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21 Bad Penis Habits You Should Ditch ASAP

Are you protecting your penis?

Posted on April 22, 2017, at 11:01 a.m. ET

Penises are pretty resilient, but there are several bad habits you might be guilty of that can negatively affect your comfort, sex life, and just overall health down there.

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Just because vaginas get gynecologists and annual exams and all that jazz doesn't mean you can just forget about your penis health. In fact, there are a lot of problems that can arise if you don't look after your penis properly.

So to find out more about how to keep your penis as healthy as possible, BuzzFeed Health spoke with two board-certified urologists: Dr. Harry Fisch, clinical professor at Weill Cornell Medical College and New York-Presbyterian Hospital and author of Size Matters; and Dr. Abraham Morgentaler, director of Men's Health Boston, clinical professor at Harvard Medical School, and author of The Truth About Men and Sex.

Here are some common mistakes, bad habits, poor hygiene practices, and behaviors they'd suggest ditching ASAP.

1. You ignore any new lumps, bumps, or blisters on your penis.

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New bumps, rashes, blisters, warts, or discoloration on the penis should never be ignored, especially if they're red or painful or itchy. "Red is not right," Fisch tells BuzzFeed Health.

This could be a sign of a sexually transmitted disease, a bacterial or fungal infection, an allergy, or something else, so you should get it checked out ASAP. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it's better to be safe than sorry. "If you have open blisters or sores, these can also increase the risk of transmission for certain STDs," says Fisch.

2. You don't wash your penis often enough.

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Since the penis is an external organ, it doesn't have the same magical ~self-cleaning~ mechanisms that the vagina has to keep bacteria and other stuff out. Plus, the penis and surrounding area can get pretty warm and sweaty, which makes it easy for bacteria and fungus to grow.

"If you don't shower or clean the penis enough, especially if you're sweating a lot, you can end up with a rash and irritation, or fungal infections like jock itch," says Fisch. Not to mention, the buildup of bacteria down there can also cause an unpleasant odor, Fisch says, and smelling bad is never fun.

"A lot of men don't realize that they can also get yeast infections, which look like red patches on the penis," says Morgentaler. "Our bodies are naturally covered in fungus [Candida albicans], which can grow out of control if the area is too moist."

According to the experts, you should be washing your penis with soap and water at least once a day (depending on how dirty and sweaty you get). You should also be washing your penis after you have sex, because fluids from your partner might allow more bacteria to grow. Here's more info about cleaning your penis.

3. Or if you're uncircumcised, you don't clean up under your foreskin.

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If you're uncircumcised and your foreskin is long enough to cover the head of your penis, you'll want to make sure to keep it clean under there. "If you have poor hygiene, bacteria and fungus can get trapped under the foreskin," says Morgentaler. This can result in inflammation of the foreskin (posthitis) or inflammation of the head or glans of the penis (balanitis).

"Sometimes if there's a bacterial or yeast infection under the foreskin, it can cause a buildup that looks like cottage cheese," Morgentaler says. To prevent this from happening, Morgentaler suggests washing your penis with soap and water at least once a day, making sure to withdraw the foreskin and clean underneath, then drying it off well.

4. You let it get a little swampy down there. / Via

"Anytime there's more moisture and heat than normal, it will allow for bacteria and fungus to grow, so it's important to keep the area cool and dry, especially if you're sweating or it's hot and humid out," says Fisch. You can do this by making sure to dry off properly after showering, and applying baby powder or talcum powder to the penis and scrotum area throughout the day.

Another bad habit that can contribute to a swampy crotch is wearing extremely tight underwear or pants that don't allow for any ventilation. "If you want to keep it dry, maybe go for a breathable fabric like cotton and wear looser boxers or clothing," says Fisch.

5. You hang around in your sweaty spandex or compression shorts after working out.

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It's totally fine to wear very tight spandex or bicycle shorts when you exercise, says Fisch, but it's not a good idea to sit around in them for hours afterward.

