Circumcision, the foreskin and sexuality

The verdict of the centuries

Philo Judaeus, 1st Century

To these [reasons for circumcision] I would add that I consider circumcision to be a symbol of two things necessary to our well being. One is the excision of pleasures which bewitch the mind. For since among the love-lures of pleasure the palm is held by the mating of man and woman, the legislators thought good to dock the organ which ministers to such intercourse, thus making circumcision the figure of the excision of excessive and superfluous pleasure, not only of one pleasure, but of all the other pleasures signified by one, and that the most imperious. The other reason is that a man should know himself and banish from the soul the grievous malady of conceit.

Philo of Alexandria, Of the special laws, Book I (ii), in Works of Philo, trans. F. H. Colson, Loeb Classical Library, 1937, Vol. VII, p. 105

Philo of Alexandria (or Judaeus) was a leading Jewish philosopher living in Alexandria early in the 1st Century. His defence of circumcision was directed against other Jews who argued that the practice was barbaric and ought to be abandoned.

A Greek physician, 2nd Century

If the infant is male and it looks as though it has no foreskin, she [the nurse of midwife] should gently draw the tip of the foreskin forward or even hold it together with a strand of wool to fasten it. For if gradually stretched and continuously drawn forward it easily stretches and assumes its normal length, covers the glans and becomes accustomed to keep the natural good shape.

Soranus's Gynecology, trans. and ed. Owsei Temkin, Johns Hopkins University Press, 1956, p. 107

Soranus was the author of a famous manual of gynecology that remained in use for many centuries. His advice is consistent with the view of Greek and Roman physicians that a short or inadequate foreskin (one which did not provide ample coverage of the glans) was a physiological defect known as lipodermos. Their concern was to offer advice on how short foreskins could be lengthened.

For further details, see Frederick Hodges, Phimosis in antiquity.

A famous saint, 4th Century

Even leaving aside the necessary function of the parts, there is a harmonious congruence between them all, a beauty in their mutual arrangement and correspondence, such that one does not know whether the major factor in their creation was usefulness or beauty. Certainly we see that no part of the body has been created for the sake of usefulness which does not also have something to contribute to its beauty. And this would appear to us all the more clearly if we knew how all its parts are connected to one another and mutually related. Perhaps human ingenuity could discover these relations, if it were given the task of doing so, by observing what appears on the body's surface only.

Augustine of Hippo, City of God, Book xxii, chap. 24

St Augustine (354-430) was one of the most influential of the Church Fathers and perhaps the single most important source for Christian doctrine. He does not refer specifically to the foreskin in this passage, but his comments are as applicable to the genitals as to any other parts of the body. Elsewhere he is vehement that Christians should not practise circumcision.

Moses ben Maimon (Maimonides), 12th Century

With regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible. It has been thought that circumcision perfects what is defective congenitally. This gave the possibility for everyone to raise an objection and to say: How can natural things be defective so that they need to be perfected from outside, all the more because we know how useful the foreskin is for the member? In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally.

The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened.

The sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: "It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him." In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision. Who first began to perform this act, if not Abraham, who was celebrated for his chastity.

Moses ben Maimon, Guide of the perplexed, Part III, Chapter 49

Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204) was an important Jewish physician, philosopher and theologian who sought to explain the obscurities in Jewish law by reference to material utility and to reconcile them with Aristotelian logic.

Isaac ben Yediah, 13th Century

[A beautiful woman] will court a man who is uncircumcised in the flesh and lie against his breast with great passion, for he thrusts inside her for a long time because of the foreskin, which is a barrier against ejaculation in intercourse. Thus she feels pleasure and reaches orgasm first. When an uncircumcised man sleeps with her and then resolves to return to his home, she brazenly grasps him, holding on to his genitals, and says to him, "Come back, make love to me." This is because of the pleasure that she finds in intercourse with him, from the sinews of his testicles – sinew of iron – and from his ejaculation – that of a horse – which he shoots like an arrow into her womb. They are united without separating and he makes love twice and three times in one night. The sexual activity emaciates him of his bodily fat and afflicts his flesh, and he devotes his time entirely to women, an evil thing …

But when a circumcised man desires the beauty of a woman, and cleaves to his wife, or to another woman comely in appearance, he will find himself performing his task quickly, emitting his seed as soon as he inserts the crown …. He has an orgasm first; he does not hold back his strength. As soon as he begins intercourse with her, he immediately comes to a climax. She has no pleasure from him when she lies down or when she arises, and it would be better for her if he had not known her … for he arouses her passion to no avail and she remains in a state of desire for her husband, ashamed and confounded, while the seed is still in her reservoir. She does not have an orgasm once a year, except on rare occasions, because of the great heat and the fire burning within her. Thus he who says, "I am the Lord's" will not empty his brain because of his wife or the wife of his friend. He will find grace and favour; his heart will be strong to seek out God.

Quoted in David Biale, Eros and the Jews: From biblical Israel to contemporary America, New York, Basic Books, 1992, p. 94

Isaac ben Yediah was a Jewish philosopher living in France and a disciple of Maimonides. The passage is particularly interesting for its focus on women's sexual pleasure, which Yediah believes to be rare with a circumcised partner, and his assumption that circumcised men have little interest in prolonged sex-play and ejaculate faster. David Biale comments: "Isaac's understanding of the physiology of circumcision differs significantly from Maimonides'. The result is the same, however. Instead of serving as a highly erogenous zone that must be removed, the foreskin is rather a barrier that retards quick ejaculation …. [A circumcised male] expends his sexual desire faster and thus is able to return to his philosophy without exhausting his body" (p. 95).

Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, late 15th Century

Its [penis] highest part is called the glans [acorn] and the head of the penis. There it is compact, hard and dull to sensation so that it may not be injured in coitus. A certain soft skin surrounds this glans, it is called the prepuce, obedient to reversion [pulling back] at any rubbing. This prepuce in the lower part in the middle only along its length is attached the larger part of the glans by a certain pellicular member vulgarly called "the little thread" [il filello]. … The functions of the prepuce and of the little skin … are to furnish some delight in coitus and to guard the glans from external harm. The Hebrews do away with the prepuce in circumcisions, thus operating against the intent of nature.

Jacopo Berengario da Carpi, A short introduction to anatomy, translated by L.R. Lind, University of Chicago Press, 1959, pp. 72-3

Jacopo Berengario da Carpi (c. 1460-1530) was the first scholar to publish an illustrated anatomical text. His appreciation that the most sensitive part of the penis was the foreskin and that the glans was relatively insensitive (even hard and dull) was typical of the medical understanding of male sexual physiology prevailing during the Renaissance and much of the seventeenth century. As anxiety about masturbation increased in the eighteenth century, this knowledge was lost, replaced by the erroneous view that the most sensitive part of the penis was the glans and that the main function of the foreskin was thus merely to guard it. Once it became accepted that the foreskin had no significant functions in its own right, it became much harder to mount an effective defence when the circumcisers came along in the nineteenth century.

Gabriele Falloppio, 16th Century

The great Italian anatomist Gabriele Falloppio (1523-62) observed that in the classical era it was considered shameful and unhealthy for the glans of the penis to be exposed and that Greek and Roman physicians then prescribed treatments for lengthening inadequate foreskins. He added that there were medical as well as aesthetic reasons for having a generous foreskin:

What is done for appearance contributes also to generation and to greater pleasure therein; for the part is not itself lubricate if it has no foreskin, and yet in the venereal act it requires notable lubricity. For this very reason circumcision has been prescribed by God, lest the people indulge overmuch in the pleasure of love, and religion, divided by these pleasures, be neglected.

Quoted in Alex Comfort, The anxiety makers: Some curious preoccupations of the medical profession, London, Nelson, 1967, p. 17; and in Felix Bryk, Circumcision in man and woman: Its history, psychology and ethnology, New York, Ethnological Press, 1934, p. 106

The modern historian Thomas Laqueur comments: "God ordained circumcision among the Jews, this text says, so that they might concentrate on his service rather than on the pleasures of the flesh. The notion that circumcision reduces pleasure, and thus the chance of conception, is fairly widespread." (Thomas Laqueur, Making sex: Body and gender from the Greeks to Freud, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard University Press, p. 271, n. 75)

Comfort's book is not referred to much these days, but it should be: it is an acute and revealing catalogue of medical manias and dead-ends, and the harm done by doctors and other crusaders with moral bees in their bonnets. There is a particularly good chapter of the self-abuse phobia and its contribution to the rise of routine circumcision in the nineteenth century.

William Harvey, 17th Century

The circumcised are affected with less pleasure in coitus because the membrane is thickened and sensation blunted.

Quoted in David Gollaher, Circumcision: A history of the world's most controversial surgery, New York, Basic Books, 2000, p. 113

William Harvey (1578-1657) was the English scientist and physician who discovered the circulation of the blood.

Jean de Riolan, 17th Century

The Skin [of the penis] is by itself, has no scarf-skin, and is terminated at the Root of the Nut, being Loose; it is there doubled in manner of an Head-stall, that it may infold the Nut or Head of the Yard and make the Fore-skin, which the Jews and Mahommedans do cut off, out of a Religious Ceremony. Such Circumcised Persons cannot give that delight to Women in their carnal Embraces, as those can who have the Fore-skin entire. And therefore their Women are better pleased with the carnal society of Christians.

Jean de Riolan (1580-1657), A sure guide, or the best and nearest way to physick and chirurgery (Translation of Encheiridium anatomicum et pathologicum) (London, Printed by John Streater, 1671), p. 73

A 17th century divine and metaphysical poet

That one principal reason of the commandment of circumcision was that the mark might be always a remembrance to them against intemperance and incontinency …. That part of the body is the most rebellious part; and that therefore only that part Adam covered, out of shame, for all the other parts he could rule … ; to reproach man's rebellion to God, God hath left one part of man's body to rebel against him … not only because all sin is derived upon us by generation, but because almost all other sins have relation to this …. In this rebellious part is the root of all sin, and therefore did that part need this stigmatical mark of circumcision to be imprinted upon it. … Besides (for the Jews in particular) they were a nation prone to idolatry, and most, upon this occasion, if they mingled themselves with women of other nations: and therefore … to defend them thereby against dangerous dalliances which might turn their hearts from God, God imprinted a mark in that part, to keep them still in mind of that law, which forbade them foreign marriages or any company of strange women … lest they should degenerate from the nobility of their race, God would have them carry this memorial about them in their flesh.

