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Even though it’s called a “boner,” an erect (hard) penis* doesn’t have any bones. Erections happen to people with penises starting from the time they are babies and they continue throughout their lives.

Do you find that you get erections all the time?  Are you wondering about often you should get erections and why they happen?  This page will help answer some of your questions.

An illustration of 6 different types of erect penises.

What happens during an erection?

  • When you are turned on or aroused, the base of your spinal cord sends a message telling your blood to fill up the blood vessels and sponge-like tissue (corpus cavernosum) in your penis.
  • As the blood enters your penis, the muscles around the base tighten up so that the blood can’t escape.

What does an erect penis look like?

  • An erect penis is wider, harder and usually longer than a flaccid (soft) penis.
  • During an erection, your penis will stop hanging loose and will stiffen and move up and away from your body.
  • An erect penis can stand straight out or at an upward or downward angle. It can also curve up or down or to one side.

When do erections happen?

  • Erections usually happen when you are turned on. This can be from touching your penis or even just thinking sexy thoughts.
  • When you are a teenager, it’s very common to get an erection even when you’re not turned on or touching your penis. This is perfectly normal and will happen less often as you get older.
  • You may have a lot of random erections because of the rapidly changing levels of the hormone testosterone in your body.
  • It’s not uncommon at any age to wake up with an erection.
  • Just because you have an erection does not mean that you are saying yes to sex or that you even want to have sex.

Do I get too many erections?

  • No! Everyone is different. Some people just get hard more often than others.
  • Random erections will happen less as you get older.

How can I get an erection to go away?

  • Try masturbating (touching or rubbing your penis) until you have an orgasm. An erection will subside fairly quickly after that.
  • Wait it out. Once you have stopped touching your penis or thinking sexy thoughts, the blood will slowly drain away on its own.
  • Unexpected erections will start to happen less often once your body gets used to the changes it’s going through.
  • If you’re concerned about other people noticing your unplanned erections you can cover it with: a binder, a book, a sweatshirt, standing against a wall with one leg on the ground and the other against the wall, or in many other creative ways.

What happens if I don’t ejaculate? Will I get blue balls?

  • If you don’t ejaculate, your testicles may sometimes feel a bit achy, a feeling known as “blue balls.”
  • This dull ache is harmless and will go away on its own.

If you have questions about this topic, feel free to contact one of our peer educators. [Link]

*We know that these aren’t the words everyone uses for their bodies (eg. trans folks), and support you using the language that feels best for you.

Last Edited: May 2020