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HealthInfo Waitaha Canterbury

Overview of your penis

Mō tō ure

Penises come in all shapes and sizes but they're all fundamentally the same. The main part of your penis (called the shaft) is made up of sections of sponge-like material called corpus cavernosa that fill with blood when you're sexually aroused. This is what causes an erection.

A tube called the urethra runs through your penis. This carries urine from your bladder. It also carries semen when you ejaculate.

The head of your penis is called the glans. It's dome shaped. The urethra ends at the glans with a hole called the meatus.

When boys are born, their glans is covered in a sheath of skin called the foreskin. At first this is very tight. It cannot, and shouldn't, be pulled back in pēpi (babies) and young boys. As a boy gets older this skin will usually start to loosen so that their foreskin slides easily over the glans.

It's important to keep your penis clean and healthy so you do not get any infections or off-putting problems.

But washing your penis too much with soap and shower gels can make it sore. This is because soap can strip your skin of its natural balance of oils and healthy skin bacteria (which protect it).

In general, gently washing your penis (including under your foreskin if you have one) once a day with warm water is enough to keep it healthy. If you want to use soap, choose a mild or non-perfumed soap or a soap alternative so you do not get irritated skin.

Written by HealthInfo clinical advisers. Last reviewed August 2022.


Page reference: 224197

Review key: HIPEH-223783