John Donne, Sermon preached on St Dunstan's Day (Feast of the Circumcision of Christ), 1 January 1624, in The sermons of John Donne, edited by Evelyn M. Simpson and George R. Potter, Berkeley, University of California Press, 10 volumes, 1953-62, Vol. 6, pp. 191-2 (spelling and punctuation modernised)

John Donne (1572-1631), the metaphysical poet and preacher, needs no further introduction. As an Anglican divine who regarded it as a degrading mutilation, he was not advocating circumcision in this sermon, but explaining why God had ordained it for the Jews: they needed the physical stigma as a reminder of their moral duty to turn from the flesh and concern themselves with their religious obligations. In his view, Christians did not need this mark because they had been saved from original sin by Christ's sacrifice and, following St Paul, practised a "circumcision of the heart". This meant that they observed devout behaviour by virtue of their inner moral strength and did not require physical aids to continence.

For further discussion, see James Shapiro, Shakespeare and the Jews, New York, Columbia University Press, 1996

A 17th Century sex manual

Giovanni Sinibaldi (or Johannes Sinibaldus) compiled an eccentric collection of folklore and observations on sexual matters, called Geneanthropeiae, published in Rome in 1642. Despite its many absurdities (some of which were jokes), he had a more accurate knowledge of human sexual anatomy and physiology than many doctors over the next 300 years. He understood that the main source of sexual pleasure in women was the clitoris and that its functional equivalent in men was not the glans of the penis, but the foreskin, which he held to be the seat of male sexual pleasure. He also considered that the foreskin contributed to women's pleasure during sexual intercourse, claiming that "the Jewish women, Turkesses and Mauritaniae, their husbands being shorn, make much of it, and most gladly accept the embraces of Christians".

Quoted in Alex Comfort, The anxiety makers, p. 26

John Bulwer, 17th Century

Moreover, that part which hangeth over the end of the foreskin, is moved up and down in coition, that in this attrition it might gather more heat, and increase the pleasure of the other sexe; a contentation of which they are defrauded by this injurious invention. For, the shortnesse of the prepuce is reckoned among the organical defects of the yard, whether it be original or [… ?] by an artificial procision of it. And although neither of these kinds of brevity doth incommode the action of the yard, which is extension and ejaculation of the seed; yet circumcision detracts somewhat from the delight of women, by lessening their titillation. Hence she in the epigram found herself aggrieved at this invention, thinking it had been more reasonable to have added than to have detracted from that organ. Hence also it is thought, these commonly passeth opinions of invitement, that the Jewish women desire copulation with Christians, rather than their own nation, and affect Christian carnality before circumcised venery, as the ingenious examiner of popular errors well notes [i.e., Thomas Browne, in Pseudoxia epidemica].

John Bulwer, Anthrometamorphosis: Man transform'd; or the artificial changeling (London 1650), pp. 213-14

God hath wonderfully, and most artificially framed the body of man. The excellency wherof is such, that the anthropomorphites held that God had such a body, and that ours was but the copie of his, because they knew God to be most excellent, they attributed to him such a body. …

Yet the blind impiety of some hath led them to such a height of presumption, as to find fault with many parts of this curious fabricke, and to question the wisdome of God in the contrivance thereof, upon such blasphemous fancies men have taken upon them an audacious art to forme and new shape themselves, altering the humane figure, and moulding it according to their own will and arbitrement, varying it after a wonderful manner, almost every nation having a particular whimsy as touching corporall fashions of their own invention. In which kind of mutations, they do schematize or change the organicall parts of their bodies into diverse depraved figures. …

… but whatever is done against the decree of nature, is noxious and inconvenient for the body: yet they who practise this art, conceive that they become thereby more healthfull, strong and gallant. But the midwife ought to reduce to the natural state, and not to draw and force the bodies of infants into fantastick shapes. …

(Bulwer, Second edition, pp. 345-6)

Circumcision "against the honesty of nature"

For any Naturall end therefore, except in case of an Epidemicall disease, or Gangrene, to Circumcise, that is, to cut off the top of the uppermost skin of the secret parts, is directly against the honesty of nature, and an injurious unsufferable trick put upon her. As for Circumcision commanded by God, it was for a moral reason, and had an expresse command; otherwise, as a Grave Divine (Dr Whateley) expresseth it, in the case of Abraham, as a natural man, it would have seemed the most foolish thing in the world, matter of great reproach, which would make him, as it made his Posterity after him, to seeme ridiculous to all the world, it carried an apparance of much indecency and shamefulnesse, to cause all his servants to discover themselves unto him.

Much more might have been alleadged against this Ordinance; what good could it do? What was any man the better, because he had wounded himself, and put his body to torture? And indeed, as Lactantius, Eucherius, Irenaeus, and all the Greek and Latin Fathers say, unless this mutilation of the flesh in the Jews did signifie the Circumcision of the heart, or had some figurative meaning in it, as the taking away of Orginall sin, it would have been a most unreasonable thing. For if God would have had only the Fores-skin cut off, he had from the beginning made man without a Prepuce.

No little danger of life (also) they incurred in this case; for, the Judaical Circumcision was performed with a sharpe cutting stone, and not with any knife of iron steeled, a thing which was most dolorous, and whereby the young tender Infants sometimes got a Feaver, whereof they after dyed. … Thevet, and many others, who have voyaged into the Countries where this Circumcision is used, do say, that they have seen store [sic: scores?] of young people dye, grown to indifferent stature, and young Children of eight daies old, only by being Circumcised, which may manifestly be proved by Sacred Histories. The Sons of Jacob, after they had fraudulently Circumcised all the Males of the City of Sichem, situate in the Land of Canaan, they tooke them the third day after their Circumcision and made them passe the edge of the Sword, for they well knew, that they were so sore and tormented with paine, as they could not stand upon their own defence.

Bulwer, 3rd edition, 1653, pp. 378-80

The reference to the men of Sichem is to the massacre of the Hivites or Shechemites by the Hebrews, described in Genesis 34, 1-25.


A seventeenth century midwife

The skin of the Yard is long and loose that it may swell or slack as the Yard doth, and the foreskin of that skin sometimes covers the head of the Yard, and sometimes goes so far back that it will not come forward again. This skin in time of the Venerious action keeps the mouth of the womb close that no old air can get in, yet some think the action might be better performed without it; the Jews were commanded to be Circumcised, but now Circumcision avails not and is forbidden by the Apostle. I hope no man will be so void of reason and Religion, as to be Circumcised to make trial which of these two opinions is the best; but the world was never without some mad men, who will do anything to be singular: were the foreskin any hindrance to procreation or pleasure, nature had never made it, who made all things for these very ends and purposes.

Jane Sharp, The midwives book. Or the whole art of midwifery discovered, London 1671 (facsimile reprint, New York, Garland, 1985), pp. 31-2

Aristotle's Master-piece, late 17th Century

The Yard hath a Skin, and about the head thereof it is double, and that men call Praeputium, and this skin is moveable, for through his consecration the Spermatick matter is the better and sooner gathered together, and sooner cast forth from the Testicles: for by him is had the most delectation in the doing. And the foremost part of the head of the Yard before, is made of brawny flesh, the which if it be once lost, it can never be restored again, but it may be well skinned.

from Aristotle's Master-Piece, London 1690, Ch. XXXV, p. 184

Yard is an old word for penis. Aristotle's Master-Piece was the most widely read text on sex and reproduction in eighteenth century England. For further information, see Roy Porter and Lesley Hall, The facts of life: Sexual knowledge in Britain 1650–1950, New Haven, Yale University Press, 1995.

In a later edition the description is more precise:

The glans, which is at the end of the penis, [is] covered with a very thin membrane, by reason of which it is of a most exquisite feeling. It is covered with a preputium or foreskin, which in some covers the top of the yard quite close, in others not so, and by its moving up and down in the act of copulation brings pleasure both to the man and woman.

Aristotle's complete masterpiece, in three parts, displaying the secrets of nature in the generation of man, London, 1749, facsimile reprint, New York, Garland, 1986, p. 13

A Restoration physician

This Nut is surrounded with a Ring or Hoop, as with a Crown, and is cover'd with the preputium or Fore-skin, which is of a loose texture, for the better covering of the Nut, and furling itself up behind the Ring or Hoop, to uncover it; therefore serves as a Cap to the Nut, and to enlarge the pleasure that attends Enjoyment, for in the act of Coition it flips backwards and forwards, being tied together with a membranous String call'd the Fraenum or Bridle, and causes the greater pleasure thereby, both to the Man and the Woman; also in the act of Copulation it shuts up the Mouth of the Woman's Womb, and hinders the ingress of the cold Air, whereby Conception is the sooner forwarded and secured. The cutting of this Preputium or Fore-skin, is done by the Jews, and call'd Circumcision; by having of which taken away, ‘tis said those People lose much of the pleasure in the act of Copulation, especially their women, who choose rather, for that reason, to lie with Christians than those of their own Nation.

Gonosologium novum: Or a new system of all the secret infirmities and diseases natural, accidental and venereal in men and women, London 1709, Facsimile reprint, New York, Garland Publishing, 1985, p 12

An English medical dictionary, 1740s

Its [penis] skin … has a reduplication which makes a hood to the glans, or end of the penis, called praeputium, or the foreskin. The small ligament by which it is tied to the underside of the glans is called fraenum. The use of the praeputium is to keep the glans soft and moist, that it may have an exquisite sense.

