Head, Heart and Balls
The effects of circumcision
I don't have a foreskin. I wish I did. I think it would make playing with my penis much more fun. After 30 odd years of having underwear rubbing on my penis head, it has become dry and a bit rough. Now I can't masturbate without lube, like baby oil, and if I use a condom, it needs to have a bit of lube inside as well as outside it.
When I was a kid I had adhesions between the glans and the foreskin, and they took off my foreskin to " solve" this problem. They didn't ask me what I wanted, though. Anyway, they took it off, and the adhesions were torn away.
Normally they separate by the age of five, but they can hang around till puberty. It is possible to separate them more gently but mine were torn, and the result has been an extremely sensitive coronal ridge, which in fact is so sensitive that it can be downright uncomfortable in cold weather, especially if my underwear is rubbing on it.
I haven't found a solution to this problem. Even daily moisturizing lotion doesn't help a lot. I hear some guy has designed briefs with a soft cotton special penis sleeve to help with this exact same problem.
I recently saw some men's undies made from some special cotton fabric designed to help reduce eczema. I am going to see if that helps. When I was a teenager the stimulation of fabric on my glans seemed to give me loads of spontaneous erections, which I always enjoyed. Or maybe I was just very horny. Now the stimulation of underwear is just a pain in the ass....or something....
Why is a foreskin an advantage? Well, for one thing it is full of nerve endings that heighten sexual pleasure. For another it makes masturbation easier. The back and forth movement of the foreskin over the glans and shaft is eased by a naturally lubricated mucous membrane.
And women who have sex with uncircumcised men say that the sensation of having an uncut penis in their vagina, moving inside its own natural skin sheath as the man thrusts, is very different to that produced by a " cut" penis in the vagina.
You'd expect that, I guess. I'd like to know what I'm missing, but short of restoring my foreskin (a stretchy process which takes ages - I don't have the patience) I am going to have to be happy with what I've got. Actually, this is one area where I would like things to be different.
The question, though, is does not having a foreskin actually matter? There is a huge body of work on the web, all devoted to the campaign to stop routine circumcision.
And quite right too: it is abusive to cut off any part of a person's body - especially without its owner's consent. I ask you! How could anyone put a baby through such an ordeal? The answer is probably because we've been conditioned to believe that the demi-gods of the medical profession know better than we do.......
I remember a scene in that mildly amusing drama " Thirty-somethings" - a few years ago now - in which the two main characters (whose names I have completely forgotten) agonize over whether or not to have their baby circumcised. I remember at the time thinking that if this was the program's best effort at representing a white middle class dilemma, then I had no time for it, and yet now I see how much of an issue it really is.
I mean - there you are, as a new parent, with the entire responsibility for the whole being of your new baby boy - and you have to decide whether to have his penis put in a clamp, have a doctor tear off the natural adhesions between the glans and foreskin, pull the skin harshly upwards and then slice through the most sensitive part of his body with a scalpel blade - and all without an anesthetic. Now, that sure is a dilemma.
I speak strongly on this matter because my penis - without its foreskin - has given me a lot of problems over the years. It is so sensitive in cold weather that even just the gentle rubbing of the softest cotton underwear is almost painful: this is probably because the glans was damaged by the tearing of the adhesions when they took my foreskin off. (When these adhesions are prematurely torn, some scar tissue forms on the glans.)
There is however, one strange advantage that I have. When they removed my foreskin, they did it so unevenly and loosely that the remaining skin bunches up around the coronal rim of my penis. And when I put a condom on, there is, in fact, a real ridgey, bumpy, lumpy protrusion of skin around the upper surface of the penis head just below the corona. Why is this so interesting, you ask?
Well, my penis also bends upwards somewhat (it is one of those which curves upwards rather than downwards), and the combination of these two quirks of nature means that when I push my penis into my girlfriend's vagina, it is exactly the right shape to produce the most exquisite stimulation of her G-spot.
Indeed, she pretty quickly goes into G-spot mode, characterized by - so she tells me - waves of sexual energy coursing outwards from her G-spot through her whole body, producing long lasting pre-orgasmic plateaus of almost unbearable ecstasy.
I have to admit she has not yet come from my penis thrusting inside her - I can't quite last long enough, Dammit, but I am sure it is only a matter of time before she does. Judging by the bliss she is currently experiencing, when she does it will be the most wonderful experience imaginable. For both of us.
There is certainly something very different about Jan's G spot orgasm - different to her clitoral orgasm, I mean. She can come with my finger on her G spot, and her whole experience of this orgasm is different to the orgasm produced by having her clit stimulated - it is much more whole body-centered, for one thing, and it involves a different kind of sexual energy - the experience is almost spiritual, in fact.
And her vagina behaves differently, as well: when a G spot orgasm is approaching, instead of gripping tightly, as it does when she comes with her clit, her vagina balloons out and exerts an outward pressure, almost as if it is expelling my finger.
All of the differences between clitoral and vaginal orgasm have left us in no doubt that there are some very different things going on here: that Freud's distinction between the vaginal and clitoral orgasm is actually correct, and despite some efforts to rubbish the idea of vaginal orgasm by the medical profession, our experience as a couple tells us it is a real thing, different to a clitoral orgasm.
But students of Tantric Sex have known this for ages, of course.
Now, what about the merits of circumcision versus no circumcision? My simple view is that anything which evolved on the human body - except the appendix - must have a function. And since I don't see the foreskin as an appendix, we must ask - what is its function?
The foreskin, I mean, not the appendix. First, both inside and out, the foreskin is covered with sensitive nerve endings, all of which have a direct role in sexual stimulation and the orgasmic response of the man.