"The spandex can trap heat and moisture if you're sweating a lot, so wearing them for too long could help fungus to grow," Fisch says.

6. You tend to have rougher, more ~adventurous~ sex while drunk.

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The situation: You're lying down, penetrating your partner who's on top (in cowgirl/cowboy/reverse cowgirl/reverse cowboy position). Suddenly, your partner comes down hard, but your penis misses the entrance, so their full weight comes right down on top of it. This is usually how a person ends up with a sprain, fracture, or bend in their penis.

"There are two cylinders of tissue called the corpus cavernosum, which fill with blood and get hard during an erection. They can snap or rupture when your partner's full weight comes down on the penis, and they surround the urethra so that can tear too," Fisch says. As you can imagine, it's excruciatingly painful and often requires surgery to fix.

But even if you don't fracture your penis, repeatedly bending it with too much force can also cause serious problems. "The penis is really designed to go in and out, so if it gets bent too much, it can lead to Peyronie's disease, where scar tissue forms in an exaggerated way so it causes a painful, curved erection," Morgentaler says. So be careful when your partner is on top, or stick to less risky positions during drunk or adventurous sex.

7. You aren't mindful of your foreskin and it gets stuck over your penis from time to time.

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If you're uncircumcised, you have to take special care of your foreskin so it stays healthy and retractable. A situation might happen where the foreskin won't retract and it gets caught over the head of the penis, says Morgentaler, which is called phimosis. This can be caused by abnormal anatomy or infections and inflammation, but the experts say it often happens when the foreskin doesn't heal properly or scars after it tears.

"Trauma to the foreskin in adults usually happens during rough, penetrative intercourse or other sexual activities," says Fisch. Maybe you didn't use enough lube and tried to penetrate dry or maybe there was an accidental bite during oral sex — who knows. But if you do tear your foreskin, you should keep the area clean and avoid sexual activity until it heals.

If you really can't retract your foreskin, you should see a doctor or urologist. "Phimosis can also lead to paraphimosis, where you force the foreskin back and it's so tight that it gets stuck under the head, and this could strangulate the penis," Fisch says. Luckily, phimosis can be easily fixed with a procedure, says Morgentaler, so head to your doctor right away if this happens.

8. You try to penetrate (vaginally or anally) without any lubrication.

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Repeat this mantra in your head: "There's no such thing as too much lube. There's no such thing as too much lube. There's no such thing as too much lube."

Penetrating dry — whether that's because there wasn't enough foreplay, your partner can't self-lubricate, the lube dried up, etc. — could not only result in your penis bending from trying to jam it in, but it can tug or tear the delicate foreskin if you're uncircumcised, the experts say. "If you tear anything, it can cause bleeding, which increases the chances of STDs and scarring, which could cause phimosis," says Fisch.

Not to mention, not using enough lube will probably also hurt your partner. So just don't go in dry. Silicone- and water-based lubes are a great option because they won't degrade latex condoms. Here's more info on choosing the right lube.

9. You have penetrative anal sex without a condom.

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If you're penetrating during anal sex, it's always a good idea to wear a latex condom — and not just because it can protect against STDs. "If you're having anal sex without a condom, then bacteria from the stool can enter the urethra and cause either urinary tract infections or even prostate infections," says Fisch.

And again, use silicone- or water-based lube — but not oil-based lubes, as they can degrade the latex in condoms and cause them to break.

10. You use sketchy supplements or trendy products to make your penis bigger.


There are tons of different herbal supplements, over-the-counter pills, and other products that promise penis enlargement. But the hard truth is that none of these will actually make your member bigger.

"You can only have a penis as large as you're naturally capable of, and the only thing that technically 'increases' penis size is blood flow when it causes a flaccid penis to become erect," says Fisch.

Not to mention, many of those "all-natural" supplements aren't FDA-approved, so you have no idea what's really in them...or what they'll do to your boner.

