Urban legends, unexplained phenomena, and locker-room bravado debunked
Men, we know you have questions when it comes to health and your body. We’re here to help you to fill in the gaps.
Doubting your physical prowess or your ability to please your wife? Wondering why your body does what it does? It’s our responsibility to steward our bodies. Even if you don’t want to talk about this…you need to.
THE MALE BODY
1. WHAT IS PUBERTY?
Puberty is the period of life when a person’s sexual organs mature and he or she becomes able to have children. Along with the physical changes described below, boys may experience emotional changes and begin to “notice” the opposite sex. Simply put, when you go through puberty, you are physically beginning the change from boyhood into manhood.
2. WHEN DOES IT START?
The time when puberty begins varies greatly among individuals; however, puberty usually occurs from 12 to 16 yrs old in males.
3. WHAT HAPPENS?
In males, an increase in the size of the testicles is the first change observed at the onset of puberty. Enlargement of the testicles begins at an approximate average age of 11 and a half years in boys and lasts for about six months. After enlargement of the testicles, the penis also increases in size. Enlargement of the testicles and penis almost always occurs before the development of pubic hair. The next stage is the growth of pubic hair and hair in the armpits. Next, the voice becomes deeper and muscles increase in size. The last step is usually the development of facial hair.
4. HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE “AROUSAL” FOR MEN?
Very simply, arousal for men will typically start visually, and their brains and bodies almost always agree. This means that as soon as an appealing image registers in the brain, the body is turned on immediately. Exposure to the erotic stimuli activates the parts of their brain related to getting an erection.
When a man is stimulated in this way, his body reacts; blood flow to the genitals increases. The penis, which is full of spongy tissue, fills with blood and becomes hard. This is called an erection.
5. WHAT IS A WET DREAM?
A wet dream is a nocturnal emission, more commonly called a wet dream. It is involuntary, a spontaneous orgasm that can result in ejaculation. It’s very common in teen years, and can continue to some extent later in life. It is not wrong/sinful. This occurs with males and females and is common for both. You can read more about this in our article: Top Dreams & Fantasy FAQ.
6. WHAT IS “BLUE BALLS”?
Blue balls is a slang term referring to the unsatisfied and prolonged sexual arousal in males. It’s nothing to be concerned about; it’s nothing more than an uncomfortable sensation and no damage will occur if the male does not ejaculate. If ejaculation does not occur, discomfort resolves within an hour. Some ways to relieve this are: lying down, a hot bath, cold compression on the area, gently massaging the area, or lifting a heavy object.
PENIS ENVY & UNDERSTANDING
The world is full of ideas and ideals regarding the figurehead (no pun intended) of manhood. Here, the Doc gives it to us straight about the penis.
1. WHAT IS THE AVERAGE PENIS SIZE?
Young men are often concerned about penis length or girth, but should not be. The average length of a penis is 3.5 inches or 9 cm. Some are longer and some are shorter, and that is generally fine. The average length of an erect penis is around 5 to 6 inches or 12.5 to 15 cm. Erections have been called the great equalizer, since their average length is about 5 inches in most men.
2. WHAT IS NORMAL WHEN IT COMES TO SHAPE?
Just like people, penises come in many shapes and sizes. If you’re concerned if your member will measure up, think of it this way: if it works, you’re okay! However, there can be a real, medical condition, that some men face: curvature of the penis.
Our Doctor says:
When it comes to this curvature question, two main issues come into play. One is congenital or acquired anatomic problems in young men, and the other is Peyronie’s disease, usually in men over forty years of age. In congenital or acquired bending of the penis — the latter often from trauma causing penile fracture, aka broken penis (no, I am not kidding . . . cringe) — there is a defect in one of the two tube-like membranes (tunica albuginea) covering spongy tissues in the penis (corpora cavernosa) that engorge with blood during erections. Since one side’s tube is smaller than, less elastic than, or otherwise tethered compared with the other side, erections curve/bend. Peyronie’s disease causes curving/bending of the penis through development of scar plaques on the tunica albuginea.
When is it time to seek medical advice? The Mayo Clinic says to consult a physician if erections hurt or if the bend is enough to interfere with sex. One might add significant psychological concern to this list, especially for those who do not have painful erections but don’t plan to have sex until marriage, and therefore won’t know yet if the curve would interfere with intercourse.
