NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Women find sex just as pleasurable with circumcised men as with men who are uncircumcised, a new study suggests.
Some experts have speculated that removal of the foreskin might make sex less pleasurable for women. But in the study, conducted in Uganda, the overwhelming majority of women indicated that sex was equally satisfying, if not more so, after their partners were circumcised.
The study, published in the latest issue of BJU International, did not examine the effect of circumcision on male sexual satisfaction. But one of the study’s authors, Dr. Ronald H. Gray, told Reuters Health in an email, “We previously reported on this and found no effects on (male sexual) function or satisfaction.”
The finding could help curb the spread of HIV/AIDS by allaying widespread concern that women find sex with circumcised men less satisfying. “The finding that circumcision does not adversely affect female satisfaction should increase acceptability of the procedure,” said Gray, who is a professor of population and family planning at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore.
Previous research from Uganda, Kenya, and South Africa found that circumcision reduced rates of HIV infection by 50 percent to 60 percent.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Dr. Robert C. Bailey, of the University of Illinois at Chicago School of Public Health and a noted AIDS researcher who was not involved in the study, called the findings “unique and important.”
“In eastern and southern Africa, the high prevalence of HIV infection is correlated with low rates of circumcision,” he explained. “If we can get a significant proportion of men circumcised, it will drop the prevalence of HIV over the next 10 to 20 years. Women’s opinions of what circumcision does in terms of sexual function are really important in driving the demand” for the procedure.
Bailey said the finding might also help counter a growing reluctance of some parents to have their infant sons circumcised. “In the US, there is currently a strong movement against circumcision, especially on the West Coast,” he said. “Some parents believe that circumcision causes reduced penile sensitivity. But only a very small percentage of men say they are less satisfied after circumcision. Most men say there is no difference.”
The study involved interviews with 455 women between the ages of 15 and 49 before and after their husbands underwent circumcision as part of a randomized trial of the procedure as a means of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS.
Only 13 of the women (2.9 percent) reported lower satisfaction after their partners were circumcised. Of the remaining women, 255 (57 percent) reported no change in satisfaction, and 177 (39.8 percent) reported greater satisfaction. The differences in satisfaction were unrelated to the women’s age, religion, or level of education.
The women who reported a change in satisfaction were asked to explain why.
The most common reason given for increased satisfaction was better penile hygiene. Other reasons included more frequent orgasms for the male partner; greater sexual desire of the male partner; the male partner had less trouble maintaining an erection; and the woman achieved orgasm more frequently.
The most common reason given for diminished satisfaction was that the women’s sexual desire had fallen. Other reasons included lower male sexual desire; and the male partner had trouble with erections.
SOURCE: BJU International, December 2009.