Primary Sex Characteristics: Definition & Explanation Video

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Sex Vs. Gender: Overview

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:01 Primary Sexual Characteristics
  • 1:05 Gender vs. Sex
  • 1:37 Non-Human Example
  • 2:29 Development in Humans
  • 3:12 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Devin Kowalczyk

Devin has taught psychology and has a master's degree in clinical forensic psychology. He is working on his PhD.

This lesson defines and explains the primary sex characteristics of most living things on earth. In addition, special attention is given to human and, to a lesser extent, plant characteristics.

Primary Sexual Characteristics

The examination of the differences between males and females has been around for a long time. From ancient philosophers to modern sitcoms, the differences between the two genders have amused and confused people for ages. Primary sexual characteristics are the physical characteristics directly involved in reproduction, such as the sex organs. The sex organs involved can have various names depending on the living thing being discussed.

Sex organs is a broad category that includes any gland, organ, or part that is necessary for reproduction. In humans, for example, the male's scrotum, testes, epididymis, vas deferens, prostate, seminal vesicles, urethra, and penis all qualify as being part of the sex organs. In females, the ovaries, fallopian tubes, uterus, cervix, vaginal canal, Bartholin's and Skenes glands, vagina, clitoris, and clitoral hood are all considered sex organs.

Gender vs. Sex

A common misuse of words is the interchange between gender and sex. Gender refers to a social construct specific to the culture it comes from, as well as the physical and psychological interaction. Gender can be better described as masculine or feminine and may vary by culture. Sex directly refers to the sexual organs one possesses. So in dealing with a primary sexual characteristic, the focus is entirely on the sexual organs and not the social aspects.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account