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Boys learn that their penis gets hard early in life. From then on, whether they like it or not, they have to accept that they will experience erections all too often, whether they want them or not, for many years to come. 

As a teenager I loved the spontaneous way my penis would leap into action and become hard, unbidden, untouched, tucked out of sight in my pants, but still reminding me of its potency.

As a dating teenager, I wished its hardness away many times, fearing the give-away of my arousal in the damp secretions of pre-cum seeping though my trousers after a heavy session of kissing.

Yet I welcomed it as a distraction in classroom daydreams, as I contracted my muscles to pump the blood into it and felt it swell against the material of my underwear, fantasizing about how I would masturbate later when I was home.

As time goes by, the errant potency of the phallus can become a pleasure or a pain. The first time it failed to get hard with a woman, I felt diminished and frightened - this had never happened before, and I thought my erection had gone for good.

No amount of reassurance from my partner helped - my prick had gone soft on me, and I thought it might never work again. If it didn't, I'd no longer be a man.

Quite simply, I saw my ability to get hard every time on demand as an essential part of my maleness, and my erect penis as the clearest symbol of this manhood.

Why? The act of penetration, impossible with a soft penis, was so central to my concept of masculinity and femininity.

 The masculine, I thought, meant hardness, standing up for what one believed in, rigidity, sticking to your goals, pushing through obstacles, and discharging energy in a focused way. The male way: targets, action and achievement. For which read arousal, penetration and ejaculation.

My older friends tell me that one of the great discoveries of mid-life is that softness happens, and that by focusing on the experience rather than the target, hardness tends to come back.

It may need physical encouragement, and it may need time, but it always responds in the end. And such a slower process, I am told, can lead to better sex in the end. A more feminine kind of loving, perhaps, but a more emotional, more spiritual experience for the male soul.

If you're at this stage of life, and you're beginning to experience erectile dysfunction, the causes and treatment for erection problems are explored here.

I remember once going to see a massage therapist and suddenly, unexpectedly, getting an enormous hard-on while lying on my back on the couch in my underwear. The odd thing was, I felt no sexual arousal - I didn't fancy her, I didn't want sex with her, and I didn't want her to provide me with any sexual services.

Dammit, I was paying for a massage, not for sex! Still, there was my penis, telling its own story as always. And even through my embarrassment I felt proud, proud that she knew I was a sexual being and proud that she could see my male energy rising like that. I apologized. She smiled, "Don't worry. It's only energy."

The thing was, I wondered, where was that energy coming from? She was massaging my chest at the time. To be told it was "only energy", and to be accepted as a potent male by an attractive woman who had no fear of my motives or intentions was a singularly refreshing experience. 

The same thing happened years later on Hawaii. This time, however, the massage therapist was topless, and I was naked.

She was specifically massaging in a way designed to increase my energy flow and unblock the sexual energy which I felt was stuck in my groin - it wasn't reaching my heart, or at least it wasn't flowing through my body. "Your sexual energy is welcome here," she repeated, like a mantra, and so my penis began to rise in response.

This time, however, I felt no embarrassment. I felt merely wonder at the potency of this penis of mine, that had been erect every day of my life, and every night too, no doubt, for so many decades.

Sometimes I've heard men say that they resent getting hard in intimate moments with their partners, when they "should" be feeling loving and intimate, not aroused. But that's never worked for me.

To me, feeling that arousal in my groin, that warmth of increased blood flow, that swelling hardness, is a wonderful affirmation of my power to give my partner what she wants - male energy, power, support and the strength of maleness against which she can fully express her feminine nature. She doesn't seem to resent it, either.

Indeed, she relishes the fact that I find her so attractive, and she knows an erection doesn't have to be used - so far, with one exception, there has always been another come along when it's needed.

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Other pages on the penis and testicles

Penis size
Penis variations in pictures
Penis enlarging/ body mod
Foreskin restoration
The effects of circumcision
Arousal and erection
More on erections
Ejaculation and orgasm
The testicles and scrotum
Condoms and contraception
The prostate gland
The penis and peeing
Wet dreams
Ejaculation problems
The life history of a sperm
Pre-ejaculatory fluid precum
Boys and puberty
Night-time erections
Penile pain
Penile questions
Avoiding The Mid Life Crisis

Other sections on the site

Penis facts and penile functions
The penis, masculinity and sex
A Cultural History Of The Penis
Penile & Other Problems