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Cock Rings: What They Are, How to Use Penis Rings & More

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 12/01/2020

Updated 01/31/2024

Also known as a penis ring or constriction ring, the “cock ring” is a type of sex device that’s worn around the base of your penis during sex. Proponents of penis rings say they create a  harder erection or make your penis larger.

While there isn’t much scientific research on the benefits of cock rings, many people swear by them for improving sexual performance and pleasure. 

What should you believe? Decide based on the facts. Below, we’ve covered: 

  • What are cock rings for

  • How cock rings (aka penis rings) work

  • The benefits they may offer

  • Cock ring safety and hygiene

We’ve also shared several alternatives to cock rings that you may want to consider if you use a cock ring or constriction bands for harder erections or to treat erectile dysfunction (ED).

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“Cock ring” is a popular colloquial term for what the medical community calls a penis ring. It’s a ring-shaped device worn around the base of your penis before and during sex. Other names for penis rings include penile constriction bands and tension rings. But at the end of the day, these devices are sex toys for men.

They can be simple or come with many bells and whistles. Soft silicone (ideal for beginners) designed to fit around the base of your penis may be stretchy, while firmer silicone or metal rings will have less “give.” 

Most penis rings are designed to be used on their own, while others are part of a “system” — intended for use with a vacuum erection device (referred to as a penis pump) or similar enhancement. 

A penis ring wearer might choose one of the following: 

  • Silicone penis rings are often considered the baseline model, and while they may lack bells and whistles, they’re user-friendly options that are easy to put on and take off.

  • Vibrating penis rings take the functionality of a normal penis ring and add some buzz. Vibrating cock rings may have a built-in motor or incorporate a bullet vibrator for your partner’s pleasure. As male sex toy options go, the vibrating ring is the one everyone can enjoy most. G-spot and clitoris attachments make for partnered fun. Look for rechargeable devices with features like remote control or app-controlled vibration modes for some extra entertainment. 

  • Adjustable penis rings feature bands or other mechanisms that allow them to be adjusted to better fit your penis for comfort. Stretchy penis rings and ball ring devices come in different sizes, but you want to make sure your super stretchy ring can come off easily.

  • Penis ring systems don’t just stop at a circle — some spice things up a bit with premium add-ons and attachments. 

The point here is that — just like actual penises — cock rings come in all shapes and sizes.

Cock rings and other constrictive erectile devices address erectile dysfunction by restricting blood flow. Penis rings keep your erection harder and by restricting the blood flow out of your penis (which would lead to your erection turning flaccid). Trapping blood in your penis keeps your erection stronger, for longer.

Healthy erections are all about good blood flow. When you’re sexually aroused, blood flows into the erectile tissues inside your penis, causing them to expand and become firmer. This gives you an erection hard enough to have sex.

Thanks to their snug fit at the base of the penis, cock rings are designed to ensure that the blood that flows into your penis stays there. 

Many men use cock rings when it becomes hard to get or maintain an erection during sex. Some people even claim that cock rings prolong sexual activity, giving you more powerful orgasms and — if worn at the right angle — providing direct clitoral stimulation for a female partner. 

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“What does a cock ring do, exactly,” and “how does a cock ring work” are important questions. What benefits cock rings actually offer are still somewhat of a question to experts. 

As for many other sex toys out there, the purported benefits of cock rings are based on "hands-on" anecdotal experiences. That said, possible benefits of cock rings include:

  • Possible improved erectile dysfunction. Men who use penis rings often claim they notice stronger erections and have less difficulty remaining hard during sexual activity. Although there’s little research on them specifically, constriction rings are sometimes used with vacuum erectile devices as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.

  • Possible improved sexual sensation. Many people claim that they increase sexual pleasure. Some rings feature vibration, nubs, ribs and other features designed to provide enhanced pleasure for one or both partners.

  • Increased confidence. Since some men report harder erections and that sex feels better, it's no surprise that many men report a confidence boost that may help reduce sexual performance anxiety.

Although “improved sexual stamina” is a commonly touted cock ring benefit, there’s little to no proof to back that up. The same is true of their alleged prevention of premature ejaculation.

