The Roundup of “I Get an Erection When …” Questions

I get "NRB"s (no-reason boners) very often. Why do I get an erection when I'm not aroused?
Stephanie replies:

While getting an erection when it’s not necessarily wanted is not something you hope will happen, I can assure you that it’s completely normal.

What you’re describing here is something referred to as reflex erection. Young people with penises have reflex erections during any time of the day or night, and often without any external stimulus. Other times, it happens when the person with a penis is touched somewhere like on their ears, neck, or nipples.

So let’s look at some of the common times when reflex erections can occur. When we’re sleeping, we all go through different stages of sleep. These stages repeat themselves many times during the night. People with penises will often experience reflex erections during the stage classed as REM sleep, or Rapid Eye Movement sleep, which takes place during the middle and last stages of the sleep cycle. This is why sometimes you’ll notice that you wake up with a “morning erection.” As well, if a person’s prostate gland is enlarged – which we know to be part of a person with a penis's sexual response and orgasms whether directly stimulated or not – this can cause reflex erections. A full bladder can cause reflex erections as well, because the bladder sits above the prostate gland and when full can exert pressure onto it.

These erections can also occur when a person with a penis is very stressed, angry, nervous, or afraid. When we think about how these emotions are interpreted by the brain, that actually makes a lot of sense. The part of the brain that interprets sexual arousal is the same area that interprets other arousal stimuli such as fear, and anger. This is actually where the theory of make-up sex comes from, the idea that the brain accidentally misinterprets one type of arousal, such as anger, for sexual arousal. So while the person is really upset, they feel aroused because the brain interpreted the arousal as sexual.

So are you ready for a little bit of good news in all of this? What we know from research and studies -- and plain old livin' -- is that as people with penises grow older, the reflex erections will become less frequent and direct touching will become more necessary to produce erections. But what you’re experiencing is a normal part of the maturation process, and in time you will notice that erections begin to occur during what you would consider more “appropriate” or wanted times.

Jake asks:

I tend to get overexcited in not so exciting situations if you know what I mean. For example, my girlfriend and I can be just standing there hugging and looking at each other and I get a little too excited. I love this girl to death, and I don't know how she would react to it if I told her. It makes me feel like a total perv, and I really just want this to stop so I can just do simple things without worrying about this kind of thing. It’s just an uncomfortable situation and I really want it to stop.

Check out the information above Jake. What you’re experiencing is a really normal reaction, and one that doesn’t make you perverted at all. Something to consider is that this is your girlfriend, someone you’re attracted to, and thus someone that you will react to. A lot of women know that this does happen to people with penises from time to time, and that’s okay. Truth be told, people with vaginas experience arousal from these same things at times, the difference of course being that it may not be as easily noticed if your girlfriend is aroused as it would be if you are. But part of being in a relationship is being able to talk to one another about how we’re feeling, and some of the experiences we have. So now could be a good time to talk to her about this, and to explain that it has made you uncomfortable. You can talk to her about not wanting her to be uncomfortable so you feel it’s something you two should discuss. As well, you should both remember that just because one of you is aroused, that doesn’t mean that any type of sex has to happen if you both don’t want it to.

Anonymous asks:

Okay, so when I went to a dance with this girl and we were just dancing together sorta close and I couldn’t help but like how it felt when she would dance against me. But then she was dancing facing away from me and her rear was rubbing against my crotch and I kept trying to think of anything not sexual but the next thing I knew I was hard. I don’t know if she noticed or not 'cause she kept dancing like that but I didn’t want her to think I was gross or anything so I went to the bathroom until it left. It happened again that night too when we danced slow with her against me, and I know she felt it because she kind of giggled, but I don’t know if she was laughing at me or what. It was embarrassing, how can I make it not happen.

You know, people have all kinds of different reactions when they don’t know what to say, and especially when the situation is something that someone knows could be potentially embarrassing for another person. I’m sure if you took a poll from a wide variety of people with penises, you would find that many of them have had a similar experience when dancing with someone. The person they are dancing with can react in a variety of ways, and while giggling or lightly laughing may not seem like the best reaction, it’s a very typical reaction when nervousness sets in because of a lack of words or a lack of knowing how to react to something. So it’s less likely that she was laughing at you than it is that she was nervous about how her own reaction would be perceived by you.

