An Internet-based Survey by James Badger

This was pretty much the same form as used for my Forum survey, but distributed world-wide through the Internet.

91 replies were received, 90 by e-mail and just one by post. The respondents were mostly male - 70 men, but only 21 women. Four of these came as 'his & hers' pairs - partners of some status or other.

The sample was somewhat unusual. I invited people to pass the questionnaire around clubs and interest groups, and this led to its being circulated extensively among anti-circumcision campaigners, who made up nearly half of the male respondents and a quarter of the female. (Most of these identified themselves explicitly - one woman described herself rather elegantly as an 'intactivist', others were identified by e-mail headers - but of course some of the others may also be members of such groups). Of the remainder, a few came from pro-circumcision groups!

Two thirds of the men (43 men) had been circumcised and one third (27) had not. Nationality was not always easy to establish - some entered nothing here, while in other cases it was difficult to know whether people were giving their ethnic affiliation or their nationality. 40 of the 70 had an internet address in the USA, of whom 3 were Canadian, one Italian and one Belgian - the rest explicitly or tacitly American. Ethnic affilitiations of the US nationals, where given, were one Afro-American, 2 Swedish, one Canadian, and 5 English, Irish, Scots or Welsh (two of whom were also part German). Six respondents had Canadian internet addresses. One of them was American; the others were all Canadian, but Welsh and Dutch were given as ethnic affiliations. Australia provided 6 respondents (one identifying himself as Greek, and two of UK origin), and the UK 5. There were 3 South Africans, 2 Swiss, 2 Germans plus an American living in Germany, one New Zealander (white), a Pole, a Hungarian, a Singapore Chinese and a Hongkong Chinese.

The majority (over three quarters) of the women were American, but there were also two Australians, one Canadian Chinese, a South African and a Briton.

Looking at circumcision status by country, 33 of the 45 North Americans (US or Canadian nationality) were circumcised (73%) and 12 (27%) were natural. Of the others, 10 of the 25 had been circumcised (40%) and 15 (60%) had not. Thus while circumcision was more common among North Americans, it was certainly not rare elsewhere. Most of the Britons were roundheads (circumcised), and so were both of the Chinese and one of the Swiss.

There was also quite a strong gay contingent - but then, there were some gay groups among the quite wide range to which I posted the questionnaire. 61% of men were predominantly or exclusively heterosexual, 7% were bisexual and 31% were predominantly or exclusively homosexual. The women were mostly heterosexual (perhaps gay women don’t really care much about male circumcision, and who could blame them?). Two, however, gave their orientation as bisexual.

Gay men were much more likely to be circumcised - 77% had been cut, as opposed to just over half of the heterosexual men. However, this may largely reflect nationality - almost all the gay men were from the USA, with just 3 from Canada and one each from South Africa and New Zealand. (Two Canadians, one American, the South African and the New Zealander were the 5 natural men).

Five men didn’t give their age; the average age of those that did was 35 , with the youngest 17 and the oldest 54. Younger men were slightly less likely to be circumcised - both the two teenage respondents were natural - but overall the difference was small. The women were slightly younger - average age 32 - with the youngest aged 18 and the oldest 51. None of the women declined to give their age!

What about sex?

Both women and heterosexual men had sex, on average, more than once a month but less than once a week. Gay men had homosexual relations just slightly more often. However, the average is a bit misleading. The modal value is once a week or more, both for heterosexual men and for women - 56% of heterosexual men, and 57% of women came in this class. The modal class for gay men (and gay sex) was the same but this time it only accounted for 41% of the population. In fact, the reason for the higher average was not that gay men have sex more frequently, but that fewer have sex rarely or not at all. Four men, aged 17 to 31, had never had any form of sex with a partner (male or female). Three of them (75%) were uncircumcised - way above the norm for the sample as a whole.

Heterosexual men who were circumcised had sex more often that those who were uncircumcised. (This statistic also came out in my Australian survey). Since almost all of the gay men were circumcised this comparison could not be made for them.

Most men masturbated weekly or more - there was little difference between cavaliers and roundheads (uncircumcised and circumcised).

