Sexual Pleasure vs. Sexual Health: The Circumcision Trade-Off

|

Recent research strongly suggests that male circumcision lowers the relative risk of HIV/AIDS infection in men. Statistics vary, but circumsion may reduce the risk of infection by about half. Consequently, some anti-AIDS campaigners in Africa are urging mass circumcision as a way to combat the spread of the disease.

However, it turns out that penile snips may have a cost–reduced sexual pleasure. The urology journal, BJU International, has published a study which tested the sensitivity of both cut and uncut men. According to the press release:

Adult male volunteers were evaluated with a 19 point Semmes-Weinstein monofilament touch-test to map fine-touch pressure thresholds of the penis. Circumcised and uncircumcised men were compared using mixed models for repeated data, controlling for age, type of underwear worn, time since test ejaculation, ethnicity, country of birth, and level of education.

Analysis of results showed the glans of the uncircumcised men had significantly lower thresholds than that of circumcised men (P = 0.040). There were also significant differences in pressure thresholds by location on the penis (p < 0.0001). The most sensitive location on the circumcised penis was the circumcision scar on the ventral surface. It was remarkable that five locations on the uncircumcised penis that are routinely removed at circumcision had lower pressure thresholds that the ventral scar of the circumcised penis.

This study suggests that the transitional region from the external to the internal prepuce is the most sensitive region of the uncircumcised penis and more sensitive than the most sensitive region of the circumcised penis. It appears that circumcision ablates the most sensitive parts of the penis.

Damn it! There's always a trade-off. And in this case, what a trade-off!

NEXT: I Love the Smell of Hunny in the Morning

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. Damn it! There’s always a trade-off. And in this case, what a trade-off!

    Well, now we all know a little more about Ron Bailey.

  2. *mass circumcision.

    hmmm.

    **mind wanders to hoards and throngs committing mass circumcision as a political statement

    ** mind wanders to the cause of the dinosaurs disappearing

    ** mind wanders…

    /wanders off to his bunk

  3. …level of education…

    WTF?
    There MUST be a good reason for this (maybe it was found to be statistically significant on a fluke?)
    All I can come up with is “I’m a genius. I don’t need sexual pleasure to be satisfied. I’ll go solve world hunger or something instead.”

  4. smacky: Make no assumptions. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  5. Smacky –

    You should at least give the rest of us a chance before winning the thread like that.

  6. Ah, who cares? I’ll never have an opportunity to compare.

  7. I got the snip at age 21, and I’d known a few women in that biblical way previous to that. Can’t say I noticed any lessening of pleasure once snipped. Aesthetically speaking I prefer it now, I wonder do women have a preference.

  8. Just remember, rabbis may earn a nice salary but moels get the big tips.

  9. I don’t know. I joined the covenant of Abraham, and I still find sex kinda pleasurable. Maybe it’s because I don’t have sex using a monofilament touch-test.

  10. Consequently, some anti-AIDS campaigners in Africa are urging mass circumcision as a way to combat the spread of the disease.

    Because no public health campaign would be complete without someone advocating large-scale mutilations.

  11. Let’s say you’re dying if thirst in a desert somewhere. You don’t particularly care if you come across an abandoned truck full of 7-Up or Sprite. Either works well enough.

  12. Does increased sensitivity potentially decrease stamina? Does that increase the likely-hood of being a “2-pump chump”? Is less stamina less sexually pleasing?? Would some men trade sensitivity for staying power if they could? Are circumcised men even aware of the difference in sensitivity — do they complain about sex not being as pleasurable as they prefer?

    Inquiring minds want to know

  13. Perhaps snipping the dong does desensitize it, but wouldn’t it be a better measure to see whether circumsized and uncircumsized men experience the same level of sexual satisfaction? Maybe a lab test does not get at the gestalt of sex.

  14. What is it with you libertarians anyway? So some guys in Africa might have a little less sensitivity in their johnsons, but in return the AIDS epidemic might be slowed down. Is that really a reason to go overreacting to more “government intervention”?

    Christ, take a pill.

