If fewer men were circumcised, the rate of sexually transmitted
diseases and unplanned pregnancies might decrease, some awareness
Their assertion is that uncircumcised men are more likely to
wear condoms because they possess more sexually sensitive
Some studies suggest that roughly 50 percent of the penis’s
erogenous tissue is cut away during circumcision. Circumcision is
the process of removing the foreskin of the penis, which naturally
covers the glans, or head.
“It’s incontestable that you lose a lot of sensitive tissue,
because (after the foreskin is removed) the glans then develops its
own protective layer of cells which further desensitizes it,” said
Dan Leatherman, a local advocate for the National Circumcision
Leatherman said that since a large amount of sensory tissue is
taken from the penis during the procedure, circumcised men might be
reluctant to cover up their already desensitized erogenous tissue
with a layer of latex.
He said the area of erogenous skin removed from an infant’s
penis is about the size of a quarter. However, once the penis is
fully developed, the missing tissue would be around the size of a
Jacqueline Voss, a senior psychologist at the University
Counseling Center who also teaches Psychology of Human Sexuality
classes, disagreed with the theory. She said removing foreskin does
not have any direct effect on future sexual satisfaction.
“They’ve done studies on sexual responsivity, ability to
ejaculate and sexual enjoyment, and found no difference in
uncircumcised and circumcised men,” she said.
Leatherman cites evidence that in Japan and areas of Europe,
where the circumcision rate is low, STDs and unplanned pregnancies
are far less common than in the United States.
“It’s known that condoms are used in Europe and Japan a lot
more,” Leatherman said.
According to a posting by Craig Shoemaker of University of
California-Davis Medical Center on UpToDate, an online resource
available to physicians, the rate of circumcision in the United
Kingdom is just 24 percent.
The current American college generation was born at a time when
95 percent of infant males were circumcised, Shoemaker wrote.
Voss said the claim that uncircumcised men are more likely to
wear condoms is not backed up by any scientific proof.
“There’s no evidence one way or the other,” she said. “The
likeliness of wearing a condom is based on admitting you’re at risk
for an unwanted infection.”
Shoemaker suggested that everyday choices are more influential
than circumcision in overall sexual health.
“Lifestyle choices are probably much more important than
circumcision status, in relation to STD, hygiene, penile irritation
and cancer,” he said.
While circumcision is not a medical necessity as once thought,
it does have some proven benefits. It can reduce urinary tract
infections and certain types cancer, as well as the risk for
cervical cancer in a female partner. It also may help prevent the
transmission of certain STDs.
However, the diseases that circumcision is said to prevent are
often not prevalent in the countries where circumcision is less
“In a lot of cultures, males are not traditionally circumcised
and you don’t find higher rates of sexually transmitted infections
in those cultures,” Voss said.
In 1971, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared there was
no medical reason to perform circumcision. However, it recently
reversed the statement in light of findings that circumcision may
help prevent HIV transmission.
“A study found that uncircumcised males have a higher risk of
contracting and transmitting HIV,” Voss said. “The virus stays
alive longer under the foreskin.”
Voss said the circumcision trend, which peaked in the late 1970s
and early 1980s, has declined in recent years, but it will likely
rise again due to HIV risk.
Circumcision became popular in America just more than a century
ago, in the early 1900s. Prior to that time, it had been conducted
primarily for religious or historical reasons or as a rite of
Some say the practice became popular in the United States
because early doctors hoped to prevent masturbation by reducing the
penis’ sexual sensitivity and knowingly manufactured some of the
supposed health benefits.
“It was basically because of anti-sexual and anti-pleasure
attitude,” Leatherman said. “They thought that circumcision would
prevent masturbation and there were all kinds of diseases they
claimed circumcision would prevent.”
By the time it was shown that circumcision did not prevent many
of the diseases, early 20th century doctors claimed, it had become
a societal norm in the United States and continued for aesthetic
and cultural reasons.
“In this country, it’s been done for cosmetic reasons, so your
little boy looks the same as the other little boys in the locker
room,” Voss said.