Dear Drs. Lewis and Gail Wyatt:
I am a 28-year-old married man and I am about to have a son. When we were told that we were having a boy, my wife and I discussed whether he should be circumcised or not. It brought up a touchy subject. I’m circumcised, but my wife has often said that she has experienced more sexual pleasure with uncircumcised men that she dated before we met. Is there really a difference? —Thomas P.
We’ll talk about the sexual differences in a moment, but first there are health questions. It is well-documented that circumcision lowers the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics Circumcision Policy Statement notes that “evaluation of current evidence indicates the health benefits of newborn male circumcision outweigh the risks and the procedure benefits justify access to this procedure for families who choose it.”
As an adult, if an uncircumcised man doesn’t clean beneath the foreskin on a regular basis, the penis can also have an unpleasant smell and taste, which can affect a partner’s desire for oral sex.
When a man has good hygiene and pulls back the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis and washes around the tip of the penis daily, he is less likely to affect the health of his sexual partner by transmitting any possible bacteria that might have collected under the skin.
However, not everyone agrees that a circumcised penis is as attractive or provides the same sexual pleasure as one that is uncircumcised. Some partners prefer the extra skin on the shaft of the penis, which makes it wider in order to better stimulate the clitoris during penetration or sexual intercourse. But it's anecdotal.
Several studies were designed by Masters and Johnson and others to determine whether circumcision affects sexual pleasure. Most studies conclude that circumcision has little, if any, effect on sexual functioning overall. Circumcision should not affect how excited a partner might become or whether a person is able to control how quickly or slowly he “comes” or ejaculates, how long the penis can stay hard or remain erect, or how long sexual intercourse lasts.
Most people agree that the size and shape of the penis is not as important as the partner’s skill in finding ways to please a partner. Thomas, it sounds as if your wife may be telling you that your sex life could be improved, so it’s time to try something different. We recommend that you experiment with different positions to increase pleasure during penetration.
Here are a couple of suggestions: Take one or two pillows and place them under her bottom so that her body is tilting toward the floor. Get on your hands and knees and enter her at an angle that may increase the chance that you will touch the upper top of her vagina. You might also try sitting in a hard chair without arms and allowing your wife to sit on your lap facing you, similar to a lap dance. This position provides more direct stimulation of the clitoris during penetration.
It’s the creativity and curiosity with a willing partner that makes sex exciting and satisfying, not necessarily that snip of the skin.
For answers to your questions about sexual health, write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Be sure to include your age, gender, any medications you’re taking and the nature of your sexual problem.
Gail Wyatt, Ph.D., is a licensed clinical psychologist and sex therapist. She is also a professor at UCLA and director of the university’s Sexual Health Program. Lewis Wyatt Jr., M.D., is a board-certified obstetrician-gynecologist in private practice in Beverly Hills, Calif. He specializes in sexual health and bioidentical hormone treatment.