Achieving a rigid erection is a “symphony” that results from the interplay of four “orchestral sections” – nerves, blood vessels, erectile smooth muscle, and erectile skeletal muscle (pelvic floor muscles). These orchestral sections are lead by the conductor – the brain (the main sex organ). Although each individual “musician” within the orchestral sections has a unique role, all work together in harmony to create a beautiful symphony. If any musician or orchestral section is off key, the disharmony can cause the symphony to be flawed, resulting in a sub-par performance.
Sections Of The Orchestra
The nerves as the string instruments – like the violin, viola, cello, and double bass – vibrating in sync. This is arguably one of the most important sections. The penis has a number of nerves that connect to the spinal cord and brain. Without these nerves and connections, the penis would be numb, cut off from the rest of the body and incapable of response to touch or erotic stimulation. Here is how things work when the nerves are functioning properly:
- When the penis is stimulated by touch, nerves relay this information to spinal cord centers, which then relay the message to the penile arteries to increase blood flow and engorge the penis.
- The feeling of touch is also conveyed directly to the brain, enhancing the reflex spinal cord response.
- Erotic stimulation (like visual cues, sounds, smells, touch, thoughts, and memories) further stimulate the penis from excitatory nerve pathways that descend from the brain.
- With touch stimulation of the head of the penis, a reflex contraction of the pelvic floor muscles pushes more blood to the penis, leading to a rigid erection.
2. Blood Vessels
The blood vessels are the percussion instruments – like the piano, xylophone, cymbals, drums, kettledrums, and timpani – that pulse rhythmically. Penis inflation is all about blood inflow and trapping. When there are issues with blood flow or blood trapping, it becomes very difficult to obtain and/or maintain an erection. Here is how things work when the blood vessels are functioning properly:
- In response to touch or erotic stimulation, the nerves (as discussed above) cause the muscle within the walls of the penile arteries to relax, which increases penile blood flow.
- Muscle relaxation within the small arteries of the sinuses of the penile erectile chambers further increases blood flow, resulting in penile engorgement.
3. Erectile Smooth Muscle
The erectile smooth muscle is like the woodwind instruments – such as the piccolos, flutes, oboes, clarinets, and bassoons – ranging from the highest tones in the orchestra to the lowest, analogous to the great range of smooth muscle contractility within the erectile chambers. The erectile smooth muscle within the sinuses of the erectile chambers governs the inflation/deflation status of the penis. When the smooth muscle is contracted (squeezed), the penis cannot inflate with blood, but when the muscle relaxes, blood gushes into the sinuses and inflates the penis.
Issues with erectile smooth muscle make it difficult to obtain or maintain an erection. As we age, the smooth muscle in all the arteries of the body stiffens and causes high blood pressure. In parallel, there is also an age-related stiffness of the erectile smooth muscle, which causes erectile dysfunction (ED). But here is how things work when the erectile smooth muscle is functioning properly:
- In response to touch or erotic stimulation, the smooth muscle within the sinuses of the erectile chambers relaxes, under control of the nerves, which allows blood to flow into and fill the sinuses.
- As the sinuses approach complete filling, veins that drain them are pinched, trapping blood within the sinuses.
- This smooth muscle relaxation results in penile blood pressure becoming equal to the overall systolic blood pressure (normally, 120 millimeters) and an engorged penis, plump but not rigid.
4. Erectile Skeletal Muscles (Pelvic Floor Muscles)
The erectile skeletal muscles are the brass instruments – the trumpets, French horns, trombones, and tubas – capable of the loudest sounds in the orchestra. These instruments are particularly important in the loudest, most exciting portions of the music, corresponding to the role of the pelvic floor muscles as one approaches climax, maintaining rigidity and the force behind ejaculation.
The pelvic floor muscles are the rigidity muscles necessary for transforming a plump penis to a rock-hard penis. These “rigidity” muscles surround the deep roots of the penis. When they are not functioning optimally, one loses the potential for full rigidity.
