From the beginning I knew this story would be a logical disaster. From the title (“Study: Circumcision Doesn’t Reduce Sexual Sensation”) to the opening paragraph, this will cause trouble.
Controversial new research casts doubt on the long-held belief that circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity for men who have undergone the procedure.
Unfortunately, there is no “long-held” belief that circumcision reduces sexual sensitivity. Most Americans hold the opposite belief, that circumcision causes no change. When people in that large group concede that it reduces sensitivity, this is generally viewed as somehow good because it’s assumed to mean longer times to climax. That’s a subjective valuation, and I don’t remember when subjective valuations became fact.
The story continues:
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.
Let’s assume the findings are correct. I haven’t read the study or assessments of the methodology, so I’ll temporarily conceded the point, for the argument. So? Circumcision targets the foreskin, and the majority of the foreskin is removed during circumcision. Not the glans. (Usually.)
Based on factual understanding of the surgery, this study fails to analyze the proper context. Circumcision removes the many nerve endings that exist in the foreskin. Might this possibly, somehow, just maybe affect sexual sensation?
While psychologist Kimberley Payne, one of the study’s authors, said the research seems to refute the idea that the foreskin keeps the penis sensitive, she was hesitant to draw a broader conclusion from her study.
“This just scratched the surface, and there is so much more to look at,” she said.
No kidding. Like ethics, for starters. But I also addressed a study, with due caution, that demonstrated the opposite of this study. Who to believe is the question being thrown around, instead of what. For example:
But both Payne and [June Reinisch, the former director of the Kinsey Institute] criticized the Van Howe’s [sic] study, which was funded by the anti-circumcision group the National Organization of Circumcision Information Research Centers, as biased.
“Scientific study must be conducted dispassionately and without bias. The motivation of this group is highly suspect,” said Payne.
I’m going to assume that motivation was simply poor word choice. The motivation – ending forced genital cutting without medical need – is not suspect. Question potential methodological errors that permit a preferred conclusion, if you want. That’s worth debating. But Reinisch might want to undergo a little self-examination.
As for the failure to measure the foreskin’s sensitivity, Reinisch said that was irrelevant, as it rolls back from the glans during arousal.
“The foreskin’s job is to cover the penis and protect it,” she said. “Its job is not to be a part of the sensitivity.”
Let’s pause here. She is wrong. During intercourse, does a man insert his penis only until his glans is stimulated, or does he actually insert further because the foreskin (remnant) feels good? Seriously, is Ms. Reinisch going to assert the former? Is she also unaware that the glans can move in and out of the foreskin during intercourse, if the man still has his foreskin? What might occur there?
“Of course nerve endings are lost,” she said of circumcision. “The question is: Does it make any difference in satisfaction? In pleasure?”
Oh, that. Remember, of course, that this study only looked at the glans, which is not removed during circumcision. But she can draw conclusions with the painfully obvious questions pertinent to circumcision still unanswered to her satisfaction. Still, only NOCIRC is
biased pre-disposed to its own conclusions.
“Nature has certainly provided an enormous amount of sexually sensitive tissue,” [Reinisch] said, calling the brain the most powerful sex organ of all.
“I’m not suggesting everyone be circumcised,” said Reinisch. “I’m suggesting that there are some benefits. I believe it’s really a personal choice.”
The value of the potential benefits are subjective, but I won’t get sidetracked there. I agree that it’s really a personal choice. But the inevitable result of this study is that some parents will circumcise their sons because circumcision “doesn’t reduce sexual sensation.” That isn’t personal choice. That is parental direction. There is a difference. I wonder if Ms. Reinisch will concede that.
P.S. Click here to see the image that ABC News attached to the story. It’s sinister enough that I think it might make people pause a bit, except I think it’ll be seen as funny. You know, cutting genitals is funny. Hahaha. No?