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!