Half of the penis is hidden and internal and is known as the penile roots. Like the roots of a tree responsible for foundational support, the roots of the penis stabilize and support the erect penis so that it stays rigid and skyward-angling with excellent “posture.” When erect, it is these muscles that are responsible for the ability to lift one’s penis up and down as the muscles are contracted and relaxed. The rigidity muscles compress the roots of the penis, causing a back flow of pressurized blood into the penis. Additionally, they are responsible for ejaculation – compressing the urethra (the urinary channel that runs through the penis) rhythmically at the time of climax to cause the expulsion of semen.
Here is how things work when the pelvic floor muscles are functioning properly:
- With touch stimulation of the head of the penis, the pelvic floor muscles undergo a reflex contraction. Every time the head of the penis is stimulated, the pelvic floor muscles contract.
- The pelvic floor muscles surround the roots of the penis. As they compress and squeeze the roots with each contraction, the blood within the roots is forced back into the external penis, thereby pushing more blood into the penis and causing more clamping of venous outflow, a tourniquet-like effect. This results in penile high blood pressure and full-fledged rigidity – a brass-hard penis.
5. The Brain
The brain is the conductor of the orchestra – the maestro – who has the vital role of unifying and coordinating the individual performers, setting the tempo, executing meter, “listening” critically, and shaping the sound of the ensemble accordingly. The conductor is the key player. So, if he has an off day and does not bring his “A” game, there will be disharmony in the orchestra and the symphony will be flat and unimpressive.
The psychological and emotional status has a significant impact on erectile function. Mood, stress levels, interpersonal and relationship issues – acting via the mind-body connection and mediated via the release of neurochemicals – can influence erectile function for better or worse. Stress, for example, induces the adrenal glands to release a surge of adrenaline. Adrenaline constricts blood vessels, which has a negative effect on erections, the root cause of the common occurrence of adrenaline-fueled performance anxiety.
Fixing The Different Sections Of The Orchestra
Now that we have looked at the sections of the orchestra and have deconstructed the erectile process, let us use this schema as a means of treating specific parts of the process that may have gone awry.
Since intact and functioning nerves are fundamental to the erectile process, stimulation of the nerves can be an effective means of resurrecting erectile function. Penile vibratory stimulation induces the reflex between the penis and the spinal cord that gradually fills the penis with arterial blood. It contributes to erectile rigidity by inducing reflex contractions of the pelvic floor muscles when the vibrations are applied to the head of the penis. By enhancing this reflex and triggering nerve activity in the brain, spinal cord, and peripheral nerves, vibratory stimulation is capable of inducing an erection and ejaculation.
2. Blood Vessels
Clogged arteries caused by fatty plaques, often a consequence of an unhealthy lifestyle, can compromise the blood supply to the penis. Lifestyle “remake” consists of common-sense measures to improve all aspects of health in general and blood vessel health in particular. This means getting down to fighting weight, adopting a heart-healthy (and penis-healthy) diet, exercising regularly, drinking alcohol moderately, avoiding tobacco, minimizing stress, and getting enough sleep. Oral ED medications can be helpful when there is compromised blood flow to the penis. They work by inhibiting the chemical that causes erections to dissipate.
3. Erectile Smooth Muscle
Age-related dysfunction of erectile smooth muscle is a difficult issue to manage. However, lifestyle measures as well as adopting a “use it or lose it” attitude toward sexual function can be helpful. Exercising the penis via regular sexual activity will actually improve the health of the smooth muscle of the penile arteries and sinuses.
4. Erectile Skeletal Muscles
Pelvic floor muscle training will improve the strength, tone, and endurance of the pelvic floor muscles and will optimize the rigidity function.
Finding a solution for the psychological and emotional issues that adversely affect sexual function would merit winning the Nobel Prize! Lifestyle measures are vital for optimal brain function, so getting sufficient sleep is particularly important. Stress management is essential as stress is one of the main erection killers. Finding balance in life is key. When in a sexual situation, being “in the moment” as opposed to “spectatoring” – observing your performance as a third party – is fundamental for optimal functioning.
The bottom line? An erection is a highly complex symphony orchestrated by the main sex organ – the brain – and executed at the level of the penis via the individual performances of the orchestral members or the orchestral sections – the nerves, blood vessels, erectile smooth muscle, and the pelvic floor muscles. All orchestral members play a vital role in the creation of a magical synergy, resulting in a spirited, powerful, passionate performance that climaxes in a tension-releasing symphonic finale.