• Miranda L. Galbreath, MA, MA, LPC

Let's talk about penises!

Updated: Jun 17

A while back I wrote a blog about the clitoris and realized belatedly that the penis might start to think it's been unfairly excluded from my attentions.

Interesting fact: The clitoris and the head of the penis actually start out as the same organ, the genital tubercle. Between weeks seven to nine of fetal development, exposure to testosterone leads the genital tubercle to develop into either a clitoris or a penis (or something not quite either in the case of intersex folks).

So, let's give the penis it's fair share of attention and talk five interesting penis facts!

Erections are not available on demand

Contrary to what porn and most of our popular culture tells us, folks with penises shouldn’t be expected to produce a throbbing erection on demand. AND, once they DO have one, it’s unreasonable to think it’s gonna last forever. Erections naturally wax and wane…and wax again. You don’t have to use it as soon as it appears, just relax and enjoy yourself, your erection (and whole body) will thank you! A whole host of body and brain factors influence what goes on with our erections…and things like stressors, anxiety, age-related factors, relationship factors, and our personal health can have an impact.

The average non-erect penis is between 5.1 to 5.6 inches

FYI, porn penises are NOT real. They are professional penises! Don’t hold yourself or your partner to that unrealistic standard. Frankly, measuring penises is tricky. Measuring from the base, some folks have more or less fat getting in the way. If you’re carrying more abdominal fat your penis can be “hidden,” looking smaller than it really is. And, some folks with penises have what’s called a webbed scrotum that attaches partway up the shaft, which makes their penis look shorter. Also, it’s difficult to determine if those old myths are true about penis size being related to a person’s overall body size or their nationality or race. Current research tells us there’s just not a whole lot there to support those stereotypes. Know what IS a real thing? Growers versus Showers. Some penises are “what you see is what you get” in their non-erect state, and some indeed grow a significant amount when erect.

One in three penises worldwide is circumcised

Circumcision involves the surgical removal of the foreskin, usually in infancy. It often, but not always, has religious significance. World Health Organization surveys indicate that in the United States, about 91% of Caucasians, 76% of African Americans, and 44% of Hispanics are circumcised. Circumcision is not necessary, but does have some benefits, including: less risk of UTIs, less likelihood of foreskin-related problems, reduced risk of STIs, and lower rates of penile, cervical, ad prostate cancer.

How fast is too fast? Let’s talk about premature ejaculation….

Premature ejaculation is defined as reaching climax and ejaculation within a minute or two of penis in vagina penetration, and affects about one in four men who participate in studies of PE. Obviously that’s a really hetero-centric, penetration-centric definition, but that’s how the research has been done up to this point. We often get the idea (from porn, where else!) that we should be able to pump away for ages without ejaculating, leading folks who may ejaculate after five or ten minutes to think they have a problem. They don’t. They’re totally normal. (Average duration of penis-in-vagina intercourse is 5.5 minutes.) What causes PE? Anxiety, masturbation style, the condition of the pelvic muscles, rushing to ejaculate before loss of erection, and other factors can contribute. Concerned you might have a problem? Consult with your doctor (preferably a doctor familiar with sexual health issues) and a sexual health professional if needed. There are plenty of effective treatments!

Cycling CAN compromise your erection

Cycling can cause damage to the nerves and blood vessels to the penis because they are situated under the butt bones and get squeezed by the shape and position of the bicycle seat. It’s not unusual for a penis-having cyclist to experience a temporary feeling of numbness in the testicles and penis following a ride. Some folks can experience more serious damage that can take time or even a surgical procedure to heal. Some professionals will prescribe Viagra to cyclists having this issue in order to increase the blood flow through the injured area.

Want to learn more about penises? Check out The Penis Book by Aaron Spitz, MD.

Worried you need more help than a (really awesome) book can provide? Check out the Provider Directory on the AASECT (American Association of Sexuality Educators, Counselors & Therapist) website to find a qualified sexuality professional near you!

Wanna hear me TALK about penises? Check out my YouTube video!

You can also visit my Penis Week facts on Instagram!

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