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15 Penis Facts Urologists Want You To Know

Straight from the mouths of people who know penises best.

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If you have a penis, then chances are you've had some ~questions~ about it from time to time.

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I mean, where TF are all these random boners coming from? Why won't it go up when I actually need it to? Did I just catch herpes?

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To gain a better understanding of what the penis is all about, BuzzFeed Health spoke to a few of the people who know penises best: urologists Dr. Seth Cohen of NYU Langone Medical Center, Dr. David Shusterman of NY Urology, and Dr. Landon Trost, head of andrology and male infertility at Mayo Clinic. Here are some things they wanted you to know.

1. If you're uncircumcised, then you're going to have to put a little more effort into creating a ~hygienic environment~.

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A lot of people don't actually clean underneath the foreskin, but they really should be, Cohen and Shusterman tell BuzzFeed Health. "Men who are uncircumcised need to make sure to pull back the foreskin every day, wash it with soap and water, and then pull the skin back over the penis," Cohen says.

The foreskin fits on pretty snugly, making it the perfect place for dirt and bacteria to build up, Cohen says. And while it's unclear whether uncircumcised people face a higher risk of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) because of their foreskin, the underside of it can definitely provide the perfect breeding grounds for infections to thrive — like genital warts from human papilloma virus (HPV), the most common STI. Over time, that buildup can lead to inflammation in the foreskin (balanitis) or being unable to pull the foreskin back over the penis (phimosis), Cohen says.

These issues might also contribute to the slightly higher risk of of penile cancer in people who are uncircumcised, Cohen says. That said, it's really just something to be aware of because it's so rare (it makes up less than 1% of cancers in men in the US). "It’s not terribly high, but it does happen," Trost tells BuzzFeed Health.

2. Some STIs might show up with symptoms, but many of them do not — so protect yourself and get tested

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You might have a feeling you have gonorrhea because it burns when you pee, or maybe you think that cluster of red bumps that just showed up is herpes. Maybe you see some warts looking like broccoli or cauliflower florets every time you pull back your foreskin. While these are all obvious signs of a potential STI, sometimes there won't be any symptoms whatsoever. So it's important to remember that not all STIs are only spread through bodily fluids. Some, like herpes and HPV, can be passed through skin-to-skin contact, Cohen says. "Even if they wear condoms, and vaginal juices or other juices go below the condom to the base of the shaft or the pubic region — they can still get warts or herpes there," he says.

You can read more about STIs and getting tested here.

3. Masturbating is good for you, so go for it, you wanker.

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If you've ever heard the phrase, "Use it or lose it," then you're not alone. Basically, it means getting off through masturbation or sex helps ensure that you don't lose the ability to maintain an erection. And while Shusterman says this is something to keep in mind in general, Trost says that chances are you only really have to worry about it more at a later age, if and when you go through other issues that directly affect erectile dysfunction (ED) — like radiation therapy for prostate cancer.

That said, "masturbation is 100% normal and 100% encouraged. When you use it, all the blood flows into the penis and by using it, you’re actually clearing up the blood vessels inside," Shusterman says. "When someone comes in and tells me they don’t masturbate, they get wet dreams — basically your natural masturbation technique. Nature takes over."

4. But also remember: moderation is key, even when it comes to masturbation.

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Too much of anything is bad, even the wonderful pleasures of jerking off. "If you're masturbating multiple times a day until your penis is raw and you're getting cut around your penis, that'll open up your penis to sores," Cohen says. And those sores can act like the gateway to your body for any STIs a sexual partner may have, including hepatitis and HIV, if you're having unprotected sex.

Frequently masturbating with your hands isn't the only way to create these sores, either — "prone masturbation," aka humping your bed till you come, can also create tears, rips, and other damage, Cohen says. "You're putting a lot of pressure against it, so it can be detrimental to your penile health in the future."

5. You can actually fracture the penis, but probably not in the way you think.

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Don't let your ~boner~ fool you — there are no bones in the penis. There are, however, two tubes of spongy tissue (called the corpus cavernosa) that fill up with blood during an erection, making the penis hard, Shusterman says. These tubes aren't meant to be bent when they're filled up, but sometimes — usually during drunk or rough sex — the penis doesn't go ~in~ the way it's supposed to, Cohen says. So let's say your partner is riding you from on top, and on their way down, they don't have the angle jussst right. Then suddenly you hear a pop or snap and realize your penis missed the hole, got bent, and WTF THAT WAS PAINFUL! Congratulations, you just fractured your penis. 🎉🎉🎉

"There are those [fractures] where you actually break the inner parts of the penis, and then there are the fractures that are less serious, where you sort of pop a vein and get a black-and-blue mark," Cohen says. Either way, if you hear something like this, it's a good idea to stop having sex and look into getting medical care immediately, he says, because a fractured penis can cause lifelong damage, including ED.

6. And FYI: You also shouldn't try to get rid of an erection by hitting your penis on anything or with anything.

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JUST SAYING! While this might not sound like a common practice, Trost says that some people do try to get rid of their erections rather, um, forcefully. And you really shouldn't do that. "This will fracture the penis," Trost says.

