THE URETHRA

The urethra is yet another tube. (It seems as though you’re just full of tubes, doesn’t it?). It is cushioned by the soft, spongy tissue on the inside of the penis. The sperm and seminal fluid travel through the urethra and spurt out through the opening in the centre of the glans, or head, of the penis during ejaculation. Urine from the bladder also travels along the urethra when you urinate (pee). The tube from both the bladder and the vas deferens are connected to the urethra.

When we tell the pupils in our classes that urine and sperm both use the urethra to get out of the body, someone usually blurts out, ‘Oh, how awful!’ Even if no one says anything, we can see from their wrinkled-up noses and the looks on their faces that many of them think this sounds disgusting.

But, really, there’s nothing awful or disgusting about it. Urine is just another liquid and, unless you have an infection, it doesn’t have any disease-causing germs in it. Semen is perfectly clean too. Besides, sperm and urine can’t travel through the urethra at the same time. When you’re about to ejaculate, there’s a valve at the bottom of the bladder that closes so that urine can’t get into the urethra when sperm is about to travel through there. Also, just before you

ejaculate, two small glands in the area release a little bit of liquid into the urethra to flush it out and neutralize any acidy urine that might still be in there. (Sperm are sensitive to acids, so it’s necessary to neutralize any acid in the urethra before the sperm travels through it.)

Even though we try to explain all this very carefully, we almost always get a question about it in the Everything You Ever Wanted to Know question box at the end of the class. Usually, the question has something to do with whether or not a man can urinate and ejaculate at the same time. Or, as one person wrote, ‘Can a man piss inside a woman’s Vagina?’

We must admit, when we first got this question, we didn’t quite understand it. We thought that whoever wrote it must have been having us on. (Some pupils in our classes do try to have us on, especially at the beginning of the year. They’ll put questions in the box that have lots of so-called dirty words, hoping to embarrass us when we read them out loud. But they soon give this up because, as you may have guessed, we don’t get embarrassed very easily, at least not by dirty words or questions about sex.)

Anyhow, we finally worked out what the person who wrote the question was getting at. He or she was wondering if a man could by accident urinate (piss) instead of ejaculate during sexual intercourse. Actually, when you think of how all those tubes are connected, it’s a logical question. But the answer is no. When a male is about to ejaculate, the valve we mentioned earlier closes up. It seals off the bladder, so urine can’t come through the urethra during ejaculation.

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