James W. Hicks, M.D.

Posts Tagged ‘men’

Circumcision

In Sexploration* on September 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm

About three-quarters of men in the United States are circumcised, slightly down from a peak of 80% fifty years ago. Rates are highest among white men, while only two-thirds of African-Americans and half of Latinos are circumcised. In no other country in the world are men circumcised at birth so routinely, unless for religious reasons. Circumcision was once thought to prevent boys from masturbating and becoming morons. Though that Victorian myth has been debunked, three-quarters of American mothers still consider a circumcised penis more visually and sexually appealing and more hygienic and request the procedure for their newborn boys.

The foreskin of uncircumcised men cloaks the head (or glans) of the penis in the flaccid state, often covering it completely like a drawn purse, except when it is manually retracted. The foreskin is like a cuff, with skin on the outer surface and a pinker mucous membrane on the inside. This inner surface is similar to the mucous membranes of the lips, vagina, and anus. When the penis is erect, the foreskin unrolls over the lengthening shaft, and the penis becomes virtually indistinguishable from a circumcised penis, except that the unrolled portion may be moister and pinker.

Medical journals continue to debate whether circumcision (or “male genital mutilation,” as some refer to the practice) affects sexual functioning in men. The foreskin contains specialized sensory nerve cells that detect vibration and motion, and glands which secrete lubricating fluids during sexual arousal, and these would be lost during circumcision. The head of the penis is probably more sensitive in uncircumcised men, because the mucosal surface turns into normal skin if the foreskin is removed. But it has been difficult to scientifically prove any difference in sensitivity, or whether greater sensitivity is good (easier to arouse) or bad (more tender) for uncircumcised men. Also, men with intact foreskins can accumulate a greasy white substance, called smegma, though this is rarely noticeable and easily cleaned. A number of studies have shown that men who are circumcised as adults are generally happy with the results, and circumcised men may have more oral sex, more anal sex, more frequent masturbation, and less sexual dysfunction.

There is no objective medical or aesthetic reason for prefering a cut or uncut penis. For most men, the choice was made for them by their parents. Otherwise, it comes down to personal preferences one might have in a partner, if one cares at all.

Sex among South Asian Men

In Cultures on August 8, 2010 at 9:45 am

A first time visitor to South Asia might think he or she is surrounded by homosexuals. South Asian men and woman commonly show physical affection for each other in public, for example by holding hands as they walk down the street or through the park. In contrast, such public affection is almost never expressed between a man and a woman. South Asian men also make strong eye contact in a way that can be misleading to a Westerner, who assumes that an unbroken stare indicates sexual interest.

Over the last decade, concern about the spread of AIDS in the Indian subcontinent has led several researchers to examine men’s sexual behaviour with other men, with surprising results. Even though almost every man gets married, rates of homosexual behavior were generally in the range of 10-50%.

Ten percent of single men in rural villages reported that they had had anal sex with another man in the previous year alone. The highest rate was found in Orissa, in the east of India, where nearly one in ten married men and one in five single men had had anal sex with another man in the past year. Two other studies found that seventeen percent of male college students and six percent of male slum dwellers in Chennai had had sex with another man in their lifetime. Among the college students, about half of the men who had had sex with men had also had sex with women. Nearly one third of male prisoners in Uttar Pradesh had had some sort of sex with a man, mostly anal.

Several studies have focused on truck drivers, because they are seen as a potential vehicle for the spread of AIDS. A survey of long-distance truckers in Lahore, Pakistan found that half had had sex with a man. Half of these truck drivers were married, and rates of sex with men were no different among those who were married than among those who were single. A survey of truck drivers and their helpers in Dkhaka, Bangladesh found one in five had ever had sex with a man, most often with a friend, and mostly anal sex. More than eighty percent of men who had had sex with a man in the previous year had also had sex with a woman in the previous year.

These surveys suggest that men are not having sex with other men because they lack opportunities to have sex with women. In fact, the men who reported having sex with other men were more likely to have had sex with women as well (even if they were not married), more likely to have had multiple female partners, more likely to have paid for sex, and more likely to have had anal sex with their wives. In most cases, homosexual acts appear to be just part of the repertoire for a South Asian man with a strong sex drive and/or close male friends.

Penis Size

In Sexploration* on August 7, 2010 at 8:02 pm

The size and appearance of the penis varies considerably from man to man, and from soft to hard. You cannot always predict the size of an erect penis from its flaccid state: a penis that is thick and long may become harder but not much bigger in erection, and some tiny penises can become surprisingly large when aroused.

Men tend to be concerned about penis size, much more so than women: the largest recent internet survey found that only half of men were satisfied with their penis size, while almost all women were satisfied with the size of their partner’s penis. A smaller Croatian study found that more than half of women consider penis length and girth only somewhat important, while another quarter found both features unimportant.

Broad and reliable surveys of penis size do not exist, but a number of small studies suggest that most men have a penis that measures approximately 4.5 to 6 inches (12 to 15 cm) when erect, measured across the top surface from the juncture with the pubic skin. Since erections are not easily elicited in clinical settings, some researchers measure the stretched but flaccid penis, which provides approximately the same results.

There is probably some truth to racial stereotypes about penis size, though the scientific data is lacking and there is a wide range of individual penis sizes within any group. Pornographic films tend to depict men of African descent with large penises and East Asian men with small penises, but these actors may be selected precisely because of their desirable stereotypical attributes. Penis size also tends to correlate with body size, which may partly explain differences across racial groups.

Two studies have found evidence that men who have sex with men have larger penises than those who have sex exclusively with women, though the significance of the findings are debatable. The more recent of these studies also found that gay men with smaller penises were twice as likely to be the receptive “bottom” during sex compared to men with larger penises, which presumably reflects cultural expectations about masculinity and sexual roles. The same stereotype plays out in pornography, where large penises are featured and, in gay porn, where the larger man usually “tops.”

How Many Men are Bisexual?

In Research on July 3, 2010 at 12:39 pm

The answer depends on how and whom you ask, and what you mean by “bisexual.”

The Kinsey Group, who interviewed thousands of men and women in the 1940s, found that half of men had been sexually attracted to another man and one-third had experienced orgasm through physical contact with another man. Very few of these men considered themselves gay; most had also experienced sex with women. Many surveys since have produced similar numbers.

The most recent survey comes from the CDC, who interviewed more than 12,000 men and women about sexual behaviors in 2002.

Nine out of ten men told the CDC that they were heterosexual and only attracted to women. But among the 10% who did not identify as straight, only one quarter considered themselves gay, and even fewer said they were attracted exclusively to men. Most men who were not straight considered themselves bisexual or “something else.”

Six percent of men said they had experienced oral or anal sex with another man, and half of those men still considered themselves straight, while another quarter considered themselves bisexual or “something else.” Only one quarter of men who had had intercourse with another man considered themselves gay, and even most gay men had also had sex with women.

What accounts for the differences between the CDC and the Kinsey research? The CDC was primarily interested in diseases, so it asked only about anal and oral intercourse. The CDC also skipped over men who lived in institutional settings, such as dormitories, military barracks, or jails, where sexual contact between men is more common. Also, any survey which forces you to label yourself as gay, straight, or bisexual is going to miss the much larger group of heteroflexible men, who are bi-curious but likely to call themselves straight, especially in a face-to-face survey.

Note that this research does not reflect rates of bisexual desire and behavior around the world. Research in South Asia, for example, has found rates of anal sex between men as high as 20 to 50%, even though virtually all of them are married or will marry. Even in the US, rates of bisexuality were higher among women and among black and Latino men, according to the CDC survey.