FINE-TOUCH PRESSURE THRESHOLDS IN THE ADULT PENIS

Authors


Sir,

Waskett and Morris [1] complain that Sorrells et al. [2]‘fail to compare the same points on the circumcised and uncircumcised penis’, but Sorrells et al. compared 12 points that the two have in common, as well as five the circumcised penis does not have, and two (of scar tissue) that only the circumcised penis has. By disregarding those seven points (which they miscount) in their table, Waskett and Morris have removed the major source of difference and restored the major fault of the undocumented, unreviewed and vaguely described (but widely quoted) study by Masters and Johnson [3], that of ignoring the foreskin.

Each of the points at which Sorrells et al. measured stands surrogate for a surrounding area of the penis, of varying size. The areas corresponding to the two points of circumcised scar tissue (which were the most sensitive points on the circumcised penis) are very small; those of the foreskin, as sensitive or more so, amount to half or more of the average penile skin [4]. The Bonferroni correction is not applicable because only one hypothesis is being tested.

Sorrells et al. found not only that the foreskin is more sensitive than most of the rest of the penis, but that the exposed corona glandis, at least, of the circumcised penis is slightly less sensitive than that of the intact penis. The Waskett and Morris critique of the selection process in misplaced. Are they suggesting that one’s attitude toward circumcision differentially affects the outcome of a ‘blinded’ test of penile sensitivity, according to the subjects’ circumcision status?

Their reliance on the study of Williamson and Williamson [5] is misguided. In that survey, of Iowa women who had just given birth to boys, the useable response rate was only 54%, of whom only 16.5% (24 women) had experience of both kinds of penis.

They write ‘The existence of a market for lidocaine-based products to reduce penile sensitivity attests to the desire by some men for a penis with reduced, not heightened, sensitivity’ but they give no indication of what proportion of that market comprises circumcised men. ‘Sensitivity’ is not one-dimensional. There are issues of the quality of the sensation from different areas, and that from the scarred area of a circumcised penis might be confounded by the presence of iatrogenic neuromata, sensitive only to pain. A circumcised man might well benefit by having such sensations dulled.

They say that ‘sexual sensation depends upon the types of mechanical stimulation generated during intercourse, which might in turn be influenced by circumcision status’. Indeed they might, especially by the rolling action, or its lack, of the foreskin. There are many anecdotal accounts (including but not limited to those collected by O’Hara and O’Hara [6], both first- and second-hand, of circumcised men having to thrust harder and longer to achieve ejaculation, as you would expect when the great majority of the fine-touch receptors, which Waskett and Morris dismiss, have been removed. Formal confirmation or disproof of this awaits another (more rigorous) ‘Masters and Johnson’.

Circumcision is a ‘cure’ looking for a disease. Morris [7] even promotes it to prevent zipper injuries! That the foreskin itself has a sexual function was well-known for centuries before secular circumcision became widespread [8]. What would need to be proved rigorously is that excising a significant part of the distal penis does not diminish sexual pleasure.

Ancillary