Ridged Band
SPECIALIZED TISSUE OF THE PENIS

NEWSLETTER

April 2004

We received over a thousand replies to our questionnaire. Summary of results:

Q: Are the descriptions of the anatomy of the foreskin and its 'ridged band' reasonably accurate, in your opinion?

A: 96% of respondents agreed with our description of ridged band. None claimed to have recognized ridged band before reading our description and studying the pictures.

Q: Do you think the ridged band plays an important role in sexual intercourse?

A: 64% said 'Yes'. No surprise here but what is interesting is that none of the intact men in our survey offered an explanation in terms of erogenous sensation or reflex function. To get a better fix on the attitude of the average guy towards his foreskin we asked the following question:

Q: Do you find the glans plays a more important role (in sexual intercourse) than the foreskin?

A: No (59%). This response was of special interest in a glans-centric society. But why?

Q: Does this site, in your opinion, overplay the sexual importance of the foreskin?

A: 83% said 'No'. Clearly, with modest tuition, ridged band is recognizable, but we still need to know why the foreskin as a whole is important to its owners.

We received many additional comments, mostly to the effect that our information was interesting or, better, educational. Three malcontents didn`t think much of us. With that encouragement, we pushed on.

Function of the 'ridged band'

Ridged band may be special sensory or erogenous tissue. That is, it may 'feel' touch, perhaps as erogenous or sexual sensation. However, 'erogenous' is tricky to define and measure so we instead assessed the reflex function of ridged band. A short, sharp, muscular contraction like the knee-jerk is much easier to assess than 'sensation'.

Test 1. We asked participants (80) to test whether stretching of the ridged band causes involuntary, or reflex, contraction of 'bulb' muscles. These muscles are bulbocavernosus and ischiocavernosus; they squeeze the root of the penis and are responsible for ejaculation. Contraction of bulb muscles around the root of the penis can be 'sensed' or experienced mentally (as after terminating urination) or felt with a finger-tip.

Result: Most intact participants (over 90%) noted that sharp but gentle stretching of the ridged band towards the base of the penis caused involuntary or reflex twitching of bulb muscles. No participant seemed to have previous knowledge of this reflex. This reflex is similar to the glans reflex, but much easier to test.

Test 2: The group tested the idea that backwards stretching of penile shaft skin may be mechanically transmitted to the relatively small and inconspicuous (compared with glans) ridged band.

Result: Movement of shaft skin at the base of penis, towards the belly, is regularly transmitted to ridged band.

Note: When retracted, ridged band lies on the penile shaft, in most instances about one-third the distance between glans and base of penis. The exact position of retracted ridged band depends of course on the relative lengths of foreskin and penis. Penile erection caused stiffening and shortening of penile skin, making it less stretchy and enhancing its mechanical properties.

Our findings, after some direct questioning, suggest that stretching of penile skin alone frequently triggers the ridged band reflex and even ejaculation during sexual intercourse. Direct stimulation of ridged band may also trigger the ridged band reflex but we have not got that far in our studies. The manner in which the ridged band reflex may be triggered 'at-a-distance' during intercourse has important implications for the purpose and development of the foreskin, which is designed to ensure full penetration before the ridged band is distorted and its reflex triggered. Another thing—contraction of bulb muscles is erogenous, providing a more tangible and immediate reward for foreskin stretching.

Friction or no friction?

If the stretching theory is correct, there ought to be very little slippage between penile skin and female tissues. To work properly, penile skin should be sufficiently frictional to ensure stretching of penile skin and activation of the ridged band reflex. (This concept is a little difficult because it is usually thought that the purpose of thrusting is glans stimulation, not foreskin stretching.) Most authors assume that shaft skin is soft and pliable at all times; an assumption that is intuitive but likely wrong.

Test 3: Our group tested (a) stiffness of penile skin and (b) the direction in which penile skin folds 'point' before and during erection. According to established theory, one would expect the penile skin folds to point away from its direction of motion during penetration, that is, towards the base of the penis or at the very least to remain neutral.

Result: Erect penile skin is stiffer than non-erect penile skin. OK, this is well known. Less well known is the fact that skin folds on the upper surface or 'dorsum' of the penis point in a forward direction, towards the glans. This was not altogether a surprise.

Note: Everyone, or almost everyone, believes the foreskin facilitates penetration: however, slippage between penile skin and female tissues is hindered by the conformational changes that take place in 'erect' penile skin itself. Changes in stiffness and direction of skin folds results from contraction of muscle fibres (Dartos muscle) of genital skin. It should also be noted that these changes are more prominent on the dorsum, main sexual contact surface, of the penis, than on its non-contact urethral surface. No explanation has been previously offered for the presence, in genital skin, of highly responsive Dartos muscle, which is perhaps best known for its ability to wrinkle the scrotum during erection: less well known is its extension onto the first inch or so of the penis, along with pubic hair. This extension of Dartos muscle helps tighten penile skin; at the same time it retracts hairy skin off the first inch or so of the erect penis.

While we are on the topic: Stretching of the ridged band triggers a reflex for ejaculation; some of our volunteers found that it also triggers erection, while continued steady stretching sustains erection. The mechanism that sustains erection is uncertain but the simplest and probably best explanation is that it has to do with reflex contraction of bulb muscles, which compresses the main emissary vein of the penis, which causes and sustains erection.

Other explanations of ridged band function are, in general, based on the assumption that the ridged band scrapes across a more important glans. Without wishing to downgrade glans function, this idea is intuitive, extrapolated from masturbation. Sexual intercourse has a set of demands linking foreskin structure and function to reproduction.

RIDGED BAND (singular). The ridged band is divided into 8 or so RIDGES. 'Ridged band' is neither muscular nor elastic; it is superficial mucosal tissue, which is why our respondents had no trouble recognizing it. Closing of the human foreskin is the function of smooth (involuntary) muscle fibres known as Dartos muscle, or by the archaic 'peripenic muscle' embedded deep within the skin of the penis and scrotum, including foreskin. In short, ridged band is more like a finger ring than a rubber band.

'Ridged band' is not synonymous with 'frenar band', the muscular ring or sphincter of equine prepuce. The race horse`s penile sheath has serious economic value so vets know all about the frenar band. Perhaps the horse has a ridged band as well as a frenar band. Worth a look.

Human or horse, we need a much better knowledge of basic sexual anatomy and function.

John R Taylor

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