11. You take erectile dysfunction drugs (like Viagra) for recreational purposes.

Flickr User Ted Drake / CC / Via Flickr: draket

Drugs like Viagra or Cialis are vasodilators, meaning that they relax the walls of the blood vessels in the penis to increase blood flow to the penis in order to achieve and maintain an erection. They're often used to treat erectile dysfunction, and sometimes high blood pressure. But if you're not prescribed or do not need these drugs, do not take them, Fisch says.

"If you use these drugs just for fun or because you think you can have sex all night, you may become accustomed to the sensation over time and this can lead to a real psychological dependency," says Fisch. And in some cases, taking too much of these drugs could lead to a condition called priapism, a prolonged erection that won't go away after several hours or persists after ejaculation.

12. You drink alcohol to the point where you can't get or maintain an erection.

We've already talked about the risks of drunken, adventurous sex (*cough* penis fracture) but what about drinking to the point where you can't get an erection at all? "Whiskey dick," as it's often called, is a very common phenomenon that you'll see in men of all ages, Fisch says.

"Alcohol is a depressant, so it dulls your senses so it's harder to get stimulated both mentally and physically, which can make it harder to achieve an erection, maintain an erection, and ejaculate," says Fisch. So if you're planning on having sex, maybe try to set a drink limit earlier in the evening or skip it altogether.

13. You masturbate very often in a super specific way that isn't replicable during partnered sex.


Don't get us wrong: Masturbation is a totally normal and healthy part of life — but there are some caveats if you have a penis. Masturbating too often in a very specific way might lead to "delayed ejaculation," where it takes a really long time to ejaculate, or you can't ejaculate at all with a partner. You can actually become so accustomed to reaching orgasm from your very specific masturbatory style that regular sex just won't cut it.

"Many men will use a very specific masturbation technique — such as a tight left-hand grip or a fast speed or a certain type of pornography — that isn't replicable during sex with a partner," Fisch says. And once you start focusing on the fact that you can't ejaculate, it's easy to become totally distracted from sex.

The first step to breaking this habit is simply recognizing that it's an issue, says Fisch, because many men have no idea. "You should try cutting back on masturbation or maybe switch up your technique, try watching less porn, and see if it helps," Fisch says. And if you're in a relationship, communication is key. "Talk to your partner about it and try to find ways to maybe mimic that sensation during sex or make things more exciting," Fisch says. If none of these things help, you might want to talk to your doctor or see a sex therapist.

14. You try to maintain your erection with super-tight cock rings, rubber bands, string, etc.

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"You'd be surprised at how many patients I've seen get a cock ring stuck that's too tight or tried to use rubber bands and strings around the base of the penis to keep an erection, and they end up having to go to the ER to get them removed," says Morgentaler.

In medical terms, these are called penile occlusion devices, says Morgentaler, and they work like this: While an erection is caused by blood flowing into the penis, these devices go around the base of the penis to cut off some of the outflow of blood from the veins. Cock rings have actually been used for centuries and they're usually safe, but problems arise when the ring is too tight or it's a DIY version made from rubber bands, hair ties, string, etc.

They can cut off circulation and cause the penis to go white, numb, and cold (like when you tie a string around your finger). So if you do want to use one, make sure it's the correct size and it's either medical grade or from a legitimate sex toy retailer. And do not wear it for more than 20 to 30 minutes at a time, Morgentaler says.

15. You stick things into your penis hole — either out of curiosity or for pleasure.

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It's really not a good idea to stick anything into your urethra, except maybe a medical catheter. "I have seen patients who have stuck all kinds of things into their urethra — a lot of men use these things called 'metal sounds,' which are like steel catheters that go into the penis," says Fisch.

After a brief Google search on "penis sounding," it turns out that sticking metal rods down your pee hole might be a kink or fetish for some people. And while you should feel free to express yourself sexually, this practice can be legitimately harmful to your penis health. You could end up with a urinary tract infection, an inflamed or irritated urethra (urethritis), or a painful trip to the emergency room.

