Penile modification and circumcision

In another section, we talked about performance anxiety, and explained how the pressure on men has always been to perform sexually. But there's another form of social pressure which has affected the penis: the pressure for modification - ranging from circumcision, through other initiation rituals like subincision, to penile piercing. 


Why cut skin off a baby boy's penis, the most sensitive part of his vulnerable body, when such an act is not necessary for his future penile health and may even deprive the adult man and his partner of sexual pleasure?

Outside the Western world, the removal of the foreskin is almost always seen as an initiation ritual. A boy who is  circumcised is a member of the tribe, an adult, and he knows that he is expected to fulfill adult roles and responsibilities. In East Africa, for example, the Nadit tribe traditionally circumcise boys around the age of fourteen. The night before the ceremony, the whole village dances wildly. (A testimony to the importance of the ritual, for once it is over the village has a new groups of male warriors.)

Next morning, the young men are taken to the forest, where only the males may see what happens: the boys are circumcised rapidly, painfully, one by one, using a red-hot steel tool. Any sign of flinching or weakness is a shameful disgrace. After this the newly fledged young men live together for six months. They have abandoned their mothers, the world of the feminine, and become men. 

A pro-circumcision polemic from an Australian doctor

Something like this has been repeated all over the world for generations: it's been suggested that the pain of the circumcision ritual is preparation for the pain of wounds received in battle: or, more likely, that the procedure is designed to harden the boy, to make him less susceptible to fear - after he has survived this, nothing can frighten him, least of all being a warrior. He knows what has been granted to him - manhood - and what is expected of him - a male's contribution to the community.

In our more modern world, is there anything different about circumcision? Religious groups perform the act as a ritual of initiation: even when it is done at birth the circumcised penis is a symbol of membership of the group in question, be it Muslim, Jewish or Christian. 

Some societies, including white men in the USA, have routinely circumcised boys at birth or soon afterwards for no obvious reason other than that "it's always been done that way" - often for many decades, though the custom is slowly dying out now.

Along with female genital mutilation, also conducted for "traditional" reasons, circumcision has been the focus of a vociferous debate about its merits in recent times. The debate about whether it is justified is rarely conducted with grace and decorum, but the opponents of circumcision would argue that circumcision is a violent act of abuse, so perhaps a violent debate about its merits is understandable.

For more information on the pros and cons of what you may think of as penile mutilation or penile enhancement, according to your point of view:

It might also be interesting to consider the impact of circumcision on male sexual dysfunction - including ejaculatory problems, which I don't think I have ever seen addressed in terms of glans sensitivity due to the covering of the foreskin. That can certainly be an issue in premature ejaculation.

When you read some of the stuff that some native peoples do to their penises, including flaying (i.e. removing all the skin from tip to root), these rituals suddenly look a lot less like male rites of passage and much more like barbarism passed on from one generation to the next.

Rather than admire the traditions of such cultural norms, it seems much more appropriate to question the way the mind of man works and try to learn something about the ease with which we are programmed to regard something as acceptable just because it's always been done that way. (I think this may be one of mankind's greatest tragedies.)

There are many examples of the process at work: from the men who suffered extreme abuse at their English boarding schools yet insist their own sons go there, to the men who routinely circumcise boys because it's "traditional": i.e., they themselves were circumcised as little boys, probably without anesthetic, obviously without their consent, and probably with no thought as to their future well-being and sexual pleasure. 


And on the theme of how native peoples treat their bodies (regardless of why they do this), the practice of subincision is an interesting phenomenon. The main race which practices this form of penile abuse is the Australian Aborigine. In this ritual, the man's penis is cut open along the bottom, slicing into the urethra and splaying out the tissue so the penis so it looks like a butterflied hot dog roll.

A man who has been subincised has to squat to pee, and his experience of sex is very different to that of a man with a normal penis: those who have done this to themselves as part of the modern BME culture (BME means "extreme body modification"), claim that the sensations of sex on the opened-out urethra are intense. Sure. They don't say if that means intensely pleasurable.

I find the whole thing very dark. Whatever the justification for this mutilation, it seems to me to hide a whole mass of negative self-hatred. This is extreme self-abuse, whatever justification is dreamed up for it.


Penis piercing

Men with pierced penises also have many justifications for it: it looks good, sex feels better, you have a unique penis. But since much penis piercing is done without anesthetic (apparently), I conclude that this is more about a masochistic desire to feel pain, to be punished, perhaps even to be punished for being a man. It would be interesting to analyze the psyche of men who do this to themselves (or have it professionally done) and find out whether their masculinity was respected and approved of as a child.

It isn't hard to see how men whose masculinity was not treated with respect would come to see their penis as a symbol of all the self-hatred they have incorporated into their psyche. Piercing might be one way they can express that self-hatred. On the other hand, it might, as supporters of the procedure claim, just feel good to have a pierced penis. 

It's also been said that some piercings increase sexual pleasure for a man's female partner by rubbing on her G-spot.

