The Hard Realities Of Living With A Constant Erection

Everyone who owns a television knows two things about Viagra: it gives youthful-looking but white-haired men erections, and if those erections last more than four hours they should really see a doctor. Everyone’s been snickering at that last part for two decades, because it’s almost like a stealth boast (“Be careful, this pill might work a little too well! TEEHEE!”).

Okay, everyone, listen closely: If that actually happens to you or someone you love and you fail to seek treatment, they may have to amputate the penis.

That didn’t happen to “Gavin,” but his bout with a never-ending boner was still very, very bad. He had an erection that lasted for five goddamn days and the end result was less of a punchline and more of a demonic curse.


This Can Happen Without The Help Of ED Drugs

In 2013, Gavin was playing a pick-up football game. Right away you’re wondering how we get from here to “permanent erection” but please be patient. Gavin was tackled and, in a nightmare stroke of fate, the other player’s shoe slammed into his Jack Johnson.

“His leg came out from under me as I was going down,” says Gavin, “but when he fell, he stopped and only I kept going forward. His foot was like a hook and it caught my dick. I felt it stretch in a short pop of pain. Then his shoe ‘let go’ and slammed my taint as I went forward and hit the ground. He missed my balls, which at the time I thought was a miracle.”

It was not a miracle. That foot had done to Gavin’s genitals what Voyager did to the Star Trek franchise. “Later that night I started to notice I had a boner starting up. Sometimes you get random boners for whatever reason, and I thought it was that kind, or my dick’s natural reaction to getting badly hit. Even after seven hours I didn’t think much of it because it wasn’t that hard, but when I woke up I still had it. I went to WebMD and saw that, unless it was in pain, it wasn’t anything big.”

WebMD told Gavin that he had a low-flow priapism, an extremely painful type of long-term erection. It’s the type caused by drugs like Viagra and various wang-destroying cancers. It basically means that blood is trapped in your penis and isn’t being circulated out. But Gavin didn’t have a low-flow priapism: he had a high-flow priapism. He was perma-hard, but oxygen and blood could still circulate. This type of priapism is rare, the White Whale of erections. In neither case should they be ignored, regardless of what you think WebMD is saying.

“I was actually a little proud that I had stamina like that for an erection lasting that long. When I got to work, I came in holding my jacket in front of me and sat a little more curled up, but mostly during that first day I didn’t think it was that bad. Only when I met my girlfriend after work did I think anything was too unusual. When we hugged she felt it, and I told her how long I had it … she said that wasn’t right and that I should see a doctor. I told her “Nah, it’s fine. It will go away soon.”

Spoiler alert: It did the opposite of that.


Life With A Constant Boner Is Hell

Gavin waited five days before seeing a doctor, for the same reason people everywhere avoid seeking help for similar problems — it’s just too awkward and embarrassing to talk about. Well, it turns out that walking around the office for several days with a hard-on isn’t much better.

“At work I was getting stares. It wasn’t tenting my pants out, but it was big enough to be seen through my pants. When I sat down for a conference, the woman sitting next to me kept eyeing the crotch area of my pants where a big bulge was visible going down my left leg that otherwise wouldn’t be … When I called into work to take the day off [for treatment], the secretary asked me, ‘Ok. Should I say it’s for the … ‘ and left a pause. I knew what she was implying and I said ‘Yes. That.'”

Word had spread, apparently.

Okay, that whole story may also have sounded like stealth boasting, but we should note here that a priapism isn’t an erection in the “ready to party” sense. It’s more like a big roll of cookie dough. So it’s firm and swollen enough to be a problem, but too soft to be fun. “Peeing was an issue. Every guy has peed while having a boner at least once, and I did that for days. When you have a boner, it compresses the urethra, so it isn’t a straight stream.”

And then, “On my third day, I had the usual difficulty before there was a sudden jolt of pain deep in my penis, and urine stopped coming out for a few seconds then resumed when the pain went away. It was like getting stabbed.” Yeah, things were quickly getting worse. He could no longer sleep normally, because rolling over onto his tragic erection was a nightmare on its own. “I think I strained it again when I rolled over without thinking one night. I was nearly asleep and it woke me up.”

Days of semi-hardness left Gavin a tired, broken shell of a man. “I was a mess … I lost sleep, I dreaded using the bathroom, and I was getting more depressed and anxious.”


Your Dick Stops Doing Fun Dick Stuff

Part of the problem with Gavin’s type of “high-flow” priapism is that they just don’t hurt as much, so it’s easier to ignore. The low-flow version gets painful pretty fast — the whole combination of more blood rushing in and too little coming out is like combining Ketchup and yogurt, or jazz and literally any other kind of music. Ironically, it was the lack of pain at first that almost cost Gavin dearly.

