Blue Balls: Myth vs. Reality

Way back in the day, I remember sitting in my boyfriend (now husband)’s apartment hearing his roommate loudly complain. He was telling a story about making out with his girlfriend when he all of the sudden got “the worst pain of [his] life” in his balls. According to his telling, he yelled and pushed back so hard his girlfriend fell off the bed. “Blue balls sucks man!” he finished emphatically. 

That was the first time I had ever heard the phrase blue balls. Since then, I have heard many men complaining about how hard and painful an experience it is. On the other hand, I’ve had many women tell me men are faking it to guilt women into sex. I got curious, and decided to do a little research on my own. Here’s what I’ve learned about the myth and realities of the phenomena we call blue balls. 

What is “Blue Balls”?

“Blue balls” is a slang term used to describe a painful sensation in the testicles and genital area that some men may experience after prolonged sexual arousal without ejaculation. When we (men and women) get turned on, blood flows into our genitals and builds tension, waiting for release. When blood engorges the genital region during sexual excitement but doesn’t dissipate (i.e. an orgasm doesn’t occur) this sometimes will cause an uncomfortable feeling of soreness or pain in the genitals. 

The name “blue balls” comes from the blue-ish appearance that the testicles may take on due to the buildup of blood in the area. Some professionals prefer to call it epididymal hypertension, however the phenomena hasn’t been studied enough to warrant an official medical definition. Scientists haven’t done much research on epididymal hypertension as this phenomena has been shown to have no ill effects on long term health. This phenomena can also happen to females when they are aroused for an extended period of time. Women also can experience the uncomfortable and sometimes painful sensations, and the same remedies that help men can release the tension as well. 

It’s important to note that the condition is not harmful in the long term and can typically be resolved through ejaculation or simply waiting for the sexual arousal (and blood pressure in that area) to subside. However, it’s important to prioritize communication and mutual consent when it comes to sexual activity and not use the potential threat of “blue balls” to pressure someone into sexual activity they don’t want. We will talk more about this later on.

To read more on the medical side of blue balls, read here or here.  

The Myth 

Blue balls can be painful, but it’s not the end of the world. The problem is that some men use the experience of blue balls to guilt their wives into having sex with them. Some husbands might even exaggerate the pain to make their wives feel sorry for them. The idea seems to be “You aroused me, now you need to let me orgasm so I don’t have this uncomfortable feeling”.

Here lies the myth of blue balls. The pain of epididymal hypertension may be uncomfortable in the present, but won’t have long term effects. (If the pain is very intense or lasts longer than 30 minutes, a man should contact his doctor to look for other causes). There are many things to do other than have sex that can help relieve the pain of blue balls that we will talk about later on. 

Not an Excuse…

The bigger issue here is women feeling guilted into having sex with their husbands. As we discussed with Dr. Cami Hurst on our podcast, it can be very damaging to a person and a relationship to have sex out of duty. For a woman, having sex when she doesn’t feel turned on or desire for sex can lead to continued physical pain, mental aversion to sex, and disconnection from her own sexual identity. Some women have been raised to believe it is their duty to provide sex to their husbands. This way of thinking won’t allow a woman to learn what she wants or to explore her desires. This will lead to less pleasure for her, and a rift in the relationship. 

Blue balls do hurt, but guilting your wife into helping you release that tension is not the answer. This will only lead to more pain, confusion, and lack of intimacy. Here are a few things you can try instead!

Ways to Relieve Blue Balls

If you start to experience discomfort from being aroused for a long time, it’s not a bad thing to respectfully ask your wife to have sex with you. In circumstances where the two of you were already building toward penetration and ejaculation, this is a great idea! However, many women feel pressured to say yes before they are ready or when they don’t want penetration because they feel responsible for their husband’s pain. But there are so many other ways to address this pain without handing the responsibility over to the wife. 

1) Manual Stimulation

If this is a practice that aligns with your values and fits into your marriage, you or your wife could relieve the pressure through manual stimulation. This will lead to an orgasm that will then prompt blood flow back to the rest of the body. This is still not an excuse to pressure your wife into doing something she doesn’t want to do. Read on for more suggestions if this is not something you or your wife is comfortable doing.

2) Pain Killers

the usual pain killers (Ibuprofen, Advil, Tylenol etc.) can be useful here to help manage the pain before the tension dissipates.

3) Cold Shower

A cold shower can help to “turn you off” and get rid of your erection. This will release the tension you feel in your testicles. 

4) Exercise

Exercise is a great way to get the blood flowing to all the parts of your body. If you are experiencing blue balls, you can go for a run, do some pushups, jumping jacks or any other exercise. This will encourage blood flow away from your tense gentiles and into the body. 

5) Sublimation

Most people have had periods in their life where they didn’t have a sexual partner and needed to learn to deal with sexual feelings on their own. Whatever strategies you used then to divert sexual energy can help here to lower your arousal and ease your pain. 


Men can experience some discomfort associated with prolonged arousal. However, the pain is not lasting or severe. If it is, the problem is not blue balls. Men should never use the experience of blue balls to guilt their wives into having sex when she doesn’t want to. Try out these suggestions to help manage your own pain when this circumstance comes up.

Written by Amanda Severson with Get Your Marriage On!

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<h3>Amanda Severson</h3>

Amanda Severson

Hi, I'm Amanda! I'm a grad student on her way to becoming a Marriage and Family Therapist. I'm a wife and a sex enthusiast. I am a psychology nerd whose life goal is to help every couple find the absolute joy of sharing your life with someone else.

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