  15. “At first I didn’t realize he was Jewish, but then there was a tip-off.”

  16. Aesthetically speaking I prefer it now, I wonder do women have a preference.

    I’ve had females tell me that they prefer uncut to cut for the fact that it’s easier to play with. The extra skin makes stroking it easy to stroke without lube and is more fun. I’ve also had some females who have said that at first they were surprised by what an uncut one looks like, but they got used to it pretty quick.

  17. smacky: Make no assumptions. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ll be in my bunk.

  18. STINKY, YOU WILL NOT GET YOUR $54 MILLION.

    NOR ARE YOU ALLOWED TO DATE.

  19. “But that’s just a wallet!”
    “Now, maybe. But rub it like this and it becomes a suitcase.”

  20. On a more serious note, reducing the liklihood that you’ll constract AIDS by half… doesn’t sound that effective, does it? Let’s say, for example, that the liklihood of contracting AIDS from having sex with an infected person were as low as 50%. Now it would be 25%. Great! So you can have sex with them 2 more times than before with the vague possibility of not contracting AIDS! Most people I know have sex with a person that they DO have sex with more than once.
    I’m just sayin…

  21. hier is the Buzzcocks’ take on the matter.

    D.A.R.: nice!

  22. I saw “Stinky Pants” and read “Sticky Pants” and thought… perfect name for someone posting on this thread.

    CB

  23. I swear I read somewhere it also lowers the incidence of penis cancer. Which I didn’t know actually existed until I read it somewhere. That sounds like something to take a pass on.

  24. I still find sex kinda pleasurable

    You may be inadvertently illustrating the point of this article.

    Stinky Pants, yeah, well, personally I’m less concerned about government intervention in relation to circumcision and more concerned about parental intervention. Seriously, there is absolutely no choice on the part of the infant (partially due to his infantile state). Now, if you didn’t have the most sensitive part of your Johnson lopped off at birth, you could always have it lopped off at a later date, when you are capable of making the decision for yourself, rather than it being imposed from without. To be fair, though, you can grow the foreskin back.
    Oh and, FYI, I owe all of my freakish knowledge about the foreskin to Penn and Teller.

  25. using mixed models for repeated data, controlling for age, type of underwear worn, time since test ejaculation, ethnicity, country of birth, and level of education.

    What? They didn’t control for the most (perhaps only) relevant factor? I’m speaking of course, about frequency of masturbation.

    *TMI ALERT*
    When I was 15, the touch of silk could get me off. By the time I was 20, I required 180 grit sandpaper. These days, a scrap of well worn cotton twill works best.

  26. *passes Warren the Noam Chomsky Doll

  27. I was doing a deposition a few years ago in a run-of-the-mill car crash case. The plaintiff was claiming serious back injuries. I started asking how it affected his day to day life. He said that he could no longer have sex in the missionary position. I asked why, and he says it’s because he can no longer get her legs up over his shoulders. Ya can’t even buy that kind of entertainment.

  28. BJU International

    I would just like to make sure that we do not neglect this humerously named journal amongst all the other puerile snickering here.

  29. “you can grow the foreskin back”

    YOU CAN!?

    Whoa! Ok… whether or not this is true, this could be the next billion-dollar industry! (like hair-loss treatments). Sell a topical cream that’s supposed to help grow back the foreskin, laser light treatments, the works! We could be RICH!

  30. Bhh,
    Oh god, you should be thankful you didn’t know about penis cancer. I can remember high school sex ed, which operated on “scaring us straight,” or scaring us celibate, as the case may be. If I recall correctly, you generally get it from an STD, or if uncircumcsized, not keeping your penis free of smegma. Those pictures will NEVER be fully cleansed from my mind.

  31. Reinmoose,
    Yes, you can, using weights, or suspenders or something. All I remember from P&T is one guy who was VERY angry he had no foreskin who grew his back, and a doctor who grew his back.

  32. *passes Warren a box of tissues

  33. I have no idea if being circumcised makes sex less pleasurable, but I’m not too happy about the choice to be cut having been made for me.