16. You shrug off some blood in your urine or semen. / Via

Any time you see blood coming out of your penis, you should get it checked out. It's probably nothing, but it could be something.

"It's possible for blood to come out of your penis when you urinate, which could be a sign of an infection or even a tumor or cancer of the bladder," says Fisch. If there's blood in your ejaculate, this could be a condition called "hematospermia," says Fisch, which usually indicates that there's something going on with the prostate.

17. You go months without ejaculating or take long breaks to "store it up."

"Some men think they should do these 'detoxes' where they don't ejaculate for very long periods of time because it has some benefit, but that's not true — you need to 'clean your pipes' regularly," says Morgentaler.

Actually, going too long without ejaculating can result in an inflammation of the prostate called prostatitis. "Some studies have shown that prostate cancer is linked to infrequent ejaculation," says Morgentaler. So it's a good idea to ejaculate every one or two weeks just to make sure everything is flowing correctly.

18. You don't protect your penis during sports.

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You can cut, bruise, or just really badly chafe your penis if you don't protect it while engaging in contact sports, games with fast-flying balls, or other intense physical activities that might involve tackling or roughhousing. So it never hurts to protect your penis by wearing a jockstrap or a hard cup, Fisch says.

But it's not just contact sports that can cause problems. "I see a lot of men who will ride their bike until their penis is completely numb — and we know that prolonged, excessive bike riding can cause numbness in the groin," Fisch says. If this happens to you, it probably means you need to take a break or get a special seat that better accommodates your penis, Fisch says.

19. You don't wipe well enough after number two, or you use shitty toilet paper.

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The whole "front to back" rule applies to penises and vaginas. You don't want any fecal matter up around your genitals.

"There could be some bacteria from the stool left behind and this can cause irritation in the whole crotch area, especially if you get hot and sweaty," says Fisch.

And what you clean with may make a big difference. "For some guys, dry toilet paper just might not do the job, so they should try moist wipes instead," says Fisch.

20. You use old, dull razors to shave around your penis. / Via

Pubic hair is technically there to protect your genitals, says Fisch, but it's fine to manscape and groom down there as long as you're avoiding bad shaving habits. You should use a sharp, clean razor when you're shaving the area, as a dull razor can result in razor burn, cuts, irritation, and, everyone's favorite, pimply ingrown hairs.

Plus, if you have any cuts or open skin from picking at ingrown hairs around your genitals (don't do that), that can increase your risk of STD transmission, Fisch says. A good rule of thumb is replacing your razor at least once every two weeks.

21. Finally, you get tested for STDs only when you have symptoms.

Marco Testa / Getty Images / Casey Gueren / Via

According to the experts, this is a big problem among people with penises. Many assume they don't need to get tested if there aren't any problems. But most of the time, STDs are symptomless — so just because you look and feel fine, that doesn't mean you're in the clear. Getting tested is just a normal part of being a healthy, sexually active person.

STDs can be spread through oral, anal, and vaginal sex — and sometimes just through skin-to-skin genital contact or sharing sex toys. If you've engaged in any of these sexual activities, you should probably get tested. Ideally, you should start after your first sexual encounter and then get tested in the future between partners, after a potential exposure, and obviously if you have any symptoms.

Don't worry, most STD tests are quick and noninvasive — so no, you probably won't have a Q-tip or swab stuck in your penis. Chlamydia, gonorrhea, and trichomoniasis can be tested with a urine sample; while HIV, syphilis, herpes, and hepatitis B can all be tested with a blood test. Here's more info on how to find free, confidential STD testing at a clinic near you.

Now, go out and protect your peen.

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Lixia Guo / BuzzFeed News

A BuzzFeed News investigation, in partnership with the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists, based on thousands of documents the government didn't want you to see.