Many proponents of routine circumcision state that it "has no adverse effect on sexual function, sensitivity, penile sensation or satisfaction and may enhance the male sexual experience" (http://www.scirp.org/journal/PaperInformation.aspx?paperID=17415) and go as far as criticizing that "a minority of studies has reported moderate adverse effects, but expert scrutiny [157-159] of these has revealed fundamental flaws that make the findings unreliable".
Of course that's no consolation if you are a man that have slowly seen your sexual satisfaction decrease over time, or if you are a man who was circumcised as adult and suddenly realize that the doctor never mentioned the loss of sensitivity, or even if he mentioned "a slight loss", you find it's more like 90% (real case) and sink into depression.
According to one study: "Adult circumcision appears to result in worsened erectile function (p = 0.01), decreased penile sensitivity (p = 0.08), no change in sexual activity (p = 0.22) and improved satisfaction (p = 0.04). Of the men 50% reported benefits and 38% reported harm. Overall, 62% of men were satisfied with having been circumcised." http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11956453
One of the problems I see with these studies is how soon do they rate the results after the surgery. What about long term effects? Initially, the glans is going to be very sensitive as it's not used to being exposed to the elements. With time it will start hardening and drying. This is not even up for debate: all you need to do is compare any circumcised man with any intact man, and you will see the difference in the texture of the glans: softer, shinier, more colorful in the intact man; harder and dry in the circumcised man.
That sexual function and sensitivity are not affected is an important element of the 21st century marketing of circumcision -and the one sore spot in the presentation. Not so much in earlier times, when circumcision was performed precisely with the purpose of reducing sexual pleasure.
According to the first century C.E. Jewish philosopher Philo, circumcision represents the excision of the pleasure of sex, which bewitches the mind... thus making circumcision the figure of the excision of excessive and superfluous pleasure (Philo, Special Laws 2-11.)
As we move to the beginning of the routine circumcision of neonates in the United States, we have to start around 1850. Please note that the following quotes are documented in http://www.circumcisionquotes.com/
"In cases of masturbation we must, I believe, break the habit by inducing such a condition of the parts as will cause too much local suffering to allow of the practice to be continued. For this purpose, if the prepuce is long, we may circumcise the male patient with present and probably with future advantages; the operation, too, should not be performed under chloroform, so that the pain experienced may be associated with the habit we wish to eradicate." On An Injurious Habit Occasionally Met with in Infancy and Early Childhood, Athol A. W. Johnson. The Lancet, vol. 1 (7 April 1860): pp. 344-345.
"There can be no doubt of [masturbation's] injurous effect, and of the proneness to practice it on the part of children with defective brains. Circumcision should always be practiced. It may be necessary to make the genitals so sore by blistering fluids that pain results from attempts to rub the parts." Angel Money. Treatment of Disease In Children.Philidelphia: P. Blakiston, 1887. p.421.
Okay, did I read that right? What has a defective brain to do with masturbation and how do they jump from there to the foreskin?
"In all cases of masturbation circumcision is undoubtedly the physician's closest friend and ally... To obtain the best results one must cut away enough skin and mucous membrane to rather put it on the stretch when erections come later. There must be no play in the skin after the wound has thoroughly healed, but it must fit tightly over the penis, for should there be any play the patient will be found to readily resume his practice, not begrudging the time and extra energy required to produce the orgasm. It is true, however, that the longer it takes to have an orgasm, the less frequently it will be attempted, consequently the greater the benefit gained... The younger the patient operated upon the more pronounced the benefit, though occasionally we find patients who were circumcised before puberty that require a resection of the skin, as it has grown loose and pliant after that epoch." E.J.Spratling, Masturbation in the Adult, Medical Record, vol. 24. (1895): pp. 442-443.
And in 1900
"Finally, circumcision probably tends to increase the power of sexual control. The only physiological advantage which the prepuce can be supposed to confer is that of maintaining the penis in a condition susceptible to more acute sensation than would otherwise exist. It may increase the pleasure of intercourse and the impulse to it: but these are advantages which in the present state of society can well be spared. If in their loss increase in sexual control should result, one should be thankful." Editor, Medical News. Our London Letter. Medical World,(1900).vol.77:pp.707-8
"It has been urged as an argument against the universal adoption of circumcision that the removal of the protective covering of the glans tends to dull the sensitivity of that exquisitly sensitive structure and thereby diminishes sexual appetite and the pleasurable effects of coitus. Granted that this be true, my answer is that, whatever may have been the case in days gone by, sensuality in our time needs neither whip nor spur, but would be all the better for a little more judicious use of curb and bearing-rein." E. Harding Freeland, Circumcision as a Preventative of Syphilis and Other Disorders, The Lancet, vol. 2 (29 Dec. 1900): pp.1869-1871.
"Circumcision not only reduces the irritability of the child's penis, but also the so-called passion of which so many married men are so extreamly proud, to the detriment of their wives and their married life. Many youthful rapes could be prevented, many separations, and divorces also, and many an unhappy marriage improved if this unnatural passion was cut down by a timely circumcision." L.W. Wuesthoff, MD. Benefits of Circumcision. Medical World, (1915) Vol.33. p.434.
"Circumcision and Operation on Clitoris Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin in the male. Sometimes the hood of the clitoris of the female needs to be cut down or drawn back. Sometime the foreskin or the hood of the clitoris is so tight as to cause irritation and keep the passions excited and perhaps they are a cause for masturbation. When such is the case these operations should be performed. Parents should carefully looks after these condtions as they, instead of a depraved mind, are the causes of many immoral practices." "The People's Home Library", A Library of Three Practical books by Published by R.C Barnum Company Copyright 1910
The most important one, from 1935:
"I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is "against nature", but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue that 'God knows best how to make little boys.'" R.W. Cockshut. Circumcision. British Medical Journal, Vol.2 (1935): p.764.
So, definitively those who started the routine practice of circumcision knew what they were doing and knew what their goal was. It was the same goal in 1860 than it was in the first century of our era. Excision of the pleasure of sex. A leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Unnatural passion cut down by a timely circumcision. Diminishing sexual appetite and the pleasurable effects of coitus.
What has changed from 1935 to 2012, that the new doctors are convinced that circumcision "has no adverse effect on sexual function, sensitivity, penile sensation or satisfaction", and are willing to defend this statement by bullying those who are willing to stand in front of the crowd and testify to their own dissatisfaction?
It's important to note that new studies (which will probably be criticized) show that circumcised men are 4.5 times more likely to experience Erectile Dysfunction. Some recommended readings:
Is your circumcision making you soft? http://news.menshealth.com/is-your-circumcision-making-you-soft/2011/11/02/
Wikipedia shows that many studies contradict each other and arrive at opposed conclusions. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sexual_effects_of_circumcision
And a doctor's input on this "sadistic procedure", that is both rational and emotional. http://www.torontosun.com/life/healthandfitness/2010/03/18/13277631.html