June 22, 2007
Circumcision and Women
Update: Okay, I should read survey methodologies more closely. A fair group of these women were recruited through classified ads in an anti-circumcision newsletter. Selection bias much? So read this for fun, but it's probably bunk.
Frankly, I find the "smegma is gross" argument an enormously powerful brief in favor of circumcision. But pleasure matters, too. Normally, I've heard that adults who are circumcised don't notice a change. Julian Sanchez has heard differently. So I went in search of some rock-solid data. As they say, "you can stop a man with a study."
But you can depress him. I didn't quickly come across any research on differential rates of pleasure experienced by those circumcised late in life. What I did find is a study on rates of pleasure women experience from "altered" and "unaltered" penises. And there, the data was clear: Women prefer uncircumcised penises. And this is true on just about every metric. Not only do they furnish more orgasms and offer more pleasure, but they offer less vaginal discomfort and premature ejaculation. "During prolonged intercourse with their circumcised partners, women were less likely to 'really get into it' and more likely to 'want to get it over with.'"
This translates into the emotional realm, too. Women were more likely to report feeling (deep breath) irritable, unappreciated, sexually violated, out of sync, uncared for, bitchy, guilty, and even "incomplete as a women" with circumcised partners. And that's only a partial list. As the study says, "the consistency with which women felt more intimate with their unaltered partners is striking." And there's not even bias towards currently circumcised partners. "The circumcision status of the most current sexual partner did not alter the findings." report the study. Nuts!
Why does all this happen? The best explanation the researchers give us is that, "Respondents overwhelmingly concurred that the mechanics of coitus was different for the two groups of men. Of the women, 73% reported that circumcised men tend to thrust harder and deeper, using elongated strokes, while unaltered men by comparison tended to thrust more gently, to have shorter thrusts, and tended to be in contact with the mons pubis and clitoris more, according to 71% of the respondents."
All in all, bad news for the cut. There seemed to be a moment of silver lining towards the end of the article, when it said, "While this study shows clearly that women prefer the surgically unaltered penis, it does have shortcomings. " Sadly, the shortcomings were in the study, not the surgically unaltered penises (penii?).
So it seems the verdict is clear: Whatever the men feel, the women far prefer organic, unaltered, men. But come on: They must find smegma gross too, right!?
June 22, 2007 | Permalink
The study link is missing.
Could be a cultural thing, with those from groups that circumcise just being worse lovers.
Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 22, 2007 2:43:28 PM
Frankly, I find the "smegma is gross" argument an enormously powerful brief in favor of circumcision.
Yeah, enormously powerful - if you live in a society that hasn't invented soap. I don't know what the situation is in DC, but where I come from we've got stuff like "running water" and "personal hygiene," which makes the whole lopping-off-the-end-of-your-genitals thing sort of redundant.
Posted by: Christmas | Jun 22, 2007 3:05:18 PM
What has Sully started? This penis-gazing is getting out of hand.
In any event, I think this article might not be the best example of how to run a social science experiment. From the article... "Women having sexual experience with both circumcised and anatomically complete partners were recruited through classified advertisements in magazines and an announcement in an anti-circumcision newletter."
An "anti-circumcision newletter" [sic]! Man, I hate survey studies even worse than political polls. Let's find people reading an anti-circumcision newsletter, have them fill out a survey about circumcision, and then claim we have statistically significant results because we had more than 100 respondents. Bollocks.
Posted by: br | Jun 22, 2007 3:06:45 PM
"Let's find people reading an anti-circumcision newsletter, have them fill out a survey about circumcision, and then claim we have statistically significant results because we had more than 100 respondents. Bollocks."
That's a classic example of a non-representative sample population. It virtually defines "garbage in, garbage out."
Posted by: fiat lux | Jun 22, 2007 3:16:34 PM
The study's observations regarding basic mechanical differences sound about right to me. Oddly enough, I've never dated anyone with ongoing hygiene problems regardless of the presence or absence of a foreskin, so I've never been in a position to complain. Best I can tell, though, almost every health/hygiene 'issue' for uncircumcised males is pretty much within the normal range for female genitalia as well, so what's the problem?- I mean, excising part of the labia might make bathing easier & cut down on, say, yeast infections, but most women would pass on that option (current cosmetic-surgery foolishness notwithstanding) were it offered for them or for newborn daughters.
