People of both sexes often use the term “ball-ache” loosely – for when they’re describing a chore that they don’t want to do, about a person they’d prefer not to deal with, or one of those life events they’d prefer to live without.
But then I overheard the phrase being used in a conversation on a train by a group of men in their 40s, and the reality of “ball-ache” dawned on me.
The exchange went something like this: “My wife didn’t want sex again last night – that’s four weeks now and I get such bad ball ache if I don’t relieve myself.” There were some pained looks in the carriage and sympathetic noises among the group.
Being a woman of a certain age, I was intrigued. So, I decided to undertake some independent research among the men in my life – the ones I can have an open and frank discussion with. And the conclusion was this.
That the survival of the human race has at least 50 per cent depended on the male of the species finding a female willing to have sex with him. And if that quest proves fruitless, it really is a ball-ache, by which I mean that if men don’t ejaculate regularly, it jolly hurts.
Let’s look at the average male. Among numerous studies into sex drive, most do conclude that men think about sex more often than women. That’s driven by the physiology of sex – and there are some marked differences between the genders.
Men’s bodies produce new sperm daily. They may not all be viable, but it only takes one egg and one sperm to make a baby. A man never ejaculates just one sperm; there are millions in every ejaculation and every day new ones are created to ensure that his reproductive tank is kept full.
Women, on the other hand, only produce one egg every month as part of our monthly cycle. We can all empathise with that monthly bloated feeling before our period, how we just find our clothes a little tighter, perhaps wanting to wee a little more frequently. After our period has finished, we feel at our lightest and a lot more comfortable.
Now imagine that happening EVERY DAY. While a man’s body can naturally absorb unused sperm – which is why you don’t see men who haven’t had sex for a while, walking around, pushing their testicles in wheel barrows – when the tank gets full, they feel as uncomfortable as we do.
So while I am not suggesting that if women do not have sex with our partners, it gives them permission to get it elsewhere, when we lose our libido during peri-menopause, it does help to understand what the man in your life may be going through.
If he looks at pornography, if he talks to his mate in that crudely bloke-ish way about a celebrity he fancies, if he ejaculates alone, then that does not mean he no longer loves you or desires you – he is, as likely as not, responding to an urge to relieve his discomfort.
There is no male menopause – their sex drive, in general, will not slow down. It’s why middle-aged men often seek uncomplicated sex with younger women.
So my advice is don’t avoid the issue. Talk to each other about your feelings, wants and needs. And, while it might not be a conversation you want, if it saves your relationship, it’s really not that much of a ball-ache.