Male circumcision tied to less sexual pleasure

NEW YORK Thu Feb 14, 2013 2:18pm EST

Related Topics

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Men circumcised either as children or adults report less intense sexual pleasure and orgasm than their uncircumcised counterparts, according to a new study from Belgium.

"We're not saying less sexual activity or satisfaction, but sensitivity," said the study's senior researcher Dr. Piet Hoebeke, from Ghent University Hospital.

The new study surveyed 1,369 men over the age of 18, who responded to leaflets handed out in train stations across Belgium.

The men were asked whether they were circumcised, and were then asked to rate how sensitive their penis was, how intense their orgasms were and whether they experience any pain or numbness when they are aroused.

Overall, 310 men who took the survey were circumcised, and 1,059 were not. Each rated how sensitive their penis was on a scale from 0 to 5, with higher numbers being the most sensitive.

Overall, uncircumcised men reported between 0.2 points and 0.4 points higher sensitivity and sexual pleasure when their penis's head - known as the glans - was stroked during arousal, compared to circumcised men.

For example, uncircumcised men reported an average sensitivity score of 3.72 when they or their partner stroked the top part of their penis's glans, compared to 3.31 amongst circumcised men.

Uncircumcised men also reported more intense orgasms.

"It's not a very big difference in sensitivity, but it's a significant difference," Hoebeke said.

Currently, about half of U.S. baby boys have their foreskin surgically removed at birth, and about 30 percent of men around the world are circumcised.

Some religions, such as Judaism and Islam, consider circumcision part of religious practice, while other people choose circumcision for possible health benefits - including a reduced risk of urinary tract infections (see Reuters Health article of December 7, 2012 here:).

Hoebeke and his colleagues write in BJU International that there are few studies researching whether foreskin plays a role in sexual pleasure. But Dr. Aaron Tobian, who studies circumcision but was not part of the new study, said that previous randomized controlled trials - considered the gold standard of medical research - looked at sexual performance and satisfaction. Those studies, he said, did not find a difference.

One possible explanation for any potential difference in sensitivity is that a man's foreskin may protect his penis's head from rubbing against underwear and clothing. It's possible, the researchers write, that friction makes the head of the penis thicker, drier and ultimately less sensitive.

The researchers also found circumcised men were more likely to report more pain and numbness during arousal than uncircumcised men, which Hoebeke said is likely due to scar tissue.

"I'm amazed that people report pain during sexual pleasure… That's very amazing and that was unexpected," he said.


Tobian, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, said the findings are missing important context.

"The medical evidence and the benefits of male circumcision are abundantly clear," Tobian told Reuters Health.

"If there was a vaccine out there that reduces the risk of HIV by 60 percent, herpes by 30 percent and the penile cancer causing HPV by 35 percent, the medical community would rally behind it," said Tobian.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks, but stops short of recommending universal circumcision (see Reuters story of August 27, 2012 here:).

SOURCE: BJU International, online February 4, 2013.

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see
Comments (9)
Vizualeyez wrote:
“If there was a vaccine out there that reduces the risk of HIV by 60 percent, herpes by 30 percent and the penile cancer causing HPV by 35 percent, the medical community would rally behind it,”

Right, if it was a vaccine and not a surgical procedure done to a newborn baby removing skin that has a purpose, permanently scarring the child. Let them make the decision as an adult and tell them to wear a condom that’s 99% effective.

Feb 14, 2013 4:43pm EST  --  Report as abuse
JamesLoewen wrote:
It seems elementary that all body parts belong to the person they are attached to.

If the battle for the basic human right to bodily integrity wasn’t being fought while violating the genitals of children, the attempts of pro-circumcision fanatics (like Dr. Aaron Tobian of Johns Hopkins) might almost be comical. It is very sad indeed that grown adults are using valuable resources to try to justify the violation that was done to them by perpetuating the violation onto the bodies of children.

Feb 14, 2013 5:24pm EST  --  Report as abuse
Hugh7 wrote:
The study apparently ignores the role of the foreskin itself. Any man with one can tell you that its inside is exquisitely sensitive, conferring “a symphony of sensation” (hence more feedback and more control). This is in line with John Taylor’s finding of a richly innervated band running around near the tip. The frenulum, which circumcised men call “the male G-spot” is just a remnant of this.

The studies Tobian refers to were of self-selected adult volunteers for circumcision – not the gold standard at all. One of the studies, in Uganda, found virtually perfect sex in all men whether circumcised or nor. Either Uganda is a sexual paradise, or the test was not sensitive enough. In the other, in Kenya, just going in the study caused a huge reduction in sexual dysfunction. The questions in both were apparently too vaguely phrased to elicit any difference.

Tobian’s bias towards circumcision is clear when he mentions penile cancer, which strikes fewer than one man in 1000. The “60% reduction in HIV” applies only to transmission from females, one of the rarer directions of transmission in the developed world – if it applies at all. Billions of men worldwide prefer complete genitals to (slight, debatable) medical “benefits”.

Feb 14, 2013 5:57pm EST  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.