Actual Doctors Explain the Science Behind Growers vs. Showers

iStock/stevanovicigor (edited)

Remember when you were a kid -- or last night at the bar, whatever -- and you scrunched down a straw wrapper, dropped water on it, and watched in amazement as it grew almost four times its original length? It’s effing insane. How did that tiny little thing just up and become huge in a matter of seconds?

If this sounds extremely similar to a penis, good. It’s supposed to. We can all agree that penises are crazy: they grow, they shrink, they move on their own... seriously, your ding-dongs are like a never-ending magic show. 

And speaking of show, some penises tend to do that more than others... which is why Jon Hamm is famous.  

But what really determines whether you’re a grower or a shower? We decided to ask penis pros -- or urologists, in layman's terms -- Dr. Tobias Kohler and Dr. Alex Shteynshlyuger to give us the dirty on the science behind this phenomenon.
 

What’s the key determiner for which camp you fall into here?

Dr. Kohler: It’s genetics -- just like some people are taller and some people are shorter. There’s a genetic variation in humans like there is among all species and animals. It’s true that there is discrepancy. Some guys’ flaccid length is very similar to their erect length. And some guys’ flaccid length is dissimilar to their erect length.
 

Is it just genetics? 

Dr. Shteynshlyuger: The difference between growers and showers is partly genetic and partly having to do with the health of the man. There are medical problems that cause erectile dysfunction such as diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, etc. But it has to do with the elasticity of the tissues and that has to do with the collagen content of the tissue. For some men the proportion of collagen is different than others. For example, in men with erectile dysfunction, studies show that there are changes to the penis in the proportion of collagen fibers, and that effects how stretchable the tissue is. Some people are born with more stretchable tissues.

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So does being a grower or a shower mean anything about your actual size?

Dr. Kohler: Flaccid penile length doesn't correlate with erect penile length. What does correlate with erect penile length is a penis put on full stretch. You basically grab ahold of your penis and pull it as hard as you can like you’re trying to pull it off. The propensity of the penis to grow is directly proportional to how far you can pull it away from the body.
 

And there’s nothing a guy can do to make it grow a little more?

Dr. Kohler: If there were something to do to change that, I think guys would be doing it. They still always ask. As a surgeon who operates on penises all the time, if there was any way to make penises longer [starts to laugh]... It just doesn’t exist.
 

What about when you get older, can things change then?

Dr. Shteynshlyuger: Growers may be become less of a grower when they age or you may become less of a shower when you age. To some extent as people get older they become less of growers because the proportion of collagen fibers changes as people age, that is presumably related to aging -- which is to some extent related to things like diet as well.

There have been studies on rat penises that have shown that as rats get older there is a decrease in elastic fibers in the penis.
 

Rats? Like rodent penises?

Dr. Shteynshlyuger: Yes. [Laughs] 

Flickr/torbakhopper

Also wait, eating certain foods can determine a penis’ appearance?

Dr. Shteynshlyuger: Presumably if you keep a healthy diet, like a Mediterranean diet, the blood supply to your penis as well as to the other organs is better and there is less damage and to some degree can prevent the aging more. There are no definitive studies that we can point to to prove that’s in fact true, but it’s a theory.

And what about non-diet factors? Does doing or not doing certain things change its appearance at all? Oh, and by “do,” I mean sex.

Dr. Shteynshlyuger: There’s always the question "do you lose it if you don’t use it." And there are some studies that show that’s actually true. If you aren’t using it for whatever reason, there may be changes in the penis that can become permanent. It’s possible that using it can keep it healthier.

You heard that right, guys. HAVE SEX TO SAVE YOUR PENIS!

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Liz Newman is a freelance writer for Thrillist and may have immaturely giggled during some of these interview questions. But so did the doctors, so it’s fine. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @lizn813.