Almost half (47%) of the 43 heterosexual men were married or in a regular relationship; two more (5%) were living with girlfriends, 28% had regular girlfriends while 21% had none. Circumcised men were slightly more likely to be married, and slightly less likely to have no girlfriend, but the difference was small.

Of the women, 38% were married or in de-facto relationships, 10% lived with boyfriends, one third (33%) had regular boyfriends and 19% had no current partner. A large majority - 62% - had had both circumcised and uncircumcised partners, but one third had had only circumcised men - only 1 (an American, surprisingly) had only experienced natural men. All the women gave details for their current or past partner, and 13 (62%) had circumcised partners, while 8 (38%) had natural ones.

Circumcised men were much more likely to have suffered from sexually transmitted diseases than uncircumcised; however gay men were much more likely to have suffered from these diseases than straights, and gay men were almost all circumcised. Looking at heterosexual men alone, and excluding those (mostly uncircumcised) who had never had sex and therefore were not at risk, the difference was much reduced. It is clear, though, that the often-made claim that circumcision protects against STDs is simply nonsense.

Non-sexually transmitted urogenital diseases had affected both circumcised and natural men equally. Urinary tract infections were more common among gay men but otherwise there was little correlation with sexual preference. Balanitis was almost exclusively confined to uncircumcised men, but that is well established by many studies.

What sort of penis do partners prefer?

16 men (5 ot them uncircumcised) thought that women preferred circumcised partners. (Three of these 16 were themselves opposed to circumcision) Only 3 men, all opposed to circumcision but two of them circumcised, thought that women preferred the natural member. The remainder of the men either didn’t know or thought that they had no preference (many of these - 40% - were gay and so probably didn’t care much either).

The women certainly thought that circumcised penises looked more attractive - 12 women (57%) were of that opinion, including two who were opposed to circumcision. Only 7 (33%) thought that natural ones looked better. However 11 women said that their ideal penis would be natural (including three who thought that circumcised ones looked better). Only 8 said that their ideal was a roundhead. The two women who didn’t give a preference had only had circumcised men, and so presumably felt they didn’t know enough about the other sort. Even if we exclude avowed anti-circumcision campaigners we still have six whose ideal penis was natural, so there certainly isn’t as a strong a preference for circumcision as the men thought.

Coming down to more specific points, we find (just as my Australian survey did) that most women like particular things about each type. The circumcised sort won out strongly for oral sex (two to one in favour) while the proportions were completely reversed for hand jobs (two to one in favour of the natural sort). For straight penis-in-vagina sex the voting was pretty even. The voting on hygiene was also pretty even - 9 women thought that circumcision was more hygenic, 11 thought it wasn’t and one didn’t know. Not many expressed a preference on which sort they would rather touch - 6 preferred circumcised and 5 uncircumcised, while 7 had no preference and 3 didn’t know.

The men’s forms bore this out. Men who received oral sex often were almost all circumcised (80% circumcised, 20% natural) while those who got it less frequently, or not at all, were about 50/50 of each type.

My Australian survey found, surprisingly, that circumcised men gave greater sexual satisfaction to their women. What did the Internet survey show? Looking at heterosexual men who had sex at least once a month we find that among the circumcised men 83% said that their women usually or always reached orgasm, while 17% said that their partners sometimes or never came. Of the natural men 53% said that their partners usually or always came, 47% said sometimes or never. (Nobody answered 'rarely').

Looking for an explanation in my Australian survey, I noted that more circumcised men were happy with their state. This certainly does not apply here, with such a large proportion of respondents opposed to circumcision. Half of the circumcised men who generally satisfied their women were unhappy about being roundheads, whereas almost all the natural men who failed to satisfy their women were happy to have foreskins. It seems that there may really be a functional benefit in being circumcised.

Women generally didn’t think there was much difference in stimulation - of the 13 who had had both sorts of lovers, 4 thought there was a slight difference and ony 2 thought there was a big difference. Of these 6, five favoured the natural penis - but 4 of these were "intactivists", who may just have had an axe to grind! Excluding these we have just one vote each way. Only 12 women answered the question on sensitivity - 8 thought the circumcised penis was less sensitive, 4 thought that there was no difference, and one thought that it was more sensitive. This is quite different from the Australian survey, where the vote was pretty even. However, the effect of the anti contigent may be biasing this one too.

