April 19, 2012

Q&A: Foreskins, Circumcision, & Sexual Pleasure

There is still a great deal that we don’t know about how male circumcision can affect men’s sexual experiences as teenagers or adults.

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Question: I was circumcised as a baby and now, as an adult, when I masturbate I am not able to get sufficient pleasure. Also my semen volume has become less and less, which I think is because I don’t have lubrication from my foreskin. What can I do for lubrication and for pleasure?

There is still a great deal that we don’t know about how male circumcision can affect men’s sexual experiences as teenagers or adults.

What The Research Shows

Some studies that involve men who were circumcised as adults have found no significant differences in their sexual function or satisfaction for the vast majority of circumcised men.

Other studies that compare men who were circumcised as babies or children with men who have never been circumcised have, in some cases, found differences related to these men’s sexual experiences.

However, these studies are more difficult to make sense of because there are likely a number of religious and cultural issues that both affect a family’s decision to circumcise their baby or child and that may also impact how they raise their child to feel about sexuality.

 Your Experience

It may be that circumcision has had some impact on your penile sensation and experiences of pleasure during masturbation. However, as you were circumcised as a baby, you have nothing to compare yourself to.

It’s not as if there was a time in your adult life when you had your foreskin. As such, there is no way to know whether masturbation or sex would be different for you if you hadn’t been circumcised.

And the fact is that many, many men who were circumcised as babies or children have pleasurable, high sensation sex as teenagers and adults.

Therapy Might Help

If you feel that you’re struggling with how you feel about your penis or your genitals overall, you may find it helpful to speak with a sex therapist.

Many men and women have questions about, or feel some sense of dissatisfaction with, aspects of their genitals and speaking with a professional may be helpful in learning to appreciate your body, understand more about the pleasure you’re capable of, and learn techniques that may enhance your pleasure during masturbation or sex with a partner.

You may also find it helpful to know that a small percentage of men—probably 5% or less—experience difficulties with ejaculation.

They may try to ejaculate during masturbation or sex with a partner and find that it takes them a very long time to experience orgasm and ejaculate, or that they are unable to do so even after trying for 30 minutes or an hour.

Some men find that using a vibrator to stimulate their penis or scrotum helps them to ejaculate. Other times, men find that varying their masturbation technique helps. You can learn more about delayed ejaculation and inhibited ejaculation in The New Male Sexuality.

Semen Volume

Finally, although it’s true that the foreskin can contribute to feelings of being lubricated, having a foreskin or not doesn’t have any bearing, as far as I’ve ever seen, on semen volume. It is common for some men to notice less semen volume as they grow older.

However, it’s typically not a dramatic change; it’s more of a gradual change that happens over time. If you’ve seen a noticeable change in your semen volume, mention it to your healthcare provider.

And if you would like your masturbation or partnered sex to feel more lubricated, try using a water-based lubricant during your sex play.

Many men and women find that using lubricant adds to their sense of pleasure and satisfaction during masturbation and partnered sex.

Next Question:Questioning My Sexual Orientation

I have been in a relationship with my boyfriend for a few years, and he is hinting toward a marriage proposal. I love him and he is my best friend, but I have always been attracted to women. I have had great relationships with men, but my fantasies focus on other women. What does it mean to be gay? I am attracted to women sexually, but I can make deep, meaningful connections with men, while I have trouble establishing friendships with women. Sex with my boyfriend is not bad, but he really has to work to get me to orgasm. How do I figure this out?

Read Dr. Debby Herbenick’s response.

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