These facts about erections may or may not surprise you, but they certainly are interesting. If you’re a person with a penis, you may be wondering if the erections (or lack of erections) you’re experiencing are typical. Here are a few facts about erections that could be useful to know.
1. People with penises may have 3-5 erections per night
A person with a penis typically has 3-5 erections per night during rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. It’s not completely understood why this happens. But many medical professionals say that it’s completely normal.
2. Penises can break
Yes, you can break your penis. It’s not like a broken bone, though — instead, the blood vessels within the penis burst, causing painful swelling. According to the United Kingdom’s National Health Service, one-third of penile fracture cases are attributed to sexual intercourse where the partner is on top.
3. Erections can happen early
Like “in-the-womb” early.
Although it hasn’t been studied in detail, it’s believed that fetal erections can be caused by contractions of the pelvic muscles and changes in blood flow.
According to one 2020 review, fetal erections are especially common during the third trimester of pregnancy and can occur an average of 1-3 times per hour.
4. The penis isn’t a muscle or bone
Contrary to popular belief, the penis isn’t actually a bone or a muscle at all.
Instead, the penis is composed of three sponge-like cylindrical chambers, which gradually fill with blood when you feel aroused.
This results in increased pressure, which prevents blood from flowing out of the penis and causes an erection.
5. The average erection is 5.1-5.5 inches long
Although most men believe that the average erection is over 6 inches long, one large review estimates that it’s actually closer to 5.1-5.5 inches.
You cannot change the length or size of your penis with medication or exercises.
6. ED can affect young people
Though the risk of ED increases with age, it’s a common problem that affects many young people as well.
According to one 2021 study, approximately 11 percent of sexually active men between the ages of 18-31 reported mild ED, while nearly 3 percent reported experiencing moderate-to-severe ED.
For this reason, it’s important to talk with your doctor if you experience frequent ED to ensure that it’s not associated with any underlying health problems.
8. Erections aren’t required for orgasm
Yes, men who can’t achieve erections may still have orgasms.
Many men with ED are able to reach orgasm or ejaculate through sexual stimulation or intercourse, even without an erection.
9. Lifestyle choices can make you more prone to ED
Several factors can increase your risk of ED, including stress, anxiety, smoking, and drinking high amounts of alcohol.
Other risk factors for ED include having a body mass index over 25, using certain medications, and cycling for more than 3 hours per week.
Although most men experience problems getting or keeping an erection from time to time, you may want to talk with your doctor or visit a sexual health clinic if it happens frequently or if it’s causing anxiety or issues with your sexual relationships.
Understanding exactly what causes an erection and how it works may be especially beneficial for people with a penis.
If you find that you have questions about your penis or erections, and if those questions are negatively affecting your mental health or sexual relationship, be sure to talk with your doctor to find the best answers and options for you.
Last medically reviewed on November 30, 2021
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Calzo JP, et al. (2021). Erectile dysfunction in a sample of sexually active young adult men from a U.S. cohort: Demographic, metabolic and mental health correlates. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32935616/