Sexual locking, the hearsay, myth, science
You might have heard stories without evidence that a man and a woman were having sexual intercourse and the man’s genital organ got locked in that of the woman and the two could not separate from each other.
Oh yes, those stories have been with us for years, and they come as hearsays or media reportage. According to the BBC, the occurrence sounds like a scene from a trashy sex comedy.
But some stories of getting stuck during sex might just be true. Media reports revealed sexual locks occurred in Kenya in 2012 and 2016.
To demystify such stories, it is worth reading about the hearsay, the myth and the clinical explanations for the possibility of the occurrence.
Clinically, sexual locking is termed penis captivus. It occurs when the muscles in the vagina clamp down on the penis much more firmly than usual during sexual intercourse, making it impossible for the penis to be withdrawn from the vagina.
Indeed, this is a serious situation, but from a jovial perspective, one may say that it is a fight between the two sexual organs, during which the penis is entangled to remain in situ for some time. Reports of this happening are incredibly rare, and they have varied myths surrounding them over the years.
Penis captivus is a very rare occurrence, hence many people have neither experienced it nor seen people entangled by the occurrence. They only hear the stories of its occurrence. It is so rare that anecdotal reports are the only way doctors and health experts know it happens.
The occurrence usually happens in privacy, say in a room, and it is the prolonged ones that might have made the stories we hear. Perhaps it happens often to some sexual partners, but it is not severe.
Visibly and physically, a man is unable to withdraw his penis from a woman’s vagina during penis captivus.
During sexual intercourse, a man’s penis is filled with blood and remains so in readiness for sex until he ejaculates. For females, the walls of the vagina relax and the vulva lubricates in preparation for sexual penetration.
When a woman has an orgasm, her pelvic floor muscles contract rhythmically. When these events occur at the same time, it is possible for the penis to become “stuck” in the vagina for several seconds.
The vaginal walls are made up of muscular tissue which expands and contracts at different times during sex, such as during an orgasm.
It has also been clinically established that penis captivus occurs due to vaginismus. Vaginismus is a strict contraction of the vagina’s muscles that is so strong that the vagina essentially closes itself.
When this occurs, a woman may be unable to have intercourse. The vaginal spasms can also interrupt penetrative sex or make it uncomfortable for either or both partners.
The causative factors of vaginismus also vary from person to person but may include physical, emotional or psychological factors, or a cocktail of all three.
For some people, vaginismus stems from an emotional or psychological response to the insertion of anything into the vagina, whether or not the context is sexual.
Even though one person may have a very different experience of vaginismus from another, the symptoms can range from a slight burning sensation during sex to severe, painful contractions that close the vagina completely.
It is medically advised that people who experience penis captivus should remain calm with deep breaths rather than panic or struggle to separate manually.
Staying calm and allowing the muscles in both bodies to relax can help resolve the issue as soon as possible without complications.
In 1979 for example, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) published an article by Dr F. Kräupl Taylor regarding the occurrence of penis captivus.
Subsequently, the BMJ also published a letter by Dr Brendan Musgrave in 1980. In that letter, Dr Musgrave, who was a houseman at the Royal Isle of Wight County Hospital in 1947, indicated, "I can distinctly remember the ambulance drawing up and two young people, a honeymoon couple I believe, being carried on a single stretcher into the casualty department. The female patient was given an anaesthetic to relax the muscles and they were separated and discharged.”
According to Wikipedia, Taylor reviewed the literature on penis captivus and concluded that "almost all the cases mentioned in medical publications and in textbooks are based on hearsay and rumour”.
However, two papers published by two gynaecologists, Scanzoni (1870) and Hildebrandt (1872), who had personally dealt with cases of the condition "leave no doubt about the reality of this unusual symptom".
Scanzoni's patient was "a completely healthy young woman married for six months". She and her husband abstained from sexual intercourse due to intense and painful vaginal contractions, which sometimes lasted more than 10 minutes and made it impossible for the couple to separate".
Hildebrandt's patient had been a married woman who had painless sexual intercourse until one evening when her husband suddenly felt that his glans was held back deep in the vagina, tightly gripped and imprisoned. All attempts at withdrawal failed.
He resigned himself to waiting in patience. They could not say how many minutes this lasted but the hindrance vanished on its own.
In view of it being a rare occurrence, many people think that penis captivus is a myth and not a reality.
What even makes it more mystical is the scarcity of clinical and empirical literature documenting the occurrence. There have been very few reported cases throughout medical history. If penis captivus occurs, it likely only lasts for a few seconds or minutes. Remaining calm and allowing the muscles of the vagina and penis to relax should resolve the issue, allowing the couple to separate.
The writer is a health service administrator.