2.1 THE MALE SEX ORGANS
From the dawn of mankind the human sex organs have been regarded as special and essentially different from all other parts of the body, Some ancient peoples worshiped them and believed them to be endowed with magical powers. By contrast, our own culture has for a very long time treated them mainly as an embarrassment. Indeed, there have been periods when the sex organs were considered so shocking, shameful, vile, and dirty that they were all but unmentionable. Eventually it became improper to even think about them. In short, there seemed to be a general conspiracy to deny their very existence.
While most people today no longer respond in this extreme fashion, there are still many who feel uncomfortable discussing the subject openly, and it must also be admitted that our standard language is curiously inadequate when it comes to anything sexual. Most available words reflect moral opinions rather than scientific observations. Purely descriptive and accurate terms are rare. For example, in most medical and professional textbooks the sex organs are called genitals (Latin genitalia: organs of generation) or "reproductive organs." These terms emphasize the possible child-producing, procreative function of the sex organs at the expense of their pleasure-giving, erotic function. Such one-sided terminology can lead to one-sided interpretations. It may allow certain people to forget that in human beings procreation and sex can be completely separated. Most of the time the so-called reproductive organs are not used for the purpose of reproduction at all, but function exclusively as organs of sexual pleasure. This is already obvious to children who may experience orgasms many years before they can reproduce. As a matter of fact, for the human race in general the reproductive function of the sex organs is a relatively late discovery. There have been primitive peoples who were quite unaware of it, although they obviously enjoyed sexual intercourse.
The expression "sex organs" used in this book is not very precise either since it has a double meaning. First of all, the term refers to those organs that determine a person's sex. In this sense the sex organs are those that account for the greatest physical difference between the sexes. For this reason the sex organs are also called primary sexual characteristics. Secondly, the term "sex organs" suggests that these organs are involved in a person's sexual response. Indeed, some people are under the false impression that the "sex organs" are the only organs so involved. However, the human sexual response is not restricted to a few particular organs but is a response of the whole body. Thus the mouth and the skin, for example, are also "sex" organs because they transmit and receive sexual stimulation. Nevertheless, as long as this fact is kept well in mind the use of the term "sex organs" in the present narrow sense seems defensible.
For some men and women the usual medical terms sound too technical and explicit. They prefer instead to speak euphemistically of "private parts". This term suggests that the sex organs should remain undiscussed, hidden, and secret, and that they are somehow more personal than, for example, the mouth, the eyes, or the ears. However, such an attitude is an expression of moral values that are far from universal. There have been cultures where the so-called private parts were very public indeed, and where giant replicas of male and female sex organs were proudly displayed in temples, theaters, and other gathering places. Furthermore, many societies not only encouraged public nudity, but, in some cases, made the sex organs especially conspicuous by elaborate ornamentation.
Many young people today also find little need for prudery. As a rule they are neither awed nor disgusted by any part of the human anatomy. Instead they are, simply curious. For them sex is just another part of life with which they have to become familiar. Particularly during puberty, when they observe their own sexual maturation, they often feel alienated from their bodies. They demand objective information as a means to get back in touch with themselves. As such information becomes generally available in the future, the sex organs are likely to lose much of their former mystery and fascination. On the other hand, a realistic understanding of their own sexual anatomy may very well help many people to lead healthier and more productive lives.
The following pages present a detailed description of the male sex organs beginning with those that are visible outside the body. In a young person these external sex organs usually create the greatest initial interest. However, in order to understand their function, one also has to consider the internal sex organs of which many people never become aware at all.