Question about erection angles
July 9, 2008 5:38 AM   Subscribe

I have a NSFW, but nevertheless clinical and sober, question about erection angles (question follows).

I've long wondered about this, but it just now occurred to me to ask in here. Most of the penises I've seen (through straight porn) are sort of perpendicular to the body when erect. Sometimes there's a slight variation in the up or down direction, but not by much. In addition to this, many seem to have a very "flexible" base, allowing the erect penis to point in whatever direction might be appropriate at the time.

Now... mine's always gone straight *up*. Parallel with the body; staring me in the face, if you will. The base is very stiff, and doesn't permit me to bend much farther than about 30 degrees from my stomach.

This is just fine for missionary positions, but there are lots of options that it prohibits -- I can't do doggy-style, cowgirl, or basically anything else that requires that the penis be perpendicular to the body.

I guess my questions are...

1. How common is this? What's the average angle?

2. Are there any... solutions? What do others do in this situation?

I imagine a surgical operation might work, but it seems unlikely that it'd be worth the trouble. Is there any sort of stretching that might work?

I've never had any complaints, but it seems unfortunate to be limited in this way.
posted by anonymous to Science & Nature (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

I believe a lot of what you have seen in porn has to do with cutting of a ligament that allows the other directions.
Pointing up(ish) is the "normal" direction.
That said you should be able to do other positions and not be limited to missionary. Maybe not all the crazy stuff you see in the movies though.
Quick blurb about the ligament.
This ligament, called the suspensory ligament, makes an erection sturdy. With that ligament cut, the erect penis loses its upward angle and it wobbles at the base. The lack of sturdiness can lead to injury.
posted by a3matrix at 6:09 AM on July 9, 2008

Pointing up(ish) is the "normal" direction. cite your source.

The average angle is about 15 degrees above horizontal. (google 'average erection angle' for tons of supporting evidence) Anything from just below horizontal to straight up is perfectly normal though.

This QA suggests that age may be a factor and your angle may decrease as you age.

I'm no expert but I would imagine that men in the porn you're watching have stretched that ligament well through lots of use due to their profession and that would account for the more flexible base rather than they've all had surgery to cut it.
posted by missmagenta at 6:25 AM on July 9, 2008

I just want to echo that a pointing-up penis shouldn't limit you to just one position. Certainly there are some positions that just won't work (perhaps reverse cowgirl, for example, unless she leans way back), but the "angle of entry" can be adjusted within a wide range in missionary, doggy, her-on-top, and others. But that takes a partner who is willing to bend around during the experimenting to find what works, and it takes you being willing and able to communicate your needs clearly.

Purely anecdotally, mine pointed straight up in my teens, and has drifted down a bit over the years. When the subject has come up with other people, they said much the same thing. So I think you're normal, just at the more vertical and less flexible end of normal.

But it shouldn't stop you getting variety in your sex life -- for example, she can be on top, as long as she leans forward instead of backward, or you prop yourself up on pillows, or whatever.
posted by Forktine at 6:46 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Purely anecdotally, mine pointed straight up in my teens, and has drifted down a bit over the years. When the subject has come up with other people, they said much the same thing. So I think you're normal, just at the more vertical and less flexible end of normal.

This has been my experience with guys, pretty much totally. As men age, the angle decreases even as the general stiffness of their erections stays the same. I have suspected, also, that like many other ligament-related body issues, you can stretch this ligament if you take care to do it slowly and carefully. More fun with a partner, but something you could also do on your own.
posted by jessamyn at 7:07 AM on July 9, 2008

Pointing "down" (angled toward your toes) is an uncomfortable, if not outright painful, angle for most men. Many (most?) women don't know this secret, which seems to cause at least one shocking moment per relationship. YMMV.

Uppish is most definitely normal. It actually works better anyway, since other than third grade stick figure diagrams, that's the angle you need.
posted by rokusan at 7:13 AM on July 9, 2008

Pointing "down" (angled toward your toes) is an uncomfortable, if not outright painful, angle for most men.

Odd, in my experience with men, they have found it pleasurable to have downward pressure applied (not brute force; I'm talking about the amount of pressure you'd use when affectionately putting your hand on someone's leg).

Anyway, to the OP, up is definitely within the normal range IME. If certain positions are important to your partner but not do-able for you, you could always use a male strapon. (I'm not going to google a link for you at work.)
posted by desjardins at 7:45 AM on July 9, 2008

Could it be Peyronie's Disease?
"The disease may cause pain, hardened, cord-like lesions (scar tissue known as "plaques"), or abnormal curvature of the penis when erect. In addition, narrowing and or shortening of the penis may occur. Pain felt in the early stages of the disease often resolves in twelve to eighteen months. Erectile dysfunction, in varying degrees, often accompanies these symptoms in the later stages of the disease process. The condition may also make sexual intercourse painful and/or difficult, though many men report satisfactory intercourse in spite of the disease. Although it can affect men of any race and age, it is most commonly seen in caucasian males above the age of 40. Peyronie's Disease is not contagious, nor is it related in any way to cancer. The disease only affects men and is confined to the penis, although a substantial number of men with Peyronie's exhibit concurrent connective tissue disorders in the hand, and to a lesser degree, in the feet.

