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Wacky Penis Facts
by Zachary Levin
 

Most men would agree that the penis, though clearly attached, often seems to have a mind of its own. Call it what you like: a unit, trouser worm, or schlong, it's still a strange, disorderly, and frequently disobedient creature. It can be friend or foe, but its inner workings remain a mystery to most of us. 

To help us understand the "why" behind some of the most maddening and mystifying tricks the penis can play on its would-be master, we sat down with an expert on the family jewels, Vito Imbasciani, Ph.D., M.D. Imbasciani is a urologist with the Kaiser Permanente Medical Group in Southern California, and he agreed to try to explain some of the penis' most baffling behavior. 

DrDrew.com: First of all, what causes "post-pee dribble?"

VI: With a lot of older guys I see, it's because they're peeing through their zipper, and they're obstructing the urethra. If they'd just open their pants and free Willy a little bit, it wouldn't happen. But for most people who consistently dribble after they pee, they're probably over 40, and probably have an enlarged prostate. In a young guy, it's most likely that he's wearing tight jeans, and he's trying to get it out and over his zipper--think of an inverted V. It's just mechanical.

DrDrew.com: Why do men sometimes get hard for no apparent reason?

VI: You can get an erection for any of three main reasons. Sometimes your brain causes it when you see, smell, taste or hear something that turns you on. This centrally originated signal is sent down the spinal cord to the pelvic ganglion, or central relay system, which then sends signals down to the penis. 

Then there are the erections you bring on by yourself, by touch. The other unwanted ones are triggered not by the brain, but by the nerves in the penis itself. It could be you're driving along and the motion of the car stimulates the pelvic nerves; you could wake up with a full bladder, and that stimulates the pelvic nerves. A sensory input to the spinal cord sends a signal back to the penis and says to the arteries, "open up!" And you wind up with an unintended erection.

DrDrew.com: When you get one of these untimely erections, is it dangerous to try to hide it by forcing it into a position it doesn't want to be in? 

VI: Yes. When a penis is erect, it's as rigid as wood. Now, it might be green wood, but if you bend it, you could break it. This usually happens during sex. I saw a patient recently whose very large girlfriend was on top of him. Her weight pressed down on his very rigid erection the wrong way. His penis was fractured. He had to go to the operating room and get it sewn up. 

DrDrew.com: Talk to me about priapism.

VI: Priapus was a little Roman god--he was only about six inches tall, but is always shown in statues with a huge penis. Priapism is the condition of having an erection that will not go down. It's not common, except in people who are predisposed to it. Some people with head trauma, like concussions, will come to the emergency room in a priapistic state. Young black men who have sickle cell anemia are also at risk, because their blood clots, usually in the penis. Some drugs can cause priapism as a side effect, too. 

DrDrew.com: What's the stuff, often called pre-come, that leaks out of the penis during foreplay?

VI: The urethra of the penis has little glands along it that provide pre-lubrication. It's something that's evolved over time. Evolution has rewarded animals who reproduce. So anything that helps deliver semen to the uterus is going to survive. This pre-lubrication of the urethra helps it open up, so that semen comes down unfettered. Pre-come is comprised of one of two things (and sometimes both): some of it is the secretions of the little glands of the urethra, and some of it could actually be prostatic secretions, which is true semen.

DrDrew.com: Is there enough sperm in pre-come to get someone pregnant?

VI: You have to assume that it's strong enough. Also, it's not like a washing machine where it suddenly switches to spin-mode—or, in this case, urethral versus prostatic secretions. You can't tell the difference. Better to be safe than sorry and keep it away from the vagina. 

DrDrew.com: What about the dreaded blue balls—what exactly are they?

VI: I call it pelvic congestion. If you're used to a certain level of sexual activity and you haven't emptied your prostate and the seminal vesicles (the storage area for semen), those areas start to feel full. I presume just the way somebody's nose might feel full when they've got a sinus problem and they just want to blow their nose. So it's semen buildup, or prostate congestion. Some guys don't masturbate before dates because they like that feeling. The only way to get rid of the situation is to drain the main vein by ejaculating.

DrDrew.com: I read two interesting statistics in The Penis Book by Joseph Cohen (Könemann, 1999). One was that the average speed at which ejaculate shoots out of a man is 25 m.p.h. The other is that the farthest medically recorded distance of ejaculation is 25.5 inches. But I once saw a porno with Ron Jeremy where the only thing stopping his output was the ceiling.

VI: Average speed? I have no idea. As to the second, I'd love to see the, ah, competition. I think we all did it when we were Cub Scouts.

© 2000 drDrew.com, Inc. All rights reserved.


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