Skin in the game

Dear Lucy: I wonder if circumcised men feel less good than uncircumcised during sex. —Circumcurious

Dear Skin: What a great question—and a timely one, indeed, because Lucy and the rest of MIT now have a reliable source for all of your sex-related questions. 

Introducing… The Sexpert! Who, when Lucy approached with this question, immediate demonstrated some serious “sexpertise” by responding with, “Well, are we talking about the person with the penis or their sexual partner?” 

Huh. Good point.

“First some definitions,” The Sexpert began. “As your readers likely know, circumcision is the act of removing a flap of skin that covers the glans, or the ‘head’ of the penis. If left intact, the foreskin protects the glans until arousal and erection, when it pulls back and allows the head to be exposed. Research has shown that circumcision may reduce the risk of HIV transmission and urinary tract infections but increase the likelihood of urethral issues. It should be noted that pediatric medical associations in the U.S. and Canada do not recommend the universal circumcision of every penis.”

But back to the question of the hour: Does it “feel less good?”

For the person with the circumcised penis, research has demonstrated little to no significant difference in sensitivity, pleasure, or sexual function, The Sexpert tells Lucy. In fact, some men who were circumcised in adulthood found sex to be more pleasurable after the procedure.

For the sexual partner of the person with the penis? Well, it depends on the situation. “For penis-into-vagina sex, an uncircumcised penis will maintain lubrication and moisture in ways that a circumcised penis cannot,” The Sexpert explains. “This helps to minimize membrane irritation. That said, if the penis in question is wearing a condom, you’d probably have no way to know if it was circumcised or uncircumcised.”

Of course, The Sexpert notes, the presence or absence of a foreskin might also affect how penis owners feel about their own bodies. “In the United States, where more penises are circumcised than not, a foreskin is sometimes described as unpleasant or off-putting. On the other hand, some people who were circumcised as infants, before they were able to make decisions for themselves, may feel as if something was taken from them, both metaphorically and literally.” 

That said, The Sexpert reminds readers that everybody—and every body—is unique. “The foreskin is just one small part of a person’s body,” The Sexpert adds, “Open and honest communication with your partner(s) is often the most important part of making sure sex is safe and pleasurable.”

Lucy thanks The Sexpert for helping to answer this question and invites her readers to see more from The Sexpert on the MIT Medical website, on Facebook, and on Twitter. Got questions for The Sexpert? Send them to! —Lucy

Back to Ask Lucy Information contained in Ask Lucy is intended solely for general educational purposes and is not intended as professional medical advice related to individual situations. Always obtain the advice of a qualified healthcare professional if you need medical diagnosis, advice, or treatment. Never disregard medical advice you have received, nor delay getting such advice, because of something you read in this column.