I spent my teenage years in terrified awe of ‘blue balls’. It was a term that I was too familiar with, as someone who was still uncertain in my sexuality and delaying when I would lose my virginity. It was a line that I heard too often to count and one that would instil a deep sense of guilt in me. I toed the line between what I believed was purity and my duty as a woman, and this simple phrase was thrown at me, usually after I clarified that I didn’t want to continue.
Sometimes it wouldn’t even be from a sexual act that I halted or didn’t complete. Apparently, my body was enough to do this, and so I should feel guilty for the acts my body indicates. Something out of my control and yet entirely my fault.
I’m not alone in this, as every woman I know has been accused of giving someone ‘blue balls’. The phrase isn’t intended as an insult but rather a motivator, a last-ditch effort to continue what’s happening. You might think that it’s not a big deal, a phrase that you could easily say ‘no’ to. But then you’re probably underestimating the extent to which we place the responsibility of a man’s pleasure on their partner and the guilt of being a ‘tease’.
When you tell me not to give you ‘blue balls’, what you’re really saying is that I should continue with the sexual act. That I should ignore my reservations and how I feel and continue to pleasure you. Your pleasure is a priority over how I feel in that moment, I have clearly indicated that I don’t want to do something, and you ignore that. You are choosing to make me feel guilty, to place the responsibility of your orgasm on me. You want me to feel like I owe you this.
I’m not claiming that ‘blue balls’ isn’t uncomfortable, as I don’t have the tools to test that theory. But no pain is worth you undermining my boundaries. If I don’t want to proceed, that is a decision you should respect. Just as you would want me to respect you not being in the mood or asking to stop. No means no, it doesn’t mean try harder. I’m saddened by how often this line ‘worked’, that I would force myself to continue and ignore my own needs.
Fun fact: blue balls is not a phenomenon exclusive to men. The medical term for blue balls is epididymal hypertension, but it isn’t something that requires testicles or a penis specifically. When someone is aroused, the blood flow to their genitals is increased. This results in an achy feeling and discomfort, which goes away after an orgasm or reduced arousal.
‘Blue vulva’ exists. It is also known as ‘blue uterus’ and ‘pink pelvis’ and happens when the blood flow increases with sexual arousal. But the phrase never caught on because women didn’t make an issue of it. We don’t rely on someone else to satisfy our needs, nor do we make them responsible for it.
“In fact, the myth that blue balls is somehow dangerous or super painful is born out of the idea that mean need to "release" their ejaculate, and it's supposed to pressure women into sex.” - Mia Cross, Health.
As a girl who was raised with the belief that masturbation is only for boys and shameful, I spent a lot of time in discomfort. I put off losing my virginity because it would make me ‘dirty’, and so sexual acts ended with two people in discomfort. Funnily enough, I never considered mentioning that to them, as it wasn’t their problem. Even if they were the ones who stopped things. But I heard time and time again that I was giving them ‘blue balls’. And I actually felt bad about it. I felt guilty that I could be causing them pain and discomfort, never considering the fact that I was in a similar boat. And so, them telling me this would lead me to perform different acts on them out of guilt.
I wasn’t the only one. Time and time again, my friends would also be accused of giving someone blue balls, as if that was a conscious decision made rather than the setting of their own boundaries. The worst part is that we barely questioned it. We had been raised to believe that a man’s pleasure was our duty whilst our own was only up to us. So we were to blame for being turned on or sexually aroused, and we were to blame if they were too. We gave ‘blue balls’ by dressing provocatively, by making out, by doing things but not going all the way. We were responsible for their sexual pleasure in a way that they would never take ownership of ours. You’re taught that you can’t perform a sexual act on a man without finishing it, as then you’re a tease or unfair. Your partner is not the only solution for the experience, so don’t treat them like it, and instead learn how to handle it.
An orgasm is not the only way to relieve ‘blue balls’ or ‘blue vulva’, and so you can be responsible for your condition and take care of it yourself. Here are a few suggestions for relieving the ache that comes from that increased blood flow.
The cold water will ease your discomfort and reduce the blood flow to the area. It’ll give you a chance to cool off before continuing whatever you were doing. If you can’t shower, use a cold compress on the area instead for similar results.
The mind is a powerful tool. If you continue to think about your arousal and related materials, you’ll continue to feel uncomfortable. But if you distract your mind and think of non-sexual topics, your body will follow the example. You could think about things on your to-do list, cleaning a shower drain, or the last book you read. Was it fiction or non-fiction?
Many activities can help to reduce that discomfort. Firstly, you could deal with it yourself, use a sex toy or your own devices, and take charge of your pleasure. Secondly, you could go for a walk or jog. Plus it’s good for you!
Your ‘blue balls’ are not my problem, just like I wouldn’t expect my ‘blue vulva’ to be yours. Whatever discomfort you’re feeling is yours to deal with. You could ask if I mind you finishing yourself off, or you could excuse yourself to deal with it privately. You could jump in the shower, you could suggest we go for a walk, or you could put on a film that distracts you. Whatever you do, that is on you. It isn’t my responsibility to deal with your arousal, particularly if I’ve made it clear that I don’t want to continue. To blame your ‘blue balls’ on me is coercion and is non-consensual behaviour. Your ‘blue balls’ are yours to deal with, or better yet, don’t bring them up at all.
Welcome to Symptoms of Living! A place where I like to relieve myself of the barrage of thoughts and ideas filling my mind. Here I'll take a look at various topics, from books to BPD, series to self-harm, there's nothing that we can't, and shouldn't, talk about.
Having struggled with mental illness since the age of 15, one of the hardest parts was how alone I felt in it. While mental illness is beginning to be discussed more openly, and featured in the media, I still think there is room for improvement. So whether it is mental illness or merely mental health, a bad day or a bad year, let's make this a place to approach it and strip it back. Everyone has their own symptoms of living, and you certainly won't be the only one with it.
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