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The Caribbean Men Who Surgically Insert Beads into Their Dick Skin to Be Better at Sex

Who needs a condom to be ‘ribbed for her pleasure?’

Throughout the Caribbean, sex is a ubiquitous theme. From its exotic beaches and half-naked sunbathers to its steamy nightclubs and red light districts, the entire region is basically a sweltering, sun-drenched aphrodisiac. That’s why it’s no surprise that Caribbean men are feeling the pull of their erotic climate and trying to give themselves what they believe is a sexual edge.

What is surprising is the way they’re going about it.

In recent years, men in the region have taken up an age-old practice of inserting beads under the upper skin of their penises [link NSFW], in order to enhance sexual pleasure for women during intercourse. The practice has become prevalent throughout the region — including in CubaSurinameSt. Lucia and Barbados — and is primarily done without any medical assistance or supervision, a fact that’s drawn widespread concern from physicians.

Known generally as “pearling” or “genital beading,” Caribbean nations have all bestowed their own different names to the practice. In Suriname, they’re called “boegroes”; St. Lucia calls them “ball bears”; in Barbados, they’re infamously known as “boogaloos”; Cubans simply call it “the Pearl.” The practice has even become part of popular literature in Cuba: The protagonist of Pedro Juan Gutierrez’s sexually lurid 1999 novel The King of Havana is nicknamed “Rey” (Spanish for king), mostly because of his huge penis, into which he inserts two pearls and spends ample time pleasing young women throughout the barrios of the capital city.

As you might imagine, the procedure of pearling can be dangerous if not done properly, but it’s relatively easy to pull off, despite the large size of the beads (often a good half-inch across). A small incision is made between the exterior skin of the shaft and the superficial fascial layer underneath, and the object is inserted. It’s often simply taped over with gauze to heal without sutures. The implants are almost always spherical, but vary in material, including plastic, silicone, stainless steel and even titanium.

Since many procedures are done outside of a physician’s care, myriad complications can arise, including infection, penile abscess, painful erections, allergic body rejection, erectile dysfunction and even gangrene. Because of this, there are several reports of men seeking emergency medical care for treatment or to have the objects removed.

One particular case study, published in the International Journal of Emergency Medicine in 2011, presented a case regarding a 19-year-old Florida patient who attempted to perform the procedure on himself while in prison. He made two horizontal incisions on his shaft with a razor blade, and afterward suffered worsening pain, swelling and a significant amount of blood when urinating, suggesting that he may have caused a deep injury to his urethra. As a result of this severe trauma to his penis, he required surgical intervention. The study concluded that, “pearling, while intended to increase the sexual pleasure of partners, can cause significant morbidity to individuals themselves during object placement.”

Damian Henry, a general practitioner in Barbados who has experience treating makeshift post-pearling procedures, says that most of the problems men suffer after the procedure stem from the fact that the incision tools and the inserted objects themselves are very crude and almost always unsterilized. “The majority of men I’ve treated are ex-convicts who have usually spent time in prison, and had the procedure done while incarcerated,” he says. “They’ll sharpen a spoon or some other instrument they can hijack from the kitchen, which isn’t sterile, make an incision and insert the object underneath the skin. The usual problems that arise are because the objects aren’t sterile, and infection sets in. They also don’t have a proper course of antibiotics to stave off any infections. That’s when I end up seeing them. So, there’s a great possibility that rather than enhancing your sexual satisfaction, you may actually lose your sexual satisfaction, especially if gangrene or a bad infection sets in.”

While it might sound strange, prison is a pretty common place to receive such amateur dick surgery, especially in Barbados where, with ample time on their hands, some inmates have inserted several “boogaloos” in their penis. They insist it’s for the pleasure of women once they’re released, although certainly the practice has raised some suspicions since, obviously, there are no women present in the prison itself.

“In Barbados, even though we tend to be a rather liberal society, there are activities that happen when people are incarcerated that aren’t usually spoken of with great openness,” Henry adds. “No one I’ve treated has ever admitted to me that they engaged in sex with men. They always said it was for greater enjoyment for the female. However, a person may be involved in bisexual activity while in prison, and when they come out of prison, they resume their activities with their female partner.”

