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 "Circumcision and Sex"

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"Wrapped In Controversy"

Does circumcision harm your sex life?

This question has become more pressing than ever with the recent endorsement by the World Health Organization of circumcision as a means of reducing HIV infection in Africa. But as two new studies show, it's proving tricky to resolve.

A Womans Point of View

Kimberley Payne of the Riverside Professional Centre in Ottawa, Canada, and her colleagues tested the sensitivity of 20 intact and 20 circumcised men's penises as they watched erotic movie clips, by touching the penises with filaments that press down with predetermined amounts of pressure (The Journal of Sexual Medicine, DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2007.00471.x). They found no difference in penile sensation between circumcised and uncircumcised men.

A Guys Point of View

However, when Robert Van Howe of Michigan State University used a similar method to measure sensitivity at 19 points along the penises of 163 men, he found that the five most sensitive points were all in portions of the penis removed by circumcision, especially those in folds exposed as the penis becomes erect (BJU International, vol 99, p 864).

Van Howe says Payne's team might have had similar results if they had tested more men and made measurements at more than two points. He denied that funding by the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers, which opposes circumcision, influenced the result. "It would be hard to fake," he says. He hopes other groups will try to replicate the findings.

Paul Ellis

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