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Sex and Circumcision

November 19, 2011

It was bound to happen, but I hadn’t decided what I’d do about it. Then, one day, during an interview on a Toronto radio talk show, a caller who had first announced that he was circumcised, and “wasn’t missing anything,” asked me, somewhat inelegantly: “So, have you had sex with both kinds, uncircumcised and circumcised? Are you saying one is better than the other?”

Then and there, I decided to take the plunge. After all, I am almost 60 years old. Who in the world, other than me and my “boyfriend” (still looking for a better term), really cares about my sex life? And I grew up in the 60’s, graduated from high school in (tee-hee) 1969. So I’m supposed to be able to talk about this without blushing, right? Right.

“All other things being equal,” I said, “yes, sex is better with a man who has a normal, complete penis.”

Love (and lust) can conquer a lot. You can love a circumcised man with all your heart, you can make it work, and what you do together is nobody’s business but your own. But a man who has been robbed of his foreskin is missing something. (Actually, he’s missing a lot – 15 square inches of specialized skin, muscle, and nerve endings, designed to protect the glans (head of the penis) and keep it moist and sensitive, easing intercourse and enhancing pleasure.) And so is his sex partner.

Scientific studies (a recent Danish article reports the results from interviews with 5500 men and their female partners) are emerging that show what many of us know from experience but may have been unable to “prove”: male sexual problems like trouble reaching orgasm, and women’s problems such as pain during intercourse, are more common when the man’s foreskin has been removed. It’s no wonder that many men who were forcibly circumcised as babies are angry and grief-stricken when they begin to realize the profound consequences of the assault and their loss.

On the other hand, understanding that many of the sexual problems stereotypically attributed to men’s “selfishness” are actually a consequence of circumcision, can go a long way toward easing couples’ relationships and – I fervently hope – making the case for leaving future generations of men intact.

Georganne Chapin


36 Comments
  1. AussieGuy permalink
    January 14, 2012 7:57 am

    Great article. It’s good to see women speaking up on this issue because too many men are remaining silent.

    I am an Australian man in my 40′s and I was mutilated as a baby at the insistence of my relatively non religious mother. I resent what was done to me and although I’ve only recently learned about what it takes from a man I’ve felt the effects my whole adult life. Sex has always been bland, dull and unsatisfying. I can’t maintain an erection during intercourse or even feel if I am inside a woman any more, I have to ask her. Needless to say, it’s been a while.

    I can acknowledge that I am deformed and mutilated and I hate it. I also don’t hold it against any woman who would not have sex with a cut man after knowing what the alternative is like.

    I am angry to live in a society where this barbaric practice is still legal. There are laws that punish people for cutting a dogs ears or tail but a circumfetishist doctor can play with, torture and permanently mutilate a baby boys penis and it’s all fine and dandy. Boys and men are less than dogs in our society. It’s absolutely disgusting!

    If I had any trust in or respect for the media I would try to get them to expose the circumfetishists like Australia’s Brian J. Morris, The UK’s Jake Waskett and the many Americans, including doctors. Maybe that would stop some people from unthinkingly handing their baby boys over to a potential paedophile to be abused and mutilated. In the absence of legal protection for boys a large grass roots backlash backed up by an army of lawyers is needed to scare circumcising doctors and hospitals out of doing it for non medical reasons.

    Unfortunately I think circumcised men in general are one of the biggest obstacles to this fight for genital integrity. They are both victim and perpetrator. But, if there was some hope that they aren’t living with a life sentence maybe they could bring themselves to break the cycle of abuse and there might be.

    The non profit Foregen is raising money to fund tissue engineering research with the goal of regrowing natural foreskins on mutilated men and the field of tissue engineering is progressing at a rapid rate so it might be possible.

    I’ve started donating monthly just in case there is a chance I can be a whole man again.

    Lastly, I found this:

    http://www.tranquility.net/~rwinkel/MGM/insane.html

    it was originally hosted on cirp.org and gives a good insight into how the American psychiatric profession views intactavists.

    • January 14, 2012 6:48 pm

      Aussieman@ I was so sad to read your thoughtful post. I hope you find a partner one day who will value you for the person you are and not judge you for something you are totally not responsible for. Good luck to you.

  2. December 3, 2011 3:27 pm

    George Bernard Shaw said, ” Familiarity with accustom people to any atrocity.” I think this explains a lot about the way people act.

    • December 3, 2011 3:29 pm

      I should have proofread my statement before I hit the post button. So sorry.

      The correct quote is “Familiarity will accustom people to any atrocity.”

