This week's Ask the Expert post is used to celebrate the remaining days of Men's Health Awareness Month! Males are often left out of the conversation surrounding their mental, physical, and sexual health due to gendered stigmatization. The hope of this blog post this month is to begin the process of normalizing conversations centered around men's health.
Q. What is a boner?
A. A boner is when the penis becomes erect or stiff. This occurs when there is increased blood flow in the small arteries of the penis. The blood fills the tissue inside the penis causing them to swell which makes the penis erect. This usually happens in response to sexual excitement whether that be a thought or sight of something. However, this is not always the case.
Q. Can a boy randomly get erect?
A. Yes. Erections do not just happen in response to sexual thoughts or feelings. In addition to “morning wood”, there are several other “types” or causes of erections. “Reflex boners” are erections that happen due to sudden stimuli. This can occur if you are suddenly scared or frightened or in times of stress or anxiety. “Emotional Boners” can occur with a big emotional response to something. This can be sadness, anger, or even happiness. These may not occur with thoughts of sex.
Q. Can a boner last too long? Can a boner hurt?
A. It is important to remember that all of the things above are normal and are happening to your friends too. It is, however, important to know what isn’t normal and when to seek medical attention. A prolonged boner, or a boner lasting more than 4 hours, is a medical emergency and if it occurs, you should seek medical attention at an emergency room. A boner that lasts more than 4 hours is called priapism. Eventually, it results in severe pain, which is not normal. There are several causes of priapism including trauma, sickle cell disease, and drugs. There are several prescription drugs that can cause priapism. In addition, marijuana and cocaine are common causes of priapism. Seeking medical attention as soon as possible is important so that there is no long-term erectile dysfunction.
MariClare Martin, MD
University of South Florida Pediatric Resident, PGY-2