"If men could control their dicks, do you think we would wake up every morning hard? Do you think I wanna deal with that in the morning? No, I just wanna get some coffee, read the newspaper."
— Franklyn Ajaye
An erection isn't always wanted, or even the result of sexual arousal. Such a "Raging Stiffie" may not be erotic, but it is a staple of comedic fiction.
Common causes of an unwanted or unexpected erection prevalent in fiction include:
Overactive hormones: An unwanted erection with no or minimal stimulation is a fairly common (although hardly universal) side effect of being a male in real life. In fiction, sufficient reliance on Refuge in Audacity or a sufficiently adult target audience enables this trope, allowing for comedic consequences and an exploration of "coming of age" issues.
"Morning Wood": In real life, some males often wake up with an erection, particularly if warm. In fiction, any treatment of this inevitably degenerates into seriously off-color comedy. The correct medical term for this is nocturnal penile tumescence.
Viagra: This wonder drug does have the comedic effect of inducing erections that last a long time even if they are unwanted and the situation is inappropriate.
Most of the time this is Played for Laughs, and doesn't last longer than a few minutes. However, the condition known as priapism (prolonged erection) is dangerous, and can lead to penile amputation. That's why Viagra commercials tell you to "seek immediate medical attention if an erection lasts for more than four hours."
Just as a point of note, men have erections from the time they are infants. In fact, a male has his first erection inside the womb. (Baby and fetus girls do the same.) Unfortunately, since Most Fanfic Writers Are Female, it's not an uncommon trope for a male character just on the cusp of puberty to be "shocked" that his penis has suddenly become rigid. This would not shock any male. What shocks males is that it's now happening so often and at the wrong time. Of course, actual penile ejaculation doesn't occur until within the first year of puberty, so young boys being "shocked" about nocturnal emission isn't so far outside the realm of probability.
Contrast The Loins Sleep Tonight. See also Something Else Also Rises. Compare Or Are You Just Happy to See Me?, which has more erotic undertones than this trope. May be caused by a Potty Emergency. Jizzed in My Pants is this trope taken to eleven.
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Anime & Manga
For sneaky instances in manga, look for the Unsound Effect "kin kin kin" combined with any degree of blushing or nervousness.
"Come on, GET UP!" *Beat* "You stupid pervert, I didn't mean to get THAT up!"
Also, his "thermal expansion" when overhearing Asuka and Misato at the hot springs.
The morning version is practically a defining trait of Ryo from City Hunter (manga only). As he says, "It just means I'm healthy!"
The second volume of The Kindaichi Case Files manga had Hajime suffer from this. Worse yet, Miyuki thought it was something in his pocket and started going through them. The next scene Hajime has a slap-print on his face.
In the Higurashi no Naku Koro ni manga, Mion comments on Keiichi being "perky" in the morning (with an arrow following her gaze to his crotch, if the innuendo was too subtle for you). She may just be teasing, though... Keiichi does make a comment on how its her fault he'd be "perky" though.
In the first arc of Kai, Rena survives becoming a zombie in Zombie Tag when she induces this in Keiichi.
In Genshiken, Sasahara is implied to have one during his date with Ogiue after she whispers in his ear.
In Full Metal Panic, the novel version of End of Day By Day, when Gauron was reminiscing about how he first saw Sousuke, as well as talking about how Sousuke was a beautiful Assassin Saint that he wanted to kill and rape, Gauron starts taunting Sousuke... and through the darkness, Sousuke notices something from the middle of the bed that seemed to be rising and "beckoning" him. Since Gauron had no arms... or legs... and there's really nothing else other than that thing between his legs that could possibly be coming from the middle of the bed... yeah. It's sufficient to say that Sousuke was thoroughly freaked out.
In Ladies Versus Butlers!, Sanae straddles main character Akiharu's lap in order to scrub his back (she apparently didn't think it through very well) and can't seem to work out what is poking her in the butt  (NSFW)
There is a notorious panel in Parasyte where the main character (who has an alien in place of his right hand) gets aroused... and the alien, reflecting this arousal, turns into a giant penis.
Saiga of Speed Grapher gets an erection whenever he takes exciting photographs with his camera.
Oyasumi Punpun: Punpun goes on a date with a classmate and has a boner the whole time just from being with a girl and anticipating getting laid. She doesn't notice it. Goes into squick territory when he tries to rape her.
