Even in the era of constantly googling every possible “can coffee kill you?”—type query that crosses the mind (it can!), guys are still out here believing and hawking the “blue ball” myth. This is the school of thought that when a man gets aroused, but for whatever reason (ahem, you not being interested in going that far perhaps?) is prevented from ejaculating, he’s in physical pain until he does. It’s a level of pain that means he needs relief—fast. And men have been using it since the dawn of time as a way to convince women that we have to “follow through.” Let’s put an end to this, mmmkay?
You know how right before you sneeze, your body reflexively tenses up? And when you let it rip, you feel a sense of relief? A similar scenario happens in a guy’s genitals when he gets turned on and then orgasms.
“Ejaculation is like that sneeze,” explains urologist Paul Turek, MD. The buildup is called the emission phase, during which semen collects in the ejaculatory ducts within his prostate. If foreplay (or whatever else is arousing him) suddenly stops and he can no longer release the built-up semen, there is—and let me be super clear here—momentary mild discomfort. Repeat after me: Momentary. Mild. Discomfort. You walk around in heels for crying out loud.
“It’s temporary and certainly not anything dangerous,” says Dr. Turek. “As he relaxes, the discomfort goes away. It doesn’t become worse.” Compare the feeling to the very tolerable annoyance of needing to blow your nose but being temporarily tissue-less.
For the record, women’s bodies experience a similar chain of events when we’re turned on. “We go through something called engorgement, when blood flows into our vulvas,” says Carol Queen, PhD, the resident sexologist at Good Vibrations. Pausing during engorgement “can certainly create a sense of pressure or tightness in some women,” she explains. Again, pressure, not pain. And men certainly don’t hear us using that as a guilt trip.
Remember that part in The Wolf of Wall Street when Leonardo DiCaprio falls to his knees after being denied sex by Margot Robbie? That shit is everywhere, a basically impossible-to-avoid trope, which contributes to the fallacy of blue balls and everyone’s assumption that they’re real.
The average guy could legitimately think he’s on the brink of being carried out of your place on a stretcher, clutching his crotch in agony, because it’s likely that no one—not Leo, not pop culture, not sex education in school—has taught him that blue balls are a physical impossibility.
“Some men definitely believe this is a legit thing, because no one is telling them otherwise,” says Emily Morse, PhD, a sex and relationship expert and podcast host of Sex With Emily. (Also, testes can’t turn blue. Facts.)
So, go ahead and send this link to the next dude who claims he’s gonna combust if he doesn’t get off. Congrats: You never have to do a damn thing to ease his “pain” again.