Background One-third of the world’s men are circumcised, but little is known about possible sexual consequences of male circumcision. In Denmark (∼5% circumcised), we examined associations of male circumcision with a range of sexual measures in both sexes.

Methods Participants in a national health survey (n = 5552) provided information about their own (men) or their spouse’s (women) circumcision status and details about their sex lives. Logistic regression-derived odds ratios (ORs) measured associations of circumcision status with sexual experiences and current difficulties with sexual desire, sexual needs fulfilment and sexual functioning.

Results Age at first intercourse, perceived importance of a good sex life and current sexual activity differed little between circumcised and uncircumcised men or between women with circumcised and uncircumcised spouses. However, circumcised men reported more partners and were more likely to report frequent orgasm difficulties after adjustment for potential confounding factors [11 vs 4%, ORadj = 3.26; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.42–7.47], and women with circumcised spouses more often reported incomplete sexual needs fulfilment (38 vs 28%, ORadj = 2.09; 95% CI 1.05–4.16) and frequent sexual function difficulties overall (31 vs 22%, ORadj = 3.26; 95% CI 1.15–9.27), notably orgasm difficulties (19 vs 14%, ORadj = 2.66; 95% CI 1.07–6.66) and dyspareunia (12 vs 3%, ORadj = 8.45; 95% CI 3.01–23.74). Findings were stable in several robustness analyses, including one restricted to non-Jews and non-Moslems.

Conclusions Circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment. Thorough examination of these matters in areas where male circumcision is more common is warranted.”

From a new paper by Frisch, Lindholm & Grønbæk. The full paper is available here. has some coverage of the study in Danish and an interview with Morten Frisch here.

October 20, 2011 - Posted by | Data, Medicine, Studies


  1. I looked through the study, and must give the authors credit – they did a good job with the data they had to work with. They are aware of their limitations, and their policy prescriptions are solid. A couple of things that caught my attention:

    – What the hell are those “confounding factors”? The study has three mentions of them, but no explanation. I know what a confounding factor is, but… given the small-ish sample size of circumcised men (125), and with only 4% reporting, for example, orgasm difficulties, that is a total of 5 men reporting such difficulties, against 11% in the non-circumcised sample. The significance of the finding seems to hinge very much on what the adjustment is. If you include the excluded, for example (making up numbers and reasons), two men with prostate cancer (after all, 32 of 125 are over 60 years of age), one with a severe urinary tract infection, and one religious weirdo who thinks orgasms are sinful, all of a sudden you have 9 cases and 7.2%, and the significance is most likely gone.

    – “Current evidence shows no role for circumcision in preventing HIV transmission in industrialized parts of the world or in reducing the male-to-female transmission of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. Actually, there are reports of increased risk of HIV transmission during circumcision in resource-poor countries.” – It makes one want to cry when people (not the authors) suggest that a way to limit HIV transmission is to circumcise people. Weak relationship, and a gazillion of exogenous variables no analysis can account for – local sexual mores being the big one. Unprotected sex – clearly causal. Circumcision status – correlational until rigorously proven otherwise. From the article: “WHO-sponsored circumcision programmes… ” – Jesus (and Plamus) wept.

    – “In collaboration with local circumcision programme managers… ” – Now that is a job that title people in the enlightened age, if it ever dawns, will have a face-palm moment over. Performance metrics? “We present to program coordinators X+Y foreskins as proof that we exceeded our goal of circumcising X men in the Z region of sub-Saharan Africa.”

    – “Historically, reduced penile sensitivity was not an unintended side effect of circumcision. Medieval rabbi, physician and philosopher Moses Maimonides (1135–1204) stated that circumcision was required to ‘cause man to be moderate’, because circumcision ‘weakens the power of sexual excitement’ and ‘lessens the natural enjoyment’.27 In the 19th century, pre-occupation with the dangers of phimosis, masturbation and an ll-defined syndrome called spermatorrhoea gave rise to a series of preventive measures, including chastity belts, straight waistcoats, iatrogenic urethral inflammation and other measures to reduce sexual excitability. These procedures eventually lost clinical relevance as circumcision grew in popularity to become the favoured method of preventing and treating the ill-regarded habit of masturbation.” – For me, this just about sums the issue. We have a bunch of morons, stuck culturally a few centuries (for some [Jews], millenia) ago, who are trying to find quasi-scientific excuses to continue a stupid ritual that their version of the FSM supposedly told their ancestors to perform, and another bunch of morons who buy their bull-bleep. If grown-ups choose to mutilate themselves – all the power to them. Mutilating children – that’s weapon-grade barbarism.

    Comment by Plamus | October 21, 2011 | Reply

  2. The small sample of circumsized men is a big problem when it comes to drawing conclusions out of sample, but to be fair they do write in the paper that: “Thorough examination of these matters in areas where male circumcision is more common is warranted.” This is not the final word, but the result is interesting enough to merit further analysis. Frankly, I was pretty surprised to learn that there isn’t already a huge literature on this.

    My opinion don’t matter but you know I agree with you that just like it’s a bad idea to fill a child’s head with lies, it’s probably not a very good idea to cut bodyparts off a defenceless child just because of what deluded morons or liars said hundreds or thousands of years ago. Also, for any medical man or -woman the default position should be ‘don’t cut’ – primum non nocere.

    Comment by US | October 21, 2011 | Reply

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