The British are a nation of stoics, often too proud to admit we have a problem, and too polite to bother anyone else about it. Men are particularly bad at piping up about health issues, especially when it comes to our penises. Often, a source of embarrassment can be a simple lack of knowledge. Fortunately, the male anatomy is quite easy to understand, and learning what to say when seeing your GP can help avoid red faces. Read our guide from a working NHS doctor for how to keep your penis healthy…
Don’t use slang
The number of highly imaginative slang words that have been used to describe penises can leave patients embarrassed and doctors wondering. Keep it real and you’ll be taken seriously. Here’s a quick anatomically correct dictionary of our own for you to memorise and check off next time you’re in the mirror:
Penis and foreskin – no explanation needed.
Shaft – the main length of your penis but not including the glans (tip).
Glans/tip – the highly sensitive area at the end of the penis, usually covered by a foreskin, unless removed in an operation called a circumcision, with an opening for urine and semen to escape.
Meatus – pronounced “me-ay-tuss”, this is the medical name for that opening.
Testes – otherwise known as testicles or balls. All are acceptable.
Scrotum – this is the stretchy skin that forms a sack for your testes. A thin muscle allows the scrotum to contract, which it does so in cold conditions to maintain your sperm at a constant temperature.
Epididymis – behind and above the testes lies the area that stores the sperm made in the testes. Above the testes is a firm tube that carries your sperm from the epididymis (via the prostate which lies near your bladder, so it goes a long way) eventually out through your urethra to come out in the hole in the tip of your penis (yep, the meatus – well remembered).
Knowing just a small detail of anatomy can really take the embarrassment out of a problem when explaining things. So next time you notice that something’s not right, be confident and just tell your doctor “straight up”.
DIY penis maintenance
Many male problems don’t require the attention of a medical professional. Allow GQ to fill you in.
How to clean your penis
We often gaze in awe and talk excitedly about the nose-tingling, fungus-coated, ash-rolled, squishy goodness that is a well-stocked cheese counter. That’s not what you want people to experience when getting up close and personal with your penis. The “knob cheese” that is technically known as smegma, has a particularly vile smell and builds up when the area underneath a foreskin hasn’t been cleaned. This area should be cleaned daily (just pull back) along with the rest of your genitals, your bottom and the area in between, called the perineum. Use a mild soap as these areas can be sensitive.
How to examine your scrotum
Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men. For this reason, every week you should examine each testis (the plural is testes) in turn between your finger and thumb by rolling the skin over them. The most common symptom is a lump of any size but you should book an appointment with your GP if you have any new feelings in the scrotal area.
On a lighter note, most lumps in the scrotum aren’t cancer, and if it does turn out to be cancer, it’s one of the most treatable forms of the disease. You should get to know your balls like the back of your hand.
Maintaining an erection
Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is unfortunately common from middle age onwards and it’s caused by a narrowing of the blood vessels that pump blood to create and maintain an erection. This narrowing may occur for a number of reasons but high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking are high on the list. Giving up smoking seems like a no-brainer, and maintaining a healthy body weight and undertaking regular exercise reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure and diabetes.
Protect your penis from STIs
STIs are invisible and often give no symptoms for many years so you won’t know if you’ve just passed one on, so you should always wear a condom. Available free at GPs and sexual health clinics, they significantly reduce the risk of the transmission of STIs but they’re nowhere near as effective if they remain unopened in your wallet. There are so many easy ways to get tested for STIs – a simple fingerpick test can detect HIV, and many GP surgeries have urine pots to test for chlamydia and gonorrhoea that you can pick up and drop off discretely without even making an appointment. No excuses.
Be careful with trimming
Many of us take pleasure in keeping neat and tidy. There are no hard and fast rules about what to do here, but a sensible one is to exercise caution. Be especially careful in the craggy terrain of your scrotum if shaving, where it can be technically more challenging to not make a tiny cut in the skin – this could potentially introduce harmful bacteria which could cause cellulitis, abscesses or worse, Fournier’s gangrene (Googling not recommended).