However, apart from women’s opinions, we also asked them about their actual sex life. Here we run into the statistical limitations of such a small sample - in my Australian survey we 110 women’s replies. Here, though we have just 17 women who had any current sexual activity (sex more than once a year) - all but one of whom had sex at least monthly. 10 of these had circumcised men, 7 had natural ones. These are very small samples. 40% of the women with circumcised lovers said that they climaxed at the same time as their men, while this was true for only 29% of the women with natural men. The remainder, in both groups, were split pretty equally between those who came before and after their lovers. No women in either group failed to orgasm, though a couple of very young women, who were not sexually active, ticked this as having applied to them. These results do support that idea that women have more satisfactory sex with circumcised men, but the sample is too small for the difference to be significant.

What about men’s satisfaction?

9 men thought sex was better for roundheads (circumcised men) - 5 of them were circumcised, 4 had foreskins. Interestingly, 3 of these were strongly opposed to circumcision - evidently for them owning a foreskin was more important than better sex. 20 men thought that sex was better for the natural man - given the number of anti-circumcision campaigners in the survey this is no surprise. 13 of these men were circumcised and only 7 were natural. 6 of the men who expressed a viewpoint on this question (all but one favouring foreskins) had never had sex with a woman, and 4 had never had any sort of sex with a partner, so some of the views are purely theoretical. Interestingly, natural men didn’t have strong opinions on this one - it was mostly circumcised men who thought sex was better with a foreskin.

However, there is one group of men who are in a position to know which is better - those who were circumcised as adults or teenagers and have tried it both ways. 8 men had been circumcised over the age of 15; one was exclusively gay and therefore didn’t comment about straight sex. Of the remaining 7, one said there was no difference, 4 thought sex was better as a roundhead and only 2 thought that it was better with a foreskin. However, one of these two specifically said that he hadn’t (indeed couldn’t) have intercourse before he was circumcised, so could not compare it both ways - and in fact he had very little sexual experience even after circumcision. The other 6 all had active sex lives, so from them we have 4 to 1 in favour of circumcision, with 1 'no different'. This is an overwhelming vote in favour of circumcision from those who are in a position to know - particularly so when we consider the groups from which these replies came. (In my Australian survey, incidentally, the vote was unanimous - all those cut over the age of 15 thought that sex was better afterwards.)

The men were asked about some specific problems - premature and retarded ejaculation. Both of these were much more common among men who had intercourse rarely - less than once a year. Many of these men were also bisexual, and had gay sex much more frequently. It is hard to separate cause from effect in these cases. Both were also more common among circumcised men - this applied (but less so) even if we looked just at those who have intercourse monthly or more. This differs from my Australian figures, where circumcised men were also more likely to suffer from premature ejaculation, but were less likely to suffer from retarded ejaculation. However the figures of those suffering often or sometimes from either problem are low, so it would be unwise to read too much into this. It is worth noting, though, that sex manuals all seem to assume that the only sexual problem men have is coming too soon - if they mention men who have trouble climaxing it is only as something rather rare. But both my surveys have found the two problems to be equally common (or equally rare).

What preferences do men have for gay sex?

36 men answered this section of the questionnaire, and 10 (28%) thought that the general preference was for circumcised men while 8 (22%) thought it was for natural men. Their actual preference was rather different -16 (44%) preferred natural men and only 9 (25%) preferred circumcised ones. However, this probably just reflects the large number of anti-circumcision campaigners in our sample. The vast majority had actually had both types of partners - just 4 had only had roundheads, and one (a German who actually preferred circumcised men) had only had natural partners. 15 men would perform different acts according to the circumcision status of their partner - 6 of these preferred circumcised partners, and 6 natural ones, so it isn’t a matter of simple prejudice.

What do women say to the men in their lives about their preferences?

Seven women (33%) had told men they preferred circumcised penises, and six (29%) had told men they preferred natural ones. They were all being truthful rather than tactful judging from their other answers, though one clearly didn’t have strong feeligs either way. 11 circumcised men had been told that theirs was the type their women preferred, but two of them had also been told (presumably by different girlfriends) that the natural sort was better. Two other circumcised men had also been told by girfriends that they preferred foreskins. 6 natural men had been told that foreskins were best - but 4 of them had also been told the opposite, as had 4 other uncircumcised males. So the overall message that men are getting from women - and not just in North America but also England (4), Australia (2), Singapore and Hungary - is that the circumcised penis is preferred. There was a total of 19 comments to this effect - 8 of them to natural men - versus 10 favouring the foreskin (4 to circumcised men, who couldn’t do much about it).