Keitaro of Love Hina has been caught with one of these more than once throughout the series, due to the first two types. Much to his embarrasment.
In Tenchi Muyo GXP this trope shows up in an early episode. Since main character Seina won't wake up and get out of bed his friend Kiriko tears the covers off only to discover his morning wood, he is shown in the very next scene eating breakfast with a large red (undeserved) slap mark on his face.
The titular character of Hajime No Ippo is repeated victim, as if being mocked by his gymmates for his Gag Penis wasn't enough. One of them happens in the water, when he sees his Love Interest in a swimsuit for the first time.
Kumi: Be careful Nanako, his muscles are very stiff.
The Umisho manga occasionally shows Takeda's reaction to the Fanservice surrounding him.
Satou gets one twice in Ben-To — one in Episode 5 while Matsy takes care of him after he gets the shit beaten out of him by the Monarch and another one in Episode 7 after seeing the Brunette's top fall off. He manages to weaponize the latter by using it as a rudder.It Makes Sense in Context.
Heavily implied in a Wandering Son chapter. Shuichi is getting a massage by his girlfriend but ends up getting an erection. His older sister walks in right when it happens, causing a stir. This is an even bigger issue since the protagonist is Transsexual.
This happens a lot to Tomoki in Heavens Lost Property. In the first episode, Sohara wakes him up because he's almost late for school, and when she sees that he has a massive erection, she freaks out and calls him a pervert. Following examples of this happening usually results in Tomoki getting the crap beaten out of him, including his erection being on the receiving end of Sohara's infamously life-threatening karate chops because of it, as if it's always his fault.
Happens to Bird's Nest of Copernicus Breathing when he unexpectedly runs into Leo, the juggler of his old circus troupe. It was implied earlier that Bird's Nest had a thing for Leo based on the small smiles he gave him, but this confirms it. Ends in a A Date with Rosie Palms. Helps lead into one of Bird's Nest's Break the Cutie moments when Leo messes up his juggling routine and drops 16 pins on his head, causing one of Bird's Nest's Freak Outs
Causes a problem for Thugboy when he is sharing a bed with Ninjette in Empowered.
The Boys features a Russian super named "Love Sausage''. He runs into a topless bar and is incapacitated because he can't run straight with a massive erection.
In the National Lampoon comic strip Timberland Tales by B.K. Taylor, Maurice the little Canadian-Indian boy inadvertently sees Kathleen in the shower and gets a sudden erection - he panics and cries out "'Alp! Some kind animal in Maurice's pants!"
New 52: Blue Beetle gets one when he meets Red Lantern Bleez. He gets embarrassed and unsuccessfully claims that the stiffie is just part of his armor.
When Charlie Sheen's character came Back for the Dead in Scary Movie 4 this was part of his death. He accidentally swallows a whole packet of Viagra in a failed attempt to overdose. His penis inflates to ridiculous proportions and he throws himself out of a window, landing face down, with his hips nowhere near the floor.
Veronica: Mr. Burgundy, you have a massive erection. Ron: Really?... Yes, I do... Um, I'm sorry, it's the... it's the pleats. It's actually an optical illusion. It's the pattern on the pants. It's not flattering in the crotchal region. I'm actually taking them back right now. Taking them back to the pants store... Oh, this is awkward... I'm gonna walk... I'm gonna walk this situation off... and I will see you later... Nothing to look at... Go back to work, everyone... Don't act like you're not impressed.
The title character in The Forty Year Old Virgin twice wakes up with morning wood and has trouble, uh, aiming while going to the bathroom.
Parodied in The 41-year-old Virgin Who Knocked Up Sarah Marshall And Then Felt Superbad About It, where it manages to reach his chest and then his forehead. It's then implied that he can use it (once it has shrunk back, presumably) to turn the pages of the newspaper he's reading.
Similar to the above, in 40 Days and 40 Nights Josh Harnett's character wakes up with an erection that causes him trouble when doing his breakfast... and later has problem when he is visibly aroused during a work meeting.
In his documentary A Complete History of My Sexual Failures, Chris Waitt is suffering from erectile dysfunction and takes loads of Viagra. He gets an erection that will last for about eight hours and runs around the streets of London accosting women and asking them to have sex with him, a quest which ends with him spending the night in a police cell.
