The penis (phallus) has the twin tasks of passing urine out of the body in a controlled manner and being the organ used in male sexual intercourse. During sex its length is designed to allow sperm to be deposited as close to the cervix as possible.
At rest, the penis is a soft sausage like structure hanging limply down from the base of the abdomen where it is attached to the bones of the pelvis. However, it is made up of several masses of spongy tissue (corpus cavernosum) which fill with blood when the man is sexually aroused so that the penis becomes firm, erect and distended and is thus able to penetrate the vagina.
Sperm are manufactured in the testicles and travel through the male reproductive system, combining with a white sticky fluid to form semen. At the height of sexual excitation or orgasm the semen is ejaculated.
The head of the penis (the glans) is a highly sensitive zone which is easily sexually stimulated. Where the glans meets the shaft of the penis, the sensitive skin covering the penis folds back on itself to form the prepuce or foreskin. It is this part of the skin that is removed by circumcision.
Circumcision has been commonly performed in much of the English-speaking world for several generations, but in more recent times it has been seen as unnecessary surgery performed for no medical reason. Indeed, because the foreskin is the most sexually sensitive part of the penis it is now considered possible that a man’s later sexual pleasure may be diminished by the operation. Sometimes the foreskin is so tight that the child cannot urinate properly (a condition called phimosis) and in this case circumcision may be essential. This condition will not usually become apparent until the age of about five.
The penis discharges both urine and semen, which are transported along its length by the urethra. This is different from women in whom the organs for sex and the organs for urinating are separate. It is not possible, however, for a man to release both urine and semen at the same time.
Smegma acts as a lubricant between the head of the penis and the foreskin.