Robert James, A medicinal dictionary: including physic, surgery, anatomy, chymistry, and botany, in all their branches relative to medicine, 3 vols, London, 1743-45, Vol. II, entry for "Generatio"

A great English surgeon, late eighteenth century

The prepuce is no more than a doubling of the skin of the penis when not erected, for then it becomes too large for the penis, by which provision the glans is covered and preserved when not necessary to be used, whereby its feelings are probably more acute. When the penis becomes erect it in general fills the whole skin, by which the doubling forming the prepuce in the non-erect state is unfolded, and is employed in covering the body of the penis.

John Hunter, A treatise on the venereal disease, London 1786, p. 221

Hunter was an acute and down to earth observer, and one of the very few medical writers to notice that the slack or redundancy provided by the foreskin was necessary for comfortable erections, when the penis could increase in size by several hundred per cent. Even today, many circumcising doctors cut off so much skin that, when the penis reaches its full size after puberty, erections are uncomfortable, painful (from splitting of the remaining shaft skin and bleeding) or, in severe cases, impossible. (In a recent Australian legal case, a man was awarded substantial damages when the hospital where he was circumcised admitted liability for the injury and loss of sexual function arising from such a thorough job.) Hunter was possibly the only eighteenth century physicians not to accept the new medical wisdom that masturbation was a major cause of disease. In response to the claim that it induced impotence, he famously commented that he doubted if a conditions so rare could arise from a practice so general.

Nahman of Bratslav, 18th Century

Copulation is difficult for the true zaddik. Not only does he have no desire for it at all, but he experiences real suffering in he act, suffering which is like that which the infant undergoes when he is circumcised. The very same suffering, to an even greater degree, is felt by the zaddik during intercourse.

Quoted in David Biale, Eros and the Jews, p. 135.

Nahman (1772-1810) was a follower of the highly ascetic branch of Judaism known as Hasidism, established in the eighteenth century as a reaction against liberalising tendencies influenced by the European Enlightenment. Biale comments: "Once again, circumcision stands for the excision of sexual pleasure, but even more it represents genital pain, perhaps, if one may speculate, castration fear."

William Acton, 1865

Many foreign writers maintain … that the chief source of sexual pleasure resides in the glans penis. That this organ has a considerable share in the sensations experienced is very true, but, from certain cases that have come under my notice, I cannot help thinking that it has less to do with them than is generally supposed. Some time ago I attended an officer on his return from India, who had lost the whole of his glans penis. The patient, completely recovered his health, the parts healed, and a considerable portion of the body of the penis was left. I found, to my surprise, that the sexual act was not only possible, but that the same amount of pleasure as formerly was still experienced. He assured me, indeed, that the sexual act differed in no respect (as far as he could detect) from what it had been before the mutilation.

William Acton, The functions and disorders of the reproductive organs in childhood, youth, adult age and advanced life, 3rd London edition, Philadelphia, Lindsay and Blakiston, 1865, pp. 114-15

Circumcision is never likely to be introduced amongst us, and there is no doubt that cleanliness will suffice in most cases to remove all the ill effects arising from the existence of the prepuce; but that the prepuce in man (at least in civilized life) is the cause of much mischief, medical men are pretty well agreed. It affords an additional surface for the excitement of the reflex action, and ... aggravates an instinct rather than supplies a want. In the unmarried, it additionally excites the sexual desires, which it is our object to repress; and although it is possible that it may increase the pleasure derived from the act of sexual congress, there is no evidence that Jews, and those who have undergone circumcision, do not enjoy as much pleasure in the copulative act as the uncircumcised; - at any rate, the former do not complain.

In a state of nature the foreskin is a complete protection the glans penis; nevertheless, to the sensitive, excitable, civilized individual, the prepuce often becomes a source of serious mischief. In the East, the ... secretions between it and the glans [are] likely to cause irritation and its consequences; and this danger was perhaps the origin of circumcision. That the existence of the foreskin predisposes to many forms of syphilis, no one can doubt; and ... I am fully convinced that the excessive sensibility induced by a narrow foreskin ... is often the cause of emissions, masturbation, or undue excitement of the sexual desires.

Functions and disorders, p. 22

In advanced age the prepuce may be necessary to copulation. Without it there might be difficulty in exciting the flagging powers.

Functions and disorders, p. 23

William Acton was the leading authority on male sexuality in mid-Victorian Britain.

A cure for masturbation, 1867

A Jewish surgeon informs us that the practice in question [masturbation] is virtually unknown in Jewish schools. It is well known that the removal of the foreskin diminishes the temptation and the facility. The skin of the glans becomes harder and less sensitive. The learned Dr Copland and many other writers express regret that circumcision was ever discontinued. … we have known masturbation effected habitually by a sickly child of three; but … eczema and ascarides were the exciting causes. Nevertheless, the removal of the prepuce effected a complete cure.

Medical Times and Gazette (London), 1867 (1), 19 January, p. 79

Considering that circumcision had never been practised in Britain before the 1850s, the reference to its being "discontinued" is puzzling. The most likely explanation is that the author is referring by the decision of the early Christians (originally a Jewish sect) to reject and ban circumcision. Ascarides are a type of worm which can inhabit the rectum.

An English scholar, 1870s

The pleasure of the sexual union is greatly increased by the prepuce, for which reason women prefer cohabiting with those who retain it than with the Turks or the Jews.

John Davenport, Curiositates eroticae physiologiae, or tabooed subjects freely treated, London, 1875, reprinted as Aphrodisiacs and other love stimulants, edited by Alan Hull Watson, London, 1965, p. 179.

He is quoting an authority referred to as Bauer. The original source could be Sinibaldi or Falloppio (see above).

Masturbation again, 1874

I have now under notice four children in one family, varying from seven to twelve years, and each child continues to practise it [masturbation] at every convenient opportunity. … The treatment I have adopted has been blistering the penis, or the application of a hot iron, so as to render the organ excessively sensitive to the touch; also, I have tried the influence of introducing a sound. Bromide of potassium, I have sometimes thought, has limited the tendency. But I will now speak of the heroic treatment – I mean circumcision: and if you can gain the consent of the friends, the sooner it is performed the better. Removal of the prepuce will cause the glans to become hardened in texture and so limit its sensibility, besides the mortal effect of the operation, which is not readily forgotten. In a large Jewish institution with which I am connected, masturbation is unknown.

Letter, British Medical Journal, 1874 (2), 12 December, p. 759

It is typical that the physician writing this letter did not think it necessary to secure the consent of the patients on whom he proposed to operate; apparently, even parental consent was not needed to blister the boys' penises with hot metal rods. "Friends" here means relatives.

A Jewish surgeon, 1874

That the deprivation of the prepuce induces premature sexual excitement and onanism is quite opposed to experience and fact. On the contrary, the removal of the prepuce reduces in an extraordinary degree the sensitiveness of the glans penis; and, apart from biblical reasons, which have necessarily no place in your journal, I believe that the intention of the rite was to enhance and advance as far as possible the chastity of the race by blunting mechanically the sensibility of the organ of sexual appetite.

Letter, Lancet, 12 December 1874, p. 856

The surgeon was responding to a notice in the previous issue of the Lancet about a pamphlet against circumcision by a Jewish physician in Vienna, Dr Levit.

Sir Richard Burton, 1880s

[Female circumcision] is the proper complement of male circumcision, evening the sensitiveness of the genitories by reducing it equally in both sexes: an uncircumcised woman has the venereal orgasm much sooner and oftener than a circumcised man, and frequent coitus would be injurious to her health.

From Burton's notes to his edition to the Book of a thousand nights and a night, in Love, war and fancy: The customs and manners of the East from writings on the Arabian nights, edited by Kenneth Walker, London, 1964, p. 107

A US doctor, 1882

Whether it [circumcision] be curative or not it is conservative, and removes one source of irritation from an exquisitely sensitive organ. I would favour circumcision, however, independent of existing disease, as a sanitary precaution. … (2) It is acknowledged to be useful as a preventive of masturbation. … (5) It probably promotes continence by diminishing the pruriency of the sexual appetite.

Dr J.M. McGee, "Genital irritation as a cause of nervous disorders", Mississippi Valley Medical Monthly, 1882, quoted in David Gollaher, Circumcision: A history of the world's most controversial surgery, p. 85.

Dr McGee also claimed that circumcision alleviated the symptoms of tubercular meningitis and was a complete cure for brass poisoning.

A US professor, 1887

The operation of circumcision, when performed in early life, generally lessens the voluptuous sensations of sexual intercourse, and that even when done in later years the same result sometimes follows. … The information afforded us by some who have been circumcised soon after puberty, and who have subsequently indulged in sexual intercourse, is to the effect that when there had been a possibility of uncovering the glans during intercourse, the operation had very decidedly diminished the voluptuous feelings afterwards experienced.

I believe that nature intended the glans to be habitually nearly covered by the prepuce when the penis is in a non-erect state, and that this is necessary for the preservation of the full degree of sensibility of the glans, and that circumcision, by allowing the glans to be constantly exposed to the atmosphere and to friction from the clothing, has the effect of toughening the membrane covering it and of diminishing its sensibility. It acts just as exposure to all kinds of weather and hard manual labour do on hands that have hitherto been kept gloved …. The skin is rendered thick and rough, and the tactile sensibility of the fingers is greatly lessened.

William A. Hammond, Sexual impotence in the male and female, Detroit, 1887, facsimile reprint, New York, Arno, 1974, pp. 272-3

Hammond was Professor of the Diseases of the Mind and the Nervous System at the New York Post-Graduate Medical School.

A critic of circumcision, 1890

Although plainly not absolutely essential to the due increase in bulk of the penis, or to the subsequent performance of its functions, it is prima facie obvious that the prepuce must be intended to subserve some useful purpose. That, according to Dr Willard (Keating's Cyclopaedia of the diseases of children) "is to protect the head of the organ, during the years when the penis is but a portion of the urinary apparatus; and later, by its friction over the sensitive corona, to enhance the ejaculatory orgasm".

