what is a bonerThe simple answer to what is an erection is that it’s an enlarged and rigid penis brought on by sexual excitement.

Men and women are different when it comes to arousal and having sex; both men and women go through four stages: excitement, plateau, orgasm and resolution. But they don’t go through each stage the same way. Read on to learn more about what a boner is.

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When Women Get Aroused

When women are in the excitement phase, they start to get wet in the vaginal area, the vagina lengthens, and the clitoris and breasts swell. The vagina swells even more in the plateau phase, and what’s happened during the excitement phase intensifies.

During an orgasm, a woman’s vaginal walls rhythmically contract, and during resolution, the vagina and clitoris go back to their normal size. Women can have another orgasm right away. This is key to having multiple orgasms.

When Guys Get Aroused

To answer what is a boner, you should learn about all the arousal stages. When a guy is in the excitement phase, his penis starts to become erect. Sometimes his nipples do too. When he’s in the plateau stage, he has a full erection. When a man is in the orgasm stage, fluid first collects in the bulb of the penis, and the man knows he’s going to cum. When he does cum, semen ejaculates from the penis, and contractions happen. The penis goes back to the flaccid state during the resolution phase. Men usually can’t have another orgasm until they wait a while. The time they need to wait depends on a man’s age and fitness level.

The Science of Boners

You’ve probably heard jokes that refer to a man thinking with his little head instead of his big head, meaning that he’s letting his sexual desire get in the way of rational decision making.

But having a boner actually starts with the brain. The penis won’t move without mental stimulation. The brain sends a chemical message to the penis, which allows the blood vessels to relax. This lets blood flow to the penis, which makes an erection possible. But besides getting bigger, an erection also involves the penis getting harder. This is a hydraulic event that the hormone testosterone regulates.

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Several body systems need to work for a man to get an erection: the brain, blood vessels, muscles, nervous system, hormones and emotions. A problem with any of those systems can make an erection difficult or impossible to achieve. If the body systems are all working, an erection can happen from a man thinking about sex or from having his genitals touched.

Now that you know what a boner is, learn how to help your guy get one…

Ways to Turn a Guy On


You can play a big part in helping your guy get a boner. You can’t go wrong with these 10 tips:

  1. Send him a sext, not a text message. Tell him what you’d like to do to him or try one of the 19 ideas in this post.
  2. Let him know what you love about him.
  3. Nibble his ear or neck using your lips and tongue. The ear and neck are both erogenous zones.
  4. Wear revealing clothing like in this article.
  5. While you’re out on your date, tell him you’re not wearing any underwear.
  6. Take him lingerie or sex toy shopping.
  7. Masturbate in front of him. Showing him what you like should turn him on.
  8. Touch him in places you know he likes, including his penis.
  9. Give him a relaxing massage — with a happy ending.
  10. Talk dirty. Tell him what you’d like him to do to you. 12 killer dirty talking ideas and more examples to help you talk dirty.

Turn him on fast with this advice or skip right to the foreplay to get him erect.

Things That Hinder an Erection

Men can have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection for various reasons:

Alcohol: Too much alcohol in the system means too much is in the blood, which can make it more difficult to get erect. Alcohol in the blood decreases the flow of blood to the penis. A man can get an erection with decreased blood flow, but the erection won’t be as intense. So the sex won’t be as pleasurable. The key here is “too much.” Alcohol, when consumed in moderation, such as a drink or two, can relax a man, and make the erection better. Other substances that can interfere with an erection are marijuana, cocaine, nicotine, amphetamines, barbiturates and opiates.

Nerves: Fear, anxiety and stress can hinder erections because those emotions block the brain signals needed to signal the blood vessels to relax. This can be a difficult cycle to break. For example, if stress is making it difficult for a man to get an erection, the problem of not getting an erection can cause more stress. It’s important for a man to discover the cause of the fear, anxiety or stress and to take measures to treat the problem. Sometimes professional help is in order or you could adapt these tips to relieve anxiety.

