Healthy lives for young people
My Body

Love Your Penis

Like every other part of your body, everyone’s penis and testicles are different, but worrying about what’s ‘normal’ is really common. Here you will find all the information and advice you need to understand and appreciate your penis and testicles. 

Is my penis normal?

Size

Many people worry about the size of their penis, and feel self-conscious that it’s perhaps too small. However this is often due to the fact that people exaggerate or over-estimate the average size of a penis.

During puberty, usually between the ages of 11-18 the penis and testicles will grow, however they don’t stop growing completely until around 21 years old. In general, the average adult penis size is usually about 13-18cm (5 to 7 inches) when erect. When flaccid (soft) the length of a penis can vary depending on factors such as temperature. 

Shape

Penises can be lots of different shapes. Some will be the same width from base to tip, whereas other may be wider at some points and narrower at others.

When erect, penises can curve up, down, left or right. There is nothing unusual about having a curved penis. 

Colour

Penises can be lots of different colours, and this colour may not be consistent. The colour of your penis may change when it is erect, due to increased blood flow. 

However, there can be health-related reasons for discolouration of the penis, such as STIs or a skin condition. Most health-related discolouration is benign or temporary, but it is still worth consulting your GP to make sure it isn’t anything serious.

Erections

Your body will sometimes behave in ways that you don’t expect, particularly during puberty, and this can be the case with erections. Sometimes erections are connected to arousal and/or physical stimulation, but this isn’t always the case. There might be times when you are aroused and your penis isn’t erect, or times when you aren’t aroused at all and have an erection. This is completely normal, and affects most people with penises, sometimes throughout their lives.

When erections don’t last

When having any kind of sex with someone, there can be pressure to maintain an erection, but in reality penises are soft most of the time, and erections can fluctuate during sex, regardless of how aroused you are. There is no need to feel bad about not having an erection, because it is natural, and there are lots of ways to have sex which don’t require an erect penis. Read more about sex here.

However, if you find that you are regularly having difficulty maintaining erections and this is affecting your mental health, then you may want to seek help. Erectile dysfunction can have various causes, including medical and psychological reasons. If you are concerned, you can speak to your GP, a counsellor or a trusted adult. 

Regardless of what the cause is, putting pressure on yourself or someone else to have an erect penis can cause anxiety and shame around something which should be enjoyable and comfortable. You have nothing to be ashamed of, and it is important to remember that there are plenty of ways to bring yourself and other people pleasure.

Involuntary erections

You can’t always choose or control when you get an erection, and they can happen at awkward and embarrassing moments. Sometimes erections can appear without any warning, even if you aren’t aroused, such as in the mornings or when you are feeling relaxed. These are known as involuntary erections. 

If you get an erection at an awkward or inappropriate moment, it is important to remember that it is natural and happens to most people with penises throughout their lives, particularly during puberty. You have no reason to feel ashamed or self-conscious about it. 

It is also good to remember that even though it feels very obvious to you that you have an erection, it is unlikely that anyone else will have noticed. The main thing you can do is stay calm and breathe slowly, as the erection will eventually go away on its own, but there are also some things you can do to conceal or reduce it. 

  • You could try rearranging your clothes to conceal the erection. For example you could make your clothes baggier or, if your erection curves upwards, you could try discreetly tucking it into the waistband of your underwear. If you do this, make sure it is covered by your other clothes.
  • You could try discreetly putting your bag or jumper on your lap. 
  • Some people find that tensing their muscles for thirty seconds can help reduce an erection because it redirects the blood away from the penis to the active muscles. For instance, you could tense your glutes and quads, or push down on your chair with your arms. If you do this, make sure not to hold your breath or you might get a cramp!
  • You could try meditation, which will help you stay calm and also distract your mind, allowing your erection to subside. Some meditation tactics include breathing slowly, focusing on the sound and feel of your breath, and repeating a calming phrase in your mind. If you find you have distracting thoughts, acknowledge them, imagine letting them go and then return to the sound and feel of your breath.
  • You could also try distracting yourself by thinking about something else, for example solving a maths equation in your head, or trying to recall the lyrics of a song.

Different things work for different people, so you might want to practice at home to see what works for your body. You should never do anything to conceal or reduce your erection which is painful or uncomfortable. The most important thing to remember is that most erections pass very quickly, particularly involuntary ones, and the likelihood is that no one will have noticed.

Orgasms and Ejaculation

During arousal, if the penis is stimulated it can often lead to orgasm. After orgasm, the penis will usually become softer, and most people will experience a ‘refractory period’, during which erections may not be possible. The average time a penis can be stimulated for before reaching orgasm is between 5-10 minutes, but this can vary hugely and sometimes people won’t orgasm at all. 

There are some unhelpful ideas about how long is an ‘appropriate’ time to be able to have sex before orgasming, and this can bring feelings of embarrassment or frustration about not lasting as long as you might like. The important thing to remember is that sex is about intimacy and pleasure, and that there are plenty of ways of having sex which don’t centre around orgasm and ejaculation. 

Penises in Porn

Some people may watch lots of porn and some may watch none at all. Some may have seen small clips here and there and others may watch it occasionally. There are lots of reasons people watch porn, including to get sexual stimulation or excitement alone or with a partner as a way of discovering new things about sex and sexuality. 

There are lots of different types of porn, but the types of porn that are free or easily accessible often portray only limited types of body shapes and sizes and certain types of sex. The people in it probably don’t look like most of us, the things they do may be things lots of people don’t want to experience, and the way they treat each other can sometimes be humiliating, unpleasant or even violent. It is important to recognise that the way sex is portrayed in lots of porn is just a story or fantasy and may have nothing to do with how you or others would like to have sex. 

Porn is also often not representative of how most people’s penises look or function; they are often much bigger than average, and the videos may give the impression that the actors are able to sustain an erection for a very long time, and can last a long time before orgasming. 

For most people, this is not how their penises work, so while it can be tempting to compare your penis to those of actors in porn, this can be harmful for your self-esteem and understanding of how to have healthy sex and relationships. 

Read more about porn here.

Masturbation

Masturbation means stimulating yourself for sexual pleasure. It can be a good way to get to know your body and what makes you feel good sexually.

Besides being safe and fun, it helps you know how to please yourself so that you can let others know how they can please you. There are lots of myths about masturbation but it’s fine to masturbate as often or as little as you like. Some people don’t masturbate at all and that’s ok too.

Read more about masturbation here.

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