Herbert Snow, The barbarity of circumcision as a remedy for congenital abnormality, London, Churchill, 1890, p. 16

Masturbation yet again, 1891

Dr Vanier … looks upon the prepuce as the most frequent cause of onanism. "If the prepuce is lax, its mobility produces an irritation to the highly irritable and sensitive nervous system of the child by the titillation in its movements on the glans; if too tight … it compresses the glans and by its irritation it leads the child to seize the organ". So that in either case he look upon the prepuce, through the sensitiveness it retains and induces in the glans, as the principal cause of masturbation. … In children who have not yet the suggestions of sexual desire imparted by the presence of the spermatic fluid, the presence of the prepuce seems to anticipate those promptings. Circumcised boys may … either through precept or example, physical or mental imperfection, be found to practice onanism, but in general the practice can be asserted as being very rare among the children of circumcised races, showing the less irritability of the organs in the class; neither in infancy are they as liable to priapism during sleep as those that are uncircumcised.

P.C. Remondino, History of circumcision from the earliest times to the present: Moral and physical reasons for its performance, Philadelphia and London, F.A. Davis, 1891, p. 224

The American doctor Peter Charles Remondino was one of the most ardent crusaders for universal infant circumcision before Edgar Schoen and Brian Morris, and just as scientific. His lengthy book on the subject, significantly stressing moral as well as physical reasons, was also a diatribe against the foreskin as a "moral outlaw" as well as a pathogenic feature of the male body which nature ought to have abolished.

A US doctor, 1891

In consequence of circumcision the epithelial covering of the glans becomes dry, hard, less liable to excoriation and inflammation, and less pervious to venereal viruses. The sensibility of the glans is diminished, but not sufficiently to interfere with the copulative function or to constitute an objection. … It is well authenticated that the foreskin … is a fruitful cause of the habit of masturbation in children.

Jefferson C. Crossland MD, "The hygiene of circumcision", New York Medical Journal, Vol. 53, 1891, pp. 484-5

A pioneering woman doctor, 1890s

A serious warning against the unnatural practice of circumcision must here be given. A book of "Advice to mothers" by a Philadelphia doctor was lately sent to me. This treatise began by informing the mother that her first duty to her infant boy was to cause it to be circumcised! Her fears were worked upon by an elaborate statement but false statement of the evils which would result to the child were this mutilation not performed. I should have considered this mischievous instruction unworthy of serious consideration, did I not observe that it has lately become common among certain short-sighted but reputable physicians to laud this unnatural practice, and endeavour to introduce it into a Christian nation.

Circumcision is based upon the erroneous principle that boys, i.e. one half of the human race, are so badly fashioned by Creative Power that they must be reformed by the surgeon; consequently that every male child must be mutilated by removing the natural covering with which nature has protected one of the most sensitive portions of the human body. The erroneous nature of such a practice is shown by the fact that although this custom (which originated amongst licentious nations in hot climates) has been carried out for many hundreds of generations (by Moslems and Jews), yet nature continues to protect her children by reproducing the valuable protection in man and all the higher animals, regardless of impotent surgical interference.

Appeals to the fears of uninstructed parents on the grounds of cleanliness or of hardening the part are entirely fallacious and unsupported by evidence. It is a physiological fact that the natural lubricating secretion of every healthy part is beneficial, not injurious to the part thus protected, and that no attempt to render a sensitive part insensitive is either practicable or justifiable. The protection which nature affords to these parts is an aid to physical purity by affording necessary protection against constant external contact of a part which necessarily remains keenly sensitive; and bad habits in boys and girls cannot by prevented by surgical operations. Where no malformation exists, bad habits can only be forestalled by healthy moral and physical education.

The plea that this unnatural practice will lessen the risk of infection to the sensualist in promiscuous intercourse is not one that our honourable profession will support. Parents, therefore, should be warned that this ugly mutilation of their children involves serious danger, both to their physical and moral health.

Elizabeth Blackwell, The human element in sex: Being a medical enquiry into the relation of sexual physiology to Christian morality (1884; 2nd edition, London, 1894), pp. 35-6

Elizabeth Blackwell (1821-1910) was born in Britain and emigrated in childhood to the United States, where she became the first woman to take a medical degree. She later practised in both the USA and Britain, where she played a significant role in the campaign to repeal the Contagious Diseases Act during the 1880s. She also denounced masturbation and fornication but believed they should be controlled by moral willpower. See American National Biography (1999), Vol. 2

An enthusiast for circumcision, 1893

It is a question whether it is desirable to instruct boys how to withdraw the foreskin in order to keep the inner surfaces clean. As a matter of fact it is rarely if ever done, and hence the secretion, perspiration, dirt and so forth remain …. But if this want of cleanliness does not produce [balanitis] … the irritation it occasions … is very liable to give rise to ideas … in young boys which … it is to their advantage to be kept in ignorance of. The glans penis is very vascular, and is well supplied with nerves … and the slightest irritation is sufficient to cause a great deal of discomfort. It is not uncommon to see a child dragging at the foreskin as a consequence. As age advances the habit of masturbation is very frequently to be attributed to it. But after circumcision the glans penis is always dry …. It loses much of its acute sensitiveness, and all unnatural irritation being guarded against, the mind is not directed towards the sexual organs, and a decided check is put to one of the vices only too commonly practised in early manhood. … The cleanliness and chastity which circumcision undoubtedly promotes is probably the reason why the operation has been performed for so many centuries, and may also account for its acquiring a religious significance.

M. Clifford, Circumcision: Its advantages and how to perform it, London, Churchill, 1893, pp. 6-8

It was one of many Victorian myths about sexuality that boys got into the habit of masturbation as a result of discomfort ("irritation") caused by "secretions" under the foreskin, rather than for the more obvious reason that playing with their penises, particularly if they were still covered with the sensitive tissue that was removed by circumcision, was highly pleasurable. It is interesting to note that Australia's leading intellectual champion of routine circumcision today subscribes to this myth, simultaneously admitting his concurrence with nineteenth century arguments for circumcision, yet denying that the desire to discourage masturbation was one of them.

Brian Morris writes:

"The concept … that circumcision was used in this era to prevent masturbation is in fact a falsehood that has been promoted by anti-circumcision groups. The real reason was that it prevented smegma, itching and so on, and thus stopped males scratching their genitalia. The fact that such excessive attention to a penis to relieve the irritation might have led to arousal and thus masturbation was purely coincidental. The Victorians cited many of the same medical conditions associated with uncircumcised penises as do people today."  (Brian Morris, In favour of circumcision, Sydney, UNSW Press, 1999, p. 57)

It's almost a paraphrase of Clifford (and dozens of other anti-masturbation fanatics). Professor Morris's reference to "excessive attention to a penis" suggests that he disapproves of masturbation as much as the Victorians themselves. It is strange that he then denies Clifford's conclusion that circumcision promotes chastity. And it's odd how the level of literacy among circumcision advocates has not improved much over the century.

An American doctor, 1895

In all cases [of masturbation], taken as they come, circumcision is undoubtedly the physician’s closest friend and ally, offering as it does a certain means of alleviation and pronounced benefit, granting as it does immunity from after-reproach. Those cases in which the glans presents a moist, semi-oily appearance, with papillae strikingly developed about the corona, long thickened foreskin, pliant and giving, large and often tortuous dorsal veins, go to make up a picture that is exceedingly tempting to the surgeon’s scissors.

The whole operation, when the scissors and continuous suture are used, takes only four to six minutes – and time is a great consideration, especially in the case of the insane, even though local anaesthetics may be used. To obtain the best results one must cut away enough skin and mucous membrane to rather put it on the stretch when erections come later. There must be no play in the skin after the wound has thoroughly healed, but it must fit tightly over the penis, for should there be any play the patient will be found to readily resume his practice, not begrudging the time and extra energy required to produce the orgasm. It is true, however, that the longer it takes to have an orgasm, the less frequently it will be attempted, consequently the greater the benefit gained. ...

The younger the patient operated on the more pronounced the benefit, though occasionally we find patients who were circumcised before puberty that require resection of the skin, as it has grown loose and pliant after that epoch.

Edgar J. Spratling, “Masturbation in the adult”, Medical Record, Vol. 48, 28 September 1895, p. 442-3

A British doctor, 1900

The only physiological advantage which the prepuce can be supposed to confer is that of maintaining the penis in a condition susceptible to more acute sensation than would otherwise exist. It may increase the pleasure of coition and the impulse to it: but these are advantages which in the present state of society can well be spared. If in their loss increase in sexual control should result, one should be thankful.

Jonathan Hutchinson, "Our London letter", Medical News, Vol. 77, 1900, p. 707

Hutchinson (1828-1913) was Britain's leading expert on venereal disease, especially syphilis, and one of the most distinguished doctors in Victorian England, President of the Royal College of Surgeons and knighted in 1908.

Another British doctor, 1900

It has been urged as an argument against the universal adoption of circumcision that the removal of the protective covering of the glans tends to dull the sensibility of that exquisitely sensitive structure and thereby diminishes sexual appetite and the pleasurable effects of coitus. Granted that this may be true, my answer is that, whatever may have been the case in days gone by, sensuality in our time needs neither whip nor spur, but would be all the better for a little more judicious use of curb and bearing-rein.

E. Harding Freeland, "Circumcision as a preventive of syphilis and other disorders", Lancet, 1900 (2), 29 December, pp. 1869-70

Another US doctor, 1901

Another advantage of circumcision … is the lessened liability to masturbation. A long foreskin is irritating per se, as it necessitates more manipulation of the parts in bathing. … This leads the child to handle the parts, and as a rule, pleasurable sensations are elicited from the extremely sensitive mucous membrane, with resultant manipulation and masturbation. The exposure of the glans penis following circumcision ... lessens the sensitiveness of the organ.

