Circumcision of the male penis has been practiced for thousands of years, often related to cultural and religious traditions. But whether you’re “cut” or “uncut”, is one better in terms of health, how it feels, or sex? Circumcision is a medical procedure that removes the foreskin from the head of the penis, exposing the glans. Though its exact origin and intent is still debated, by the time it became common in the English-speaking world (the 19th century), it was actually used in order to reduce sexual pleasure and as a deterrent to masturbation, which was believed to cause many mental and physical illnesses. But the medical benefits of circumcision came into question in the late 1960s when the research community came out against it, claiming that there was no clear medical benefit, and the risk for severe blood loss, infection, or death was high. This resulted in a decline in circumcised men. In the U.S., circumcision rates in hospitals dropped from 64.5% in 1979 to 58.3% in 2010, but worldwide, only around 33% of males are estimated to be circumcised. However, even more modern research has shown that it can reduce the risk of developing penile cancer and infections such as syphilis, gonorrhoea, and herpes. It can also reduce HIV risk by up to 60%. A study done in Uganda involving heterosexual couples where one partner was HIV positive showed that none of the circumcised men received HIV over the 30 months, while 40 out of 137 men that were not circumcised ended up developing HIV. This evidence holds true across Sub-Saharan Africa, but is not as clear in developed nations or between homosexual men where more studies are needed. For women, a circumcised sexual partner may have a reduced risk of HPV, thereby reducing their risk of developing cervical cancer. So, how does circumcision protect against STIs? A study completed by Dr. Price and his team at Northern Arizona University showed that one year after adult circumcision, the males ended up with 81% less bacteria on and around their penis. Dr. Price explained that, with uncircumcised men, the foreskin may be susceptible to infection because the bacteria overload could prevent specialized skin cells, known as Langerhans cells, from stimulating the immune system. However, with good hygiene, these risks can be minimized. The benefits of circumcision begin to decrease when you study sexual pleasure. Research indicates the the removal of the foreskin reduces sensitivity of the penis. The foreskin is innervated with specialized nerves that can detect light touch, like the nerves found on our fingertips and lips. The most sensitive part of the penis is found between the transition region between the external and internal part of the foreskin, which is the region exposed when the foreskin rolls back during sexual activity. Studies have shown that even the most sensitive part of a circumcised penis is not as sensitive as the foreskin. But this reduced sensitivity due to circumcision could allow men to last longer during sex. One study documented 47 men who experienced premature ejaculation. When studying before vs after circumcision, it was found that the time of ejaculation increased almost tenfold once they were circumcised, and partner satisfaction increased as well. When it comes to visual preference for circumcised or uncircumcised penises, it’s mostly based on experiences and biases. The Canadian Pediatric Association claims that, because of the low risk of infection in North America, mandatory circumcision is not warranted. However, in parts of the world where STIs are rampant, the benefits of circumcision could outweigh the risk. At the end of the day, if you live in a developed nation and are hygienic, there isn’t that big of a difference between the two.