The male reproductive system refers to the bodily systems responsible for sexual function in males. It consists of external and internal structures responsible for the formation, storage, and ejaculation of sperm, as well as the production of vital hormones for male development.

Similar to the female reproductive system, the male counterpart consists of various organs whose primary function is to accomplish reproduction.

In this article, we will explore the various components of the male reproductive system, including their individual functions.

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. For the purposes of this article, we use “male” and “female” to refer to a person’s sex assigned at birth. Learn more.

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The male reproductive system consists of organs that are necessary for reproduction. Namely, this system consists of external and internal organs that play an essential role in the formation of sperm and the production of vital hormones that drive puberty. Additionally, these organs are also involved in other functions such as sexual function and urination.

The organs that comprise the male reproductive system all have individual roles that in combination aid in reproduction. To facilitate reproduction, the male reproductive system has several functions within the body. These include:

  • the production and secretion of male sex hormones
  • the production of sperm and semen
  • the transportation of semen into the female reproductive tract

Click on the BodyMap above to interact with a 3D model of the male reproductive system.

The male reproductive system comprises external and internal organs. The external organs include:

  • penis
  • testes
  • scrotum
  • epididymis

The penis

The penis is the cylindrical-shaped organ located in front of the scrotum. It consists of three columns of erectile tissue wrapped in connective tissue and skin. The penis becomes erect when blood fills the erectile tissue.

The erectile tissue includes two columns known as the corpora cavernosa and a single column in the front known as the corpus spongiosum. The corpus spongiosum also surrounds the urethra. The urethra is a muscular tube that allows the passage of urine from the bladder as well as semen, which contains sperm, from the seminal vesicles.

The penis has a root, a body, and a glans penis. The body is the visible cylindrical portion, while the root attaches to the pubic arch of the pelvis.

The glans penis is the top portion of the penis through which the urethra opens. Loose skin covers the glans penis. This is known as the prepuce (more commonly known as the foreskin). Some men may have their foreskin removed via a surgical process called circumcision. This may be for religious, medical, or aesthetic reasons.

The function of the penis, in addition to aiding in urination, is to assist with reproduction by transporting sperm to the female reproductive system.

During sexual intercourse, the penis becomes erect and stiffens, allowing a person to insert it into an orifice, such as the vagina. Following intercourse, a person will be able to ejaculate their semen into the vagina. Sperm cells within semen may then fertilize an egg.

The testes

The testes, also known as the testicles, are present behind the penis within the scrotum. The testes are about 2 inches long and 1.2 inches in diameter. They feel firm and slightly spongy. The testes typically begin growing between the ages of 11–13.

The testes are responsible for producing important hormones for sexual development, including:

Testosterone increases sex drive (libido) in males and is also responsible for primary sexual development such as:

  • the descent of the testes
  • spermatogenesis
  • enlargement of the penis and testes

Testosterone is also responsible for the development of secondary sex characteristics, such as:

  • facial hair
  • vocal changes such as voice deepening
  • growth spurts
  • skeletal muscle growth

The testes are also where a person produces sperm through a process known as spermatogenesis. Sperm production begins during puberty and continues throughout life. Evidence notes that the testicles produce several million sperm per day and the full process of making sperm takes about 64 days.

The scrotum

The scrotum is the pouch of skin that houses and protects the testes, the epididymis, and part of the spermatic cord. It is present behind the penis.

The scrotum is outside of the body as sperm production requires a temperature that is lower than that of body temperature. The scrotum includes the cremaster muscle, which contracts and relaxes to regulate the temperature of the testes.

The epididymis

The epididymis is a coiled tube-like structure that is present on the top, outside edge of each testicle. Each epididymis is about 6 meters. The epididymis comprises a head, body, and tail. Sperm leave the testes and enter the epididymis. When sperm enter the epididymis, they are not yet mature and are unable to fertilize an egg.

Sperm complete their maturation within the epididymis which takes about 12 days. The body stores mature sperm in the tail portion of the epididymis. The epididymis tail joins with another tube known as the ductus deferens or vas deferens, which is a coiled tube that carries sperm out of the testes. Epididymis smooth muscles contract during ejaculation and push sperm into the vas deferens.

The internal organs include the spermatic cord, the prostate, the bulbourethral gland, and the seminal vesicles.

The spermatic cord

The spermatic cord is a cable-like structure that suspends and supports the testes and epididymis. The spermatic cord is composed of the vas deferens, arteries, and nerves. It provides blood and nerve supply to the testes, epididymis, and vas deferens.

The prostate

The prostate is a walnut-sized gland. It is dense and firm and is located below the urinary bladder. The prostate surrounds the urethra as it exits the urinary bladder. Short ducts are present that empty from the prostate into the urethra.

The prostate secretes an alkaline fluid that thickens the semen so that sperm can remain for longer in the female reproductive tract and enhances sperm motility.

The prostate is also where the body converts testosterone into its active form, dihydrotestosterone (DHT), which is essential for the normal development and function of the prostate.

The bulbourethral glands

The bulbourethral glands, also known as Cowper’s glands, are pea-sized glands that are located at the base of the penis and beneath the prostate.

The bulbourethral glands release a thick, alkaline, mucus-like fluid that lubricates the opening of the urethra and clears any residual urine. The fluid neutralizes the acidity of the urine and the acidity of the vagina.

The seminal vesicles

The seminal vesicles are glands that are present behind the urinary bladder. The seminal vesicles have ducts that connect with the vas deferens and form a structure known as the ejaculatory duct. The ejaculatory duct passes through the prostate and drains into the urethra.

The seminal vesicles release thick fluid which contains fructose (a type of sugar), proteins, and other enzymes. These act as a source of energy and nutrition for sperm.

The male reproductive system comprises various external and internal organs. The external organs include the testes, the penis, the scrotum and epididymis. The internal organs include the spermatic cord, the prostate, the bulbourethral gland, and the seminal vesicles.

These organs work together to facilitate reproduction and sexual function. Namely, this system assists in producing sex hormones to initiate puberty and enables a person to produce and transport sperm.