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I was at a sex ed conference recently, sitting in the audience, and someone asked the speakers if blue balls are real. These speakers were super smart and really passionate but they answered no and suggested blue balls are a myth.

Oops. Blue balls or epididymal hypertension are/is very real. It's vasocongestion of the testicles and there's versions in the labia, clitoris, ovaries, and uterus too.

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Are blue balls a real thing?

Are they treatable? Is there an ovaries version? [WHIP CRACKING, COUGH].

Blue balls refer to getting so horny without release that one's testicles turn blue. When I was a kid, we'd say -- “you're going to give him blue balls!” Or we'd giggle whenever we saw balls that were blue. I also remember hearing that it's no one's responsibility to take care of someone else's sexual frustration -- the cure was easy enough -- they could go lift a car!?

I'm sure you have your own set of ideas about all this, things heard in locker rooms and lunch tables. Or maybe not. Here's what I can tell you as a sexologist.

Having blue balls is clinically called epididymal hypertension. Epididymis, the tube that attaches to the testicles or balls. Hypertension, when blood forcefully expands the arteries.

It's a form of vasocongestion -- where there's more blood flowing into an area than there is flowing out. Basically the person becomes aroused and the genitals engorge with blood -- mainly to make the penis erect but some blood enlarges the testicles too. If this happens and there's no orgasm, the blood pooling there can feel heavy and start to hurt.

And since the blood's not getting fresh oxygen it looks blue-ish in the scrotum -- blue balls. I asked for personal descriptions of the experience and got: “It's a dull throbbing in my nuts, I can actually trace a line of pain from them up the tubes to the base of my penis. It doesn't hurt the penis but in my testicles it feels like they're being twisted slightly.” “It's a bit like having a rolled or sprained ankle.

It's swollen, very sensitive to touch, and I tend to have a hyper awareness around the feelings on my cock and scrotum. It's uncomfortable but it can also be intense in a way I like. I wouldn't say I don't like having them.” “It's a similar pain to when you get hit in the balls; it makes you feel pukey.” The trick is to know that it doesn't harm your body to get aroused and not ejaculate.

Blue balls aren't doing damage, at least not in most cases. So if you can relax, your body will return to a resting state and the blood will circulate more comfortably. Alternatively you can also seek sexual release from a partner, masturbate, or use the Valsalva maneuver.

The first two you probably get,:consensual intercourse with someone and stimulating yourself to climax. The Valsalva maneuver is exhaling with your mouth and nose covered, the way you do straining to move something heavy, like a car... 17th century Dr. Antonio Maria Valsalva found that it works like a jump start to the cardiovascular system -- the system that put the all that blood in the balls.

Or blood in vulva, vagina, or uterus, or ovaries, which can all swell during arousal and get achy without relief. All of these are forms of pelvic congestion and they're all very real. Calling the condition blue balls, blue bean, blue vulva, or pink walls doesn't change that.

Maybe don't actually try lifting a car but it's definitely okay to find a private place where you can rub one out and bring your genitals back to a normal hue. Stay curious. Sexplanations is a Complexly production, a kind of school for people to learn about all sorts of topics in addition to sexuality.

If you're curious, our sibling channel SciShow has an episode on why it hurts so much to get kicked in the groin. "PUT ALL THE BLOOD IN THE BALLS!" [MAIA