How Does a Penis Get Hard: What to Know About Getting an Erection

If you've ever wondered how a penis gets hard, you're probably not alone. Learn what causes a penis to get hard and how to deal with erectile dysfunction.

The Promescent Team
Hands on, practical experience – this is our expertise
by The Promescent Team Last updated 01/02/2024




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getting an erection

It's not strange to want to know how the penis works, even if you've had sex before. And it certainly shouldn't be embarrassing to ask questions regarding sexual health.

If anything, understanding exactly what makes a penis erect can help you diagnose some sexual dysfunctions, such as erectile dysfunction (ED), and increase the efficiency of birth control methods.

Quick FAQs

Brain signals cause the corpora cavernosa to relax and let blood fill in the space. Once the blood is trapped under the high pressure, an erection occurs.

Men can stay erect anywhere between a few minutes to a few hours. If an erection lasts more than four hours, emergency medical treatment should be sought as soon as possible to avoid damage to the penis.

Studies have shown that men can experience an erection 11 times a day and three to five times a night. The exact number of erections a man may experience can depend on age, lifestyle, and other factors.

We will answer your questions about how an erection works so you can better understand your body.

What is an erection?

The definition of an erection is when the penis gets hard and enlarges due to a rush of blood to the genitals.

The boost in blood flow causes the penis to stand up and away from the body (erect).

Erections typically happen during the arousal stage of sex, and sometimes a man can get a 'hard-on' spontaneously,

Once a man has climaxed and ejaculated, the erection usually goes away. Sometimes, the hard-on will go away on its own with the need for an orgasm.

How does a penis get hard?

During the arousal stage, a series of physical and emotional changes occur in a person as they get aroused and engage in sexually stimulating activities.

The brain sends signals to the penis using the nerves of the body. The messages inform the corpora cavernosa to relax and allow the blood to flow into the space and fill it.

Once the blood vessels open up and blood rushes in, it gets trapped under the high pressure, which leads to an erection.

The membrane surrounding the corpora cavernosa helps keep the blood trapped to maintain an erection.

When you orgasm, the muscles in the penis contract, which stops the blood flow. The penis starts to soften as the pressure decreases, valves open up, and blood flows out.

How long can men stay hard?

No average time for how long an erection should last exists because it can range from a few minutes to a few hours.

But, according to research, the average time between an erection and ejaculation during intercourse is five to seven minutes.

The duration of an erection can be affected by certain physical and psychological factors, including:

  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • obesity
  • smoking
  • depression
  • anxieties
  • stress
  • relationship problems

If an erection lasts longer than four hours, contact a medical professional as soon as possible. Any erection lasting longer than four hours is considered priapism and requires emergency treatment to prevent damage to the penis.

How many times a day does a man get hard?

No exact number exists when it comes to how many times a day an erection occurs.

But, studies do show that men experience an erection 11 times a day and three to five times a night.

Lifestyle, age, and hormone levels can affect the frequencies of erections. Chat with your private physician if you're concerned with the ability to get and maintain an erection.

How do I make an erection go away?

Of course, ejaculation is the most ideal way to make an erection go away. But that's not always possible.

You can eliminate the source of the stimulation and the erection in a few ways.

  • Thinking about things unrelated to sex.
  • Meditation
  • Cold shower

What causes erectile dysfunction?

The symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED) include:

  • You can achieve an erection sometimes, but not each time you desire sexual activity.
  • You can get an erection, but it doesn't last long enough to have sex.
  • The inability to achieve an erection at any time, including throughout the night.

According to research, age is the biggest factor in developing ED. The older men get, the less testosterone they produce, which is essential for having an erection.

Supplements and hormone therapy are options for men over 50 who struggle to get and maintain a firm erection due to low testosterone.

However, there are other causes of erectile dysfunction. Here are a few to consider:

  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • heart disease
  • high cholesterol
  • smoking
  • consuming too much alcohol
  • illicit drug use
  • being overweight
  • lack of regular exercise

Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of an underlying illness, so discussing concerns about ED with your doctor is vital.

ED Treatments

In most cases, erectile dysfunction is completely treatable. A few treatments that can be effective include:

  • Medication: Doctor-prescribed medication such as sildenafil (Viagra) and tadalafil (Cialis) treats erectile dysfunction in men of all ages.
  • Supplements: Over-the-counter (OTC) supplements such as VitaFlux contain L-arginine, L-citrulline, and L-carnitine, which can help improve blood flow and erections.
  • Lifestyle changes: Exercising, maintaining a healthy weight, reducing alcohol intake, and stopping smoking can all help with having a better erection.
  • Therapy: Cognitive behavior therapy (CBT), sex therapy, and couples therapy have been shown to help address underlying psychological causes of erectile dysfunction.
  • Mechanical devices: Vacuum erection devices or penile pumps may be effective alternative treatments for ED.
  • Surgery: Penile implants are an option you can discuss with a doctor if other treatments have failed.


You shouldn't be embarrassed to ask how do penises work. It’s helpful to understand how your body works to better know what you can do to make it function well.

As discussed, your penis gets hard as a result of arousal, which causes the brain to send signals that allows for more blood flow to your corpora cavernosum.

If you struggle with getting an erection, there are different treatment options available that can help, from ED medication, to nitric oxide boosters like VitaFLUX

Be sure to communicate with your doctor determine the best ED treatment option for you.

The Promescent Team

The Promescent Team

Our team has over a decade of experience in the sexual wellness field and are experts in sexual dysfunctions, like premature ejaculation. We help couples and individuals better understand treatment options available for different types of sexual needs and educate the public on all things related to intimacy. All of our authored content is medically reviewed for accuracy and reliability.


Absorption Pharmaceuticals LLC (Promescent) has strict informational citing guidelines and relies on peer-reviewed studies, academic or research institutions, medical associations, and medical experts. We attempt to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references and only citing trustworthy sources. Each article is reviewed, written, and updated by Medical Professionals or authoritative Experts in a specific, related field of practice. You can find out more about how we ensure our content is accurate and current by reading our editorial policy.

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The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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