The phenomenon of ‘blue balls’ explained

Yahoo answers: “Get married and find out.  Technically, the term means you get all excited just to get shut down for the night.”

Urban Dictionary: “When Polly won’t finish off your cracker” “A painful but temporary condition of the testicles, often the result of unrelieved sexual arousal.”

Blue balls is a colorful, slang term used to describe the well known aching that can occur when a male is sexually aroused but does not reach climax.

But why do blue balls happen and what causes them?

To answer this, let’s start by reviewing the sexual response cycle. It is a four-part cycle that describes the physiological responses during sexual stimulation.  The first phase is the excitement phase where sexual arousal begins.

The second is the plateau phase characterized by an increase in heart rate, blood pressure and muscle tension.

The third and most popular phase is the orgasmic phase, which results in ejaculation for men, and muscle contractions in the pelvic region for both men and women. This phase is also well known for its overall euphoric feeling due to the immense and fairy tale love you feel for your partner and a release of chemicals in the body, such as endorphins and oxytocin.

The final phase is called the resolution phase. Scientifically speaking, this is when the body begins the process of returning to its normal level of functioning, as blood drains from the erect and swelled reproductive organs, returning them to normal size and color.

This phase often also brings with it the return of normal levels of reasoning and a resurfacing of reality. Opening ones eyes to a renewed understanding that the means to attract a partner may be out of reach, but the means to orgasm are still in hand, in which case a good hand washing is in order.  This is a condensed explanation of the sexual response cycle, though it is enough to address the concept of blue balls.

When men and women become sexually aroused their bodies increase blood flow to their reproductive organs while the veins around the genitals constrict trapping the blood in the genitals.  When this process, known as vasocongestion, occurs in men the penis becomes erect and the testicles engorge with blood causing them to swell to 25-50 percent of their normal size.

For women the labia, vagina, and clitoris swell and lubricate, and the breasts and nipples enlarge and become sensitive.  This vasocongestion occurs during the plateau phase.

The quickest way to drain the blood back out of the genitals, returning them to normal size, is through an orgasm as the muscle contractions and vasodilatation that accompany an orgasm flush the blood back out to the rest of the body.

If an orgasm does not occur, then it takes longer for the blood to be released from the genitals and they stayed swelled longer.  For some people, this can cause discomfort and mild pain, often referred to as blue balls.  Although called blue balls, it is not restricted to males.

Women can experience the same discomfort and pain when they do not reach orgasm.

So it is true that blue balls can cause men and women mild pain and discomfort if their sexual response cycles are interrupted or left unfinished, though the experience does not last long and causes no damage to the body.

Ethan Connolly can be  reached  at [email protected]