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Anatomy and Functions of the Male Foreskin

as described in Circumcision: Male - Effects Upon Human Sexuality
y Marilyn F. Milos, R.N. and Donna Macris, C.N.M.
in Human Sexuality: An Encyclopedia,  pp.119-121, Garland Publishing, Inc., New York, 1994
NOHARMM has enhanced this article with photos from Paul Russo's Male Sexual Anatomy Site

See also: Global Survey of Circumcision Harm (2012 to present)

NOTE: Links with a right-facing blue arrow will take you off this site.

Attention Please Please read the following important notices...

This page includes photos, diagrams and video
of the penis, including erections.
If you do not wish to view these, please go back now.

CONTENT NOTICE: The photographic and text content of this page is provided for purely educational purposes. Some content, however, may not be suitable for all viewers. Anyone under 18 years of age should visit this page with the permission and direct involvement of their parent or guardian.

COPYRIGHT AND USAGE NOTICES: Illustrations Copyright 1995, 1996, 1997 Derrick Townsend, all rights reserved. Unless otherwise specified, photographs are Copyright 1995 GRH, all rights reserved. This information is provided as a public service. You are licensed to use it only for personal, educational, non-commercial, non-exploitative purposes, provided that it is not modified in any fashion, that it is provided in its entirety (with all instructions and the full text of our cautions and warnings statement), and that these copyright and other notices remain intact and unaltered. All other rights, including, but not limited to re-publication on the Internet, are strictly and completely reserved.


To understand the function of the prepuce, it is necessary to understand the function of the penis. While it is commonly recognized that the penis has two functions - urination and procreation - in reality, it is essential only for procreation, since it is not required for urination.

These attributes of the foreskin contribute significantly
to the sexual response of the intact male.

For procreation to occur, the normally flaccid penis must become erect. As it changes from flaccidity to rigidity, the penis increases in length about 50 percent. As it elongates, the double fold of skin (foreskin) provides the skin necessary for full expansion of the penile shaft. But microscopic examination reveals that the foreskin is more than just penile skin necessary for a natural erection; it is specialized tissue [especially the "ridged bands" described in research by Taylor], richly supplied with blood vessels, highly innervated, and uniquely endowed with stretch receptors. These attributes of the foreskin contribute significantly to the sexual response of the intact male. The complex tissue of the foreskin responds to stimulation during sexual activity. Stretching of the foreskin over the glans penis activates preputial nerve endings, enhances sexual excitability, and contributes to the male ejaculatory reflex. Besides the neurological role of the preputial tissue, the mucosal surface of the inner lining of the foreskin has a specific function during masturbation or sexual relations.

Adult intact penis, flaccid

Right: Foreskin covering the glans; the foreskin when retracted; and a closeup of  the foreskin covering the glans.

Below: Same views with  added color-coding of anatomical features. Closeup shows cross-section of the covered glans.

Intact Penis - Three Views

Intact Penile Anatomy

Left: The frenar band is elastic tissue at the foreskin tip (between the inner and outer foreskin) that helps to contract the tip of the foreskin and allow it to remain positioned over the glans. Many intact men find this band very erogenous.

Below: The frenulum is  elastic tissue under the glans that connects to the foreskin and helps to contract the foreskin over the glans. Many intact men find this a highly erogenous part of the penis. It is often partially or totally removed by circumcision.

Ventral view (underside) of the intact penis, with the foreskin retracted.

Together, the inner and outer foreskin account for over 50% of the penile shaft skin.

To better understand how much tissue is lost, see:
Not a Snip But 15 Square Inches (diagrams)

and Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)The Three Zones
of Penile Skin (photos)

Intact Penis - Underside

Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)Explore the severity of your circumcision or the amount of foreskin you have using the Coverage Index 

During masturbation, the mucosal surface of the foreskin rolls back and forth across the mucosal surface of the glans penis, providing nontraumatic sexual stimulation. During heterosexual activity, the mucosal surfaces of the glans penis and foreskin move back and forth across the mucosal surfaces of the labia and vagina, providing nontraumatic sexual stimulation of both male and female. This mucous-membrane-to-mucous-membrane contact provides the natural lubrication necessary for sexual relations and prevents both the dryness responsible for painful intercourse and the chafing and abrasions which allow entry of sexually transmitted diseases, both viral and bacterial.