Emperor Nero uses this to his advantage in History of the World Part I to find out which of his wife's attendants is an imposter. (The rest are eunuchs.)
A conversation between Bruce Wayne and Selina Kyle in Batman Returns (after Bruce has just apologized for suddenly leaving during their previous date, and they are pressed closely together while dancing on a ballroom floor):
Bruce: So... no hard feelings?
Selina: Well... semi-hard, I'd say.
[Bruce looks down and becomes embarrassed.]
In Love and Other Drugs, Jake Gyllenhaal plays a pharmaceutical rep who becomes extremely successful when he starts selling Viagra. While on hiatus with his girlfriend, he goes to a pajama party thrown by a sexy coworker and has a threesome with her and another woman, right after the coworker pretty much force-feeds him a Viagra pill. In the morning, he finds out that this trope is in full effect and he runs to the hospital in his bathrobe to get it looked at. Apparently, they don't tell sales reps the side effects of the stuff they're selling.
Morning wood comes as an unnerving and mortifying shock to a woman who has switched bodies with a male friend in Curse The Dawn.
Nimue Alban in David Weber's Safehold books learns just how "fully functional" her robotic body is when, as the male Merlin Athrawes, he learns that the Safeholdian version of rugby is played in the nude, and Nimue, for all her body was male, was still a woman where what was attractive to her was concerned.
When Cayleb learns Merlin's true identity and is reminded of this incident, he finds it absolutely hilarious.
"Oh, my God! That was why you stayed in the water! Why you were so damned careful about that towel!"
Sir Harry Flashman finds that his rather ragged trousers are quite incapable of disguising his - er - respect for the shapely but quite mad Queen Ranavalona of Madagascar.
Judy Blume's book Then Again, Maybe I Won't is about a boy going through puberty. He often gets erections at embarrassing times, such as in school.
In The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Gardner relates that, as a teenager, he often had unwanted erections at completely random times. One particularly embarrassing one happened while he was about to help up an elderly woman he used to take care of.
In Bridget Jones Diary, Bridget dances with a teenage boy she meets at a party during a smoke break.
"... the trouble was, he seemed to have, well, not to put too fine a point on it, the most enormous erection I've ever had the good fortune to come across, and us dancing so close it was not the sort of thing one could pass off as a pencil case."
In a short story by Stephen King, a paralyzed man about to be autopsied by doctors who think he is dead is saved at the last second when he gets an erection.
Live Action TV
A Jackass skit has Johnny Knoxville walking around with a fake penis in his pants acting completely unaware of it.
Chris from Skins has this problem in one episode, due to taking a whole lot of viagra. It gets really awkward later when he dances with Angie(whom he likes) and she notices it and leaves.
Something like it happened to Kryten on Red Dwarf when he became human; though it didn't cause embarrassment so much as curiosity. And two polaroids.
Word Of God says that Craig Charles's funny reaction to being handed the pictures was real, because the 'prop' pictures were replaced with real ones at the last minute without telling him.
In another episode of Red Dwarf, in order to win a basketball match, Lister and Rimmer spike the opposing team's drinks with a 'virility enhancement drug'. As The Cat put it, "try moving fast with a fishing pole in your pants!"
In the CSI: Crime Scene Investigation episode "The Accused is Entitled", one suspect cannot stand up after having popped some Viagra on the plane. When Catherine finds out that the erection has lasted for several hours, she tells him to seek medical attention.
This apparently happens to Jake during his birthday party on Two and a Half Men after he mistakes Viagra for vitamin pills.
Meredith on Grey's Anatomy has a one-night-stand with a guy who turns up at the hospital the next day. "It hasn't gone away since we... you know..." Meredith was humiliated, Bailley was annoyed, Derek was hurt, and Cristina found it freakin' hilarious. "What? It's not my fault you broke the guy's dick!"
In an episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, the perp gets one during his trial. Everyone can't help but stare at it when he, without thinking, stands up. Worse, it was being established that he liked torturing women.
Happens in the first episode of The Inbetweeners, where Simon gets hard off a girl he likes when she flirts with him. His mate spots it and shouts out to the whole room that he has a boner, and from then onwards Simon is known as "Boner".
