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What is the urethra?

The urethra is a tube that carries urine (in girls and guys) and semen (in guys only) from inside the body to the outside. It is easier to see on guys because the opening is visible at the end of the penis. A girl’s urethra is usually hidden from view by her labia (vaginal lips).

For guys, the urethra runs inside of the penis to the outside of the body and allows semen and urine to leave the body. When a guy gets an erection, a gland releases a clear fluid that comes out of the tip of the penis. At the same time, a valve shuts off the passageway between the bladder, where urine is stored, and the urethra. This makes it impossible for a guy to urinate and ejaculate at the same time.

The clear fluid that comes out is called pre-ejaculatory fluid or pre-cum. This fluid cleans out the inside of the urethra. It makes the urethra less acidic and gives the sperm a better shot at surviving the trip from the testicles to the fallopian tubes (if the guy is having sex with a girl). Pre-ejaculatory fluid may contain sperm in some guys and it can carry sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in all, so a guy who’s about to have intercourse should put on a condom as soon as he gets an erection.

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