February 14, 2013
Male circumcision tied to less sexual pleasure
by Andrew M. Seaman
(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. [They were studies of adult volunteers for circumcision - not the gold standard at all.] Those studies
, he said, did not find a difference. [Becauses the questions were too vague to do so.]
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. [Another is simply that the foreskin itself is sensitive, as Taylor found.]
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.
‘ABUNDANTLY CLEAR' EVIDENCE
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. [This is not "context", but another issue altogether.]
"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. [There is little or no evidence that circumcision does any of those things.]
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:).
BJU International, online February 4, 2013.