Aside from factors such as stress levels and overall health, aging is arguably the biggest factor when it comes to the prevalence of erectile dysfunction.
How the Penis Ages: An Owner's Manual
You've watched your penis blossom throughout your life, but what happens as your faithful member enters its twilight years? Mainstream media generally don't answer this question; the prevalence of ageism in society means that, if we're shown dicks at all, they're usually hulking "anacondas" in the prime of their life, but more accurate, realistic depictions of older cocks could dispel more general fears around aging.
While it is true that health care becomes more important in your later years, it's not all doom and gloom. From aesthetics and function to myths around senior sex, here's everything to know about looking after your dick as you move through the journey of life.
Puberty looks different for everyone—some trans youth even opt for puberty-blockers, which halt the process to ease the medical transition in later life and alleviate gender dysphoria-related mental health issues—but generally, this process of sexual maturation happens between the ages of 11 and 18.
Both your penis and testicles grow pretty rapidly throughout these years, slowing down at around 18 years old and stopping entirely by the age of 21. Throughout this time, your dick is basically in its prime. Generally, penises of this age are more fertile, and the risks of health conditions such as erectile dysfunction (ED) are pretty low, although post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can come into play.
Testosterone also begins to course through your body during puberty, and a 2014 study published in PLOS ONE found that levels generally peak around 19 years of age. This important hormone is linked to sex drive, muscle mass and sperm production, so these years tend to be your horniest, strongest and most virile.
Throughout your 30s, testosterone levels generally remain high before dropping off after the age of 40. This isn't always the case; some younger people with penises also experience the effects of low testosterone, which range from lack of sex drive and general fatigue to hair loss and ED.
Usually, you won't see any notable differences in the look or feel of your junk throughout these years. Despite cultural fear-mongering about penile shrinkage, most dicks don't undergo any drastic visual changes throughout their lifespan. The drop in testosterone levels is the key factor to keep in mind for this age range, although the sex hormone is frequently misunderstood. A common myth is that it’s a "male sex hormone," but people assigned female at birth (AFAB) also produce small amounts of testosterone in their ovaries, just usually not enough to drastically impact their muscle mass, vocal pitch or body hair.
However, it is a swell idea to develop good habits throughout these years. The earlier you start consciously looking after your dick, the smoother your transition into later life is likely to be.
Despite cultural fear-mongering about penile shrinkage, most members don't undergo any drastic visual changes throughout their lifespan.
Aside from factors such as stress levels and overall poor health, aging is arguably the biggest factor when it comes to the prevalence of erectile dysfunction. According to statistics referenced in a 2017 Turkish Journal of Urology article, aging "increases the risk of erectile dysfunction from 1.2 percent per year for men ages 40 through 49 and 4.6 percent for men ages 60 through 69." This percentage continues to rise in later life.
Luckily, researchers have spent centuries fine-tuning solutions. A 2017 article published by the BMJ Postgraduate Medical Journal summarized this history of progress, starting with a 22-ingredient potion prescribed to an impotent Chinese emperor and continuing through to the modern-day plethora of choices. Treatments such as penile prostheses, pumps, pills and wearable devices, including Eddie by Giddy®, are designed to treat ED by constricting the veins in the penis, but not the arteries or urethra, to optimize blood flow and help maintain erections. They are among a handful of options available for dicks struggling to stay hard.
In a society obsessed with flattening differences, it should come as no surprise that "andropause" is a term thrown around to simplify what happens during these years. In reality, the word is pretty unhelpful and inaccurate—people with penises don’t experience a straight-up translation of "menopause"—so it's worth breaking down what does and doesn’t happen as you age into your 40s and 50s.
The first thing to know is that your testosterone levels will continue to fall, but this tends to be a gradual decline as opposed to a steep, sharp drop. It's worth mentioning here that Harvard researchers have long questioned what the hell constitutes "normal" testosterone levels anyway, but all you need to know is that, throughout these years, you'll be more likely to experience irritability, fatigue and decreased bone density.
Dicks are also more prone to Peyronie's disease throughout these years, a condition that causes a curve in the penis while erect. "Penises are often curved, and this is normal," clarified Los Angeles urologist Paul Turek, M.D. "When that curve changes or increases, this could indicate Peyronie's disease, which is simply benign scar tissue on the shaft that may need to be 'softened' to fix the curve." More generally, you might also see your cock start to shrink or wrinkle, but it won't morph overnight, and there is no universal "aging penis," although a healthy diet, low-stress levels and regular exercise can keep your piece in its prime for longer.
There is no universal 'aging penis,' although a healthy diet, low-stress levels and regular exercise can keep your piece in its prime for longer.
Things will likely continue to shrink slightly as you grow older, but these changes still tend to be relatively small and imperceptible. The biggest issue throughout these years is likely to be erectile dysfunction, which studies have frequently shown to increase in prevalence as you age into your 70s.
Regular medical checks become increasingly important as you age into your twilight years, with risks of various illnesses starting to rise. In particular, you'll need to pay attention to your prostate. According to the American Cancer Society, around 248,530 people with penises will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2021, making it the second most common type behind skin cancer. Research shows it's far more likely to impact older men—around 60 percent of cases are in men aged 65 or over.
"Typically, prostate cancer is screened for by a rectal exam and a blood test called a prostate-specific antigen (PSA) test," clarified Turek. He advised making this a regular staple on your overall health housekeeping list after the age of 55.
Nearly 250,000 men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2021, making it the second most common type behind skin cancer.
There's a common myth that erectile dysfunction only occurs in older penises, which is harmful. Not only does this misconception make it harder for younger guys to talk about the issue, but it also reinforces the notion that elderly guys either can't or won't have sex, which opens up a whole world of problems around senior sex stereotypes.
A key fact about ED is that it isn't just physiological; factors including stress, mental health and other wider health issues can lead to diagnoses among younger dicks, so embracing this complexity is important. It's also worth remembering that sex doesn't have to be penetrative to be pleasurable; there's a whole world of options at your disposal whether or not your dick can stay hard, so exploring with your mouth, hands and a few carefully chosen sex toys remains an option for couples navigating ED.
Workarounds such as these are commonly overlooked in discussions of aging, which regularly veer towards doom and gloom. In reality, there are plenty of ways to enjoy and maintain your penile pleasure no matter how old you are.
Sex doesn’t have to be penetrative to be pleasurable; exploring with your mouth, hands and a few carefully chosen sex toys remains an option for couples navigating ED.