Captivating people for centuries, the male genitalia is a complex organism that is actually much more intricate than you may realize.
Comprising of meticulous components that allow the male body to function as it does, the anatomy of a penis is a fascinating and worthwhile subject all men should understand about their own bodies.
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To learn more about penis anatomy, keep reading…
Human Penis Parts & Function
By definition, the human penis is an outer male intromittent organ that simultaneously operates as the urinal duct.
The male reproductive system is comprised of the following parts:
A man’s penis has three main components: the root, the body, and the glans penis.
The root is the connection from the abdominal and pelvic wall.
The body is the middle part of the penis.
This has three cylindrical spaces of soft tissues, with two of the larger compartments filling with blood when the penis forms an erection.
These two compartments are called the corpora cavernosa, and are next to one another, forming most the penis.
The third cylindrical compartment is the corpus spongiosum, which surrounds the urethra, ultimately creating the urinary passageway.
This is the cone-like end, also known as the head of the penis, which is where the corpus spongiosum terminates.
The slight ridge that separates the glans penis from the body of the penis is called the corona.
The scrotum, a sack of thin muscles and skin, is what houses the testicles.
Serving as the man’s personal climate regulator, the scrotum strategically keeps the testicles away from the body, allowing them to be cooler that the normal body temperature.
This is essential for optimal sperm production, as the testicles must always be cooler than the temperature of the body.
Within the scrotum, the cremasteric muscles are what move the testicles within the scrotum when the body gets either too hot or cold.
The testicles, or testes, are a pair of two oval-sized spheres, with one positioned on the right side and one on the left. The testicles have two main functions: producing sperm and testosterone.
Spermatozoon, a derivative of Greek for ‘seed’, is the word for the male gamete. Sperm cells are what determine the sex of an offspring (in mammals) depending on the chromosome that is attached to it.
On average, men ejaculate 3.7 ml (3 quarters of a teaspoonful) of sperm.
A normal range of healthy testosterone levels in an average adult male is 280-1100 nanograms per deciliter.
If a man’s testosterone level is abnormal, they may experience side effects like reduced libido, fewer erections, impotence, infertility, alteration in sleeping pattern, emotional fluctuations, and physical changes.
Vas Deferens and Seminal Vesicles
When sperm is produced, it travels through the epididymis (a collection area) and then on through a duct called the vas deferens, which will them join with the seminal vesicles to create the ejaculatory duct.
These seminal vesicles are actually what’s responsible for producing a fluid that gives nutrients to the sperm while simultaneously lubricating the urethra.
This fluid, along with other fluids is what creates semen.
When ejaculation occurs, the muscles around the seminal vesicles contract, ultimately pushing out the sperm and fluid.
Located behind the bladder, the seminal vesicles are an essential part of the male reproductive system.
A walnut-sized gland, the prostate is below the urinary bladder and encompasses the urethra.
Like the seminal vesicles, the prostate gland also produces fluid, called prostatic fluid, that also supports the sperm.
In fact, the white fluid that makes up most semen comes from the prostate gland and serves no other known purpose than reproduction.
A man’s prostate actually grows throughout his life, with this growth having the potential to cause a blockage in the urethra.
Symptoms that may arise from are urinary frequency, excessive urination throughout the night, urgent urination, and an overall weakening of the urinary stream.
The prostate is also an origin for prostate specific antigen (PSA) that is commonly used to determine and monitor prostate cancer.
Surrounded by the corpus spongiosum (remember, that is one of the three tubes in the penis mentioned earlier) the urethra has a dual purpose: transport of urine from the bladder and transport of semen.
The urethra is responsible for draining the bladder through the prostate gland and is eventually joined by the ejaculatory duct, then on to the penis.
Brain centers that oversee regulating urination are the pontine micturition center, cerebral cortex, and periaqueductal gray.
These same centers are controls the sphincter muscles, physiologically separating the excretory and reproduction function of the penis, ultimately stopping urine from permeating the upper part of the urethra during ejaculation.
Foreskin and Circumcision
When a man is born, they are born with foreskin.
Foreskin is your penis’s double-layered fold of muscle tissue, blood vessels, neurons, skin, and mucous membrane that acts as a protection to the glans penis and urinary meatus.
A man’s foreskin is mobile, can stretch, and serves as a natural lubricant for the glands.
Whether the penis is in its flaccid or erect state, the foreskin will cover the glands of the penis, and is retractable.
When a child is born, their foreskin is usually attached to the glans at birth and is not retractable when they are infants.
While the age when a boy can retract his foreskin varies, research has shown that 95% of males are able to retract their foreskin by the time they’re adults.
The World Health Organization has yet to directly attribute the function of the foreskin, speculating that its function could be to moisten glands, protect the penis in utero, or enhance sexual pleasure thanks to the presence of nerve receptors.
Circumcision is a common practice in certain parts of the world and is the most common genital alteration for men.
Circumcision is defined as the removal of part (or all) of the foreskin, whether for cultural, religious, and/or medical reasons.