In fact, one small study of 42 men published in the journal BJU International in 2007 found that constriction rings did not have any noticeable effect on median intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT) in men with  premature ejaculation.

So, we can't put that one in the cock ring "possible plus" column. And we still need to talk about the other column — the minus column.

The only real potentially serious downside of penis rings centers around the idea that if your ring is too tight, you risk some serious damage to your testicles and/or penis.

According to the International Society for Sexual Medicine, because penis rings restrict blood flow, they can permanently damage your erect penis if worn too tightly for too long. Using a cock ring for an excessive amount of time can lead to necrosis — a form of premature cell death caused by restricted blood flow.

Necrosis may lead to the development of gangrene — a form of body tissue death that, in serious cases, can require amputation of the penis. 

Choose your chew

Because of these risks, it’s important to be careful when using a cock ring. Experts agree that the following list of safety rules will prevent you from injuring or losing your penis: 

  • Choose a ring that’s properly fitted for your penis.

  • Make sure that the ring you choose is easy to remove.

  • Avoid extended use — your penis has to rest.

  • Use a lubricant when putting on or removing your ring.

  • When not in use, your ring should be cleaned and properly stored.

We’ve gone into more detail about all of the steps involved in how to put on a cock ring and use a cock ring safely below. 

Choose a Penis Ring That Fits You

Penis rings are available in a range of sizes. It’s important to choose one that properly fits your penis. A ring that’s overly tight may cause your penis to feel numb during sex, while a loose ring may not be fully effective. 

When you’re comparing penis rings, check the diameter and choose a ring that’s a good fit for your penis. 

Beginners might want a c-ring that fits around the base of the penis, but you might also consider something that fits below your scrotum or applies vibration to your perineum (or other erogenous area).

Make Sure You Can Get It On and Off in a Hurry

Putting on a cock ring is a simple process, but it’s important to complete it correctly to prevent discomfort during sex.

To use a penis ring safely and effectively, you’ll want to follow these steps: 

  1. Apply a small amount of lubricant to the inside of the ring. 

  2. Place the ring on your semi-erect or flaccid penis, carefully sliding it to the base.

  3. Make sure that the ring fits comfortably before penetrating your partner. 

  4. The ring should not apply any unnecessary pressure to the shaft of your penis.

  5. If you feel any discomfort, check that the ring is still in the correct position.

Limit Use to 30 Minutes at a Time

Cock rings can be dangerous when used for too long. If you use a ring, make sure that you use it for a maximum of 30 minutes at a time. Take your ring off as soon as you can after finishing sex to make sure you don’t fall asleep while it’s still on your penis. 

Because they work by reducing blood flow out of your penis, if a penis ring is left on for too long, it may potentially damage the tissue and cause injury.

Although uncommon, there is at least one documented report of a person leaving their cock ring on for too long and needing medical assistance to remove it.

If you experience any discomfort, tightness or physical pain during sex, or notice that your penis swells after wearing a penis ring for several minutes, take your cock ring off right away. 

If you can’t remove your ring due to excessive tightness, it’s important to seek emergency medical assistance. 

Start With a Silicone Cock Ring

Here’s some serious advice: if you're a first-timer, go with silicone. Silicone rings tend to be easier to fit onto your penis, easier to remove and less likely to become stuck during or after sex. 

Silicone cock rings can also be cut in emergencies.

That said, if you're allergic to silicone, you’ll have to find a suitable alternative.

Use Lubrication

It’s important to use lubrication when you wear a cock ring, especially when you’re wearing the ring the first few times. Lubrication makes fitting a ring easier, reduces risk of friction burn and also gives you the ability to slide it off during sex if it becomes uncomfortable or overly tight.

To lubricate your ring, apply a small amount of lube, like our Glide Water-Based Lube, to the inside surface of the ring before putting it on your penis.

Make sure to use a water-based lubricant, as oil-based lubes may damage condoms and increase their risk of breaking.

Wash Your Cock Ring After Use

As with other sex toys, it’s important to wash your cock ring thoroughly after use to prevent the spread of bacteria and STIs. 