A 2015 survey of women presented with photographs of all types and sizes of penises published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine revealed that penis length was one of the least valued attributes. “Overall cosmetic appearance” came out on top. So no need to worry about whether your penis size is above or below average. Just keep it looking good.
Use your penis to keep it healthy
Make ejaculation part of your daily routine. Here’s why: a large Harvard study of nearly 30,000 men found the risk of prostate cancer was 33 per cent lower in men who’d ejaculated at least 21 times per month, compared to those who ejaculated only 4-7 times per month. This included ejaculations during sex, masturbation and, um, “nocturnal emissions”. Time to play catch up.
Boners are everywhere. They happen all over the world millions of times a day; most men will experience more than 4,015 stiffies this year alone. But, despite the abundance of boners, few men know the facts.
Although many mammals have actual bones in their peens, human schlongs are boneless. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t break. Rough action can result in a “penile fracture,” and it’s more common that you might think. In the United States, approximately 200 men a year suffer from a broken penis, and it’s not pretty. You’ll hear a large crack, blood vessels explode — the whole thing turns into a big throbbing bruise and is out of order for weeks. It’s not pretty.
2. They have a mind of their own
Like your heart rate and blood pressure, your meat hammer is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. If you get turned on, the boner that follows is involuntary, which explains all the wood you had in freshmen shop class.
3. They can last a painfully long time
It’s called a priapism. It’s when your penis stays hard for more than four hours and refuses to go away. You can beat him until he blows his load, but that bad boy’s here to stay. It’s a very painful and serious condition. If you’re stiffy stays for too long, seek immediate medical attention.
4. Boners are bountiful
You probably have one right now. On average, you’ll have 11 erections a day — some happen while you’re awake, while others pop in at night.
5. There are different types of boners
Seriously! Most scientists agree that there are three types of boners.
Psychogenic: Ignited by fantasies, like the ones you have at the gym.
Reflexogenic: Produced by physical stimulation, like when you jerk.
Nocturnal: Induced when’re fast a sleep dreaming about warm lips and tight holes.
6. Half your hard-on is hidden
Actually, half of your penis is hidden inside your body. Here’s how to find it, the next time you’re excited feel your perineum (aka your “taint”). That’s the hidden section of your dong. Pretty cool, huh?
And, unfortunately, the fun meds are the boner killers. These meds include Adderall, antidepressants, diet pills, and antihistamines. So, if you can’t imagine life without your meds, you might have to say buh bye to your boner.
9. Blowing and going
One man was able to blow an astonishing six loads without losing his wood, and he did it in only 36 minutes. Wow. Just wow.
10. Boners need exercise
Ok, so we just told you not to choke the chicken, but your lil man does need exercise. Without regular stimulation your little man’s muscles will shrivel up and shrink. You could lose up to an inch in length. So, play with him often, just don’t over do it.
There is a lot of misinformation out there about gay sex. In an attempt to separate the myths from the facts, blogger Davey Wavey made an appointment with his physician, Dr. Jay Gladstein, to get to the bottom of things.
Among the things that you’ll find out in this check-up with Dr. Gladstein:
Does having anal sex stretch out your anus? … Can a dick ever be too big? … Is frequent douching bad for your body, and what should you douche with? … Why are some guys physically able to bottom and some aren’t? …. Is it important to tell your doctor you’re gay? … Why can’t gay men give blood? … Does bottoming cause hemorrhoids? … Does bottoming increase risk of prostate cancer? … Is the stigma of having many sexual partners justified? … Can you get STDs from swallowing semen? … If you are undetectable what are the chances of transmitting HIV? … Why is gay sex so fun?
Sir, I’m started masturbating for 11yrs. Sometimes I’ll masturbate twice a day I can’t stop this habit. Will it ill affect me in future?
Well Roy, I don’t think you have anything to worry about. Even beating off twice a day will not cause you harm. On the contrary, researchers are now saying that regular masturbation may ward off prostate cancer. They tell us that cancer-causing chemicals build up in the prostate, and if men do not ejaculate regularly the build-up can cause problems.
