FIVE PENIS FACTS
You've grown up together and shared many experiences, but how well do you really
know your penis? Here are five penis facts you probably didn't know.
If the penis is violently twisted when erect, it can break. There are no bones in the penis, but the tubes that fill with blood during an erection can burst. Blood pours out of them inside the penis and causes a very painful swelling. Reported cases of penile fracture are rare, but it's thought that some men are too embarrassed to report it to their doctor. Damage during sex, where a partner is on top, is responsible for about one-third of all cases. The breakage usually occurs when a man's penis slips out of his partner and is violently bent.
On average, a healthy man has three to five erections during a full night's sleep, with each erection lasting 25-35 minutes. It's common for men to wake up with an erection, informally called a "morning glory". This is in fact the last in the series of night-time erections. The cause of night-time erections isn't fully understood. However, studies suggest they are closely associated with the phase of sleep known as REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. This is when dreaming is most common. Whatever their cause, most doctors agree that night-time erections are a sign that everything is in working order.
The idea that the size of your penis is in proportion to your shoe size is a myth, according to a study published in the British Journal of Urology International. Researchers at University College London measured the penises of 104 men, including teenagers and pensioners. The average penis length in this group was 13cm (5.1 inches) when soft and gently stretched, and the average British shoe size was nine (43 European size). However, researchers found no link between shoe size and penis length.
Shorter penises increase more in length than longer ones when they become erect. Research based on the penis measurements of 2,770 men found that shorter penises increased by 86% when erect, nearly twice that of longer penises (47%). In the 1988 study published in the Journal of Sex Research, researchers also found that the difference in length between a short penis and a longer one was a lot less obvious when erect than when flaccid. For example, the flaccid penises varied in length by 3.1cm (1.2 inches), whereas the average erect lengths differed by only 1.7cm (0.67 inches).
Contrary to popular belief, the so-called love muscle doesn't contain any muscles. That's why you can't move it very much when it's erect. The penis is a kind of sponge that fills with blood when a man is sexually excited. Blood builds up inside two cylinder-shaped chambers, causing the penis to swell and stiffen. The swelling blocks off the veins that normally take blood away from the penis. As an erection disappears, the arteries in the two chambers narrow again, allowing blood to drain away from the penis.
It's the body part that men arguably value the most, so you owe it to your penis to
always keep it clean, healthy and fit for purpose.
Give it the care it deserves and you may not be the only one to benefit – your partner will probably be grateful too.
Gently wash the penis with warm water each day when you're having a shower or bath. If you have a foreskin, pull it back gently and wash underneath. If you don't wash underneath the foreskin correctly, a cheesy-looking substance called smegma may begin to gather. Smegma is a natural lubricant that keeps the penis moist. It's found on the head of the penis and under the foreskin. If smegma builds up in the foreskin, it can start to smell, stop you easily pulling your foreskin back and become a breeding ground for bacteria. This can cause redness and swelling of the head of your penis, called balanitis.
Patrick French, a consultant physician in sexual health, says: "It's really surprising how many men don't clean underneath their foreskin. Not only do they regularly develop complications from poor hygiene, but it's also very off-putting for a sexual partner." Don't try to forcefully pull back the foreskin of a baby or young boy as this could be painful and cause harm. Their foreskin might still be attached to the head of the penis and will therefore not retract fully. At this stage of their development, there's no need to clean inside the foreskin. While regular personal hygiene is important, too much washing with soap and shower gels can cause soreness. Gently washing your penis once a day with warm water is sufficient to maintain good hygiene. If you want to use soap, choose a mild or non-perfumed soap to reduce the risk of skin irritation. It may be tempting to use talc and deodorants on your penis, but these are best avoided because talc will get under the foreskin, where it may cause irritation. Circumcised men have to be just as careful about cleaning their penis. Gently washing the penis with warm water once a day is sufficient.
Don't forget to clean the base of the penis and the testicles, where sweat and hair can combine to produce a strong smell, just as unpleasant as in your armpits. These areas need frequent washing to stop sweat from accumulating, especially as they are enclosed in underwear for most of the day. Make sure the area between the base of the testicles and the anus is also clean and odour-free. While you're down there, it's a good idea to check your testicles for lumps once a month after a warm bath or shower. Look out for any unusual lumps or swellings that were not there before.
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