Circumcision not associated with penis sensitivity, research finds

Circumcision not associated with penis sensitivity, research finds

A new research suggests there is no difference in between men who are circumcised and those not.

The American Academy of Pediatrics and the Canadian Pediatric Society are behind the new findings, which aim to start a conversation on the subject of circumcising baby boys.

“There’s a lot of popular folklore that circumcised penises are less sensitive,” Jennifer Bossio, a PhD student in psychology who was the lead author on the study, published in The Journal of Urology, tells me. Without a foreskin, the lore goes, the glans (head) of a man’s penis becomes keratinized — or hardened slightly, like the craggy calluses on the backs of feet. These rougher penises, then, are thought to have less feeling.

“This research points to the fact that it might not be the case,” Bossio says. To find out, Bossio gathered 62 men (about half were circumcised, half were intact) in the Ontario area to have their penises prodded by various tools to assess sensitivity to touch, pain, and heat.

“Come on in, we’re going to poke you and burn you!” Bossio says in jest about their pitch to participants. The real sell: The brave men got 75 Canadian dollars (about $59 in US dollars) for their time. (For the record, Bossio admits that people who sign up for sexuality studies may not be perfectly representative of the population. A few people, she mentions, joined “for beer money.”)

Bossio and her colleagues tested responses to pain, touch, and heat on four areas of the participants’ genitals. This is where they put the instruments. This might not be safe for (your) work. As a science reporter, it is safe for mine.

At each of these contact points, the researchers slowly upped the intensity of each test until the participant said he felt something. With this data, Bossio and her colleagues could calculate an average sensitivity threshold for each group and then compare.

The results: Bossio and her team couldn’t detect a difference.

“The keratinization hypothesis was not supported by this study,” the paper states. It concludes: “Circumcision is not associated with changes in penile sensitivity,” and the foreskin “is not the most sensitive part of the penis.”

Bossio stresses this is just a preliminary study on a topic that has seen very little research.

There has been a lot of research into whether circumcision is good for health. (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention acknowledges circumcision has some medical benefits, like decreasing the likelihood of transmitting HIV.) “But there’s almost nothing on the effect on the sexual lives of men,” she says. “A third of men in the world have been circumcised — so we’re talking about a huge proportion of men — and we have no idea of the impact on their sexual lives. To me, that’s an important question.”

The study is also limited by a small sample size. Research papers ideally have 200 participants, not 60. But that no effect was found in this small group probably means if a difference does exists, it’s likely very small.

Even if there’s a tiny difference, it’s unlikely to matter in practice. In other, yet-to-be published work, Bossio says she finds that circumcision status does not make a difference for sexual arousal (which she studies via blood flow tracking in the genital region as participants watch porn). And in the current study, she finds that all men report similar sexual satisfaction overall.

But what about the foreskin? Doesn’t having it intact add some pleasurable experience?

Bossio did assess the sensitivity of the foreskin itself, and found that while it is very sensitive to a light touch, it’s not very sensitive to pain or warmth, which “are actually more relevant to the experience of sexual touch or sexual enjoyment,” she says. Removing the foreskin, she then concludes, “is probably not going to have that big of an impact on people’s sexual experience.”




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    5 Comments

    1. Rerun

      April 20, 2016 at 2:13 pm

      This is like saying “cutting of fingertips does not reduce the sensitivity of the palm” which would be absolute nonsense. Mrs. Bossio only measured on the outside, not the inside which turns to the outside during intercourse, totally ignores the gliding function of the foreskin and wipes away results that don’t fit her agenda by stating them to be not relevant. Fine touch not as important as pain or warmth? Junk science with the only purpose to create circumcision friendly headlines.

      • Hurt boy

        January 23, 2017 at 7:45 pm

        Well said, could you imagine a dog with a circumcision.. Insane, yes but think about it, removing the covering from a dogs penis would be considered cruelty. Why is it good for a man? I would love to have fifteen minutes alone with the animal who cut my foreskin off, but the way thing work he passed away. He profited from hurting a little boy…. without any pain medication. I would like only fifteen minutes and we would both be circumcised.

    2. Hmm

      November 5, 2017 at 8:58 pm

      That sample is ridiculously small and has no significance, not to mention for the reasons mentioned by Rerun

    3. Victim of MGM at Birth

      November 15, 2017 at 2:35 am

      Apparently the editors of this site do not care about the truth of Male Genital Mutilation. Cut 1/8th of an inch off a female baby’s genitals and go go jail. Cut what will become 20square inches of skin off a baby boy’s genitals and it’s “the parent’s choice”.

    4. J Fowler

      November 18, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      I was circumcised at Birth and feel I was violated. It certainly has had a negative effect on my self confidence. It should be outlawed treated in the same way has Female Circumcision.

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