The circumcised vs. uncircumcised penis debate has been the center of conversation at every slumber party since middle school — and now experts are weighing in.

By Cassie Shortsleeve
Updated January 25, 2021
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Are uncircumcised people more sensitive? Are circumcised penises cleaner? When it comes to circumcision, it can be hard to separate fact from fiction. (Speaking of fiction  —is it possible to break a penis?) Even among the pros, the circumcised vs. uncircumcised debate is a hotly contested sexual health issue. (To be clear, we're talking about male circumcision; female circumcision gets a hard no from all respectable experts.)

In part, that's because in this country, and other developed countries, there isn't any clear benefit to be circumcised vs. uncircumcised, says Karen Boyle, M.D., director of male reproductive medicine and surgery at Chesapeake Urology Associates in Baltimore. The procedure, which is often a religious ritual for some families, is fairly common for newborn boys in certain parts of the world including in the U.S. While circumcision is a tool for AIDS prevention in other parts of the world, in the U.S., where HIV isn't at epidemic status, the circumcised vs. uncircumcised debate often boils down to how it affects factors such as sexual pleasure and general hygiene.

Ahead, experts weigh in on the circumcised vs. uncircumcised penis conversation.

Circumcised vs. Uncircumcised: Male Sensitivity

First thing's first: what does circumcised mean? And what does uncircumcised mean? ICYDK, circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the tissue covering the head of the penis, according to the Mayo Clinic. Circumcision removes up to half of the skin on a penis, skin that likely contained "fine-touch neuroreceptors," which are highly responsive to light touch, according to research.

In fact, a Michigan State University study found that the most sensitive part of a circumcised penis the circumcision scar. A possible explanation: After circumcision, "the penis has to protect itself — like growing a callus on your foot, but to a lesser extent," says Darius Paduch, M.D., Ph.D., a New York-based urologist and male sexual medicine specialist. This means nerve endings on a circumcised (vs. uncircumcised) penis are further from the surface — and therefore, might be less responsive.

And regardless of what you've heard about circumcised vs. uncircumcised penises, circumcision doesn't affect male sexual drive or functioning, says Dr. Boyle. In fact, a 2012 study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology found that the odds of premature ejaculation or erectile trouble weren't affected by their circumcision status.

Wondering how to tell if someone is circumcised? The whole sans-extra-skin should give it away; without the foreskin, the head of the circumcised (vs. uncircumcised) penis is exposed when flaccid and erect.

Circumcised vs. Uncircumcised: Female Pleasure During Sex

Okay, so uncircumcised people may have a slight advantage in the sensitivity and pleasure department. But if you're wondering how sex with circumcised vs. uncircumcised partners compares from the female perspective, there's no clear-cut (no pun intended) answer to how circumcision affects pleasure. One study from Denmark found that people with circumcised spouses were twice as likely to report dissatisfaction in the sack than those with uncircumcised partners — but other studies have shown the opposite.

It's true that when an uncircumcised penis's foreskin retracts, it may bunch up around the base of the penis, providing a little extra friction against your clitoris, says Dr. Paduch. "This is going to play a role [in pleasure] for women who have the clitoral pattern of arousal," he says. (To be fair, your partner could more than make up for the lack of foreskin by using their fingers, a couple's vibrator, or these sex positions for clitoral stimulation.)

Circumcised vs. Uncircumcised: Female Pain During Sex

While the amount of pleasure may be up for discussion in the circumcised vs. uncircumcised debate, women with partners who have a circumcised penis are also three times more likely to experience sexual pain than those with uncircumcised spouses, the study from Denmark found. "The uncircumcised penis is much glossier, a more velvety feel," says Dr. Paduch. "So for women who aren't lubricating well, they have much less discomfort having sex with someone who is uncircumcised." He adds that people who have their foreskin intact require lubricant far less frequently during sex and masturbation since the skin of their penis is naturally slicker. (Wait, what is a foreskin? Think of it as the penis version of a clitoral hood — after all, penises and clitorises have some seriously surprisingly anatomical similarities.)

Circumcised vs. Uncircumcised: Cleanliness

Just as it can be tough to keep all the folds of your vulva clean (though these down-there grooming guidelines can help), it can be difficult to keep an uncircumcised penis fresh 100 percent of the time. "Although most people that are uncircumcised do a very good job cleaning below the foreskin, it's more of a task for them," says Dr. Boyle. As a result, "some women may feel 'cleaner' with someone who's circumcised," says gynecologist Alyssa Dweck, M.D.

