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Can You Absorb Estrogen Through Your Penis During Sex?

There’s a claim going around that you can pick up estrogen through your dick. It’s not untrue — but here’s why it’s not that simple either

A few nights a week, Daniel, a pseudonymous redditor, heads upstairs to bed with his wife where they fool around and try to conceive what they hope will be their second child. A welcome ritual that helped them get their spark back, Daniel enjoys the routine, but sometime around early January, he started feeling “off.” Normally a “pretty happy guy,” he recently sunk into the “worst mood anyone has ever had,” suffering from merciless headaches, inexplicable crying spells and “irrational rage.”

He spent a good five weeks in this “terrible mood,” but it wasn’t until his concerned wife asked “what the hell was happening to [him]” that they finally figured it out: He’d been absorbing the estrogen from her vaginal fertility supplements through his dick

In a r/TIFU post entitled “TIFU by Having Sex with My Wife and Accidentally Absorbing a Bunch of Her Estrogen,” he laid the story out. When his wife’s endometriosis made it difficult to conceive, she started taking a “shitload of fertility drugs,” one of which was an unspecified estrogen “supplement” that she applied every night before their routine. A common treatment for genital issues like infertility, sexual pain and inflammation, estrogen can be taken orally, via a ring or through a patch, but it’s also commonly prescribed as cream or suppository that can be inserted into the vagina. Typically, vaginal estrogen has few side effects for the user, but every now and then, their sexual partners complain of strange symptoms when their penises, mouths or hands come into contact with the cream. 

In other words, Daniel wrote, his penis had been taking an “estrogen bath.” 

Almost immediately, his post blew up, racking up thousands of comments from people who had no idea penises were so absorbent. One person compared them to “sponges,” and another claimed that penises could absorb things “37 percent faster than anywhere else on the body,” a figure that can apparently be found in the “Certified Pesticide Applicator handbook.” But while few of these claims were backed up by research or experts, the concept of hormone-slurping dick straws isn’t actually that far off. 

Several studies have shown that the hormones in vaginal progesterone creams can be absorbed through a partner’s penis, and there have been many reports of people’s partners, children and pets becoming virilized after exposure to topical testosterone (“virilization” is when a female develops characteristics associated with male hormones). One vet who commented on Daniel’s post told the riveting story of a formerly mellow dog that had suddenly become aggressive and attacked her owner — turns out the pup woke him up every morning by licking his arm right where he applied topical testosterone cream the night before. 

What about estrogen, though? And, more importantly, what about absorbing it through your dick

According to Richard Quinton, an endocrinologist at the University of Newcastle and the media ambassador for the Society for Endocrinology it’s not impossible. Hairless genital skin on the labia and penis are the most permeable surfaces on the outside of the body, and they can easily absorb topical hormones and other substances into the bloodstream. That’s probably why medication websites like Drugs.com warn people to cool it after applying estrogen creams or suppositories. What’s less clear is how much of these creams your dick would have to drink that it’ll make you cry for weeks on end. For that, Quinton has a clapback: “It’s crap.”

While it’s technically possible for a penis to absorb estrogen from a suppository during sex, Quinton says it’s unlikely to accumulate in concentrations high enough to elicit a noticeable response. After all, he tells me, postmenopausal women who use vaginal estrogen products don’t absorb significant amounts of the hormone through their vaginas, and trans women who use estrogen creams and gels during Hormone Replacement Therapy don’t often report “increased moodiness, the inability to parallel park, read maps or understand the offside rule in soccer.” If they’re not experiencing wild emotional turmoil, why would people with penises? 

That said, if the estrogen concentration was high and the exposure period was long, it’s possible the person with the penis might experience some side effects. At normal levels, estrogen has several important effects on the male body, including contributions to libido, gonadal function, sperm creation, bone density and the closure of epiphyses (growth plates in bones) that signal the end of linear growth in adolescence. But at higher levels, it can cause gynaecomastia (man boobs), as well as the loss of male sex hormones, libido and erections. In some cases, men with abnormally high estrogen have reported moodiness and emotional changes, but importantly, those hormones came from their own bodies, not by absorbing the hormone.

Extending that logic further, is it also possible for a dick to absorb estrogen through other forms of hormones like oral contraceptives, IUDs or vaginal rings? 

“Not in biologically significant amounts,” says Quinton, though he adds that environmental estrogens like lavender and tea tree oil have been known to cause gynaecomastia in boys when added to bath water. 

In other words, Daniel’s story could be right, but only if he was truly bathing in estrogen. And from the looks of it, he might be — in his post, he wrote that his wife applies her estrogen supplement before bed, and that the two get it afterwards a “few times a week.” It wouldn’t be totally irrational to think he might be soaking in a little more than he could handle. 

Thankfully, there’s a relatively simple intervention: condoms. Provided they’re made out of a material that’s compatible with the cream — non-latex condoms are best — they can easily create a barrier between the estrogen and your precious penis. It worked for Daniel — as per his post, his symptoms disappeared as soon as he started wearing a rubber during sex, and he’s now back to his “normal happy self.” 

Though, what he now lacks in estrogen, he’s apparently made up for with empathy. “On a side note, I have a whole new understanding of the pure hell she goes through just to give us a chance at having another baby,” he says. 

Not bad for a little peen cream. 

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