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Dear Sexpert,

My partner and I are considering trying a cock ring, but we don’t quite know how it works. Do you know what it does and if it is safe? We’re hoping that it will be a fun, new addition to the bedroom.

-Trying to Put a Ring on It

Dear Trying,

Assuming that both you and your partner are interested, trying new things can be a great way to spice up sex. Cock rings, also known as “erection rings” or “tension rings,” are rings that are placed around the base of the penis/testicles, restricting blood from leaving the penis. Most often, these rings are used to sustain a longer erection, make an erect penis harder and larger, and delay and heighten pleasure during orgasm. However, every penis is different, so the experience varies from person to person.

As with all sex toys, cock rings function effectively and safely when used properly. Cock rings encircle the shaft, and at times, fit over the shaft and the testicles/scrotum when the penis is not fully erect. The ring should only increase the size of the erection minimally and should not cause pronounced swelling. It is crucial that these rings are not worn too tightly or for more than 20 minutes, as they do restrict blood flow — leaving them on too long is unsafe and can cause damage to the penile tissue. If there is any discomfort, pain or bruising, remove the ring immediately. Additionally, as with all sex toys, rings must be cleaned after each use to get rid of bacteria and lower the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infection transmission.

A variety of cock rings are available to fit all preferences. Some can be found with vibrators for added stimulation, snaps for easy release, or even two-ringed to fit over the penis and the testicles. They can be made of many materials, including metal, silicone, leather and rubber. For rings that are not adjustable, the right size needs to be carefully picked to ensure a proper fit. For the less experienced, elastic materials are most common and are safer to use. The ideal cock ring is one that stays in place when the penis is flaccid, but can be slipped off easily or unsnap when the penis is erect. A water-based lubricant can be added to make putting on or taking off cock rings easier. Consider visiting a reputable sex toy shop, where the staff can help answer any questions you may have about which cock rings are best suited for your needs, safety and enjoyment.

Some people use cock rings if they are experiencing problems getting and/or maintaining an erection, or with premature ejaculation. However, not much research has been done on the effectiveness of cock rings for these issues. Before trying a cock ring for any of these reasons, it would be best to consult a medical provider. Such problems can be due to psychological, behavioral or physical issues. Stress related to school or anxiety about performance (in and out of the bedroom) can negatively impact sexual performance. Behavioral causes, such as smoking or excessive alcohol consumption and underlying medical conditions (diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain medications, etc.) can also contribute to erectile problems. Sexual Health and Wellness at McCosh Health Center has great clinicians who are willing to answer any questions you and your partner may have.

As you explore your options, it’s important to continually talk to your partner about what is best for you both, as any decisions regarding your sexual relationship should be made together. Best of luck finding that perfect cock ring!

-The Sexpert

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