This lesson provides an important overview of the major male and female reproductive structures, functions, and hormones. We’ll learn about everything from semen and testosterone to estrogen and the vulva.
It Takes Two
As more than one song goes, ‘It takes two.’ It takes two people, a man and a woman, to have a child naturally.
But it takes way more than two structures to accomplish this task during sex. Let’s go over the major concepts related to the sexual anatomy and physiology of men and women.
The Sexual Anatomy of Men
Both men and women have internal and external structures that are important for reproduction. Important male reproductive structures include:
- Testes, two structures that generate immature sperm. They are like an orchard producing fruit.
- The epididymis, a long, coiled tube that connects to a testicle and stores maturing sperm.
These guys are like a warehouse that stores the fruit and waits for them to ripen.
- There’s also the scrotum, a pouch-like sac that houses the testes and each testicles’ epididymis.
- Furthermore, there’s the prostate, a walnut-sized gland that produces fluid that nourishes sperm cells.
- And a penis, the sexually sensitive organ used during intercourse, one that ejects semen.
Semen is a secretion that contains sperm and fluids produced by the accessory glands. The accessory sex glands include the prostate, seminal vesicles, and bulbourethral glands. The seminal vesicles produce most of the fluid volume found in semen, while the bulbourethral glands make fluid that neutralizes any acidity found in the urethra as a result of urine and lubricates the urethra for the passage of sperm.
The bulbourethral glands are the ones responsible for pre-ejaculatory fluid.
The Sexual Anatomy of Women
Enough of the guys. We’ve got way more to go over with the more complex ladies. Therefore, I’ll break things up into two main parts: internal vs. external anatomy. Internal female reproductive structures include the:
- Vagina, which accepts a man’s penis during intercourse. It’s also called the birth canal.
- Uterus, also known as the womb, where the baby develops inside the mother.
- Ovaries, structures that produce an egg that meets up with the man’s sperm to make a baby.
- Fallopian tubes, a connecting passageway for the egg, one that is located between the ovaries and uterus.
The fallopian tubes allow an egg to pass from an ovary and into the uterus. The fallopian tubes are usually the site where an egg is fertilized by sperm. Here’s an easy memory trick: ‘F’ertilization occurs in the ‘F’allopian tubes.
- And we’ve also got the cervix, the lower portion of the uterus, which opens up into the vagina and allows sperm to enter the uterus from the vagina in order to fertilize the egg. The cervix also allows babies to leave the uterus during childbirth.
Major external female reproductive structures include a woman’s:
- Labia majora (a.k.a.
large lips), which enclose the other external structures we’re about to discuss.
- Labia minora (a.k.a. small lips), which are smaller skin folds lying within the labia majora. The labia minora surround the openings to the vagina and urethra, which is the structure that empties the bladder that houses the urine your kidneys make.
- Furthermore, there’s the prepuce, a structure formed by the labia minora.
- Clitoris, a structure akin to the penis in men that is covered by the prepuce, which is analogous to the foreskin in men. The clitoris is the most sexually sensitive part of a woman’s body.
- We’ve also got the vestibule, an area enclosed by the labia minora.
It’s an area where the urethral and vaginal openings are found.
- Furthermore, there’s the vestibular glands, glands that open into the vestibule and produce a lubricant that aids in sexual intercourse.
- And, finally we’ve got the mons pubis, a fatty prominence over the pubic bone that acts as a cushion during intercourse.
All of those things are important to know because the external female genital organs, including the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, vestibule, vestibular glands, and clitoris, are all collectively called the vulva.
The Sexual Physiology of Men & Women
Other than the major anatomical structures, it’s necessary to understand some important hormones that influence the reproductive physiology of men and women:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) is a hormone that stimulates the development of the ovarian follicle, a structure that includes an immature egg.
FSH also stimulates the production of fully mature sperm. To help remember its function, just think of a hair follicle, the little place from which hair grows. So, FSH helps the little egg and sperm grow!
- There’s also luteinizing hormone (LH), also called the ovulating hormone, which allows for the ovaries to release a mature egg.
- Estrogen, a hormone that is responsible for female sexual maturation, influencing the menstrual cycle and pregnancy and sexual behavior.
- Progesterone, a hormone responsible for the preparation of the uterus for implantation of the fertilized egg and for the maintenance of pregnancy.
Note how ‘pro’-‘gest’-erone is ‘pro,’ or for, ‘gest’-ation. ‘Gestation’ is just another term for a pregnancy.
- And, finally, let’s not forget testosterone, a hormone responsible for male sexual maturation, sexual behavior, and muscle strength.
Wow! There was a lot here.
So let’s summarize this as best as possible in terms of what’s important to know. Major male reproductive structures include the testes, epididymis, scrotum, prostate, and penis. The testicles make the sperm, the epididymis houses the maturing sperm, the scrotum houses the latter two structures, and the prostate makes fluid that nourishes sperm.The penis ejaculates semen, which is a secretion that contains sperm and fluids produced by the accessory glands.
The accessory sex glands include the prostate, seminal vesicles, and bulbourethral glands. The seminal vesicles make the majority of fluid in semen and the bulbourethral glands are responsible for pre-ejaculate.Major female reproductive structures include the vulva, the external female genital organs, including the mons pubis, labia majora, labia minora, vestibule, vestibular glands, and clitoris, as well as the vagina, uterus, ovaries, fallopian tubes, and cervix. The vagina allows the penis to enter the female reproductive tract thanks in part to lubrication from the vestibular glands. The sperm ejaculated by the penis make their way through the cervix (the lower part of the uterus) and into the fallopian tubes. It’s important to remember that the fallopian tubes are usually the site where an egg is fertilized by sperm.
The egg is produced by the ovaries.Finally, important hormones we went over were:
- Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which is a hormone that stimulates the development of the ovarian follicle, a structure that includes an immature egg. FSH also stimulates the production of fully mature sperm.
- Luteinizing hormone (LH), also called the ovulating hormone.
- Estrogen, a hormone that is responsible for female sexual maturation, influencing the menstrual cycle and pregnancy, and sexual behavior.
- Progesterone, a hormone responsible for the preparation of the uterus for implantation of a fertilized egg and for the maintenance of pregnancy.
- Finally, testosterone, a hormone responsible for male sexual maturation, sexual behavior, and muscle strength.
When this lesson is finished, you should be able to:
- Recognize the male reproductive organs and their use
- Identify the female structures for reproduction as recepticles
- Describe the hormones for male and female and their function