What sensations are cut off with the prepuce?
Skin is the largest sensory organ with many different receptors.[i] Along with the foreskin at a proper circumcision a man bravely loses more than 3 feet of blood vessels, 240 feet of nerves, and more than 20,000 nerve endings.[ii] Generally, we associate skin sensitivity with the sense of touch. A closer examination reveals that the sense of touch is a complex sensation resulting from the combined action of many different receptors and their corresponding cortical areas.
The cutaneous receptors include 4 general types of mechanoreceptors, thermoreceptors, different types of free nerve endings (multifunctional), nociceptors (pain), bulboid corpuscles (cold, found in mucous membranes) and many types of chemoreceptors (smell and taste). Specialized receptors vary locally and can be triggered also by non-specific stimuli. The mechanism of activation of most of the receptors is not completely understood. Their exact role in skin sensitivity and feeling is even more unclear because the brain and emotions are still mysteries for science. In other words, the most reliable information about how the circumcision alters sexual perception is subjective as it comes from circumcised adults.
Prepuce is the most erogenous zone of the penis and of man’s body. It contains more touch receptors than all of the fingers. The frenulum[iii] and ridged band[iv] that are lost with circumcision are especially rich in fine-sensitive tactile receptors (Meissner’s corpuscles).[v] British researchers have found that circumcision reduces тхе sensitivity of the penis about four times.[vi]
Foreskin restoration improves the sexual life of circumcised men because the foreskin increases its mobility and the glans reduces its cutinisation and becomes more sensitive.[vii] The restored foreskin, however, is far from offering an equivalent substitute to the lost sensitivity because the specialized cells of the receptors cannot regenerate. The frenulum and the rigged band are also unrestorable.
Removal of the foreskin along with its receptors deprives the neurons in its cortical sensory area of sensory input. Perhaps circumcision causes certain false sensations similar to those of the phantom limb pain phenomenon experienced by amputees.[viii] The phantom sensations may range from tingling and itching to burning and aching. However, the foreskin is not a complex organ so the phantom foreskin sensations must be mild and indistinct and may be interpreted as erotic. In any case the phantom sensations apparently produced by a missing body part are false. They are brain-generated. They show the inability of the neurons system to adjust to the new situation or to re-specialize. Even if phantom sensations are felt as sexually stimulating they are inadequate hence lead to frustration. The contribution of the phantom sensations to emotional health or to practical adequateness is doubtful.
An extrasensory tentacle?
Some people assert that the mucous membranes of their genitalia can experience taste-like sensations. Others can feel electric fields or bioenergy from a distance. Different ESP phenomena including the so called finger-reading that is the ability of skin to sense images and colours show how little we know about perception. The multivalence sensitivity of the free nerve endings may be responsible for these fine sensitivities. But the other types of cutaneous receptors may also be involved. Most probably all of us have such extraordinary sensitivities without realizing them because we are equipped with the same receptors. The greater part of the action of somatosensory system is unconscious. It is possible that mucous membranes not only secret sex hormones[ix] but are able to detect them. This only comes to show that we don’t know what we cut off along with the foreskin.[x]
Can you describe the electricity of a kiss by the pressure, vibrations, temperature and taste that accompany it? Maybe you could but the description would be unsatisfactory.
Even if the action of receptors was known the human feelings could not be reduced to it because perception forms in the brain.
- H. C. Bazett et al., “Depth, Distribution and Probable Identification in the Prepuce of Sensory End-Organs Concerned in Sensations of Temperature and Touch; Themometic Conductivity”, Archives of Neurology and Psychiatry 27 (1932): 489-517 → Back