Jeff asks:

So, my question is that I have learned that my girlfriend is pretty naive about sex and doesn’t want to do it. That is fine with me, but I am worried because whenever we kiss, or embrace closely, I have an erection that will touch, if not poke her. What is she thinking about this? Do other guys she's dated have this problem to? Or does she just think that I am a pervert?

I’m not really sure why you’re describing your girlfriend as naive about sex. If you’re saying this because she really doesn’t know a lot about sex, protection, pregnancy and STI risks, arousal, etcetera, then you can consider offering her this website as a resource to learn more. Even if someone isn’t considering having any type of sex right now, it’s still good to add resources to our knowledge bank for the future. Not knowing this information doesn’t make someone naïve though, it makes the person pretty normal. There’s a lot of information about all of these different aspects of sex, and also a lot of myths. On the other hand, if you’re using the term naive because right now she’s choosing not to have sex, that’s really not the case either – nor would that be a fair assessment of her.

But as you can see from the other questions above, what you’re experiencing is something so many others are experiencing as well, and it doesn’t make you a pervert at all. It’s pretty safe to guess that if she’s dated other teenage and young adult men, this is something they’ve experienced as well. The best way to know how she’s feeling about this, as well as to let her know how you’re feeling, is to explain to her your own feelings and ask her to be open about hers. Even knowing about all of this yourself now, if she doesn’t know that this is something that happens normally in young men – you can help her in understanding this.

Ryan asks:

Hi. I'm 15 years old and I've been with my girlfriend (17) for about 3 months now. She rides my bus to and from school and we sit in the back together where nobody can see us. Every day, she puts her legs over mine and we fool around a little bit, but never go further than making out; and I have a rather embarrassing problem... I pre-cum really really badly. I can't control it! It's so embarrassing and when she gets off the bus I look down and there's a big wet spot on my shorts, and I really want to know how to control it. PLEASE HELP!!!

Pre-ejaculate appears from the penis when a person becomes sexually aroused. It can come from the penis at the start of arousal or erection, during some sexual activities, as well as before a full ejaculation. It basically happens to prepare the urethra for sperm to come through. Because the urethra is also the path through which urine exits the body, pre-ejaculatre neutralizes the acidity to make it easier for sperm to keep from being destroyed. As well, it lubricates the penis for sexual activity (as well as the foreskin on penises that are not circumcised). Sometimes when pre-ejaculation occurs, it’s only a small amount. Other times the amount is larger.

Because it is a natural process that your body goes through with arousal, it’s not something you can really control when you are aroused. Nor would you want to control it, as it’s a natural process your body goes through, something that is supposed to happen and is perfectly normal. On the other hand, what you can change is where and when you are choosing to participate in activities where arousal, and in connection with that pre-ejaculation, will occur. For instance, a school bus isn’t a very private place, and obviously a place that the end result is your being embarrassed. You could, instead, choose to spend some time together after school in a place that is (way) more private and less likely to be embarrassing for you should pre-ejaculate soak through your clothing. As well, talking with her about how you feel about this is important. She likely doesn’t know that you have been feeling embarrassed about this if you haven’t brought it up to her before.

Harry asks:

Hey, I have been dating a really special girl for about a month now and recently we were cuddling watching movies and we were touching each other in a pretty intense way and I didn't really notice it but I had gotten some sperm on my shorts and it bled through and it was ridiculously embarrassing because I knew she probably had felt it and I don't want to mess up our relationship over something like that. Wondering if anyone has any good tips for how to avoid/prevent that from happening because it’s a pretty big problem and I think she hinted at it happening...

Take a look at the information above. What you’re describing is pre-ejaculation. You describe in your question touching one another “in a pretty intense way.” As explained above, people with vaginas experience arousal in some of these same situations, and in this situation your girlfriend was also likely experiencing some signs of arousal herself, though you may not have noticed them as the outward signs in people with vaginas are a little less noticeable than they are in people with penises.

Really, your body responding in a very normal way to sexual stimuli like you’ve described isn’t something that should make you worry about ruining the relationship. Assuming she wanted to participate in any activity and was an active participant, her own body would respond in kind as well. If her reaction is something you’re worried about, the best thing to do is to open the lines of communication with her. We can’t guess at what our partner is thinking if they’re not talking to us about it, so in order to know sometimes we just have to ask.

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