Ernest G. Mark, "Circumcision", American Practitioner and News, Vol. 31, 1901, p. 231

British Medical Journal, 1902

The third advantage claimed for circumcision is that the sexual appetite is thereby diminished. This, which seems prima facie likely, is supported to some extent by the facts observable among Jews; on the other hand, Mohammedans, who are also circumcised, are credited with very strong sexual passions, although for a fair judgement it would be necessary to compare them with uncircumcised nations of kindred race, and living under the same climatic conditions. It is likely that, of the various advantage supposed to follow circumcision, this diminution of sexual passion was the one which appealed the most strongly to the mind of the Jewish legislators. It is at least noteworthy that this is insisted on by Maimonides, while the Jewish religion attached the highest importance to the prohibition of sexual, and especially of unnatural sexual, vice; and the chapter of Leviticus dealing with this subject has for many centuries been read in the Synagogue on the most solemn holy day of the Jewish year.

"The hygienic value of circumcision", British Medical Journal, 1902 (2), 26 July, p. 271

An Islamic Turkish physician has his say, 1906

The irritation which is caused by the inflammation of the distal part of the [uncut] penis leads to erection and release through ejaculation, to enuresis, to onanism and pederasty with their psycho-pathological reactions, and finally to moral crimes. A wise Moslem writer says: "It is exactly these fundamental effects and their influence upon men that the Moslem lawgivers take into consideration in establishing the strict performance of circumcision."

[A pious Moslem told him:] "The reduction of sexual pleasure is just what circumcision aims at. Too great sexual excitement puts man on an equal plane with the lower animals, impels him to wicked moral aberrations and tragic crime. On the other hand, the complete abolition of sexual feelings would make men non-organic beings. We men enjoy coitus just enough."

Nuri Bey Risa, "Studien uber die rituale Beschneidung im osmanische Reiche", Sammlung klinischer Vortrage, No. 438, Leipzig, 1906, quoted in Felix Bryk, Circumcision in man and woman: Its history, psychology and ethnology, New York, Ethnological Press, 1934, pp. 102-3

An American sex-hygienist and sterilization advocate, 1912

The prepuce, or foreskin, is the part of the skin of the organ which is folded over the glans. It is often long or constricted, requiring circumcision. In general, it may be said that the prepuce is a useless, uncleanly and often harmful evolutionary vestige. The history of the Jews proves this. ... Circumcision is a most commendable practice. Whatever religious views one may hold, it must be conceded that Moses, or whoever devised the operation, was a hygienist of no mean pretensions. The Jews are social hygienists in many ways, some of which might well be imitated by the Gentiles, but none of their religious customs is quite so sensible as the rite of circumcision.

Circumcision promotes cleanliness, prevents disease, and by reducing the over-sensitiveness of the parts tends to relieve sexual irritability, thus correcting any tendency which may exist to improper manipulations of the genital organs and the consequent acquirement of evil sexual habits, such as masturbation.

Last, but not least, early circumcision insures proper development of the parts. It is a matter of common observation among physicians that the Jew is, upon the average, less frequently sexually mal-developed than the Gentile. The admirable custom of circumcision may have had much to do with the extraordinary virility and endurance of the Jews. It is strange that with the experience and example of this great race before him, the Gentile has not generally adopted as a hygienic custom the operation of circumcision. It is the opinion of many eminent physicians that parents who do not have an early circumcision performed upon their boys are almost criminally negligent. In this opinion I fully concur.

The prepuce is a structure the function of which evolution of the race has made obsolete. It was once urgently necessary for the protection of the sensitive member of which it forms a covering. Clothing, however, has relieved us of the necessity of a means of protection which primitive man or his prehuman ancestors found very essential.

Phimosis, or tight prepuce, is often met with in uncircumcised persons. This condition renders cleanliness impossible and favours infection and inflammation. The irritation produced by a tight prepuce may produce retarded growth, extreme nervousness and irritability, chorea, simple convulsions, or even periodic attacks resembling epilepsy. I have met with cases resembling diabetes, due to phimosis. The fretfulness and crying of young children is often due to preputial irritation – so often that the examination of young children is never complete until the prepuce has been inspected.

Circumcision is demanded in all cases of children with nervous diseases. Circumcision should be performed early, the advice of the family physician being the safest guide as to the the time of the operation. Circumcision is often necessary in adults for the cure of venereal or other disease of the sexual organs. Many complication arise in venereal infections which would have been avoided if circumcision had been performed in early life.

G. Frank Lydston, Sex hygiene for the male, and what to say to the boy (Chicago: Hamming Publishing Co., 1912), pp. 136, 158-60

G. Frank Lydston MD was Professor of the Surgical Diseases of the Genito-Urinary Organs and Syphilology at the State University of Illinois. He was the author of many books and articles on sexual pathology and a prominent advocate of both castration of Negroes for sexual offences and of surgical eugenics. This meant sterilization of criminals and other forms of the unfit as a means of controlling “social disease”. For further details, see Philip Reilly, The surgical solution: A history of involuntary sterilization in the United States (Johns Hopkins University Press, 1991), pp. 37-8. Lydston was also a keen supporter of Cesar Lombroso’s theories of hereditary criminality and of his belief that character could be determined by skull measurements, the so-called science of craniometry. See G. Frank Lydston, “Studies of criminal crania”, in Addresses and Essays, 2nd edn (Louisville, Ky: Renz and Henry, 1892), pp. 65-92. He was frequently cited as an authority by other circumcision advocates, such as Abraham Wolbarst, particularly in his "Universal circumcision as a sanitary measure", Journal of the American Medical Association, Vol. 62, 1914, p. 95

An American anti-foreskin agitator, 1914

Prevention of masturbation was the fourth of seven reasons that Dr Abraham Wolbarst gave as to why circumcision was a medico-moral imperative for the twentieth century:

“It is a well known fact that the foreskin is a frequent factor in the causation of masturbation, not alone in children but in adults as well. This has been amply proved by the fact that circumcision has become recognised as a most effective remedy in these cases.

Abraham Wolbarst, “Universal circumcision as a sanitary measure”, Journal of the American Medical Association 62, 10 January 1914, 92-97

N.B. Brian Morris and Co still cite Wolbarst as an authority for the contention that the foreskin should always be removed as a precaution against penile cancer.

Circumcision and masturbation, 1915

There are a hundred arguments in favour of circumcision, but to speak of them all in detail would require a book or at least a good-sized essay. At this time I wish to touch merely upon one point, the relation of the prepuce to masturbation.

I am convinced that the prepuce is one of the great factors in causing masturbation in boys, and many cases of masturbation cannot be treated successfully until the prepuce is removed. Here is the dilemma we are in: If we do not teach the growing boy to pull the prepuce back and cleanse the glans there is danger of smegma collecting and of adhesions and ulcerations forming, which in their turn will cause irritation likely to lead to masturbation. If we do teach the boy to pull the prepuce back and cleanse his glans, that handling alone is sufficient gradually and almost without the boy’s knowledge to initiate him in to the habit of masturbation.

While masturbation is not the terrible calamity that it was once thought to be, and while we recognize the fact now that most children recover from it without permanent effects, still we want to avoid everything possible that may be a factor in the cause of masturbation, and the prepuce unquestionably being such a factor, it should come off. Therefore, once more, off with the prepuce!

William J. Robinson MD, “Circumcision and masturbation”, Medical World, Vol. 33, October 1915, p. 390

Yet another US doctor, 1915

Circumcision not only reduces the irritability of the child's penis, but also the so-called passion of which so many married men are so extremely proud, to the detriment of their wives and their married life. Many youthful rapes could be prevented, many separations, and divorces also, and many an unhappy marriage improved, if this unnatural passion was cut down by a timely circumcision.

L.W. Wuesthoff, MD, "Benefits of circumcision", Medical World, Vol. 33, 1915, p. 434

Yet another British doctor, 1935

I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is "against nature", but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in mind it does not seem apt to argue that "God knows best how to make little boys".

R.W. Cockshutt, "Circumcision", British Medical Journal, 1935 (2), 1935, p. 764

An American obstetrician, 1941

Those in favour of routine circumcision claim that: (1) It make care of the infant's genitals easier for the mother. (2) It does not necessitate the handling of the penis by the infant's mother, or the child himself in later years, and therefore does not focus the male's attention on his own genitals. Masturbation is considered less likely. … Those who oppose routine circumcision claim that: … (3) Circumcision causes some blunting of male sexual sensitivity because in the circumcised the skin on the glans become thicker. However, this supposed disadvantage is often listed as an advantage. … One nice thing about circumcision is that when it is done it is finished. The foreskin never grows back.

Alan F. Guttmacher MD, "Should the baby be circumcised?", Parents Magazine, Vol. 9, September 1941, pp. 76, 78

It is striking how closely Guttmacher's expression "does not focus the male's attention on his own genitals. Masturbation is considered less likely" resembles the words of Mr Clifford back in 1893: "the mind is not directed towards the sexual organs, and a decided check is put to one of the vices only too commonly practised in early manhood". His ghoulish concluding comment reminds one of Professor Morris, who enjoys deriding those who seek foreskin restoration; in his perverse view, that really is genital mutilation.

A different British doctor, 1949

There remain a number of more or less trivial factors which are sometimes mentioned as reasons why infant circumcision is desirable: difficulties in keeping the uncircumcised parts clean, or the supposed aesthetic or erotic superiority of the shorn member. In order to fulfil the intention of this paper an inquiry on these points should have been made amongst a group of uncircumcised men. This was not attempted, although with regard to the last two of the factors mentioned it should be stated that, whenever the subject as been broached in male company, those still in possession of their foreskin have been forward in their insistence that any differences which may exist in such matters operate emphatically to their own advantage.

Moreover, if there were sensible disadvantages in being uncircumcised, one would expect that the fathers of candidates for circumcision would sometimes register their feelings in the matter. Yet in interviewing the parents of several hundred infants referred for circumcision I have met but one father who wished his son circumcised because of his disagreeable experience of the uncircumcised state. … So little did the father's personal experience seem important that one quarter of the mothers did not even know whether their husbands were or were not circumcised. These facts provide some evidence that few uncircumcised men have cause to regret their state.

