Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/27/2022
Most of the time, we have some control over our bodies. Whether that’s literally how we move it, or metaphorically on what we decide to do with it. However, there are moments when it feels like you don’t have control of your body — and a random erection is one of those.
But understanding why it might be happening — and what you can do about it — can put you back in control.
First things first, knowing more about your sexual health, arousal and erections can help you understand why one might happen.
If you need a quick brush up on male biology, an erection happens when blood flows into the penis faster than it floods out of the penis — at least, those are the basics from a physiological perspective.
How erections actually occur is from arousal. Male arousal can come from thoughts, fantasies or touch. Or, in science speak, this arousal is often referred to as reflexogenic (touch, sexual stimulation) and psychogenic (thoughts, fantasies).
Although often thought of as different types of arousals, one study suggested that arousal on the whole may be more related and interconnected than we think.
The other common arousal is during sleep, known as nocturnal penile tumescence, also known as getting an erection while asleep. Nocturnal erections are very common. In fact, they’ve been documented in men from three years old all the way to 79 years old (but they occur in men of all ages).
That said, erections may happen when you don’t feel aroused, per se. The exact cause behind random erections is less known. However, what is known is that they are pretty common in men, especially in younger men.
If you happen to have an unwanted erection in a less-than-opportune time, here are a couple of things you might want to try.
To calm your body down and feel more grounded to get rid of that unwanted erection, you may want to try some gentle exercises like stretching or a brisk walk.
Exercising could put your mind in a different headspace, as you’ll be forced to focus on the task ahead.
Similarly, taking a couple deep breaths and just waiting it out might be your best bet.
It may seem anxiety-inducing, but sometimes, there’s nothing we can really do about an erection other than wait it out.
Even if it's a random erection, there is something aroused in your body. A distraction may help.
Putting on a TV show, reading a book or engaging in anything that’ll take your mind off it might help.
*If you continue to experience random erections or are worried about random erections, erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation, contact your healthcare provider about getting help.
If you’re experiencing random erections, you might be concerned about your overall sex drive — or maybe lowering it.
First off, know that your sex drive is influenced by multiple factors. Also, recognize that having a higher libido isn’t necessarily a bad thing or something that you need to change.
It’s quite common for couples’ sexual drives to be different. Couples often experience sexual desire discrepancies, wherein situations arise where one partner is more interested in having sex than the other.
In instances like these, it may be worth seeking the expertise of therapy or couples therapy to learn more about your relationship and your sexual desires.
Couples therapy can be a place for you and your partner to explore your libidos, sexual behaviors and what contributes to them. For some couples, this can create common ground for desirable sex.
You could also try individual therapy. Individual therapy would be a safe place for you to explore your own associations with sex and sexual desires, and what you are looking to change.
Communication in any relationship is key. When you’re dealing specifically with mismatched libidos, communication is absolutely essential.
Talking with your partner is a great way to talk about boundaries and expectations, workarounds to keeping both people satisfied, quelling concerns and laying everyone’s cards out on the table.
Remember: teamwork makes the dream work — especially in the bedroom.
Anti-androgen pills are pills generally used to reduce testosterone. Although testosterone isn’t the only factor in sexual arousal, it does have an impact, and researchers have found that lowering testosterone can reduce arousal in men.
Chances are all of us will experience changes in libido and in our sex lives. And things like random erections, erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation are very common occurrences. But that doesn’t mean you can’t have a healthy sex life.
You might also be reading this and be more concerned about having a lower libido vs. a high one. If you’re interested in increasing your sex drive, there are different approaches you can take, as well.
For now, if you have a random erection, know that it's common and doesn’t necessarily mean anything is wrong. None of us love feeling out of control, but arousal and sex are things you can take steps to influence and have more control over.
Whether that’s simply understanding your own arousal, or making changes in your sex life.