Male Sexuality Facts

Facts, Theories, And Information on Male Sexuality:
Male Sexual Anatomy & Circumcision

Male Sexual Anatomy and Circumcision

male sexual anatomyCircumcision means the removal of the foreskin, the fold of skin that surrounds the glans of the penis. A great many men in a great many societies have been circumcised, either because their religion or culture requires it or because circumcision Is thought to be more hygienic.

The operation is a very simple one which, if it is properly done, causes little discomfort. It can be performed at any age; in some cultures it is delayed until adolescence and performed as a puberty rite, but in Western societies it is usually done shortly after birth.

Circumcision may or may not make a difference to a man's sexual pleasure - it's not really clear. The debate tends to be framed by prejudice. People sometimes think that a circumcised glans is less sensitive, because it is always exposed, than an uncircumcised glans.

A circumcision is performed only on those boys whose parents request it. It is a common practice in the United States, Canada and in some other countries, but most people in Europe, for example, are not circumcised.

The primary reasons for circumcision are religious and cultural. Thus Jews, Muslims and others have their male children ceremonially circumcised to comply with religious and cultural beliefs that have been handed down for centuries.

 The secondary reason for circumcision is supposedly cleanliness, in order to prevent the accumulation of smegma, a white, cheesy secretion, which gathers under the foreskin and can possibly lead to irritation, infection or offensive odor.

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Smegma is a natural secretion from glands in the corona area, but its accumulation can be avoided simply by moving the foreskin back and washing the area daily. Circumcision, although not dangerous, is seen by more and more people as an extreme step to remedy the occurrence of smegma."

Q: "My son is 16 and his doctor says he has to have a circumcision now. Can this be true?"

A: "Yes. Although circumcision is often performed when the boy is very young, it may be left until about the age of puberty and can in fact be done at any age without harmful results. Circumcision may be necessary for your friend because he has phimosis.

This is a condition in which the skin covering the head of the penis is too tight to roll back painlessly when required during urination, masturbation or intercourse. The discomfort that results from this tightness of the foreskin is easily corrected by circumcision. However, there are alternatives to circumcision for phimosis, which are highly recommended."

It appears that many men today have rather angry feelings about their own circumcision. It is something that happened to them when they were infants and they really had not control over it.

 They may accept it because the religious aspect may be important or they may resent circumcision as a mutilation done without their permission.

There is, apparently, no medical advantage to circumcision. The back-to-nature movement, which says things are best left as they naturally are unless they are defective, is reinforcing the medical research, and many parents are now preferring not to have their sons circumcised.

Cosmetically, some men feel their uncircumcised penis is not as attractive looking with its wrinkled skin around the glans.

Others, however, like not being circumcised as the foreskin makes the penis look longer. Men are also concerned about how women feel about circumcised and uncircumcised penises. Generally, women are more interested in a person than in his foreskin - or lack of it.

Culture and Religion

Circumcision is a word from the Latin meaning "cutting round." It later acquired the sense of "cleansing" or "purifying." Historically, it appears that the practice of circumcision originated among the Egyptians and was then adopted by the Hebrews. In Genesis 17: 10-13, circumcision was established as a covenant between God and Abraham.

Abraham was over 90 years of age after the covenant was established. Other than the religious meaning, the origin and significance of circumcision is still unclear. Some have called it a tribal mark used to distinguish and separate Jews from other people.

This may have been true in earlier times, but today circumcision is quite a common procedure throughout the world. In many parts of the world where circumcision has a special cultural or religious significance there are established rituals attending the operation.

In Australia the Aborigines called the circumcision ceremony the dhapi, and performed it when a boy was 10 or 11 years old. The men of the community would take the boy off and perform the ceremony away from the women. In the ceremony, a man lay on his back with the boy on top of him facing upward.

The man held the boy in position and the foreskin was removed by a sharp stone, sometimes jagged quartz. Bleeding was stopped with hot coals and wet leaves. This ceremony was part of the boy's training in stoicism and suffering, preparing him for battle.

The Scrotum

The scrotum or scrotal sac is a thin-walled, soft, muscular pouch, containing two compartments to hold the testicles. Each testicle is connected to a cord (spermatic cord) that consists of blood vessels, tubes and nerve and muscle fibers.

The spermatic cord can be felt on each side of the scrotum. Under certain conditions - cold, in particular - the muscle fibers in the scrotum cause the entire sac to contract or wrinkle up, drawing the testicles closer to the body. Under other conditions - like heat or complete relaxation - the scrotum becomes very loose and soft, with a smooth surface.

The testicles then hang farther from the body. These actions point out the primary function of the scrotum as a natural climate control center for the testicles. The temperature in the scrotum is a degree or two lower than the usual body temperature of 98.6 degrees F or 37 degrees C.

The job of the testicles is to produce sperm, and they cannot do this at body temperature; they need to be cooler. If the testicles are kept at body temperature or higher for a prolonged period, infertility or sterility can result. The scrotum continually monitors the environment and responds automatically in the way that is best for healthy sperm production.