Prince Albert

The Prince Albert piercing is attributed to the royal consort of Queen Victoria. The piercing was reputedly called a “dressing ring” and used to secure the penis to the side of the trousers, thereby eliminating an unsightly bulge in the gentleman’s pants.

The Prince Albert piercing goes through the opening of the urethra and exits through a hole in the bottom of the urethra. One person described urinating with a Prince Albert piercing as more like using a watering can than a penis. Urethral scarring is a real possibility with this jewelry.


An ampallang piercing places a barbell through the glans penis. The injuries associated with these piercings may be aggravated by sexual activity but are said by some users to heighten the partner’s responses. (There is no reported evidence from a woman that this is true, by the way.)

Since these piercings go through the glans, multiple complications such as severe infection and tissue injury are possible. Should you want to, you can click on the picture to enlarge it.


Piercing of the foreskin is also quite common. Single or multiple rings may be inserted. These may cause difficulty retracting the foreskin to expose the head of the penis. If the rings are pulled back forcefully, they may cut the foreskin. Rings and such-like devices may rupture condoms. And piercings can serve as a site for introduction of sexually transmitted infections.

And there's more...

Tattooing, penis splitting, bifurcation of the glans, ball stretching, insertion of objects under the penile skin, scarification, and even castration. Information on all of them can be found on the internet.

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Erection, orgasm, ejaculation problems
Penile difference
Male sexuality and the penis
Genital modification
Rolfing the pelvis and penile area

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Foreskin Restoration - A Reader's Email

I have enjoyed your informative and balanced website which is useful for all men and women to read.

A lot of emphasis, even fanaticism, is directed at circumcision issues but not on your own site. As someone who has managed a partial foreskin restoration from infantile circumcision, I thought you might be interested in my observations from experience and talking to many women about it: 

I live in a culture where almost all men are circumcised for tribal reasons and until very recently women had almost no experience of an uncircumcised penis. This helps filter fact from fiction.

1) I have indeed found a difference between my fully circumcised state and the one I am in now, like many men, of 50% coverage.

  • As an older man I found some difficulty in reaching orgasm twice in say 12 hours. This was independent of erectile issues. Since restoration I have found marked improvement in orgasmic sensitivity - occasionally I can reach 3 orgasms a day. The small but noticeable improvement is in sensitivity in intercourse itself and in foreplay sensitivity.
  • Too much emphasis is placed or intercourse versus foreplay. The most marked change to my sexual feelings since restoration has been how much more satisfying female on male foreplay has become. As my restored foreskin can be used as a friction agent, I have noticed a very marked increase in foreplay pleasure - not just in sensitivity but particularly in manual stimulation of the glans by covering / uncovering motions.
  • There is one tribe in my country that does not circumcise. I have had interesting comparisons between first sexual encounters between women from this tribe and those from circumcising tribes. The former are much better at foreplay than the latter. Their hands are gentler, more varied and more patient. The enjoy spending longer on foreplay and their techniques are varied. By contrast women from the circumcising tribes have (generally) much 'rougher' hands, much less variation of penile techniques and less patience for prolonged female-male foreplay.

2) Female reactions

  • I have made love with dozens of women who have never encountered a foreskin, even my partial one. I have told them I am uncircumcised. The huge majority of them have later (after some bouts of intercourse) said they in future would prefer uncircumcised partners. (Discover the truth about the female orgasm here. And find out here how you can make a woman come here.)
  • I have talked to many woman who have had partners of "both" sorts. 90% of them state they enjoyed the foreplay much more with an uncircumcised man, but that the difference in intercourse was much less important. This is not backed up by this study.
  • However in the end intercourse is about penetration. To many women circumcision or "uncircumcision" is secondary to being able to to have good penetration and achieve orgasm. Here the foreskin or lack of it is of little import. This is pure opinion.
  • Females often have to masturbate men (i.e. during periods). Almost 100% say they vastly prefer masturbating an uncircumcised penis. It is easier in that it requires no lubrication and generally less forceful than with circumcised men. And an uncircumcised man can be masturbated easily (I was told) in many covert situations like, traveling together in an airplane - with relative ease.
  • Very few women have met someone with phimosis but those who have did not like it and found it frustrating not to be able to uncover the penis, or that it made intercourse "dainty and painful" as one put it, for her partner. However, individuality rules. One woman told me she more enjoyed a male ejaculating through his phimosis than a male who could be "uncovered" - she enjoyed this visually. There is no accounting for taste!

3) In Balance

The orgasm in the end is in the mind. Male orgasm varies a lot in intensity, just as females experience, and from day to day or encounter to encounter. Being intact is not a magic bullet. Many circumcised males will enjoy stronger orgasms than uncircumcised men.

Some men with foreskins are almost impossible to bring to orgasm - as a prostitute told me - and some circumcised men ejaculate almost at once.

I would say that circumcision is not a benefit, based on first hand experience, in lovemaking per se, but I am not regretful that I was circumcised as I have have been able to experience both states, more or less.

Had I been left with a foreskin, I would have taken that for granted. Most certainly, though, a foreskin is a great aid to both (and I emphasize both) partners in better foreplay and penile stimulation - the difference really is night and day. Keep up your good work!