A subversion in the fashion show episode; Simon is wearing ludicrously small, tight pants for aforementioned show and his friends repeatedly warn him of the perils of an unwanted erection. Instead one of his testicles falls out.
Queer As Folk did the Viagra version of this with Ted, giving him what appeared to be a 24-hour erection.
In a recent episode, Saturday Night Live had a fake commercial for an anti-virility drug, designed to prevent unwanted boners, like when driving your daughter's cheerleading friends home from practice.
Cash slips Cameron pills that do this in Breaking In as part of their prank war.
Joe from Glee gets one of these when he's helping Quinn out with her physical therapy.
John Cena thinks that Trish Stratus is utterly gorgeous. So when Santa gives her to him as an early Christmas present (she was his partner in a mixed tag team match in December) he can't help but show how... well, how excited he is.
Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Xander wakes up from a dream involving scantily-clad teenagers having a Pillow Fight, to the reality of frumpy girls in pyjamas complaining about a blocked toilet. He asks them to give him a moment before getting out of bed, as he 'has a cramp'.
Angel. Darla has been trying to corrupt Angel by using magic to send him dreams of his vampire kills. He claims to find them nightmarish, but...
Bethany: "It looked like a pretty happy dream - or maybe the covers were just rumpled."
In the Rizzoli And Isles episode "This Is How A Heart Breaks", Maura realises a 'corpse' just delivered to the morgue is not dead when he gets an erection and she feels a pulse in his penis.
Jacob, one of the eponymous guest characters in the second-season 2 Broke Girls episode "And the Three Boys With Wood."
Game Of Thrones: The morning version happens to Jon after being forced to sleep huddled up close to Ygritte to stave off the cold.
The Angel: The stiffening of your penis is of no consequence!
Prior: Yeah, try telling it that.
"Hello Twelve, Hello Thirteen, Hello Love" from A Chorus Line, being a montage of adolescent experiences, touches on this subject.
Happens to Shiki waking up one morning in the Visual NovelTsukihime. His personal meido who comes to wake him up is either oblivious to why he's staying under his blanket or is deliberately trying to embarrass him. Hilarious, right? Then on Ciel's route, it becomes extremely unfunny when he can't get it down because his body is no longer solely his own, and now Shiki has urges to kill people and gets off on it. This requires... you guessed it... a Deus Sex Machina to resolve.
In one strip of Ghastly's Ghastly Comic, Smokey wakes up and notices that he's harder than he's been for twenty years. Then he notices that the erection is on the side of the bed he isn't.
Venus Envy's has the main character ZoŽ, a preoperative male-to-female transsexual teen trying to hide the huge erection she's having due to seeing both a hot new guy, and her school's football team running around shirtless.
In an early strip of Questionable Content, Faye hugs Marten, and decides to pretend he has a roll of quarters in his pocket.
When Rayne for Least I Could Do encounters a particularly hot woman, he occasionally gets an erection big enough to cause him to fall forward.
In an update of Homestuck, BrainClone!Dirk threatens to give one to Jake.
There was an entire episode of Beavis and ButtHead which centred on the morning wood. It turned out the reason for it was a "Morning Wood Fairy".
In another episode, they go to get their hair cut from a buxom hairstylist. Just being near her breasts while she shampoos their hair gives them erections that last all day. She waits so long for them to go down that Todd shows up and decides to cut their hair himself so that he can take her out on a date.
In another one, they go to an erectile dysfunction clinic, somehow concluding they can score there. Given a test to see how long an erection they sustain looking at provocative pictures, they look at the first picture and pretty much stay up the rest of the session.
And when Beavis' starts to go down, Butthead reminds him that they get to have sex with the girls after, it's right back up.
One of Springfield's surprising number of prisons is called Morningwood Penitentiary.
Although nothing is shown, Skinner suffers from an unwanted erection after Bart spikes his coffee with Viagra.
Another skit involves Sailor Moon where a monster was aroused by her sexual poses. They decided not to fight, since his erection ruined the moment. The next part has the monster aroused by Queen Beryl's anger. Lastly, she's apparently aroused by Sailor Moon after looking at her picture.
The Venture Brothers - a nearly-drowned Hank is given mouth-to-mouth from Molotov. He acts suave and worldly until he sees the erection in his shorts, and runs screaming "My pants are haunted!!!", after dealing with the ghosts of an Indian burial ground earlier in the day.