Written by Lori Reichel, Ph.D.

  |  Reviewed by Hina J. Talib, MD

An erection is a term used to describe the experience of certain genitals, like the penis or clitoris, becoming larger and firmer. What happens during an erection is the sponge-like tissue in the genital fills up with blood creating a firmness and enlargement to the penis or clitoris. Also, fluid might appear on the tip of the penis or in the vagina’s vulvar area noting the person is experiencing an erection.

During puberty, a person may experience erections in a way that they did not experience before. For those with a penis, the erection might occur as part of a wet dream as the person was sleeping. For people with a penis or vulva, the erection might occur because of seeing or thinking of someone they have a romantic and/or sexual crush on.

No matter why a person has an erection, it is important to know they are a natural and normal part of being a sexual being.

Tips to manage erections
  • If your penis is erect and you have to stand or walk somewhere, carry something like a sweatshirt or book bag over your groin area. Some people also tuck the erect penis into the waistband of their clothing (ex. pants) for a short period of time so long as it doesn’t cause irritation or discomfort.
  •  If you notice some fluid on the tip of your penis or vulva because of having an erection, stay calm. This fluid is a natural part of sexual arousal.
  • If you get an erection at an unwanted time, try to think of something uninteresting or boring. Sometimes thinking of something else helps you to relax, which in turn will slow your heart rate down and the erection will subside.
  • Remember that erections happen to almost everyone.

For more information on taking care of your maturing genitals, visit BLOOM’s Healthy Body page.