Sex between man and woman -
does circumcision make a difference?
One of the regular claims of the proponents of circumcision has been that it makes the glans less sensitive, and so reduces the likelihood of premature ejaculation. In the campaign against circumcision, one of the main arguments has been that it ruins a man's enjoyment by reducing sensitivity. The question of whether this supposed loss in sensitivity actually happens is never called into question.
Yet many years ago Masters and Johnson conducted a 'brief clinical experiment' and reported that "No clinically significant difference could be established between the circumcised and the uncircumcised glans".
It is hard to ask men about this point since they only have one penis, circumcised or not. However, most women had experienced both sorts, and they were asked which sort was more sensitive. The result was a strong confirmation of Masters & Johnson:
Sensitivity - the women's verdict
50% No difference
29% Natural glans is more sensitive
21% Circumcised is more sensitive
This is a pretty even vote. In the opinion of those best qualified to judge there is overall no significant difference. We can probably also conclude that there is quite a bit of individual variation between men.
The sexual activities of Australian respondents are charted below. The vast majority had sex once a week or more, but less than once a day. Overall the women were a little more sexually active than the men; this applied to all the major age groups, so the fact that they were younger on average is not enough to account for it. However, many of the women's responses came from the Family Planning Association, and we can assume that women who are seeking family planning are sexually active. Women whose forms did not come from the FPA had sex about as often as the men.
How often do men and women have sex?
Overall, circumcised men had sex more frequently than natural ones. This applied to both the Australian and Internet surveys. The Australian figures are summarised below.
70% have sex once a week or more
12% have sex less than once a month
58% have sex once a week or more
33% have sex less than once a month
Circumcised men, in both surveys, were more likely to be married, and less likely to have no girlfriend. This shows that a bare glans does a lot for a man's sex life, but whether that is because it makes him more self-confident, or because it makes him more attractive to women, is not clear. It may be a bit of both, but men's feelings about their penis suggest that self-confidence may be an important factor - circumcised men were much more likely to feel positive about their state.
Was it good for you?
For the man ....
We asked the men straight out "Do you think sex is more satisfactory for ...". In the Australian survey, there were roughly equal votes for each sort - most men voting for the sort of penis they had. But the largest vote by far was 'don't know'.
Sex is better for ..
19% a circumcised man
19% a natural man
19% no difference
43% don't know
There is one group, though, who are able to make a direct comparison - those who were circumcised as adults, and have enjoyed sex both ways. ALL heterosexual Australian men who were circumcised after the age of fifteen answered that sex was better after circumcision. Their comments were very enthusiastic:
"In total, sex is more enjoyable with a bare knob"
"Much more enjoyable" (heavily underlined)
"The operation had no effect on the ease of orgasm ... (but) it had a considerable effect on the feel of intercourse. .... During intercourse the foreskin would roll on and off the glans and I was having sex with the foreskin rather than the vagina. Aesthetically sex was better afterwards."
"Although my glans was quite sensitive before my circumcision, I had too much foreskin and it was always in the way. Intercourse was not especially satisfactory for me as a result, because it was difficult, if not impossible, to get enough stimulation of the glans to achieve orgasm. Put bluntly, it was more damn work than it was worth! That is now significantly better."
So for some men circumcision made the difference between being sexually dysfunctional and being functional, while for others the improvement was purely aesthetic. But all found an improvement.
The most discussed sexual dysfunction affecting men is premature ejaculation. The women we surveyed didn't think a foreskin had anything to do with it.
Which are more likely to shoot too soon?
8% circumcised men
8% natural men
50% no difference
34% don't know
However, the direct evidence from the men's reports tells a different story. It wasn't a common problem - only one man ticked that it happened often - but it wasn't unknown either since half the respondents ticked either 'Sometimes' or 'Rarely'. However, as the chart shows, there was a quite noticeable tendency for it to happen more often to circumcised men - the exact reverse of what so many proponents of circumcision claim!
Do you suffer from premature ejaculation ...?
Since any (supposed) desensitization would presumably be a long-term effect, we also separated out those circumcised in infancy, who have therefore had an exposed glans longer than those done as adults. As we can see, these were the most likely to come too quickly. So while our survey didn't show it as a problem for either circumcised or natural men, it isn't reduced by circumcision - quite the opposite.
For the woman ....
Women were asked whether there was any difference in the stimulation they got from each type. An overwhelming majority (75%) said that they were indistinguishable. Among those who could detect a difference opinions were evenly divided as to which sort gave more stimulation. On the related question "Do you come more easily with .." there was again an overwhelming vote for 'No difference" - 85% voted this way with the remainder split both ways.
However, we also asked questions about the actual sex lives of our respondents, and these show that these evenly divided opinions do not tell the whole story.
Who comes first? - Women's responses
Women were much more likely to reach a simultaneous climax if they had circumcised lovers than if their man had a foreskin. At the other extreme, women with natural lovers were three times as likely to fail to reach orgasm. The other options - coming before or after their men - are a bit more complex since many women ticked both - "[we] take turns at coming first" as one woman explained. Overall, circumcised lovers were a bit more likely to come before their partners, and natural ones after.
The men were asked a related question: did their partners reach orgasm every time, usually, sometimes or never. This showed a similar trend.
Does your partner have an orgasm?
Whichever sort of partners they had, most women had orgasms most of the time. But these figures show that when we look at the overall picture a woman was a little bit, at least, more likely to get ultimate satisfaction from a circumcised man.
Circumcision does not make the penis less sensitive, nor does it make premature ejaculation less likely. And it certainly doesn't it ruin the man's enjoyment - men circumcised as adults invariably found sex better afterwards. What's more, having a circumcised partner seems to make sex a bit better for a woman too.