Introduction: Research, theory, and popular belief all suggest that penile sensation is greater in the uncircumcised as compared with the circumcised man. However, research involving direct measurement of penile sensation has been undertaken only in sexually functional and dysfunctional groups, and as a correlate of sexual behavior. There are no reports of penile sensation in sexually aroused subjects, and it is not known how arousal affects sensation. In principle, this should be more closely related to actual sexual function.
Aim: This study therefore compared genital and nongenital sensation as a function of sexual arousal in circumcised and uncircumcised men.
Methods: Twenty uncircumcised men and an equal number of age-matched circumcised participants underwent genital and nongenital sensory testing at baseline and in response to erotic and control stimulus films. Touch and pain thresholds were assessed on the penile shaft, the glans penis, and the volar surface of the forearm. Sexual arousal was assessed via thermal imaging of the penis.
Results: In response to the erotic stimulus, both groups evidenced a significant increase in penile temperature, which correlated highly with subjective reports of sexual arousal. Uncircumcised men had significantly lower penile temperature than circumcised men, and evidenced a larger increase in penile temperature with sexual arousal. No differences in genital sensitivity were found between the uncircumcised and circumcised groups. Uncircumcised men were less sensitive to touch on the forearm than circumcised men. A decrease in overall touch sensitivity was observed in both groups with exposure to the erotic film as compared with either baseline or control stimulus film conditions. No significant effect was found for pain sensitivity.
Conclusion: These results do not support the hypothesized penile sensory differences associated with circumcision. However, group differences in penile temperature and sexual response were found.