Why some men seem to put their hands down their trousers at every available opportunity has long been a mystery (though, that said, have you ever realised you were casually holding your boob under your T-shirt out of comfort?). But it turns out, that while the act of ball-cupping may cause some raised eyebrows here and there, it’s not all that unusual.
“The act of men putting their hands down their pants can have various reasons, and it’s important to note that not all instances of this behaviour are related to medical issues,” says Dr Babak Ashrafi, Superdrug Online Doctor‘s GP, specialising in sexual health. “It’s a complex behaviour influenced by cultural, social, psychological, and physiological factors.”
So, here are some potential medical and non-medical reasons to be aware of, to help explain what might be going on.
“Sometimes, men may need to adjust their genitalia for comfort. This is a routine, physiological response to discomfort caused by friction or shifting of the genital area. Maybe their boxers are too tight or they just need to readjust downstairs,” says Dr Ashrafi.
Okay, so while it may not look entirely elegant, be a little patient with this one.
Itching or discomfort
“Medical conditions such as fungal infections or irritation can lead to itching or discomfort in the genital region. Men may put their hands down their pants to relieve this itching or discomfort,” the expert points out.
It could be worth carefully suggesting a trip to the doctor, if you think this could be the case.
While this seems to be a natural reaction, it’s also not always essential.
“The genital area is sensitive to temperature changes, and men may adjust their hands or genitals to regulate temperature. This could be due to feeling too hot or too cold in that area, which in turn can cause further discomfort,” explains Dr Ashrafi.
“If it’s really cold, it’s a great place to keep your hands warm, but you could just use your pockets.”
“Stress, anxiety, boredom, or habit can also lead to this behaviour. Some men may engage in this behaviour absentmindedly or as a coping mechanism. Rubbing certain parts of your body (see: stomach, balls, junk in your trunk) in a non-sexual way releases oxytocin, a calming hormone which reduces nerves,” explains Dr Ashrafi, before adding: “Just don’t do it during your work presentation.”
Registered member of the British Association for Counselling & Psychotherapy (BACP), counsellor Lisa Spitz, agrees with the psychological aspect. “I would say that some men touch their genitals mostly as an unconscious act of self-soothing, i.e. checking themselves is an act of masculinity and making sure everything is in its place, a calming technique or even displacement of genitalia.”
She emphasises that “it’s rarely done in a sexual way (in a public place)” although acknowledges “it can feel sexually aggressive”. So basically, whatever the reason, there still really is a time and a place.
The bottom line?
While a man putting his hand down his trousers is often instinctive, as we’ve explored, when could it be a sign of something more concerning? “It’s important to recognise that this behaviour varies widely among individuals; if someone experiences persistent discomfort, pain, or other concerning symptoms in the genital area, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional,” says Dr Ashrafi.
“These symptoms could be signs of an underlying health condition for example, a skin condition or a sexually transmitted infection, so it’s essential you receive appropriate guidance or treatment.”
This article is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice or diagnosis. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.