  3. Or l permalink
    December 3, 2011 12:03 am

    Thank you Georganne Chapin for standing up and speaking out on this issue, saying all the things I want to say. Yes, sex with an intact man is much better, in my experience, for the woman! The difference is significant. This is such an important human rights issue and it’s sad how many boys have no choice about having part of their genitals cut at birth. It’s unnecessary, pain-ridden, unjust. I hope one day we will have evolved on this issue.

  4. ach permalink
    December 2, 2011 11:43 pm

    My mother in law, bless her heart, asked if my son’s “function” would be affected because I didn’t circumcise him. I didn’t know what to say other than, “of course not!”
    Since we made the decision to keep our son intact, my husband has truly felt a great loss. I really can’t even talk to him about the loss of his – or anyone’s – foreskin without him getting upset.

    • December 3, 2011 3:23 pm

      I think it is difficult to talk to circumcised men about the value of not circumcising a newborn baby boy. They do take it as a insult to them. They think we value them less as men and as human beings. Of course we do not. At the same time, if either of my children had been boys, they would be intact though my husband is not intact.

    • December 3, 2011 3:30 pm

      Rose…. you are right. It is difficult to stand up for genital integrity for baby boys when you have a husband who was not given that respect when he was an infant. No, we don’t think less of them, quite the contrary is true. I, too, have a husband who is circumcised but he does not think it is right to do that to an infant and I respect him for his honesty. On the other hand, he also doesn’t think he suffered that much being cut and says he will never know what it would have been like to have foreskin, so to him, he doesn’t see it as that much of a loss. Sadly, I do think of it as a loss to both of us, but I am glad he sees circumcision as a violation of a baby’s human rights so we do agree on that.

  5. Paul Yarde permalink
    November 30, 2011 10:01 pm

    This is only my personal opinion : I am against circumcision in infancy because it can precipitate anxiety related to genitals later , sometimes called “castration anxiety” this sort of anxiety can i n time become a severe handicap and may lead to sexual inadequacy including prematiure eiaculation and impotence.These afflictions on the other hand can lead to severe lowering of the selfesteem ,depression and suicidal ideation and attempt. We have no scientific study as to how many suicides occured as a reaction to sexual dysfunction but it is probably not unheard of especially in young adults. Therefore i strongly obiect to the sexual mutilation of infants be they male or female. I do not object to circumcision done for medical or religious reasons when a person reaches adult hood and it is done with his full understanding and consent.

  6. Eddy permalink
    November 26, 2011 11:09 pm

    It can be, that circumcised men who heard the role, functions, and the benefits of the foreskin to the body and the life, just too fear about the reality that they have missed something, forever. Something that God actually has designed beautifully and meaningfully for them. They feared men like him will be diminished and diminished. Perhaps they tried to cover the fear by seemingly weren’t missing anything.

  7. cosmopolite permalink
    November 26, 2011 12:02 pm

    “I can understand some of the ignorant women defending their right to cut their kids, because they don’t know any better yet. But for these twisted men to fight against intactivists for YEARS is simply mind boggling!”

    Actually, more women get the point, and become vocal intactivists, than men do. Circumcision now may be the single greatest sexual controversy among women under 40. Two possible reasons: (1) quite a few women have difficulty enjoying sex or reaching climax and suspect that partner circumcision is the reason; (2) quite a few women have experienced both kinds of men and have decided that intact is more fun.

  8. November 22, 2011 7:09 pm

    What I meant to say that having an intact penis does not necessarily make a man a better lover–there are many other variables involved with that. I wasn’t referring to the loss of nerve endings, sensation, etc, that goes with circumcision.

    Even though I no longer work in healthcare, I am still very vocal about circumcision. Infants can’t defend themselves or make decisions for themselves–they have no say in the matter. I’ve heard people say that the decision should be between the doctor and the parents, but then I say, “Well what about the baby? Doesn’t he have a right to decide if he wants to be mutilated or not?” That usually gives people pause for thought, as though they never considered the baby.

  9. November 22, 2011 7:03 pm

    I’ve had sex with a lot of men–I was a bit promiscuous–and have had both types. The American men I dated were all circumcised, and the foreign men (European and Australian and New Zealand) were not. Being uncircumcised does not make one a better lover, of course, but all things considered, I much prefer men in their natural state. I never thought much about it growing up, but now the thought of it just seems really perverse to me.

    I should add that I used to be a nurse and worked in maternal child health, and after I became enlightened, so to speak, I began refusing to assist wit circumcisions. Other nurses followed suit, after I explained to them that the majority of men living on this planet are not circumcised and live happy healthy lives with an intact penis!! The idea that it is somehow healthier to be clipped is just rubbish.