For congenital or acquired penile curving that is severe enough in younger men, surgical correction can be quite effective. For Peyronie’s disease Medline plus lists possible medical treatments (steroid injections, the medicine Potaba, radiation therapy, shock wave lithotripsy as with kidney stones, Verapamil injections, and Vitamin E) though none of these work very well. But surgery can be done, including penile implants, with better results.
Overall, however, men who have it tend to carry an exaggerated sense of the degree of their penis curving. For most young men who perceive abnormal bending, most won’t need to do anything.
3. DOES HAVING A LOT OF SEX INCREASE YOUR PENIS SIZE AT ALL?
Two answers: no and not worth talking about. Think about it. How many old married guys out there brag about how much larger their unit is now than when they first got married? Right, not many at all. And you know they would be telling us all, since guys brag about anything. Overall, the answer is no, sex does not increase your size.
4. WILL MY SIZE AND/OR SHAPE MATTER WHEN IT COMES TO PLEASING MY WIFE SEXUALLY?
Regardless of erection size (length or girth), a man can generally still sexually satisfy his wife, assuming he actually listens to her about what satisfies her rather than running on his assumptions. Our sex therapist Heath Wise put it this way:“The size of your penis is not what makes for great sex. I have clients who cannot get an erection who say they have the best sex they have ever had because they are focused on connection and intimacy with their partner, rather than mechanics and body parts. The average non-erect penis is approximately 3-3.5 inches long and an average erect penis is 5-5.7 inches long. A woman’s vagina only has nerve endings in the bottom third. An average erect penis is long enough!”
The point is that the odds are overwhelming that you’ve already got what it takes physically for good intercourse, but what makes sex in your married life great depends on a lot more than anatomy.
As for the shape, there are many different curvatures and shapes that are completely normal and don’t affect stimulation during sex in any negative way. There are diseases or acquired bending (broken penis) that are defects that can cause curving or bending but don’t affect your health. Recognize that everyone is different and your future spouse will let you know what they need when the time comes.
5. I HAVE HEARD THAT SEX UNCIRCUMCISED IS MORE PLEASURABLE FOR THE MAN AND THE WOMAN, THAN IF A MAN IS CIRCUMCISED. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THIS AND IS IT TRUE?
Our Sex Therapist Answers:
This has been a topic that has been debated for years. Unfortunately there has not been much well designed research on the topic and the results were confusing. But in the last years there have been studies that were done to see if circumcision had an effect on HIV transmission in adult males in several African countries where the HIV rates are high. So they circumcised adult men and asked them about sexual satisfaction along with studying transmission rates of HIV as well as other infections. What they found was that there was some loss of sensitivity to the glans of the penis when the man was circumcised. The circumcised men took longer to have an ejaculation which was thought to be from decreased sensitivity. However, the men and the women who were their partners said that they either liked it when it took longer or it did not matter.
But the longer ejaculation time was not the only positive effect. Both the men and the women said that they either liked sex more due to the circumcision or it did not affect them one way or the other. Whether it was due to better hygiene after a circumcision or it was due to other unknown variables, there did seem to be an increase in frequency after the circumcision.
So there was not a negative effect on sexual satisfaction – it either had no effect or it was a positive effect both in the men and in their women partners. And just as an aside, circumcision made an astounding difference in HIV transmission rates – about 40% lower with circumcision. Circumcision has been found to protect against not just HIV transmission but also other infections and cancers. The American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999 came out against routine circumcision of infant males and many insurance companies stopped paying for it after that. However, the Academy has convened a panel to revisit that stance due to the new information about the protective effect of circumcision.
You may feel like you’re the only one, but you’re not. Here are quick answers to some of your unanswered questions.
1. IS IT NORMAL FOR GUYS TO HAVE FREQUENT ERECTIONS, EVEN WHEN NOTHING SEXUAL IS HAPPENING?
Our Sex Therapist answers:
You are very normal, especially if you are a young male. Your body is just doing what it was made to do. It can be embarrassing at times for sure. As you get older, your body will settle down and you will have more control over them. But the good news is that your body is doing what it was wired to do!