None of the women in our survey had told their current or most recent lover that they wanted him to be anything other than he was. However, 5 women with circumcised lovers had wished that they weren’t, and one with a natural man privately wished that he had been circumcised. (Incidentally, the 'his and hers' responses showed that women did indeed manage to keep these private feelings hidden from their men).

What do the men look like, and how do they feel?

Uncircumcised men :

There were 27 men with foreskins in the survey, and a further 8 men who were circumcised as older children, teenagers or adults. The latter group answered in respect of their status before the operation. The table below shows details of these 35 foreskins:

Table 1 : Extent of glans coverage in uncircumcised males
Badger (6652 bytes) Uncircumcised
and remain so
Flaccid Erect Flaccid Erect
Overhanging Skin 67% 15% 75% 38%
Exact Coverage 15% 22% 12.5% 12.5%
Part Coverage 15% 32% 12.5% 25%
Glans Bare 4% 41% 0% 25%

It will be seen that men who were later circumcised had, in general, longer foreskins than those who remained natural - this matches my Australian survey and is perhaps not surprising. What is also notable is that, in general, natural men in this survey had longer foreskins than those in my Australian survey. Australian natural men most often had skin which just covered the knob when soft, whereas more men here had some surplus skin.

In both surveys it was commonest for the knob to be exposed when erect, but in the Australian survey this applied to 62% of the men - half as many again as here. It was also noticeable that anti-circumcision campaigners - 11 of the 27 natural men - had on average longer foreskins than those who were not members of these groups. Does having a long foreskin tend to make one more likely to campaign against circumcision, or does membership of one of these groups make a man more likely to exaggerate the length of his foreskin?

One natural man had a foreskin which was permanently retracted; of the others half had foreskins which retracted at a touch and half had skins which needed to be pulled back. Again, anti-circumcision campaigners were much more likely to report having tighter foreskins - two thirds of them were in that group. Of the 8 men who were later circumcised, one could not retract his skin at all, and another could only retract after puberty. Another man, circumcised before age 10, gave the reason as medical necessity so presumably also had phimosis (he didn’t give details of his uncicircumcised state). Looking just at those who stayed natural, 11 of the 27 could retract their skins for as long as they could remember, 5 more since before age 10, another 4 before puberty, and 6 only after puberty. One of this last group had had surgical intervention to rectify his phimosis - the tip of his foreskin was removed at age 17, but he still had skin covering the glans. Looking at all 36 men for whom we have details, nine (25%) had some degree of phimosis. Five managed to overcome it, while four had surgical assistance. Four men had suffered from paraphimosis - a foreskin stuck in the retracted position. None had been circumcised, though one planned to be. Both phimosis and paraphimosis, therefore, are quite common conditions - 26% had suffered from phimosis and 11% from paraphimosis.

Two women (14% of those who had encountered natural penises) had had boyfriends who had problems retracting their foreskins. Both reported that it caused difficulties in their relationship and both now have circumcised boyfriends.

Circumcised men :

There were 43 circumcised men in the survey, but only 41 gave details of their type of circumcision. One explained that since he was now restoring a forekin none of the categories applied. Another, also involved in restoration, gave before and after answers - I’ve included only the 'before' ones in the table.

Table 2 : Glans coverage and shaft skin tightness in circumcised males
Badger (6652 bytes) Flaccid Erect
Skin Partly Over Glans 12% 0%
Skin Bunches Up Behind Glans 34% 0%
Some Loose Skin 49% 22%
Skin Completely Tight 5% 78%

This is quite a range when a penis is flaccid - indeed, it shows that circumcision doesn’t always result in an uncovered glans. There is usually some loose skin and often this is enough to bunch up behind the knob. When erect, though, tight skin was the norm - some men did still have some free skin, but none had much.