Douglas Gairdner, "The fate of the foreskin: A study of circumcision", British Medical Journal, 1949 (2), 24 December, p. 1437

Before the 1940s there was no scientific study of the anatomy or functions of the penis, and it was wrongly believed that infants with adhesive or constricted prepuces were suffering from phimosis and required immediate circumcision. When Gairdner studied the question he proved that this was the normal condition of the infant penis and found that the foreskin of newborn babies was retractable in only 4 per cent of cases, and in only 20 per cent at six months. He showed that the penis was not fully developed at birth, and that separation of the foreskin from the glans was a gradual process, taking anything from a few months to six years to complete, and sometimes longer. Gairdner also showed that the biological function of the foreskin in babies was to protect the glans and urethral opening from urine, faeces and other forms of dirt and that its own secretions were mild and beneficial. He concluded that true phimosis was very rare (requiring surgery in few cases), and that none of the medical reasons advanced for neonatal circumcision was valid.

Gairdner's article had a significant impact in Britain and New Zealand, where the incidence of infant circumcision declined rapidly. It was little read in Australia or the USA, where doctors continued their ignorant and harmful practices.  Full text of Dr Gairdner's article.

Two confused and barely literate US doctors, 1953

Those reasons which are rightfully subject to debate include: (a) Circumcision will reduce the incidence of onanism …. (b) Circumcision will increase the male libido. The vast progeny of the Jewish males attest to [sic] the fact that functionally, at least, [sic] performance is not diminished by this operation. … One of the edicts issued from Rome forbade circumcision on the grounds [sic] that in this way the Hebrew population would thus [sic] be controlled. On the other hand, critics of circumcision flatly state that libido is decreased by the procedure. (c) Longevity, immunity to nearly all physical and mental illnesses, increased physical vigour etc.

R.L. Miller and D.C. Snyder, "Immediate circumcision of the newborn male", American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Vol. 65, 1953, p. 3

One can scarcely believe that such illiterate drivel was published in a serious medical journal. The impartial observer might conclude that both the scientific competence and the prose of circumcision advocates was in greater need of drastic repair than the genitals of healthy infants.

A US sex "expert", 1969

Circumcision adds to sexual pleasure in many ways. First, a cheesy, bad-smelling substance called smegma accumulates between the prepuce and glans. The staggering odour of smegma is capable of cancelling the world's most powerful aphrodisiac. With the prepuce gone, there is no place for the smegma to accumulate. Second, the nerve supply of the prepuce is insignificant compared with that of the glans itself. With the head of the organ uncovered and in direct contact with the vagina, far more exquisite sensation is possible. Although the foreskin is designed to retract over the glans during intercourse, it is sometimes adherent and prevents total contact.

David Reuben MD, Everything you always wanted to know about sex, but were afraid to ask, New York, 1969

You would have been better off in blissful ignorance than asking Dr Reuben, since just about everything he wrote about male sexuality in this best-selling book was wrong, wrong, wrong. His comments on the comparative sensitivity of the foreskin and glans are the exact reverse of the truth: it is the foreskin which is richly supplied with nerves and the glans which is relatively insensitive. Smegma does not have a particularly bad smell, and hardly any smell at all unless the penis has not been washed for several days; in any case, smell is an aesthetic and subjective response: some people find smegma sexy. It is a natural accumulation of dead skin cells, and plays an important role in lubricating the penis and keeping it moist and healthy. It is even possible that, along with the foreskin itself, it helps protect the penis from infections: see P.M. Fleiss, F.M. Hodges and R.S. Van Howe, "Immunological functions of the human prepuce", Sexually transmitted infections, Vol. 74, 1998, pp. 364-7

A standard U.S. textbook of urology, 1970

“Parents readily recognise the importance of local cleanliness and genital hygiene in their children and are usually ready to adopt measures to adopt measures which may avert masturbation. Circumcision is usually advised on these grounds.”

M.F. Campbell, “The male genital tract and the female urethra”, in M.F. Campbell and J.H. Harrison (eds), Urology, 3rd edn (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders, 1970), Vol. 2, 1836

Any uncut man to his circumcised mates, 1970s

Oh, but it's so much more sensitive.

Heard everywhere.

A circumcision evangelist, 1974, circumcised as an adult

The change in sensation during intercourse a few weeks later was surprising. The sharp pleasurable sensation was noticeably lessened, as it is when topical anaesthetics are used to delay ejaculation. … The surface of the glans changed slowly but definitely in response to contact with air and clothing. The area around the meatus became less shiny as keratinization of the epithelium occurred. … The colour of the glans also changed. When the foreskin covered it, the glans had a bright red-pink typical mucosal surface. Cornification has changed this to a gray-pink colour, very skin-like in appearance and texture. … Over twelve years the superficial tactile nerve endings have become covered with this cornified surface. It is remarkable how much more manual and vaginal stimulation my penis can now receive before reaching "the point of no return" …. The overpowering erotic sensation has been dulled, and with it some of the immediate pleasurable sensation. Initial excitement has decreased. … [When fully erect the penis presents] a smooth shaft with a piston-in-cylinder-like action during coition. Friction and therefore sensation are diminished.

Robert J. Valentine, "Adult circumcision: A personal report", Medical aspects of human sexuality, Vol. 8, January 1974, pp. 32-3

Valentine was the pseudonym of a US doctor. Despite his admission that it greatly reduced sexual sensation, the article is a hymn of praise to the desirability of circumcision, providing an example of a common scenario: one man decides he likes being circumcised and then does all he can to encourage, pressure and finally force others to take the same path, like the poor fox which lost its tail in Aesop's fable. But despite his enthusiastic endorsement of circumcision, Valentine also reports that his surgeon cut too much tissue off: he "did not allow quite enough slack. As a result, there was a disconcerting downward bend of the penis on erection". It is also interesting that such an evangelist still dismisses as unproven and fallacious the common argument of circumcision advocates in the 1970s that the procedure lessened the incidence of cancers of the penis, prostate and cervix: no, he asserts, the only reason to do it is to improve your sex life. He provides no information at all as to what his female partner(s) felt about all this chopping and changing.

Valentine's concluding comment left a hostage to fortune which must now be coming back to haunt him: "If it [the foreskin] does have a function, its routine removal in newborns cannot be justified. Perhaps the foreskin does have a rationale that has been ignored or not recognised."

Other comments from American men circumcised as adults

(a) I play guitar, and my fingers get calloused from playing. That’s similar to what happened to my penis after circumcision.

(b) After the circumcision there was a major change. It was like night and day. I would give anything to get the feeling back. I would give my house.

[This man agreed to get circumcised because a doctor told him he would get cancer of the penis if he did not. When the man complained about the outcome, the doctor replied “that is normal” and would not help him. But by failing warn his patient about the side-effects of the operation, the doctor failed to obtain informed consent for the operation, which requires full disclosure of all possible effects and consequences.]

(c) Slowly the area lost its sensitivity, and as it did I realised I had lost something rather vital. Stimuli that had previously aroused ecstasy had relatively little effect. Circumcision destroys a very joyful aspect of the human experience for males and females.

(d) The greatest disadvantage of circumcision is the awful loss of sensitivity when the foreskin is removed. On a scale of 1 to 10, the intact penis experiences pleasure that is at least 11 or 12; the circumcised penis is lucky to get to 3.

Circumcision like being colour blind

(e) The sexual difference between a circumcised and an uncircumcised penis is like wearing a condom or wearing a glove. Sight without colour would be a good analogy. Only being able to see in black and white, for example, rather than seeing in full colour would be like experiencing an orgasm with a foreskin and without. There are feelings you’ll just never have without a foreskin.

Source: Quoted in Ronald Goldman, Circumcision The Hidden Trauma (Boston: Vanguard Pubns, 1997), p. 40

Immigrants to Israel, 1990s

An Israeli research project in the early-1990s sought to measure changes in sexual satisfaction after circumcision among Russian immigrants who got themselves circumcised after immigration to Israel. The research was carried out by Dr Avi Teper and Dr Eliezer Shalev, from the Women's Department, Ha-emek Hospital, Afula. They mailed a questionnaire to 108 males, 76 of whom replied.

The circumcised immigrants reported a significant decrease in sexual satisfaction. Before circumcision 54 per cent reported "great sexual satisfaction", but afterwards the number was only 24 per cent. The proportion of those reporting "medium satisfaction" rose from 30 percent to 61 percent. There was no change in the number reporting "small satisfaction". Since 68 per cent of the respondents sought circumcision as the fulfilment of their dream to become full Jews and 10 percent because of Jewish tradition, it is possible that some of them denied they felt any adverse consequences from the operation. The remainder sought circumcision because of social pressure, and one for a medical reason.

Avshalom Zoossmann-Diskin and R. Blustein, "Challenges to circumcision in Israel: The Israeli association against genital mutilation", in George C. Denniston, Frederick Mansfield Hodges and Marilyn Fayre Milos (eds) Male and female circumcision: Medical, legal and ethical considerations in pediatric practice, New York, Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers, 1999, pp. 343-50

Another circumcised man, 1993

At age 30, during a physical exam, my doctor, noticing my long foreskin, stated this was an unhealthy situation. That I would likely have problems with it, and advised that I be clipped. Have never studied circumcision on the pros and cons, I consented. He gave me no information on which to base an informed judgment. Neither did he give any information about what style he would employ, or how tight he would cut me, and I did not know enough to ask. …

In a couple of months the sensitivity began to decline and has continued to decline to this day. Sexual pleasure has been reduced by at least 70 per cent, both in intensity and the fact that the whole rage of sensation is completely gone. This is most logical, as two of the structures [foreskin and frenulum] were removed, and the only remaining structure, the head, has been toughened and desensitised by being deprived of the moist natural covering which God intended it to have, and is constantly exposed to the friction of clothing. … Circumcision has deprived me of much pleasure for the remainder of my life, has caused me physical pain and has been psychologically devastating. I no longer feel like a real man.

