Hello, my lovelies. This week has held some disappointments, but some really great excitement, too. I got my first ever tattoo, something I have wanted for years and years. The job hunt is continuing, but I hope to have an office in the next few weeks.
For this week, since I covered female anatomy and sexual health last week, I wanted to go ahead and cover male sexual health and anatomy. So often, in our world, what with the pleasure gap and the sexual assault and violence numbers against women, men's sexuality is not as explored or discussed. So often, it is seen as just the penis and the goal of ejaculation; that is it. The male anatomy is so much more complex than that, though, and there are so many wonderful possibilities and things to explore. Not to mention the health concerns facing men. So I hope you'll enjoy this article all about male anatomy and sexual health.
#1 External Anatomy - Circumcised vs Uncircumcised
Ok, when it comes to male genitalia, there is the penis and the scrotum. While there are vast differences in penis size and the shape can vary, such as larger head or glans, a more extreme curve, not very long but girthy, the biggest difference among penis-owners in our world is whether or not they are circumcised. While globally, circumcised is in the minority (37%- 39%), in the United States, the vast majority of penises are circumcised (71.2%). If a penis is circumcised, the foreskin is removed. This may be done for religious, medical, or aesthetic reasons and is typically done on newborn babies, but occasionally is done on older boys or men.
The big questions people tend to have about circumcised vs. uncircumcised penises are cleanliness, STIs, and sensitivity/pleasure. I personally will admit, the first time I saw an uncircumcised penis in person, I was thrown for a loop. I wasn't sure if I could touch it the same as a circumcised penis and honestly didn't know what to do with the foreskin at all. I had to ask my partner how to interact with their penis. While I will admit, I'm still not an expert when it comes to uncircumcised penises, as far as sexual interactions, I will say that my husband and I decided not to circumcise our son's penises because we believed the benefits of keeping the foreskin, outweighed the possible cons of circumcising them. So, let's break down some of the common concerns.
Cleanliness. Let's be real; a cut penis is easier to clean, there aren't many extra folds or areas to worry about. When it comes to cleaning, I like to compare it to a vulva, honestly. When cleaning a vulva, you have to get between the lips and under the lips, and well, the same is true of the foreskin. If someone is not taught good hygiene practices, there could be a build-up of smegma underneath the foreskin, so make sure you teach young uncircumcised boys how to clean the foreskin properly, and adults, practice good hygiene of your nether regions.
STIs. This one is complex, so first, let's look at the data, and then I'll explain a bit more information.
"According to a 2012 policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), circumcision can lower the risk of HIV from heterosexual intercourse and reduce the risk of other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). Research from three randomized clinical trials found that adult male circumcision lowered the risk of HIV infection over time by 50–60%. The trials also found that males circumcised as adults had a 30% lower risk of contracting certain types of herpes and human papillomavirus (HPV). Also, one 2017 study found that females with circumcised sexual partners were less likely to contract STIs such as chlamydia, syphilis, and one type of herpes. The study also found that females with a circumcised sexual partner might have a lower risk of cervical cancer. Circumcision in males with male sexual partners may reduce the risk of HIV infection, but this requires further research."
So, a few things need to be pointed out regarding this information. First off, the vast majority of this research has been conducted in sub-Saharan Africa, where condoms and other forms of protection are harder to come by, as well as good hygiene practices. Because the foreskin can collect bacteria, making it a health suggestion for underdeveloped societies or do not have access to healthcare or clean water all of the time makes sense as a means to cut down on infections and the spread of STIs. Also, this research is done on those having unprotected sex; this is not data using condoms or other barrier methods. If you live in the United States or a developed country and have access to quality barrier methods, healthcare, and clean water, take this research with a grain of salt. The biggest thing to share with an uncircumcised penis owner in a developed country is that putting some condom-friendly lube on before putting the condom on will help a lot. At the end of the day, be smart and safe with your sexual interactions, regardless of your foreskin status.
