Monday, June 15, 2015
Bifid penis: an old case from Estonia
Bifid means, basically, "split into two equal parts". A bifid penis sounds scary, doesn't it? Yet in the animal world, it's not always an anomaly. Many male marsupials (for example, koalas) naturally have a bifid penis, with two prongs which are simultaneously inserted into the female's two vaginal canals.
In humans, a bifid penis is a (mercifully) rare congenital defect. It is often present together with hypospadias, a condition where the urinary opening is not located where it should be, on the head of the penis. In the past, boys born with a bifid penis often underwent sex reassignment surgery and were raised as girls, because penile reconstruction was deemed too difficult. They received hormone replacement therapy and developed female characteristics.
In 1924, a case of bifid penis was briefly described in the Journal of Anatomy. The photos were taken at the Surgical Clinic of the University of Dorpat (today - Tartu, the second largest city of Estonia). The author, Alexander Lipschutz, writes:
"In this case the body and glans show complete separation into two parts, giving the appearance of a double penis. The body and glans of each half appear of usual length, but together are slightly wider than normal. The scrotum and testicles are normal in size and position, and this taken in conjunction with the secondary male character of the triangular-shaped distribution of the pubic hair, would indicate that the patient was sexually normal.
It is to be regretted that no other details of this case are available, as the hospital archives were lost during the war and revolution."
And here are the grainy old photos of the anomaly:
If the patient was, as reported, "sexually normal", one can't help wondering - was he capable of achieving an erection and having intercourse? While an erection does seem anatomically possible (so long as the corpora cavernosa, smooth muscles and so on were normally developed and there was no impairment in blood supply), I'm not so sure about the intercourse part - but then, I suppose stranger things have happened!
Lipschutz A (1924) A Note on a Case of Bifid Penis. J Anat. 58: 254–255.
Wikipedia: Bifid penis