We Asked An ER Doctor All The Sex-Related Questions You’ve Always Wanted To Ask
It’s all of our worst nightmares: Something in the bedroom doesn’t go as according to plan and the next thing you know you’re in the ER trying to a) explain what happened and b) not die of embarrassment while whatever happened is treated. Sex-related stories from the ER are equally fascinating and horrifying. We share this feeling which is why we sat down with a resident ER doctor to chat about the craziest stories they’ve seen in the ER, what they suggest to prevent an ER visit and if broken penises are actually a thing.
Please Note: To ensure the anonymity of the patients, we will not be disclosing the name of the doctor or the city they work in.
What was your first sex-related case in emerg/as a doctor?
The first was one of the craziest. There was this guy who was on a 3-4 day sex bender with his partner, a super fun and wild time. Near the beginning, he put on a titanium, uncuttable cock ring which resulted in him having an erection for all those days, priapism is what that’s called, and during that time he started to get more and more swollen. As he experienced even more swelling, he couldn’t get the cock ring off anymore. It would swell because it was a tight fit and then it would be a tighter fit which would mean more swelling and it just kept getting worse and worse.
He came into emerg 4 days later asking to have the cock ring cut off and when we asked what it was made of and he said titanium we were asking ourselves, “what are we going to cut this off with? You need a diamond cutter or to weld it off.” He was in a lot of pain and required full sedation and we were trying everything we could. We had, obviously, urologists consulting and they were there saying they couldn’t do anything about it so we eventually called in the fire department to consult.
When the patient and his partner, who were these super nice guys who were clearly very shy and embarrassed, saw firefighters show up to help, the patient said, “you think firefighters are going to help me with this erection I can’t get rid of!?” And he was right, there were all these super strong, jacked, beautiful firemen that had shown up to help.
Finally, with consultation by the fire department, they fully anesthetized the patient and in the operating room were able to get the swelling down just enough to slide a very thin piece of metal between his penis and the cock ring and very slowly drilled off the ring with very small cuts until it was able to come off and the patient went home happy.
The lesson here is: if you start to have swelling, take it off immediately. That’s lesson 1. Lesson 2: Don’t buy titanium. Anything else. Anything. Anything that can be cut off should something go wrong is a million times better.
What is the most common sex-related issue you see in emerg?
By far it’s sexually transmitted infections (STIs). A lot of the time people come in with vague pelvic pains, rashes and/or vaginal discharge and we will always consider STIs as a possibility. We also see a lot of people coming into the ER specifically requesting testing, which is ok if they are in pain or have any symptoms, but for just testing it’s way better for people to go to a sexual health clinic because they have so many more resources and the educational tools to help anyone through that process.
How often do you see something sex-related in the ER?
Because we’re always considering what could happen, for example, could this testicular pain be Mumps or could it be Gonorrhea, almost every day.
What about sex-stories gone wrong?
When we do see something that’s gone wrong, it’s always interesting to see the people that come in and act like they are the first people to have ever had sex, ever. They usually come in saying “you’ll never guess what happened.” On our side of things, we’re like, “you cannot shock me. Nothing you can say or do will ever surprise me again,” and when they say what it is you tell them, “yeah that’s pretty good, not a record, but pretty good.”
Usually, people come in really late because they’re afraid that they’re going to be judged or they hope that things will just get better on their own. Really, as doctors and health practitioners, we don’t care what the situation is, we’re just there to help you. Please, come in right away if there is a problem.
What is the most shocking thing you’ve seen?
Probably the titanium cock ring. That being said, there are a lot of rectal foreign bodies you see. A lot of rectal foreign bodies.
What was the craziest rectal foreign body?
There are two types of rectal foreign body cases in my opinion. The first is the people who are having fun and experimenting with anal insertions in healthy ways and the second are the people who get off on severe pain and get a lot of enjoyment out of the insertion of really dangerous items like lightbulbs that then smash and they have to then go to the operating room.
In terms of the more “fun” stuff, which is people who come to the ER and know something kind of funny happened, everyone is kind of chuckling about it. Everyone is good-natured about it. We’ve seen lacrosse balls, we’ve seen apples, carrots, all vegetables, really, hairbrushes, toothbrushes, we’ve seen sex toys, obviously. I have a friend who is a doctor in another city and he once saw a 22” dildo, just gone, stuck. Obviously, some items are more difficult to extract than others. Think of the lacrosse balls, you can’t grab onto anything so doctors will usually use forceps from delivering babies, that are used to grab baby’s heads, and we anesthetize the patient while surgeons try to take it out.
How would you suggest ways to prevent a sex-related trip to the ER?
In general, STI prevention is my number one suggestion. For rectal foreign bodies, use things that have flared bottoms. Know your partners and ask for testing. Don’t come late to see us. More likely than not the problem will get worse on its own so come to emerg sooner rather than later.
Do people really get their dicks broken?
Yes. You can totally get your dick broken. It’s called a Penile Fracture and it usually happens when two people are having penetrative sex and the penis accidentally slips out and the person slams back down. There is usually an audible snap, then a ton of pain, an abrupt bend in the penis and you should definitely go to the ER right away. The thing that “breaks” is the tunica albuginea and it is a mostly collagen stretchy but rigid structure that surrounds the blood containing striations of the penis.
What is something you wish every person knew before they did something adventurous or new in the bedroom to prevent having to make an ER visit?
If you want to try something new, my recommendation to talk to your partner about it when it’s not sexy time. Talk about it when you’re eating an omelette for breakfast. It will help establish boundaries and make sure you’re both on the same page. Research what you’re wanting to do, learn what the possible side effects are. Make sure you also know your partner, if possible, and you’ve discussed what is going to happen. Would you ever go skydiving without at least talking to an instructor? Think of sex as an extreme sport and take the same precautions you would if you were going to try an extreme sport. Even if it doesn’t seem very extreme.
Have any final stories/words of wisdom you want to share with the class?
I did not see this case first-hand but a doctor I know did. There was this older couple, in their 50s or 60s and their only medical history that was related to sex was that they had been infertile. She came to the ER complaining of dyspareunia, which is pain when having penetrative sex, and saying it hurt when she peed. You immediately think of a UTI and STIs but when the gynecologist examined her, they discovered she had an intact hymen which didn’t really make any sense. Then, through a careful detailed examination of her medical history and their history as a couple, it turns out that for the past 40 years they had been having urethral sex by accident and they just thought that’s what sex was. She had frequent UTIs and lots of pain during intercourse and that’s because for 40 years they had never had vaginal sex they had been having urethral sex every time.