Counselor: Welcome to your first pre-marriage counseling session! We’ll be covering topics like communication, finances, in-laws…
Engaged Man: And sex!
Engaged Woman: *blushes*
Counselor: Yes, sex. I gather that you are very interested in that topic. You decided to wait until marriage, I’m glad to hear.
Man: Yes, but when we get there, it needs to be awesome! I want to know everything I can, so it’s a fantastic experience for both of us! I’ve heard it can be painful for women, and I definitely don’t want that.
Woman: Some of my married friends say they don’t even enjoy sex.
Man: Yeah, I want us both to enjoy it. What do we need to know?
The counselor hands the sweet couple a book by a Christian author on the topic of sex to read before their honeymoon. It might be Intended for Pleasure, A Celebration of Sex, The Act of Marriage, or another book. Is it going to work? Are these books going to lead these young lovebirds into a life of sexual fulfillment in their marriage?
Yes, and no.
These books give a great deal of advice to Christian couples. The pages are filled with poetic Biblical writings on the beauty of sexual love, fidelity, and oneness. Men will be counseled that their wives are “crockpots” or “tortoises” and need lots of time and foreplay to be ready for sex. A woman may read that her “microwave” husband is almost always ready and eager for sex, and that she should consider his needs for frequency. And there will be many spots of great advice on serving each other, keeping romance alive, and navigating the baby and kid years.
But there is a huge issue that these books try to handle, and they fall short.
It’s not necessarily the fault of the authors. They grew up in an era and in a country that had a major blind spot in the area of natural genitals and their functions. “In the US?” you might ask. “What could these medically-trained, well-researched authors be missing when it comes to genitals?”
They’re missing the same thing that the majority of US-born males have been missing for the past 2-4 generations: foreskin.
And what is the issue they can’t fully handle? The issue is female satisfaction with intercourse which includes comfort, pleasure, and orgasm. The satisfaction of the wife is dependent on both of their bodies and on the actions of both. But what on earth does foreskin have to do with it?
Christian husbands who truly love their wives want their wives to experience orgasm just like they so easily do. They want sex to be enjoyable and fulfilling for the ONE (two of them as one flesh), not just for the one (man). The husband will read in any one of these books lots of advice about how to stimulate his wife so she can climax, and that is all very good indeed. But why is such advice needed? Why does the author need to explain in graphic detail how a husband can use his fingers to pleasure his wife? Why is it so common for sexual intercourse alone not to automatically bring full pleasure (including orgasm) to a woman? Or even worse, for it to be painful for her? While certainly communication about what is enjoyable for each spouse is key, these books almost make it sound like it is precariously difficult to figure out what might feel good for both the husband and the wife.
The answer is this: the very body part that is perfectly designed to make sexual intercourse pleasurable for women (not to mention the pleasure it gives to its owner!) is missing in most Christian marriages in America. It is also missing from, or severely misunderstood by, Christian books on sex.
Here’s the information these Christian books on sex are missing:
The foreskin, in a man who was fortunate enough to keep his, covers the glans (tip) of the penis most of the time. This keeps the glans smooth and moist, like the inner surface of your lip or cheeks, instead of letting it become dry and keratinized (calloused) by friction against clothing. This callousing causes the man to lose a great deal of the sensation that he should have. Without foreskin, the full burden of providing lubrication for intercourse is on the woman, and couples frequently need to use a lubricant to combat dryness. Most couples don’t even realize that both of their bodies were designed to contribute to lubricated, smooth, comfortable intercourse. When retracted towards the base of the penis during sex, foreskin holds the lubrication they both produce inside the woman’s vagina, while the shape of the head of a circumcised penis cannot help but pull moisture out.
When the penis is erect, the foreskin retracts to show the glans. This allows adequate “growing space” for an erection and still leaves some moveable skin. Without that moveable skin to glide up and down the shaft of the penis, there is quite a bit more friction for the wife to deal with, which can result in soreness or chafing. Depending on how much foreskin was taken from a circumcised man, skin from the scrotum can be pulled up onto the shaft during an erection, and the hair can cause discomfort and abrasion to the woman during sex. In confidence, someone has told me what a serious problem this has been during sex with their spouse.
