Q&A: Male Arousal And Erection Control

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QUESTION: My boyfriend and I are in our twenties and have been dating for a few years. On two occasions recently I noticed that he got an erection when he saw an attractive woman. Each time I asked if he was checking them out and he said no, that I was being paranoid. Another time he got a semi-erection when we rented a movie and there was a scene with a mostly naked woman. I got mad and upset. Is it normal for me to feel this way? And can't he control his erections?

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You’ve hit upon an age-old issue for men – this issue of whether their penis controls them or they control their penis. At least, that’s one of the ideas that author David Friedman writes about in his book, A Mind of Its Own: A Cultural History of the Penis.

Young Men And Erection Control

Most men cannot control their erections or ejaculation nearly as much as they would like to. Young men often have very responsive bodies – which is a good thing when it comes to sex, because it means that they can often get and maintain erections quite easily.

On the down side, however, they sometimes get erections when they don’t mean to. Sometimes their erections come about in response to the tiniest amount of sexual arousal or excitement – like when they see someone attractive.

Other times, erections come along at random times, like during class or while driving or sitting at home watching television. It can feel embarrassing for some men, particularly if they are worried about what people around them might think.

Female Arousal

Women’s bodies become aroused in a range of situations too, however women’s arousal isn’t visible in the same way that men’s arousal is visible via their erections.

Women will sometimes experience genital warmth, tingly sensations or vaginal lubrication when they feel aroused or see someone attractive. They may or may not notice these signs, though, because, again, these signs aren’t as obvious as men’s erections but that doesn’t mean that they don’t occur.

A Common Response

In other words, your boyfriend’s experience of sporadic erections – particularly in response to sexual stimuli (which, like it or not, attractive women may be) – is common. It does not mean that he does not like you or love you or want to be with you. Rather it’s more of a sign that his sexual response is working quite well.

In fact, both women and men experience genital arousal during sleep – several times each night, women have cycles that involve increases in vaginal lubrication and, for men, their cycles involve erections. These cycles keep blood flowing into the genital area, thus promoting the health and function of our genitals and reproductive parts.

Talk To Your Boyfriend

If you’re feeling insecure about your boyfriend’s erections, try talking to him about your feelings rather than blaming him or getting angry. Just because his body responds to sexually exciting situations doesn’t mean anything bad for your relationship. This is, however, a very good opportunity to talk together and brainstorm how you can both feel comfortable in your relationship and sexuality.

Dr. Debby Herbenick (M.P.H., Ph.D.)

is a sexual health educator at The Kinsey Institute, Associate Director of the Center for Sexual Health Promotion at Indiana University and author of several books including Sex Made Easy and Because It Feels Good: A Woman's Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction.
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