Foreskin mobility of the adult intact penis, while erect
Anonymous photo/Usenet

Range of skin movement marked by point A is several inches back and forth. Note how point B moves and the end of the foreskin widens to accommodate the head of the penis. Notice the smooth texture of the head of the penis. The mucosal surface of the foreskin and glans is similar to that of the female labia and vagina.

NOTE: Retraction is normally not possible or desirable in infants and young children.

Foreskin Mobility

Ridged bands described by Taylor's research are evident in the last photo,
and can be viewed in this graphic. An animation reveals how the
ridged bands are deployed for stimulation.

When normal, sexually functioning tissue is removed,
sexual functioning is also altered.

This set of Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)clickable slides demonstrates how foreskin retraction occurs during the erection process, taking the glans (head) of the penis from being a normally private, protected and sensitive internal structure to one that is exposed for sexual activity. The video (to the right) graphically illustrates the mobility of the male foreskin during sexual activity. To better understand the role of the foreskin during sexual intercourse, see: Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)Anatomy of the Penis and Mechanics of Intercourse


fsvideo.gif (186 KB)

When normal, sexually functioning tissue is removed, sexual functioning is also altered. Changes of the penis that occur with circumcision have been documented. These may vary according to the procedure used and the age at which the circumcision was performed, nevertheless penile changes will inevitably occur following circumcision.

Circumcision performed in the newborn period traumatically interrupts the natural separation of the foreskin from the glans that normally occurs somewhere between birth and age 18. The raw, exposed glans penis heals in a process that measurably thickens the surface of the glans and results in desensitization of the penis. (NOTE: This has since been confirmed by a published scientific study Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes)Fine touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis  BJU International, 99, Issue 4,  p. 864-869, April, 2007)

When circumcision is performed after the normal separation of the foreskin from the glans, the damage done by forcible separation of these two parts of the penis is avoided, but the glans must still thicken in order to protect itself from constant chafing and abrasion by clothing.

Often, it is erroneously considered the woman's lack of lubrication
that makes intercourse painful...

The thickened, drier tissue covering the glans of the circumcised penis may necessitate the use of synthetic lubricants to facilitate nontraumatic sexual intercourse. Often, it is erroneously considered the woman's lack of lubrication that makes intercourse painful rather than the lack of natural male lubrication, which is more likely the cause. During masturbation, the circumcised male must use his hands for direct stimulation of the glans, and this may require synthetic lubrication as well.

"These, then, are the human genitals. Considering their great delicacy, complexity and sensitivity,
one might imagine that an intelligent species like man would leave them alone. Sadly, this has
never been the case. For thousands of years, in many different cultures, the genitals have fallen
victim to an amazing variety of mutilations and restrictions. For organs that are capable of giving
us an immense amount of pleasure, they have been given an inordinate amount of pain."

Desmond Morris Body Watching Crown Publishing/New York 1985

Also highly recommended is this 20-minute medical/scientific presentation on the anatomy, development and functions of the foreskin: (NOTE: Windows Media Player required and best viewable in Internet Explorer. May not open properly in Mozilla Firefox or cause Firefox to crash) Blue_ArrowD096.gif (140 bytes) What is the function of the prepuce?

"The fundamental biological sex act becomes, for the circumcised male,
simply satisfaction of an urge
and not the refined sensory experience that it was meant to be."
Falliers, C.J.  Circumcision. Journal of the American Medical Assn., vol. 214, 1970, p. 2194

More Pages Related to Male & Female Circumcision

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