Whether it was the topic of a funny conversation in middle school or just recently, it’s safe to say that we all have heard of the term “blue balls” at some point in our lives. The term, describing an achy sensation where there is arousal for an extended period of time, but no sexual release, has been around as early as the 1910’s! Though we don’t know who exactly coined the term, sometime around the 1920s “blue balls” became synonymous with venereal bubo and gonorrhea. Today, however, it simply refers to the uncomfortable sensation of fluid retention and rapid blood flow to the genitals during arousal, without orgasm. Yes, blue balls exist and it’s medically known as epididymal hypertension (EH).
Why are they blue?
The “blue” in “blue balls” comes from deoxygenated blood, which can appear bluish in color. This can give the testicles a blue tint. The experience can last a few minutes to 30 minutes, but some cases can go on for a few hours. Though sometimes described as extremely painful, blue balls is generally just a dull aching sensation. Uncomfortable, sure– but definitely not dangerous.
Vaginas get blue balls too, but many people call it “blue walls” instead. Also known as “blue uterus” and “pink pelvis” the achy sensation is very similar to blue balls. Because the clitoris and the penis are actually paralell structures in the human body and both contain erectile tissue, the blood rush when aroused is extraordinarily similar. This blood rush is called Vasocongestion and it generally lasts the same amount of time as blue balls.
The Sexual Response Cycle
To understand blue balls/walls further, we must first understand the human sexual response cycle. This cycle describes what happens in the body when one is sexually aroused and has four phases: Desire, Arousal, Orgasm, and Resolution. Starting with Desire, this phase begins when you start to think of sex, and can happen right before a sexual situation occurs. Blue balls/walls happen in this stage because the sexual response cycle never gets completed and blood flow takes a bit more time to regulate itself. Here’s a list of what happens in the body during the Desire phase:
- Muscles tense
- Heart rate and breathing get faster
- Blood flow to the genitals increases, resulting in swelling of the clitoris and labia minora and erection of the penis.
- Nipples become erect
- Vaginal lubrication may begin.
- The breasts become fuller and the vaginal walls begin to swell.
- The testicles swell, his scrotum tightens, and he begins secreting a lubricating liquid.
The next phase is Arousal, which can occur right before sex begins, up until the point of orgasm. The changes in the body are:
- The vagina continues to swell from increased blood flow,the vaginal walls turn a darker color from engorged blood vessels
- Clitoris becomes even more sensitive
- The testicles withdraw into the scrotum.
- Breathing, heart rate and blood pressure continue to increase.
- Muscle spasms can begin in the feet, face and hands.
- Tension in the muscles increases.
After arousal, orgasm occurs which is the shortest of all the cycles. During this cycle, one can experience:
- Involuntary muscle contractions
- Blood pressure, heart rate and breathing are at their highest rates, oxygen intake is rapid..
- Muscles in the feet spasm.
- There is a sudden, forceful release of sexual tension.
- The muscles of the vagina contract. The uterus may also contract rhythmically.
- Rhythmic contractions of the muscles at the base of the penis occur and result in ejaculation.
Lastly, there is a refractory period, also known as the Resolution phase of the cycle. This phase allows the body to relax again due to different hormones being released after orgasm. Since there is no orgasm which is what leads to blue balls, there is no rush of hormones to relax the body and regulate blood flow. The period of arousal just has to go away with time. For people with penises, the recovery period can last 10 minutes to a few hours, or even a few days. People with vaginas can sometimes go back to the orgasm phase multiple times and have a much shorter resolution phase.
How to get rid of Blue Walls/Balls
The simple way is to masturbate or have sex! When one orgasms, the body releases oxytocin and a list of other hormones that relax the muscles, regulate blood pressure, and promote feelings of happiness. The other way, briefly mentioned above, is to just wait it out as the body gets the response that sex isn’t occuring.