Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
12 Jan

To Circumcise or Not To Circumcise?

circumcisionOnce a proverbial given in this and a number of other countries, circumcision has become a hot button issue, intensely debated in both family and medical circles. For decades it was standard procedure for hospital births, but the numbers are quickly declining. Today, 56% of newborn boys are circumcised, although the rate varies considerably by geographic region in the U.S. In 1999, the American Pediatric Association revised their statement on circumcision to acknowledge the “potential medical benefits” of the procedure but concluded “these data are not sufficient to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.” Most of Canada has “de-listed” circumcision as a necessary (i.e. paid for) procedure.

In truth, the decision to circumcise isn’t purely medical even as it becomes increasingly controversial. Intangible aspects play as much or more of a role in parents’ choice as scientific research. For some families, circumcision is an age-old rite celebrating religious covenant. For others, it’s a venerated custom that manifests cultural identity. Families who aren’t influenced by religious or cultural values might choose circumcision for social or aesthetic reasons in an effort to allow junior to look like the other boys at school or like the father. However, other families and experts argue that the practice is a painful, unnecessary procedure that violates the physical dignity and even legal rights of the child.

The history of circumcision is imprecise, but the practice is thought to have its roots in the Middle East. Experts suggest a number of potential reasons behind the initial practice of circumcision, including figurative sacrifice, virility ritual, and cultural hygienic custom. In many tribal societies, circumcision was observed as a cultural rite of passage into manhood. Although circumcision predates religious directive, it eventually became a sacred practice in the early Jewish faith and for the followers of Islam. At various times in history, circumcision was also used to designate social status as well as religious identity. On an odder note, Western societies, particularly in the 19th and early 20th centuries, practiced circumcision to discourage masturbation. In these same centuries, the issue also became medicalized around tenets of basic hygiene. In the late 19th and 20th centuries, the rate of newborn circumcision increased as hospital births rose and the public accepted the medical argument for standard circumcision.

For our part, let’s delve into the medical side.

These days, one of the most commonly cited health reasons for routine circumcision is decreased STD risk. Numerous studies based in Africa show that circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexual HIV contraction by 50-60%. In response the assembled research, the World Health Organization/United Nations Joint Programme on HIV/AIDS issued their official recommendation of circumcision as one method to prevent the spread of HIV. Critics caution that the “context” of the African epidemic, which is as high as 25% of the population in some areas, is so different from the disease rate (as well as cultural and hygienic practices ) in the West that the protective factor of circumcision isn’t nearly as high in Western countries. Some experts estimate a 10% risk reduction in Western societies (PDF). Other Western-based research demonstrates reduced risk for other sexually transmitted disease like genital herpes and HPV as well as a decrease in bacterial vaginosis risk for female partners of circumcised men. Research exploring the impact of circumcision on infection reduction in homosexual men has been more limited but so far shows a mixed picture of protective influence. A review published this month indicates that circumcision appears to reduce risk in primarily “insertive” rather than receptive partners.

The physiological logic behind circumcision’s reduced infection risk involves the bacterial ecology of the inner foreskin itself, which harbors anaerobic bacteria that appears to fuel inflammation and infection. The inner foreskin is home to the highest concentration of so-called Langerhans’ cells, which facilitate HIV transmission and replication.

A less dangerous but more common problem for uncircumcised males, particularly boys, is recurrent urinary tract infection. Circumcision is considered a standard treatment option for those with recurring UTI or serious complications from an initial case of UTI. Some experts have questioned the usefulness and cost efficiency of routine circumcisions to prevent infections in a relatively small number of boys. According to a British study, 111 routine circumcisions must be performed to prevent a single UTI. However, other experts suggest that there’s more at stake than simple urinary infection risk. Another study found that 18% of young boys in the study who had UTI showed signs of kidney scarring. Follow-up circumcision in these boys substantially reduced subsequent UTI occurrence. As a research commentator noted (PDF) in light of this picture, “[I]f the circumcision had been done in the newborn period would the kidneys have been protected from damage in the first instance?”

In response to these infection-related findings, critics of the procedure counter that diligent safe sex and hygienic measures more reliably protect both the man and his partner from infection. Opponents say that circumcision (or at least the public message about its lower infection risk) can give men an inflated sense of protection against life-threatening diseases and discourage use of condoms, testing and other safe sex methods. Nonetheless, many physicians and public health experts maintain that circumcision is a practical strategy for reducing disease in males and their respective partners.

