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Growers versus showers: A scientific penis investigation

On my regular virtual happy hour with friends, the flow of conversation — and liquor — inevitably leads to oversharing. Last week, one of my friends (we’ll call him Roger) bragged about how he was a “grower,” — which is someone whose penis looks average to underwhelming, but then grows surprisingly large when it’s erect. This is something which his girlfriend, who was also on the call, confirmed. For those aren’t familiar, the opposite of “growers” are “showers,” whose flaccid penises pretty much indicate their maximum length potential. Roger’s penis proclamation led me to wonder whether the urban legend about “growers” versus “showers” is true. When it comes to penises, are some extroverted while others boast, um, hidden talent?

I went to the experts with my scintillating peen inquiry, and found out that there’s a good amount of research evaluating flaccid penile length, according to Michael Ingber, a New Jersey-based reconstructive surgeon and urologist. “While there has not been enough research to understand which men are ‘growers’ vs. ‘showers,’ most men do have a significant change in their flaccid to erect penile length,” he says, adding that the percentage is around 75 to 90%, but also is simply an educated guess. In my experience, he was right — I fall into that majority.

I can’t go into the subject any deeper (giggle) without first noting the obvious: All penis-havers are “growers,” technically. But do true “showers” exist, as in, people whose penises maintain their length between flaccid and erect? “It would be unusual for a man who has a 3" flaccid penis to have a 3" penis when erect,” Ingber tells me.

Several doctors confirmed, in fact, that unless a penis-haver manages a condition that prevent him from becoming erect, he’s a grower by default. My friend Roger maintains that he’s a special circumstance, claiming that he has a 125% increase when he’s erect versus not. If he’s telling the truth, why all the growth?

Most of us are familiar with the stereotypical and untrue association with penis size and other parts of the body, for instance height, general musculature, or foot size. One particularly weird theory on Reddit associates long fingers with brand new Slinkys, right out of the box. The truth about blessed events in the size and growth of one's package however, is much more interesting than that.

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Although there are many factors that play a role in a person’s erection length, a person’s skin (and how elastic it is) has something to do with it. “What makes a penis more elastic is the amount of collagen and elastin in their tissues, and, sometimes, this can be genetic,” Ingber says.

It’s also important to note that the length, girth, and elasticity of the penis changes with age, hormonal, and medical factors, Ingber adds.

The bulk of erectile tissue that forms the penis, called the corpora cavernosa, acts as its lining, and therefore can change in its dimensions from person to person, says Judson Brandeis, Concord, CA-based urologist. In particular, one part of this anatomy has a lot to do with a person’s “unfolding,” as it were. “The tunica albuginea is a thick lining of the erectile body; it can be 2 mm thick, whereas a large blood vessel may be only 1mm thick. It takes high blood pressures to be able to stretch out the penis to its full length, so less blood flow or a stiffer/thicker inner lining may restrict the full penile length,“ he says.

Brandeis also tells me that growers can also eventually become showers (cue my friend Roger’s scream from afar). “As men age and get fewer erections, the lining tissue of the penis does not stretch as easily,” says Brandeis. Also, as we get older, skin elasticity fades, it causes wrinkles and other signs of aging.

All this leads me to believe that while some people have surprising attributes about them having to do with their bodies, technically everybody with a dick is a little bit grower and a little bit shower, depending on the situation and in time in their life. “It’s a difficult distinction to make, as there really is no medical reason to be concerned about which category a penis fits into, either,” Inger tells me. And other than the happily surprised look that you might get from a sexual partner, what else do you need?