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Age: Younger guys get hard more easily. Aging itself doesn’t cause erectile dysfunction, but age-related causes can. The most common age-related causes that can interfere with a man getting an erection include hardening of the arteries, which can happen from diabetes; smoking; obesity; high blood pressure and high cholesterol. Another cause is decreased testosterone levels, which makes it more difficult for a man to get aroused.

Lack of testosterone: Although aging is the most common reason for a decrease in testosterone, it’s not the only one. Men start to have a decline in testosterone beginning at 30, but medical problems could also be the cause. An injury to the testicles, testicular cancer, a hormonal disorder, an infection, liver or kidney disease, AIDS and obesity can cause lowered testosterone.

Medications: Many over-the-counter and prescription medications can cause erectile dysfunction. Diuretics and high blood pressure drugs can, as can antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, antihistamines, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants and chemotherapy drugs. If your man suspects that a medication he takes might be causing erectile dysfunction, he should discuss this concern with his doctor. His doctor might prescribe something that works better for him. He should never just stop taking his medication on his own.

Guys Can’t Control It

Guys, especially teenagers, have little to no control over getting erections. Just riding in a car, train or bus can cause one as can simply seeing someone attractive. Many guys wake up from sleep with an erection. As guys get older, they can usually control erections from mild stimulation, such as riding in a car. But they can’t always control when an erection happens. Many things can cause an erection, such as an erotic memory, a fantasy, a touch or even a certain smell or sound.

Show-ers vs. Growers

stages of getting erect

Here’s an interesting fact about the penis: the size of the flaccid penis doesn’t predict the size of the erect one. Another way to think of this phenomenon is that you can’t judge a book by its cover. Penises are either show-ers or growers.

When learning about what is a boner, you also need to know about show-ers and growers. A show-er is a penis that is large when limp, but it doesn’t grow a whole lot when erect.

A grower is small when flaccid, but it grows quite a bit when erect.

People who don’t know about show-ers versus growers might mistakenly see a show-er and think his penis will be enormous when erect or think that a small, flaccid penis will be inadequate. Neither is typically the case.

What to take away from this is that you can’t tell how big an erect penis will be from its size when flaccid. Most erect penises range from 4.7 to 6.3 inches, despite their flaccid size.

How Guys Can Get a Stronger Erection

Now that you know what a boner is, you might be interested in how guys can get a stronger one. A strong boner leads to more pleasurable sex. Men can get a stronger erection many ways by doing the following:

  • Masturbating less
  • Quitting smoking
  • Drinking in moderation
  • Exercising the abdominal muscles, which aid in supporting an erection
  • Doing cardio exercises to keep the cardiovascular system healthy, ensuring good blood flow
  • Weightlifting to add muscle, which boosts testosterone
  • Doing Kegel exercises – they can help you, too!
  • Working with a doctor to see about cutting down on the dosage of any medications that might be interfering with an erection
  • Putting a laptop on the desk instead of the lap; the heat can mess with an erection
  • Eating a healthy diet, avoiding heavy or fatty foods that are difficult to digest
  • Losing weight if overweight
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Avoiding stressful situations

Erections are Important

If you’ve ever wondered what a boner is, now you know. Strong erections are great for having pleasurable sex and signal a healthy man. Taking steps to ensure your man maintains his ability to get and maintain an erection helps him have a healthy sex life and a healthy life overall.

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Lisa has a Masters of Education (M.Ed.) in Human Sexuality from Widener University's Center for Human Sexuality Studies. She is continuing her studies at the University as a doctoral candidate. Lisa is a member of the American Association of Sexuality Educators Counselors and Therapist (ASSECT). She has guest taught human sexuality at several universities including Montclair State, Kean University, and Borough of Manhattan Community College.

Lisa's passion for the field is rooted in her belief that all human beings should understand what healthy sex is, regardless of culture, body or ability.

Her particular areas of expertise focus on: desire in long-term relationship, the intersection of technology and sexuality and its affect on individuals and couples, body image and its influence on sexuality, the impact of the past on single people in America, and modern (online) dating. Her research focuses on marriage from antiquity to present day, modern romance and contemporary dating websites.