As for the other physical conditions circumcision is meant to prevent, many experts say that the evidence just doesn’t support the need for routine circumcision in every boy. The nonretractable foreskin in childhood is often a misdiagnosis, since separation of the glans happens over time (a protective feature) and may not even be noticeable until puberty. Common infections can be treated with a plethora of modern medications like antibiotics and steroid creams. As for penile cancer, the risk is so low (approximately 9-10 per million men) that circumcision choice shouldn’t be based on this concern.

Then there are the medical complications. They can be everywhere from aesthetic-based to functionally impairing. Infection rates hover close to five percent. Significant narrowing of the urethra occurs in anywhere from 5-10% of circumcisions and must be addressed with follow up treatment. Injury to the urethra can occur. The least common but most dramatic complications include partial to full penile amputation or even the rare death from serious infection.

On a considerably lighter note, critics also suggest that circumcision compromises sexual pleasure. They argue that the foreskin, as host to a dense network of nerves, is a functional erogenous zone in itself.

Although it’s likely impossible to reach any definitive conclusions regarding the issue, self-report research on men who are circumcised in adulthood show mixed results. In one such study, the majority of men did not experience a decrease in libido or pleasure. Eighty-two percent reported the same (44%) or enhanced (38%) penile sensitivity. A smaller study (PDF), however, recorded patients’ written comments about the impact of the procedure on their sex life and calculated that nearly half of respondents experienced less penile sensitivity after circumcision.

Now that we’ve laid out some of the arguments and medical research, we want to hear what you have to say. What is your thinking on the subject, and what factors have or would influence your choice to circumcise or not circumcise? Thanks for reading and contributing.

You want comments? We got comments:

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  1. As someone who was circumcised at birth, without my consent. I’m pretty annoyed at the parents above who did it to their children without thinking twice.

    You are cutting off part of your son’s penis. How can that ever sound like a good idea? How can that ever sound normal no matter what society you grew up in.

    Jared wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • What do you think about the ones who know far more about it than your parents did, Jared, who are engaged in this discussion and who now have access to men’s experiences such as yours (not to mention those who were actually injured), but plan on doing it in the future?

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
      • Well, I kind of find it immoral, and wish society had the same attitude.

        I had arguments with my ex- about it, and she was completely irrational. She was adamant that if we were ever to have children they would be circumcised. It all boiled down to the appearance for her.

        It seems like a lot of moms have a pretty unhealthy interest in the appearance of their son’s genitalia, to the son’s detriment…

        Jared wrote on January 12th, 2010
        • Thanks for your honest answer, Jared.

          I’ve noticed this same thing on this thread. (Most chillingly Diana Renata among others.)

          Christoph wrote on January 14th, 2010
  2. Wow, I read MDA very often, as well as the comments. With all the discussion that can get generated by the various topics and issues that Mark brings up with his posts, I don’t recall anyone who has been more pretentious than Christoph.

    There are many practices around the world (scarification, tatooing, etc) that are done on young boys that are not yet adults (whether they are infants or not, they don’t have ‘informed consent’). Do you feel just as srongly about all of those practices?

    ‘eh, anyway, I don’t feel incredibly strongly about the issue one way or another, so I’m not going to get bogged down in discussion. I just wanted to get my opinion out there.

    Adam R wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Adam, it’s nice to know that you don’t feel strongly about even the possibility that this may be the genital mutilation of non-consenting children.

      Pretentious? Judge for yourself. It’s certainly accurate.

      And do I support scarring young children, or tattooing them? No, and in most cases these would be illegal in our culture. Circumcision is, of course, scarring, but scarring of the most sensitive and personal external organ a child has.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
  3. There’s quite a bit of difference between chopping body parts off to prevent the mere possibility of an UTI and getting a mastectomoy as a preventative measure because of some serious cancer risk…. which is the only reason I’d even consider it. And the risk would have to be very high, indeed.

    Katt wrote on January 12th, 2010
  4. At the end of the day if you want or need it done (for whatever reason) you can always have it later.

    However if you have it done to you as a baby you can’t undo it.

    My old man and most of his generation were done as babies, my parents decided not to with me.

