Controversial new research casts doubt on the long-held belief that circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity for men who have undergone the procedure.
Circumcision, a procedure performed throughout history — for reasons ranging from the fulfillment of a biblical covenant to a means of curbing masturbation — has received both praise by those who tout its supposed medical benefits and scorn from those who claim it has traumatic aftereffects.
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Now, in a Canadian study appearing in the most recent issue of the Journal of Sexual Medicine, researchers found that the glans, or head of the penis, is just as sensitive on a circumcised man as on an uncircumcised one.
"It's probably the best study I've seen of this kind of work," said June Reinisch, the former director of the Kinsey Institute. Reinisch was not involved with the study.
Reinisch praised the study for using the best available technology, for matching circumcised and uncircumcised subjects on a number of important factors and for taking measurements where subjects were in an aroused state — something not done in previous studies.
"It's the state in which we're all interested," said Reinisch. "We're not interested in how [men] feel when they hold themselves when they pee."
Still, the benefits of circumcision remain controversial. Research in recent years has suggested circumcision might benefit men by lowering their risk for AIDS and other STDs. Other studies suggest that the procedure may limit the risk of passing the cancer-causing human papilloma virus (HPV) onto female partners, although the merit of those studies has been disputed.
The American Academy of Pediatrics reflects that doubt in its official policy, which states: "Existing scientific evidence demonstrates potential medical benefits of newborn male circumcision; however, these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision."