Teen Guys and Questions About Erections

Medically Reviewed by Renee A. Alli, MD on March 19, 2024
4 min read

If you're a teen guy, chances are you have questions about erections that you are afraid to ask your parents or even your doctor. Sometimes erections occur at the wrong place at the wrong time, and you have no idea what's going on. Most guys have experienced that awkward moment.

The following Q&As can help you gain a better understanding of erections and why they're one of the changes we experience at puberty.

Q. Yesterday, when I was riding home on the bus, I could feel my penis getting stiffer and there was nothing I could do about it. When we got to my stop, I got off the bus and had an erection. Other guys were laughing at me and I was embarrassed. It made me feel uncomfortable.

A. First of all, it's normal to feel uncomfortable or embarrassed. You are not alone: Erections are a normal and (sometimes random) part of growing up. When guys go through puberty, their bodies go through many changes. Their voices begin to change, and facial hair, underarm hair, and pubic hair starts to grow. This is all normal! Also, their penis, testes, and scrotal sacs will increase in size. Talk about an awkward time for guys -- as if trying not to have an erection in public wasn't enough to deal with!

These physical changes are coupled with other changes. During puberty, many guys begin to experience frequent sexual desire. This could lead to a difficult time in the controlling erections department. Often, the erection happens at inappropriate times -- on the way home from school, at the swimming pool, or at the breakfast table. Just remember, the same guys who were laughing at you at the bus stop are also going through puberty, and this can easily happen to them. We'll give some tips on controlling erections at the end of this article.

Q. How does an erection occur?

A. Erections occur when the "erection chambers" in the penis, called the corpora cavernosa, fill with blood. And how does this happen? Your brain sends signals to nerves in the penis via the nervous system. The signals trigger an increase in blood flow through the arteries in the pelvis. As blood is pumped into these sponge-like erection chambers, it causes valves to open and fill with blood. As the erection chambers fill with more and more blood, less blood is carried away through the veins, so more blood is left in the area to maintain an erection. The nerves in the penis then produce nitric oxide, which acts as a chemical "messenger" that maintains erections. The nitric oxide relaxes the blood vessels, filling the spaces with blood, and the erection occurs.

Q. When I wake up in the morning, my penis is hard. What can I do? I don't want to eat breakfast with my family with an erection!

A. It is perfectly normal for guys your age to wake up with an erection. Even during childhood, most guys will experience erections during REM (rapid eye movement) sleep. REM sleep refers to an "active" sleep state, in which the heart rate increases, the brain is active, and we have dreams. Also during REM sleep, hormones are released and, as you may have guessed, your penis is stimulated by these hormones. Nocturnal penile tumescence (NPT) is the fancy medical name for it. Guys may have several erections during the REM sleep cycle.

You're better off waiting until the erection is gone before heading to the breakfast table. Try relaxing and thinking about something nonsexual, like a sporting event. Or better yet, study for that upcoming math test. Erections typically go away with enough thought. Meditation might work too. As you get older, you will be able to control your erections better.

Q. I had a sexually arousing dream and when I woke up, there was a wet spot on my bed. I really don't think I wet the bed.

A. You're right! You probably didn't urinate in the bed. Chances are, you experienced a nocturnal emission or "wet dream." This can occur when you dream of a sexual encounter or have sexual thoughts before you wake. Again, during puberty, your hormones usually rule your mind.

Q. I woke up in the middle of the night and had to urinate, but I had an erection and couldn't.

A. It is almost impossible to urinate with an erection, and it might be painful to try to do so. It's best to wait until the erection has calmed down before you attempt to urinate. Again, it's all about mind over matter at this point.

Talking about erections can be embarrassing for some. But remember that they are a perfectly normal part of puberty, and the older you get, the more control you will have over them. While you probably think it's embarrassing, erections are a fact of male life. Just remember, your mind can be very powerful in controlling your erections.

Try the following tips to control erections in public:

  • Think nonsexual thoughts to avoid becoming sexually aroused. Think about homework or an upcoming sports event.
  • If you wear boxer shorts and have frequently occurring erections, consider wearing briefs or boxer-brief underwear. These tend to fit tighter and could help hide your erection from public view.
  • If worse comes to worst, just stay seated and remain calm until the erection goes away. If you have to get off the bus, consider untucking your shirt. Or use your backpack or a textbook to shield it.
  • Remember, it's usually mind over matter when it comes to erections. Find what techniques work best for you while hormones are ruling your body.