    I’m glad they didn’t as it gave me the personal choice over what to do myself. I considered having it done in my teens but decided the cons outweighed the pros.

    In my generation and country (New Zealand) it seems about 50/50 whether people are done or not. I would say the tradition like strong faith/religious belief is in decline.

    Steven Quick wrote on January 12th, 2010
  5. Circumcised! I’ll call a spade a spade — sex is awesome as is! Maybe it could be even better, but greed is a deadly sin…

    Diana,

    What you got going on tonight?

    Take it easy everybody! I’m off to the gym!

    Alex wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • LOL Alex! Thanks for lightening up the comments. It was getting a little abrasive for a while there… and not in a good way. ;)

      Diana Renata wrote on January 12th, 2010
  6. Hey Mark, on an unrelated note, I saw on a website one of those advertisements basically saying “I got ripped in 4 weeks following 2 simple rules, click here!” and they used some obese guy on the left next to your picture on the right. Just letting you know.

    BlazeKING wrote on January 12th, 2010
  7. Circumcised at birth here. Never had a problem, can’t recall any pain, not emotionally scared and I don’t resent my parents at all. sex is great. I guess i can’t complain, nor do I want too. Will I do it to my kids? couldn’t say for sure I got awhile before I need to worry about that.

    rafiki wrote on January 12th, 2010
  8. um, in my observation… chicks dick the ‘cut’ look…

    Roman wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • So your belief system is males should cut their penises to look like what females, raised in our unique culture since Kellogg popularized circumcision in order to reduce masturbation and libidinousness, want?

      Despite the fact that an uncircumcised penis is more functional… for the female… sexually?

      It sounds like it’s your balls that have been cut off, mate.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
      • They are functional either way, and being a female who has had long relationships with men of both stature. There really is not difference in sex. The foreskin doesn’t make it and better for us. Nor is it any more functional.. for the female…sesually. In fact, the uncircumcised man had less of a sex drive then the circ’d. Im not stating any relation between those 2 factors.. just my observations.

        christie wrote on January 19th, 2011
      • They are functional either way, and being a female who has had long relationships with men of both stature. There really is not difference in sex. The foreskin doesn’t make it and better for us. Nor is it any more functional.. for the female…sexually. In fact, the uncircumcised man had less of a sex drive then the circ’d. Im not stating any relation between those 2 factors.. just my observations.

        christie wrote on January 19th, 2011
    • As a chick – I dig the “uncut” look. I’m so happy my husband hasn’t been “cut”!

      I’ve been in conversations where women are discussing the topic, and I’m an ardent support of not cutting. Maybe it’s the men, but the sex I’ve had with uncut men has been so much better.

      So, just wanted to get it out there that several chicks dig the “uncut” look :)

      CMR wrote on January 13th, 2010
  9. I don’t understand why this is such an issue. As part of an obviously underrepresented minority I feel the need to speak out. I am not circucumcised and wish that I had been. My foreskin sometimes makes me that much more uncomfortable when it’s hot, that much dirtier when I’ve been sweating, and sometimes catches my pubic hair making it painful to move around and embarrassing to fix.

    Also, my understanding of female circumcision makes the comparison to male circumcision pretty misleading. To make male circumcision comprable, you’d have to cut off the whole head of the penis.

    If people are in need of a worthy cause to get behind, may I suggest the elimination of poverty as a more substantive goal. If that doesn’t do it for you, then you might want to look into ending animal abuse.

    Tom wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Serious question: Why don’t you get circumcised and report back to us in 6 months which was better?

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
      • Serious answer: I have better things to do with my time. Perhaps I wasn’t clear enough the first time. You people are making a mountain out of a mole hill. You have so much energy. Why not put it towards solving one of our more pressing social issues?

        Tom wrote on January 12th, 2010
        • Tom, with respect this is a pressing social issue.

          And it is being slowly won to my way of thinking. The numbers of parents genitally mutilating their sons is dropping, even in America the second highest rated country in the world.

          The other issues you mention are excellent and good for you for being concerned about them.

          Myself, protecting children is my hot button.

          Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Speaking of animal issues, I wouldn’t circumcise a puppy.

      It’s absurd. And it’s cruel.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Tom, so either you have really gnarly pubes or a tiny dick. And honestly? An inch of foreskin makes it too hot? Please. Maybe you should also have your testicles removed to prevent schwety balls.

