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15 square inches of erogenous tissue?

Published: March 21, 2020

Revised: July 5, 2022 How large is the foreskin? And how much does it factor into sexual pleasure?

Intactivists claim that the foreskin has an area of 15 square inches (96.8 cm2.) This is another intactofact - like the 16 functions and 117 deaths - that many blindly accept and repeat. It's likely that Paul Fleiss used this figure when he invented the statistic that the foreskin contains 20,000 erotic nerve endings. There's even a pro foreskin/anti-circumcision website called [1]

John Geisheker is the executive director of Doctors Opposing Circumcision. Not only does Geisheker cite the 15 square inches figure, he implies that the entire foreskin is erogenous tissue. And he compares the foreskin to a circumcised man's erogenous zone, which he says is just one square inch (6.5 cm2) - the size of a postage stamp. [2] If it were true, then the erogenous area for an uncircumcised man would be 15 times larger than the erogenous area for a circumcised man.

But none of that is true.


Intactivists say that the foreskin measures 3 inches by 5 inches (7.6 cm by 12.7 cm) - the size of a standard index card. They count both the outer and inner surface areas to arrive at that figure. [3] Stephen Moreton, a British research chemist, noted that although it "is everywhere in intactivist materials", this measurement "is absent from the scientific literature". In an article on the website, Moreton discussed the literature that does include actual measurements. [4]

In particular, a study of 965 men in Uganda who underwent elective circumcision found a wide range in foreskin surface area - from 7 cm2 (1.1 in2) to 99.8 cm2 (15.5 in2). The average surface area was about 38.5 cm2 (6.0 in2). Moreton estimated that perhaps one or two out of the 965 men "could boast a monster prepuce of 15 square inches". The average for ages 25-29 was 38.4 cm2 (6.0 in2) and the average for the top quartile was 57.6 cm2 (8.9 in2). [5]-[7] In other words, looking at just the most endowed 25%, the average foreskin was still 40% less than 15 square inches. [4]

Circumcision opponents say that the foreskin comprises 50% of the entire penile skin. But certified family nurse practitioner Melanie Lindwall Schaab used a few calculations to determine that the foreskin contains approximately 29% of the skin on the penis. (Or 15%, if you count just the outer surface.) Only by taking an extreme example, using the largest foreskin and the smallest penis in their respective size ranges, can a figure of 50% be reached. [8]


It's subjective.

Many men who choose circumcision say that the procedure had either no effect or no significant effect on their sexual pleasure. According to a study of 257 men in Zambia, 42% reported an increase in sexual satisfaction, 15% reported no change, and just 22% reported a decrease in satisfaction. Almost all of the men (96%) said that they would recommend circumcision to others. [9]

Researchers surveyed 2,784 men in Kenya at various intervals following elective circumcision. After 24 months, 64% reported that their penis was “much more sensitive", while just 7% reported that their penis was much less or somewhat less sensitive. [10]

A study in the Dominican Republic included follow-up visits by 362 men between 6-24 months after the procedure. The men reported nearly unanimous satisfaction (98%), and 67% reported that sex was more enjoyable following the procedure. [11]


Stimulation of the glans can be pleasurable for some men. Stimulation of certain areas on the shaft can be extremely pleasurable for many. An Australian man explained, "After having my foreskin removed at 41 it made no difference to the sensation of pleasure. I would have to say it's a combination of visual sensual and the feeling along the whole penis that does it for me."

A 2007 study led by Morris Sorrells measured response to fine touch and found that the foreskin was more sensitive than other areas on the penis. [12] While Sorrells measured sensitivity to fine touch, sexual pleasure and sexual activities typically involve frictional contact - and the warmth of a partner's body. Sorrells measured neither the types of penile sensitivity that typically occur during sexual activity nor the effect on sexual pleasure.

There were a few other problems with the study. The researchers admitted that the study suffered from self-selection bias and demographic differences. The researchers themselves held leadership roles in the anti-circumcision movement, and a prominent anti-circumcision organization funded the study. While bias wouldn't automatically discredit a study, one should be particularly skeptical when considering a study in which the data, analysis, and conclusions support the partisan agendas of the researchers and sponsors. [13]

A 2016 study by Queens University PhD candidate Jennifer Bossio confirmed that the foreskin is more sensitive to fine touch. But Bossio also measured other types of sensitivity. She found that the foreskin, while more sensitive to fine touch, was not more sensitive to heat and pain than areas on the penile shaft. She concluded that "circumcision does not appear to remove the most sensitive part of the penis." [14]

Bossio explained that heat and pain are probably more relevant for sexual sensation than light touch. "We measured heat detection and heat pain by attaching a thermode to the penis. Men would indicate either when they would feel a change in temperature or when it hurt. The nerve fibers in the penis that are activated by temperature and pain are more relevant in sexual functioning — or the feel of a sexy touch — than the light touch that past researchers had done. Even though [the foreskin] is more sensitive to light touch, I suspect that isn't implicated in sexual pleasure.” [15]

Urologist Dr. Rena Malik explained why people might mistakenly get the impression that the foreskin provides more sexual pleasure.

