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The Male Reproductive System Explained

Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Reviewed by Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 05/19/2024

Do you know how your reproductive organs work? Like the female reproductive system, the male reproductive system is more complicated than we typically acknowledge.

While the average adult has a decent understanding of sexual intercourse, most guys get a little tripped up when asked how the testicles produce sperm or where ejaculatory ducts are located. But this health information can be important to understand, especially if you’ve seen symptoms or have been diagnosed with a sexual health condition.

Below, we’ll explain how the male reproductive system functions, from the moment your nervous system and sex drive initiate arousal to the post-orgasm cool-down period. We’ll also share helpful primers on each of the external and internal parts of the male reproductive system and what to do if you think something’s not working correctly.

Could you point out all the parts on a male reproductive system diagram? This group of organs collectively makes up the reproductive and urinary systems of people assigned male at birth.

A combination of internal and external organs make up the male reproductive system, which is primarily designed for the production cycle associated with sperm delivery.

The reproductive process starts in the testes, where sperm cells and testosterone are generated. Sperm then travels from the testes to the epididymis (a narrow, coiled tube attached to each testicle) and vas deferens (within the spermatic cords), which store and transport them before and during ejaculation.

Your seminal vesicles and prostate gland produce seminal fluid and other fluids to help sperm survive and succeed on their mission during and after ejaculation.

The scrotum serves two purposes: protecting and regulating the temperature of your testes for the best fertilization chances.

As for your penis, it has an operational procedure as well. During sexual arousal, it becomes rigid and enlarged as internal structures called the corpora cavernosa and corpus spongiosum fill with blood.

The blood vessels that allow these tissues to fill with blood relax for erections, but they constrict once the erection is over, as blood releases and flows out of the penis.

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As you might already know, what essentially runs your reproductive system is your endocrine system — your hormones.

Hormones regulate and encourage activity in organs and cells. In the case of the reproductive system, three hormones in particular regulate the major functions: testosterone, luteinizing hormone, and follicle-stimulating hormone.

  • Testosterone. Testosterone is an androgen (male sex hormone) made in the testicles. It’s responsible for muscle mass, fat distribution, libido, bone mass, and male sexual traits that develop during puberty.

  • Luteinizing hormone. This is made by the pituitary gland and is essential for the production of testosterone..

  • Follicle-stimulating hormone. This hormone is also made in the pituitary gland and is essential for sperm production, a process called spermatogenesis..

Two primary components of the male reproductive system are considered outside of the body:

  • Penis (glans and shaft). The main genital organ of the reproductive system, the penis comprises glans and the shaft externally. Internally, it contains the urethra, corpora cavernosa, and corpus spongiosum. A penis may or may not have a foreskin due to circumcision practices.

  • Scrotum, including testicles, and epididymis and part of the vas deferens. The testicles and scrotum are technically outside the body. The scrotum houses and protects the testes, safeguarding them specifically from danger and moderating their temperature against your own body temperature. The epididymis carries and stores sperm created in the testicles.

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Internal parts of the male reproductive system include the:

  • Vas deferens. The vas deferens are a highway for sperm, carrying them internally from the epididymis to the urethra ahead of ejaculation.

  • Seminal Vesicles. The seminal vesicles produce fluid that provides energy for sperm and other components for sperm function.

  • Ejaculatory ducts. Ejaculatory ducts collect fluid from the seminal vesicles and sperm from the vas deferens and transport them to the urethra.

  • Prostate gland. The prostate is a walnut-sized gland located inside the body between the bladder and rectum. It adds fluid to your ejaculate that helps with pH and motility of sperm.

  • Urethra. The urethra is the tube through which urine and ejaculate are expelled from the body, connecting the bladder and ejaculatory ducts to the tip of the penis.

When your reproductive function feels off, it could point to any number of health conditions. Pain, discomfort, weak or uncomfortable ejaculation, lumps, and burning sensations can all indicate something isn’t working properly.

Problems with the male reproductive system and its organs might be a sign of various medical issues, including:

  • Testicular cancer

  • Prostate cancer

  • Penile cancer

  • Urinary system infections

  • Infertility

  • Erectile dysfunction (ED)

  • Sexually transmitted infection (STI)

If you experience any discomfort,  feel a lump, see visible lesions or other noticeable changes, it’s always a good idea to speak to a healthcare provider. 

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The male reproductive system is more complicated than most of us think — and the more complex a system is, the more room for problems and breakdowns.

All of this is just to say that, if you feel like you’ve been experiencing erectile setbacks or unreliable stamina, you’re not alone.

Here’s what to keep in mind about the male reproductive system:

  • Erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation (PE) are common conditions. So if you’re here because you’re trying to diagnose the problem yourself, you’re definitely on the right track.

  • Still, our advice is to fast-forward a bit and speak to a healthcare professional. They can advise you on what conditions your symptoms may indicate and help you understand why you might feel like something’s “off.”

  • A healthcare professional can also diagnose conditions like ED and suggest treatment options.

ED treatments may include the PDE5 inhibitors tadalafil (generic for Cialis®), sildenafil (Viagra®), or avanafil (Stendra®), which encourage better erectile function by increasing blood flow to your penis.

We can help if you’re ready to take the next step. Reach out today.

5 Sources

  1. CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention). Male Reproductive System graphic.
  2. Gurung, P. (2023). Physiology, Male Reproductive System.
  3. NIH (National Institutes of Health). Men’s Reproductive Health.
  4. Kidshealth.org. (2023). Male Reproductive System.
  5. Skakkabaek NE, et al. (2016). Male Reproductive Disorders and Fertility Trends: Influences of Environment and Genetic Susceptibility.
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Kelly Brown MD, MBA
Kelly Brown MD, MBA

Dr. Kelly Brown is a board certified Urologist and fellowship trained in Andrology. She is an accomplished men’s health expert with a robust background in healthcare innovation, clinical medicine, and academic research. Dr. Brown is a founding member of Posterity Health where she is Medical Director and leads strategy and design of their Digital Health Platform, an innovative education and telehealth model for delivering expert male fertility care.

She completed her undergraduate studies at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (go Heels!) with a Bachelor of Science in Radiologic Science and a Minor in Chemistry. She took a position at University of California Los Angeles as a radiologic technologist in the department of Interventional Cardiology, further solidifying her passion for medicine. She also pursued the unique opportunity to lead departmental design and operational development at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, sparking her passion for the business of healthcare.

Dr. Brown then went on to obtain her doctorate in medicine from the prestigious Northwestern University - Feinberg School of Medicine and Masters in Business Administration from Northwestern University - Kellogg School of Management, with a concentration in Healthcare Management. During her surgical residency in Urology at University of California San Francisco, she utilized her research year to focus on innovations in telemedicine and then served as chief resident with significant contributions to clinical quality improvement. Dr. Brown then completed her Andrology Fellowship at Medical College of Wisconsin, furthering her expertise in male fertility, microsurgery, and sexual function.

Her dedication to caring for patients with compassion, understanding, as well as a unique ability to make guys instantly comfortable discussing anything from sex to sperm makes her a renowned clinician. In addition, her passion for innovation in healthcare combined with her business acumen makes her a formidable leader in the field of men’s health.

Dr. Brown is an avid adventurer; summiting Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania (twice!) and hiking the incredible Torres del Paine Trek in Patagonia, Chile. She deeply appreciates new challenges and diverse cultures on her travels. She lives in Denver with her husband, two children, and beloved Bernese Mountain Dog. You can find Dr. Brown on LinkedIn for more information.

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