William E. Krueger, Winston-Salem NC, USA, open letter to newspapers and intact organisations, 12 July 1993

A sensuous (American) woman makes a discovery, 1995

I have never been with anyone who was uncircumcised until I met my new boyfriend, and it’s amazing. The extra skin is like having an extra ridge there. When I have children, I won’t have the boys circumcised, because I want their wives to be very happy. It’s almost like he has a cock ring on. You know those condoms that have the big ridges on them? Well, that’s what it’s like. Besides, a dick is a dick. It just looks a little different. And my boyfriend’s is the perfect size. You usually don’t remember how big men’s dick’s are, but you remember the really small ones. Girth matters and size and length matter. Basically, I have to have a perfect dick. And now I’ve got the length and the girth and a bonus I didn’t even know existed.”

Heidi Mark, Miss July 1995,, “Centerfolds on Sex”

Canadian pathologists, 1996

The prepuce provides a large and important platform for several nerves and nerve endings. The innervation of the outer skin of the prepuce is impressive; its sensitivity to light touch and pain are similar to that of the skin of the penis as a whole. The glans, by contrast, is insensitive to light touch, heat, cold and … pin-prick. … We postulate that the "ridged band" [underside of the foreskin], with its unique structure, tactile corpuscles and other nerves, is primarily sensory tissue and that it cooperates with other components of the prepuce. In this model, the "smooth" mucosa and true skin of the adult prepuce act together to allow the "ridged band" to move from a forward to a "deployed" position on the shaft of the penis. … It is generally thought that the prepuce protects the glans. However, it is equally likely that the glans shapes and protects the prepuce. In return, the glans and penile shaft gain excellent if surrogate sensitivity from the prepuce. … The infant prepuce contains muscle bundles, blood vessels and nerves in profusion.

J.R. Taylor, A.P. Lockwood and A.J. Taylor, "The prepuce: Specialised mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision", British Journal of Urology, Vol. 77, 1996, pp. 294-5

Full text (and some revealing images) here.

A normal (uncut) man, 1997

When I get hard, the feeling of the head expanding and moving inside the foreskin, stimulating the inner foreskin nerves, is fantastic. The feeling of the head trying to open the foreskin opening is a very exaggerated and erotic tickle. After erection, pulling the skin back half-way results in a searing tickle, and pulling it back all the way and laying it back along the shaft for the first time is almost blinding. The feeling of my skin being pushed back and forth during intercourse, stretching back over the corona, then being pulled forward, is exquisite. The tip of my skin moving over the head feels like a rubber band rolling over the head. I can ejaculate just by stretching the foreskin back tightly for about ten minutes and letting the frenulum build up its sensation and feeling that wonderful burning tingle that leads to firing off.

After my workout at the gym I see cut guys walking up to a hot shower with the water on the sharp setting. If I were to pull my skin back and do that, I would double over from the sensation. If I skin it back under a hot shower it feels like I'm being scalded. We uncut guys know what we have. The unamputated nerve endings of the foreskin and frenulum, and the undiminished nerves of the glans, make the penis during sex the centre of the universe. Cut guys know that when they see a video of an uncut guy: the head expands and turns red and purple and the foreskin locks behind the head and turns crimson from blood flow, putting the ultimate stretch on the frenulum. That guy is experiencing feelings that the cut guy can never imagine.

Jim Two88, "I know you don't feel what I feel", posted on Usenet newsgroups by, December 1997

The evidence mounts, 1998

The prepuce is a specific erogenous zone. It contains a rich, complex network of nerves and an abundance of mucocutaneous end organs sensitive to motion, touch, temperature and erogenous stimulation. Both the inner and outer folds of the prepuce have a denser distribution of nerve networks than the rest of the penile skin. The rich innervation of the inner prepuce contrasts sharply with the limited sensory investment of the glans penis, which is characterised primarily by free nerve endings, which feel only pressure and pain. The double layered prepuce provides the skin necessary to accommodate the expanded erect organ and to allow the penile skin to slide freely, smoothly and pleasurably over the shaft and glans. One function of the prepuce is to facilitate smooth, gentle movement between the mucosal surfaces of the two partners during intercourse. The prepuce enables the penis to slip in and out of the vagina non-abrasively, inside its own sheath of self-lubricating moveable skin. The female is thus stimulated by moving pressure rather than by friction only, as when the male's prepuce is missing.

P.M. Fleiss, F.M. Hodges and R.S. Van Howe, "Immunological functions of the human prepuce", Sexually transmitted

infections, Vol. 74, 1998, p. 365

More cluey pathologists, 1999

The prepuce is primary erogenous tissue necessary for normal sexual function. The complex interaction between the protopathic sensitivity of the corpuscular receptor-deficient glans penis and the corpuscular receptor-rich ridged band of the male prepuce is required for normal copulatory behaviour. … Amputation of the prepuce causes changes in sexual behaviour in human males and females.

Surgical amputation of the prepuce removes many of the fine-touch corpuscular receptors from the penis and clitoris. In males, circumcision is essentially a partial penile mucosectomy. The residual exposed gland mucosa becomes abnormally keratinized, with an increase in the number of cell layers in glanular mucosal epithelium. The urethral meatus is exposed and prone to irritation. Meatal stenosis can be a complication after circumcision. During circumcision the frenular artery may also be cut, depriving the anterior urethra of its major blood supply.

C.J. Cold and J.R Taylor, "The prepuce", British Journal of Urology, Vol. 83, Supplement 1 (Circumcision), 1999, p. 41

Full text here.

An Australian professor and circumcision advocate, 1999

Anecdotal evidence from men circumcised as adults … say that circumcision did not reduce feelings from the penis when having sex. Independent clinical and neurological testing has not detected any difference in penile sensitivity between men of each category. Sexual pleasure also appears to be the same. Being circumcised will result in better sexual function, on average. Being circumcised will result in a penis that is generally regarded as more attractive.

Brian Morris, In favour of circumcision, Sydney, UNSW Press, 1999, pp. 53 and 88

Dr Morris, a professor in the Department of Physiology at Sydney University, is Australia's leading intellectual champion of routine infant circumcision. The "independent clinical and neurological testing" he refers to turns out to be two articles by T.E. Wiswell and others on urinary tract and other bacterial infections in babies that have nothing to do with penile sensation at all. As for the claim of "independent", Wiswell is a former US army doctor who has been an ardent crusader for routine infant circumcision since the mid-1980s; even if the studies referred to were about sexual sensation rather than bacteria, he could hardly be regarded as "independent"; on the contrary, he is one of the leading American circumcsion promoters and has co-authored at least one article on the subject with ... why, Brian Morris.

In his assertion that women prefer the circumcised penis (pp. 52-3) Morris relies entirely on a survey of 79 men and 101 women carried out by a certain James Badger and published in Australian Forum, a slightly racy women's magazine, in 1989. Such a small sample cannot mean very much, certainly not ten year later and, as Morris admits, can be criticised for "selection bias", since the survey asked for volunteers. He describes Badger as "a circumcision pen-name for the purposes of the forum survey and the debate in general" (p. 93, n. 168). In real life, he is Dr Guy Cox, Associate Professor and Senior Microscopist at the Electron Microscope Unit, Sydney University College of Sciences and Technology, and thus a colleague of Dr Morris.

Some people never learn, 1999

The problem with stock responses

The following letter was sent in response to the policy on routine circumcision issued by the American Academy of Pediatrics in 1999.

The recent AAP circumcision policy report (1) contains a few statements that merit comment. In reference to a study by Taylor et al, (2) the report states: “One study suggests that there may be a concentration of specialized sensory cells in specific ridged areas of the foreskin.” The cautious wording is puzzling. Taylor’s investigation does not “suggest” that there “may be” specialized nerve endings in the ridged band of the foreskin: it conclusively documents this fact. The report also neglects to acknowledge the relevant fact that there additionally exists a large number of anatomical studies on preputial innervation. In a classic series of studies of the sensory innervation of the foreskin, Winkelmann, for example, concludes that the foreskin is a specific erogenous zone. (3-5) Bazett et al’s anatomical investigation, (6) likewise, documented the foreskin’s rich array of sensory end-organs that convey fine gradations of touch and temperature. The conclusion to be drawn from this literature is that the impressive innervation of the inner and outer surfaces of the foreskin contrasts sharply with the limited sensory investment of the glans penis, which is characterized primarily by simple, unencapsulated free nerve endings, incapable of detecting and conveying sensations other than deep pressure or pain. (7) It is irrelevant, of course, whether the loss of aggregate penile sensory capacity occasioned by amputation of the foreskin seems not to impair erectile function or fertility.

The report also cites a “study” by Masters and Johnson that alleges “no difference in exteroceptive and light tactile discrimination on the ventral or dorsal surfaces of the glans penis between circumcised and uncircumcised men.” First, the “study” actually says: “Routine neurologic testing for both exteroceptive and light tactile discrimination were conducted on the ventral and dorsal surfaces of the penile body, with particular attention directed toward the glans. No clinically significant difference could be established between the circumcised and the uncircumcised glans during these examinations.” Second, it would seem to be a breach of scientific principles to accept uncritically the validity of a “study” that was never published in a peer-reviewed journal, being only sketchily described in  four sentences in the best-seller Human Sexual Response. The study design, materials, methods, cohort details, and numerical analyses are undisclosed. Among other lacunae, they never define “routine neurologic testing,” present the numerical data allegedly yielded by, this “testing,” or reveal how they analyzed the data. Third, this “study” has little bearing on the question of the sensory deficit caused by circumcision. The real issue is not the effect on the glans but the effect on the foreskin, because that is the part amputated. A meaningful study would investigate the difference in the quantitative and qualitative sensory capacity between the circumcision scar of circumcised males and both the inner and outer surfaces of the foreskin of intact males. Elementary deduction, however, can predict the results of such a study in advance.

