Although the majority of men worldwide are intact – that is, have a penis with a foreskin – in some parts of the world, such as the United States, most men are circumcised. In such areas, women rarely come into contact with a foreskin and so could benefit from a short guide to this body part. Although there is ongoing (and sometimes fierce) debate as to whether being circumcised or intact is “better” or has a positive impact on penis health, most intact men are quite satisfied with having a foreskin.
What is it?
The technical term for the foreskin is “prepuce,” although there are many other slang terms for it (such as hood, cap, sheath, etc.). The foreskin is a flap of skin that covers the glans of the penis when it is in its resting state. When the penis becomes erect, the foreskin retracts to allow the glans to protrude. All boys are born with a foreskin; some become circumcised, meaning that the foreskin is removed.
The foreskin can provide an extra layer of protection for the glans, which can be quite sensitive otherwise. Studies also indicate that the foreskin contains highly sensitive nerve endings which can play a role in sexual stimulation. In addition, foreskin tends to be self-lubricating, which many intact men find to be a plus.
What to know
So what are some of the things that a woman may need to know about the foreskin? Well…
– It does retract. Although on boys the foreskin may be tight and require loosening in order to appropriately retract, in adult males the foreskin does “roll back” during the erectile process.
– But sometimes it doesn’t retract. However, there are cases where the foreskin is too tight, often due to the glans becoming swollen. (The condition in which the foreskin is too tight for easy retraction is called phimosis.) If this is an issue, a man needs to see a doctor, who may recommend treatment such as application of a steroid cream or manual stretching techniques.
– Men are individual; so are their foreskins. Every guy is slightly different – and so is his foreskin. Some men have hoods that are very flexible and loose; they may enjoy having a partner gently stretch on them or roll them back. Other men’s prepuces are tighter and more sensitive, and a more cautious approach may be necessary. When being introduced to a man’s foreskin, a woman may want to do some exploring – with the owner’s permission, of course. She can ask a man how he likes his foreskin handled or she can begin touching it and asking if what she is doing feels good, or if there is something else she should try.
– Men can be particular about their condom fittings. Some intact men prefer to slip a condom on with the foreskin covering the glans; others prefer to roll back the foreskin and expose the glans before fitting the condom on. It’s generally recommended that a man be retracted. If a woman is helping apply the condom, she should ask a man for guidance so as not to go too fast or rough.
– Hygiene is important. For all men, good penis hygiene is crucial. For intact men, washing “under the hood” is essential – and can sometimes be a little difficult. This is especially true if the foreskin is tight; rolling it back to wash under the foreskin can be challenging. On the other hand, sometimes a guy can over wash-under the skin, which can cause the glans and surrounding area to dry up.