Men aren't the only ones who suffer painful physical consequences if they don't orgasm. "Blue balls," the phenomenon officially dubbed epididymal hypertension by the scientific community, describes the process of blood and fluid rushing to the genitals as a guy's body prepares for sex.
As you can probably picture, that process creates a lot of pressure down below, and you hear men talk about the uncomfortable consequences of not experiencing the ensuing release all the time. You don't often hear this physiological process being talked about in reference to women, but it's a real thing! Preparing for sex, then not orgasming, has consequences for you too. (Psst...Have you tried these 3 Breathing Exercises for Better Sex?)
You experience a sense of swelling and genital heaviness as you work towards climax: The vulva, uterus and ovaries all swell as blood pressure spikes just before the big O. "If a woman doesn't climax she may feel uncomfortable or frustrated and perhaps some pain," says Sari Cooper, certified sex therapist and host of Sex Esteem. Hence "lady blue balls" or "blue vulva."
Considering the fact that there's a major orgasm gap (according to the National Survey of Sexual Health and Behavior, 91 percent of men climaxed in their last sexual encounter as compared to only 64 percent of women), women are way more likely to be left not only unsatisfied but uncomfortable. So why are blue balls the only thing getting any attention?
"Women can become aroused, then plateau a bit, go down in arousal, and then become aroused again," says Cooper. In short, the female process of release is a more complex beast. The good news is, the discomfort isn't permanent and isn't going to do any long-term damage (for you or your guy).
"If orgasm with a partner isn't an option—you should never feel pressured to go farther than you want to—you can still relieve the pressure," says Amanda Kallen, M.D., assistant professor of Obstetrics, Gynecology, & Reproductive Sciences at Yale University School of Medicine. Kallen suggests taking a cold shower to help with any serious discomfort. (If you're more than willing to go all the way, but climax just isn't happening, try these 7 Tips for a Better Orgasm.) Or, you can always take matters into your own hands with good old fashioned masturbation. We have 5 Masturbation Tips for a Mind-Blowing Solo Sex Session.