“I saw 40-Year-Old Virgin and remembered that someone said to masturbate it away, and I tried to but I wasn’t feeling much.” After three days, and his first dagger-to-the-groin pee, Gavin was worried, but still not worried enough to seek help. “It still felt like it was going to go away.” By that point, any pleasure that normally comes from an erection was gone or nearly gone, and sharp, sudden pain was a regular reality. No amount of coaxing can turn a multi-day semi-erection into anything fun.

“On my fourth day, I had a date night with my girlfriend. By now, my erection was the main talking point. It felt the same throughout the last four days. Nothing changed there, but it was starting to worry me by that time … she finally convinced me that seeing the doctor was the way to go. But we decided to see what it could do. I told her that I wasn’t feeling much from it, but she said she could change that.”

The love of a good woman can do many things, but it can’t turn a tube of cookie dough into a proper fuckstrument. “We tried, but no matter what she did, my dick stayed exactly how it was. It wasn’t rock hard, and it wasn’t soft and limp. It was in-between, exactly how it had been for days.”

That was the final straw. After five straight days of hell, Gavin decided to seek medical help.


The Treatment Ranges From Pills To Amputation

Gavin’s doctor was not happy to see that he’d waited five freaking days to get his weird taffy boner looked at. “He told me that, if enough damage had been done (i.e. dead tissue, necrosis) it may need to come off. But when I told him it wasn’t painful, and after he did a few more tests, he said ‘It’s non-ischemic’ [aka high-flow]. This made me worry further, but then he added ‘You’re not losing your penis, Sir.'”

At which point we’re just gonna assume this started playing over the PA.

Again, Gavin lucked out — many doctors, even specialists like urologists, aren’t familiar with the type of priapism Gavin had. All he needed was a prescription for vasodilators to open the blood vessels, and he went flaccid almost immediately. But low-flow priapisms, which are much more common, lack the same easy fix.

Gavin’s wang still had oxygen flowing into it; your theoretical eight-hour Viagra hard-on would be eight hours without oxygen. That’s going to start deteriorating the penis. If you wait as long as Gavin did, amputation might be necessary. Another option might be putting in a needle and taking out the blood, cutting it open to relieve the pressure, or injecting medicine into the penis glans.

So it could have been worse … but he had still waited too long. “If I hadn’t been so pigheaded and embarrassed about it, it probably would have been a few hours. But [I] was, and it ruined my dick.”


Waiting Too Long Can Be Fatal (To Your Penis)

“It’s hard to get a boner now. I went for a follow up after I found that it was getting really hard to get an erection, and my doctor told me that I waited too long, and that my penis didn’t get enough oxygen … It was like not getting enough oxygen from not breathing for a while and getting brain damage. That’s what happened to my dick.”

“For all the things your penis can do, holding its breath is not one of them.”

Gavin can pee normally again, but his days of having normal erections are over forever. “I need to do a lot of work to get an erection. Like, the blood comes in, but then it will seep out and I’ll need to double my efforts. I’ve lost girlfriends before to this.” Most nights, no matter how much he wants it, no erection will come. If it does, it doesn’t last.

Gavin can’t even turn to Viagra or Cialis to help him. He’s terrified by those ads that warn of four-hour erections. “I really don’t want to go through that again, and plus, even the doctors were unsure if it’d really help. The same goes for those penis pills at sex shops.”

Of course, that holds for everybody, unless your penis is motivated by sugar tablets and desperation.

We can’t emphasize this enough: If you find your penis, or a penis you love, with an extremely long-lasting erection, waiting for treatment can cause permanent erectile dysfunction and much, much worse. Others have suffered urethral damage, required permanent shunts, lost interest in sex altogether and even experienced urethral fistula — where you get a second peehole in the middle of your penis. And, yes, others have had their penises amputated after the tissue developed “dry necrosis.” We’re not going to show you a picture of that — google it if you feel like vomiting today. Or just picture a month-old banana.

“I know how lucky I was,” says Gavin, presumably after having done some Googling of his own.

“Last year, one of my friends called me in the middle of the night. He knew what I went through, and he told me he had an erection going on six hours. Despite him knowing exactly what I went through, he was hesitating because an ER visit would be embarrassing for that. I told him, ‘No. You’re going now. I’ll be right there,’ and I hung up before he could say otherwise. I got him to the ER at six in the morning.” The doctor told him it was a good thing, as any longer could have meant permanent damage. Gavin just nodded and said, “Yeah, I can imagine.”

Evan V. Symon is a writer, interviewer and interviewer finder guy for the Personal Experience team at Cracked. Have a job/experience you’d like to share? Hit us up at today!

Also check out 6 Things I Learned Having My Penis Surgically Removed and 6 Things You Learn When Your Penis / Vagina Doesn’t Work.

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