    BTS: From what I’ve read, you can sort of grow the foreskin back (by stretching it and thus encouraging new skin growth), but the new one is missing a bunch of stuff, like a frenulum and various muscles and stuff.

    Bhh: I believe the incidence of penile cancer is lower than the rate of botched circumcisions. Remember that boy who they tried to turn into a girl back in the ’70s? They did that because his weiner was irreparably fucked up by a botched circumcision.

  34. It’s got no face, no personality!

  35. http://www.nocirc.org/

    In my personal experience, the foreskin can be used to facilitate entry.

  36. There could be a new agricultural breakthrough: foreskin farming.

  37. (non-subsidized)

  38. Warty,
    I don’t know about muscles, I don’t think there are any there to begin with, but yes, the frenulum is gone, and I think there’s not as many nerve endings, which kinda negates the whole “more pleasurable sex” end of the deal.

  39. They can have my forskin when they pry it out of my cold, dead hands…no, thats not right…my warm, slippery hands. Uh, no, thats not correct either. Please disremember the above.

  40. ba zing! Smacky is kickin ass and takin’ names hier!

  41. So there’s a higher chance of AIDS if you have a covered wagon? I think I read this somewhere before…

    I once asked my father-in-law that old joke “what do they do with the foreskins from circumcisions” He said they grow up to be New York City cops.

  42. The rabbi tells an associate that he has collected so many foreskins over the years that he had them made into a set of luggage.

    The associate asks to see it and the rabbi brings out a wallet.

    Where’s the set of luggage?

    Oh, you just have to stroke it gently a few times.

  43. Smacky,
    Foreskin regrowth doesn’t work on a mass-production then grafting basis, so it’s only sustenance foreskin farmin’.

  44. What anyhow is it with toi Anarchisten? So much some types in Africa could have less sensitivity in it johnsons, but refer inside the AIDS epidemic disease could be slowed down. Is it real a reason to go reacting into exaggeration to more than “government intervention “? Christ take a pillule.

  45. My girlfriend gave me a 19 point Semmes-Weinstein monofilament touch-test last night.

    It was great…

  46. sage: I recall reading that the foreskins are used to grow tissue for burn victims.

  47. I wonder do women have a preference.

    If you take a poll, the question is, “Anteater or helmet?” It self-screens the sample population, and returns a concise unambiguous result.

    you can grow the foreskin back

    Not exactly. What you can do, is stretch the skin you’ve got left.

  48. I once asked my father-in-law that old joke “what do they do with the foreskins from circumcisions” He said they grow up to be New York City cops.

    sage,

    Is that the actual punchline to the joke? Or was that your father-in-law’s own witty, off-the-cuff response?

  49. BTS,

    pr[a]eputial sphincter
    The “drawstring” of the foreskin, formed of the dartos muscle.

  50. I was under the impression that you lost as much as 69% of the pleasure with circumcision.

  51. Warty,
    Well, I’ll be goddamned.

  52. smacky,

    That was his off the cuff response. The proper answer was supposed to be “they sell to fags for chewing gum.” I liked his better.

  53. Does anyone know the reason that Jews circumcise? My guess is that throwing away an important part of your important part shows how important yaweh is to you, or something.

  54. *wonders how many of the guys here have either conceptualized or actually gone somewhere to take a closer look at their penis since beginning to read this thread*
    (no response necessary, please)

  55. sage,

    I liked his answer better, too.

  56. I asked why, and he says it’s because he can no longer get her legs up over his shoulders. Ya can’t even buy that kind of entertainment.

    Sure you can. Just slip the bellhop a twenty. He’ll know.

    Would some men trade sensitivity for staying power if they could?

    Lots of men do. What do you think those “enhance your stamina” creams do, anyway? Er, or at least that’s what I read somewhere.

  57. RC Dean:

    I bet those gels sold for teething babies would work just as well, and for less money. Same principle.

  58. They don’t appear to have controlled for level of sexual activity, either. It could be the case that uncircumcised men get less of it, and therefore are more sensitive.

