Men get lots of boners – as many as a dozen or more in a 24 hour period, with up to six of those happening in his sleep. Then there’s the one he usually wakes up with, known as the “morning glory”. They actually come up in three different ways. That sleep one is simply called a nocturnal erection, then there’s the reflexogenic one that results from stimulation of the penis and, thirdly, the psychogenic one, which results from erotic thoughts.
Actually, though, all boners involve the brain. Conscious or unconscious stimuli cause chemicals to be released creating a muscle enzyme to increase the size of blood vessels to the penis. Blood fills spongy chambers making the penis grow in length and girth and point more upwards. At the same time blood flow away is restricted.
Don’t go obsessing on those twelve inch myths – though the largest one recorded did reach a freakish 13.5 inches. The average for most men is actually only 5.6 inches – with 4.8 inches of girth. There is truth, too, in the ‘growers’ vs ‘showers’ effect. His flaccid penis isn’t always a reliable sign of how much (or little) his penis will grow when he’s got an erection. Some large penises when flaccid don’t really change much in size when erect – they’re the ‘showers’, while smaller penises can become much bigger when they’re aroused- the growers’.
Robyn Williams once quipped that “God gave us all a penis and a brain, but only enough blood to run one at a time”. And we talk of a man’s little head taking precedence over his big head. Studies have shown that when men have erections it does become tougher for them to think of anything other than sex, given that if they can climax, that will allow their penis to detumesce. One way without going through climax is to think of something that’s the opposite of sexy.
It may be called a boner but, actually, and in contrast with many mammals, the penis does not contain a bone. And, though it may look more or less straight, it is actually boomerang shaped with around a third of it bent behind, and hidden by, the pubic bone.
At the end of the penis is the head or glans. It looks cone-shaped, mushroom shaped or even acorn shaped (and ‘glans’ means ‘acorn’ in Latin. Some have argued that its shape developed to scoop out any semen from a previous sexual encounter. It does have smoother skin than elsewhere and is covered by a foreskin in uncircumcised males which retracts when the penis erects. Behind the head id the frenulum which has a large concentration of nerve endings – though only 4,000 compared to the 8,000 of the female clitoris.
Boners can be subject to damage. They can seem to “break” in vigorous intercourse which is a condition called Peyronie’s disease, and can also b caused by repeated penile injury. Fibrous scar tissue builds up inside the penis causing curved and painful erections. There is also the condition where an erection doesn’t subside in under four hours. As the Viagra (one possible cause) says, you should seek medical advice if that happens (there is the danger of clotting).
A major problem for some men is achieving and/or maintaining an erection. There can be various reasons for this. We have all heard of ‘brewer’s droop’ and alcohol can be the culprit. Other causes include nerves, fear and stress; certain medications, such as anti-depressants; low testosterone levels and – often linked to that – aging. Smoking, diabetes, obesity and high blood pressure don’t help either.
Strong erections are great – magically transforming a limp piep that can deliver urine into a throbbing boner capable of sensual and satisfying sex – as well as releasing potentially life-creating sperm. To strengthen them, mostly it’s the obvious things of not smoking, drinking in moderation, eating healthily and losing weight, if obese, getting enough sleep and exercising. It turns out that working the pelvic floor or Kegel muscles (you can locate them by stopping yourself peeing in mid-stream) can be just as beneficial to men’s sex lives as women’s.
Ensuring that you have healthy, firm erections helps you have a healthy sex life and a healthy life in general.