Whether a man is circumcised or not does not appear to have a significant impact his sexual functioning, according to new research published in the Archives of Sexual Behavior. However, the study indicates that those who are happier with their circumcision status tend to have a more positive view of their genitals and are less likely to feel anxious about exposing their body. This suggests that a person’s attitude towards their circumcision status can play an important role in how they feel about their body during sexual experiences.
Circumcision, a common practice that affects the penis, has not been extensively studied for its impact on body and genital self-image. The new study aimed to better understand how attitudes towards circumcision status were related to psychosexual variables, and how these attitudes vary geographically.
“Penile circumcision in general is an interesting topic because it is something that most people have a personal connection to and have strong opinions about, at least in the United States, but not many really talk about it,” said study author Sophia Selino, a research assistant at The Consultation Center at Yale University. “Reading through academic literature was a way for me to learn and engage with the topic in a fruitful way. This eventually led to me expanding on previous research by conducting this study.”
Selino and her colleagues recruited participants from different forums on Reddit, such as OneY, AskMen, Sex, and LGBT. The researchers posted a brief description of the study on various men’s health subreddits, inviting people to participate in a study about body image and sexual functioning without mentioning circumcision in the recruitment materials.
To take part in the study, participants had to be at least 18 years old and be able to read and write in English. The final sample included 205 people, with 102 of them circumcised and 103 not circumcised. Participants came from different parts of the world, including the United States, Canada, Latin America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. The participants’ ages ranged from 18 to 65 years old, with an average age of 29.03 years old.
There were no significant differences in male genital self-image, exposure avoidance and anxiety during sexual activities, and sexual functioning among those who were circumcised and those who were not circumcised.
The researchers found that happiness with circumcision status, but not circumcision status itself, predicted better male genital self-image and less avoidance of body exposure during sexual activities. In other words, those who indicated they were “very happy” or “happy” with their circumcision status were more likely to agree with statements such as “I feel positively about my genitals” and disagree with statements such as “I don’t like my partner to see me completely naked during sexual activity.”
“Happiness with one’s circumcision status can have a significant impact on genital self-image, more so than their actual circumcision status,” Selino told PsyPost. “This is not surprising, per se, but it solidifies a layer of nuance that needs to be considered when examining the psychosexual impacts of circumcision.”
The researchers had hypothesized that men who didn’t have the majority circumcision status in their region would be less happy with their circumcision status. But they found no evidence for this. Participants’ ratings of happiness with their circumcision status did not appear to vary by region. Overall, non-circumcised people were generally happier with their status than circumcised people, regardless of their region of origin.
“I was a bit surprised to find that happiness with circumcision status was not dependent on whether one fits into the majority status within their region of origin,” Selino said. “Instead, the data showed that overall, non-circumcised folks were happier with their status than those who were circumcised. I refrain from drawing any definitive conclusions on this finding due to limitations with my sample, but the issue of consent for the procedure absolutely should be considered and should not be undermined.”
The study’s recruitment method via Reddit may have resulted in a sample that is not representative of the general population, as the participants may not subscribe to dominant or heteronormative cultures within their region, the researchers noted. This may have influenced the results, particularly in regards to circumcised people reporting less happiness with their status.
“Due to a small sample size overall and across regions, it is difficult to draw conclusions about how social comparison plays a role in attitudes towards circumcision status based on this study alone,” Selino explained. “Ideally, I’d be interested to see more studies of a larger scale assess factors that might influence attitudes toward one’s status.”
The study, “Happiness with Circumcision Status, Not Status Itself, Predicts Genital Self‑Image in a Geographically Diverse Sample“, was authored by Sophia Selino and Ross Krawczyk.