It is composed of sensitive mucosal tissue, protected from the atmosphere and full of sexual enjoyment glands that produce smegma - which, far from just being a smelly substance turns out to have a vital role in sexual mating. And it makes sex more satisfying for the female partner. Sorry guys, but there you are.
Some eager scientists, pushing back the boundaries of knowledge as a good scientist should, interviewed women with experience of both circumcised and non-circumcised men. The researchers were looking for vaginal orgasms produced through intercourse in all these studies.
What they found was very clear: with circumcised men, women were more likely to experience vaginal dryness, discomfort, and to want " to get the experience over with" because " they weren't really into it" than with uncircumcised men. As if that weren't discouraging enough, women were significantly less likely to have a vaginal orgasm with a cut man.
And worst of all, at least for the men, the women reported that circumcised men were more likely to ejaculate prematurely (defined as coming within 3 minutes of penile insertion in more than half of the times the partners had sex).
Women with more than ten partners in their sexual history were more likely to achieve orgasm with their circumcised partners than those women with fewer partners, but they still had less frequent orgasms than they had with their uncircumcised partners.
So clearly female choice and sexual experience are important factors, but they are not important enough to alter the fact that circumcised men seem to produce less satisfying feelings for a woman during lovemaking than a man with a foreskin.
And women who preferred their orgasms to come through vaginal intercourse rather than oral sex or masturbation preferred uncut men and they also preferred being on top during sex.
They were also more likely to have an unaltered man as their most recent partner. And get this, guys: women with uncircumcised partners had a higher rate of orgasms with them, and they rated circumcised partners lower as lovers.
And the women overwhelmingly agreed that making love to circumcised and uncircumcised men was different: circumcised men tend to thrust harder and deeper, using long strokes, while unaltered men tend to thrust more gently, to have shorter thrusts, and tend to be in contact with the mons pubis and clitoris more.
All in all, conclude our intrepid scientists, it's clear that women prefer vaginal intercourse with an anatomically complete penis over sex with a circumcised penis. There may be many reasons for this.
First, when the anatomically complete penis thrusts in the vagina, it does not slide, but rather glides on its own 'bedding' of movable skin. The underlying corpus cavernosa and corpus spongiosum slide within the penile skin, while the skin juxtaposed against the vaginal wall moves very little.
This sheath-within-a-sheath alignment allows penile movement, and vaginal and penile stimulation, with minimal friction or loss of secretions. Second, when the penile shaft is withdrawn slightly from the vagina, the foreskin bunches up behind the coronal ridge so that the tip of the foreskin (which contains the highest density of fine-touch neuroreceptors in the penis) comes into contact with the coronal ridge (which has the highest concentration of fine-touch receptors on the glans).
This intense stimulation discourages the penile shaft from further withdrawal, explaining the short thrusting style that women noted in their unaltered partners.
Third, circumcision removes 33-50% of the penile skin. With this skin missing, there is less tissue for the swollen corpus cavernosa and corpus spongiosum to slide against. Instead, the skin of the circumcised penis rubs against the vaginal wall, increasing friction, abrasion and the need for artificial lubrication.
Because of the tight penile skin, the corona of the glans (which works as a one-way valve in the vagina) pulls the vaginal secretions from the vagina when the shaft is withdrawn. Unlike the anatomically complete penis, there is no sensory input to limit withdrawal.
Because the vast majority of the fine-touch receptors are missing from the circumcised penis, their role as ejaculatory triggers is also absent. The loss of these receptors creates an imbalance between the deep pressure sensed in the glans, corpus cavernosa and corpus spongiosum and the missing fine touch.
To compensate for the imbalance, to achieve orgasm, the circumcised man must stimulate the glans, corpus cavernosa, and corpus spongiosum by thrusting deeply in and out of the vagina.
As a result, coitus with a circumcised partner reduces the amount of vaginal secretions in the vagina, and decreases continual stimulation of the mons pubis and clitoris.
Although this was not directly measured, some women commented that unaltered men appeared to enjoy vaginal sex more than circumcised men. Men with a foreskin certainly had less fellatio, masturbation and anal sex than circumcised men.
As the scientists say: " Clearly, the anatomically complete penis offers a more rewarding experience for the female partner during coitus......the negative effect of circumcision on the sexual enjoyment of the female partner needs to be part of any discussions providing 'informed consent' before circumcision."
There may be other ways in which circumcision can affect a man's enjoyment of intercourse. This is an email I received:
I previously suffered from delayed ejaculation [that means he couldn't come during sex]. I could masturbate and ejaculate without a problem but during unprotected vaginal sex I could last usually indefinitely. The few times where I was able to ejaculate during intercourse I had to expend so much effort as to leave myself exhausted and my partner sore.
This wasn't a problem when I was younger but as the years go by my glans seemed even less sensitive than it used to be. The urologist I spoke to told me there was nothing wrong with me physically and that I should go see a sex therapist.
Because of the quality of the sexual banter and openness within the relationship I knew this wasn't the problem. I began reading about circumcision (btw your section on the subject is excellent) and I learned that my situation is much more common than previously thought.
After communicating with others who had trouble ejaculating during vaginal sex I decided I to go through the arduous process of foreskin restoration. Now most of my sensitivity has returned to the point and now I am able to ejaculate during intercourse again and with much more control over when too.
All I can say is thank God for the internet because otherwise I would have believed my doctor and thought the problem was me when really it was the result of being circumcised leaving my glans to be desensitized. I suspect this might also explain some the others with a similar problem.
If you want to know about the best ways to make love, there are several great sites we recommend. One of the oldest and best is Make Love With Passion, which you can find here - it describes many best sexual positions.
Other pages on the penis and testicles