It’s his best friend forever. The fulfiller of his desires and the object of most of his attention (ahem), but how much does he (and you) really know about his most prized possession?
Often referred to as impotence, erectile dysfunction (ED) describes the inability to get, and maintain, an erection that is sufficient for sexual intercourse. It’s only considered to be ED if the problem persists for three months or more. It very common, affecting one in 10 men on a long-term basis.
‘It may be some consolation to know that almost all men will experience this at some point in their lives,’ says Dr Christian. Physical causes include narrowing of blood vessels to the penis, low testosterone levels, injury, and medications, such as antidepressants and sleeping pills. ‘ED can be an early warning sign of more general health problems such as heart disease, high blood pressure and diabetes,’ says Dr Christian. ‘Always go for a full health check if you are suffering from ED.
The consultation with your doctor may reveal an underlying and far more threatening problem, but one that can be put right, and, in so doing, help your ED, too.’ Being overweight and smoking contribute to the condition. The British Medical Association (BMA) says smokers are 50% more likely to have ED. Research also shows 80% of men with ED have a body mass index (BMI) greater than 25. ‘Lifestyle plays a big role in erectile function.
Tiredness, stress and alcohol intake can all play their part,’ says Dr Christian. If your partner suffers from ED, cutting down on booze, quitting smoking and, if he uses any recreational drugs, stopping those, will all help. He also needs plenty of sleep, rest and relaxation, so he’s not fatigued.
Anxiety, depression and stress can also contribute. You can help, by talking – clearing up misunderstandings that may be causing him anxiety may see his erections return. Psychosexual counselling can help, and there are effective tablets available, too, but don’t take them without first seeking medical advice.
Set for the snip
A vasectomy is sterilisation for men, and is normally sought by those who have had a family and do not want any more children. The ‘no scalpel’ technique is the most common, when a forceps-like instrument is used to make a small opening in the skin, which is so small that it doesn’t require stitches.
When it isn’t possible to use this instrument, the surgeon will make one or two cuts (1cm2cm long) in the scrotum. The tubes that carry sperm from each testicle to the penis will be cut and ends closed, either with stitches or heat sealing. This prevents the sperm from mixing with semen, which should stop a man from getting his partner pregnant. A vasectomy is performed under a local or general anaesthetic and takes around 15 minutes. It can be reversed, but not always successfully.
One in 10 men wear the same pair of pants for more than three days. Yuk.
Average number of erections per day for a man: 11.
The average speed of ejaculation: 28 miles per hour.
Diphallia, or having two penises, is common in snakes but pretty rare in humans; the British Medical Journal estimates that one in five million men are born with two penises.
Although there is no actual bone, you can fracture a penis if you get too vigorous in the sack. ‘When a man is having an erection, his penis is engorged with blood,’ explains urologist, Dr Erik Castle. ‘If the penis is bent suddenly or forcefully when it’s engorged, the trauma may rupture the lining of one of the two cylinders in the penis responsible for erection.’
This is most likely to happen during sexual activity and is often accompanied by a cracking sound, immediate dark bruising and painful swelling. Ouch.
In some cases, the urethra may also be damaged, and blood may be visible at the wee hole of the penis. The condition needs urgent medical attention so as not to result in deformities or the inability to have or maintain an erection.
Burgers are bad
Urologist Andrew McCullough says: ‘Anything that is bad for a man’s heart is bad for his penis’. Research shows the sort of diet that could cause a heart attack (fried, fatty food and low fruit and vegetable intake) can also cause problems with a man’s erection by restricting blood flow to the penis in the same way as it does to the coronary arteries. Studies show that a Mediterranean style diet rich in olive oil, nuts and vegetables is linked to improved sexual function.
Can I have my ball back?
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in men between the ages of 29 and 45. Around 2,300 men are newly diagnosed with the condition every year in the UK, which is around six men a day. It is more common in young men, with eight of 10 cases diagnosed in men under 50. Testicular cancers, also known as germ cell tumours (GCTs), occur when the germ cells that produce sperm grow out of control. The most common symptom is a lump or swelling in the testicle, which may be as small as a pea or much larger. Some men also experience pain in the testicles, or the feeling of a heavy scrotum. Get the men in your life to check themselves regularly or, if you’re on intimate terms, your man probably wouldn’t object to you having a little feel around, either!
If you find a lump, your GP will recommend blood tests and scans to detect cancer. If it is found, then the testicle will be removed to prevent it spreading. There has been a massive surge in cases of testicular cancer since the 1970s: incidence rates have risen by an incredible 90%. On a positive note, 98% of men who are diagnosed with early stage testicular cancer will be completely cured. This proves that the earlier the cancer is picked up, the easier it is to treat, and the more likely the treatment is to be successful, so get checked pronto.
Not such a big deal
Many men are preoccupied with the size of their penis, fearing that they may fall short of the average. Professor Kevan Wylie, a sexual medicine consultant from the University of Sheffield, carried out a review of 50 studies that had measured a total of 11,531 penises. The average size when erect was found to be 15cm (just under 6in), while the average girth was 12cm. It is only considered ‘small’ if it is less than 7cm (2.5 inches) when erect. However, research in the British Journal of Urology International shows 85% of women are happy with the size of their man’s penis, so it would seem their concern is unnecessary.
When erect, men’s penises are not always straight. A slight bend is normal, but anything more could be a sign of Peyronie’s disease, a condition in which scar tissue, called plaque, forms inside the penis. Most men with Peyronie’s disease can still have sex. But for some, it’s difficult or painful. Doctors don’t know exactly why this happens. Many researchers believe the plaque can start after trauma (hitting or bending) that causes bleeding inside the penis. You might not notice the injury or trauma. Other cases, which develop over time, may be linked to genes. In some men, injury and genes could both be involved. Although it mostly happens in middle aged men, younger and older men can get it. Dr Christian says: ‘This may simply be how you were born and the way it has always been. In which case, there is no need to worry.
‘Some sex experts claim that curved penises are far more comfortable for partners during penetration than very straight ones. ‘However if your penis has developed a bend more recently, then this is worth getting checked out by your doctor,’ Dr Christian says.
Retrograde ejaculation is when men don’t produce semen at the point of climax, instead it goes in to his bladder. This means when he goes to the loo after sex, his urine may look cloudy. The NHS says it isn’t a health risk, but for regular sufferers it can affect the ability to have a child.
The average number of times a man will ejaculate in his lifetime: 7,200.
Grow or show
Shorter penises increase more in length than longer ones when they get hard. Research of 2,770 men found that shorter penises increased by 86% when erect, nearly twice that of longer penises (47%).