Don’t you just love this? I mean, how does one write a grant for government funding to study the positive effects of self-abuse?
Curiously, researchers also note that sexual intercourse may not have the same protective effect because of the possibility of contracting a sexually transmitted infection, which could increase men’s cancer risk.
Say, I wonder if all of those “Abstinence only” programs out there, ya know the ones that tell our young people they’d be better off with little to no clear and unambiguous information about human sexuality. Do you suppose they encourage masturbation? Doubt it.
Australian researchers questioned over 1,000 men who had developed prostate cancer and 1,250 men who had not about their sexual habits. They found those who had ejaculated the most between the ages of 20 and 50 were the least likely to develop prostate cancer.
The protective effect was greatest while the men were in their 20s. You go guys in your twenties! Just jerk off like crazy. …yeah, like you really need me to be tellin’ you to choke the chicken any more than you are already doing!
Get this, men who ejaculated more than five times a week were a third less likely to develop prostate cancer later in life.
Previously the scientific wisdom suggested that a high level of sexual activity and a high number of sexual partners actually increased a man’s risk of developing prostate cancer. But earlier studies missed the beneficial effects of squeezing one out on one’s own, because it focused on sexual intercourse, with its associated risk of STIs (sexually transmitted infections).
Say, I wonder if anyone is doing similar research on the positive effects of masturbation for women? If I had to guess, I’d say that, if jackin’ off is good for men, then it stands to reason that jillin’ off is equally good for women.
The researchers tell us that ejaculating prevents the buildup of carcinogens in the prostate gland. It’s the “prostatic stagnation hypothesis.” How fun is that? You certainly don’t want a stagnant prostate now, do ya? I know I don’t. The more you flush out your ducts, the fewer carcinogens there will be to hang around and damage the cells that line your ducts.”
This is not a terribly new concept. A similar connection has been found between breast cancer and breastfeeding. Lactating flushes out carcinogens, thus reducing a woman’s risk of breast cancer.
Everyone here are Dr Dick’s Sex Advice believes that masturbation should be a big part of everyone’s sexual repertoire. And we always practice what we preach! We wholehearted encourage everybody to join us and masturbate till your heart’s content.
On 18 May 2011 , the prolific dominatrix-turned-pornstar Asa Akira sent her Twitter followers one brief, but provocative message: “Ass is the new pussy.”
Although Akira was not the first to utter this smutty axiom, the tagline has been pegged to her name. That may have made it easy for many to dismiss the concept as nothing more than a shocking, perhaps self-promotional assertion by a savvy performer sometimes known as porn’s ” Ass Queen .” But the starlet wasn’t just blowing smoke out of her buttocks. She was channeling a growing and convincing body of data on the inexorable rise of heterosexual anal play in America.
We can actually track the rise of heterosexual anal sex over the past quarter century thanks to your tax dollars. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released a series of studies in which they asked huge groups of people the same nosey questions about their sex lives— including whether men had ever put their penises “in a female’s rectum or butt” and if women had experienced a man putting his penis in their rectums (or butts) . In 1992, 20 percent of women and 26 percent of men aged 18 to 59 had reached fifth base with an opposite sex partner at least once. In 2005, the figure was 35 percent of women and 40 percent of men aged 25 to 44. In 2011, it was 39 percent of women and 44 percent of men aged 15 to 44. In some smaller age subgroups, the prevalence of anal experimentation was even more common.
The CDC didn’t ask whether people had heterosexual anal sex on the reg (probably because it’s hard to measure what “the reg” means), experimented with other forms of anal play, or tried male-recipient butt stuff. The best numbers we get regarding frequency are studies that look at what proportion of people had heterosexual anal sex in the last year, or the last time they had sex, which is a weak proxy at best. But it give us a sense that recurrent hetero butt sex is on the rise as well as one-off experiments.
