Q: Does circumcision affect the level of pleasure a woman experiences during sex? Will a circumcised penis feel better going in than one that might not have that harder ridge around the head?
A: In my years of drinking legally in bars, I’ve learned there are three things you don’t talk about in mixed company: politics, religion and circumcision. I have seen chair-throwing, eye-gouging and all-out mixed martial arts-style fighting after heated circumcision debates fueled by a few rounds of Jameson. Be cautious discussing male circumcision any time there are shots involved. Or chairs.
Circumcision for non-religious or non-ritualistic reasons is a relatively new concept, popularized in the United States around the turn of the 20th century. Parents were encouraged to have their children circumcised to prevent masturbation, since that was allegedly the cause of myriad health problems (which we know is obviously not true, so keep calm and fap on). After that, it became a class issue: If you were circumcised, it meant your family was wealthy enough to do a hospital birth. Then came the Lysol and bleach era, where any and everything associated with germs — smegma, for instance — had to go. Circumcision became so routine that it was unusual for parents to skip it.
Whether or not it should still be practiced is a hot-button issue that most major medical institutions won’t touch. Even the Centers for Disease Control don’t want to get too far up in your business. Their official stance is that male circumcision decreases the risk of spreading HIV (and HPV), and the organization’s website is full of data supporting that. If I were inclined to start a debate, I might point out that the information comes from clinical trials in parts of Africa where HIV is an epidemic, but I won’t. The statistics are there, and they’re not wrong.
Circumcision appears to be gradually falling out of favor. In the 1980s, 79 percent of U.S. newborn boys were circumcised, down to 55 percent as of 2010. Some insurance companies (as well as Medicaid in Minnesota and 17 other states) no longer cover the procedure, prompting parents to do their research instead of automatically having it done. The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits of male circumcision are not great enough to routinely recommend it, and that it’s ultimately up to parents to decide. If I were inclined to start a debate, I might point out that no other perfectly healthy body part is subject to routine surgical removal, but I’ve never been the parent of a baby boy.
Without broaching the topic of whether circumcision decreases male sensitivity (whole other column), I will answer your questions: Possibly and no. Some people have a preference for cut or uncut, and that alone can affect enjoyment during sex. If your partner has seen only circumcised penises before, but you sport a turtleneck, there might be a period of adjustment in the sack. Put a flaccid circumcised penis alongside a flaccid uncircumcised penis and they look and feel different because of the extra skin.
Erect, however, is a different story. Save for a barely noticeable circumcision scar on a cut fella or looser skin on an intact one, they pretty much look the same. And your partner’s welcoming orifice, whichever one it may be, will experience the same tactile sensation from the head and shaft, regardless of circumcision status. Pleasure, on the other hand, has a lot more to do with skill and mindset than it does the in and out.