    In any case, I was under the impression that the pleasure immediately due to friction on the penis was insignificant compared to orgasm, which this experiment did not investigate. So, even if the conclusions are valid, they may be irrelevant.

  59. Would some men trade sensitivity for staying power if they could?

    You could also just slow the hell down…

  60. biologist,

    But wouldn’t that also cause the penis to go flaccid, since the brain stopped detecting stimulation?

  61. crimethink:

    try it and let us know

  62. Would some men trade sensitivity for staying power if they could?

    Do it all the time. It’s called “beer.”

  63. But wouldn’t that also cause the penis to go flaccid, since the brain stopped detecting stimulation?

    What, visual stimulation isn’t enough.

  64. No, beer is used to make fat chicks attractive. Get it right.

  65. biologist, ha ha. My sister and brother in law have a teething baby, maybe I’ll ask them to do an experiment for me….

    What, visual stimulation isn’t enough.

    I’d imagine that depends on who or what you’re having sex with.

  66. No, beer is used to make fat chicks attractive. Get it right.

    *Ahem*
    recites:
    Not every girl has to be thin to be attractive. Are you trying to perpetuate eating disorders? What matters is who they are inside. I personally am attracted to confident girls with nice personali…

    oh fuck it, you’re right

  67. If only it were so simple as a trade-off between public/personal health and sexual sensation/pleasure!

    Sure, circumcision removes a whole lot of very sexually sensitive tissue. And yes, when done to an infant, his right to make his own choice is removed as well. It’s for reasons like these that most of the world has abandoned circumcision. But for those who are already circumcised, why not try to prove that there’s an up-side to it?

    Of all things in the world to turn to in hopes of fighting HIV/AIDS, why cutting skin off penises? Could it be as simple as rock-pile owners looking to stone-soup to fill the world’s hungry stomachs?

    Non-hungry rock-pile owners want to know, so they find hungry areas of Africa, round up some hungry people, and give half of them a giant pile of stones, instructions and demonstrations on soup-making, and some spices and roots or beans for texture and flavor The other half of hungry Africans are told all about the wonders of stone-soup and how it’s made, but get no stones (sure, stones are everywhere, but are they the right kind?).

    Lo and behold, in the coming months, both groups become much less hungry, but the group with the stone piles became ever more less hungry!

    And thus it was proven that stone-soup, while not actually eliminating the need for other food in the diet, is a hunger-fighting strategy to be deployed everywhere people are, or might one day become hungry. Eating only stone-soup, they warn, is dangerous and likely to cause starvation.

    International organizations plan massive stone-lifts. Stones of the just the right size and shape are to be offered at no-cost to the people who need them most.
    Far away, those with an abundance of stones (though not at all hungry) feel more satisfied with their inventory.

    Children born to the stone-wealthy are graciously granted a pile of stones at birth. Why leave to inheritance what you can watch your children endure enjoy during your lifetime, like you did?

    Learn how stone-soup is made. Delicious!

  68. Recent research strongly suggests that male circumcision lowers the relative risk of HIV/AIDS infection in men. Statistics vary, but circumsion may reduce the risk of infection by about half. Consequently, some anti-AIDS campaigners in Africa are urging mass circumcision as a way to combat the spread of the disease.

    Ummmm right, but for some reason the advocates for mass genital mutilation seem to forget that you can prevent the spread of HIV more effectively with a condom. Of course, that won’t fly among the Western Christian missionaries (not to mention Dubbya and das Panzer Pope) who have been prowling around Africa preaching that condom use is a sin.

  69. Beer comes in six packs because that’s just the right dose. No more, no less.

  70. I just want to point out that there were 69 comments in this thread when I clicked on it.

  71. “I once asked my father-in-law that old joke ‘what do they do with the foreskins from circumcisions'”

    I imagine they probably make their way into hot dogs along with all the floor leavings at the Oscar Meyer plant.