    • ros.pratch permalink
      November 23, 2011 7:01 pm

      I don’t agree with you about your comment in re Australian men being ‘uncut’. 90% of Aussie males were routinely circumcised from the late 1940s until the late ’60s. Only after that time did the circumcision rates fall over time. Today, only 12% are circumcised.

    • November 24, 2011 6:39 pm

      I didn’t say that circumcision was not done in Australia, I just said that the Australian men that I had sex with were not circumcised. I didn’t do a survey, or screw the entire male population. I had sex with 3 Aussies, and none were clipped. It was just an observation, that’s all.

  10. Susan Mullen permalink
    November 21, 2011 1:49 pm

    I am a woman, age 62. I was born with ambiguous genitals. At a hospital here in the US I was genitally mutilated as a newborn. My clitoris was removed. (This is old family history that was kept from me and that I’ve pieced together over the years.) I am not sexually active now. When I was, I had a 100% failure rate in terms of both sex and relationships. I am also unable to trust in a healthy way. I seem to require “rules” for everything involving social activity. I used to think I was a sociopath. A counselor said that I wasn’t a sociopath, just a person who has been severely traumatized and is trying to live with it.

    Genital mutilation is trauma. I hope the day will come when all newborns with healthy genitals– boys, girls, and those of us who don’t fit either category perfectly — will be left intact. Thanks so much to Intact America and other groups that are speaking out for vulnerable newborns.

    • Mary Lanser permalink
      November 21, 2011 7:57 pm

      If people would just listen to the ones who have endured the genital cutting trauma and stop making these ridiculous claims.

    • Susan Mullen permalink
      November 21, 2011 8:08 pm

      Hi, all.

      Mary, you’re right — people do need to listen. But — it also takes a lot of courage for one of us to speak up. I didn’t start talking about my own situation until I was 40. And after 22 years it’s still difficult.

      There’s the additional thing that happens when a man speaks up about having been genitally mutilated. I don’t know why, but people can be sympathetic towards me but not towards a man who was cut “routinely”.

      Also, as Dan Bollinger said, “We HAVE made progress!” It’s important to keep that in mind as we keep on with the struggle.

    • Howard Smith permalink
      November 22, 2011 6:47 pm

      Susan, I feel for you. What those doctors did to you was, at best ‘sick’. Thank you for having the courage to speak out.

    • Susan Mullen permalink
      November 22, 2011 6:58 pm

      Hi, all.

      Thank you, Howard, for your kind comment. I wish I had found out about my situation when the doctors involved were still alive. I couldn’t even look at the hospital records. They were destroyed. I found a lot of information by talking with other people who were born with ambiguous genitals. I also read what I could in a textbook on Gynecological Endocrinology. I know I am not alone, and I know I have kindred souls in the restoring/intactivist community as a whole.

    • November 26, 2011 3:04 pm

      I am angry at the destruction of your medical records. Shame, shame, shame on the doctors who damaged you! And shame on those who took it upon themselves to destroy your ability to read your own medical records. I have had other types of medical mistakes made on me so at least from that aspect I can relate to your wish that you had been able to confront the doctors who made that medical decision for you. Like there is any kind of rush for that infant! I know how valuable a peer support group can be and so I hope you find that support for yourself.

    • Susan Mullen permalink
      November 28, 2011 12:36 pm

      Hi, all.

      Thanks for your support, Rose. I have talked with others who were born with ambiguous genitals and were mutilated as infants. The “destroyed medical records” thing happens a lot with this group of people. That aspect of my own story hurt very deeply when I found out. I lost a lot of respect for the medical profession.

      I have found common ground with some groups. I’m on an email list primarily for men who are restoring. I feel welcome there. I also went to a regional meeting of NOCIRC and felt welcome there. In general, it is very difficult for me to talk about what has happened over the years, before and after I found out what had been done.

      Some things have given me hope. I got an email once from a woman who was born with ambiguous genitals. The doctors wanted to cut her right away but her father said no. I was so glad to hear that at least one person had a family member who cared enough to stand up to the doctors.

    • December 11, 2011 1:52 pm

      It is a bit harsh for us men to hear “Hey, you’re circumcised, therefore, mutilated and less sensitive” it is very hard for a man to admits to it. I don’t feel mutilated or less sensitive and I got circumcised later in life. Well, maybe a bit less sensitive, I don’t know, it is hard to think about it. I really like how women are standing up against infant circumcision this is a very delicate debate. Well-done ladies!