The nerve endings of the foreskin provide the husband more control over when he will orgasm so that he can “last” longer or shorter depending on the needs of his wife. The movable foreskin’s gliding motion back and forth on the shaft is also stimulating to the wife. The inner foreskin is sensitive and can feel a lot of detail, like what you can feel with your fingertips, which aids in feelings of intimacy and also makes it possible for the husband to enjoy slower and different movements than he would if he were circumcised. Those movements are often more conducive to female pleasure. The ridged band is part of the inner foreskin that is perfectly designed with texture that gives pleasure to the female. It also gently and smoothly stimulates her clitoris if the position is right. Pheromones, chemical signals to the wife in the process of arousal, are produced in the apocrine glands of the foreskin.
So, what are these books on sex not telling us?
Christian books on sex seem to neglect to mention all these fabulous functions of the male foreskin and the role that it plays in female satisfaction and pleasure. When these books were written, the vast majority of American men had been circumcised at birth for several generations, and American medical textbooks did not include anything about the foreskin except how to remove it via circumcision. According to American medicine, foreskin barely even exists. Here are a few quotes from Christian sex books to illustrate the authors’ lack of knowledge about, as well as their bias against, this misunderstood body part:
Did You Know? Condoms that are textured or ribbed “for her pleasure” are imitating the ridged band of the foreskin.
“At birth the glans is covered by a fold of skin called the prepuce or foreskin. The foreskin requires special care to keep it clean and prevent accumulation of a greasy secretion called smegma. If the foreskin is too tight, it may interfere with erection and intercourse. For these reasons, the practice of circumcision shortly after birth has grown in popularity as a hygienic measure. Circumcision is the cutting off of enough foreskin to leave the glans exposed.”
-Intended for Pleasure (3rd edition, 1997), pg. 71
“The foreskin can be removed surgically for hygienic reasons. There is no truth to the myth that the uncircumcised penis is much more sensitive to touch.”
-A Celebration of Sex, pg. 28.
“Foreskin – the loose skin that covers the glans penis for protection. A substance called smegma often gathers under the foreskin, producing an offensive odor. For this reason the penis should be washed daily. Circumcision is recommended for hygienic reasons but has little effect on stimulating the glans penis.”
-The Act of Marriage, pg. 63Did you know? Smegma is a normal, healthy substance produced by all males and females.Click To Tweet
With those statements about how “needless” foreskin is, it is no surprise that these books go on to say that wives rarely climax from intercourse alone. Women usually need clitoral stimulation, to be sure, but if the foreskin were present, intercourse would include clitoral stimulation. That is one of the foreskin’s many roles during intercourse. This blind spot of these foreskin-ignorant authors comes out in quotes like:
“During intercourse the penis is being constantly stimulated – but the clitoris isn’t.”
–A Celebration of Sex. pg. 136
“In the orgasm phase, a common concern is whether the wife should be able to climax during lovemaking by penile thrusting alone. No; almost two-thirds of women can’t achieve an orgasm without direct stimulation of the clitoris.”
–A Celebration of Sex, pg. 40
“It is estimated that 30 percent of women always require manual stimulation of the clitoris to achieve orgasm.”
-Intended For Pleasure, pg. 86
“Because premature ejaculation can be the primary cause of the woman’s orgasmic dysfunction, we will discuss ejaculatory control first.”
-Intended For Pleasure, pg. 92
Putting it all together
A Celebration of Sex includes a chapter each on male and female sexual difficulties including premature ejaculation, lack of lubrication, and female discomfort and pain. No mention is made of the way that foreskin preserves a male’s ability to last and to enjoy intercourse without vigorous thrusting, the fact that the foreskin keeps the glans smooth and moist so the male can contribute to lubrication, or the way that foreskin plays a role in in making intercourse smooth and comfortable for the woman. Neither foreskin nor circumcision are listed in the index.
Intended for Pleasure mentions foreskin one additional time – not positively, of course – when discussing body parts that can harbor yeast. It also covers problematic sex issues, similar to the other books, never mentioning that foreskin could be the missing piece in these concerns.