  72. No, beer is used to make fat chicks attractive. Get it right.

    *Ahem*
    recites:
    Not every girl has to be thin to be attractive. Are you trying to perpetuate eating disorders? What matters is who they are inside. I personally am attracted to confident girls with nice personali…

    oh fuck it, you’re right

    But the flip side is, us fat girls can make you feel like you have your foreskin back. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  73. The “circumision helps prevent HIV argument” is fatally flawed in several respects. See, e.g., http://www.cirp.org/library/disease/HIV/

    1) The studies done to support this argument were methodologically unsound in a number of respects.

    2) Circumcision has obviously not prevented the spread of HIV/AIDS in the US. Nor has presence of a foreskin caused mass infection in countries where most men are genitally intact. In fact, the HIV infection rate among heterosexuals in the US is 3.5 to 5 times higher than in Europe.

    3) A higher rate of the circumcised men were infected in the Kenyan experiment than the intact control group in Uganda, where a “zero grazing” (anti-promiscuity) campaign has brought the rates down. Circumcised men are infected at a higher rate than intact men in Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda and Tanzania.

    And now we have the news from Amsterdam that the Langerhans cells of the foreskin are innocent of “importing HIV into the body” (as Szabo and Short claimed to find on the basis of cadaver foreskin tissue from 6 old men). So the foundations have been knocked away from the claim that “circumcision prevents HIV”.

    4) Psycho-cultural factors. The AIDS researchers who propose that circumcision can prevent HIV transmission are overwhelmingly, white, male, and the products of English-speaking nations where male circumcision was once the usual practice. Females are seldom, if ever, represented. Male researchers from nations that do not practice male circumcision are usually not amongst those who advocate circumcision to prevent HIV transmission. There are few, if any, South American, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, European, or Scandinavian males amongst those who advocate male circumcision to prevent HIV transmission.

    In a comparison of studies performed by European vis-?-vis those performed by white male English-speaking researchers, the studies by white male English-speaking researchers have been more likely to report a protective effect for male circumcision. In the absence of another logical explanation for this effect, it is possible to conclude that the circumcision status of the researcher(s) may influence the conclusions of their studies

    Circumcision in fact creates genital predjudice between those who have complete and intact gentials and those on whom circumcision has been imposed. This is what drives the campaign to circumcise.


  74. Does increased sensitivity potentially decrease stamina? Does that increase the likely-hood of being a “2-pump chump”? Is less stamina less sexually pleasing??

    I would argue that increased sensitivity increases stamina. Increased sensitivity makes it easier to tell if you are at the verge of orgasm and adjust accordingly.

  75. Touch?, Bob Smith.

  76. “Ummmm right, but for some reason the advocates for mass genital mutilation seem to forget that you can prevent the spread of HIV more effectively with a condom.”

    But that reduces the pleasure for both the circumcised and the uncircumcised.

  77. Increased “stamina”? Guys… do you care?

    She: Who are you going to please with that little dick?”

    He: Me.

    CB

  78. But the flip side is, us fat girls can make you feel like you have your foreskin back. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    I’ll be in my bunk.

  79. biologist | June 15, 2007, 12:51pm | #
    RC Dean:

    I bet those gels sold for teething babies would work just as well, and for less money. Same principle.

    Yup. Benzocaine, same stuff. What I want to know is why this stuff is cherry flavored.

  80. Mr. Smith, I believe that you are inflating the sensitivity of enjoyment vs. the “sensitivity” of knowing when you reach orgasm. Seriously, who doesn’t know when they’re about to come anyway?

    Personally, if it does decrease sensitivity, I think it does cut down on “2-pump chump” incidences.

    Akira, you need to take a freakin’ pill man…seriously.

    I just realized that I am taking a foreskin debate way too seriously.

  81. “Personally, if it does decrease sensitivity, I think it does cut down on “2-pump chump” incidences.”

    What’s “chumpy” about efficiency, anyway? Isn’t that what libertarians are all about? We guys have shit to do, you know.

  82. When I was 15, the touch of silk could get me off. By the time I was 20, I required 180 grit sandpaper. These days, a scrap of well worn cotton twill works best.

    I hope you guys don’t think I’m a pervert, but sometimes I can actually get an erection by rubbing it against a girl.

