This was taken from a newsletter that is distributed
nationwide to women throughout the US. Dr. Christiane Northrup has
written several books on women's issues.
HOW CIRCUMCISION MAY BE AFFECTING YOUR LOVE LIFE
Circumcision, the surgical removal of the male foreskin, usually
during the first few days after birth, is an emotionally charged subject
that most people are reluctant to discuss openly, let alone objectively.
I know. As an obstetrician-gynecologist, I've performed hundreds of
circumcisions, and I've been on the front lines of the circumcision
debate for more than 25 years.
Though I've provided information on circumcision for expectant
couples for years, it long ago became clear to me that the decision
about whether or not to circumcise a boy is made from an emotional not a
rational place. Still, thetide is turning as more and more people, both
within and without the medical profession, rethink the entire subject.
In the spirit of science and compassion, I urge you to read this
article with an open mind. It may well change the entire way you view
A Risky, Painful, and Unnecessary Procedure
The sad truth is that throughout most of the 20th century, the
American medical community has focused on finding reasons to remove the
foreskin of newborn males instead of acknowledging Mother Nature's
wisdom in including this highly sensitive tissue. Happily, more and more
individuals are questioning circumcision's necessity and acknowledging
its potential harm. Since 1980, the national circumcision rate has
dropped by 30 percent, and an increasing number ofphysicians are finding
the courage to refuse to perform the procedure.
This is precisely what happened in England, a nation formerly
obsessed with circumcision. In the 1940s, following the release of
information that supported leaving male babies fully intact, England's
circumcision rate plummeted almost overnight to less than I percent.
Similar information is beginning to gain ground here in the United
States, so I'd like to share it with you.
To start with, babies feel pain the same way adults do. But the
prevailing wisdom at medical schools has long been that newborns can't
feel pain and therefore don't experience it during their circumcisions.
When I was a medical student,this is what I heard from my professors as
well, although common sense told me it wasn't true. I watched placid
newborns begin to scream and gasp in pain as the circumcision procedure
began. Fortunately, it is finally accepted as a medical fact that
circumcision is extraordinarily painful for newborns, who are born with
full nocioceptive (pain sensing) ability.
Furthermore, routine newborn circumcision has no health benefit.
Though a wide variety of health advantages have been attributed to
circumcision--decreases in the incidence of cervical cancer, AIDS,
sexually transmitted diseases, and male urinary tract infection--the
most up-to-date research has refuted all these justifications. In fact,
the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a policy statement in 1999
saying there isnot sufficient scientific data to recommend routine
newborn circumcision. Given this, the number of insurance companies
willing to pay for the procedure is also decreasing.
Though circumcision is relatively easy to perform, like any surgical
procedure it has risks. The most common complication is hemorrhage,
which is reported in as many as2 percent of cases. Though rare, more
disastrouscomplications can and do occur: "degloving" of the
penile skin, which requires skin grafts and results in loss of
sensation; destruction ofthe penis; and death from hemorrhage or
Because there are no proven benefits for the procedure in the first
place, these complications are all the more tragic. As respected
obstetrician and gynecologist George Denniston points out,
"Circumcision violates the first tenet of medical practice: 'first,
do no harm.' According to modern medical ethics, parents do not have the
right to consent to a procedure that is not in their son's best
interest. Theremoval of a normal, important part of the male sexual
organ is not in their son's best interest.' "
Uncircumcised is the Norm
The vast majority of the world's men, including most Europeans and
Scandinavians, are uncircumcised. And before 1900, circumcision was
virtually non-existent in the United States as well--except for Jewish
and Muslim people, who've been performing circumcisions for hundreds of
years for religious reasons.
Believe it or not, circumcision was introduced inEnglish-speaking
countries in the late 1800s to control or prevent masturbation, similar
to the way that female circumcision was promoted and continues to be
advocated in some Muslim and African countries to control women's
sexuality. As the absurdity of this position becameapparent, new
justifications, such as the prevention of cervical and penile cancers,
received the blessing of the medical establishment. But these are
justifications thatscience has been unable to support. Nor is there any
scientific proof that circumcision prevents sexually transmitted
Also contrary to popular belief, the uncircumcised penis requires no
special care. Many parents get hung up about how to "clean"
the uncircumcised penis in an infant. Some areeven told to retract the
foreskin forcibly. This can cause pain and scarring, and it isn't
necessary. The foreskin often does not retract naturally until a child
is older--sometimes not until he is a teenager--but a boy can easily
stretch and retract his foreskin gently over several months' time.
The Pleasures of Natural Sex
I've always felt that the male foreskin, one of most richly
innervated and hyperelastic pieces of tissue in the male body, is there
for a reason. Until recently, I didn't know exactly what that reason
was. But now, thanks to Kristen O'Hara's well-researched book, Sex as
Nature Intended It(Turning Point Publications, 2001), I finally
understand the reasons for the design of the penis and foreskin and how
this design ensures optimal penile function, including this organ's
ability to satisfy the female sexually. MostAmerican women have not
personally experienced the sensation of sex with an uncircumcised man
because the majority of men in this country, especially those born
before 1980, have been circumcised. But Kristen O'Hara"s long-ago
affair with an uncircumcised man was the spark that touched off years of
research, the result of which is her eye-opening book.Consider the
The primary pleasure zones of the natural (uncircumcised) penis are
located in the upper penis, which includes the penis head, the
foreskin's inner lining, and the frenulum--the hinge of skin that
connects the foreskin tothe head of the penis. When a male is
circumcised, some of the most erotically sensitive areas of the penis
are removed: the foreskin that normally covers the head of thepenis (the
glans) and some or all of the frenulum.