2. WHAT CAN’T I GET AN ERECTION WITHOUT ANY STIMULATION OR AROUSAL? (IE. MORNING ERECTION)
Often due to changing levels of testosterone in the body, fluctuating hormones can cause this to occur. According to some scientists, a morning erection can simply be a leftover from a series of nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) episodes that occur like clockwork during the night for all healthy human males—most frequently in REM periods of sleep. Scientists have determined that the average 13- to 79-year-old penis is erect for about 90 minutes each night, or 20 percent of overall sleep time. With your brain cycling between the four sleep stages, your “sleep-related erections” appear at 85-minute intervals lasting, on average, 25 minutes. Needless to say, this is normal and common.
3. WHY DO I EJACULATE (OCCASIONALLY) WHEN I EXCERCISE?
Exercise ejaculation occurs during intense physical exercise. It is more commonly associated with weight lifting, but other strenuous exercises – particularly those that engage the core muscles – can also cause the release of semen. A very intense abdominal and core workout puts a lot of pressure and squeezing on the prostate gland, which, in some cases, expels some semen. Mostly it is related to a general release of testosterone.
4. WHY DO I GET AN ERECTION SIMPLY WHEN I FEEL LOVED AND CLOSE WITH SOMEONE?
This is a natural response since the body will respond to a chemical stimulant and release in the brain. As you feel loved and are close to someone, the chemicals in your brain respond which releases testosterone in the body. There’s nothing abnormal about this, especially while you’re younger and the body is learning how to respond to things. If you are trying to refrain from this, try thinking about different things when you’re feeling this way. If this is an issue among people you are not attracted to, think about how much you respect them, cherish them and honor them the same way you would a sibling or parent. Learn to train your brain and see what works for you.
5. I SEEM TO BE HAVING ERECTILE ISSUES? WHAT WOULD YOU RECOMMEND?
The Doctor answers:
Erectile dysfunction (ED), can be embarrassing, frustrating, and discouraging. It is also quite treatable. The first thing to do is go to your doctor for an exam and some lab work. This will likely include looking at levels for testosterone, thyroid, chemistries, and so forth. The causes of ED can be as simple as newlywed anxiety or more physiological. Certain medications, alcohol, and tobacco can get in the way. If the issue is more psychological and persistent, a good sex therapist can be of help. If physiological, proper diagnosis leads to the right treatment.
One last thought from our Sex Therapist: We are seeing an increase in erectile dysfunction in young men who have looked at a lot of porn. If this is true for you, then getting free from porn would be an important first step. After that, learning to be truly sexually intimate can begin to happen.
6. WHEN I GET AN ERECTION MY FORESKIN DOESNT RETRACT OVER THE HEAD OF MY PENIS BECAUSE THE BAND WITHIN MY FORESKIN IS TOO TIGHT. IS CIRCUMCISION NORMALLY THE ANSWER, OR IS THERE ANY OTHER PROCEDURE TO CURE IT?
This condition is called phimosis (Greek for “muzzled”), and you are not alone. Circumcision has commonly been used as the most reliable and effective treatment, but there are several alternatives that can be tried first. These include application of topical steroids over 4 to 6 weeks, simple dilation (either by repeated manual stretching or using tools designed for that purpose), or a minor surgical procedure for cutting the constricting band itself but leaving the foreskin (preputioplasty). A urologist can get you started with your treatment options.
7. IS IT HARMFUL TO NOT EJACULATE? CAN IT MAKE YOU STERILE?
No, this is not harmful nor can it make you sterile. Seminal fluid and sperm are from two different places. Semen back up does not destroy sperm.
8. IS IT OK TO PERFORM ORAL SEX WHEN I HAVE A COLD SORE OR FEVER BLISTER?
No, it is not a good idea to have oral sex when you have a cold sore. Historically, viral sores on the lips (cold sores or herpes labialis) were HSV type 1, and sores on the genitals were HSV type 2. Both are types of herpes viruses. However, things are less clear now, and either can be found in either location, though it is still more common for the distinctions mentioned above to hold true.
In either case, cold sore viruses can be transmitted to genitals by oral sex. Not the best of gifts.
9. CAN I HAVE AN STD AND NOT KNOW IT?
Yes. Unfortunately. According to the CDC, there are 19 million new cases of STDs in this country every year, and at least 50% of those are in teens or young adults. For two of them, HIV and herpes, there is no cure. Another, HPV, can lead to genital warts or cervical cancer (in women). So it is important to know if you have an STD. The best way to do that is to be tested by a medical professional.
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