an investigation

Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Hands and Knees So Their Balls Hit the Water Last?

Photo: DEA / BIBLIOTECA AMBROSIANA/De Agostini via Getty Images

The bathroom is a mysterious place. What goes on inside varies for everyone, or maybe it doesn’t; we simply do not know. The question has prompted some discussion in the past, and I suspect it will continue to do so until we are all under 24-hour government surveillance, at which point the answers will be known by those with access to the government’s live feed. But for now, with the door closed, we can only suspect and ask questions. Here’s one: Do men enter the bathtub on their hands and knees in order to ensure their balls hit the water last?

In an August 13 post on the motherhood message board BabyCenter, one commenter (username Snaddlebeans) posited they do just that, in a posting under the subject “Testicles in warm water?” Here is the post in full:

“My little boy has never liked his baths, the only thing that works is wrapping him in a towel and then dipping the whole bundle in so he gets wet gradually.

Today I forgot this step and just dipped him naked. LO [Ed.: little one] was arching away from the lukewarm water and screaming, and it suddenly dawned on me that maybe the traumatic part is that his testicles hit the water first. Adult men get into a bath on hands and knees so the balls hit the water LAST. Could this be something I’ve just totally missed because I’m a woman?! Not sure how to address it but I thought I’d ask if anyone has insight!”

I recommend reading the entire resulting thread; it is very good. But, sadly for Snaddlebeans, it is also full of skeptics, taken not by the baby-testicles part but instead, of course, by the idea that adult men get into a bath on their hands and knees so their balls hit the water last.

“My baby loves the bath and I put him in ass/balls first,” offered one mother. She added, “Also, I’ve never heard of men entering on hands and knees.” “I’ve never heard of a man entering a tub that way either. It’s definitely not how my DH [Ed.: dear husband] has ever gotten into a bath,” writes another. “Your man is weird AF [Ed.: as fuck] if that’s how they get in the tub…” said yet another.

One poster said she asked her husband if he entered the tub this way, and he then went on to “ask the 10 guys he works with.” (An open workplace.) “None of them have ever thought to do this,” she said. “There’s no way water can get to [your husband’s balls] first unless it planks across the bath tub and lets his junk in the water,” said one poster, with a confident exactness.

The original message resulted in, essentially, ten pages of women saying they had never heard of such a thing and, lady, what the fuck are you even talking about. But, after the posting was shared with me by — just to explain myself briefly — my editor Jen Gann, who is the mother of a young boy and allowed to look at message-board posts about child testicles without judgment, it piqued my curiosity. First, about the logistics of the balls entering last.

“Her husband or whoever crawls into the tub on his hands and knees, okay,” my former colleague and current acquaintance, man, and father of two boys Tom Scocca said in an extended discussion about the topic. “So now he’s like crouching in the water with his shins and knees and forearms and elbows submerged, and his torso and butt and head all above the water still. So he has to roll over somehow and get his body into the water. But I’m stumped on the topology of how ‘balls hit the water LAST.’”

He continued, “I just feel like the balls are basically in the middle of the X, Y, and Z axes of the body and there’s no way to make them go anywhere last. Head, torso, balls, legs. No matter how you dunk a body in water the balls can’t be the last in.”

It is a pickle. To better visualize, I’ve drawn up a few “safe for work” illustrations of how it might happen, using a bean animal with stick limbs for the male body and a green smudge for the testicles. As you can see, the “hands and knees” method, while not dipping the testicles in first, would certainly not dip them in last. As the body is lowered into the water they would arrive likely before the torso and, obviously, before the back:

Illustration: Kelly Conaboy

If a bath-taker raised up his butt, however, in sort of a doggy-style or extended puppy-pose position, the testicles would come closer to entering the water last. Still, they wouldn’t enter last:

Illustration: Kelly Conaboy

It seems to me that in order to delay the entry of the testicles for as long as possible from the hands-and-knees position, one would have to raise one half of his body, like so:

Illustration: Kelly Conaboy

And then lower that half on the opposite side, in a crab-walk pose:

Illustration: Kelly Conaboy

Then he could lower his head and torso into the water while slowly sinking his limbs and maybe a little of his butt in (he would have to stretch out his legs in front of him and this would likely require a large bathtub, depending on the height of the man), while holding the rest of his butt and testicle area above the water for as long as his body allows.

But is there any medical reason to raise one’s balls above bathwater so they hit it last? I reached out to several urologists asking the balls question and, surprisingly to me but perhaps not surprisingly to you, at the time of writing I have not heard back from almost any of them.

I did hear back from one, however: Dr. David Kaufman of Central Park Urology. Here is what he said:

As Groucho Marx once said, “that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard…”

No- the scrotal skin is no more sensitive than skin anywhere and the testes are not particularly sensitive to temperature (though of course prolonged heat is not good for spermatogenesis). Any men crawling into a bath tub are doing it with a different agenda than discomfort … happy to help.

Hm. But what about a baby’s testicles — are they different? I reached out to several pediatricians, clarifying that I was working with parenting editor Jen Gann on a story and, ah, anyway, are baby testicles particularly sensitive to warm water? Surprisingly to me but perhaps not surprisingly to you, at the time of writing I have not heard back from almost any of them.

I did hear back from one, however: Dr. Dyan Hes at Gramercy Pediatrics. She was on vacation but offered, “I’m not sure that this is an issue. Never heard it was a problem for babies.” Interesting.

