Van Howe et al.[1] found that the prepuce, particularly its ridged band [2,3] is the part of the penis (including the glans) most sensitive to fine touch. This finding is important because it has always been assumed, for good reason, that the glans is by far the most sensitive and important part of the penis. Early and inadequate laboratory studies [1] propelled the idea that ‘sex is sex is sex’, regardless of circumcision status. Suddenly, the prepuce could be sacrificed with a clear conscience and with no sexual consequences. The anatomy and physiology of the prepuce show otherwise.

The range of functions of the ridged band remains uncertain but it is deeply corrugated, rich in distortion-sensitive Meissner corpuscles and subject to the movement of muscularised shaft skin during sexual intercourse. It now seems that the concertina-like ridged band might be reflexogenic as much as fine-touch sensitive. Initial study (J.R.T. unpublished) indicates that the real importance of the ridged band to sexual intercourse lies in an ability to trigger a reflex contraction of muscles responsible for ejaculation.

Routine infant circumcision is under attack in Canada and the USA, but we need to know much more about the function of the prepuce in sexual intercourse. Van Howe and his team have contributed to this ideal, and at the same time opened the hide-bound debate on circumcision to fresh thinking.