In fact, people with vulvas who experience a boost in pleasure after their partners get circumcised often credit the change to an increase in cleanliness. In other words, they enjoy sex more because they're less hung up on hygiene, not because of any actual anatomical difference, says Supriya Mehta, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. In the cleanliness category of the circumcised vs. uncircumcised debate, it all boils down to how thorough of wash uncircumcised people give themselves in the shower.

Circumcised vs. Uncircumcised: Risk of Infection

Going along with the cleanliness factor, when someone is uncircumcised, moisture can get trapped between the penis and the foreskin, creating the ideal environment for bacteria to incubate. "Female sex partners of uncircumcised men are at increased risk of bacterial vaginosis," says Mehta. People who aren't circumcised may also be more likely to pass along any infections they have, including yeast infections, UTIs, and STDs (particularly HPV and HIV). (Done with the circumcised vs. uncircumcised debate but still have penis-related questions? This guide can help.)

Comments (17)

Anonymous
April 20, 2020
As someone who lives where most men are intact and not circumcised, the first time I had sex with someone that was circumcised I thought it was weird. From how to manually please him, to how rough and dry his gland was, nothing seemed natural. I did have sex with other circumcised men, (2 more) because I figured it could have been the other guy but it was the same, dry rough glans, sex was hard and they had to pound hard and fast, to one of them even telling me, for him the pleasure was eyaculating, because he didn’t have much feeling. And they all had something in common, when erect they would have hair along the shaft, as if the scrotum was being pulled up. With an intact men, they feel everything. Playing with it is more fun and you can tell what places in his [filtered] are giving him pleasure, the glans isn’t rough or callous, it is soft and slippery, and moist how it should be. None were dirty, they all were clean. I feel horrible for those circumcised men that don’t know what they are missing, and can’t experience sex how it should be. Also for women that because of where they were born, see a natural intact [filtered] as gross. It would be literally like cutting part of your clitoris, since the foreskin Has over 20,000 nerves.
Anonymous
April 19, 2020
As a new mom I researched circumcision thoroughly. It’s not a medically necessary procedure & I believe my child should have the right to keep their genitals intact whether they were born a boy, girl or intersex. Cutting girls for social/cultural reasons has been illegal in the USA since 1996- perhaps boys deserve equal rights? Researching had me watching the procedure too- wow I thought it was ‘just a snip!’ not anymore...(google ‘circumstraint’ to get an idea) Regardless you should have good hygienic practices & know about safe sex. I looked to other countries that don’t practice newborn circumcision- the USA viewpoint tends to be biased pro. Unfortunately circumcisions can be botched resulting in tight skin, glans removal/amputation, etc. I appreciate you adding that the scar site of a circumcised [filtered] is most sensitive- that makes sense since the skin has been damaged there & nerves are more reactive.
Anonymous
April 19, 2020
As a new mom I researched circumcision thoroughly. It’s not a medically necessary procedure & I believe my child should have the right to keep their genitals intact whether they were born a boy, girl or intersex. Cutting girls for social/cultural reasons has been illegal in the USA since 1996- perhaps boys deserve equal rights? Researching had me watching the procedure too- wow I thought it was ‘just a snip!’ not anymore...(google ‘circumstraint’ to get an idea) Regardless you should have good hygienic practices & know about safe sex. I looked to other countries that don’t practice newborn circumcision- the USA viewpoint tends to be biased pro. Unfortunately circumcisions can be botched resulting in tight skin, glans removal/amputation, etc. I appreciate you adding that the scar site of a circumcised [filtered] is most sensitive- that makes sense since the skin has been damaged there & nerves are more reactive.
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February 12, 2020
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September 27, 2019
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Anonymous
April 10, 2019
Everyone's going to favor what they're used to, but there are definite advantages to circumcised. The major health organizations all say circumcised is safer, but lately haven't endorsed so strongly for regions where HIV is not at epidemic levels. What does that say in the end? Circumcised is always safer, no matter where you come from. On the issue of pleasure, the lessened sensitivity of a circumcised member generally means longer sexual performance. If the circumcised man is able to go several "rounds" (mostly an issue of cardio-vascular capacity), then each round will generally still last longer due to his lessened sensitivity. The feeling during sex from uncircumcised can be decreased for the female due to the [filtered] sometimes moving within the foreskin, as opposed to stroking her walls. If the foreskin is providing giving greater girth and thus increased outer contact area to the [filtered], than that's an obvious plus. But if any man has equal or less length compared to her depth, then the base is going to have the same effect upon full penetration, no matter if circumcised or not.
