Penis and balls

On the outside, every penis looks a little different. From the inside, they are all the same. Your penis, scrotum, balls and perineum are not separate parts, but rather they all work together as a whole.

Penis and glans

The penis consists of a shaft that ends in a head or 'glans'. The skin of your glans is not the normal, dry type of skin you have on the shaft of your penis. Instead, it is mucous membrane. If your penis is circumcised, your glans is partially or entirely uncovered. 

If you are uncircumcised, your glans is covered by skin that you can pull back: the foreskin. The base of the foreskin is attached to your glans.  The little band of tissue that forms the attachment is called the frenulum. The area around the frenulum is very sensitive to the touch. If you cannot pull your foreskin back behind your glans, it possible that your <foreskin or your frenulum is too tight. There are various ways to fix that.

The length of the penis

Penis length can vary a lot. The penis of an adult man, when soft, is between 6 cm and 13 cm long, with an average of 8 cm.  When hard, the average penis is 15 cm long, but varies between 12 cm and 18 cm, depending on the person. 

Testicles and epididymides

Hanging beneath your penis is your scrotum, which contains two testicles. Testicles are also known as testes but also simply as balls. Behind each ball there is a little tubular organ where ripe sperm cells are stored. These little organs are known as the epididymides. < > You can feel the epididymides at the back of your testicles.

One ball usually hangs a little lower than the other, and they may differ in size as well. The testicles are where semen is produced. Since the ideal temperature for that is just under your normal body temperature, the testicles hang outside of your body. When it is cold, your scrotum contracts, so the balls will hang closer to your body. 

Production of hormones

Your testicles produce the male hormone testosterone, which plays a role in the development of your genitals, muscle growth and the growth of body hair during puberty. Testosterone is also responsible for your libido: the amount of testosterone in your body determines your sexual drive. 

Erections and erectile tissue

Inside your penis is your urethra, the tube through which urine from your bladder leaves your body. Around the urethra are masses of erectile tissue or 'corpora cavernosa'. The corpora cavernosa are long, tubular structures surrounding your urethra. During an erection, the corpora cavernosa fill up with extra blood. There is no such thing as a penis bone. However, if your penis is bent too much, the tissue encapsulating the corpora cavernosa can tear. This is also known as a penis fracture. If that happens, you will need to get medical attention quickly. 

An erection happens when you become sexually excited, for example by the stimulation of your senses (sight, touch, hearing or smell) or by having arousing thoughts. If you want your penis to stay hard, you will need to remain sexually stimulated. If the sexual stimulation disappears, the blood will flow out of the erectile tissue and your penis will become soft again.

The corpora cavernosa in your penis run through to the inside of your body. From the outside, you can feel them in your perineum, the section between the base of your penis and your anus. During the erection, the erectile tissue in the perineum also fills up with blood, making this part extra sensitive when touched. 

Pearly penile papules and sebaceous glands

Small bumps may naturally occur on the skin of your penis shaft and scrotum and on the mucous membrane of the head of your penis. In many cases those are not signs of STIs but rather slightly swollen sebaceous glands or pearly penile papules. These types of bumps are harmless and do not need to be treated.

Pearly penile papules (PPP), sometimes referred to as a 'string of pearls', are not caused by an STI. Pearly penile papules are recognisable as a ridge of small, shiny white bumps, usually on the base of the glans (i.e. the head of your cock). Pearly penile papules are more likely to occur on uncircumcised penises. 

Are you seeing bumps on your penis for the first time? Or do you think you might have an STI, for example genital warts? In that case, it's best to go to see your family doctor or visit the STI clinic just to be sure.

Sebaceous glands may sometimes become visible (as 'Fordyce spots') on the penis or scrotum. 

Pearly penile papules are a normal phenomenon and are not caused by an STI. They are more common on uncircumcised penises.

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