Sensitivity/Pleasure. This is also a complex topic because, well, it's entirely subjective. Everyone experiences pleasure differently, and thus far, all of the data collected on this topic has been self-reported data. Also, you are asking people to compare pleasure when they can't compare. If you asked a vulva owner if she experiences more pleasure than a penis-owner, she might say yes, but how does she actually know? Because well, she's never had a penis and doesn't know what it would feel like. The same concept is applied in these studies. They ask penis-owners if they experience more pleasure when uncircumcised, but all they have ever known is uncircumcised. It's vice versa for the circumcised penis-owners. You can not know if you experience more pleasure from having a circumcised or uncircumcised penis unless you have experience both a circumcised and uncircumcised penis. So, the data is subjective and skewed. There are some nerve endings in the foreskin. Still, because it correlates to the female clitoral hood, it may be more a factor of the glans or head of the penis getting constantly overstimulated because it is not covered, versus a foreskinned penis actually being more sensitive. The important part is to talk to your partner and make sure you are doing what feels best and most pleasurable to them, regardless of whether or not they have their foreskin.
#2 Internal Anatomy
First off, I would like to draw your attention to how far the penis structure actually extends into the body cavity, which is why so often men can experience pleasure from the perineum (or taint) being played with. The perineum is also a great spot to externally stimulate the prostate, which, as we will cover in our next point, can be a great pleasure point for men and often the key to multiple orgasms. Also, I would like to point you to the bulbourethral gland, which is comparable to the vagina owner's Bartholin's gland, which is key to lubrication. The bulbourethral gland in penis-owners also helps with lubrication, but not to the extent of the Bartholin's gland.
I also want to take this moment to discuss retrograde ejaculation. Since the opening for penis-owners is responsible for both urine and ejaculation, occasionally, there can be an issue called retrograde ejaculation. This is when semen enters the bladder instead of emerging through the penis during orgasm. While this is not necessarily a reason for concern if it happens just once, or every once in a great while, especially if it happens in conjunction to edge play or a dry orgasm, it can sometimes be an indicator of other underlying conditions, so if you are regularly experiencing retrograde ejaculations or very little semen is coming out, you may want to see your doctor. Also, if you are trying to father a child, and struggling, make sure you are not experiencing retrograde ejaculation.
#3 Prostate Play
Prostate play is becoming more and more accepted by all penis-owners in our society. It was stigmatized for so long; it's nice that it is more normalized as a great source of pleasure for men and penis owners. The picture above is from a company I have referenced before in a previous blog post called Aneros. There are many ways to engage in prostate play, either solo or with a partner. The prostate can be stimulated by pressing on the perineum and also through the anus. It is very similar to a woman's G-spot in that the spot to stimulate the prostate is only about 2 inches inside the anus. You can use the same "come hither" motion as you would for the G-Spot as well, pressing up towards the person's belly button. If you use a finger, make sure that nails are trimmed, and think about using a finger glove or condom over your finger for added protection. There are also many options as far as toys go for prostate play, from dildos and strap-ons to massagers and pressure play toys.
If this is a new area of play for you, make sure you do your research, relax, don't rush, USE LUBE!!!!, and make sure any toys have a flange!! Remember to do prostate play for you because you want to try something new or as an intimate experience with your partner. Please do not do it because you are pressured or coerced into it or simply because you believe someone else wants you to do it. This should be something you want to experience or try out for you, your pleasure, and as a way to enhance any relationship you are in.
#4 Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile Dysfunction, or ED, is the most common sexual issue and complaint from penis owners. While occasional ED is not a big concern, what is concerning is that ED is becoming a common problem for younger men to experience. While many factors influence the strength of one's erection and their ability to keep an erection; such as stress, medications, mental health concerns, weight, and age, the fact that ED is becoming more and more common in men under 40 years old, and sometimes even men in their 20's is concerning. I want to cover the mental processes behind this a bit more, but first, let's dive into what ED is and when you should see a doctor.