As discussed in British TV documentary The Prisoner: X, without access to the traditional materials like stainless steel or silicone, Barbadian men improvise with makeshift objects like plastic from toothbrushes, or even broken dominoes. Once the objects are polished down so they’re round, smooth and the proper size, they can be inserted.

There are doctors willing to perform the procedure properly too, of course: Dr. A.H.C. Voigt, a general practitioner in Paramaribo, Suriname — locally known as “the Boegroe Doctor of Suriname” — has eight years experience performing the procedure. “It’s not a dangerous operation if you know how to do it,” Voigt told Netherlands-based Metropolis TV in 2013. “But on the streets, it’s often done with unsterile instruments, for example with a razor, a pocket knife or a sardine tin. Those who have the operation done on the streets have the risk of cutting too deep, which can do damage to blood vessels in the penis.”

So why, then, do men put themselves through this in the first place? As per Voigt, “The function of the boegroes are essentially to stimulate the clitoris. Also, some men have it to serve as an enlargement. Usually, I advise to start with one or two to see how it goes. If the woman doesn’t like it, it’s easier to remove than if you have four or five.”

Like many exotic sexual practices, the history of genital beading can be dated at least as far back as the Kama Sutra of Vatsyayana in the first century B.C. But in more recent times, states the journal Plos One, the practice became prevalent in Asian prisons during the 18th century. The Yakuza organized crime syndicates of Japan, in fact, were the most notorious practitioners of pearling, with members originally using genuine pearls in their genital beading practices — one for every year they spent in prison. It was a rite of passage of sorts that showed their allegiance to the organization, and also rewarded their mistresses with increased sexual satisfaction for their absence while incarcerated.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, sailors from the Philippines began to adopt the practice in droves. Called bolitas by Filipino seafarers, Norwegian anthropologist Gunnar Lamvik spent three years with sailors, learning of their pearling practices. The seamen informed him that it was done to gain favor with prostitutes in port cities, especially Rio de Janeiro. “This ‘secret weapon of the Filipinos,’ as a second mate phrased it, obviously has something to do with the fact that the Filipinos are so small, and the Brazilian women are so big,” Lamvik wrote in his thesis.

Steve McKay, a labor sociologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz, also traveled extensively with Filipino sailors in 2005. In one of his papers, he states that a seaman once told him, “‘Filipino seaman are famous for bolitas. That’s why they [women in port] like us, why they keep asking for us,’” he said. “‘When they hear that Filipinos are coming, they’re happy.’”

But how do modern women really feel about men with genital beads? Do they actually stimulate the clitoris or G-spot for mind-blowing orgasms? Or are they — as some might suspect — just kind of uncomfortable and gross?

“OUCH!” exclaimed one poster on GirlsAskGuys.com when the subject arose. “Somehow it sounds interesting, but why would you want to possibly ruin your penis for someone else’s pleasure? Some might even hate it, or get grossed out by it!”

“I just had my first encounter with it,” another poster wrote. “I thought it was the coolest thing I ever laid my eyes on. He has a spade shape under there. It feels amazing.”

Yet a third complained, “My boyfriend has two, and I beg him all the time to get them removed! It kills my vagina. I feel like it’s doing permanent damage to my insides. It tears your vagina apart and feels horrible.”

According to sexologist and relationship coach Cyndi Darnell, depending on the placement of the beads, they may stimulate the back of the clitoris, but only when the woman is aroused enough for there to be sufficient padding and lubrication. Otherwise, she claims, the experience can be painful. “Dudes need to accept that their power isn’t in their dicks,” says Darnell. “Therefore, pearls alone won’t do much because [penis in vagina] sex doesn’t do much. There’s reason for it, sure, but the beads alone aren’t what will make the experience pleasurable for her. Learn to be a better lover and include activities beyond just [penis-in-vagina] if you really want to dazzle your woman. Because if you’re a bad lay, you will continue to be a bad lay and just have bead implants. Intercourse can feel sexy, but context is the difference between it feeling meh or OMG!

In short, the risk/reward ratio for pearling is skewed pretty far for it to be considered an advisable move. But since when did that ever stop a dude from doing something awful to make his dick look more impressive?