Circumcision and sex

Originally Published: January 18, 2008 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: August 20, 2012
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Dear Alice,

My roommate and I were wondering whether or not there was a difference in sleeping with a man with an uncircumcised penis or one that has been cut? My roommates current boyfriend is uncircumcised and she has heard horror stories about sleeping with men that have uncircumcised penises.

Foreskin Troubles

Dear Foreskin Troubles,

Circumcision has become so popular in the United States in the past fifty years — roughly 56 percent of American male infants are circumcised — that uncircumcised penises can be relatively hard to come by (pun intended). If you haven't encountered one before, an uncut member can be a surprise. As with anything unknown, myths and stories about uncircumcised penises abound. And as is always true, different people have different preferences — some people have reported a preference for uncircumcised men while others prefer circumcised. Either way, when beginning a sexual relationship with an uncircumcised man, it's a great idea to educate yourself about these potential differences, so you can have an idea of what to expect and what you can do.

The simple difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis is a thin layer of skin, the foreskin, which is highly sensitive and surrounds the end of the uncircumcised penis like a sleeve. When erect, an uncircumcised man's  foreskin generally retracts over the shaft, exposing the head of the penis and looking very similar to a circumcised penis. During intercourse, oral sex, and masturbation, the retracted foreskin acts like a lubricant or a sleeve. As the penis thrusts, it glides on its own bedding of movable skin, which minimizes friction. A circumcised penis, which has had the foreskin surgically removed, may need additional lubrication for both partners to experience pleasure. Because of this, some people prefer uncircumcised partners.


For some uncircumcised men, the foreskin doesn't retract completely when erect, leaving the head of the penis covered. If you or your partner desire, you can be manually retract the foreskin by gently pulling it back over the shaft. Foreskin is very delicate, has tons of nerve endings, and should be handled carefully. You can ask your partner how far back to pull the foreskin, and how he likes to be touched. If your partner experiences any pain when trying to retract the foreskin, stop! For more information about foreskin pain, check out Frenulum breve, foreskin doesn't fully retract when penis is erect — surgery? and Penis pain could be phimosis.

It's common for the partner(s) of uncircumcised men to notice a distinct odor or taste when coming in close contact with the penis and foreskin. A distinct smell around the genitals is normal for men (and women), however if the odor seems overly strong, it may be time to gently suggest taking a shower together to wash up. It's also possible for uncircumcised men to have an infection under their foreskin; if there are any signs of irritation, redness, offensive odor, or other abnormal symptoms, your partner may need to see a health care provider.

One bonus of circumcision is that removing the foreskin can lower the chance of contracting certain sexually transmitted infections (STIs). HPV (human pamplona virus), a prevalent STI that is linked to cervical cancer in women and penile cancer in men, is transferred by contact of mucous membranes with sexual fluids. Removing the foreskin shrinks the surface area of mucosal skin vulnerable to the virus, decreasing the chance of transmission. In a circumcised man, the glans of the penis, which is exposed and has thicker skin, is more resistant to abrasions and therefore less susceptible to the entry of viruses. The same decreased vulnerability applies to HIV and other STIs. While studies suggest that circumcision lowers the risk of contracting these diseases, they also show that behavioral factors such as using a condom, or getting tested before having intercourse, are more effective risk reducers than just circumcision. Cut or uncut, remember that condoms and other safer sex practices are still important in preventing STIs.

While your first glance at foreskin may give you a bit of a jolt, it's nothing to panic over. Try experimenting with this new situation you're in. Because the foreskin is so sensitive, it can be pleasured just like any other sensitive, erotic part of the body. Using the tongue or the fingers to stimulate the foreskin and the head is often extremely pleasurable for the man. You may be pleased to find that a foreskin offers a whole new dimension of pleasure not only for your partner but for you as well.


December 5, 2012

Seems to be some evidence that circumcised males tend to be less gentle -- as if needing greater effort to feel something and consequently may do damage to delicate female parts. Photos abound of...
Seems to be some evidence that circumcised males tend to be less gentle -- as if needing greater effort to feel something and consequently may do damage to delicate female parts. Photos abound of girls with mangled labia which has become so common it’s considered normal. This never seems to come up in the circumcision debates.