“Nerves for erotic pleasure come from these nerve endings called the [genital corpuscles.] And those are actually on the glans of the penis, the ridge of the penis. And so people think that they’re coming from the foreskin because it’s basically tugging that area when you pull your foreskin back, and so it feels very erotic and pleasurable. And so people are very concerned about their pleasure … From a scientific standpoint those nerve endings are just like nerve endings anywhere else in your body. They perceive temperature, pressure, light touch, firm touch. But so does the rest of your penis. They’re not different than anywhere else. So removing a bit of foreskin - from a scientific perspective - shouldn’t change your ability to perceive pleasure.” [16]

OTHER EROGENOUS TISSUE ON THE MALE BODY The very idea that the entire zone of erogenous skin on a man's body is limited to the penis is laughably absurd. In referring to the erogenous tissue on the male body, Geisheker ignored some obvious and perhaps not-so-obvious regions that provide erotic pleasure. These include the scrotum, nipples, mouth, lips, ears, neck (front and back), hands, feet, and other areas.

A partner who focuses all of her attention on stimulating the penis may be depriving her lover of increased sexual excitement and a more powerful orgasm. [17] A detailed description of the various male erogenous zones and methods to stimulate them is beyond the scope of our mission. For those who wish to investigate, we've included in the footnotes some links to articles with more information and suggestions. [18]19] Bear in mind that each man varies in terms of which areas provide him sexual excitement and erotic pleasure.


Based on the Ugandan study the average area of a foreskin is 3 square inches. Counting both outer and inner surfaces would double that figure to 6 square inches - still 60% smaller than the common intactivist exaggeration. [3] Stimulation of certain areas on the shaft and glans can provide pleasure that rivals or exceeds that of the foreskin. And partners who go beyond the penis and explore a man's entire body can find a treasure of erogenous tissue to excite.

It's disappointing, but not surprising, that circumcision opponents seem to think that the foreskin constitutes 93% of the erogenous area on the male body. Those who focus obsessively on a single tree miss all of the action taking place in the surrounding forest.


Click here for our article on the 20,000 erotic nerve endings.

Click here for our article on Doctors Opposing Circumcision.

[1] It's interesting that a British based website intended for a (presumably younger) British audience defines itself by the Imperial Standard of measurement. While the Imperial Standard is still widely accepted by older generations, Great Britain converted to the metric system in 1965, and British students are taught in centimeters. Apparently British intactivists are simply copying the intactofact that has been promoted by their American counterparts.

[2] John Geisheker; American Circumcision Facebook post; August 17, 2018

[3] Intactivists unfairly compare the combined total area of the outer and inner surfaces of the foreskin to the just one side of a standard index card. If they were honest, either they would compare only the outer surface area to that of a standard index card; or they would say that the foreskin is half the size of an index card.

[4] Stephen Moreton PhD; "The 15 square inches myth";; December 2016

[5] G Kigozi et al; "Foreskin surface area and HIV acquisition in Rakai, Uganda (size matters)"; AIDS; October 23, 2009. [6] Kigozi confirmed that each measurement is the sum of both the outer and inner surfaces. Godfrey Kigozi; email to Ronald Gray, Stephen Moreton, and Brian Morris; April 14, 2016. "We measured both inner and outer."

[7] A study in The Netherlands of eight male cadavers reported an average foreskin length of 15 cm2 (5.9 in2) and - when folded out - an average surface area of 46.7 cm2 (7.2 in2). PM Werker et al; "The prepuce free flap: dissection feasibility study and clinical application of a super-thin new flap"; Plastic and reconstructive surgery; September 1998

[8] Melanie Lindwall Schaab; "15 Square Inches?? Not So Fast."; Schaabling Shire Shoppe; June 23, 2017

[9] Robert Zulu et al; "Sexual Satisfaction, Performance, and Partner Response Following Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision in Zambia: The Spear and Shield Project"; Global Health:Science and Practice; 2015

[10] John N. Krieger M.D. et al; "Adult Male Circumcision: Effects on Sexual Function and Sexual Satisfaction in Kisumu, Kenya"; Journal of Sexual Medicine; November 2008

[12] M. Sorrells, et al., “Fine-Touch Pressure Thresholds in the Adult Penis,”; BJU International;2007. pp 864-869

[13] For more on the Sorrells study, see our article: "Of all the nerves"; Circumcision Choice; March 2, 2018

[15] Gabby Bess, “How Circumcision Affects the Sensitivity of Your Penis"; Vice; April 15, 2016

[16] Dr. Rena Malik; “Circumcision, Vasectomies & more with Urologist Dr. Rena Malik”; We Go There podcast; March 1, 2022 (32:15-33:12)

[17] Geisheker's exclusive focus on the genitals, to the detriment of other erogenous zones, reminds us of the survey that formed the foundation for the "Sex As Nature Intended It" website and book. The survey questions focused almost exclusively on vaginal intercourse, while ignoring possible effects of circumcision on fellatio, anal sex, and mutual masturbation. Andrew Gross; "Sex as the researcher intended it"; Circumcision Choice; April 14, 2018 [18] Casey Gueren and Aryelle Siclait; "16 Male Erogenous Zones You Need Play With ASAP Tonight"; Women's Health; October 3, 2019

[19] Holly C. Corbett; "8 Male Erogenous Zones You're Probably Ignoring During Sex"; Shape; January 27, 2020


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