's an ache down in your balls that leaks up into your stomach or guts," my husband said. "It's a line from your balls, which physically hurt, up to your mind, which is pissed you did not get to cum."

"Sometimes it hurts so bad you can't even jack off," his friend added.

"It's really not that big of a deal," my husband continued. "It's a big deal when you are a teen, but who cares? Do you even remember the last time you got blue balls?"


"It's been 20 years, man," his friend responded.

"What about some men who use it as an excuse to guilt their girlfriends into having sex with them?" I asked.

My husband and his friend laughed. "Anyone who does that is a pussy."

Read More: What Actually Happens When Your Vagina Falls Out

According to The Routledge Dictionary of Modern American Slang and Unconventional English, the term blue balls first appeared in its current usage in 1916, though the phrase was also used to mean "any sexually transmitted infection." According to modern medicine, blue balls are not bullshit, but in fact a syndrome called "epididymal hypertension." According to the University of Santa Barbara's Sexual Health information, when a man gets horny, "the arteries that carry blood to his genitals enlarge while the veins that leave the genital area constrict, allowing less blood to escape." This uneven blood flow is what causes an erection; the testicles swell 25-50% larger, too. However if the bag is not emptied, the blood in the genitals builds up through vasocongestion, causing "blue balls," which do sometimes turn a literal blue. Ejaculation will usually kill the pain ("as every 13-year-old understands," urologist Dr. Darius Paduch told Men's Health magazine last year), but not always.

Blue balls are like a man's period cramps.

To those of us without testicles, blue balls sounds like a myth, or a threat. Can blue balls actually cause real physical damage? Do doctors care when men come in complaining of blue balls? Were our high school boyfriends' whines legitimate after all? So many people call bullshit on blue balls because it's become more of a euphemism for "not getting laid" than anything else. Remember when you would use your period as an excuse to get out of gym class? This is why, in your 30s, people don't really believe it when you say your cramps are so debilitating it's like Satan is wringing out your uterus like a washcloth. Blue balls are like a man's period cramps.


Nevertheless, I acknowledge that I do not have testicles—I would never speak on their behalf. So I decided to ask people with balls about the realities of this much-maligned condition.

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Ian, 28

When I was 13 years old, I would fool around with my girlfriend at the time. We'd get hot and heavy, but since I was still involved with my extremely conservative Christian family (and the school I went to had all these messages about the sins of the flesh) I would always skirt the issue of going all the way. This disappointed my girlfriend (to whom I am retroactively sorry). So, after multiple intense dry humping sessions and getting worked up, wringing my hands and heaping ashes on my head, I started getting a horrible pain under my right testicle. One morning I woke up, and it hurt really bad. I told my dad, and he asked if I thought I needed to go to the doctor, to which I replied, "Yes."

He took me to the hospital so I could see the general practitioner. She asked what the pain felt like, and I said it was like an ache that went all the way up my body to the back of my right eye. She examined me and ordered an ultrasound. A very professional nurse wearing gloves applied a cold jelly to my testicles and rubbed a microphone-shaped orb on my scrotum. The doctor came back with her diagnosis and spoke to me privately, without my father present. She told me I was completely fine and nothing looked out of place; however, she asked if I masturbated at all. I said, "No." She said I needed to start and that if I don't masturbate this kind of thing could get way worse. I was pretty taken aback, since the doctors' orders to masturbate conflicted with the word of God. I went home and promptly relieved myself. I can honestly say that moment is my locus of questioning religion.


To me it's always seemed to be spoken of more in a metaphorical state.

Jason, 43

It starts deep in my undercarriage and radiates there for hours. Pain medication only dulls it, and it will come back the next day. Standing sucks. It feels like brutal gas in your balls. I went to the doctor once for it, and he said I was dreaming up this pain and that it was all in my head. He said there was no reason I should have pain like that. I've mentioned it to other doctors, and they always shrugged it off or made some dumb joke. The pain is real! I've never talked about it with other guys, but I have discussed it with my wife. The problem is once the pain comes on there's really nothing she or I can do to help it.

