Dear Dr G,

I understand the whole month of December is dedicated to sexual health ornaments and accessories in this column.

My husband and I are in our early 30s and have been married for three years.

We enjoy each other’s company, especially when it comes to bedroom matters.

We read with interest your previous articles on marital aids and Prince Alberts, but we were a bit disappointed you did not address the use of penile rings.

Part of our bedroom ritual is to watch stimulating videos together; we often notice the use of penile rings as a bedroom accessory.

Although we have read other Dr G articles when penile rings are used as a form of treatment for erectile dysfunction, we hope you can enlighten us about their recreational use.

Naturally, being in his early 30s, my husband does not suffer from erectile dysfunction, as I am hoping to get him a Christmas gift in the form of a penile ring. I hope to put Dr G on the spot for more information.

Can you remind me about the purpose of penile rings in medical use?

What is their origin?

Can penile rings be used on a recreational basis?

What are the risks and benefits?

I am looking forward to learning more before I get my husband this surprise ring for Christmas.

Yours truly,

Ringing Rita

The penile ring has many names associated with it, including the C ring, erection ring, shaft ring, tension ring and Arab ring.

In general, it is a variety of rings placed around the base of the penis to keep blood from draining out of an erect penis.

This has the primary purpose of maintaining or sustaining the rigidity of an erection for a longer interval.

Other variations of the penile ring include ones worn around the penis and scrotum, or just the scrotum.

Another variation of such a ring is worn around the neck of the scrotum and is also termed a testicular cuff, which really has no role in enhancing or maintaining an erection.

A variation of penile ring is also worn just behind the corona of the glans penis sustaining erection around the area, such rings are also known as head rings.

The ring is usually made of a variety of materials, including rubber, silicone plastics and leather.

They also come in a wide variety of sizes, with an inner diameter ranging from 35mm–63mm (1.4in–2.5in).

Metallic rings are also used, but are often uncomfortable and obviously can be difficult to remove.

A ring made of stretchy material is simply stretched over the penis and situated against the body.

Rigid rings are used differently. First each testicle is fed through the ring and the entire scrotum is pulled through, then the flaccid penis is pushed through the ring and the ring is then nestled against the body.

Before the introduction of those famous blue pills in the late 1990s, the use of penile rings together with a purpose-designed vacuum pump was common for patients with erectile dysfunction.

Such devices were invented in the 1960s and even featured in the 1997 movie Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery as the “Swedish penis enlarger” device.

Although the use of vacuum constriction devices is less common these days, scientific studies still suggest about 50% efficacy in their use for the treatment of erectile dysfunction.

Such therapeutic modality is normally reserved for men after failure of oral treatments, severe diabetes and prostate cancer after radical interventions.

Penile rings can also be used in a recreational manner to prolong erection in order to provide pleasure beyond ejaculation and orgasm.

The wearers who experimented with the devices often reported liking the sensation of tightness and engorgement.

The ring is also exploited as accessory to the external genitalia or sex toy; some may even have a device with a vibrating component.

Using the ring for medical or recreational purposes is not without complications.

Bruising of the penis and decrease in the force of ejaculation due to the constrictive bands are the usual complaints.

The device may not be suitable for some men with cardiovascular conditions or on blood-thinning medication.

The application of the device beyond 30 minutes, especially with illicit drugs, can be dangerous.

Risks also follow if the wearer falls asleep.

Numbness or paleness of the penis is an indication of imminent threat and warrants an immediate removal of the ring.

Persistence of constriction and ignoring the warning signs can lead to priapism, which is a medical emergency that will lead to permanent damage of the penis, including the destruction of normal tissue, and gangrene.

The path of self-discovery involves a series of experiments to unearth our likes and dislikes.

This will involve many successes and failures in our attempts, before our characteristics and individualities are shaped.

It is always interesting to see how far are we willing to take risks in such experiments when it comes to sexual health.

For some, the journey of sexual self-discovery has no boundaries. For others, one is crossing the line when the experiment ends in self-harm or exceeds an individual’s parameters.

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