If your ring is made from silicone, you can clean it by placing it in boiling water for five to 10 minutes or by cleaning it with antibacterial soap and warm water. 

Interestingly enough, most silicone cock rings are dishwasher-friendly. So… there’s that. 

If your ring is made from stainless steel, you can do all of the above or use a 10-to-1 water/bleach solution to soak it for 10 minutes. 

And, of course, if at any time you notice that your ring is damaged, torn or looking less-than-pristine, consider throwing it in the trash or recycling bin and buying a new one.

For rings and sex toys made from other materials, check the instructions provided by the manufacturer for safe cleaning advice. 

Consult Your Healthcare Provider

Even though they're “just” sex toys, it's important to remember that cock rings can do some real damage if misused. 

That's why it's still important to talk to your healthcare provider before using a penis ring as a treatment for erectile dysfunction or as a way to boost your sexual pleasure.

It’s especially important to talk to your healthcare provider if you have an underlying condition that affects blood flow throughout your body, such as heart disease, hypertension, diabetes or an injury to the nerves around your penis. 

If you use a cock ring to treat erectile dysfunction or to maintain a harder erection during sex, you should know there are alternatives to check out, too. 

There are several FDA-approved medications on the market to help treat erectile dysfunction. 

The best part is you can use them all without the inconvenience or safety risks that come with using a constriction band (although they do come with a few of their own).

These medications work by increasing blood flow to the penis, making it easier to get and maintain an erection when you’re sexually aroused. Most begin working in under one hour, making them ideal for use as needed before sex. 

Oral ED medications include: 

These medications aren’t just for older men, nor is ED a problem that only occurs in your 40s, 50s and beyond. 

Our guide to the most common ED treatments and drugs goes into more detail about how these medications work, their potential benefits, side effects and more.

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Most people don’t love the idea of having questions like “what is a cock ring for” or “best cock rings to buy right now” in their search history, so if you were skittish about asking, we’re here to tell you that you don’t need to feel embarrassed.

In fact, the questions you have are some of the most common we get asked. And luckily, we can answer most of them. 

Based on the information from scientific studies, the answer is an enthusiastic maybe with a few caveats:

  • Using a cock ring may help some men to stay harder or feel more confident Some may also experience improved sexual pleasure

  • Cock rings might be helpful, but they’re far from the best option for treating erectile dysfunction. 

  • Medications like sildenafil (generic Viagra) and others also provide FDA-approved relief from ED.

  • You might consider using medication alongside a penis ring for their combined benefits to all of your intimate goals for the evening.

Want to go the FDA-approved route for ED instead of a ring? We offer a selection of erectile dysfunction medications online, following a consultation with a licensed healthcare provider who will determine if a prescription is appropriate. 

You can also learn more about the causes of ED, common symptoms and treatment options in our full guide to erectile dysfunction.

Don’t be afraid to ask for help.  

7 Sources

  1. Dhaliwal, A. & Gupta, M. (2022, April 19). PDE5 Inhibitors. StatPearls. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/
  2. What is a constriction ring? Why should one be used with caution? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.issm.info/sexual-health-qa/what-is-a-constriction-ring-why-should-one-be-used-with-caution/
  3. Yuan, J., et al. (2010, April 22). Vacuum therapy in erectile dysfunction—science and clinical evidence. International Journal of Impotence Research. 22, 211-219. Retrieved from https://www.nature.com/articles/ijir20104
  4. Hosseini, S.R. (2007, September). Does a constriction ring alter ejaculation latency? BJU International. 100 (3), 619-620. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17535277/
  5. Kumar, A., Somarendra, K.H. & Singh, S.R. (2017). Penile strangulation by metallic ring: A case report. International Journal of Surgery Science. 1 (1), 7-9. Retrieved from https://www.surgeryscience.com/articles/3/1-1-13-775.pdf
  6. Low, L.S. & Holmes, M. (2018, July). The GEM ring cutter: An effective, simple treatment of penile strangulation caused by metal rings. Urology Case Reports. 19, 39-41. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5991319/
  7. What's the best way to clean sex toys? (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.brown.edu/campus-life/health/services/promotion/content/whats-best-way-clean-sex-toys
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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