The frenulum contains high concentrations of nerve endings that are
sensitive to fine touch. The glans was designed by nature to be covered
all the time except during sexual activity. Upon erection, both foreskin
layers unfold ontothe upper penile shaft, leaving the highly innervated
frenulum, glans, and inner lining exposed and readied for sexual
activity. This is one of reasons why the penile tip is the focus of
New scientific evidence shows that highly erogenous tissue equivalent
to the female clitoris is located in the core of the penis, beneath the
corona (the hook-like head of thepenis) and coronal tip. This sensitive
tissue extends all the way down the length of the penile shaft to the
pubic mound, where it branches and continues into the pelvis and onto
the pelvic bone in a manner analogous to the anatomy ofthe female
clitoris. Though the penis contains nerves that are sexually excited by
pressure, its tip contains the greatest density of these nerves and is
therefore the most sexually responsive part, just as the tip of the
clitoris isthe most sensitive part. And like the tip of the female
clitoris, the tip of the penis is sexually stimulated by the pleasurable
sensations created by the massaging actions of the movement of the
foreskin upon it during intercourse.
During intercourse, these exquisitely sensitive nerves of the upper
penis both excite a man sexually and control the rhythm of penile
thrusting. "When the natural penis thrustsinward, the vaginal walls
brush against the erotically sensitive nerves of the glans, the
foreskin's inner lining, and the frenulum, causing these nerves to fire
off sensations of pleasure;" writes O'Hara. "The inward
thrustof the penis keeps these pleasure sensations ongoing, but after
these nerves have fired, the penis senses a reduction in pleasurable
feelings, so it stops its inward thrust and begins its outward stroke in
search of stronger sensations.
"During the outward stroke, the foreskin's outer layer slides
forward to cloak the nerves of its inner lining, while the inner lining
itself covers the frenulum" she continues. "Once covered,
these nerves are allowed to restfrom stimulation until the next inward
thrust. As the foreskin moves forward on the shaft, it bunches up behind
the coronal ridge, and may sometimes roll forward over the corona,
depending upon the length of the stroke. This applies pressure to the
interior tissue of the corona andcoronal ridge where nerves that are
excited by pressure send a wave of sexual excitement throughout the
upper penis. The natural penis receives pleasure sensations from one set
ofsensory nerves on the inward thrust and a different set of nerves on
the outward stroke. It can maintain a continuous stream of highly
pleasurable sensations by maintaining theright rhythm"
And intriguingly, because the area of sexual sensation is so
localized in the tip, the penis only has to travel a short distance to
excite one set of nerves or another. In other words, it doesn't have to
withdraw very far to receivepleasure on the outward stroke. This allows
the penis to stay deep inside the vagina, keeping the man's pubic mound
in close and frequent contact with a woman's clitoral area, which
increases her pleasure and a sense of closeness.
As part of the research for her book, Ms. O'Hara surveyed
approximately 150 women--enough to make the study statistically
reliable. Here's how one survey respondent described sex with a natural
"Sex with a natural partner has been to me like the gentle
rhythm of a peaceful but powerful ocean--waves build, then subside and
soothe. It felt so natural, as if it were filling a deep need within me,
not necessarily for the actof sex, but more in order to experience the
rhythm of a man and woman as they were created to respond to each
The Sexual Consequences of Male Circumcision
After circumcision, the exposed head of the penis thickens like a
callus and becomes less sensitive. And because erotically sensitive
areas of the penis have been removed, the circumcised penis must thrust
more vigorously with a much longer stroke in order to reach orgasm
throughstimulating the less sensitive penile shaft. In her study of
women who have had sexual experiences with both natural and circumcised
men, O'Hara notes that respondents overwhelmingly concurred that the
mechanics of coitus weredifferent for the two groups of men.
Seventy-three percent of the women reported that circumcised men tended
to thrust harder, using elongated strokes; while uncircumcised mentended
to thrust more gently, to have shorter strokes, and to maintain more
contact between the mons pubis and clitoris.
O'Hara's research makes the following sexual comparisons between the
natural and circumcised penis.