Anonymous
April 10, 2019
Normal/intact genitals are healthy and full-functional. Circumcision is a cosmetic surgery that removes 4 physical areas of the [filtered], responsible for 16 physical/sexual/protective functions. The glans (head) of the [filtered] is not meant to be an external organ. Circumcision causes the glans to dry out and become keratinized. Circumcision also removes 2/3 of the [filtered]’ skin, along with 70% of the specialized nerves responsible for sexual pleasure. The foreskin is a complex organ that is central to pleasure, form, and function - humans have known this for 2 millennia. It’s only in the last 125 years that Americans have lost this knowledge, due to cultural biases in our education and medical systems. However, go anywhere outside of the U.S., and people know full well how important and valuable the foreskin is to make health and sexuality. [filtered] without foreskin is like seeing the world without color.
Anonymous
December 11, 2018
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Anonymous
September 28, 2018
i find men with an uncircumcised [filtered] more fulfilling. my hubby's is slightly over seven inches an feels extremely comfortable. we usually shower together and i clean his foreskin and he washes my genitalia area with great pleasure
Anonymous
September 24, 2018
I am uncircumcised with a hooded foreskin and a 7 plus inch [filtered]. My foreskin rubs and stimulates the G_Spot of my partners which always produces a sensational orgasm for both of us. I have photos at https://www.xvideos.com/profiles/max_powers_264#
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Anonymous
January 22, 2018
It is 2018, SHAPE has no business in promoting criminal genital mutilation for any children. Especially not Male Children for Adult Female Sexual choices of mutilated genitals. "Circumcision" is a Euphemism for "Rape" and "Genital Mutilation". Promote FGM if you like for yourselves, but you do not have the right to promote it done to anyone ,for any reason. It is illegal. And there are ZERO benefits in the removal of half of the 12plus Square inches of skin tissues protecting the internal/external genitals and sexual/reproductive organ on males . Zero. Why it is "Non-Medical Necessity" Procedure at best. So all the alleged claims to any benefit are false advertising sexual assault for minors for money.
Anonymous
June 30, 2017
I hate foreskin!!!! i love the shiny head of a circumcised man, with just a glistening bead od precum dripping down the shaft for me to lick off...like when u lick it, the [filtered] just strains forward to be in your mouth i love licking around the rim, [filtered], i just love sucking a circumcised [filtered]...then i spit on it a bit, and slip it into my wet, throbbing [filtered]...[filtered]...it's always the best feeling when it first goes in...oh god, i move up and down...and it gets soo slippery wet...[filtered] me I say...[filtered] me harder...I need to feel o inside me...i want to feel like I'm being [filtered]....ah....oh god....i'm [filtered]...of god, oh god, oh god.....[filtered] me....[filtered] in me...i'm still [filtered]....[filtered] me please
Anonymous
June 22, 2017
“Female sex partners of uncir[filtered]cised men are at increased risk of bacterial vaginosis,” says Supriya Mehta, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at the University of Illinois at Chicago. Not according to studies by Zenilman et al., Schwebke et al., or Fethers et al. www.cir[filtered]s[filtered]ions.com/STDs.html#vaginosis "Guys who aren’t cir[filtered]cised may also be more likely to pass along any infections they have, including yeast infections, UTIs, and STDs (particularly HPV and HIV)." These claims are disputed by various studies. The HIV claim (also disputed) is that genital cutting protects men from being infected, but the same studies found cutting men INcreases the risk to women, already at much greater risk. Why do you quote a piece of fiction, putting words in a woman's mouth that were in all probability written by men who have NO experience of a foreskin, either theirs or anyone else's? And then promote the old myth that "they work exactly the same way". The foreskin is a moving part; it doesn't just retract and vanish. The thousands of nerves change the quality of the experience for both partners, because he has to focus less on "reaching orgasm" and can concentrate on the quality of the journey. And how can we sensibly discuss this topic without using the word "pen!s"?
Anonymous
June 21, 2017
more of a task for normal [filtered]es to be clean? are you dumb? Vulvas are infinitely more difficult to wash than a normal [filtered]. Imagine an article spouting the benefits of female genital mutilation in favor of male pleasure. This is beyond misandrist and [filtered]. No they don't work exactly the same way, where is this [filtered] you're peddling? You're missing 12 functions when you're dealing with a mutilated [filtered], yes mutilated, because well over 90% of the victims with such a [filtered] had their genitals altered WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.