The Act of Marriage includes an entire chapter on how women should practice Kegel exercises to increase their ability to orgasm, and counsels men on both premature ejaculation and impotency. Yet it never discusses the role of foreskin in sex or the issues that both men and women can have due to its absence. The authors seem to strongly believe that husbands and wives can and should experience sexual climax simultaneously, but are very clear that this will not just naturally happen. Methods, exercises, and lots of time are apparently needed for the couple to get to that level of satisfaction together.
I hope for a day when Christian authors on sex thoroughly understand the importance of the foreskin that God made and give couples the full picture of how it contributes to sex. While problems of dryness or lack of female pleasure can have other causes, these books are doing a disservice to Christian couples by leaving out circumcision as one possible (even likely!) explanation for their difficulties. Many women are going through the motions of sex, thinking that something is their fault when it is not. “Why can’t I just enjoy this? What is wrong with me?” Many men are dumbfounded that they can’t please their wives through intercourse, when the fault lies with something they cannot control. “Why can’t she enjoy intercourse like I do? What is wrong with her?”
So what are a husband and wife to do if they find even with the best of Christian marital sex advice that sex is uncomfortable – or just kind of ‘so-so’ – perhaps due to a missing piece that neither of them had or has any control over?
The first essential step is that husbands and wives communicate gently and clearly about any aspects of their sex life that might be negative or painful, and remember that some things can be helped. Saying “sex hurts because of that hair pulled up where it’s not supposed to be” might be a bit blunt and hurtful to a husband who had no choice in how his genitals function. Pray about how and when to bring up sensitive topics, and then ask your spouse to join you in researching and learning so that you can get to the root (real!) causes of any problems.
Make use of aids that are already commonly known, such as lubricants to increase comfort. Natural products like coconut oil can also be helpful as lubricants.
One option for males is the act of foreskin restoration. “Restoration?” you might ask. “Isn’t the foreskin gone forever?”
Well, yes, the foreskin with its nerve endings and ridged band is permanently removed by circumcision. But a man can use his hand or a specialized device to gently tug the skin where his foreskin should be and encourage it to grow! This is a slow and deliberate process that takes understanding and commitment, but a man can regain protection over his glans that will reverse the effects of keratinization and restore his natural lubrication. The new “foreskin” will provide much of the comfort and stimulation for his wife that a natural foreskin would. It can also change sex for him completely when that sensitivity returns. Instead of vigorous thrusting to please his penis that was somewhat desensitized, he can enjoy a slower and more sensual movement that delights them both.
However, if a permanent body change such as foreskin restoration is not desired, another option is for the man to wear a covering that protects the glans. Even in a few weeks, keratinization of the glans will decrease and sensation will be greatly increased.
Are you overwhelmed by this information? Feeling like you might rather not know all this about something you can’t go back in time and change anyway? Why does it matter?
When we know this information we can say “Yes, God did make our bodies very good. I praise you, God, for making us fearfully and wonderfully.” We can pray and ask God to help us love our spouse by speaking gently about their bodies and not make them feel inferior. We can make informed decisions together on how we want to celebrate physical intimacy in the bedroom. We can better address and deal with any difficulties when we see them for what they really are.
Perhaps a wife right now is feeling that she is “broken,” when really she is suffering due to the missing comfort that foreskin was designed to provide to her. Perhaps a husband is ashamed that he can’t please his wife, but he never before understood how his lack of foreskin has contributed to the way sex works for him. Both of them deserve the truth about why their difficulties exist, and the freedom that can come when they understand that there is a concrete reason for their challenges, and it’s neither the wife’s nor the husband’s fault. Then together they can navigate any desired changes or simply accept reality without any undeserved guilt, embarrassment, or worry that they are doing something wrong and therefore having issues.
One more reason this matters is the future of our children and their marriages. Since this world is sinful and broken, there can be many problems that stand in the way of married people experiencing a healthy and satisfying sex life (illness, fatigue, fighting, separation of spouses due to jobs or other circumstances). But we ought not to add any potential difficulty and pain to our children’s future marriages. Therefore, we should say “no” to circumcision of our children, because it alters sexual function away from what God designed and intended. By keeping both God’s purpose and God’s creation intact, Christians can reclaim God’s good design for marital sex, specifically the act of intercourse: faithful, unifying, pleasing, and satisfying for husbands and wives alike.
This article was written by Christine, with help from several Little Images staff members. For more information, see littleimages.org.