32 of the 43 men (75%) were circumcised as infants, the remainder later. Two were circumcised before age 5, one between 5 and 10, two more before 15, two before 20 and the remaining four as adults. Medical necessity was given as the reason for one infant circumcision and two later ones. Religion was the reason for two of the infant ones and none of the later ones. Appearance featured as a reason for 75% of the circumcisions performed after age 10 but otherwise only for 2 infant ones. Hygiene featured for 8 infant circumcisions but only one later one. Other reasons given included to be like parents or siblings, it was done automatically, curiosity and "idiots for parents". 16 men didn’t know, and 2 gave no answer. It is clear from these responses that, excluding cases of medical necessity and religion, the reason for infant circumcision was most often hygiene, while appearance was mainly a factor in teenage or adult circumcisions.

Many men said that they weren’t happy with the way their circumcision was done but it was not simple to find out the actual occurence of real faults. Many men who were vehemently opposed to the operation just took the attitude that any circumcision removes too much skin, damages the glans, damages the shaft etc ... which is really counterproductive. I’m sure that there are quite a lot of badly done circumcisions, and if I could get accurate figures about them it would be very useful for the anticircumcision campaigners - the very people who are sabotaging the attempt!

I therefore made a crude attempt to sort the wheat from the chaff. I’ve excluded those who specifically said that they answered 'yes' just because they hadn’t wanted to be circumcised, and didn’t list any actual faults. I have also assumed that if men who were opposed to circumcision said that too much skin had been removed when in fact they still had free skin, it was probably not actually a badly-done cut, just an unwanted one. These seem reasonable assumptions, but they still left some complaints whose basis was unclear so the following figures cannot be taken as definitive.

Five men out of 43 (12%) had, on these revised figures, a complaint about their cut. One just had two much skin removed (tight even when soft) while two had excess skin at one place (an uneven cut), combined in one case with an unsightly scar. One man had a too-tight circumcision, with scarring so bad that it caused bowing when erect, in addition to skin bridges and tags. The fifth gave no details so cannot be categorized. Overall it seems that three complaints (7%) would be medically regarded as 'minor' (cold comfort for the owners of the penises in question, I know) and one (2%) would be considered major. In my Australian survey 'not enough skin removed' was the most common complaint, whereas it doesn’t feature here.

Women were also asked if they had encountered badly-done circumcisions. 4 said that they had (21% of the 19 women who had had circumcised boyfriends). Only one said that it caused difficulties in the relationship, and this one was clearly a pretty severe problem (which certainly should have received medical attention). She did add that this was the only problem case she had encountered in over 60 lovers.

20 of the 27 natural men were happy to have foreskins - most of them very happy. One didn’t care, and 6 were unhappy about being uncircumcised - 5 of them intended to get get cut. Given these figures these include 11 anti-circumcision campaigners (all of whom were, naturally enough, very glad they still had foreskins) the trend of these results is predictable. 5 men who were later circumcised also answered this, and nobody will be surprised that they all were unhappy about having foreskins. What may be a surprise is that only two were Americans - the others were from Britain and Singapore - so negative feelings about being 'different' in the showers could not have been the major factor.

Circucmised men in the survey were often unhappy with their lot - again not too surprising since 22 of the 43 were 'intactivists'. (If they are taken out the balance is in fact slightly in favour of being roundheads). Only 8 were happy to be roundheads, 6 didn’t care, and 28 were unhappy. Two of the unhappy men were men who had formerly been unhappy to have foreskins - perhaps sometimes the foreskin or lack thereof gets the blame for more deep-seated problems.

Three men were attempting foreskin restoration - one said he was in the early stages while the other two had stretched the skin to some extent. On the other side of the coin, two natural men were using sticking plaster or other devices to hold their foreskins back and make themselves look circumcised.

