The Foreskin: What does it do?

Contrary to some common misconceptions, the prepuce (foreskin) is not just a double fold of “skin” covering the glans penis. The foreskin is an organ of touch, an anatomically unique structure with its own complex vascular and neural systems and separate attachments to its parts and to the penis. Skin is for containment, attached to the tissue beneath and cannot move independently. The foreskin is the separate and distinct tissues fore (before) the skin of the penile shaft. The following description of the foreskin is that of the flaccid (non-erect) penis as the structural dynamics of the foreskin changes dramatically as the penis proceeds through tumescence to erection.

The foreskin consists of the outer foreskin, an extension of the shaft skin from the back of the sulcus to the foreskin opening, not attached nor part of any other structure which makes the underside of the outer foreskin unique from any other skin found on the body, turns beneath itself at the mucocutaneous juncture where the inner foreskin begins. The inner foreskin mucosa begins at the mucocutaneous junction and is specialized and separate tissue which continues from this junction, traveling between the outer foreskin and the glans, attaching to the penis at the back of the sulcus beneath the end of the shaft skin and beginning of the outer foreskin at the top of the penis (about 10mm to 25mm, 3/8 to 1 inch, behind the back of the glans). The inner foreskin continues toward the glans at the sides and transitions into the frenulum toward the bottom. 

The Frenulum

The frenulum is the structure traveling down the inner foreskin and connects the inner foreskin to the penis between the hemispheres of the glans below the meatus (urethral opening) at the bottom of the glans and toward the sides and proceeding down the midline of the shaft. Many of the tactile nerve endings of the penis are found in the frenulum. This is similar to the glottal frenulum attaching the tongue to the bottom of the mouth. The ridged bands (small corrugations of tissue, like mountain “ridges”) are behind the mucocutaneous juncture and when the foreskin is retracted appear behind the attachment at the sulcus. This area also contains many of the tactile nerve endings of the foreskin’s neural system.

The foreskin’s neural system contains hundreds of feet of nerves and thousands of tactile nerve endings, most of which are concentrated in the frenulum and frenar bands. Tactile nerves are sensuous nerves sensitive to pleasant sensations and almost all present in the penis are found within the foreskin. Comparatively, the nerve endings found in the glans are Free Nerve Endings, or nociceptive nerve endings, which are sensitive to cold, pain and unpleasant sensations. The foreskin’s vascular system is also quite complex. The blood is supplied by the frenar artery and small and larger veins are present throughout the foreskin and travel down the top of the penis. The abrupt ending of penile veins where they were crushed around the circumference of the penis just behind the area cut off can be seen on a circumcised penis. The tissue and blood vessels over the glans on the top must also be crushed prior to the dorsal cut to prevent hemorrhage and if a circumcision is to be allowed, special care must be taken to thoroughly crush the frenar artery as hemorrhage is very difficult to control.

Some of the function of the foreskin may be fairly obvious after this short narrative on the anatomy, but there is much more to learn about the functional foreskin in the next part. 

Physical and Sexual Functions

Due to lack of understanding, interest or purposely, the many physical and sexual functions of the foreskin have been ignored as no other part of the human anatomy. This is incredible considering the vital role the penis plays in life of the male, his mate, his sexual sensuousness and natural sexual gratification. During the life of the male the functions of the foreskin change, slightly to profoundly. Due to these changes we will first examine the years of infancy and childhood and then puberty, adolescence and adulthood.

At birth the infant boy’s foreskin is almost always fused to his glans as his penis is not fully developed and one function of the foreskin is to keep feces and other foreign substances from the meatal opening and the urinary tract of the infant and toddler. That is why the only care for the intact penis is to leave it alone, completely alone. No doctor, nurse, parent or any other care provider should ever investigate, probe or examine his foreskin, especially any forced retraction which will tear foreskin from glans. The undisturbed glans and inner foreskin mucosa is uncontaminated and any such trespasses may introduce that which the foreskin is designed to keep out. His foreskin will naturally separate from his glans and he should be the only one to touch or retract it. When it separates, he will know and he will be retracting his own foreskin. No other person should interfere with this natural process. His foreskin, on average, will represent about 60% to 80% of his penile coverage for additional reasons.

The vascular system of his foreskin protects his glans from cold. As the temperature drops his foreskin will curl toward his glans, thickening and assuring warmth. The near surface nerve endings in his glans are very concentrated, similar to the female’s glans clitoris, until his glans greatly expand at maturity when these nerve endings are more sparse, disbursed over a greater area. The foreskin protects the nerve endings from abrasive action of friction on clothing and without this protection about 75% of these near surface nerve endings will be destroyed by adolescence. In addition, the very delicate covering of the glans must be protected as it is only about two cells thick and without the foreskin must grow nerveless skin for protection, thirty to forty cells thick. This callousness is called keratanization. Of great importance is the fact that the boy’s longer foreskin of infancy and childhood is there for his penis to grow into during the explosive penile growth during puberty. The adult foreskin will be proportionately less than the childhood foreskin, but will still average 40% to 50% of penile coverage which is needed for natural erection – for an unlimited, unencumbered and moveable penis.

