Commentary on Bossio penile Sensitivity Study - Brian Earp
Brian Earp has produced a commentary on the recent Bossio penile Sensitivity Study which has been widely reported as showing that circumcision does not affect penile sensitivity. Earp points out that the study was underpowered to find the result and reports about something which is necesarily subjective.
Another day, another round of uncritical media coverage of an empirical study about circumcision and sexual function. That’s including from the New York Times, whose Nicholas Bakalar has more or less recycled the content of a university press release without incorporating any skeptical analysis from other scientists. That’s par for the course for Bakalar.1
The new study is by Jennifer Bossio and her colleagues from Queen’s University in Ontario, Canada: it looked at penile sensitivity at various locations on the penis, comparing a sample of men who had been circumcised when they were infants (meaning they had their foreskins surgically removed), with a sample of men who remained genitally intact (meaning they kept their foreskins into adulthood).2
What did the researchers discover? According to a typical headline from the past few days:
“Circumcision does not reduce penis sensitivity.”
But that’s not what the study showed. Before we get into the details of the science, and looking just at this claim from the “headline” conclusion, it might be helpful to review some basic anatomy.