Effects of Male Circumcision on Female Arousal and Orgasm

By Gillian A. Bensley and Gregory J. Boyle
Department of Psychology
Bond University, QLD, Australia

While vaginal dryness is considered an indicator for female sexual arousal disorder, (1,2) male circumcision may exacerbate female vaginal dryness during intercourse. (3) O’Hara and O’Hara reported that women who had experienced coitus with both intact and circumcised men preferred intact partners by a ratio of 8.6 to one. (4) Most women (85.5%) in that survey reported that they were more likely to experience orgasm with a genitally intact partner: ‘They [surveyed women] were also more likely to report that vaginal secretions lessened as coitus progressed with their circumcised partners (16.75, 6.88–40.77).’ (4)

Presence of the movable foreskin makes a difference in foreplay, being more arousing to the female. (4) Women reported they were about twice as likely to experience orgasm if the male partner had a foreskin. (4) The impact of male circumcision on vaginal dryness during coitus required further investigation.

We conducted a survey of 35 female sexual partners aged 18 to 69 years who had experienced sexual intercourse with both circumcised and genitally intact men.

Participants completed a 35-item sexual awareness survey. Women reported they were significantly more likely to have experienced vaginal dryness during intercourse with circumcised than with genitally intact men χ2 (df = 1, n = 20) = 5.0, p <0.05.5

Women who preferred a circumcised male sexual partner averaged 27.3 years of age (SD = 8.2), while those whose stated preference was for a genitally intact partner had a mean age of 36.4 years (SD = 13.7). Thus, the role of the male foreskin in preventing loss of vaginal lubrication during intercourse may become more discernible with increasing age among women. We reported:

During intercourse, the skin of an intact penis slides up and down the shaft, stimulating the glans and the nerves of the inner and outer foreskin. On the outstroke, the glans is partially or completely engulfed by the foreskin with more skin remaining inside the vagina than is the case with the circumcised penis. This ‘valve’ mechanism is thought to retain the natural lubrication provided by the female because the bunched up skin acts to block the lubrication escaping from the vagina, which results in dryness. (5)

Our work, which supports the hypothesis of Warren and Bigelow (3) and the findings of O’Hara and O’Hara (4) about the role of the male prepuce during coitus is fully reported in Denniston et al. (5)
Research generally has not considered possible adverse effects of male circumcision upon female sexual arousal and response. While Moynihan reported that vibratory thresholds, blood flow and hormone levels were studied, (1) there was no mention of circumcision status of the male partner. Likewise, Leiblum failed to control for male circumcision status. (2) In light of published findings, (4,5) this is a serious methodological omission.

Most likely, reported vaginal dryness and the related clinical designation ‘female arousal disorder’ is but a normal female response to coitus with a man with an iatrogenically deficient penis. (5)

It is imperative that future studies of female arousal disorder record and control the circumcision status of male sexual partners.

  1. Moynihan R. The making of a disease: female sexual dysfunction. BMJ 2003;326:45–7.
  2. Leiblum SR. Arousal disorders in women: complaints and complexities. Med J Aust 2003;178:638–40.
  3. Warren J, Bigelow J. The case against circumcision. Br J Sex Med 1994;Sept/Oct:6–8.
  4. O’Hara K, O’Hara J. The effect of male circumcision on the sexual enjoyment of the female partner. BJU Int 1999;83 Suppl 1:79–84.
  5. Bensley GA, Boyle GJ. Physical, sexual, and psychological effects of male infant circumcision: an exploratory survey. In: Denniston GC, Hodges FM, Milos MF, editors. Understanding circumcision: a multi-disciplinary approach to a multi-dimensional problem. New York: Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers; 2001. p. 207–39.
Related Reading: 

Male Circumcision and Women's Sexual Health [List of Resources] 

Join in the conversation: Saving Our Sons



  1. I've been with my girlfriend for more than two years, and just recently she remarked that I'm the only guy she has never used Lube with during sex. It turns out that I'm the only guy she's had sex with that's still natural(intact foreskin).

  2. Possible effects of Male Circumcision on the Male Psyche.

    www.bioethicsinternational.org/?p=457 Pain & Circ

    Anna Taddio, a pain specialist at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, noticed more than a decade ago that the male infants she treated seemed more sensitive to pain than their female counterparts. This discrepancy, she reasoned, could be due to sex hormones, to anatomical differences — or to a painful event experienced by many boys: circumcision. In a study of 87 baby boys, Taddio found that those who had been circumcised soon after birth reacted more strongly and cried for longer than uncircumcised boys when they received a vaccination shot four to six months later. She concluded that a single painful event could produce effects lasting for months, and perhaps much longer. Effects might include emotional and behavioral problems like anxiety and depression, or learning disabilities.