A 2010 study also suggests that experimentation with wider forms of anal play may be even more common than experimentation with anal sex amongst heterosexual couplings. Among its subjects, 43 percent of women and 51 percent of men surveyed in heterosexual couples copped to testing out anilingus, anal fingering, or anal toy play at least once. A 2008 study suggests that at least some self-identified heterosexual men are receiving anal pleasure as well (mostly fingering, some anilingus). We have no good data to compare that to in terms of trends. But given the taboos against men receiving anal play, any male-receiver experimentation seems, anecdotally at least, like a pretty big sign of the times.
Yet for all that we’ve collectively bickered, raved, and railed about this widely acknowledged trend, almost no one’s investigated what America’s changing anal inclinations have meant for the sex market— namely brothel owners, pornographers, and toy manufacturers . To find out, I reached out to a few makers and shakers in the sex industry to get a quick look at how America’s smut mongers have responded to the rise of hetero anal sex.
Art by Peter Johann Nepomuk Geiger
PORN IN THE HETERO ANAL-ERA
According to Pornhub, the king of dirty search data, the heterosexual anal revolution correlates with exactly the trends you’d imagine. Anal-relatedporn searches still represent less than 10 percent of all queries on their site. However, anal is a more common term among straight content searches than gay ones and its pervasiveness in hetero searches is rising rapidly. Pornhub crunched the numbers for VICE and found that between 2009 and 2015 , anal-related searches increased by 120 percent in America. That’s significantly higher than the 78 percent increase in anal-related searches globally. The increase was steeper among male than female users, but anal-related tags were still the 18th most searched most searched terms among the site’s female clientele.
(As a side note, Pornhub’s investigation found that users aged 18 to 24 are actually 33 percent less likely to look for anal content than users aged 35 to 44, which is unexpected given how often we talk about hetero-anal as a young person’s game. But that 18 to 24-year-old demographic is 290 percent more likely to search for My Little Pony porn than any other age bracket, which is certainly its own can of worms.)
Image by Paul Avril
Yet, despite this clear demand spike, and the excitement a first-time anal scene can generate for a female performer, anal-focused heterosexual videos make up a small portion of the market. A Pornhub investigation last year revealed that just 7 percent of their straight content has an “anal” tag on it. And it doesn’t seem like porn studios are making any notable move to increase the volume of anal-focused content they create.
“I don’t think the overall production has gone up,” says Holly Kingstown, the editor of Fleshbot and a fixture of the adult industry since 1999 who’s held every job possible save actress. “In your talent pool, there are still [only] a certain number of girls who will do [anal]. And how many of that scene can you do with that girl?”
“There are performers who are willing to do it,” possibly due to industry pressures and consumer demand. “But in terms of the quality, when you’re talking about DVD sales…” she adds, before pausing briefly. “You can get a crappy internet scene or two out of a girl, but if she’s not really good at it, you’re not going to get that too many times. And when you’re talking about a girl who does it just to get a scene, it’s usually not going to be a girl who loves it or does it very well. So she’s not going to get that much work.”
Kingstown does believe that there’s more consumption of the anal-focused content that already exists. But the absolute number of anal-focused titles available for consumers is fairly static.
What has changed, says Kingstown, is the tone and packaging of the anal porn that gets made. Towards the early 2000s, when Kingstown was still working at Buttman Magazine, she and a her colleagues realized that more couples, versus angry men looking for painal (grimacing girls , visibly suffering and un-lubed ass-ramming), were exploring their content. Adjusting to this mass market, pornographers shifted to portraying anal as pleasurable and normal versus painful and sick, which had apparently been the norm for the bulk of anal porn content up to that point.
“You still see the stuff where you’ll see a woman called an ‘anal whore.’ But you also see the tone overall to be a bit more… I want to say woman-positive,” says Kingstown. “For example, I’m looking at my desk and I’ve got James Deen Loves Butt here. This isn’t James Deen Loves Sodomizing Little Girls and Making Them Cry . That title would sell too, but to a whole different audience. There’s Anal Warriors, where women are shown as strong and powerful and in control of the sex that they’re having. There’s a whole ton of these kinds of movies where the women who enjoy anal are shown as strong and powerful.”
