This article was reviewed by Courtney Rawls (they/them), MSN, FNP-C, WHNP-BC
What is tucking and who is it for?
For those who are new here, “tucking” is an ancient tradition that has been passed down in the trans community and drag circles for decades, if not centuries. So what exactly is tucking? Tucking is a practice that creates a visibly smooth crotch contour a.k.a. putting one’s penis (or girldick, clit, ladybits, shenis, or whatever else you call your junk!) and/or testicles between one’s legs, so it's not visible from the front.
For this article, we are going to be using anatomical language to refer to body parts, but we celebrate any words you use to self-identify. The language we use for our bodies matters, just like how we ask others to touch and experience our bodies, and respecting this is a part of healthy and active consent.
Tucking allows any crotch bulge to be hidden and not visible through clothing, including tight-fitting garments such as underwear, swimsuits, lingerie, etc. If a person still has testicles, these may also be pushed back or moved into the inguinal canal. There are many different ways to tuck including tape, using a gaff, or a tucking kit. Read on for some information on these different methods.
Why do some people tuck?
Tucking has been a part of drag queen culture for years (anyone else addicted to the workroom drama in Ru Paul's Untucked?), and many different people—trans women, transfeminine people, nonbinary and other gender-nonconforming people, cisgender men who do drag, cisgender men who have body dysmorphia with regards to their bulge—tuck for aesthetic reasons or to relieve gender dysphoria.
Tucking can also help transgender women navigate spaces, such as the beach or play parties, more safely, as being identified as trans can put folks at risk for harassment and violence. Tucking can play an important role for some women. Some people tuck daily for a safer or more streamlined aesthetic or for improved mental health, while others do it every so often or only for special occasions. Some femme of center people also don’t tuck at all and have no interest in doing so.
Regardless of if you have gender dysphoria, or love your parts or not, tucking doesn’t mean you identify in any particular way. Likewise, if you do identify as transfeminine or a trans woman, tucking isn’t a requirement to access femininity. However, tucking is for you if you are looking to conceal whatever is between your legs for any reason.
Is it safe to tuck?
While there can be health risks associated with tucking, these can be managed and avoided with the right techniques and precautions so that you can stay tucked, comfortable, and safe. You also might find that tucking gets easier with practice or after being on hormones for a while, due to shrinkage.
Tucking shouldn’t hurt, although it might be uncomfortable your first time tucking when you are getting used to it. If you are new to tucking, start by tucking for shorter periods of time and gradually building up your tolerance. Give yourself ample time to practice, maybe start tucking at home or somewhere else you can easily tuck and untuck.
Don’t rush or pressure yourself throughout the process and take breaks between tucks—anything that is done can be done better from a calm and centered state of mind. It might take a while to get used to or maybe you will decide that you don’t want to tuck after all, and that’s okay too.
Some people choose to tuck the twins (read: testes) into the body. This can be done by finding the spaces in your pelvis that aren’t attached to your hip bones. These are called the inguinal canals. Gently lift each of the twins into these spaces at the front of your body. They should sit just above and on the sides of your penis. Make sure to go slowly and trust your body.
One health concern to be aware of is the impact that tucking can have on fertility. The function of the testicles is to keep sperm cool and away from the body, so tucking them up into the inguinal canal can increase the temperature of the testes and result in decreased sperm quantity and quality. It’s important as well to know the impact estrogen HRT can have on decreasing transgender women’s fertility. If fertility issues are a concern for you, consider banking sperm if you are able to afford it, or tuck with less frequency.
You will also want to be mindful of skin rashes, irritation, or infections that can come in the form of a superficial fungal injection, otherwise known tinea cruria, or “jock-itch.” When tucking, everything down there tends to get warm, moist, and sweaty which can increase the likelihood of an infection or chafing. To avoid this, make sure that you take breaks from tucking. Looser-fitting clothes such as flowy skirts or dresses can help circulate air and keep the skin cool and dry when untucked. You can also use over-the-counter antifungal powders to help with chafing such as Gold Bond, Desenex, or Lotrimin which should be available at your local pharmacy. Baby powder can be used to prevent moisture from accumulating while tucking, but it is not considered to be antifungal and may not prevent jock-itch.
