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Thursday, Jan. 5, 2017 12:10 am

Wood I lie to you?

PHOTO COURTESY AMY ALKON
Amy Alkon
My girlfriend found a certain little blue pill in my jeans pocket, and her feelings were hurt. I explained that I’m as into her as ever; I just need a little extra help because I’m getting older. However, she’s taking this personally. How do I reassure her? – Rhymes with Niagara

Back in seventh grade, erections were easy to get – especially when you were standing in front of the class giving your oral report on Harriet Tubman.

A penis is generally at its peppiest when a man’s in his teens and 20s (before genes and/or years of bad living narrow the arteries from superhighways to single-file footpaths). That’s because erections are blood flow-powered – ultimately, anyway. They start in the brain in response to a thought or something from the environment – like being touched or seeing the hot neighbor bending over in yoga pants.

Nitric oxide gets released and starts a chemical reaction that relaxes smooth muscle in the penis, allowing blood vessels to dilate: “Open up! Party time!” Then, sex researcher Dr. Robert Kolodny explains, “an increased amount of blood flows into the penis, where it is trapped in three spongy cylinders that run the length of the organ. The resulting fluid pressure is what causes the penis to increase in size … and to become rigid.”

There’s an elastic fibrous membrane – the tunica albuginea – that keeps the blood in the penis. And this thing being leaky – kind of like a submarine hatch with a bad seal – is just one of the things (along with narrowed arteries, anxiety, endocrine problems, smoking, and diabetes, among others) that can cause a penis to stay floppy or get wilty.

Using a pharmaceutical erection helper is basically like calling in a plumber when the shower pressure isn’t what it used to be. It doesn’t make a man the least bit more attracted to a woman or more into sex than he’d otherwise be. It just relaxes the smooth muscle and increases blood flow, making the, um, cadet more likely to report for duty.

Explain all of this to your girlfriend. Then tell her how beautiful and sexy you find her, and tell her again. And keep telling her – with regularity. Men don’t quite understand how much this means to a woman. When a woman believes her man finds her attractive, it helps her feel loved and secure. That reassurance – combined with being clued in on the mechanics of the manpart – should help your girlfriend understand that there’s no reason to take your pill popping personally. The pipes just need a little help; it isn’t the penis version of Groundhog Day – with the little feller peeking out, deciding the landscape is hopeless and going back into hiding.

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