Sounds logical, doesn't it?
Well, turns out it's not that simple.
I have a friend. I'll call him WeiWei. WeiWei spent much of his early childhood in a refugee camp, where his family had limited access to clean water, and from the time he was a baby, WeiWei suffered from periodic bladder infections.
"The pain you wouldn't believe," WeiWei told me. "I was pissing blood."
So at age 16, WeiWei, now a U.S. citizen living in a mid-sized American city, talked to the family doctor about his problem, and the doctor told him, "We can circumcise you. Maybe that will help."
WeiWei decided that sounded like a good idea, and after the doctor circumcised him, sure enough, WeiWei stopped getting bladder infections.
"So what about sex?" I said to WeiWei. (We have that kind of relationship.)
"I never had sex until later," he said, "when I was in college."
"Well, what about masturbation?" I said "Did it feel better or worse? Did you feel like something was missing?"
"It didn't feel better or worse," he said. "It just felt different."
I would say that puts WeiWei right in the middle of the spectrum.
The Satisfaction Spectrum, I mean. The Satisfaction Spectrum, which I will assume I invented until I hear otherwise, represents patient satisfaction with circumcision outcome. At one end of the Satisfaction Spectrum, you have the guy who says "I'm so glad I decided to get myself circumcised. Sex with my wife/husband/girlfriend/boyfriend/partner is more pleasurable because of the increased friction between my penis and my wife's/husband's/girlfriend's/boyfriend's/partner's orifice-of-choice, and sex is more spontaneous now, because I no longer have to worry about tidying up my penis before getting things underway. Color me satisfied."
Closer to the other end of the Satisfaction Spectrum, you have "Dan from London" quoted in this BBC article three years after being circumcised:
He says no one told him just how much of an impact it [circumcision] could have on his sex life.
"Imagine having your tongue but not being able to taste," he says.
"You'd still be able to use your tongue, but if you weren't able to taste certain foods, or taste anything at all, you know, I liken it to that."
So you see that's the problem with trying to answer the question of "How much physical sensation have I lost?" by asking men circumcised as teenagers or adults. You won't find any consensus. You'll find answers that fall all up and down the Satisfaction Spectrum.
Also, you have to think about how to weigh the answers you get from guys like WeiWei. Did WeiWei's history of infections cause a loss of sensation in his foreskin or in his penis overall? Is that why masturbation felt the same before and after circumcision? Who knows? Is there even any kind of equipment out there that would allow you to test that hypothesis? Not that I've heard of. Maybe the Kinsey Institute will invent something.
But I think knowing that a Satisfaction Spectrum exists for men circumcised as adults (I'll call it Satisfaction Spectrum A.) tells me that there must be a similar Satisfaction Spectrum for men like me, those circumcised as infants or children. Let's call them Group B, and let's call their spectrum Satisfaction Spectrum B.
I've found that if you ask Group B about what sex and masturbation feel like, you'll get a range of answers similar to what you find in Satisfaction Spectrum A, everything from "I can't imagine sex feeling any better." to "I feel nothing. Sex is impossible."
I have come to believe that where a guy lands on Satisfaction Spectrum B corresponds closely to how much damage his circumciser did to his penis, how much tissue was lost, how many nerve endings were severed, and how much secondary damage happened as his body healed from the trauma. I suppose that list of factors should also include damage from follow-up surgeries, which are more commonplace than you might think.
So what happens if I lay my data from Satisfaction Spectrum B on top of my data from Satisfaction Spectrum A? And suppose I take into consideration any observable damage to my own penis? Could that tell me something about the degree of physical sensation I've lost to circumcision? Can I work it out algebraically?
Well, I was a humanities major, but I'll see what I can do.