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Is it normal for men to get erections while bouncing a baby on their lap?

Question: 

Dear Stop It Now!,

My boyfriend was bouncing my niece on his lap and he got an erection. I took the baby from him because I saw what was happening and was concerned. Is this normal?

Response: 
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Dear Concerned Adult,

It’s great that you’re paying attention to your boyfriend’s behaviors and looking out for the children in your family. I can understand why this might have been an uncomfortable and concerning situation.

Is this normal?
Every person is different, and it’s difficult to say what’s “normal” when it comes to a sometimes involuntary physical response. But even if this happened to your boyfriend because of an involuntary response and not arousal, it’s concerning that he would continue to play with your niece while having this reaction. Maybe he was embarrassed or unsure of what to do, or needs some guidance around healthy boundaries.

Warning Signs
It’s important to think about all the options when safety is concerned. So, I’m wondering if you’ve found anything else about your boyfriend’s behavior strange or concerning. Please take a look at these Behaviors To Watch For When Adults Are With Children and Signs An Adult May Be At Risk To Harm A Child. Your boyfriend may have made a poor judgment about how to handle an unconscious reaction. Or, if you notice these warning signs, he may be at risk to harm and need additional support in making safe decisions.

Talk About It
In either case, I recommend talking with your boyfriend about what you saw if you haven’t already (and if you feel safe doing so.) You can let him know that you’d like to ask him a question because you care about him and that you’re not accusing him of anything. Be specific about what you saw and what your feelings and questions are. For example, “I noticed that when you bounced Katie on your lap you got an erection. It made me uncomfortable, so I moved her. Can we talk about it?”  If you notice any other warning signs, you can talk about them in the same way.

Your boyfriend may be concerned or confused himself, and relieved that you brought it up. He might also feel embarrassed, defensive, or even angry, and if it feels like anyone is too upset to continue the conversation, you can take a break and come back to it again when you’re both calm. Consider taking a look at our guidebook, Let’s Talk, for help.

Safety Planning
If the stimulation of bouncing someone on his lap is the problem, I hope your boyfriend can agree that this isn’t the best way to play with your niece. He may need to be told that even if it’s accidental, exposing children to that experience can be harmful. Maybe you can show your boyfriend other safer ways to play with her, or look up some new activities together. But if you notice other warning signs or your boyfriend has thoughts or feelings that put him at risk, it’s important to encourage him to find professional support and make a safety plan.

I’m so glad that you’re looking out for your niece even when it involves concerns about an adult you care about. What happened may be nothing to worry about, but it gives you both an opportunity to be active in building a safe and loving environment for your niece and other children in your family. Communication is so important for healthy relationships of any kind, and I hope this information helps you address this situation with your boyfriend in a way that keeps everyone safe.

Take care,
Stop It Now!

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Last edited on: March 20th, 2017