Ask Anna: Does uncircumcised sex affect female pleasure?

Anna Pulley, Tribune News Service on

Published in Lifestyles

Dear Anna,

I've been in a relationship with my boyfriend for a few months now, and our sex life is generally fantastic. He’s uncircumcised, however, and sometimes sex can be a bit painful. Is it possible his uncircumcised status has anything to do with it? — Puzzled

Dear Puzzled,

Pain and discomfort during sex are never fun, so it’s natural to speculate and wonder about what might be causing this literal and metaphorical friction between you and your boyfriend. And while LOTS of people have strong opinions about circumcised vs. uncircumcised penises, the presence of foreskin alone — that’s the sheath of skin that covers the head of the penis — is unlikely to be the cause for your discomfort.

In fact, one study from 2015 found the reverse to be true: Women reported higher levels of sexual satisfaction from uncircumcised partners as opposed to circumcised ones. Women in that study also reported “more vaginal discomfort and reduced vaginal secretions during intercourse with a circumcised man compared to an intact partner.”

Not knowing your unique physiology, history, baggage and kinks, I can only speculate what might be causing your intercourse discomfort, but, since you asked, speculate I will!

As with any sex, there are about 1,014 factors that play a role in one’s satisfaction and pleasure. A few include: arousal level (both mental and physical), intensity/duration of foreplay, lubrication, choice of sexual positions, speed, angle, emotional state, trust and communication between partners. Any one of these — but more likely, a hodgepodge of factors — are more closely linked to sexual satisfaction than the presence or absence of foreskin.


Let’s dig a little deeper into these so you can start to experiment with your boyfriend and figure out how to make sex the most pleasurable for both of you.

Arousal and foreplay: It helps to be super turned on before P-in-V sex. That means, ample foreplay is needed — kissing, handies, grinding, dirty talk, fantasizing, oral, etc. You want to up your natural lubrication as much as possible to help reduce friction and discomfort.

If, despite tons of foreplay, you’re still not as wet as you want to be, that’s totally fine because you can buy lube very easily at pretty much any drug store or online. (I like a water-based lube personally, but you do you.)

Choice of sexual positions: Simply put, different positions work better for different bodies. Experimenting with many configurations and angles allows couples to find what works best for them. And obviously if you find that some are particularly unpleasant, don’t do those. Some positions may provide deeper penetration or better clitoral stimulation, which can also influence comfort levels during intercourse.

Communication: Open communication between you and your boyfriend about desires, preferences and any discomfort experienced is crucial to a happy sex life. If, for instance, something feels off, speak up! (Or, also, if something feels amazing, speak up about that, too.) I get that sometimes it can be hard to do this in the moment — it can feel like a “criticism” to vocalize your discomfort, especially if your partner is super into it, but it’s a disservice to you both to grit and bear unnecessary pain. Any boyfriend worth his salt wants you to be having the best time in bed, too.

If, after trying a bunch of things and you’re still in pain, it may be worthwhile to consult with a health care professional, as there might be medical, hormonal or psychological factors at play that are best addressed with professional guidance.

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