One hundred years ago a favourite claim of medical "quacks" was that circumcision prevented masturbation. From the viewpoint of the third millennium, that notion seems ridiculous - but the survey figures were unambiguous. Circumcised men masturbate less than uncircumcised ones!
How often do men masturbate?
Is some other factor involved - age perhaps? There was no difference in average age between circumcised and natural men, and the same proportions were seen through all the age groups. So age can be ruled out.
Circumcised men had intercourse more often, though this could equally plausibly be cause or effect of their lower masturbation rate. A greater proportion of circumcised men were married (which itself poses an interesting question) and married men masturbated less than unmarried ones. This still does not entirely explain the figures, since natural married men masturbated more than circumcised ones. (Gay and bisexual men, incidentally, masturbated much more frequently than straights).
Maybe one factor is how easy it is. Several circumcised men thought that masturbation might be easier with a foreskin.
The women's vote was quite unambiguous: most found it easier to masturbate a natural penis, many emphasizing that it was much easier. So after all, it seems that circumcision does indeed make it more difficult to masturbate!
It certainly makes a big difference to the way men do it.
If you don't know much about male masturbation, you might like to check out How Boys Masturbate first.
For a circumcised man or boy, masturbation usually involves a lubricant of some sort. Almost two thirds of the circumcised men masturbated using a lubricant, and for most it was their sole method. Sliding a lubricated hand over the whole penis, shaft and glans, was much the most popular way for circumcised men to bring themselves to orgasm. Some, however, concentrated on the glans alone.
Rubbing or stroking the penis without any lubricant also had some popularity, but the most popular alternative to lubricant was to masturbate by moving the skin up and down on the shaft. This was slightly favoured by men who were unhappy about being circumcised - presumably they wanted to handle their penis the way natural men do - but even in this group most men preferred to use lubricant.
Clearly these techniques are fairly different, and must stimulate the penis is different ways. Most men picked one technique and stuck with it. Only one in eight of the circumcised men used more than one masturbation technique.
Almost all the natural men masturbated by manipulating the foreskin and shaft skin. The most popular motion was the 'long stroke', sliding the skin back and forth over the glans; about half did this. (One mentioned sitting hunched in order to have enough free skin to be able to manage it.) The remainder were pretty equally divided into those who kept the skin forward and those who kept it retracted while 'pumping' it. Men with long foreskins, or foreskins which were dificult to retract tended to keep it forward. Those who kept their foreskins back often, but not always, had short ones.
Rather few natural men used any other masturbation technique, but the few who did usually rubbed the glans with a lubricant. Hardly any used this method exclusively, and its greatest popularity was among men who were later circumcised. Rubbing or stroking dry was almost unknown. We have seen that circumcised men who would rather have foreskins sometimes choose to masturbate like natural men. Likewise, natural men who want to be circumcised sometimes masturbate like circumcised men.
Circumcision may not - does not - prevent masturbation but it does have a far
reaching effect on masturbation. It makes a big difference both to how men and boys masturbate,
and how often they do it.
Are we likely to see circumcision promoted again to prevent masturbation? Hardly - a 20% reduction isn't terribly impressive! At the end of the day the circumcised man's need to have lubricant handy, and clean it up afterwards, may be the major factor in the difference.