Guide to Male Anatomy

Men’s sexual anatomy is fairly straightforward.  Pretty much what you see is what you get!  Although the structures of the man are visible, there are still nuances to every man’s pleasure preference and, like women, men need equal opportunity for communication regarding their keys to sexual success.

The Big Guy: the Penis

The most notable structure in male sexual anatomy is the penis. Penises come in many sizes and colors averaging 3.5 inches while flaccid (soft) and 5.5 inches when erect (hard).  There are many variances in length and girth.

When most people think of the penis two parts come to mind: the head and the shaft.  We’ll start at the top with the head, or glans, of the penis. The head is a bulbous structure that resembles a helmet or mushroom cap.  It is a very sensitive part of the penis and is made up of the same tissue as the clitoris in a woman. If a man is uncircumcised the head of the penis is covered by foreskin and may not be visible unless the man is aroused and erect or the foreskin is pulled back.

There are a few structures that are found within the head of the penis.  Starting at the top of the penis, the urethral meatus is at the center of the head.  It is a slit like opening that has two purposes.  Asits name suggests the urethral meatus is connected to a man’s urethra and is the where urine comes out when he urinates.  But its function doesn’t stop there.  The meatus is also the exit for semen when a man ejaculates during an orgasm.  The urethral meatus is the ultimate multi-tasking, two for one body part! 

Moving down the head of the penis is a ridge that forms between the head and the shaft. This is the corona (or crown).  At the underside of the penis the corona forms a V-like structure called the frenulum, or frenum.  For many men this is a very sensitive and erogenous zone.  Beyond the glans is the shaft.  If the glans of the penis is the mushroom cap, the shaft is the mushroom stalk.  The shaft contains many blood vessels but most importantly it contains two spongy tissue bodies called the corpus cavernosum and the corpus spongiosum.  These tissue bodies are what fill with blood and cause the penis to become erect.

The Scrotum & Testicles

The next most notable structure of male sexual anatomy is the scrotum.  Protectively housed in the scrotum are the testicles or testes, also referred to as “balls”. There are two testicles in the scrotum. The scrotum is lined with muscles that can retract or expand, as needed, for the comfort and safety of its contents. These muscles get a particularly good work out when you are exposed to a cold situation.  Many of you have experienced a phenomenon known as “shrinkage” when you dive into a cold pool.  These muscles act to retract the testicles close to the body to protect them. Likewise, if you are exposed to a particularly warm situation, like a hot tub, you may notice the scrotum relaxes and elongates. The testicles hang a little lower, keeping those precious sperm-making boys from over-heating by keeping them away from the body. The raphe is the ridge of skin (muscle internally) that runs down the center of the scrotum and divides it.  The spermatic cord secures the testes in the body so they aren’t just floating around willy-nilly in there. 

The purpose of the testes is to produce sperm for reproduction. Additional structures in the testes aid in producing fluids added to the sperm that make up semen or seminal fluid.   When a man has an orgasm and ejaculates there is more to the fluid released than just sperm. This fluid is called semen or seminal fluid. The structures in the testes that contribute to creating semen are the seminal vesicles, the prostate gland and the Cowper’s gland. Semen is produced by these glands all working together. The fluid produced by the seminal vesicles provides energy to the sperm as they seek out the egg. The fluid produced by the prostate gland helps sperm motility. Because the sperm travel through the urethra it is possible for it to be damaged by acidic urine.  The bulbourethral or Cowper's glands, make a small quantity of fluid (pre-ejaculate or pre-cum) that help protect the sperm by neutralizing any leftover traces of acidic urine in the urethra. The epididymis stores the sperm after the testes produce them. The vas deferens transports the sperm from the epididymis, to the seminal vesicles, then to the prostate, and lastly, to the urethra.  From there it is up to you what happens with the semen: into a condom, into your partner, into a gym sock or tissue. 

Circumcision

Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin usually during the first few days of life.  The foreskin is filled with nerve endings and acts to protect the head of the penis and enhance sexual pleasure. I’ve always thought it looked like if you took the sleeve of your sweatshirt and pulled it down over your hand (your hand being the penis). Circumcision is usually done for religious or aesthetic reasons.  Although there are some medical benefits to being circumcised they are not great enough for either the American Academy of Pediatrics or the American Pediatric Association to recommend circumcision.  While the majority of men in Northern America are circumcised, globally uncircumcised penises are the norm.

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