Image Caption : Male Pelvis Showing Flaccid Penis: Medical visualization of the male pelvic region with an erect penis, also visible are the testicles, pelvis, femurs, and surrounding musculature. There are three columns of erectile tissue in the penis: at the top (or dorsal side) of the penis are the two corpora cavernosa, and at the bottom (or ventral side) is the corpus spongiosum. Upon arousal, the arteries that supply the penis dilate and allow blood to fill the three spongy erectile tissue columns, causing it to lengthen and stiffen. The engorged erectile tissue presses against penile veins, preventing blood from flowing back out of the penis.
The penis, the male copulatory organ, is a cylindrical pendant organ located anterior to the scrotum and functions to transfer sperm to the vagina. The penis consists of three columns of erectile tissue that are wrapped in connective tissue and covered with skin. The two dorsal columns are the corpora cavernosa. The single, midline ventral column surrounds the urethra and is called the corpus spongiosum.
The penis has a root, body (shaft), and glans penis. The root of the penis attaches it to the pubic arch, and the body is the visible, pendant portion. The corpus spongiosum expands at the distal end to form the glans penis. The urethra, which extends throughout the length of the corpus spongiosum, opens through the external urethral orifice at the tip of the glans penis. A loose fold of skin, called the prepuce, or foreskin, covers the glans penis.
National Cancer Institute / NIH
The penis is the male organ of copulation (sexual intercourse). It is flaccid for non-sexual actions, such as urination, and turgid and rod-like with sexual arousal. When erect, the stiffness of the organ allows it to penetrate into the vagina and deposit semen into the female reproductive tract.
Three columns of erectile tissue make up most of the volume of the penis.
The shaft of the penis surrounds the urethra (Figure). The shaft is composed of three column-like chambers of erectile tissue that span the length of the shaft. Each of the two larger lateral chambers is called a corpus cavernosum (plural = corpora cavernosa). Together, these make up the bulk of the penis. The corpus spongiosum, which can be felt as a raised ridge on the erect penis, is a smaller chamber that surrounds the spongy, or penile, urethra. The end of the penis, called the glans penis, has a high concentration of nerve endings, resulting in very sensitive skin that influences the likelihood of ejaculation (see Figure). The skin from the shaft extends down over the glans and forms a collar called the prepuce (or foreskin). The foreskin also contains a dense concentration of nerve endings, and both lubricate and protect the sensitive skin of the glans penis. A surgical procedure called circumcision, often performed for religious or social reasons, removes the prepuce, typically within days of birth.
Both sexual arousal and REM sleep (during which dreaming occurs) can induce an erection. Penile erections are the result of vasocongestion, or engorgement of the tissues because of more arterial blood flowing into the penis than is leaving in the veins. During sexual arousal, nitric oxide (NO) is released from nerve endings near blood vessels within the corpora cavernosa and spongiosum. Release of NO activates a signaling pathway that results in relaxation of the smooth muscles that surround the penile arteries, causing them to dilate. This dilation increases the amount of blood that can enter the penis and induces the endothelial cells in the penile arterial walls to also secrete NO and perpetuate the vasodilation. The rapid increase in blood volume fills the erectile chambers, and the increased pressure of the filled chambers compresses the thin-walled penile venules, preventing venous drainage of the penis. The result of this increased blood flow to the penis and reduced blood return from the penis is erection. Depending on the flaccid dimensions of a penis, it can increase in size slightly or greatly during erection, with the average length of an erect penis measuring approximately 15 cm.
The structures of the male reproductive system include the testes, the epididymides, the penis, and the ducts and glands that produce and carry semen. Sperm exit the scrotum through the ductus deferens, which is bundled in the spermatic cord. The seminal vesicles and prostate gland add fluids to the sperm to create semen.
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The human penis is an external male intromittent organ that additionally serves as the urinal duct. The main parts are the root (radix); the body (corpus); and the epithelium of the penis including the shaft skin and the foreskin (prepuce) covering the glans penis. The body of the penis is made up of three columns of tissue: two corpora cavernosa on the dorsal side and corpus spongiosum between them on the ventral side. The human male urethra passes through the prostate gland, where it is joined by the ejaculatory duct, and then through the penis. The urethra traverses the corpus spongiosum, and its opening, the meatus (/miːˈeɪtəs/), lies on the tip of the glans penis. It is a passage both for urination and ejaculation of semen. (See: male reproductive system.)
Most of the penis develops from the same tissue in the embryo as does the clitoris in females; the skin around the penis and the urethra come from the same embryonic tissue from which develops the labia minora in females. An erection is the stiffening and rising of the penis, which occurs during sexual arousal, though it can also happen in non-sexual situations. Spontaneous non-sexual erections frequently occur during adolescence.
The most common form of genital alteration is circumcision, removal of part or all of the foreskin for various cultural, religious and, more rarely, medical reasons. There is controversy surrounding circumcision.
In its relaxed (flaccid, i.e. soft/limp) state, the shaft of the penis has the feel of a dense sponge encased in very smooth eyelid-type skin. The tip, or glans of the penis is darker in color, and covered by the foreskin, if present.
In its fully erect state, the shaft of the penis is rigid, with the skin tightly stretched. The glans of the erect penis has the feel of a raw mushroom. The erect penis may be straight or curved and may point at an upward or downward angle, or straight ahead. It may also have a tendency to the left or right.
While results vary across studies, the consensus is that the average erect human penis is approximately 12.9–15 cm (5.1–5.9 in) in length with 95% of adult males falling within the interval 10.7–19.1 cm (4.2–7.5 in). Neither age nor size of the flaccid penis accurately predicts erectile length.
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