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.
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).
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.
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).
and remain so
|Skin Partly Over Glans||12%||0%|
|Skin Bunches Up Behind Glans||34%||0%|
|Some Loose Skin||49%||22%|
|Skin Completely Tight||5%||78%|
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%).
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.
and personal correspondence with James Badger in 2010.