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Men's sexual health: Answers to the questions you're embarrassed to ask 

Chances are, your high school sex-ed class didn't teach you everything you'd like to know about sex and sexual health.

It's one of the reasons some of the most common questions trending on Google are about average penis size (smaller than pornography would have you believe), masturbation (yes, it's normal; no, you won't go blind), and sexually transmitted infection symptoms (when it doubt, go get tested). 

Being knowledgeable about your sexual health is the key to making your sexual experiences rewarding and safe. 

SEXUAL HEALTH FAQ

What is is the average penis size?

According to a study conducted by researchers at King's College London, the average penis is:

  • 3.6 inches from base to tip while flaccid (soft).
  • 3.7 inches in circumference (girth) while flaccid.
  • 5.2 inches in length while erect.
  • 4.6 inches in circumference while erect.

Not what you were expecting to see? Pornography would have you think that 7.5 inches to 9 inches would be the average, but that's not the case! 

Can you increase the size of your penis?

Short answer? Not really. 

The longer and more complicated answer is that there are a variety of methods and tools available online that promise to increase the size of your penis, but those solutions (a) are generally over-hyping what they can actually do or (b) come dangerous with side effects. 

One of the most popular solutions is the classic penis pump. Pumps can help achieve an erection or maintain a firmer erection, but as for actually increasing the size of your penis over time, there's no conclusive evidence to suggest that they can. 

Stretchers, weights, and processes such as "jelqing" promise to increase the size of your penis. These methods may have some efficacy, but the research is still quite limited.

Here’s a short overview of some science that suggests what’s possible with such stretching techniques.

  • A 2011 study of twenty three men found that using traction devices could increase penis length up to an inch if worn at least 9 hours a day for 3 months.
  • A 2011 literature review of penile lengthening literature found that traction devices produced comparable results to surgery, recommending traction devices as a first-line treatment.
  • A 2013 inquiry of studies done on traction devices only found that traction devices were effective in treating penis deformities, not making the penis longer or thicker.
  • A 2016 investigation found no significant effects of traction devices on penis length or girth, noting that more, larger studies are needed.

In a nutshell, there is some research suggesting that traction devices can have some effect on the size of the penis, but also come with potential side effects of bruising and other forms of temporary discomfort or erectile dysfunction. 

Finally, there are surgical options. In some kink communities, saline injections for an engorged appearance are common, but it should be noted that this is for a specific aesthetic and does not create a "natural" penis appearance. Other surgical methods of lengthening the penis are possible, but also come with the potential risks of contributing to erectile dysfunction or changing the shape or angle of the penis.

Am I masturbating too much?

Good news: there's really no such thing as masturbating "too much." With some caveats. 

While the average masturbation frequency is around three times per week, plenty of people masturbate daily. Depending upon your stress level, sex-life satisfaction, and age, you may even masturbate multiple times per day, and that's still healthy and normal. 

Masturbation only becomes "too much" when it becomes compulsive and interferes with your quality of life, such as your ability to do your job, socialize with friends and family, or irritates your genitals. In that case, it's probably best to speak with your doctor or a sex therapist.

What are the benefits of masturbation?

In the past, masturbation has been blamed for ailments such as hairy palms, blindness, infertility, and sexual dysfunction. Thankfully, none of these myths are true. 

On the contrary, masturbation can actually have several positive side effects. For example:

  • It provides a safe way to explore your own sexuality and learn more about what you do and don't enjoy. 
  • Masturbation can help you practice learning your body and arousal signals, which can help with preventing rapid ejaculation
  • It stimulates your prostate, if you have one. 
  • It can help you relax and reduce stress. 
  • Masturbation promotes better sleep. 

When is it normal to lose your virginity?

First and foremost, if you haven't had sex yet, please remember that virginity is a socially constructed concept. It has no inherent value. Whether or not you are a virgin matters very little in the long-run. 

That's important to keep in mind because ultimately, virginity is arbitrary. If we think of virginity as a state of having not had sex, we then have to ask ourselves an important question: How are we defining sex? Is it exclusively penetrative sex (such as vaginal or anal sex), or are other forms of sexual activity also considered (oral, mutual masturbation, etc)? 

In truth, not many people agree on what is considered sex or the point at which you lose your virginity. This makes it virtually impossible to calculate an average age. 

When it comes to penetrative sex, some estimates suggest that 17 to 19 is the average age range for males in the United States to lose their virginity. However, other surveys suggest that maintaining virginity into your late twenties or early thirties is also fairly common. 

Alongside the complexities of defining sex, we should also remember that attitudes around sex are cultural (so some areas may have an older average age of virginity loss than others) and that the media we consume is generally saturated with sexual content, which can give false impressions about what is normal. 

While calling someone a virgin may still be a common taunt in a Call of Duty lobby, the truth is that virginity is, frankly, a dumb concept. As long as you and your sexual partner(s) are comfortable and consenting adults, the age at which you have your first experience is ultimately meaningless.

What is the average duration of penetrative sex?

Much like penis size, porn would have you believing that the average duration of sex is much higher than it actually is. 

Research suggests that the "average" duration is actually a fairly large range: anywhere from one to fifteen minutes!

