The real difference in sensitivity between circumcised and uncut penises

This week, a new and poor­ly inter­pret­ed study by Bossio et al. about the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of cir­cum­cised vs. intact penis­es has been cir­cu­lat­ing and, once again, peo­ple are falling for the click­bait debate about fore­skin with­out actu­al­ly read­ing the study.

The real difference in sensitivity between circumcised and uncut penises 1

What headlines say:

"Study Suggests Getting Circumcised Doesn’t Make Your Wiener Less Sensitive After All"

What the study actually says about circumcision and sensitivity:

62 men (18–37 years old, aver­age 24) had their penis­es assessed for touch, pres­sure pain, and heat pain thresh­olds. Sensitivity was mea­sured at 3 or 4 penile sites. The 4th site was the fore­skin if present. The study itself says, "The fore­skin of intact men was more sen­si­tive to tac­tile stim­u­la­tion than the oth­er penile sites, but not oth­er stim­uli."  As well, there was sig­nif­i­cant­ly greater warmth sen­si­tiv­i­ty at the fore­skin than at the glans.

So what's the problem?

This study claims to refute the pre­vi­ous stud­ies that sug­gest­ed that uncut dicks are more sen­si­tive than cut ones. However, this study and those stud­ies are focus­ing on dif­fer­ent types of sensitivity.

1 Foreskin's specialty is fine touch / tactile sensation

The head­line focused most­ly on pain tol­er­ance with pres­sure and heat, but when peo­ple talk about the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of fore­skin, they're usu­al­ly talk­ing about fine touch.

There are a fuck­ton of nerve end­ings and many types of touch recep­tors in the fore­skin, but the most notable is the con­cen­tra­tion of Meissner's cor­pus­cles, which spe­cial­ize in fine touch, such as the pre­ci­sion your palms and fin­ger­tips can feel.

Of course, the fore­skin has heat and pres­sure recep­tors too, but those things alone aren't what make the fore­skin spe­cial. Fine touch is. And the study agrees that fore­skin is more sen­si­tive to tac­tile stim­u­la­tion and fine touch.

The real difference in sensitivity between circumcised and uncut penises 2

2 The study didn't accurately test the most sensitive part of the foreskin

Yeah, the researchers ran the tests on the fore­skin, but not nec­es­sar­i­ly the part that would have mat­tered most. The eroge­nous nerve end­ing bun­dles (fine touch recep­tors and pres­sure recep­tors alike) are the most high­ly con­cen­trat­ed in:

  • the ridged band
  • the mucos­al tis­sue on the inside of the foreskin
  • the frenu­lum that attach­es the fore­skin to the under­side of the penis

The rest of the fore­skin most­ly serves a pro­tec­tive func­tion. It wasn't not­ed whether they skipped over the most nerve bundle-rich areas when test­ing the sen­si­tiv­i­ty of the foreskin.

3 The glans of a circumcised penis keratinizes/thickens and dries up over time.

The aver­age age of the men in the study was 24. Of course, there's not going to be much of a dif­fer­ence in the 18 or 24-year-olds here, but there might be a dif­fer­ence if we com­pared more men in their 30s and 40s and beyond.

4 The data saying that foreskin isn't as sensitive to pain doesn't translate neatly to real life.

I under­stand that the point of sci­ence is to get objec­tive data and focus on what can be mea­sured. However, response to pain when being prod­ded doesn't nec­es­sar­i­ly cor­re­spond to how sen­si­tiv­i­ty affects sex­u­al pleasure.

Men who have cir­cum­ci­sions as adults have a before-and-after com­par­i­son of how sen­si­tiv­i­ty affects sex itself. While their sto­ries serve as only anec­do­tal evi­dence, they're just as rel­e­vant to the top­ic of plea­sure, if not more than the spe­cif­ic method­ol­o­gy test­ed in this paper.

The real difference in sensitivity between circumcised and uncut penises 3

Tl;dr I don't think this study proved anything new.

The head­lines took the find­ings out of con­text, and the inter­pre­ta­tion of the study was flawed. It actu­al­ly in part agreed with the pre­vi­ous con­clu­sion by Sorrells et al. I wasn't the only per­son to point this out.

After all the news buzz, oth­er researchers wrote let­ters to the edi­tor of the jour­nal, refut­ing the find­ings. These researchers include Danish epi­demi­ol­o­gist and sex­ol­o­gist Morten Frisch, as well as R. Van Howe and M. Milos, et al. from the Department of Pediatrics at Central Michigan University College of Medicine.

I would say that you don't have to take just my word for it, but the study and the let­ters to the edi­tor aren't eas­i­ly acces­si­ble if you don't have a uni­ver­si­ty or insti­tu­tion login. However, as always, I encour­age you to base your con­clu­sions on more than sole­ly clickbait.

4 Responses

  1. Eddie says:

    As an 70+ year old UNcut male, I can attest to the com­ments made by my male friends in my ear­ly years of sex­u­al encoun­ters that start­ed when I was in my youth. All of my males that were NOT born in a hos­pi­tal, were NOT cir­cum­cised. These guys (and I) were all born in the late 30's and ear­ly 40's, and believe me I had a vari­ety of male friends because of our nomadic liv­ing (my Dad's job). Without excep­tion, my male friends that WERE cir­cum­cised, stat­ed that their glands were not extreme­ly sen­si­tive to touch and fondling as com­pared to MY glands AND fore­skin that were EXTREMELY sen­si­tive to touch, fondling, and suck­ing (guys do this you know). When I reached puber­ty, I could ejac­u­late with me or one of my friends fondling my glands with my 4‑skin retract­ed back behind my glands. No mas­tur­ba­tion (jack­ing) was required.
    So, my con­clu­sion is that cir­cum­ci­sion does in fact "desen­si­tize" the male penis. One more point: I had a bud­dy that lived direct­ly across the street from me and we went thru puber­ty at the same time. We had many, many sex­u­al encoun­ters with each oth­er and when we turned 20, he told me that he was get­ting cir­cum­cised for some rea­son that I do not recall. About 3 months after his oper­a­tion, we had an oppor­tu­ni­ty to mas­tur­bate togeth­er. After we had ejac­u­lat­ed, he told me that he sure would like to have his fore­skin back and that his glands had become less sensitive.

  2. Clara says:

    I’m a US girl (sad­ly) so I’ve pret­ty much only seen cut dicks, so thanks for writ­ing about a top­ic I pret­ty much know noth­ing about!

  3. Anna says:

    I've only seen uncut dicks so it's pret­ty inter­est­ing to read about their differences.

  4. B R says:

    From a cut male's per­spec­tive, maybe a lit­tle desen­si­tiz­ing isn't such a bad thing. I think if I were more sen­si­tive, I'd not be able to last as long. And that'd be bad for me and for her. I think it might be a good trade off, slight­ly less plea­sure for a longer time vs more plea­sure for not quite long enough. But, I have no way to com­pare. And your mileage may vary.

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