Posted by: latts | Jun 22, 2007 3:19:14 PM
Could there be a subject in which it mattered less what the average is?
Sure, if you're going to have sex with 947 women at once, you might want to know what the majority of them will prefer. But that ain't gonna happen.
Fer gawds sake, let your fingers do the walking.
Posted by: serial catowner | Jun 22, 2007 3:25:01 PM
I remember having my son circumsized. Lower rates of infection and penile cancer seemed like a good reason.
Getting him to shower (at 13) often is hard enough. I would dread arguing about cleaning his intimate anatomy regularly.
Watch out, Ezra. People are crazy about this issue. You've stepped on a claymore mine.
Posted by: Emphyrio | Jun 22, 2007 3:25:17 PM
Sample bias seems likely here, as br says. Not much question about the bias of the authors.
Posted by: Sanpete | Jun 22, 2007 3:25:51 PM
A "fair group" of these women? Unless I missed it, we have no way of knowing how many of the completed surveys came from women recruited by the anti-circumcision newsletter; could have been every single one.
Also, the study seems to have been performed in the UK, where male babies are circumcised at a lower rate than the US. Whatever is perceived as the societal norm is likely to influence women's preferences. And - did you READ those QUESTIONS in the appendix?! Jesus.
Posted by: cerebrocrat | Jun 22, 2007 4:01:11 PM
The word you're looking for is "penes"
Posted by: Tyro | Jun 22, 2007 4:44:52 PM
Data point: no detectable difference. Personal style vastly more important.
Posted by: hilzoy | Jun 22, 2007 6:35:51 PM
You can tell more about how hot he is if he's not cut. I like that.
Posted by: Avedon | Jun 22, 2007 9:42:34 PM
while the survey cited here is obviously non-representative, i think ezra is on to something here. what do women prefer? do they care? my own casual empiricism with repect to the subject is that most women i have ever talked to about the subject find foreskins gross and the "soap and water" argument is not persuasive as not everyone insists on a good scrub-down before sex, and some feel that such a demand might spoil the mood, occasionally.
Posted by: logicat | Jun 23, 2007 9:01:52 AM
Oh, for God's (G-d's) sake, just put a fuckin' hat on it and stop whining. This cockblogging movement has to cease.
Posted by: Glenn Fayard | Jun 23, 2007 5:28:35 PM
In addition to lower cancer rates for the men, the rate of cervical cancer is lower in (female, duh!) partners of circumcised men.
Posted by: slickdpdx | Jun 23, 2007 6:28:12 PM
I guess smegma might be a convincing argument if women didn't also develop smegma in their genitals. It's a clear cultural double-standard, along with a healthy dose of stereotyping (boys don't shower!!!!!!!!), to perpetuate an accepted, unquestioned belief.
As Emphyrio said, "People are crazy about this issue." Right, people are crazy. They think it's rational to cut the genitals of children to chase a few benefits, like lower penile cancer rates. About 1,300 cases per year in the U.S., mostly in older adult males. That matches almost exactly the rate of penile cancer in other industrialized, non-circumcising nations. That's not a compelling reason to circumcise more than 1,000,000 American infant males every year, to slightly reduce the risk of something 60 years in the future. If he smokes, doesn't bathe, and has promiscuous sex. But let's keep being ignorant and indicting the foreskin, instead.
Posted by: Tony | Jun 24, 2007 1:04:12 PM
Well, I believe that the pure mechanics are probably the reason for the difference. I am not cut, but if I were, I could see that the skin would be a lot tighter around the shaft. Uncut, there is a bit more skin to sheath up and down and will actually move back and forth over the under-layers of the penis. So, there is less friction on the shaft, and more on the head.
Posted by: Light | Jun 24, 2007 6:36:55 PM
THere is no problem with an uncut man which is my preference by far. In my culture, men are taught to wash their penises properly from childhood. Also it is the cultural practice that a married couple always have a bath before they go to bed no matter what. This is because you need to wash your genitals for your partner since making love is mostly done when you go to bed.
I personally would find a circumcised penis rather gross looking and unnatural. You do not cut bits off because they might smell. How many arm pits have been removed from people?
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