7. In addition to ED, a fractured penis can also cause something called Peyronie's disease.

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If you don't get treatment for your broken penis, then there's a chance it won't heal correctly and scar tissue — aka Peyronie's plaques — will form along the side that was injured. This scar tissue can act like a tether by pulling the injured side of the penis into a curve when it becomes erect, which can make it more difficult or painful to have sex, or even cause ED. "The best time to treat it is during the forming phase," says Shusterman, "because when it's forming, it's much easier to break up the plaques than when it's fully formed."

(And just a note in case you were wondering: It's 100% natural for your penis to curve to either the left or right when it's soft, Cohen says. That's not Peyronie's, so don't freak out!)

8. ED can happen for lots of reasons, including poor heart health and diabetes.

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So if you are having problems with getting hard, you might want to see a doctor, since there's a chance your ED is a sign of a broader problem throughout your body, Trost says. Diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and just about any other heart issue might impact sexual function, he says. After all, the penis relies on a properly functioning cardiovascular system to pump blood to the veins/arteries and tissue in the penis.

Some external causes of ED also include certain types of cancer surgeries and prescription meds.

9. But one of the biggest reasons for ED is simply stressing too damn much.

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Maybe it's your highly demanding job that gets you stressed and anxious. Or it could be the size of your penis; maybe you often wonder if your partner even enjoys having sex with you. Whatever it is that's stressing you TF out, there's also a chance it's causing ED, Trost says. "Oftentimes we call this psychogenic ED. It's usually a reversible condition, and the best treatment is to resolve the underlying stress," he says.

So if you're starting to feel like your stress and anxiety is affecting your sex life, definitely look into getting some help from a pro, like a therapist.

10. Porn and other media have completely distorted what the average penis actually looks like.

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It's not uncommon for people to be self-conscious about their penis size, but FYI, the average erect penis size is only 5.17 inches long, with a girth (circumference) of 4.59 inches. That's pretty far off from all the penises you might've seen in porn, and in fact, comparing yourself to that just isn't fair.

"Guys who rely on porn to judge if their penises are big or not are going to be disappointed 99% of the time because those guys are the 1% that have these giant penises," Shusterman says. Most porn actors are also on set for hours each day, and no one can naturally hold an erection for that long, Cohen says, adding that lots of these guys use enhancement pills like Viagra or Cialis, as well as penis pumps.

That said, if you still want to try to make your member look ~bigger~, you can find some simple tricks here.

11. Trying to make your penis longer is a losing battle.

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"I haven't found a single lengthening procedure that looks good and functions well," Shusterman says. For example, one procedure involves taking fat from another part of the body and inserting it into the penis. Doing so will make the penis fatter, but hard ons end up being less...hard. "It kinda feels semi-soft because the corpus cavernosa cannot be increased in size or length," he says. Another procedure involves cutting the ligament that attaches the penis to the pelvic bone — the same ligament that allows it stand like a flag pole when erect. So you end up taking away the "erection" part of a hard on. "It hangs down," Shusterman says. "And it'll be a little longer because now it's not attached to the pubic bone, so it can literally be pulled out a little bit."

But how much longer does the penis get, you might be wondering? Only about a half-inch, Shusterman says.

12. And trying to make your penis ~stronger~ might only make it weaker.

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This isn't some superhero movie where a ring or pharmaceutical substance will give you superhuman strength. It's real life, and the body usually tries to maintain some level of homeostasis. So using anything to prolong the strength of an erection — like cock rings, other bands that wrap tightly around the penis base, or drugs/supplements — can be harmful to the long-term health of the penis says Trost. Misuse of these products can also cause priapism, a painful condition where the penis stays erect for four hours or more because the blood is unable to leave the penis, says Shusterman.

"With constriction bands, we'll see men with hourglass deformities or scarring at the base of the penis. Other men will use penile injections and this is likely not good for someone to use in their 20s and continue to use," Trost says, noting that some conditions do call for using medicines that make the penis hard. "But when people try to use things to go above and beyond the natural function of an organ, you start to run into trouble."

13. Taking testosterone can also backfire.

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Many people think that testosterone supplements can help with maintaining an erection. But the problem is that this short-term investment becomes a long-term loss...like you can literally lose the ability use it. "Men who do this will usually start complaining about ED at a younger age because they've used such a high level of stimulant that when they can no longer provide this level of stimulant and their body's gotten used to it, it's hard for them to go back to normal levels," Trost says.

14. And all those penis pills you might find at the gas station or grocery store are probably bunk, too.

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As BuzzFeed Health reported earlier this year, all those sexual enhancement supplements with the hilariously absurd names (usually sold at gas stations and grocery stores) can actually contain harmful ingredients. In addition to having some of the active ingredients in Viagra and Cialis (drugs that should only be taken by prescription), many of their ingredients aren't even listed on the label, and some may even include derivatives of the male enhancing chemicals that they claim to have — not the actual chemical, Trost says.

"If someone came up to you on the street, opened their coat pocket, and said 'Hey take this pill, it’s going to fix your erections and make you more manly, you’d never do it. The herbal market is not regulated any differently," Trost says, referring to the lack of FDA approval these supplements have.

15. Finally, the way your penis works will gradually change as you get older.

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It's just a fact of life, along with the other body changes that we go through: certain functions of the penis change, Trost says. "Many men think that it's going to continue to act like it did as a teenager for the rest of their life, but men start to lose nighttime erections in their 20s or 30s," he says, adding that as they get older, people might lose interest in having sex and even come quicker. Oh, and speaking of ejaculation, both the amount of semen and force with which it comes out also decrease.

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