What's important to keep in mind is that "long enough" depends entirely upon what you and your partner(s) are looking for. If you're stressed about finishing too quickly or don't feel like you or your partner(s) are sustaining penetrative intercourse long enough to enjoy it, products like MYHIXEL or a medical intervention can help. 

How often should I get tested?

If you're sexually active, you should get tested for STIs approximately every 6 months. Depending upon how many partners and whether or not you use contraceptives (condoms), you may be safest to get tested more frequently, such as every 3 months. 

You can get tested at your local health clinic, Planned Parenthood, with your primary care provider, or at a number of local initiatives that may be in your area to make testing accessible and easy. 

STI screenings typically collect a few samples. Most common are urine samples, blood samples, and saliva samples. If you're experiencing symptoms such as tenderness and inflammation around your genitals, urethritis (burning sensation in the urethra), or think you may have been exposed to an STI, additional samples may be required, such as a rectal swab or urethral swab. 

Additionally, there are at-home services you can use for testing if you're unable to make an appointment in office. For example, you can check out the video below for our Founder's experience using Nurx to test at home: 

What is protection and when should I use it?

In simple terms, contraception is any resource you use during sexual activity which decreases your likelihood of contracting or spreading an STI, or experiencing unwanted pregnancy. 

Condoms are the gold-standard of contraceptives for people with penises. They provide a non-permeable sheath that encompasses the penis and creates a barrier to prevent semen from being deposited in one's sexual partner, and they also decrease the exposed contact area in which bacteria, viruses, and other STI-causing pathogens can be spread. They're not perfect, but they do a damn good job! Condoms are fairly cheap, can increase your sexual endurance by decreasing stimulation, and can often be acquired at no cost to you through health clinics and advocacy programs. 

Other forms of contraceptives, such as "female" condoms (which are placed within the vagina rather than on the penis) are available for intravaginal sex. Apparatuses such as dental dams, though not widely adopted, are also available to make cunnilingus and analingus safer. 

For folks with increased risk of exposure to HIV should also know about PEP and PrEP. 

PrEP, or Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, is generally taken as a daily pill and decreases your likelihood of contracting HIV significantly. Truvada, the most common medication used for PrEP on the market today, is estimated to be 99.999% effective at preventing HIV. 

PEP, or Post-Exposure Prophylaxis, is not a daily medication. Instead, if you think you may have been exposed to HIV, go immediately to an urgent treatment center or immediate care center and speak with a medical provider. PEP, when started within 72 hours of exposure, is highly effective at preventing exposure from causing an infection. 

While discussing HIV, it's important to point out that if you have a partner who is HIV+ but has an undetectable status, that means that their viral load is so small that it cannot be detected in HIV tests and cannot be transmitted to a partner. HIV is not a death sentence or punishment for bad behaviors, and individuals with HIV can still have fulfilling sexual lives with partners who are HIV negative without transmitting the virus. It's important to know your status and know about options like PrEP and PEP, but these shouldn't be reasons to ostracize HIV+ individuals. You're more likely to contract HIV from someone who thinks they are negative than someone who knows they are HIV-positive. 

How many sexual partners is it normal to have?

Much like discussing the normal age of losing your virginity, there's not really a straightforward answer that we can give here. Most estimates of "average number of sexual partners" aren't clear on what they consider to be a sexual partner– penetrative sex, oral sex, mutual masturbation, and other forms are sexual activity aren't specified and normalized. 

Some studies suggest that the average number for guys in the United States is anywhere between 4 and 15 sexual partners. Again, this number varies wildly when considering multiple types of sexual activity, locale, and sexuality. 

Some people have a lot of sex with a lot of people. Some people have no sex with any people. Some people have sex with only one person. 

The number of people you have sex with doesn't matter as long as it's always consensual and you're making the most responsible decisions you can about your sexual health.

Help me better understand consent.

Weirdly enough, consent is a topic that has become widely politicized in recent years and for no particularly good reason. There are some folks who say that wives are obligated to have sex with their husbands even when they don't want to, or that people who are drunk or behaving in a flirtatious manner should be considered to have consented because of their behavior; logically, none of that rationale makes any sense. 

Consent is an affirmation that what you're doing is okay. Regardless of what incels and Reddit bros say online, it doesn't mean you have some kind of unsexy contract signing ceremony before having sex. 

In sex, consent simply means that all parties involved are participating willingly, under their own volition, and have the ability to specify boundaries or revoke consent. 

In sexual activities within the kink spectrum in which domination and submissiveness are incorporated, it's important to always predefine safe words and signals that will stop action immediately so that if play reaches a point at which one party is uncomfortable continuing, everything comes to a stop and you check in with each other. 

Practicing active and ongoing consent is easy and can even be a fun and exciting part of your sexual experiences. For example, asking a partner "do you like this" or "would you like me to" about a particular action can be a fun way to explore each other's sexual desires and curiosities, and it also demonstrates respect for each other's boundaries and preferences. Always be on the lookout for signs of discomfort or requests to pause– as pleasurable as it is, sex can get uncomfortable, so looking out for these signals will help you keep the experience enjoyable for every party involved and prevent you from crossing any boundaries.