If you experience aching, tingling, or numbness that continues even when you aren’t tucking, blood or urine in your ejaculate or a feeling of inflammation or infection inside or around your penis, skin rash or sores, pain with urination, or pain in the bladder or lower back, please see your healthcare provider right away. Tucking shouldn’t be uncomfortable. If you feel nausea, pain, or faint at any time, take a break or try a different method of tucking altogether. Continue reading to find the best tucking option for you.
What are the best ways to tuck?
- Trim, shave, or wax down there. You’re going to thank yourself for this one when you’re pulling the tape off.
- You’ve got to be soft (flaccid) at the start of the taping process.
- There are different types of tape you can use to tuck: sports tape, hypoallergenic medical tape, etc. You want to use a tape that is specifically designed for use on skin, and you might need to try a few to find which one is best suited for you.
- Wrap your penis in a piece of tissue paper or soft, thin cotton such as a baby washcloth or cut-up underwear.
- Use a long strip of tape that you apply to the penis, long enough so you can pull your penis and scrotum back between the legs and up your butt.
- You can use an additional piece of tape around the shaft to secure it in place.
- Pull the long strip of tape back between your legs to the small of your back and use additional pieces of tape as needed to keep everything secure.
*Note that with the taping method, you cannot pee unless you undo and redo the tape every time you have to go, or use this London drag queen’s X marks the spot method.
You can also purchase a Tuck Kit from online shops such as unclockable, which comes with a gentle T-tape strip designed for tucking, cotton non-stick pads, and a how-to guide.
Gaffs, compression, and layering
Gaffs are essentially a tight pair of underwear designed for tucking. Gaffs are worn like underwear and are often made from strong, elastic materials to hold everything in place. You can buy one from trans and queer-owned shops like Urbody or Origami Customs or make your own at home. If you want to avoid using tape due to discomfort or maintenance, and gaffs don’t work for you, there are a few different types of tight underwear or compression methods for layering that can be worn with or without a tuck.
You want to make sure that whichever type of undergarment you pick, the fabric is tight and thick enough to hold everything in place but also thin enough to be breathable. You can always layer cotton underwear (avoid layering spandex, as it can irritate the skin) and tuck your penis and scrotum towards the back of your legs, then pull the underwear up snugly. Know that ‘hipster’ or low/waist underwear styles don’t work as well for a layered tuck. Here is a good video on how to make your own gaff at home using pantyhose.
If you aren’t able to afford or access any of these options, Point of Pride is a great organization that provides free femme shapewear (specially-designed compression undergarments / gaffs) to trans women and trans femmes who need one and cannot afford or safely obtain one. They provide these garments to people in over 90 countries. If you are in need, feel free to visit their website and apply there.
There are also more expensive options, known as Vee Strings, which are more prosthetics options, like gaffs but are made of latex rubber where the outside looks like a vagina.
Tucking tips and tricks
- It’s important to shave, trim or wax your pubic hair to help with comfort when tucking. Especially if you are using tucking tape, this will help prevent pain when pulling the tape off.
- Make sure to use sports tape, tucking tape, or medical tape that is designed to be used for skin. Don’t use packaging tape or duct tape. This can be painful when tearing off or cause rashes and other forms of skin irritation. If you do use duct tape, remember to shave or wax beforehand (but not directly before as that will irritate the skin) so that the tape does not pull your hair. Before removing the tape, soak in a warm bath or take a hot shower before removal to weaken the adhesive and make the skin less sticky.
- Go to the bathroom before you tape and tuck, as it might be difficult to urinate when tucked.
- Don’t forget to drink water, the last thing we want is you passing out from dehydration, but be mindful of intake because of the aforementioned point.
- Try not to remain taped for longer than 4-8 hours, or stay tucked 24/7. This will cause irritation, discomfort, and potential pain when urinating (a.k.a UTIs)
Hopefully, this gave you the basics of what you need to know about tucking, whether you are a trans woman, a trans femme, or a queen ready to slay on the stage! Remember, practice and patience are everything and before you know it, you will be a tucking-pro.
Are you ready to get started with FOLX? Go here to start the estrogen HRT process and go here to start the testosterone HRT processes. Existing FOLX members with questions about tucking can message with their clinician. For non-members with remaining questions, reach out to us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.