  83. sometimes I can actually get an erection by rubbing it against a girl.
    It’s true, he can.

  84. *passes Warren some silicone lube

  85. *passes a second bottle to Stevo

  86. Whoa, Stevo, preview before you post! You left out a word. Lemme help

    I can actually get an erection by rubbing it against an inflatable girl.

    Oh, and Woman who rides etc. wins the thread.

  87. Akira, you need to take a freakin’ pill man…seriously.

    My attitude will change once humanity stops acting like a bunch of knuckle-dragging, superstitious, deluded, primitives who attribute invisible tyrants who live in the sky to everything that happens.

    Until then, I rage on.

  88. But the flip side is, us fat girls can make you feel like you have your foreskin back. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    How you doin?

  89. With undiminished sensitivity, are uncut men more prone to premature ejaculation? Seems likely.

    I was cut as a babe and have nearly passed out from pleasure. If I was anymore sensitive, I couldn’t stand it. And I appreciate my unit being a smegma free zone.

  90. Kwix,
    The problem with desensitizing creams (and they do sell them for sex too) is that it rubs off on to the woman and makes her partially numb as well and nearly impossible to satisfy.

    *I’ve never tried them. A friend described it to me in humorous detail. It made her mouth numb as well.

  91. Stevo, there’s nothing perverted about frotteurism. nothing at all.

  92. No, beer is used to make fat chicks attractive. Get it right.

    Uh, no… you can drink an ugly girl pretty but you can’t drink a fat girl thin.

  93. I’m with NoStar at 4:10pm, second paragraph.

    In the sense of being like-minded, that is.

  94. This is a life and death issue here in Mozambique, where a decision to circumcise reduces your (fairly high) chance of getting AIDS by as much as 70% – whatever Educate Thyself may claim. I therefore over the last decade have conducted a modest survey of men circumcised as adults — all three (this is not an easy thing to discover) say they experienced signficantly greater pleasure after being cut. Three possibilities come to mind: lower sensitivity is the key to greater pleasure; the greater pleasure gradually and imperceptibly wears off; or the study is bogus.

  95. timbo,

    …a modest survey of men circumcised as adults…

    Let’s remember that point, but put it on hold momentarily.

    …all three…

    Not particularly broad.

    Three possibilities come to mind: lower sensitivity is the key to greater pleasure; the greater pleasure gradually and imperceptibly wears off; or the study is bogus.

    Back to the “circumcised as adults” point. How about a forth option, selection bias? These men, all three of them, seem to have chosen to be circumcised as adults. Are they more or less likely to report greater pleasure from something they chose to do, to view it as “good”?

  96. Whatever else goes on in the mind of the type of scientist who came up with this dick-sensitivity test, I don’t wanna know…

  97. …level of education…

    WTF?
    There MUST be a good reason for this (maybe it was found to be statistically significant on a fluke?)

    Well, I know that in the case of women, studies have consistently shown that lower level of education are correlated with claims of more orgasms when having sex and satisfaction with sex. (So, incidentally, is being religious, and fundamentalist Protestant women in particular report the most orgasms. See for example here.)

  98. The African clinical trials tell us nothing about whether a baby or an adult should be circumcised. The way they were conducted, and the way the data from them was analysed, leave a good deal to be desired.

    African realities do not carry over to the North Atlantic. In Africa, AIDS is spread by heterosexual promiscuity. In the North Atlantic, by men having sex with men and by needle drugs. The typical African male does not have access to tap water and so does not take a daily shower. Condoms are not stocked by the village general store. If there are condoms available, he and she often cannot afford them. African men have strange notions that a dry vagina beats a moist one. Chronic ulceration of the genitalia of both sexes, from a variety of causes, creates an environment facilitating the transmission of HIV.

    There has been no careful study looking for physical and sexual damage to the routinely circumcised North American penis. Over 100 million North American babies have been cut over the past 120 years, with no investigation of the possible long term adverse consequences. This is medically irresponsible.

  99. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F….._of_Christ

    Christ was circumcised…..

  100. Hope this can apply for the tips about how to make your penis bigger naturally

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.