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A Love Lesson from the French

August 24, 2013

Ok, I’m a sucker for provocative headlines. So when I saw a link to a Huffington Post piece called “What French Women Can Teach Us About Sex and Love,” of course I opened it.

The author gives a few rather mundane observations about flirting, romance, the non-importance of marriage. But, for me, there was one rather interesting factoid mentioned – data from a 2008 study which found that 90 percent of French women over the age of 50 are sexually active, as compared to an estimated 60 percent of American women. Now, this didn’t just get my attention because I’m a woman over 50. It was interesting because it told me that more MEN over the age of 50 are also having sex in France than in the U.S., and made me ask why that might be?

The answer to that question must lie in one very important difference between the French and Americans. Largely, French men (and, of course, women) are having sex with intact genitals, while the vast majority of American adult men (probably around 80 million, to be specific) are missing the most sensitive part of their penis – the prepuce, or foreskin.

In addition to the intuitively obvious (that having a body part removed would mean you’re missing, at minimum, the sensation and function of that body part), scientific data is starting to show long-term sexual consequences from removing this highly sensitive tissue from boys’ genitals. Both circumcised men and their female partners report higher levels of sexual dysfunction, less sensitivity, and less satisfaction.

This should not surprise us. We have absolutely no problem accepting that women whose genitals have been mutilated will experience sexual pain or ongoing trauma, or that their male partners might find sex with such women to be less enjoyable. Yet many Americans continue to resist the clear parallels when it comes to male circumcision. This is particularly ironic, given that historically and across cultures one of the main rationales for cutting off a boy’s prepuce was to reduce his sexual pleasure, whether self-administered through masturbation (thought in Victorian times to be the root of all evil), or through intercourse. Moses Maimonides, the Jewish Medieval philosopher and physician, indeed cited the diminution of pleasure as an explicit benefit of male circumcision:

“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.” – Moses Maimonides, Jewish Medieval philosopher and physician

So after reading about French romance, French foreplay, and who takes the initiative in French lovemaking, here’s my take:

The most important thing the French – men and women – can teach Americans about love and sex is to leave our children with the bodies that nature intended them to have.

Georganne Chapin

10 Comments leave one →
  1. September 10, 2013 4:01 am

    チューブトップビキニ

  2. Gianluca permalink
    August 30, 2013 8:35 pm

    I wonder how much the topic of circumcision is related to American prudishness. Circumcision seems to be a topic only on the internet and to a certain extent in the mass media. I have been involved in superficial discussions about it with acquaintances but as soon as you want to go into details why it’s bad they want to change topic. It seems that it’s an avoided discussion. People don’t feel comfortable talking about it.

    • Petit Poulet permalink
      August 31, 2013 5:12 pm

      Americans cannot talk directly about sex, but their media is saturated with instead. The numbers Georganne quotes are telling. Even in prudish America, it looks like sex falls of for happy, contented life partners. Prudishness should not have much effect on stable couples. If sensitivity fades even more with age, and lubrication issues increase with age, it is not hard to blame circumcision as it impacts both. Sex therapists in the United States have to start asking women who are having dyspareunia about the circumcision status of their partners. This is probably the source of the problem.

    • Gianluca permalink
      September 1, 2013 1:12 am

      Petit Poulet, a quick google search “dyspareunia circumcision” brought me to an article published by danish researchers that links male circumcision with female dyspareunia:

      http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21672947

      Studies highlighting the negative sexual consequences of male circumcision are performed mostly in Europe and rarely in the US.

    • Petit Poulet permalink
      September 2, 2013 8:30 pm

      The research has not been done in the United States because it would answer a question that Americans don’t want answered. We like our circumcision bubble here and are afraid of people with pins.

  3. cosmopolite permalink
    August 30, 2013 3:08 pm

    I cannot emphasise enough the need for careful large sample studies of the possible adverse affects of infant circumcision on sexual pleasure and function after age 40. I agree with the retired Virginia urologist James Snyder MD that the decline in male sexual function in middle age is always blamed on aging per se, and never on the fact that the male in question is circumcised.

  4. August 25, 2013 7:12 am

    “The second consequence of that absence or protection (circumcision), progressive impotence – in varying degrees – is insidious; it reveals itself in the very long run only. It is much more frequent with the circumcised (Foley J. The unkindest cut of all. Fact magazine 1966; 3 (4): 2-9. http://www.cirp.org/news/1966.07_Foley, Glover E. The “screening” function of traumatic memories. International journal of psychoanalysis 1929; X: 90-93. http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/glover, Goldman R. The psychological impact of circumcision. BJU int 1999; 83 (suppl. 1): 93-103. http://www.cirp.org/library/psych/goldman1). Cases are thus numerous in the United States: 52% of the 1 290 random selected subjects of a study, aged between 40 and 7049. The success of Viagra in the United States (46% of the world consumption for 5% of the population) and its relative failure in Europe, have no other explanation. We can predict that it will easily be sold to wealthy Africans and Muslims.” excerpt from “Feminine and masculine sexual mutilation, the greatest crime against humanity” (http://www.academia.edu/2095540/Feminine_and_masculine_sexual_mutilation_the_greatest_crime_against_humanity_updated_08.25.2013_)

  5. Gianluca permalink
    August 25, 2013 1:04 am

    I agree that circumcision can lead to sexual dysfunction. However, in America there is another problem: obesity and overweight. Studies seem to have found a link between obesity and sexual dysfunction in both men and women:

    http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1038/oby.2012.104/abstract

    But circumcision definitely adds to the problems associated with sedentary life style. This was shown by a recent study performed in Belgium.

  6. Sara permalink
    August 24, 2013 5:30 pm

    While the article and the corresponding book are merely a commercialization of a cultural stereotype, the statistics speak for themselves. I’d be interested to know these same statistics in other European countries (the anglo saxon ones being the most appropriate for the sake of cultural similarity).

  7. August 24, 2013 4:30 pm

    Reblogged this on The Daily Advocate By Painspeaks.

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