The glans (penile head) is normally an internal organ protected by the moist mucosal tissue of the prepuce (foreskin). Without the foreskin, the glans is exposed to the outer environment (air, soap, clothing, sun, etc.). The glans dries out and develops several extra layers of skin (keratinization).1 Compare the dry, cracked appearance of the glans of a circumcised penis (upper right) with the moist mucosal end of the glans of an intact penis (lower right). The unnatural dryness of the circumcised penis can cause abrasion and bleeding during sex, whereas the moistness of the intact penis makes sex more comfortable, especially during penetration. For women with circumcised male partners, the problem of 'vaginal dryness' during sex may also be partly attributable to the unnatural dryness of the circumcised penis.
Besides removing the densely nerve-laden foreskin, circumcision removes 50% of the penile shaft skin and associated nerve endings.2 The exposed glans then keratinizes, causing further loss of sensation. Many circumcised men in the Awakenings survey3 reported that desensitization caused them to abandon or bypass the subtler pleasures of genital foreplay in favor of immediate intercourse, which would offer them greater stimulation. They often hurried through intercourse, however — often needing extraordinary and sometimes violent thrusting — to obtain sufficient stimulation for both pleasure and orgasm. Other men reported frequent reliance on behaviors offering more stimulation than vaginal sex (e.g., oral sex, anal sex or masturbation) or compensating for diminished quality of sexual response with quantity (sexual compulsivity).
Eventually, keratinization occurs even after adult circumcision. It can also occur in intact men with short foreskins or those who habitually wear their foreskin in the retracted position.
Imagine how different female sexual response would be if the clitoral hood (female foreskin) and the labia were removed. Exposure of the clitoris to the constant effects of the outer environment would approximate the effects of male circumcision.