    • December 11, 2011 5:27 pm

      Well, everyone is different. some men have been very affected by being circumcised as an infant and that cannot be discounted. Not to mention, the natural function of sex between men and women, which can be definitely affected by a circumcised penis. For someone who “chose” to be circumcised for themselves, I am glad you had the choice. Infants don’t have a choice and that’s what is wrong with RIC. The other thing to consider is how circumcision affects men as they age. During aging, there is a decline in sensitivity naturally as well as a decline in the male hormone testosterone. Add in decades of desensitization of the glans by being unnaturally uncovered and protected, and you have a potentially negative situation. Of course that is only important if a man is still interested in his sexuality. These days a lot of people are staying healthier as they age, and this can become a source of dissatisfaction when they are not functioning like they used to.

  11. November 20, 2011 9:52 am

    Georganne, thanks for having the courage to go public with such a personal statement. It is stories like this that will prove to be the downfall of mutilating baby boys.

    There are many other studies that show sexual harm from circumcision, the Danish study just being the most recent. Circumcised men are deprived of 75% of their penises sensitivity. Imagine having your eyesight or hearing diminished by the same ratio. Dry and painful sex is THE MOST COMMON SEXUAL COMPLAINT among American women and this only happens with cut men. And, circumcised men are 4.5 times more likely to acquire erectile dysfunction.

    All of this evidence proves harm and is more than enough to abolish what we know to already be a human rights violation. What will it take to get doctors to stop cutting boys?

  12. November 20, 2011 9:24 am

    In my opinion, whether sex is better or worse is a red herring.

    Sex could be “so much better” if one is circumcised. Circumcision might “improve” a man’s sex life, even his partner’s; circumcising a healthy, non-consenting infant would *still* be unethical, because it would have been an unwelcome “improvement.”

    You could be the best lover on earth; but if you rape a woman, it is still rape, even if you think you could rock her world and she’d love you for it.

    You could be the best tattoo artist in the world. People who get tattoos from you tell you that their skin, and as a consequence, their lives, have been improved; it would still be wrong to take a non-consenting person and give him a tattoo. Just ask Holocaust survivors.

    Unless there is a medical or clinical condition, circumcision is the destruction of normal, healthy tissue in healthy, non-consenting individuals. Without medical or clinical indication, doctors have no business performing surgery on healthy children, much less eliciting any kind of a “decision” from parents.

    Having said that, the claim that circumcision “has no effect on sexuality,” or worse, that it “makes sex so much better” is an insult to people’s intelligence. After almost a century of trying to convince the scientific and medical world that circumcision diminishes sexuality, that it “improves” the quality of people’s lives by diminishing a man’s libido and his drive to masturbate, now they want to tell us that circumcision “improves” our sex lives? It’s absolutely outrageous how circumcision advocates want us to just forget about history like that. Now they want to tell us that “less is more.”

    Seriously?

    I’m somehow supposed to believe that cutting off thousands of nerve endings from my penis, and furthermore causing my glans to keratinize and harden is supposed to “improve” sex life for me? Really?

    Male circumcision advocates aren’t the only ones that claim that circumcision “improves sex life.” Advocates of female circumcision say the exact same thing. Look up “labiaplasty” clinics in Europe and the United States; they’ll provide you with “studies” that say that “labiaplasty” (otherwise known as female genital mutilation when performed in the bush) will “improve” both a woman’s sex life, as well as her partner’s. It’s all the same quackery.

    The “studies” mentioned at said labiaplasty parlors may say women’s sex lives are improved, but this still would not be enough to legitimize the forced labiaplasty of girls.

    Talking about whether or not circumcision diminishes or even improves a man’s sexuality is irrelevant; it ignores the function of the prepuce, and it ignores the ethic of performing needless, permanent, life-altering surgery on a healthy, non-consenting individual.

    A lot of men say they’re “happy” with their circumcisions. Good for them. If you go to countries where girls are circumcised as infants, such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Malaysia, Sudan, etc., the women will tell you they can orgasm just fine, if not better than intact women, thank you very much. They too will be insulted at the notion that they or their daughters are “mutilated.”

    Unless a child is suffering an ailment that cannot be remedied in any other way, circumcision needs to be the decision of a consenting adult. Let a man decide whether he wants this measure of “improvement” or not.