  3. Brain Visualization Research during Male Infant Circumcision
    by Dr. Paul D. Tinari Ph.D.

    Two of my physics professors at Queen's University (Dr. Stewart & Dr. McKee) were the original developers of Positron Emission Tomography (PET) for medical applications. They and a number of other Queen's physicists also worked on improving the accuracy of fMRI for observing metabolic activity within the human body.

    As a graduate student working in the Dept. of Epidemiology, I was approached by a group of nurses who were attempting to organize a protest against male infant circumcision in Kinston General Hospital. They said that their observations indicated that babies undergoing the procedure were subjected to significant and inhumane levels of pain that subsequently adversely affected their behaviours. They said that they needed some scientific support for their position. It was my idea to use fMRI and/or PET scanning to directly observe the effects of circumcision on the infant brain.

    The operator of the MRI machine in the hospital was a friend of mine and he agreed to allow us to use the machine for research after normal operational hours. We also found a nurse who was under intense pressure by her husband to have her newborn son circumcised and she was willing to have her son to be the subject of the study. Her goal was to provide scientific information that would eventually be used to ban male infant circumcision. Since no permission of the ethics committee was required to perform any routine male infant circumcision, we did not feel it was necessary to seek any permission to carry out this study.

    We tightly strapped an infant to a traditional plastic "circumrestraint" using Velcro restraints. We also completely immobilized the infant's head using standard surgical tape. The entire apparatus was then introduced into the MRI chamber. Since no metal objects could be used because of the high magnetic fields, the doctor who performed the surgery used a plastic bell with a sterilized obsidian bade to cut the foreskin. No anaesthetic was used.

    The baby was kept in the machine for several minutes to generate baseline data of the normal metabolic activity in the brain. This was used to compare to the data gathered during and after the surgery. Analysis of the MRI data indicated that the surgery subjected the infant to significant trauma. The greatest changes occurred in the limbic system concentrating in the amygdala and in the frontal and temporal lobes.

    A neurologist who saw the results to postulated that the data indicated that circumcision affected most intensely the portions of the victim's brain associated with reasoning, perception and emotions. Follow up tests on the infant one day, one week and one month after the surgery indicated that the child's brain never returned to its baseline configuration. In other words, the evidence generated by this research indicated that the brain of the circumcised infant was permanently changed by the surgery.

    Our problems began when we attempted to publish our findings in the open medical literature. All of the participants in the research including myself were called before the hospital discipline committee and were severely reprimanded. We were told that while male circumcision was legal under all circumstances in Canada, any attempt to study the adverse effects of circumcision was strictly prohibited by the ethical regulations. Not only could we not publish the results of our research, but we also had to destroy all of our results. If we refused to comply, we were all threatened with immediate dismissal and legal action.

    I would encourage anyone with access to fMRI and /or PET scanning machines to repeat our research as described above, confirm our results, and then publish the results in the open literature.

    Dr. Paul D. Tinari Ph.D.,
    Pacific Institute for Advanced Study


  4. Hi!

    I'm Andrzej from Poland and I just read D. Paul's message and while I am against male circumcision I don't support his use of an infant as an experiment, even if it was for a good cause, this should not have happened. Seems in the western societies everything goes, this would not be allowed in Poland, yet many people in the west regard western societies as more civilised than Eastern European nations. In addition, in Poland we do not engage in barbaric practices of any circumcision: male or female of any age, yet the westerners will regard themselves as culturally and morally more advanced yet again, ok then, I will let them have it, because they must have it, there, westerners are just more humane than anyone else on the planet, especially the Slavic people, I can see it now. However, I must give credit to those westerners here who stood up against the odds, took initiative, like the two nurses in Dr. Pauls's message, and fought against the cruel practice, that is male circumcision. I wonder how it is possible that in a democratic country like Canada, the schoolars were prohibited from even studying the adverse effects of infant circumcision, this is in itself morally wrong, academics with certain schoolar credibility behind them should be allowed to carry out their studies, as long, of course, as these are conducted in a humane manner. The method of carrying out the research was not the issue here though, Dr. Paul was not allowed to make a start on it whatsoever, I wonder if the Jewish circles had anything to do with this prohibition, for as it is well known, Jews are the main supporters of male circumcision, although not all, with many strongly supporting the practice and aiding it along the way. Note my use of the phrase "wonder" in reference to Jewish involvement, I am being careful, most likely way too careful not to point fingers at the Jews, something that they should learn when they make accusations in regards to others. However, the tactics of totally prohibiting others to act in a manner that is contrary to Jewish interests often (not always) resemble Jewish methods of exercising control over important agendas.



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