Priapism is a medical term describing a condition in which a penis remains erect for hours in the absence of stimulation or after stimulation has ended (Podolej & Babcock, 2017). In most cases, the persistent erection is also painful.
The word priapism comes from the Greek word priapizein, meaning ‘be lewd’, which in turn comes from the name of the Greek god Priapus. A minor fertility god in Greek mythology, Priapus was the protector of livestock, fruit plants, and male genitals. He was depicted as having an oversized and permanent erection.
According to Greek mythology, Hera cursed Priapus while he was still in the womb of Aphrodite, making him impotent, ugly and foul-minded. The gods did not want Priapus to live with them on Olympus, and he was left on a hillside on Earth. There, he was taken by shepherds who raised him.
There are two main subtypes of priapism, ischaemic and non-ischaemic. Ischaemic priapism can be caused by Sickle cell disease, medications such as antipsychotics, SSRIs, blood thinners and prostaglandin E1, as well as certin illicit substances. Non-ischaemic priapism can caused by blunt or penetrating perineal or genital trauma, which may have occurred several weeks before the onset of priapism (Muneer, 2018).
Although rare, priapism can result in long-term erectile dysfunction if prompt medical intervention is not performed. A four-hour time frame is commonly used as the time interval in international guidelines for diagnosing priapism. This is because smooth muscle necrosis within the corpus cavernosum commences at this time. This is why there is a warning associated with Viagra about erections lasting more than 4 hours.
I sometimes have to remind men that they’re not supposed to have an erection for hours on end. You shouldn’t be hard all night long. It’s unrealistic and unhealthy. Priapism is a serious condition and Priapus isn’t a good role model.
🎨 Priapus depicted with the attributes of Mercury on a fresco found at Pompeii, between 89 BC and 79 AD, Naples National Archaeological Museum
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