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Attitude Toward One’s Circumcision Status Is More Important than Actual Circumcision Status for Men’s Body Image and Sexual Functioning

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Research exploring the impact of circumcision on the sexual lives of men has failed to consider men’s attitudes toward their circumcision status, which may, in part, help to explain inconsistent findings in the literature. The current study explored the potential relationship between attitudinal factors toward one’s circumcision status, timing of one’s circumcision, and sexual correlates. A total of 811 men (367 circumcised as neonates, 107 circumcised in childhood, 47 circumcised in adulthood, and 290 intact) aged 19–84 years (M = 33.02, SD = 12.54) completed an online survey. We assessed attitudes toward one’s circumcision status, three domains of body image (Male Genital Image Scale, Body Exposure during Sexual Activities Questionnaire, Body Image Satisfaction Scale), and self-reported sexual functioning (International Index of Erectile Function). Men who were circumcised as adults or intact men reported higher satisfaction with their circumcision status than those who were circumcised neonatally or in childhood. Lower satisfaction with one’s circumcision status—but not men’s actual circumcision status—was associated with worse body image and sexual functioning. These findings identify the need to control for attitudes toward circumcision status in the study of sexual outcomes related to circumcision. Future research is required to estimate the number of men who are dissatisfied with their circumcision status, to explore the antecedents of distress in this subpopulation, and to understand the extent of negative sexual outcomes associated with these attitudes.

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We would like to extend a warm thank you to the many participants who took part in this research. We would also like give a special thank you to Sean Dougherty for developing the coding software for this data.


This research was funded by Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC), awarded to the first author, and Pfizer-Canadian Male Sexual Health Council (CMSHC), awarded to the second author.

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Correspondence to Caroline F. Pukall.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Bossio, J.A., Pukall, C.F. Attitude Toward One’s Circumcision Status Is More Important than Actual Circumcision Status for Men’s Body Image and Sexual Functioning. Arch Sex Behav 47, 771–781 (2018).

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