Casey, 30

I just don't believe that blue balls are a real thing. I've never experienced it. Even as a late teen—when a man's testosterone is touted to be at its peak—or in moments of high arousal when a climax wasn't reached, it just never happened. Also, this isn't because I made out with a girl and then ran home and masturbated after, either. There have been many times in my life where the desire and intent arose, but nothing's happened. The worst I've had to deal with is an untamed boner. All my life, friends have mentioned "blue balls," but to me it's always seemed to be spoken of more in a metaphorical state. I've never once known a guy who said, "Dude, I was so ready, and nothing happened. Then, I was in excruciating pain afterwards." It's always been used in conversation to describe disappointment in a [sexual] situation not panning out.

I was pretty taken aback, since the doctors' orders to masturbate conflicted with the word of God.


Zachary, 26

When I was 18 I was fooling around with a girl, dry humping, so I didn't cum. The next day, I was in minor discomfort, but then it started to get progressively worse. I assumed it was just blue balls, but by Friday I was in so much pain I could barely walk. The dry hump was Sunday, by the way. I went to the doctor because I was throwing up from the pain, and the doctor sent me to the ER. I drove across the city—the pain at this point was excruciating—and I roll into the ER, and they put me into an ultrasound right away. The doctor lubes me up and says, "This is a rare occurrence—do you mind if we bring in some new doctors?" I just shrugged it off, like whatever. All of a sudden, 20 students walk in with clipboards starring at my lubed-up sack, and the next thing I know I'm in a wheelchair going into a dark room. A suit doctor comes in and calmly says that I may lose one or both of my testicles.

I obviously break down. I call my dad and he freaks out, races over to the hospital. By the time he arrives, I'm in the gown, being prepped for surgery. They tell me they need to take blood samples, and I am afraid of getting my blood taken, so blood starts squirting everywhere and I go into shock and start convulsing. They wrap me up in blankets so I can't freak, asking me if I had eaten anything that day. Suddenly they put a mask on me and I pass out. When I wake up hours later, I can hear all these doctors standing around me, talking around me about their cars or whatever, and it all comes back and I start screaming, "Do I have my testicles?!" They tell me I'm all good and that I had a torsion. It's a rare condition where your balls twist up and have to be tacked back into place. It's really dangerous, but I still have both my balls and just a little scar on the seam of my bag.


William, 31

The only time I truly had an aggressive case of blue balls was the morning of the day I lost my virginity. When it came to sex, I was kind of a prude who overanalyzed the situation to death, always questioning the feelings and bullshit behind the act. Things were getting serious with the girl I was dating; she was my first serious girlfriend. In the bedroom, things were progressing, but I'd shut sex down because I was young, less experienced than she was, and just nervous. Shit got real, right up to the point of sex, but I backed down like a huge pussy. The next morning my friend picked me up at her place to go to work. It had already started…that ache. It was obvious I was dealing with the dreaded blue balls. I got to work, and it was unrelenting, it wouldn't let up. I did the only thing I could. I went to the private employee restroom and rubbed one out. While in the process of relieving myself, my brain drifted and I was like, "Yeah, OK, I'm in love." An orgasm later I was pain-free and levelheaded, and I had sex for the first time later that night.

Greg, 33

I always thought blue balls was a myth. I even asked the sex ed teacher at high school. He said it was not true. I found out otherwise when my high school girlfriend gave me a blowjob in the driveway of her house. Before I could finish (and I tend to have stage fright), the outside lights of the house came on. We packed it up quickly, and she gave me a kiss goodnight. (By the way, I'm still with this girl today.) Anyway, I got home and was pretty hard, but I went inside and tried to go to bed. Next thing I know, my pecker was throbbing in pain. I decided to pound the pope in hopes of relief, but nothing. Throbbing was still there the rest of the night, so bad I could not even sleep on my side.

John James, 26

I met this guy online right before going to Portland. I don't know if everyone is aware, but men who sleep with men tend to sleep around on vacation, and Portland, as a city, is generally DTF. Anyway, this guy I met online and I start some heavy flirting, and it's going really well. We wanted to fuck, but the only thing stopping us the fact that he was in Seattle. I've always thought there was something sexy about maintaining abstinence and chastity to serve someone else, so I didn't cum the entire time I was in Portland—we were both saving our cum for one another. I was definitely in physical pain and going crazy by the time I got to Seattle—whether this was psychosomatic, I don't know, but it was real. (We finally met up and boned.)