Circumcision does not reduce penile sensitivity, research finds

April 14, 2016

New research conducted at Queen's University has found the penises of men who were circumcised as newborns are no less sensitive than intact (uncircumcised) penises.

Jenn Bossio, a clinical psychology PhD candidate, studied 62 men between the ages of 18 and 37. A total of 30 were circumcised and 32 were not. Four penile sites were tested using touch, pain, warmth detection and heat pain. The results indicated neonatal circumcision is not associated with changes in penile sensitivity and provides evidence to suggest the foreskin is not the most sensitive part of the penis.

Only two studies had looked at this area before. Both used fine-touch pressure thresholds (a light touch) while just one used pain thresholds (a harder touch). Ms. Bossio extended the research methods in her study to include warmth detection and heat pain because these stimuli are more likely to activate the nerve fibres associated with sexual pleasure.

"One researcher who only used fine touch to measure penile sensitivity claimed the foreskin is the most sensitive part of the penis, so removing it via circumcision is detrimental to men's sex lives," Ms. Bossio says. "Many anti-circumcision activists believe this is true, but we didn't find sufficient evidence to support this. We found that while the foreskin was more sensitive to fine , it was not more sensitive to the other stimuli we used, and those stimuli are likely more important in ."

Approximately one-third of the global male population undergoes circumcision, and with the American Academy of Pediatrics recent report in favour of neonatal circumcision, plus the increasing number of men undergoing circumcision in Africa to try and reduce HIV transmission, those rates are likely to rise.

Ms. Bossio explains that although there is a great deal of research on the health benefits of circumcision, there is almost no information on sexual outcomes of the procedure.

"We need to take a more multi-lens approach to this procedure before making wide-sweeping conclusions about it in policy," she says. "Further, many men opt to undergo to correct sexual dysfunction—but this research suggests that this would likely not help. Lastly, parents of infant boys need to be fully informed before they decide to circumcise their sons or not."

Conducting her research in the Sexual Health Research Lab under the supervision of Dr. Caroline Pukall (Psychology), Ms. Bossio says her next area of focus is to extend her findings to groups of with sexual dysfunction like erectile dysfunction (who may have lower penile sensitivity) or premature ejaculation (who may have higher sensitivity). "I also think we need to have a better understanding of the sensory mechanisms of the genitals."

Ms. Bossio's research was recently published in the Journal of Urology.

Explore further: Male circumcision lowers prevalence of penile precancerous lesions among African men

More information: Jennifer A. Bossio et al. Examining Penile Sensitivity in Neonatally Circumcised and Intact Men Using Quantitative Sensory Testing, The Journal of Urology (2015). DOI: 10.1016/j.juro.2015.12.080

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11 comments

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IGU
1 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2016
Since the researcher states: "Four penile sites were tested using touch, pain, warmth detection and heat pain", can we assume that none of the four sites included the foreskin itself? It would seem so as the circumcised subjects would lack that equipment. If sensory nerve rich tissue is removed, How can the conclusion be that: "Circumcision does not reduce penile sensitivity"?
circresource
3.7 / 5 (3) Apr 14, 2016
Studies show that circumcision causes significant pain and trauma, behavioral and neurological changes in infants, potential parental stress from persistent crying (colic) of infants, disrupted bonding between parent and child, and risk of surgical complications. Other consequences of circumcision include loss of a natural, healthy, functioning body part, reduced sexual pleasure, potential psychological problems, and unknown negative effects that have not been studied.

Some circumcised men resent that they are circumcised. Sexual anxieties, reduced emotional expression, low self-esteem, avoidance of intimacy, and depression are also reported. Some doctors refuse to perform circumcisions because of ethical reasons. Relying on presumed authorities (e.g., American Academy of Pediatrics or doctors who echo AAP views) is not sufficient because of their personal, religious, financial, and political conflicts of interest. Instead, watch a circumcision video and trust your instincts.
RMQ
3 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2016
The way in which things are defined, matters significantly. Circumcision is the mutilation of healthy functioning genital tissue. Child circumcision is then the non-consensual mutilation of healthy functioning genital tissue. Obviously, after suffering circumcision, since it is non-reversible, many men focus on the "positive" side of it, and prompt it on the defenseless.

Too bad the researcher ms bosio does not focus on showing how female circumcision is good for women, and stop to induce mutilations against men.
IGU
not rated yet Apr 14, 2016
In the original article, these statements are contradictory:
Results

Penile sensitivity did not differ across circumcision status for any stimulus type or penile site. The foreskin of intact men was more sensitive to tactile stimulation than the other penile sites, but this finding did not extend to any other stimuli (where foreskin sensitivity was comparable to the other sites tested).
Conclusions

Findings suggest that minimal long-term implications for penile sensitivity exist as a result of the surgical excision of the foreskin during neonatal circumcision. Additionally, this study challenges past research suggesting that the foreskin is the most sensitive part of the adult penis.
IGU
3 / 5 (2) Apr 14, 2016
If this sloppy piece of advocacy research is typical of what gets published, it is not a surprise that the u.s. medical industry is in such a sorry state.
bsr163
1 / 5 (1) Apr 14, 2016
This 'science' beggars belief!

Are you really serious? you compare 4 sites on the penis of intact and circumcised men and effectively just ignore fine touch qualities of the foreskin? It is well documented that the foreskin is rich in sensory nerve endings especially in the ridged band area!
"...while the foreskin was more sensitive to fine touch, it was not more sensitive to the other stimuli we used, and those stimuli are likely more important in sexual pleasure."
The reality is THOSE SITES ARE MORE IMPORTANT IN SEXUAL PLEASURE ***FOR CIRCUMCISED MEN*** - BECAUSE THAT'S ALL THEY HAVE!
Intact men know that sensory stimulation during sex is all about fine touch and effortless control of the orgasm.
This really is an excellent example of diabolical science.
ronspain
1 / 5 (1) Apr 16, 2016
The foreskin-lovers are in a frenzy over here about this! If you listen to them, it's amazing circumcised males can orgasm at all. A couple of the anti-circumcision comments managed to make some sense, but I ultimately can't go along with their conclusions for several reasons that we don't have time to get into. You'll have to make up your own minds.

Thank you to medicalxpress.com for the information.
bsr163
not rated yet Apr 16, 2016
Ronspain - SOME circumcised men CAN'T orgasm at all. I know, I have counselled several young men, some of whom were cut after sexual debut and who reported a catastrophic loss of sensation and function post-circ. It's a ludicrous study that didn't even do the sensation testing on the inner surface of the foreskin! To just ignore it is absurd.
IGU
not rated yet Apr 16, 2016
The most ludicrous part of this study is that the researcher thinks pain, heat pain and warmth detection are more important sexual sensations than touch. What planet is this person from?
SusejDog
not rated yet Apr 17, 2016
It is reprehensible to forcibly subject babies to what is effectively mutilation of their bodies. If they want circumcision as adults, they're welcome to get it then.
hanscastorp1914
5 / 5 (1) Apr 17, 2016
From the abstract of the referenced report:

"The foreskin of intact men was MORE SENSITIVE to tactile stimulation than the other penile sites.." [emphasis added]

How on earth can this possibly be reconciled with asserting that circumcision does not reduce penile sensitivity?

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