Playing with yourself

How circumcised and uncircumcised men masturbate is a perennial topic of interest. 34 men (8 of them later circumcised) gave details of how they handled a natural penis. Six of them used more than one technique - 2 checked the lot, the others used just two methods. All the other 28 men had just one favourite wanking technique. 31 men masturbated by moving the skin in one way or another; 3 just rubbed the knob (2 with lubricant, 1 without). 4 more sometimes rubbed the knob as an alternative to using the skin. 17 of the 28 moved the skin back and forth over the knob, making it the most popular technique. 11 left the skin forward, covering the knob, but 5 of these also used other methods - 4 of them were also in the previous group. 9 moved the skin while it remained retracted - for 7 it was their only choice, but the other 2 also used all of the other methods. Nobody used other masturbation methods than those specifically listed on the form. Not too surprisingly, those who used more than one masturbation technique were those who did it most often. Of those who used just one technique, those who masturbated with the skin retracted did it most often, followed by those who rubbed the knob, then those who moved the skin over the knob. Those who left the skin forward masturbated least often. There was no difference in masturbation styles between those who stayed natural and those who were later circumcised. In general, though, those who were unhappy about being uncircumcised were more likely to leave the skin retracted when they masturbated, whether they moved the skin or rubbed the knob.

42 of the 43 roundheads gave details of how they masturbated. Only 6 used more than one technique. 17 men moved the skin on the shaft, and for all but 2 of these it was their only method. (These two also rubbed with lubricant). There didn’t seem to be much need for free skin - 12 of these men had tightly stretched skin when erect, though 8 of them had enough skin to bunch up behind the knob when soft, so maybe it wasn’t totally tight. Men who were unhappy about being circumcised, or were members of anti-circumcision groups, were particularly likely to masturbate this way. 21 men rubbed or stroked the entire penis - 14 always used a lubricant, seven never did, and two sometimes did and sometimes didn’t. 5 men masturbated just using the knob. Only one never used lubricant, while one sometimes did. The others always used lubricant and two of them also rubbed the entire penis with lubricant. Two men checked the 'other' box, but didn’t give any details. It was noticeable that men who have some free skin when they were hard never masturbated just using the knob, and less than a quarter of them used lubricant - probably stroking or rubbing such a penis always moves the skin to some extent and reduces the need for a lubricant. Overall, lubricant use was much less common among circumcised men than in my Australian survey (40% vs 70%) even though in the present survey slightly more circumcised men had tight skin when erect (78% vs 70%).

And their sons?

Only 9 men (13%) in our survey had sons. This compares with 35% in the Australian sample. 4 men, all circumcised and all very glad to be so, had circumcised sons. 5 men, 3 natural and 2 circumcised, had uncircumcised sons. 7 of the 21 women (33%) had sons - a much higher percentage than the men. One of these was the partner of one of the men, so 15 families were represented in all. Again, the circumcised sons had circumcised fathers, while the fathers of the natural boys were a mixture - 3 circumcised, two natural. In 9 cases the decision to circumcise or not was a joint one; one father made the decision that his son should be circumcised while 3 decided their sons should not be. (In one case the mother, according to her form, would have preferred the boy to be done, while the father gave the decision as joint). One mother insisted that the son remained natural while the father wanted him circumcised. The one remaining case was a circumcised boy where the mother didn’t assign reponsibility to either parent, regarding it as 'tradition'. (A tradition which she was ready to abandon after one son haemorrhaged as a complication of the operation). It is clear that in most cases it is a joint decision, and where it is not either parent is equally likely to favour circumcision - but the father’s view is more likely to prevail.

Just one parent of an uncircumcised son was concerned about his foreskin, and he intended to get him done - he also planned to have any future sons circumcised. The one problem among the circumcised sons was the haemorrage mentioned above - his mother, and another mother of circumcised boys, said that they would probably not have any further sons done.

Only 12% of the men with no sons would want future sons to be done - 80% said 'no' or 'only if medically essential'. Women with no sons were more likely to want their future sons circumcised - of the 14 women with no sons 8 answered that way, while 3 said no and 3 said 'only if medically essential'. The pro-circumcision vote is enhanced by the fact that the women who voted that way were quite a lot younger, and so very much more likely actually to have sons in the future. Among the men, heterosexuals more often answered 'yes', so again the actual result may be more circumcisions than these figures suggest.

That’s all folks!

The surprising thing about this survey was that in spite of the very different sample, many of the conclusions mirrored those of my Australian survey. Sincere thanks to all who participated.

James Badger


The following resources were used in the preparation of this web page:
Australian flag (2258 bytes) Badger (6652 bytes)
and personal correspondence with James Badger in 2010.

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