Not "just a flap of skin"

No pedal bin

English singer Alan Cumming told UK TV's Very Graham Norton (2002) that when singing in New York, he discovered that his make-up artist had never seen an intact penis, so he showed her his. Her reaction seems to have been of disappointment - she had expected that it would look more like a pedal bin.

Clearly, the expression "a flap of skin covering the end of the penis" has a lot to answer for. If the foreskin were held on only by a narrow hinge, then circumcision would indeed be "just a little snip." For the reality, read on.

The foreskin is highly elastic, and is normally contracted and wrinkled. Under somewhat artificial conditions, it can demonstrate a remarkable size:

Foreskin inflated with water
Here is a photo of an average-sized penis under water, the foreskin inflated by a jet of water from the tube under the thumb at top left. The millimetre scale (extended virtually over the scrotum) shows it is 70 mm (2.75") long and 40 mm (1.58") wide at its widest point, narrowing to 25mm (1") at the opening. Treating this as a truncated cone gives an external area of 88 sq cm (13.6 sq in). But the total area is double this, because the outer and inner layers are separate:


Here is an animation to illustrate the true size of the foreskin:

Unfolding foreskin (172kB)

5'' ruler

(In case your screen scales things differently)

Eiffel Tower postcard

It has a huge number of nerves:

20 thousand nerves

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