The inability to achieve and/or maintain an erection to engage in sex, typically penetrative sex, is how erectile dysfunction is typically defined. Now, this could mean that you can get an erection but cannot keep it for very long or that the erection you have is only a semi-erection and not hard enough for penetrative sex. It could also mean that you are unable to get an erection at all. There are many reasons, both psychological and physical, that can cause ED. Some of the common physical reasons for ED are:
hypertension, or high blood pressure
low testosterone levels or other hormone imbalances
certain prescription medications, such as those used to treat high blood pressure or depression
consuming too much alcohol
using tobacco products
certain health conditions, such as Parkinson’s disease or multiple sclerosis (MS)
damage to the pelvic area through injury or surgery
Peyronie’s disease, which causes scar tissue to develop in the penis
Typically if you are experiencing ED, and it is because of physical or medication reasons, it will be because of a disruption of blood flow to the penis or an issue with the constricting of blood within the penis. If you are experiencing prolonged erectile dysfunction, as in it has been a persistent issue for 1-3 months, please reach out to your doctor and make sure no medical causes are underlying your ED. While many physical causes can be as simple as implementing lifestyle changes, some aren't that easy, and a doctor can only diagnose some.
There are also a lot of mental and emotional reasons behind erectile dysfunction as well. Honestly, most of the time, psychological reasons go hand in hand with physical reasons because of how important the penis and a strong erection are to a man's self-esteem and self-image. Some of the main psychological factors that can influence ED are:
Stress (work, relationships, money, family, etc.)
Guilt (perhaps religious or societal pressure)
Fear or Worry (that you won't meet expectations, that you won't perform well, that you aren't what they want, etc.)
We'll talk more in the next section about these psychological issues and how to find and get help if you need it.
#5 The Emotional Toll of Being a Man in Today's World
This is a tough topic to tackle. I am not a man, nor a penis-owner, so it is hard to convey the struggle that men go through. Especially those who are cis-gender and/or heterosexual. This does not mean that I can not try to understand and educate others about those concerns. As a female in our society, I have been part of the MeToo movement, have been the victim of sexual assault, have had the societal pressures of beauty standards and behavior thrust upon me, and have fallen victim to the pleasure gap. It is often believed that for women, people of color, and the LGBTQIA+ communities to be heard or seen, they must put down men or silence them. Also, in this new era of dating apps, where sex is easily obtained, and attention spans are limited, and consent conversations more mainstream, the traditional ideas of what a man is (or at least what our grandparents and parents may have lived by) is changing rapidly, and there is a struggle to adjust. Add to this the societal pressure men face of looking and behaving in certain ways; it can be hard for men to feel like they have a voice in our society or ask for help.
I am not justifying poor decisions or toxic masculinity here, as those are the individual's responsibility. I acknowledge that in the push for equality, we may be silencing an entire group of people. With anxiety, depression, and body dysmorphia diagnoses on the rise in men, we need to create spaces where it is ok for men not to be ok. These narratives are changing slowly, but that doesn't mean there isn't still work to do. One of the best anecdotes I ever heard on this topic was from Brene Brown in her lecture Men, Women, and Worthiness. In it, she discussed how a man came up to her once after she had spoken at an event and said that his wife is always telling him to be honest and open up to her, but yet he knows what that look in her eyes is if the "knight in shining armor" ever falls off his horse and that he couldn't handle that look. That is the crux of the issue here. Until we can allow men to fail, learn from their mistakes, and ask for help without also giving them judgment for not being the perfect "white knight," how can we have a society and culture truly growing towards equality.
Because of the pressures men face, we see things like ED and performance anxiety on the rise. There is also a rise in social anxiety when it comes to dating and flirting. Many of these issues are major overarching societal problems, many of which have a basis in our culture's poor sexual education system. That doesn't mean that these issues still do not need to be addressed, and we can't find ways to dialogue, learn and grow from each other.
If you are a man and you struggle with mental health, please reach out. Find someone safe in your circle, find a therapist in your area or online to talk to. You do not have to suffer alone; you do not have to shoulder the weight of the world. It is OK not to be OK, and you are no less strong for asking for help. I hope this made some sense, and as always, if you have additional questions or need help, please reach out. Also, if you are unsure of where to go to get help and perhaps don't feel comfortable reaching out to me, I wanted to provide you with some other resources. So here are some links: (and no, I'm not getting paid for this)