What is tucking?
Tucking is defined by the Transgender Health Information Program as ways one can hide the penis and testes, such as moving the penis and scrotum between the buttocks, or moving the testes up into the inguinal canals. The inguinal canals make up the body cavity where the testes sit before birth.
Tucking may be used by people who identify as:
- trans women
- trans femme
- gender nonconforming
Some people may also tuck for aesthetic purposes, for cosplay or drag. Tucking will allow all these individuals to achieve a smooth appearance and hide any external genitals.
Body part terminology
It’s important to use language that accurately reflects a person’s identity. While the terms “penis,” “testes,” and “testicles” are being used in this article to refer to body parts, not all trans individuals or individuals who are tucking identify with those terms to refer to their body. Learn more about talking to people who are transgender or nonbinary.
How to tuck
Tucking may be mildly uncomfortable, but it shouldn’t be painful. Don’t force your genitals to move. If you’re having difficulties or experiencing a lot of discomfort, stop. Take a break, and return later.
Practice tucking a few times when relaxed and in a comfortable space at home before going out. This can help you to avoid any panic or stress in public if it’s your first time tucking.
The first step to tucking is to set up the supplies that you need. This includes:
- medical tape
- a snug pair of underwear
- a gaff, if desired, for a second layer to create a flat and smooth surface
A gaff is a piece of fabric that flattens the lower body. They’re often made out of cut pantyhose, or can be purchased online or in shops that cater to LGBTQIA individuals. Pantyhose can be found in most grocery and department stores and will allow you to tailor the size of the gaff for your needs.
Some people may also use a panty liner before putting on underwear. Panty liners can be found in the feminine care section of pharmacies or stores. This section is often near the family planning section.
Tucking the testes
After you’ve gathered your supplies, you can begin with tucking the testes. The testes will slip back up into the inguinal canals. You can use two or three fingers to guide them up to their corresponding canal. Don’t rush this step. If there’s any pain or discomfort, stop and try again after a short break.
Next, you can tuck the scrotum and the penis. This can be done and secured together with or without tape.
Securing with tape
If you’re going to use tape, you should always use medical tape instead of duct tape or any other kind of tape. That’s because you don’t want the adhesive to damage your skin. You should be able to find medical tape at your local pharmacy, or in the first aid section of most grocery and department stores.
If you’re planning to use tape, carefully remove any hair from the area before applying tape. That way you’ll avoid pulling hairs when removing it later. Removing the hair can also help you avoid pain caused by the tape pulling hairs as you move around.
Once the testes have been secured in the canals, gently wrap the scrotum around the penis and secure with medical tape. Keep one hand on the genitals to keep everything snug, and tuck your genitals back between your legs and buttocks. Finish the tucking process by pulling on a pair of tightly fitting underwear or a gaffe.
This method will make going to the bathroom more difficult because you'll need more time to remove the tape and reapply. You also run a higher risk of skin irritation. The advantage to tape is that your tuck will be more secure and less likely to come undone.
Tucking without tape uses a similar process, but it may not be as secure as with tape. However, you don’t run the same risk of aggravating or ripping the skin when removing the tape later on.
Start by pulling on a pair of underwear or a gaff up to your knees or thighs. This will reduce your risk of losing your balance during the final securing step. It will also make it easier to secure everything in place. If this step restricts your ability to safely secure your genitals far enough back, you can skip it. Just keep your underwear or gaffe close to you so you don’t have to move around a lot before everything is secure.
Next, secure the testes in the canals and then wrap the scrotum snugly around the penis. Keep one hand on the wrapped organ, and pull it back between your legs and buttocks. With your free hand, pull up the underwear or gaff and secure everything with both hands. Once you feel confident that everything is secure, you can let go.
Tucking without tape allows for easier and faster access if you need to use the restroom while tucking. You may have trouble re-securing into the same snugness after rearranging yourself, however.
How to untuck
The same patience and care that you use to tuck must also be practiced when you untuck. If you used tape, carefully peel the tape away from the scrotum, and move the penis back to its resting position. If the tape won’t come off easily and without major pain, apply a wet washcloth, or soak the area in warm water to break the adhesive. You can also use medical adhesive remover.
If you didn’t use tape, use your hands to gently guide your penis and scrotum back to their original, resting positions.
Erections and tucking
If you become aroused while tucking, you won’t become untucked unless there’s an issue with the medical tape, gaff, or underwear, or you weren’t securely tucked before the erection began. You may need to rearrange yourself. You may also experience some discomfort and slight pain.
Tucking and penis size
If you have a wider girth, tucking can still work for you. You may need to spend a little more time securing the tuck, however. You may also need to use a few more layers of medical tape when you secure the scrotum to the penis, or a second layer of underwear to help achieve maximum smoothness.
Be careful that you don’t cut off any blood circulation in your attempts to create more layers or a flatter surface.
Is it safe?
There’s been little research published on the long-term effects of tucking. Some risks that may occur are urinary trauma, infections, and testicular complaints. You may experience some light symptoms of chafing from tucking. Always check for any open or irritated skin before and after tucking to prevent infection.
Tucking won’t cause you to become sterile. You may have fertility issues if you’re tucking and taking hormone replacement therapy, however. Speak to your medical provider about steps you can take if you’re interested in having biological children in the future and are concerned about complications from tucking.
You can avoid damaging tissue and muscle by never forcing or pulling hard on any part of your genitals while trying to tuck. You should take breaks from tucking to prevent stress on the body.
If you’re concerned about tucking or the risks to your body from long-term tucking, talk to your doctor or medical provider. If you don’t have immediate access to a medical provider, contact your local transgender resource center and ask if they have someone you can speak to about tucking risks and questions.
There’s not a lot of research on the safety and practice of tucking. Most of the information comes from personal accounts. You should feel comfortable talking with your doctor or another medical provider about any concerns you have about tucking. You can also visit a transgender community center.
If there isn’t a transgender community center in your area, there are many resources available online as well. Look for organizations that specialize in providing resources to the LGBTQIA community.
Kaleb Dornheim is an activist working out of NYC at GMHC as a sexual and reproductive justice coordinator. They use they/them pronouns. They recently graduated from the University of Albany with their masters in women’s, gender, and sexuality studies, concentrating in trans studies education. Kaleb identifies as queer, nonbinary, trans, mentally ill, a survivor of sexual violence and abuse, and poor. They live with their partner and cat and dream about rescuing cows when they aren’t out protesting.