Study: Circumcision Doesn't Reduce Sexual Sensation

The International Coalition for Genital Integrity released a statement saying, "Poor research investigating the sensitivity of the intact [not circumcised] and circumcised penis does not serve men."

ICGI director Dan Bollinger, who in the past has called circumcision "parental-elected penile reduction surgery," pointed out that the researchers did not measure the sensitivity of the foreskin, which previous research had said was the most sensitive area.

"All of us in the movement are rather surprised that this even got published," he said.

He points to a recent study published in the British Journal of Urology, which showed uncircumcised men had four times more sensitivity, as a better measure.

Dr. Robert Van Howe, a pediatrician at Marquette General Hospital in Michigan and one of the author's of the urology journal's study, said that the findings in his study had more relevance because of the larger number of patients involved and the greater number of areas on the penis measured.

He urges parents not to circumcise their children, but to allow the children to make that decision when they reach age 18. At that point, he said, only three out of every 1,000 males elect to be circumcised.

But both Payne and Reinisch criticized the Van Howe's study, which was funded by the anti-circumcision group the National Organization of Circumcision Information Research Centers, as biased.

"Scientific study must be conducted dispassionately and without bias. The motivation of this group is highly suspect," said Payne.

Van Howe rejected the notion of bias in his study.

"The study was based on an objective finding," he said. "There's no way you can change what a person felt or didn't feel."

But Reinisch said researchers could very easily have affected data because it was apparent to researchers which men were circumcised and which were not. She also pointed to the fact that men in the Van Howe's study were not aroused at the time of measurement as a possible source for the difference.

As for the failure to measure the foreskin's sensitivity, Reinisch said that was irrelevant, as it rolls back from the glans during arousal.

"The foreskin's job is to cover the penis and protect it," she said. "Its job is not to be a part of the sensitivity."

"Of course nerve endings are lost," she said of circumcision. "The question is: Does it make any difference in satisfaction? In pleasure?"

Missing the Point?

In the end, Reinisch said, circumcision will not affect a man's ability to be aroused or experience sexual pleasure.

"Nature has certainly provided an enormous amount of sexually sensitive tissue," she said, calling the brain the most powerful sex organ of all.

"I'm not suggesting everyone be circumcised," said Reinisch. "I'm suggesting that there are some benefits. … I believe it's really a personal choice."

Payne, meanwhile, said that she personally is opposed to circumcision, calling it "a barbaric practice."

"I sympathize with the efforts of [the National Organization of Circumcision Information Research Centers]," she said. "I would have loved to find evidence in my study to dispel the practice, but I did not and must report the findings accordingly."

"I hope that we will one day be able to establish … some sexual drawbacks to this procedure, but these studies do not."

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