      Erika wrote on March 26th, 2013
  10. Thank goodness my mothers OB told my mother they only circumcised for cosmetic reasons do to defect.

    So I am NOT circumcised and quiet proud of it!

    Not once in my life have I wished that I was.

    The argument of circumcising for appearance is probably one of the most ridiculous and shallow arguments I have ever heard.

    I would challenge anyone to even be able to point out that I was not circumcised when erect.

    How can a woman tell me that an uncircumcised penis is anymore attractive looking than the shriveled testicle pouch behind it ?

    Yes, masturbation is apparently much easier with foreskin, no lotion required!

    fullyoperational wrote on January 12th, 2010
  11. One hundred and thirteen comments. A touchy subject.

    Charlie wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Half of them ARe Christoph. The numbers are misleading.

      Diana Renata wrote on January 13th, 2010
  12. It’s just a piece of skin. Who cares if it’s cut or not. It doesn’t matter. People feel like they are personally insulted when others have it this way instead of that way or that way instead of this way. Geeesh.

    Make that 114 comments.

    BlazeKING wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Whoa there Van Gogh!

      fullyoperational wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • It’s just a piece of skin on a guy’s penis, you know, the most sensitive part of a man’s body?

      It also happens to be the piece of skin, about 12 to 15 inches square, with the highest density of nerve endings on a guy’s penis, before being cut off.

      (And it protects the glans keeping it sensitive too.)

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • Just a bit of skin?

      Such ignorance!

      The foreskin contains over 200 feet of nerves, which are THE primary sexual pleasure nerves for men.

      Men and women are literally opposite. With a woman the clitoris is very senitive and covered with a less sensitive hood.

      With men the glans is relatively insensistive but covered with a very sensitive hood. It is the rolling and unrolling action of this hood that gives a man pleasure, just as the rubbing against clitoris gives a woman pleasure.

      Amputation of the foreskin is EXACTLY the same as amputation of the clitoris.

      Alan wrote on December 26th, 2010
  13. Being uncircumcised is like having a dog with no legs. You have to clean him more cause he gets covered in stuff, it’s hard to take him for walks in the park where all the dogs want to go, and as his owner you may grow to resent him even though he has greater doggy feelings than most dogs. Sure you could wait and buy him and decide if he’s a good dog and worth all the extra effect, or you could get a normal dog that’s cleanly, goes for long walks, and still acts like man’s best friend.

    You’re no-legged dog can comfort you when you’ve missed out on that lady you didn’t meet at the dog park.

    W. wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • That was supposed to read “Sure you could buy him and wait to decide if he’s a good dog and worth all the extra effort…”

      W. wrote on January 12th, 2010
  14. Wow, I’m really surprised at this argument for circumcision because it looks better! The only time I care about a guy’s penis is when I’m having sex, and in that state there’s no difference in looks. Furthermore, some people have mentioned that perhaps guys have more sensation when uncut, but no one’s mentioned that women (well, this one anyway) get more pleasure from an uncut penis too.

    As far as boys getting made fun of in the locker room and such, if only 56% of boys are getting circumsized, then almost half of them remain uncut. So this also seems like a faulty argument. Who’s making fun of who?

    The health issues that Mark says do concern me though, and I hope they don’t surface in my family. I am proud to be the mom of two uncut boys.

    jojo wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • “Furthermore, some people have mentioned that perhaps guys have more sensation when uncut, but no one’s mentioned that women (well, this one anyway) get more pleasure from an uncut penis too.”

      Ahem.

      I mentioned that.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
      • sorry, wrong on this point. see my comment below.

        Cynthia wrote on January 13th, 2010
  15. I did child care for a bit, and the % of botched circumcisions (and occasionally from talking to friends) is rather disturbing.

    OK, you may not miss your forskin, but how much of your glans are you ok with missing?

    Ronald Pottol wrote on January 12th, 2010
  16. My son is not. That is the way his body was made, why would we cut something off?

    Suzanne Buffie wrote on January 12th, 2010
  17. snip snip.

    I was circumcised. I love it, no regrets. Sex feels great, etc etc. I don’t care what anyone says. The funny thing is, my experience growing up was that those of us who were circumcised were made fun of. I didn’t know why nor did I care. I just thought it was a silly thing to make fun of. Boys staring at other boys’ penis. Mind your own business.