Frederick M. Hodges
Wellcome Unit for the History of Medicine
University of Oxford
Paul M. Fleiss, MD, MPH
Los Angeles, CA 90027


1. American Academy of Pediatrics, Task Force on Circumcision. Circumcision policy statement. Pediatrics. 1999;103:686-693

2. Taylor JR, Lockwood AP, Taylor AJ. The prepuce: specialized mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision. Br I Urol. 1996;77:291-295

3. Winkelmann RK. The cutaneous innervation of the newborn prepuce. I Invest Dermatol. 1956;26:53-67

4. Winkelmann RK. The erogenous zones: their nerve supply and significance. Proc Staff Mayo Clin. 1959;34:39-47

5. Bourlond A, Winkelmann RK L’innervation du prepuce chez le nouveau-ne. Arch Belg Derm Syph. 1965;21:139-156

6. Bazett HC, McGlone B, Williams RG, et al. Depth, distribution and probable identification in the prepuce of sensory end-organs concerned in sensations of temperature and touch; thermometric conductivity. Arch Neurol Psychiatry. 1932;27.489-517

7. Halata Z, Munger B. The neuroanatomical basis for the protopathic sensibility of the human glans penis. Brain Res. 1986;371:205-230

8. Masters WE, Johnson VE. Human Sexual Response. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1966:190

SOURCE:  Frederick Hodges and Paul Fleiss, letter, Pediatrics, Vol. 105 (No. 3, Part 1), 2000, pp. 683-4

Additional comment

Masters and Johnson’s irrelevant results have been cited time and time again by circumcision advocates as providing scientific proof that the presence or absence of the foreskin makes no difference to sexual response, and thus that circumcision represents no sacrifice or penalty. But it was known as long ago as 1910 that the glans was relatively insensitive, and more attuned to detect to feelings of discomfort and pain than to convey pleasure; as the neurologist Henry Head and colleagues discovered:

The glans penis is an organ endowed with protopathic and deep sensibility only. It is not sensitive to cutaneous tactile stimuli … Sensations of pain evoked by cutaneous stimulation are diffuse and more unpleasant than over normal parts.

Henry Head et al, Studies in Neurology (London: Oxford University Press, 1920), Vol. I, pp. 274-7

Head also found that the sensitivity of the glans was not significantly affected by circumcision, a finding which largely nullifies many of the studies since Masters and Johnson, which sought to establish no more than this. As Hodges and Fleiss point out, what researchers should be studying is the difference in sexual experience between men with a foreskin in place and those whose foreskin is missing; but nobody has yet devised any method which could reliably test a person’s experience of sex first without and then with a foreskin.

Among other critiques of Masters and Johnson, see Tim Hammond, “Why Masters & Johnson’s 1966 Circumcision Study is Flawed”

and the incisive demolition by Hugh Young

An unlucky Italian, 2001

Newsgroups: alt.circumcision
Date: Fri, 27 Apr 2001 01:52:03 +0200
Subject: My circumcision Story

(sorry for my English)

I've 29 years and I'm an Italian boys. I'm a bisexual boys (active). I'd like man (with large ball and cock) and women. With man I'd like only oral sex and BDSM. Eight month ago I've removed my foreskin in a private clinic for a penis problem. The operation program was that I had a partial circumcision. The doctor have cut my foreskin too much!! Now I'm completely circumcised. I've loose good part of my pleasure!!! The two month after operation I have stop my sexual activity. I've tried to masturbating but with a bad result.

After two month I've restart my activity. Now I've a glande (couple?) too much sensitivity!! I've very much problem with sex. I'm too fast with vaginal or anal sex!! (about 20-30 second). Only if I torture my self (ball stretching) I have vaginal sex for about 1 minute. I've tried with more lubricant to reduce my sensibility with bad result. I'm go well only with oral sex. Now I like only to play BDSM and have oral sex with man or woman. I'm thinking to operate me to reduce my sensibility of my penis. Have anyone ideas for me?? How to de-senstivity my penis?? I want to return with my foreskin! I'm trying to restore foreskin with myself procedure but the result is too small!! (I'm trying from two month). I can send my cock picture (only after operation). I'd like to change experience with other man circumcised.


Franco from Roma (Italy)

At last, the woman's point of view, 2001

(a) I experienced a huge difference between circumcised and uncircumcised men. Until I met my natural [uncut] husband, I thought that the rough, dry circumcised penis was the way it was supposed to be. WOW! I have been missing genuine, naturally satisfying sex and now have the utmost appreciation for the "real thing". There is such a remarkable difference, in all aspects of sex -- from foreplay and fellatio to intercourse. In retrospect I now consider the circumcised penis as a sort of unreal device that made intercourse a not very pleasing experience that often left me sore. I now have orgasms that were very rare with circumcised men.

(b) My present husband is circumcised. He is very concerned about pleasing me in any way, but during intercourse the penis feels hard. I experience discomfort, and often I feel like I'm being pounded on. With my natural [uncut] partner, whom I went with before I was married, intercourse felt gentler and more sensuous. I could sense that he got much more pleasure during intercourse than did any of my circumcised partners. He was more passionate, and sex with him was very stimulating and fulfilling. With him I always experienced much more pleasure, and intercourse seemed more loving. I strongly feel that this was the way it was meant to be.

(c) With my circumcised partners, just about all the time I had intercourse I experienced discomfort, even pain. I was glad when it was over. Back then I didn't know it could be any better. But when I finally experienced intercourse with an uncircumcised man, I found out that it was more gentle, more enjoyable and less demanding. I could relax and get into it, once I realised it wasn't supposed to hurt.

(d) A circumcised man's thrusting is harder. I think that this is due to the fact that the circumcised penis is less sensitive, so circumcised men push harder to compensate for this lack of sensation.

Kristen O'Hara, Sex as nature intended it, Hudson, Mass., Turning Point Publications, 2001, pp. 20, 29-30, 66, 67

Further information from her website

Comments from a few of the hundreds of women Kristen surveyed when she was writing this book, the first ever to deal with circumcision from the woman's perspective. Over 300 years later the assumptions of ben Yediah and the insights of Sinibaldi and Bulwer seem to be confirmed.

A Canadian doctor, 2002

March 4, 2002
Circumcision, the unkindest cut

Circumcision was the topic of the day for Dr. Gifford-Jones, one of Canada's most widely-read medical columnists.

When I researched this column on circumcision, my initial reaction was "wow." I thought the topic would be as easy to write about as rolling off a log, but it took hours. I hadn't realized the male foreskin had triggered so many medical articles and so much controversy. Now I'm convinced that most families make a decision on circumcision without knowing much about this procedure. The question is, has male circumcision increased the sale of Viagra?

For some families the decision is easy. They believe circumcision should be performed for religious as well as for sound medical reasons. But if that's not the case, what should you do? A good start is a lesson on anatomy and its sexual implications.

First, the foreskin doesn't cover just a small surface of the penis. The skin removed by circumcision measures from three to five inches in length. That's about half of the total skin of the penis. Besides, inside the foreskin, there's a band of tissue that moves in and out like an accordion. This gliding motion triggers sexual reflexes and contributes to sexual pleasure.

So shouldn't sensible babies cry out to parents, "you had better think twice before removing such a significant portion of my anatomy. And have you ever considered how this will affect my sex life?" Some might even add in these litigating times, "do it and I'll sue you for a million." Due to the recent research of Dr. John Taylor, male babies now have even greater grounds for being upset. Taylor is a retired pathologist in Winnipeg. In 1996, he and his colleagues published a report describing anatomically 21 foreskins in the British Journal Of Urology. In effect, Taylor claimed medical textbooks of anatomy have neglected the foreskin for hundreds of years. In Gray's Anatomy, the bible of anatomy, there's just one sentence about the foreskin. But Taylor and his colleagues found a "ridged band," 1.25 centimetres (half an inch) in width, that runs around the inside tip of the foreskin, never before mentioned.

A detailed microscopic examination of the foreskin revealed it's not merely a piece of skin. Rather, it's loaded with blood vessels and nerves. Remove it and you also amputate a large part of the sexual portion of the penis. That in itself should warrant a class action suit by millions of males! Erectile dysfunction (ER) is due to several causes. But I wonder how much Viagra is being sold today because of too much snipping of the foreskin?

So why is circumcision being done? One lame argument claims it prevents cancer of the penis, an extremely rare problem. But you don't amputate breasts to prevent cancer of the breast! Studies do suggest that circumcision decreases the number of urinary tract infections during the first year of life. But is this a valid reason for an amputation that which decrease the pleasures of sex for 75 years? What about complications from the procedure? Luckily, they're rare but there have been some terribly botched jobs. Some have resulted in severe injuries to the penis and urethra (the tube that carries urine through the penis). Other babies have suffered from infections and haemorrhage.

So, if you don't have religious views about circumcision, what is the best decision? The Canadian Paediatric Society believes that circumcision of newborns should not be a routine procedure. The Council on Scientific Affairs of the American Medical Association has reached the same conclusion.

Due to the updated anatomy lesson from Dr. Taylor, saying "thanks but no thanks" to circumcision seems to be a logical conclusion. Surely, nature put the foreskin there for a valid reason and it's rarely prudent to disagree with nature. As Dr. Taylor remarks, "The value of the actual foreskin is often put at zero. But parents should put a value on it because it's a structure in its own right."

I'm sure some readers will argue, "I've enjoyed good sex for years and I was circumcised." Maybe so, but they could also be living in a fool's paradise. Have they considered how much better sex would have been without the snipping! And what about the babies' pain? I've heard too many screaming babies not to know it's a painful procedure. As Dr. Margaret Somerville, a lawyer and ethicist at McGill University says, "People have a fundamental human right not to have pain intentionally inflicted on them." Shouldn't that human right include babies?


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