Ask Debby Herbenick | Uncircumcised fun, reinvigorating a couch potato and lavish licking
Our sex expert gives tips on handling foreskin and making sex fun again.
Q I had my first experience with an uncircumcised guy recently and was ill-prepared and not knowledgeable about the differences in mechanics and techniques that I, as a partner, need to be familiar with. Can you explain things, particularly sensitivities and things to be careful of? I’d really appreciate your help and advice because I’d like to be as equally capable a partner as he was.
A Ah, foreskin! I love foreskin (can I make a T-shirt out of that?). But I used to be confused about it, too. There’s only a snippet of research on circumcised vs. uncircumcised men in terms of penile sensation or sexual practices. Mostly that’s because it’s tricky to tease out whether it’s circumcision or cultural differences that make sex different. For example, many European, Middle Eastern and African-American men got to keep their foreskin whereas most Jewish men have been circumcised. If a study were to find differences in circumcised vs. uncircumcised men, we still wouldn’t really know if it was because of cultural differences or the presence/lack of foreskin.
When I first had sex with an uncircumcised man, I was a bit concerned only because research suggests that men with foreskin may have higher rates of condom slippage, likely because the foreskin rubs against the condom more and slides it off (rare but possible). If you’re using condoms, try to be attentive to that issue, although frankly one should take care to keep a condom on regardless of partner penis type.
Sensation-wise, the research is mixed. Some studies have found differences in penile sensation (particularly at the glans or head) based on circumcision, and others have not. It’s always a good idea to ask any sexual partner about sensitivities (this goes for men and women) so you don’t overstimulate his or her genitals in a ticklish or uncomfortable way. One thing that many men with foreskin say is that one should be careful not to “tug” the foreskin down too much during hand jobs, but as everyone has their own preferences anyway, it’s always valuable to have someone show you what he likes—foreskin or not.
Some scientists theorize that foreskin stimulates the vagina and helps it to lubricate. One study of women who had had partners of both penis types found that many women preferred sex with uncircumcised partners. Personally, I think it’s possible to feel a man’s foreskin glide up and down during vaginal intercourse and that can be a very fun, sexy part of sex. My advice? Have fun exploring and ask him what he likes. He’s lucky to have such an attentive, wanting-to-please partner, and sex can almost always be made wonderful when both people want it to be.
Q I’ve been with my boyfriend for two years, and although things are good, they’re not great. We have sex less often and we sit around and watch TV a lot more than I would like—instead of going out to nice dinners or whatnot. This is my first long-term relationship (I’m 25), and all of my friends assure me that this is just the way things go when a couple is together a long time, but is that really all there is?
A Your friends are right that things tend to change when couples stay together for a long time. However, that doesn’t mean you have to be dissatisfied with your relationship. If you want to see changes happen, start making them! It’s okay to want sex more often, but try not to compare everything to how it was when you first got together (as the old saying goes, “Compare and despair!”). Try to be honest with your boyfriend about how you feel. Honesty isn’t just good policy, it can create greater intimacy by bringing you closer as you become more “real” with each other. And greater emotional intimacy can lead to more passionate sex (check out Passionate Marriage by David Schnarch for more on this idea).
This means that if it looks as though you’re in for another night of Criminal Minds reruns, instead of pouting, let him know how this feels to you. Example: “Although I like curling up next to you and watching TV, sometimes I’m sad about it because it means we talk less, and when we talk less then it seems to lead to less sex.” You might suggest something more interactive, such as playing a game or going for a run together. Or head it off at the pass by initiating sex before turning on the TV. Finally, make sure you’re doing your own thing, too. If you’re depending on your boyfriend to essentially entertain you and be with you 24/7, you may be missing out on opportunities to have fun alone or with your friends. Go to the gym, volunteer somewhere or meet up with friends for a drink. Not only will you develop your own sense of self, but you might feel more excited about life—he can’t be responsible for all of your fun—and you may miss each other when you’re apart, which can result in greater chemistry and interest.
Q How do I make sex fun for him?
A People mostly make sex fun for their partner by discovering things that both people enjoy, or will at least try with an open mind. If you only want to please your partner—and care little about your own sex likes—then sex is likely to become one-sided, doormat-like and joyless. Alternatively, if you lavishly lick his penis or handcuff (using a safety release button) him to the bedposts and playfully “make” him eat you out or whatever else is fun for you, and he’s into it too, then sex has a good chance of being fun for him, as well. Ask what he’s into. Try not to scowl or judge when he tells you. And unless the things he’s into will make you bored, angry or cry tears of regret, you might want to try them. Who knows? You both might have fun.
Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., M.P.H., is a research scientist at Indiana University, sexual health educator at the Kinsey Institute and author of Because It Feels Good: A Woman’s Guide to Sexual Pleasure and Satisfaction. Send letters to Debby Herbenick, Ph.D., c/o Time Out Chicago, 247 South State Street, 17th floor, Chicago, IL 60604, or send e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org.