For more insight into whether warm water hurts a baby’s testicles, my colleague Izzy Grinspan reached out to the person she knows best who was most recently a baby: her 5-year-old son, Joey. In response to the question, “Do you think baby boys don’t like baths because it’s too hot for their testicles?” Joey reportedly said, “What’s a testable?” Huh. Honestly, I mostly don’t know. Thank you, Joey.

Perhaps it is not a question for doctors or children, however, and instead a question for bathtub manufacturers. Has bathtub design taken into account the fragility of a man’s balls, and if so, how? Do bathtub manufacturers have a suggested way of entering the bath, for men? Had they done research into how men enter bathtubs before designing their bathtubs and, if so, could they share any of that research with me? I reached out to several and, again, surprisingly to me, I did not hear back from most. Pitiful.

I did hear back from one, however: American Standard. “That is definitely a question I’ve never heard before, Kelly!” said Nora DePalma, who does PR for the brand. She said she would check and then check back in with me the next day. “Quick check in: as of Fri afternoon, we had not yet found anyone who could verify how men enter bathtubs. I asked my husband how he gets into a bathtub and he responded with ‘I don’t take baths,’ so that was less than helpful.”

Alas, she was never able to find anyone who could verify how men enter bathtubs. Still, I deeply appreciate Ms. DePalma’s effort and her husband’s frankness.

Back to the BabyCenter post. In the face of mass disagreement and the idea that her husband was just a weirdo, the original poster weighed in: “Not just DH but previous boyfriends as well … it is too a thing!” When asked to clarify how this happens, she wrote: “Knees first and then hands if I recall correctly … when I remarked on the weird technique the answer was ‘well you don’t have balls!’ Go ask your men folk and see what they say!”

Of course, I had to ask my men folk, to see what they said. On Twitter, I requested men tell me how they enter the bathtub, and, luckily, many emailed to enlighten me. Thank you. A man named Parker said, “I just step in. Sometimes slowly if I ran the bath too hot.” When asked if he’s heard of men attempting to put their balls in last, he said, “I don’t want to be unnecessarily crass here but one’s balls are in the middle and go in at about the 50 percent mark.”

A man named Michael said, “I run it super hot and throw some Epsom salts in there.” Regarding men getting in on hands and knees, he said, “I’ve never heard of anything like that.”

A man named Barry said, “Is there more than one way to enter a bath? Besides ‘Fill up a tub and then step in the tub and then recline in it’?” I told him that the other way is, of course, on hands and knees. He said, “I have never heard of such a thing. I refuse to believe this is a real thing! Also, balls are only an issue when the water is cold? That’s why the hardest thing about going in an ocean is psyching yourself up to make the leap to groin-deep. But a bath is warm and nice and welcoming to all testicles.”

A man named John said, “I didn’t know there was a plethora of bath entry methods. I put my feet in, swoosh the water around a bit so it’s not too hot in one spot, and then plonk my butt down on the tub.” Has he ever heard of the hands and knees method? “No.”

A man named Eric said, “I like to shower first then after a few mins plug the drain so it starts to fill up that way the water does not get gross and filled with pee. Once the water is at a good level sliding down the back wall in to the tub like I just got shot in a movie is the best way to get in to the actual tub, it’s fun. I am kinda tall though I tell people I am 6 foot 3 so probably actually 6 foot 1 but it still makes most baths too small to enjoy for more than a few mins. Also bubbles are good if available.”

When asked if he’s ever heard of the hands and knees method, Eric offered a bit of startling insight. “Not that I recall. Some sort of crab-like walk from gym class is the only other method of entry I ever remember using but I have only ever had shower/bathtub combos as an adult so hard to say if a full-sized free-standing bath would change my approach.”

Some sort of crab-like walk from gym class? Some sort of crab-like walk from gym class??! Like this?

Illustration: Kelly Conaboy

A man named Brad emailed to tell me he got in the normal way, but when asked if he had ever tried crab-style he said, “Kelly- in fact, I have! ‘Crab-style’ was in fact my preferred entrance method as a child and young person, until hot tubs taught me the superior value of easing your way in!”


A man named Jesse emailed and, without even so much as a prompt, offered this:

“I am a man and I kind of get into the bath like a crab. I do a squat and inch my body very slowly down into the water as the tub fills up because I get squeamish about the heat. My fiancé described me getting into the bath as ‘you do a funny thing where you hold yourself up by your arms behind you so your balls dont get in the bath until you’re ready.’

Hope this helps with whatever you are trying to do.”

Jesse, it helps more than you know! Michael Roston from the New York Times also gets in like a crab!

It seems that men are out there getting into the bathtub like crabs.

But what of Snaddlebeans’ theory, then? How did she come to think men were entering on their hands and knees to protect their balls, when in fact men are entering like freaking crabs to protect their balls or in the case of Michael Roston “to not hurt [his back] worse”?

I reached out to her through the BabyCenter private messaging system to ask how she developed her theory. She agreed to answer, but requested I leave her name out of the piece, as her husband is “already mortified!” Luckily for her I do not know her name, and also I love her. Here is what she said:

It was from personal observation! Maybe “hands and knees” is a bad description on reflection, it’s more just getting in then sinking to the knees before slowly lowering in the, ah, merchandise. I saw more than one man do this so I guess I thought lots of men do.

And despite evidence to the contrary, I absolutely believe lots of men do, too.

Do Men Enter Bathtubs on Their Hands and Knees?