But even if movies today portray anal sex as pleasurable, they still don’t paint it realistically. They don’t focus on the time and preparation most (s)experts agree good anal requires . They often show a ramrod, angled experience that wouldn’t be pleasant for more than a few women in the world. Of course, a lack of realistic sexuality is a chronic problem in all niches of fantasy-driven porn.
We’re seeing a lot more prolapses. We’re seeing double anal. It used to be five anal scenes, done, not four anal scenes and a double penetration. They can go further, so they do. –Holly Kingstown
This pleasurable-looking anal, says Kingston, is now treated like a run-of-the-mill aspect of porn rather than a specialty act. Whereas in the past, you might stuff all your anal content into one niche film, nowadays directors think nothing of nonchalantly inserting an anal scene into a larger project. The overall amount of anal content remains the same—it’s just not as clustered into niche markets and individual movies. Yet, as anal becomes a normal part of heterosexual porn for a wider audience, a small audience craving painful or extreme porn, for whom anal is now too passé and mainstream, has started demanding more physically taxing and (Kingston believes) potentially dangerous ass play acrobatics from the limited actress pool.
“You see a lot more circus stuff than you used to,” says Kingstown. “We’re seeing a lot more prolapses. We’re seeing double anal. It used to be five anal scenes, done, not four anal scenes and a double penetration. They can go further, so they do. And physically, there’s only so far that you can go with your body [as a performer].”
SEX TOYS IN THE HETERO-ANAL ERA
“Anal sex has always been a frequent topic of conversation with our [mostly heterosexual] customers,” Claire Cavanah, co-founder of Babeland, told VICE when we asked for data on anal-related sex toy sales. The Seattle-based outfit with three outlets in New York is often hailed as one of the most accessible and acclaimed sex toy shops in America—a profile that lends it a large consumer base. “The ‘How to Have Butt Sex’ content on Babeland.com is the number one viewed piece of our [editorial] content. It has almost double the number of eyes on it as the ‘How to Give a Blow Job’ article, which is the second most viewed [item]. We don’t have data before 2009, but it’s always been number one.”
A Babeland survey of 18,412 customer respondents in 2009 (not a reliable sample, due to self-reporting issues, but still one of the better pieces of data you can find on this subject matter) also found that, 60.5 percent of men and 40.1 percent of women had tried using a butt plug, 56.8 percent of men and 31.7 percent of women had tried using an anal dildo, 51.8 percent of men and 29.2 percent of women had tried using an anal vibrator, and 37.4 percent of men and 27.8 percent of women had tried using anal beads.
Yet even with a high baseline of anal interest, Babeland has seen an increase in anal-related sales. Between 2012 and 2015, the genre averaged about 5 percent growth per year. As of 2015, Cavenah estimates that such toys, specifically made with anal in mind, make up about 16 percent of Babeland’s sales.
What’s more significant to Cavenah and company, they say, is how they’ve witnessed the tone and level of openness their customers use when talking to them about purchases and proclivities evolve. The hushed voices and seedy aura customers once took into transactions has faded away. And as people get more open, comfortable, and explicit with their anal sex toy needs, toy makers have responded to their feedback with a deluge of new, specifically anal-targeted sex toys , including smaller models marketed towards anal beginners. Babeland’s also noticed more luxury anal sex toys coming onto the market—products made of metal or glass, substances with higher price points—which suggests the emergence of a fair number of swankier, less bashful customers.
“We’ve definitely seen a shift in more interesting, innovative, and high-qualitybutt toys from some of the leading sex toy companies,” says Cavenah. “Je Joue debuted a remote-controlled vibrating prostate stimulator this spring. Anal toys come with vibrators, apps, and magnetic resistance that creates a pulsating sensation. There are also lubricants, such as Sliquid [Naturals] Sassy , that are marketed specifically for anal use.”