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The Male Penis Erection: A Look Behind The Scenes At A Man's Sexual Arousal

UPGUYS > Blog > Sex > The Male Penis Erection: A Look Behind the Scenes at a Man's Sexual Arousal
The person who wrote this article

Written by the UPGUYS Editorial Team
Published on September 27, 2022

The average amount of times that middle-aged Canadians have sex per week is 1.35. While the "0.35" is up for debate, it is slightly below the national average of 1.41.

A penis erection is a crucial component for men to have penetrative sex with their partner(s). 

Have you ever wondered where an erection of the penis results from? This intricate physiological process involves sexual stimulation, nerve impulses, and blood vessel dilation. When any part of that process goes awry, you might be left stuck (no pun intended) with a flaccid penis during your sexy date night.

Luckily, UPGUYS has a must-read article for you. In our complete guide, we will review the average penis size erection and how the erection process works. Keep reading for more information!

 In this article, we talk about the following:

What Is a Penis Erection?

Have you wondered what physiological process underlies the erection of the penis? An erection of the penis is caused by innervation from the somatic and autonomic nervous systems.

The pudendal nerve is primarily responsible for sensation. Your autonomic system plays a larger behind-the-scenes role in erection and flaccidity.

While innervation of the penis is responsible for erection, there are other factors at play. Your nervous system cues your blood vessels to dilate and smooth muscle cells to relax. The penile tissues fill with blood while venous systems occlude, allowing for an erection of the penis. 

Read more: Penis problems

Average Erect Penis Size

In Canada, a normal penis erection is 15.71 cm. Average penis erection sizevaries amongst males, including countries. For example, men in Cambodia have a small penis erection on average. 

On the contrary, Ecuador, Cameroon, and Bolivia have the largest penis erections. The average length of an erect penis difference is nearly three inches or 7.6 centimetres!

Other factors that affect your erect penis size are genetics and testosterone. Rare diseases or disorders could cause micropenis or smaller erect penis sizes. 

However, your erect penis size is not an overall indicator of health. Ultimately, the penis is designed for ejaculation and urination. If these two processes are easy and painless, you probably don't have any cause for concern. 

Read more: What Is a Sexless Relationship and Can It Survive?

Flaccid Penis vs Erect Penis Size

Now that you know the average size of an erect penis, how does a flaccid penis compare? A flaccid or soft penis is the resting state of a penis. Typically, size fluctuates drastically, and it does not indicate erection sizes. 

Some men are naturally "showers," while others are "growers." So, how do men seem to go from zero to a hundred in the blink of an eye? There are five primary stages:

  1. Latent (initial nerve impulse)
  2. Tumescence (vasodilation)
  3. Erection 
  4. Rigidity (maximum hardness before a male climax)
  5. Detumescence (after the climax)

Sexual stimulation is the primary cause of erections. It is not uncommon for men to have spontaneous or nightly erections without being sexually stimulation. This is even more prevalent when boys start puberty and their sex hormones increase. 

While men can achieve an erect penis fairly quickly, there is a refractory period where an erection cannot occur, despite sexual stimulation. In young, healthy males, this can be around 15 minutes. For older men or those with other disorders, the refractory period could extend for more than 24 hours. 

Read more: Weight and erectile dysfunction

Circumcised vs Uncircumcised Penis Erection

To date, there is limited research on any differences physiologically regarding circumcised or uncircumcised penis erections. Instead, researchers speculate that circumcision psychologically affects men and body image.

Some research shows circumcision reduces UTI, STI, and cancer risks. In return, this could impact erection qualities and sexual performance

How To Improve a Penis Erection

Occasional difficulties with a penis erection are normal and typically harmless. Ongoing problems with erections could indicate underlying health issues. You should seek medical consultation regarding erections if you start noticing:

  • Problems achieving an erection
  • Problems maintaining erections long enough for penetrative sex
  • Sudden decrease in libido or sex drive

Diabetes, obesity, and cardiovascular disease are three common medical conditions that can increase your risk for erection difficulties. Experts found that patients with diabetes were nearly two to three times more likely to have erection problems. There are several treatments that physicians may prescribe to help, such as:

  • Penis injection for erection
  • Penis erection pills
  • Penis pump

A penis pump for erection and injection is less common than PDE5 inhibitor medications like Viagra. These medications target blood vessels, helping relax smooth vessels and increase vasodilation.

Read more: Not Able To Get Erections? All You Should Know About Causes & Solutions

Some of these popular medications can start working in as little as thirty minutes. Long-acting PDE5 inhibitors can remain in your system for nearly 36 hours. 

What if You Have a Painful Erection?

Infections and injuries can cause painful erections. Typically, the pain results from impaired blood flow or a painful penis erection angle. If you start noticing painful erections, you should seek medical consultation. 

In rare cases, you might have Peyronie's disease. This sexual health disorder can cause a curved penis and difficulties with erections. 

Read more: Ed and age

Improving Your Sexual Health and Function

A penis erection is a complex physiological process that helps a penis transition from a flaccid to a rigid state. It involves several autonomic and somatic nerve impulses that affect sensation and blood vessel dilation. 

The entire process can take minutes and is a critical component of a male's sexual well-being. When talking about an erection and penis health, you can't neglect erectile dysfunction. 

If you have been struggling with maintaining or getting an erection, it might be time to reach out to a medical provider at UPGUYS. Talk to a practitioner today!


UPGUYS has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references.

This article is written for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information provided in the articles cannot and should not replace advice from a healthcare professional. Talk to your healthcare provider about any physical or mental health concerns or the risks and benefits of any treatment or medication.