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An erection happens when blood rushes to the penis, making it firmer and enlarged. Think of it as a boner’s way of saying “hey” and giving you a thumbs up. They happen for a number of reasons, and there are a lot of factors that affect the ~quality~. Whether you’re a virgin or you’ve seen your fair share of erect penises, these are a few surprising things we think everyone should know about boners, so you can become somewhat of an expert yourself.

1. They’re more spontaneous than you think

Sorry collegiettes, but getting a boner doesn’t always mean that a guy is totally into you. Sometimes they just happen without conscious control.

Dr. William Schiff, a urologist from Fresno, California, specializes in men’s health and erectile dysfunction. He informs us that there are actually three different types of erections. “Arousal from physical contact is called a reflexogenic erection. If the erection spurs from audiovisual stimulation it’s called psychogenic. The last are nocturnal erections which happen when someone is asleep.”

Eric, a junior at the University of California, Irvine, puts this in easy-to-understand terms. “Foreplay and making out obviously gives me a boner, but sometimes nothing gives me a boner,” he explains. “I’ll be sitting in class and the room will be really cold, or I’ll remember I forgot to turn in a homework assignment, and then it just happens. I get them a lot from things that are the most non-sexual.”

What does this new penis fact mean for women? What he’s packing can be just as much a surprise for him as it is for you. If you wake up in the morning to some unwelcome morning wood or see a bump in his jeans start to rise while you’re talking, it doesn’t necessarily mean he’s coming on to you. Understanding what stimulates erections is important. Most guys have 11 erections a day, and we can bet that most of those don’t have anything to do with sexy-time.

Related: 5 Sex Taboos You Should Be Over By Now

2. Certain habits have negative side effects

Your body isn’t going to be in great shape if you eat poorly and don’t exercise, and those same rules apply to boner quality. An unhealthy lifestyle can make arousal a lot harder than you would expect.

Getting intimate with a guy who does a lot of smoking and drinking also doesn’t bode well for the bedroom. It’s been confirmed that these habits play seriously into erectile dysfunction in younger men. Smoking inhibits proper blood flow, which means the penis isn’t getting the blood it needs when your guy is aroused. In turn, alcohol acts as a depressant, so even if he wants to get hard and show sexual desire, it may not happen. If his erectile dysfunction becomes a problem where he can’t get it up every time after having a couple drinks, don’t be afraid to talk it out and maybe pursue a healthier daily lifestyle to achieve a healthier sex life.

3. Anxiety is so real

Having performance anxiety or even a serious psychological issue like stress, anxiety or depression will definitely make it a struggle for him to get hard. Mental health actually has so much to do with erections. Whether he’s nervous about sex or even anxious about things happening at school or in his personal life, that tense feeling is going to affect the way his penis operates.

Dr. Schiff elaborates on the correlation between stress and penis function. “Performance anxiety is equally common in men and women; just as clinical disorders are equally common,” he says. “It’s extremely debilitating when you feel like you can’t fulfill an expected role. Reminding your partner that sex doesn’t need to be goal oriented is a good place to start. When you struggle with anxiety you have no idea how your body is going to react in certain situations, so making sure to have supportive sexual dialogue and understanding is key.”

If the tables were turned, basically treat him the way you want to be treated if you were the one feeling anxious about not being able to get wet. Acting annoyed or upset is going to be the opposite of helpful. Let him know that getting hard isn’t an issue right now, and there are so many other ways you can be intimate without trying to meet an end goal. It’s great to make mental health and anxiety a safe thing to talk about in the bedroom, and will hopefully lead to more pleasure for both of you in the long run.

4. The better a guy sleeps, the better his erection will be

Pretty much everything feels better after getting a full night’s rest, and the same goes for boners too. “A poor night’s sleep negatively affects men’s testosterone levels which in turn impacts the erection,” says Dr. Schiff.

Plus, remember how we mentioned that guys get nocturnal boners? Well, when he doesn’t get enough sleep his nighttime erections get interrupted, and that also can damage his overall penile health. Needless to say, let the boy get his sleep! Boners are low-key so much more complex than we expected.

Related: So THIS Is Why Guys Send Dick Pics

5. Masturbation plays a role

If your guy hasn’t played with himself for a few days, he’s likely to get a more intense erection later. While everyone has their personal masturbation choices both in and out of relationships, being greeted with a bigger and firmer erection now and then might be nice.

Real live college guy, Eric, better explains what this feels like so those of us without the anatomy can understand. “I can for sure tell a difference in how good my erection is depending on if I masturbated,” he says. “If I haven’t masturbated or done anything for a week, my boner is going to be that much better when I am having sex. Everything is way more sensitive.”

Try asking your guy to go a few days without any sexual stimulation, and then see what happens. When he does get an erection, it’s going to be way more intense for both of you *wink wink*.

Honestly, we are so here for all the sex facts. We hope you learned something new about boners today, collegiettes!

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