The child’s foreskin will naturally separate and retract at different ages and the size of the foreskin is as varied as penis sizes. Some boys are born with a foreskin which is not fused to his glans, some are born with a foreskin that does not cover all of his glans, but these are uncommon. About 60% will separate by age 3 and 80% by age 6. The remaining will separate between 6 and teen years. This is normal, natural, is not phimosis and there should be no intervention with this natural process. All boys and girls are different and on different physical time tables. Physical maturation of the genitalia may begin by age 9 in one boy and another not until age 16. Because the average age of this process begins at age 12 there is no cause for worry or concern if sexual maturation begins a couple of years earlier or later. Such are the individualized variations of foreskin separation.

For the pubescent and adolescent boy a visual as well as physical change will occur. He will notice that his foreskin no longer extends as far in front of his glans nor has the tube-like appearance of his childhood years. His penis grows proportionately larger than his foreskin during this short time span. This is the moment in his life when the marriage of the physical and sexual occur. It is the onset of a voracious appetite for sexual knowledge, interest, investigation and exploration. The natural penis with the sensuous, moveable foreskin is of vital importance from this time onward.

Masturbation must be addressed as the dynamics of the foreskin during this virtually universal practice is very important. Puberty is the time the boy learns about his own feelings, sexuality and explores the workings of his penis. He will find which foreskin motions, the stretching and relaxing of his frenulum, rolling back and forth over his glans and friction in different areas feel best to him. He is a sexual apprentice learning about himself prior to sharing himself with the opposite sex and new learning experiences. Many young men enter relationships with little knowledge about their own sexuality causing these relationships to suffer.

Parents should be able to talk to their sons at this time about masturbation. The intact boy should have real education about his penis and foreskin. He should be informed that it is best to masturbate with his foreskin going back and forth entirely over his glans as this will serve as a dilator should his foreskin be a bit snug. During later intercourse the foreskin of most men will remain behind their glans as most will have very little coverage or a bare glans when erect. But almost all boys begin to masturbate before penile growth and penile maturity so the penis has relatively more foreskin at this time than the later years. At what age does masturbation begin? Again, a large variation from age 8 to 16, most beginning by age 12 (average 11.5 years). Only pulling his foreskin forward and always over his glans when pleasuring himself may result in a rather snug opening. It is also important that the boy distinguish and separate different feelings from different parts of his penis at this time and the reason will be explained in the next section. Of profound importance is the fact that this communication will protect the boy from feelings of shame or guilt associated with sexual self pleasuring and the door will be open from that time onward for honest and open dialogue between the boy and his parents. Sex is natural, his sexuality normal, and his penis is as normal and natural as any other part of his body and should be treated as such.

The sexually active intact male will experience separate and very distinct sensations during intercourse. Most men, however, have not thought to distinguish these unique sensations and their brains have been wired to receive but one impulse, a false perception of pleasure from a singular source. The next section will describe the workings of the intact penis during intercourse and the separation of the sensations that will add to the male’s sensuousness many times over.

The Foreskin During Intercourse

Most intact men are unaware of the many separate and distinct sensuous feelings which originate from the various parts and attachments of their remarkable foreskin. This is due to the neurological wiring of penis and brain which gives the male the perception of a singular center of sensuousness. This one wire perception and not being cognizant of the separate and distinct sensations emanating from the dynamics of motion and tensions can be separated and his sex life will be enhanced remarkably. Instead of the one sensation wiring experienced by most males, and accepted as the totality of their sensuous sexuality, an intact male can enhance that wiring by adding several more wires to his sexual neurology. All that is required is some concentration and delightful practice to consciously segregate and distinguish the various unique feelings of the most sensuous parts of the penis.

The tactile nerve endings of the outer and inner foreskin and concentrated in the frenulum and ridged (corrugated) bands are not only excited by the applied friction of the vaginal walls during motion, but the stretching, relaxing and friction upon these structures must be separated to be thoroughly enjoyed. The male can change this psycho/sexual oneness into a psycho/sexual mosaic with a multitude of delightful, separate sensuous feelings. We will investigate the dramatic entrance, often missed by most men; the motions and frictions of the entire inner and outer foreskin as well as the extension down the shaft and accumulation behind the glans; the stretching and relaxing dynamics of the frenulum and the frenar band; and glans with its very delicate covering (protected).

It must be emphasized that the foreskin comes in many different lengths and when the penis becomes totally erect may naturally retract completely to the shaft or cover some or all of the glans. For the slight majority of intact men, contrary to some sources, once the foreskin is retracted at erection or insertion it will remain behind the glans until withdrawal or until erection is lost. In most instances the foreskin will accumulate behind the glans on the out-stroke creating a larger diameter ring that keeps the natural vaginal lubrication within. Men with a longer foreskin will find that their foreskin may pop onto the glans at the end of the out-stroke, also making the diameter much larger and also keeping the lubrication within. In the former example the glans and vaginal walls are constantly in contact, in the latter the foreskin acts as a sleeve within a sleeve at the end of the out-strokes. Regardless of positions used it is urged that the foreskin be completely forward when entering, allowing the vaginal opening to retract. One man said that he and his wife always retracted his foreskin before entrance and when told to try it as far forward as possible said, “It was the best sex we had ever had. I realized that I had the best of both worlds.”