For many, this procedure is carried out on infants, and is a practice that has been met with much criticism and praise alike.
The rates of the amount of men that are circumcised is unknown, but there are estimates that the number falls at 25% of men.
National rates of the practice vary depending on country.
In the United States, about 80% of men are circumcised, while in Sweden non-medical circumcision is illegal on children and the number of men who are circumcised is at 2%.
Even in the UK, 12,200 circumcisions are performed annually for medical reasons, a significant drop since the 1930s, but many still claim this is still too many.
There are three main medical reasons for circumcision:
For some babies, the foreskin and glans develop as one, only separating in childhood.
The infant foreskin is then tight and inelastic, leading some doctors to suggest a circumcision, while others claim that it will loosen by age three.
This is when the glans and/or the foreskin is inflamed.
This can impact men of every age, and is the result of poor hygiene, a tight foreskin, a disorder of the skin, allergy to product, etc.
It is a bacterial infection called candida, and when it is recurrent, circumcision may be recommended.
Circumcision may be an offer for adults that are experiencing pain during sex thanks to a tight foreskin.
There are religious reasons why circumcision is also common.
For the Jewish, Muslim, and African tribal communities, many religious traditions and scriptures claim that circumcision serves as a covenant and devotion to God or their creator.
How does the penis achieve an erection and ejaculation?
Inside the penis, the two cylinder-shaped compartments mentioned above, the corpora cavernosa has a conglomerate of blood vessels, tissues, and pockets that are open.
There are two main arteries, one located in each corpora cavernosa, and many veins that move blood in and out of the two compartments, with the nerves relaying messages throughout your body.
An erection actually doesn’t start here though, but actually begins in the brain.
Whether it stems from something felt, smelled, heard, or thought, the nerves in the brain send a chemical message to the blood vessels in the penis.
The arteries that flow into the corpora cavernosa open, allowing blood to flow into the compartments while the veins simultaneously close.
As the blood enters the penis, pressure traps the blood within the corpora cavernosa, expanding the penis and holding the erection.
As the inflow subsides, the veins reopen and the penis becomes soft again.
Ejaculation occurs when the vas deferens squeeze sperm from the testicles to the back of the urethra. From there the seminal vesicles release fluid too, with the urethra sensing the sperm and fluid mixture that has built up.
As the sexual excitement heighten, a signal is sent along the spinal cord which directly sends a signal to the muscles at the base of the penis.
The powerful contractions that occur quickly, happening every eight seconds, ultimately forcing the semen out of the penis at climax.
Curvature of the Penis: Peyronie’s Disease
Peyronie’s disease refers to scar tissue development underneath the skin of the penis, with the cause of fibrous tissues not currently being known.
One common cause of this could be fracture to the penis (injury sustained during intercourse).
Doctors speculate that a trauma that could trigger bleeding inside the penis (even if it goes unnoticed) may contribute to this condition.
An uncommon disease, this affects men aged 40-60 years and older, ranging from a small bend that either goes upward or to the side to a more substantial bend in either direction that can cause a man to experience pain and be unable to have sex.
This is a disease that can appear overnight or develop slowly, over time.
Further, if the penis is flaccid, the problem isn’t noticeable, and in extreme cases, the hardened plaque can restrict flexibility, creating pain and forcing the penis to arc or bend when erect.
While the pain may lessen in time, the bend may continue to pose a problem, with milder cases resolving themselves.
While it is a condition that can be treated, doctors usually suggest waiting one to two years to see if the condition resolves itself before they attempt to correct it.
There are multiple treatments for this:
Ingestibles: pentoxifylline or potassium para-aminobenzoate (Potaba) are two options that may help.
Shots: verapamil or collagenase (Xiaflex) may be injected into the scar tissue of the penis.
Surgery: A last resort option, surgery is usually only considered for men that can’t have sex because of their Peyronie’s Disease.
There are two types of operations.
Removal of the plaque and a tissue graft in place; or, removal or alteration of tissue on side of penis next to the plaque, ultimately countering the disease’s bending effect.
As with any surgery there are major risks.
The first surgery could cause erection issues, and the second option could shorten the penis.
Some doctors may recommend a prosthesis implant, but is only suitable for men with Peyronie’s disease and ED.
Anatomy and the Phallus
The phallus has a rich history. Cultures have celebrated the penis for centuries, as it symbolized fertility, power, and a holy trinity for some cultures.
Indeed, the anatomy of the penis has been subject to both men and women’s fascination for many years, and is the undeniable origin of human life.
Still, the intrigue lives on, even in our current society.
From the general labelling of the parts of a penis to exactly how the penis works, there is a lot most people don’t realize when it comes to the anatomy of the penis.
As with anything, it is best to educate oneself on how something is constructed to understand how it really functions.
What is certain is that there are a lot of practices that are still considered taboo when it comes to the penis (circumcision) along with fascinating truths that only recent science has been able to reveal.
But with the rhetoric surrounding the male genitalia evolving, the concepts that have long been associated with the anatomy and foundation of existence will continuously and undoubtedly be redefined.
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