Women tend to prefer circumcised penises over uncircumcised penises, according to a recent Sexual Medicine review article, though the authors acknowledged several limitations and recommended further research.
For centuries, aspects of the penis, such as size, have been associated with male attractiveness. The practice of male circumcision – the removal of the foreskin that covers the head of the penis – is thought to have originated in Africa about 220,000 years ago. Nowadays, the global prevalence of circumcision is estimated to be between 37% and 39%.
However, it was unclear how women felt about circumcised penises and the reasons behind their preferences. Researchers also wanted to know how women felt about having their own sons circumcised.
They reviewed 29 articles that discussed circumcision around the world, including North America, Europe, Australia, Asia, and Africa (e.g., Botswana, Kenya, and Uganda.)
They found that “in the overwhelming majority” of studies, women preferred circumcised penises.
In some cases, circumcision was preferred even if the practice was not the norm in the studied location. For example, in Botswana, where most males were not circumcised, about half of the 289 women interviewed said they preferred a circumcised penis. Twenty-one percent had no preference, 7% preferred uncircumcised men, and 22% were unsure. (The authors noted that after an information session, 79% of the women said they preferred circumcised penises.)
Why did women prefer circumcised partners? They provided a variety of reasons. For many, a circumcised penis was cleaner, looked more attractive, was “nicer to touch,” and smelled better. Some women said they felt more sexually satisfied with a circumcised man.
Health concerns drove preferences as well. Women associated circumcised penises with a reduced risk of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs), including HIV.
Mothers tended to prefer circumcision for their sons as well, citing tradition, religion, similarity to other men in the community, reduced risk of disease, improved hygiene, and better future sexual performance as important factors.
The authors acknowledged several limitations. Not all of the women involved in the studies had sexual experience with both types of penises, so not all would be able to make a comparison. In addition, culture and socioeconomic status may affect the way women view circumcision.
The authors recommended further research, especially in the context of long-term relationships vs. casual sex encounters.
“Importantly, a woman’s preference for a circumcised male partner is more than simply a sociocultural preference, as might apply to pierced ears, given the reduced risk of STIs and disease for women with circumcised male partners,” they concluded.
Morris, Brian J., DSc, PhD, et al.
“Sex and Male Circumcision: Women’s Preferences Across Different Cultures and Countries: A Systematic Review”
(Full-text. Published online: April 25, 2019)