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Male Anatomy

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The Penis

 

“God gave us a penis and a brain, but only enough blood to run one at a time.”
Robin Williams

 

The foreskin

The foreskin is the loose skin that covers the head of the penis.

The foreskin is extremely sensitive. It is filled with nerve endings that respond when they are stretched, rolled or massaged.

As the head of the penis has no skin and it is actually covered by a very thin, moist mucus membrane, similar to the inside of an eyelid or lip. If the foreskin is removed, as in circumcision, the mucus membrane thickens in response to the lack of protection.

The foreskin is not a flap of skin on the end of the penis. This kind of language has been used to imply that the foreskin is something redundant with no real function that can easily be removed with no consequence. This is not the case.

 

The foreskin performs several important functions. Most of these functions centre on making sexual acts more enjoyable for one or both partners:

  • It protects the glans (penis head)
  • It can increase stimulation during sexual acts
  • It lubricates during intercourse (fucking)
  • It lubricates during masturbation (wanking)
  • It helps reduce the gradual drop in sensitivity through age

 

Circumcision

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin exposing the glans, (penis head). The rationale for this procedure can be linked to Religious, cultural, social or hygiene reasons. In certain cases, circumcision is required for medical situations, such as a too tight foreskin. Circumcision for medical reasons can be carried out in adolescent or even adult life, whereas for the other reasons mentioned it is more often carried out in infancy.

 

Penile Health

The starting point for good penile health is personal hygiene. To maintain a healthy penis it is essential to spend time and particular attention to the entire area of your penis, scrotum and anal areas when washing. Close attention should be paid to the area of the glans penis (head), especially if your penis is un-circumcised (has the foreskin in place). In this case a build up of sweat, dead skin cells, semen and even products like soap can allow for the development of a substance called smegma (cheese). This is not only a possible source of infection, but can smell unpleasant and be a barrier to good sex. Lack of good hygiene can also allow for the development of thrush candida, a yeast like infection which can require medication to treat and which you can also pass on to your partner.

Males can often sweat between their buttocks and in the scrotal creases, again giving rise to odours, which, whilst not being a direct health threat in themselves, can give cause for embarrassment, and discomfort. You do not have to be a genius to realise that, whether you are with a female or male partner, you will be more attractive to them if you have a high standard of personal hygiene. Even if you are not with a partner, or are not sexually active, your penis will thank you in the long run by avoiding any of the unpleasant effects of poor hygiene.

 

Cross section of male genital anatomy

Cross section of male genital anatomy

The Testicles

 

Definition of Testicles

Testicles: The testicles (also called testes or gonads) are the male sex glands. They are located behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testicles produce and store sperm, and they are also the body’s main source of male hormones (testosterone). These hormones control the development of the reproductive organs and other male characteristics, such as body and facial hair, low voice, and wide shoulders.

The testicles (balls) have often been endowed with nicknames which emphasise their importance to the male owner. Names such as ‘family jewels’, or ‘diamonds’ are commonly used, and obviously these words elevate the importance of the testicles as being ‘precious’.

The testicles are joined to the penis by a long, thin tube called the vas deferens. Sperm are stored in the epididymis, and are then passed along the vas deferens to the prostate gland. Here the sperm is mixed with seminal fluid, and this combination is the fluid expelled under pressure during ejaculation.

 

The Scrotum

As mentioned earlier, the testicles are suspended in a soft, bag like structure called the scrotum. The scrotum hangs outside the body because sperm need to be kept cooler than the average internal body temperature of 37°c to be active and viable for fertilization. Due to the ability to become looser or tighter, dependant on whether the temperature is cold or hot, the scrotal sack is made of darker, flexible skin, this colouration is normal. The skin of the scrotum is also wrinkly and can have small bumps on the surface, this too is normal.

It is common for one testicle (usually the left), to hang slightly lower in the scrotum than the other, and each testicle should be approximately the same size and weight of the other.

It is important to look after your testicles. As any male who has experienced even a minor physical blow to the testicles can testify, it is extremely painful and can be potentially dangerous in terms of future fertility or testicular health. If you engage in sports where physical contact takes place, you should take steps to protect your balls inside a plastic protector, know as a ‘box’.

 

Maintenance

It is important for males to regularly check their testicles at least once a month, in this way it will become possible for you to know what looks and feels normal for you and this will assist you in the identification of any changes to your testicles or scrotum when performing a monthly check. Instructions on how to perform a testicle check are given on our male cancer page. Any changes, such as constant dull aches, or lumps, spots, and moles that may develop should be checked by your Doctor. In most cases these changes are harmless and normal, but should be checked in any case.