Males and females both have primary reproductive organs

Males and females both have primary reproductive organs called gonads, and secondary reproductive organs (ducts, glands, and external genitalia). Yet, particularly after puberty, male and female differences emerge. In this section, we will examine the anatomical elements of both the male and reproductive systems.

Male Reproductive Organs

The male reproductive organs include primary sex organs (gonads) called testes, as well as secondary organs. Secondary organs include the scrotum, male duct system, penis, and glands. The three major male reproductive accessory glands are the prostate, seminal vesicles, and bulbourethral glands.


Encyclopedia Britannica. (2016). Male reproductive system [Illustration]. Britannica ImageQuest.


The primary sex organs, testicles, come in a pair; they are made up of hundreds of seminiferous tubules which produce sperm. The seminiferous tubules transport sperm to the epididymis. The two types of cells within the seminiferous tubules are the germ cells, which mature into sperm, and the Sertoli cells, which support sperm development. Additional endocrine cells, Leydig cells, lie outside the seminiferous tubules. The Leydig cells produce testosterone.


Openstax. (2013). Testicle anatomy [Illustration]. Wikimedia Commons.

The testicles’ surface is covered by a tunica albuginea, and then the scrotum. The scrotum’s location outside the abdominal cavity is critical for temperature regulation, as sperm require a temperature slightly lower than body temperature. The scrotum contains muscles and blood vessels to fine-tune temperature regulation.

· The dartos muscle can wrinkle the scrotum’s surface, therefore decreasing its surface area to promote heat retention.

· The cremaster muscle elevates the testes, and can serve to promote heat retention in cold conditions.

· The pampiniform venous plexus can, conversely, cool incoming blood due to its location surrounding the testicular artery.


Openstax. (2013). Musculature and inner workers of the scrotum [Illustration]. Wikimedia Commons.

Each testicle’s posterior side contains a 20-foot coiled cord-like structure called the epididymis. The epididymis is where sperm cells mature. They take 20 days to pass through the epididymis. To exit the body, the sperm pass through additional ducts: ductus deferens (also called the vas deferens), the ejaculatory duct, and the urethra (which is shared with urine). The penis encases the ducts.


Sperm make up only 10% of ejaculation, as male accessory glands create additional fluids to comprise seaman. Seminal vesicles secrete yellowish fructose-based alkaline liquids that comprise 60% of the semen volume. This fluid enhances sperm mobility within the female’s reproductive tract. The prostate secretion is a milky white substance that comprises 30% of the semen volume; it is nutrient-rich to support the sperm. The bulbourethral glands produce a small amount of additional clear fluid for lubrication.


Male anatomy [Illustration]. (2003). Wikimedia Commons.

Female Reproductive Anatomy

Like males, females have both internal and external reproductive anatomy. Internal female anatomical instructions include ovaries, ovarian tubes (also called fallopian tubes), the uterus, and the vagina. Externally, females have a clitoris and labia.


Typical sites for pelvic inflammatory disease [Illustration]. (2014). Wikimedia Commons.


The female primary sex organs (gonads) are called ovaries. They produce both eggs and sex hormones (progesterone and estrogen). The two ovaries are quite small, each being roughly the size of two almonds. They are not free-floating, as many ligaments support them. These ligaments include the ovarian ligament, suspensory ligament, broad ligament, and mesovarium.

Ovaries contain immature eggs (oocytes), each of which is surrounded by supporting granulosa cells and a follicle. Each month, one of these follicles is ovulated into a fallopian tube connected to the uterus.

The Uterus

The uterus is largely made of smooth muscle located between the bladder and rectum. Like kidneys, the uterus has three regions and three layers. The three regions are the fundus, body, and cervix. The three layers, from superficial to deep are the perimetrium, myometrium, and endometrium.


Encyclopedia Britannica. (2016). Female reproductive system [Illustration]. Britannica ImageQuest.

The Vagina

The uterus leads to the vagina. The vagina is located between the rectum and bladder. It serves as a pathway for intercourse, menstruation, and the birthing process. In the next section, we will examine the menstrual process in further detail.