This article originally appeared on VICE US.
Since the dawn of puberty, men have complained about the pain and frustration they experience when they are sexually aroused but fail to orgasm. "I have to finish or else I'll have blue balls," they have told us, time and time again. Yes, blue balls exist, but, as it would turn out, women experience a similar phenomenon.
Women have called the problem pink balls and blue walls. Doctors use the medical term vasoconstriction, defining it as "the narrowing (constriction) of blood vessels by small muscles in their walls." As the Frisky reported, vasoconstriction can happen to all bodies, regardless of genitalia. When people are turned on, blood rushes to their genitals; the increased blood causes tissues to swell. Penises will then get hard, while clits will throb. And both men and women can feel uncomfortable effects if we don't get off.
"If I don't come I literally cannot focus, so if during sex I can't get there, I typically finish myself off and let him take the silver medal," says Elyse, a 30-year-old woman who has battled blue walls. "It truly is uncomfortable and feels very raw and tender down there if I'm close but don't make it."
Read more: Real Men Share True Tales of Blue Balls
Anyone who has eaten pussy or had their pussy eaten will tell you that women's vaginas and, as a result, their orgasms, are delicate. Complicated factors make women climax. The degree of pressure, angle, and stimulation that gets one woman off could be drastically different for another. "With women, it's so much more variable than with men," says Madeleine M Castellanos, MD, a sex therapist and author of Wanting to Want: What Kills Your Sex Life and How to Keep It Alive. These differences also create differences in how, and if, a woman experiences pink balls.
"There's plenty of women who can have lots of sexual stimulation and not experience discomfort, and other women who have multiple orgasms and find themselves standing in the tub pouring cold water over themselves because it's just that uncomfortable," Dr. Castellanos says. Women also list different types of pain. Anne, a 31-year-old, reports "a dull discomfort," but Elyse recalls "a rollercoaster of sensations."
"Each one builds on the other and then just when I'm at the crest of the hill, if he stops or the repetitive movement suddenly stops, I'm like a crazed animal until I can come," Elyse says.
Pink balls can also change drastically from sexual encounter to sexual encounter for the same woman. Dr. Castellanos says it may have to do with how someone touches a person's clit. "Even in individual women it can happen sometimes and then not that much at other times," she says. "So it may have to do with actual direct stimulation of the clitoris, if they're really getting engorgement of the tissue all the way around as opposed to being excited and having sex, but not getting the same full engorgement." The better the sex, the more likely a woman will want to finish—and feel uncomfortable if she doesn't.
"Prolonged periods of engorgement of erectile tissue [are] going to increase the chance of getting that uncomfortable full feeling," Dr. Castellanos says. "It can resolve pretty quickly, [but] for some women it can last a couple of hours which is really uncomfortable."
It's no secret that men's orgasms are often prioritized over women's, which comes with a slew of negative repercussions. "I think that women's sexuality hasn't really been universally prioritized, even to this day," Dr. Castellanos says. "There has been thinking of this women's sexuality as secondary, even sometimes where people didn't think that women had much of a sexuality." When we speak of pink balls, we refer to specifically the physical sensation, putting aside the emotional reactions that women feel when men disregard their sexual needs. Some women, though, also struggle to orgasm, whether due to sexual dysfunction, an inattentive partner, or simply their biology.
Orgasms are awesome, and pink balls are real, but an orgasm doesn't always have to be the goal of a sexual experience. "Women have lots of sexual pleasure; it's not necessarily dependent on orgasm, or they can have multiple orgasms," Dr. Castellanos says. "Focus on pleasure instead of focusing on a goal, because a very goal-oriented type of sex pushes you into that analytical part of your brain." Analysis is for math class and spreadsheets, not the bedroom. Focusing solely on orgasm could cause the pink balls that women want to avoid. Dr. Castellanos says, "Focus on pleasure."