The natural penis may be more comfortable for the vagina than the
circumcised penis. The coronal ridge of the natural penis is more
flexible; O'Hara likens it to the resiliency of Jell-O. The circumcised
penile head is considerably harder--overly firm and compacted like an
unripe tomato.This is because circumcision cuts away 33-50 percent of
penile skin. As a result, the skin of the penile shaft can get stretched
so tightly during an erection that it pulls down on the skin covering
the glans, compressing the tissue of the penis head. The abnormally
hardened coronal ridge can then be very uncomfortable to vaginal tissue
Women sometimes experience a scraping feeling with each outward
stroke and even report discomfort after intercourse or even the next
day. The brain makes pain-relieving endorphins that may partially block
any discomfort duringintercourse itself. As a gynecologist, I can tell
you that painful intercourse is a very common symptom in women, many of
whom blame themselves or who feel that something is wrong with their
The give of the natural penis, by contrast, allows for more bend and
flex of the organ in the vagina, adding to a woman's pleasure and
comfort. The abundant skin of the natural penile shaft further cushions
the force of the coronal ridge in the vagina. In addition, the mobile
skin ofthe penis is "grasped" by the ridges of the vaginal
mucosa and held in place. The bunching and unbunching of penile skin
during intercourse enhances a man's pleasure, but it also excites the
woman. As one of O'Hara s survey respondents reported: "What I
noticed was that my naturalman got a lot of pleasure from deliberate,
slow insertion and backing out because his foreskin would fold back and
forth, which would excite me also."
Circumcised sex may cause the vagina to abnormally tense up and
decrease its lubrication. Women report more problems with lubrication
when having sex with circumcised men, possibly because of irritation
from the harder tip and involuntary tensing against it, and also because
the longerstroke length tends to remove lubrication from the vagina.
Often an artificial lubricant is necessary.
Intercourse may also be painful for the circumcised man because his
penis scrapes against the ribbed structure of tensed-up vaginal walls
and becomes overstimulated from constant pressure. The degree of
discomfort, if any, willdepend upon the tightness of the man's shaft
skin, the vigor of his thrusting, the duration of intercourse, and the
amount of lubrication.
Circumcision may cause a man to work harder to achieve orgasm,
resulting in emotional and physical distancing from his partner. When a
circumcised man has sex, he may have to concentrate intensely on the
erotic sensations he is receiving while simultaneously blocking out
anyuncomfortable sensations. Survey respondents often reported that
their circumcised partners seemed to have to work too hard to achieve
orgasm. And because of the erotic tissuethat has been removed, he can't
enjoy the sensations leading up to orgasm or his partner's responses.
O'Hara makes a compelling argument that circumcised intercourse may
frustrate the primordial subconscious that seems to know "real sex
ain't this way." She also suggests that each circumcised experience
has the potential to buildup negative memory imprints so that over time,
repeated sexual encounters with the same partner may lead to negative
feelings between the two that carry over into everyday life. If this
sounds like an extraordinary leap, consider thequestion that O'Hara asks
in her book: "Other things being equal, which couple is more likely
to stay together--one enjoying delicious, satisfying sex or one whose
sexual pleasure is being compromised in many ways?"
The Solution: Foreskin Restoration
Fortunately, there are alternatives for men (and their partners) who
want to experience natural sex. This quiet revolution, called Foreskin
Restoration, can be achieved through plastic surgery or nonsurgical
methods. The latterwork on the principle that skin stretches and grows
under pressure just like abdominal skin when it stretches to accommodate
pregnancy. According to O'Hara, whose husband stretched his foreskin
over the course of several years, their sex life is better than ever,
and neither can believe the difference that foreskin restoration has
made. Many other men and women attest to this improvement as well. For
more information, the following resources can be helpful.
National Organization of Restoring Men (NORM) Web site:www.norm.org
For an initial information packet, send $5 to cover printing and
postage. For information on joining the support network or to learn the
location of regional NORM groups send a request with a S.A.S.E. to R.
Wayne Griffiths3205 Northwood Dr. #209 Concord, CA 94520-4506 Tel: (925)
The Joy of Uncircumcising! A restoration manual and more, by Jim
Bigelow, Ph.D. (Contact UNCIRC, POB 52138, Pacific Grove, CA 93950).
Restore Yourself! A Handy Kit for Circumcised Men from NOCIRC of
Michigan Web site: www.RestoreYourself com Address: P.O. Box 333,
Birmingham, MI 48012Tel: (248) 642-5703
Non-Surgical Foreskin Restoration, a Canadian Web site with a great
deal of information: wwwinfocirc.org/rest-e.htmForeskin restoration
internet discussion group: Tosubscribe, send an email to >restore-list-request@e...Type
"subscribe" in the subject line.
What about Religious Circumcision?
I am not Jewish (or Muslim), but I can assure you that many Jews are
rethinking circumcision. (I do not have any information about Muslims).
As a matter of fact, two of the most well-researched and eloquent books
on the harmful nature of circumcision have been written by Jewish men.
Formore information, I urge you to read Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma
by Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., (Vanguard, 1997) andCircumcision: An American
Health Fallacy by EdwardWallerstein (Springer Publishing, 1980). For
moreinformation on the Jewish perspective, Contact:
Circumcision Resource CenterRonald Goldman, Ph.D,PO. Box 232Boston,
MA 02133Tel. 617-523-0088Web resource: www. circumcision. org/info.htm
I hope this has been an eye-opening newsletter. I realize that
circumcision may not have been the topic uppermost on your mind before
you opened your issue this month, but it's my mission to bring you
timely, life-enhancing information.My hope is that you'll weigh it and
then make the wisest choice for yourself and your family.
Christiane Northrup, M.D.