About 30 percent of men with Peyronie's disease develop fibrosis in other elastic tissues of the body, such as on the hand or foot, including Dupuytren's contracture of the hand. An increased incidence in genetically related males suggests a genetic component."
(From wikipedia)
posted by Echidna882003 at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2008

"Is this angle normal" is one of those questions you see in every sex ed book for adolescents. The answer is always "Yes, of course you're normal!" FWIW, I have seen many a wang, and most of them are more uppish than perpendicular. However, obviously some angles are more ideal for the actual mechanics of usage than others.

There are some things you can do.

If you normally wear it "up," stop doing that and start wearing it "down." If you find yourself lying on your stomach with your penis wedged between your body and the floor/bed/whatever, adjust it.

And, yeah, stretches. Like, just (slowly and carefully) push down on it every once in awhile when it's in a not-totally-erect-but-almost state. Don't venture beyond the normal muscle-stretching sort of discomfort, as broken dicks are no fun. Maybe try lying on your back and introducing a sort of wedge, like a balled-up sock or, like, a hand or something, between erection and belly as you are becoming hard. (I can see this becoming a parlor trick involving a lemon -- please, for the love of god, try to restrain yourself.)

It'll probably be a good long while before you notice any big changes.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:11 AM on July 9, 2008

I believe a lot of what you have seen in porn has to do with cutting of a ligament that allows the other directions.
posted by a3matrix at 9:09 AM on July 9 [+] [!]

Citation? Because that is bar-none the most bizarre claim I've seen in a long while.

Most fully erect penises are perfectly capable of being bent at their base to a wide range of angles.
posted by IAmBroom at 8:16 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

"Most," I don't know, but mine is capable and I haven't had any ligaments slashed. Some people are just more flexible than others.

Also, I'll just add one more anecdatum to the "mine was like that when I was younger" chorus.

posted by Sys Rq at 8:38 AM on July 9, 2008

It wasn't a claim, merely an opinion. Hence the "I believe" part.
Cite my source? Want me to take a picture of it?
posted by a3matrix at 8:43 AM on July 9, 2008

If you google this suspensory ligament surgery, you find a lot of links to the same article on a bunch of splog-type sites and this article from the Mayo Clinic which has some decent advice. It's mostly referring to this operation as a lengthener, but addresses the angle thing. The operation and recovery process sounds very unfun.
One procedure to lengthen the penis involves severing the suspensory ligament that attaches the penis to the pubic bone and moving skin from the abdomen to the penile shaft. When this ligament is cut, the penis may look longer because more of it hangs down. But cutting the suspensory ligament can cause an erect penis to be unstable and position itself at odd angles, particularly when erect.
posted by jessamyn at 8:48 AM on July 9, 2008

Yeah it can be uncomfortable in a lot of positions, but after awhile I got used to it and the pleasure caused by the pressure these positions place on the prostate made me forget about the uncomfortableness.

I would not be surprised if over time if you push the limits of what's comfortable the flexibility will increases over time. You could consciously increase the angle gradually over weeks or months while having sex, or for more precision while masturbating.
posted by robofunk at 10:10 AM on July 9, 2008

FYI: the angle of the dangle is not what you think it is when the unit is in use. See Figure 3 from this paper describing MRI imaging of the bits. (The Acknowledgments section is pretty entertaining too.)
posted by Wet Spot at 10:56 AM on July 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

It should be added that porn actors have to, you know, get it up all damn day, and in a lot of the porn I've seen (when I happen to walk by friends' open dorm rooms and times like that) the guys aren't quite as hard/erect as what we see in real life. (Their frequently enormous size, also not what we're used to seeing in real life, masks this issue pretty well.)

But being a woman, I have no answer for whether the "joint", as it were, mellows with age; whether an erection of the exact same firmness might point in a different direction as a man gets older.
posted by iguanapolitico at 11:43 AM on July 9, 2008

Wet Spot - Are you saying that there's a naturally perpen... er... what exactly are you saying is demonstrated in that MRI?
posted by Robson at 12:32 PM on July 9, 2008

When I was a teen, I heard a joke somewhere (I can't remember if it was a movie or a comedian) along these lines:

"My dick was so hard I had to stand on my hands to take a piss."

That joke has followed me through life as the sole authority that most men's dicks stand erect in an upward-facing d'erection.
posted by jayder at 4:56 PM on July 9, 2008

Eh, I've seen a few over the years, pointing in a variety of directions.

You just have to muck around with angles and positions. It helps if the girl has flexible hips and lower back.

But as with anything, it takes practice and time to find a few things that work for both people. Cowgirl can certainly be adapted to what you describe (she just has to kneel, lean forward on top and move horizontally - not easy, but with practice, a lot of fun); and just about any seated position will work just fine.
posted by ysabet at 6:20 PM on July 9, 2008

Wet Spot, that's a fantastically interesting paper.
posted by fantabulous timewaster at 9:12 AM on July 10, 2008

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