The testicles are the two balls (their common name) that hang in the scrotum below the penis. They are also known as testes and they produce sperm and male hormones. The testicles are oval in shape, about 1 inch deep, 1 inch wide and 2.5 inches long.

An adult's testicles weigh about an ounce each, although the left testicle may be a bit heavier and larger and hang a little lower than the right.

The reason why this should be so is not known, but it may be to stop the testicles from striking each other as the man walks.

Hormone production from the testicles is evident at birth, but increases enormously around puberty and maintains a high level throughout adulthood until it shows a decrease during the later years of life. Also, sperm are produced in each testicle in special structures called seminiferous tubules.

These tubes are in the center of each testicle and connect with a series of passageways that convey the sperm to other important organs, and ultimately out of the penis if required. Near the seminiferous tubules in each testicle there are numerous cells called interstitial or Leydig's cells.

These are responsible for producing male sex hormone (testosterone), which is secreted directly into nearby blood vessels.

At puberty, the majority of the changes in a boy are due to the increased amount of testosterone flowing through his body.

During sexual excitement, the testicles increase in size. Blood fills the vessels in the testicles, causing them to increase by 50 or more percent.

After ejaculation they return to their usual size. The testicles are drawn closer to the body just prior to ejaculation. After ejaculation the testicles move back to their usual position in the scrotum.

This same drawing-up of the testicles close to the body occurs during times of anxiety, fear, anger or when the man feels cold.

In hot weather or a warm bath they hang lower - farther away from the body and its warmth; conversely in cold weather they move up closer to the body's heat to maintain optimum temperature. If they are kept at body temperature, testicles fail to produce sperm and so the man is sterile.

When a man's muscles tense - as when he prepares for flight or aggression, or just before ejaculation - a set of muscles in the scrotum automatically pulls the testicles up.

Q. "What are blue balls?"

A: "When a man becomes sexually excited, blood fills the vessels in the genital area, causing erection of the penis and enlargement. If he does not ejaculate, he may feel a general discomfort and perhaps some tenderness in the testicles.

This unpleasant feeling is called "blue balls," probably because of the bluish tint that appears when blood engorges the vessels. The condition usually does not last long and the real pain associated with blue balls can be exaggerated.

Psychologically, men have been socialized to ejaculate when they get an erection during sexual activity, and failure to ejaculate at orgasm often adds frustration and disappointment to the reality of the physical condition.

Some men find masturbation to be a successful remedy. Fortunately, men are beginning to learn that ejaculation is not a requirement in every sexual situation, and that sexual pleasure and meaning can exist even when a man can't ejaculate during intercourse.

 This emerging maturity is allowing both men and their partners to relax more, to be more spontaneous and to avoid the need to scramble around in each and every sexual situation to reach ejaculation and orgasm. But watch out if you happen to be one of the boyfriends and partners who can't ejaculate during intercourse or maybe any sexual activity with a partner present."

Testicle growth is prompted in the early months of pregnancy by the presence in the fetus of hormones which have masculinizing properties. The testicles drop into the scrotum around the seventh month of pregnancy.

Through childhood, testosterone is produced by the testicles in small amounts. Signals from the brain cause the testicles to produce substantially more testosterone during puberty, and this leads to the distinct physical changes seen during adolescence.

The testosterone level generally remains constant from adolescence through to the 60s and 70s, when it falls off somewhat.

Testicles grow more in puberty than at any other period in a man's life, achieving full size at around the age of 16 to 18. The size and weight of the testicles remain constant thereafter, with only a weight decrease in the sixth or seventh decade.

After about age 50, the testicles do not move completely next to the pelvis before ejaculation. Elevation does occur, but the testicles move only halfway up from their usual position.

Very early in life, babies discover their testicles and spend varying amounts of time touching and tugging the scrotum. It is clear from observation that children derive pleasure from this, and it is an entirely appropriate form of sensuous exploration at this stage.

Attention to the testicles and the scrotum continues in varying amounts throughout adolescence and adulthood. Fondling the testicles by preadolescents, adolescents and adults is as much erotic as sensuous in nature.

It is a significant part of autoerotic pleasure, leading to general sexual satisfaction. Learning the kinds of touch on the testicles that bring pleasure is helpful because it enables you to inform sex partners about what you like.


The word "testicle" possibly derives from the Latin testis, meaning "witness," "testimony," or "testament" (to a man's virility).

Certainly some cultures have apparently taken this to be the meaning: in Arab and some other Eastern cultures, men still swear to tell the truth not by placing a hand on the heart, but on the testicles, the center of their manliness. Both Genesis and Chronicles describe this practice.

Testicles have become a symbol of virility to such an extent that it is common for men to be accused of "having no balls" if they do not act in the way that society has decreed to be manly.Because of this equation of testicles and virile roles, women who speak and act in an aggressive way toward men have commonly been said to have "balls." The idea here is that when a man is dominated by a woman, or is in a position where the woman is in control of his situation, the man has lost his balls, the core of his maleness.

This is part of sexism and is based in the belief that men are superior to women, and that their testicles are visible symbols of their natural superiority.

Next: problems with the scrotum and testes

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