We need to talk about the 'Banjo String'
Words: Zoe Katarina
Every so often in our sexual lives we come across a specific issue which we’ve never encountered. I don’t mean ‘Oh, Ansell come in Olive Marinade flavour now’ or ‘How do I ask my boyfriend to smack me more?’ but a sudden, dramatic issue which involves all parties and can be really fucking scary. If you’ve never heard of the ‘banjo string’ it’s about time you learned, because whether you’re sexually active or not, what you read in the next few paragraphs could potentially save someone from completely freaking out one day – if not you then most likely your besties. Also it’s nice for us girls to know that boys’ bodies occasionally do weird things that neither they nor we understand (at first).
So. The frenulum. It comes from a Latin term meaning ‘little bridle’, and refers to any small fold of bodily tissue which restricts or secures another part of your body which moves around a lot. You’ve actually got a few of them: there’s the one under your tongue, the one under your top lip, and there’s one special one which boys have. It’s colloquially referred to as the banjo string, and during sex (or masturbation, as I learned from the survey I conducted for this article) it can tear or break. As you’d imagine with all the blood hauling ass down to the nether regions during sex, when the string breaks you end up in the middle of what can look like a slasher crime scene, and if no one knows what’s going on, then that already alarming situation will be a little bit freakier.
Tim* says that when it happened to him he felt the tear, but kept on grinding with his girl because he didn’t really know what had happened. When he went to the bathroom to clean up afterwards, the volume of blood he saw caused him to pass out. Gareth was scared he’d need to go to hospital but was too embarrassed, so “lay on the bed for half an hour with a flannel on [his] knob praying it would stop bleeding.” It seems that generally, none of the guys knew for sure what had happened. And often, the girls didn’t either. “She freaked the fuck out; awkward scenes at the breakfast buffet the next morning” and “the blood kinda freaked us both out” are responses which came back in one iteration or another again and again, as well as this beauty: “When [my girlfriend] figured out it was my blood and not hers, she just went back to bed.” That was from Tim, the guy who passed out... nice. Ben says that “I think she was more disappointed that we could not continue”, and that’s probably the best reaction you could have. Because as long as you are using a condom or have both been tested, there shouldn’t be an issue with STIs.
Most guys learned what had happened from their friends; Gareth says “Spoke to a mate and he said straight away, ‘Ahhh, you snapped your banjo, we’ve all done it.’” This is good. What’s not good (and we all know this, but pretty much do it anyway) is self-diagnosis on the net. “[I] freaked out because a common treatment was circumcision,” says Nic of his little Google adventure. “Ended up going to the doctor who told me to chill out, and that it would heal in a couple of weeks.”
It will never happen to some guys. Sometimes it only happens once. Sometimes it happens repeatedly and dude will consider getting a frenuloplasty (a small operation in which the surgeon makes a little cut in the string to lengthen it) or a straight-up circumcision to remedy the problem. Of all the guys I surveyed, only one had experienced a torn string just once. Of the others, some haven’t had it happen again in years, while others didn’t wait long enough for the tear to heal and ended up in another bloodbath a few months later.
The point is: for all that gore and terror there is very, very rarely a serious problem. If anyone comes hysterically up to you, pulling your arm and screaming ‘I/HE/SHE BROKE HIS/MY DICK” then tell them not to panic, get them a cup of tea and explain what you know about the little bridle. You are now officially clued up.
*all names have been invented, as the survey I conducted was totally anonymous.
(Image via Shutterstock)