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Last updated February 14, 2020. 5 minute read

Yes, you can break your penis. And it's as awful as it sounds

Erections are complicated. The penis is a blood-filled tube of soft tissue that becomes hard only because it is tightly contained by a tough piece of tissue that is under enormous strain when erect. One wrong move, one odd snap or twist, one misplaced forceful thrust, and that tissue can tear with surprising force.

Written by Health Guide
Reviewed by Dr. Mike Bohl, MD, MPH

Cards on the table, guys: Penile fracture is a rough topic. If you’re squeamish, maybe this one’s not for you—because yes, you can break your penis. And yes, it really is as awful as it sounds. For those brave enough to continue, here’s everything you need to know about a broken penis, including how it happens, what it sounds like (seriously), and what you can do if this unfortunate turn of events ever happens to you.

Vitals

  • It is possible to break your penis.
  • This happens when the tissue that contains blood in an erection (a.k.a. the “penis sheath”) is broken.
  • Most often, this happens during aggressive sex.
  • It’s a very rare phenomenon. But it does happen!

How your penis works

To understand how you can break your penis, you have to know a little about the general structure of the penis and how erections work. Despite all the charming euphemisms, your penis doesn’t actually contain any bones or cartilage. Instead, the penis is made up of very vascular, spongy tissue that’s supplied by a lot of blood flow.

When you get an erection, the arteries in the penis open while the veins compress, allowing more blood in than out. This causes that spongy tissue to engorge and stiffen. In fact, tissue in the penis would expand even more if it weren’t contained by something. Fortunately, the penis has a strong, white sheath of fibrous tissue called the tunica albuginea surrounding the dual spongy, blood-filled tubes (the corpora cavernosa).

This sheath—the tunica albuginea—is what allows a penis to become rigid enough to penetrate a partner. And it has to be incredibly strong to contain this swelling, pressure, and the force of penetration.

Under pressure: How your “penis sheath” works

Just how strong is the tunica albuginea? Well, normal blood pressure is about 120/80 (measured in mm of mercury of pressure), and high blood pressure is anything above 130/80. Anything above 200 mmHg is high enough to rupture blood vessels in your brain. The tunica albuginea can handle almost eight times (1,500 mmHg) that amount of pressure (Bitsch, 1990).

Moreover, while the tunica is very flexible and thick when the penis is flaccid—about 2 mm thick—it’s only about 0.5 mm thick when the penis becomes erect.

Erections are complicated. The penis is a blood-filled tube of soft tissue that becomes hard only because it is tightly contained by a tough piece of tissue that is under enormous strain when erect. One wrong move, one odd snap or twist, one misplaced forceful thrust, and that tissue can tear with surprising force.

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What does a broken penis sound like?

The sudden tearing of that sheath is the same as popping a balloon with the prick of a pin. Blood rushes through that tiny opening to the surface of the penis, and in a very real sense, the penis explodes in the area of the tear. This is why breaking a penis is usually accompanied by a loud “popping” sound or a crackling noise and excruciating pain.

Without getting too into the specifics, breaking your penis typically results in:

  • A loud pop
  • Rapid loss of the erection
  • Swelling and severe bruising
  • Excruciating pain (it’s worth mentioning again)

In some cases, a penile fracture can tear blood vessels and even sever the urethra, the tube urine, and semen travel through.

Fixing a broken penis: surgery

In almost every case, a broken penis requires surgery to repair the damage. Long term complications of penile fracture can include scarring, a bent penis, erectile dysfunction, and difficulty with urination or orgasms. Penile fracture is a serious injury with potentially lifelong consequences. That’s why it’s important you take a deep breath and keep reading if you want to learn how to prevent breaking your penis.

And the first stop on this journey is, surprisingly, Iran.

Iran: the land of broken penises

While penile fracture happens to men everywhere, Iran leads the world in penile fractures (Zargooshi, 2000) thanks to a little known practice called taqaandan. Meaning “to click” in Kurdish, some men in the region of Kermanshah, Iran engage in a behavior that can only be described as a forceful “twanging” of the penis.

Essentially, these men grab the base of their penis and bend the top portion rapidly to one side. This leads to a rapid loss of an erection, accompanied by a loud “pop.” Amazingly, this practice isn’t typically described as “painful.” Nevertheless, penises in Iran are subject to the same laws of physics and biology as everywhere else, and an unusually high number of men in Iran fracture their penises.

Of the hundreds of men seen in one center, about 40% said they practiced taqaandan because it was a “habit” (Zargooshi, 2000). Others did it to overcome an erection or unwanted desires. However, about a quarter of the men surveyed found it “pleasurable,” “refreshing,” or simply “enjoyed the sound.” And you thought cracking your knuckles was bad.

But “penile manipulation,” while fascinating, isn’t the leading cause of penile fracture. That honor belongs to sex, particularly two notoriously “dangerous” positions.

Two sex positions that can break your penis

According to a 2014 study from Advances in Urology, “Heterosexual intercourse (~66%) is the most common cause of penile fracture, followed by “penile manipulation” (15%) (Reis, 2014). “Woman on top” was the most common position to cause penile fracture (50%), followed by “doggy style” at 29%.

A similar study found that sex was responsible for penile fracture 75% of the time. The other 25% of cases involved masturbation, blunt trauma, or falls (such as falling out of bed). While not exhaustive, the research seems to show that the greatest risk for severe penile fracture—one where both sides of the penis pop under pressure and where the urethra is torn—results from sex in the “doggy style” and “partner on top” positions (Barros, 2017).

Sex under “stressful situations”

A Journal of Sexual Medicine study found that “Penile fracture patients appear to be a unique population of men who are having sexual intercourse under stressful situations (Kramer, 2011). Extramarital affairs and out-of-the-ordinary locations appear common in patients sustaining this relatively rare injury.”

Of the sixteen patients with an acute penile fracture, seven were in the midst of an extramarital affair. Two fractures happened in the backseat of a car. Another two occurred in a bathroom, and three were sustained while having sex at work. One was even in an elevator. The unusual places may have meant unfamiliar physical positions, and the illicit nature of the sex may have made it more hurried and unusually excited.

If sex is beginning to strain the limits of your usual physical capacity, consider slowing things down.

Penile fracture is scary but rare

Just the mention of “breaking your penis” is enough to turn most men’s stomachs. However, the reality is that penile fracture is exceedingly rare. The sheath around your soft tissue is durable and can handle extensive pressure and stress. So unless you’re engaging in particularly aggressive sex—in general—your penis should be just fine.