    • November 20, 2011 10:45 am

      In my y second to the last paragraph, the second “Malaysia” should read “Brunei.” My mistake and I apologize.
      ~Joseph

  13. mary lanser permalink
    November 20, 2011 4:06 am

    It doesn’t matter whether there is ANY scientific evidence that circumcision negatively affects sexual function…. any thinking person that thinks it doesn’t, is in complete denial. It is only common sense that altering a persons sexual anatomy at birth HAS to have some negative effects on the natural functioning of those sexual organs…DUH! Our society is in such major denial of this fact that they are on the attack of anyone who advocates for male infants to maintain their body integrity at birth. Just look at the negativity that is aimed at Intactivists…… “they are crazy lunatics” ….. “perverts concerned with children’s genitals”…. and so on. For me, I believe that we are concerned about the rights of our most vulnerable members of our society….babies…. and I consider that concern no different than if a child is being abused and I am concerned. I just wonder when this evil will be fully recognized and people will finally realize what they are doing to their babies and STOP. I pray every day that we will see this day come.

    • Howard permalink
      November 20, 2011 6:13 am

      That is a very well stated post. I wholeheartedly agree with you. The dearth of common sense and rational thought associated with circumcision is staggering, as is the magnitude of denial prevelant in our society.
      Many intact men will tell you that their foreskin is their favourite toy! And, in fact, there are studies that illustrate what is lost with the amputation of the prepuce. http://www.cirp.org/library/anatomy/sorrells_2007/ for example.

    • November 20, 2011 9:57 am

      Mary, I understand what you are saying. Any reasonable adult should be able to grasp the concept that cutting a baby hurts a baby. Unfortunatly, “common sense” also tells parents to circumcise their son because others are doing it. Science supersedes common sense and science relies on metrics, the measurement of a thing. These studies show that circumcision measurably diminishes sex, sensitivity, sensation, and sexuality. The results of these studies, not common sense, are the nails in the coffin.

    • November 21, 2011 4:02 pm

      Yeah, Mary, it is so infuriating when I post on twitter and have some pro-cutter insult me for having a foreskin fetish. Seriously? How can you have a fetish for something that is natural? They only make themselves look stupid, but that doesn’t stop me from getting angry. We are not the lunatics here, but there is no convincing them of how wrong they are. This isn’t a pro and con debate, with both sides having good reasons. This is a clear cut case of violating the rights of infants, and it is truly amazing that these crazy circumcision fetishists keep fighting us about it. I can understand some of the ignorant women defending their right to cut their kids, because they don’t know any better yet. But for these twisted men to fight against intactivists for YEARS is simply mind boggling!

    • Mary Lanser permalink
      November 21, 2011 7:43 pm

      I was one of those ignorant and uniformed moms back in the 70′s …. but what I do not understand is with all of the information available today, how anyone can argue against infants rights with a clear conscience??? It seriously disturbs me that it is still legal to cut a part of an infant boys genitals off without a sound medical reason. No, it boggles my mind.

  14. Anastasia permalink
    November 20, 2011 2:14 am

    Yes, from my own experience, sexual intercourse with a man whose penis has not been mutilated, is, literally, 100% better. I suffer from pain issues with intercourse, and my experiences with men who have intact penises is that they can actually *feel* what’s really going on down there, which makes it much less painful for me. In addition, it just feels right, like that’s how it’s supposed to be. It’s very sad so many men and their partners in America will never know what that’s like.

  15. Dr. Christopher Guest permalink
    November 20, 2011 12:08 am

    As a physician and an intact male, I am absolutely convinced that amputation of the prepuce would decrease sexual pleasure. Circumcision is specifically intended to decrease sexual pleasure. Maimonides is quite clear on this subject; “the intent of circumcision is to correct a moral deficiency – to decrease the lusts and pleasures beyond which are needed for procreation”. The ancient Greek physicians recognized the pleasurable attributes of the prepuce and regarded circumcision among the Semitic tribes as barbaric and as an example of the superiority of Greek rationalism over the superstitious and irrational religious practices of Jerusalem. The ancient Roman physicians recognized the sexual function of the prepuce and circumcision was widely banned throughout the empire. The ancient Chinese physicians recognized the importance of the prepuce and there are strong prohibitions against circumcision in Buddhist philosophy. Victorian physicians encouraged circumcision as a misguided attempt to curb masturbation and the practice was promoted as a means of decreasing sexual pleasure. How can any thinking person look at the history of circumcision and then wonder if the practice may in fact decrease sexual pleasure? Of course it does – that is what circumcision is intended to do! Most of the civilized world seems to have figured this out a long time ago. I wonder when the wealthiest and most highly educated country in the modern world might figure it out?

  16. freeasabird permalink
    November 19, 2011 9:41 pm

    Well said. I go back a long way with this issue. We are lucky to live in a time when we can, and will, make progress.

    • November 20, 2011 9:59 am

      Ahem! We HAVE made progress! The magazine “The Week” voted circumcision the #1 parental controversy in 2010. You can thank Intact America for moving the discussion into mainstream press.

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