Separating all of these wonderful sensations will be a very delightful experience. The help and understanding of your partner is important. It is suggested that she take the top position facing you and allow you to orchestrate her movements, the depth and the speed while you concentrate. First, ask her to take your penis in slowly to total penetration and concentrate on your foreskin only – the total retraction and movement down your shaft, perhaps all the way to the base of your penis. If you have foreskin on all or part of your glans prior to entrance, feel your foreskin rolling over your glans during entrance and then down your shaft. Try to ignore the stretching or friction on your frenulum or anywhere else. Ask your partner to go all the way up without withdrawal and all the way downward slowly and deliberately and concentrate on the location of your foreskin during these long strokes and how it feels as it stretches downward and relaxes as the out-stroke progresses. Talk about it. You will know if your foreskin bunches up behind your glans or pops over,how it feels rolling off and on the corona of your glans if it does, or the friction on the accumulated foreskin at the end of the out-stoke. Is she feeling your foreskin as it accumulates or if it pops over your corona and the rolling off and on? This is the easiest part of finding the various feelings and not too much time need be spent on this part. After a few moments at the tip of the out-stroke, concentrate on the bottom of your penis only as she goes to full penetration again and ask her to position herself so that the bottom portion has the most vaginal contact. This concentration may take more than one love making session as the entire dynamics of your frenulum will offer more than one particular sensation.

Try to ignore everything but the underside of your penis. You will feel your frenulum stretching down your shaft on the in-stroke as the attachment to your inner foreskin will pull it downward. The attachments between the hemispheres of your glans and the shaft will also feel such stretching as your frenulum is attached to a stationary and a moving part. If the frenulum is severed from the inner foreskin, it is not possible to enjoy this phenomena. After concentrating for some time on the stretching and relaxing of your frenulum, do deep short strokes and shallow short strokes as well as full stroking. The varieties of tension applied to your frenulum will give different sensations. Then concentrate on the friction of the vaginal wall against your frenulum when stretched downward, relaxed, in between. You will find different messages from the tension applied and the friction against your frenulum. This may take several sessions to separate and appreciate and you will also be cognizant of the motion of your entire foreskin at the same time. Talk about what you are feeling with your partner and ask what she is feeling. When the different sensations offered by your frenulum become recognized and separated, ask her to position herself where most of the vaginal friction is now on the top of your penis.

The sensuous feelings from the ridged or frenar band on the top of your penis (about half an inch behind your glans and proceeding downward toward your glans and making a transition into your frenulum) may be more difficult to distinguish due to location. Try to disregard the sensations of foreskin movement, friction on your frenulum and the frenar stretching and concentrate on the friction upon the top and sides just behind your glans and also the stretching and relaxing of this area. Being aware of the other dynamics by this time may make this area more difficult to concentrate on and distinguish, but your concentration will separate these sensations. Most of the sensations will be found at the beginning of the change from your relaxed foreskin and the stretching downward.

The only part remaining to distinguish different sensations is your glans. By this time you will not be surprised that your glans, compared to the foreskin and its parts, actually gives the least of all the sensuous sensations offered by your penis. As pathologist Dr. John Taylor observed (his research in the British Journal of Urology,February 1996, “The Prepuce: specialized mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision”), compared to the foreskin the glans is a dumb organ.

If all of the distinct sensations have successfully been separated and identified you can now enjoy sexual intercourse with a new “oneness” with a bundle of wire instead of the singular wiring. As one man summed-up his adventure, “I wish to thank you for real sex education. The journey is now so much more exiting that I don’t think about the destination and it has not only enhanced my sex life but my wife enjoys my much longer duration and the frequency of her orgasms has at least doubled. I cannot imagine sex without my erogenous foreskin. Why has it been so successfully hidden from men in this country?”

It is a sad state of sexual affairs when men do not experience or are unable to experience all the joys of sex that Nature intended. Over the centuries an oft repeated reason given for removing the foreskin was the idea that human males were incapable of managing so much natural sensuality, could not withstand the enormous amount of sexual gratification afforded by a complete penis. It would cause men to spend too much time thinking of sex, engaged in sexual pursuits or self-pleasuring. Sex was just too “bad” to be enjoyed so much.

The intensities and areas of most sensuality will vary from man to man because of foreskin variety – long, medium or short; long, medium or short frenulum; tight, snug or loose. After taking this excursion please e-mail your experiences and thoughts to the address on the home page.

An interesting added note is the fact that the relatively large area of tissue on the underside of the penis from the foreskin opening to the shaft skin (containing the inner foreskin, outer foreskin and frenulum)is shared by the foreskin, shaft skin and scrotal skin. If this is removed the testicles may be brought quite high at erection as there is no tissue to move downward displacing tissue needed during that large increase in size.


Return to Contents