June 21, 2012

Q&A: Is My Short Foreskin Normal?

If you're not sure whether you're circumcised and you feel uncomfortable asking your mom or dad, it's okay to ask your doctor.

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man jumping off pontoon boat

man jumping off pontoon boat

Question: Is it natural and normal to have a short foreskin? I’m 21 years old and I don’t think I’m circumcised. Is there any way to find out whether I’m cut or uncut?

It is possible to have a short foreskin.

It’s also possible to be circumcised but only have part of it removed.

Just Ask

If you’re not sure what the deal is with you penis, ask your parents! They should know.

And don’t feel bad about not knowing: in the United States, most males who are circumcised experience the procedure as infants, so it’s not like you’d remember it and, unless it was part of a religious or cultural traditional or ritual, there likely wouldn’t be any pictures in the family album from the event.

If you’re not sure whether you’re circumcised and you feel uncomfortable asking your mom or dad, it’s okay to ask your doctor.

Not An Obstacle

All that said, you might ask yourself why you want to know. You might just be curious about your body, which is common and, I think, quite good to want to know more about your body and sexuality.

If, on the other hand, you’re worried that sex is better or worse for circumcised or uncircumcised men, let me reassure you that men can have pleasurable, satisfying, and pleasure-giving sexual experiences regardless of whether or not they have foreskin.

If you have foreskin, you may need to take greater care putting on a condom (such as by retracting your foreskin first and then rolling the condom on).

Risk Factors

Given recent media attention related to STI/HIV risk and circumcision status, you may also be wondering what your STI/HIV risk is.

If you have been circumcised, it’s true that you may have a somewhat lower risk of some STIs during sex with an infected partner. However, having foreskin (being uncut) doesn’t necessarily mean you will get one or more STIs—far from it!

The biggest risk factor for STI/HIV is a person’s behavior.

The best forms of protections for yourself and your partner in terms of STI/HIV risk are the following: limit the number of sexual partners you have; talk about your STI history and status; get tested; ask your partner to get tested; and use condoms for oral, vaginal, and anal sex, if you engage in those types of sex, until you know more about each other’s STI/HIV status and feel comfortable with what you’ve learned (and, if your partner is a woman, once you’ve taken other appropriate steps to manage birth control, if you’re having vaginal sex and don’t want to be parents just yet).

Learn more about how a man’s circumcision status does (and doesn’t) affect sex in Sex Made Easy: Your Awkward Questions Answered-For Better, Smarter, Amazing Sex. You can also learn about a range of issues related to better sex for men in The New Male Sexuality.

Next Question: Our Sex Feels Robotic

I love my girlfriend dearly, but it seems that she doesn’t enjoy sex with me too much. When we do it, it feels a little ‘robotic’. Any advice?

Read Dr. Debby Herbenick’s response.

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