    I don’t remember the pain. I have been in the room with each of my 3 nephews, and my two youngest brothers getting circumcised. They slept through it, and showed no discomfort after.

    Everyone acts like a piece of the penis is cut off, geeze, chill the heck out, it’s just skin (with a bundle of nerves blah blah). I’m just sick and tired of people looking down on me because I’m circumcised. Go stare at your own penis. Mine is beautiful, and clean, and doesn’t have a dirty flop of skin hovering like a hood over it. (hahaha sorry, that was needlessly rude). It is not a religious thing. I am an Atheist, my parents are religious but the rest of my family are atheist or agnostic. And I understand the disease benefits are minute (but positive) and wouldn’t be foolish enough not to wrap it up.

    If I have sons they will be circumcised for hygienic reasons, cosmetic reasons, and just because. Just because Grok didn’t do it, doesn’t automatically mean it’s evil.

    And those of you using the argument that we wouldn’t do the same to a girl. Go make a very thorough study of the female genitalia, and then come back and tell me it’s the same thing. Of course it’s different, and of course we wouldn’t circumcise women unless it saves them from something worse. Just like kicking a male assailant between the legs is a good attack strategy, but not if it’s a woman. (Okay bad analogy, but you should be seeing my point)

    There are decisions that a parent does have the right to make for the child. But more important than that decision, is the right to get it wrong. For better or for worse, the child must live and figure it out like everyone else. If we were talking about something barbaric like foot-binding, or crippling, facial scarring, fattening, actually snipping off the penis, female circumcision (which doesn’t deserve to be called that… barbaric) etc then we can talk. Until then, kindly take your hands of my johnny, unless you intend to put him in your mouth. That is all.

    void_provocateur wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • I would just like to clarify, what most people consider female circumcision is actually female castration. And those nerves aren’t missed in men. They are nerves, neither good nor bad, just nerves. Pleasure and pain and everything in between. Many of us uncircumcised feel all the pleasure that everyone else does. There is no data loss here.

      It just bothers me reading the above comments that people talk about people like me as if we were abused or raped or something. Or as if us poor poor circumcised penis deficient individuals don’t know how bad we have it. Disagree if you will, but get off our collective nutsack. And anyone who suffered a botched circumcision (something I’ve never heard of personally, but whatever) should sue that doctor and make sure he/she never practices again, because it is an exceedingly easy procedure and is as routine as cutting the umbilical cord (perhaps oversimplified).

      A botched job shows a gross failure of the doctor’s duties. I was born in a third world hospital with no electricity in a country where medical money is funneled to corrupt politicians (PS, thank goodness I was just passing through). They get the job right all the time. Please report those doctors that screw up something that simple.

      void_provocateur wrote on January 12th, 2010
      • “Many of us uncircumcised feel all the pleasure that everyone else does. There is no data loss here.”

        I don’t understand this statement.

        If I cut off your fingertips, do you then not lack the ability to feel in that area?

        No one is attacking or looking down on you, or me, for that matter, as I too am circumcised.

        I am honestly lead to wonder if I am lacking sensation down there due to being circumcised, especially since I find the act of sex to be, physically, underwhelming for me down there.

        But seriously, to say definitively that there is no desensitizing that comes from cutting off a 12 square inch bundle of nerves is kind of ridiculous.

        Aaron Fraser wrote on January 13th, 2010
      • I like your post. I see Christoph doesn’t have any snide commnets to those of you who are circumcised and LIKE it.

        Diana Renata wrote on January 13th, 2010
        • I have nothing to say about a man who likes the fact that he’s circumstances, any more than I would for a woman who has had a breast enlargement/reduction, or a labia trimming/removal, or even a clitorindectomy.

          I would say that he doesn’t know whether it would have been better the other way because he never had the option.

          I’d also say there are ONE HELL of a lot of men who don’t want to face up to the fact that in their very “manhood”, they were reduced, mutilated, even abused by a warped belief system put into physical effect by their parents and doctors.

          Who wants to face up to that?

          I’d say there is a lot of self-denial.

          And if a man has genuine issues with having a foreskin, medical or psychological, or even sexual, and wants to remove it, so be it.

          The key word is “man”, not infant boy.

          Your cavalier attitude about ensuring your future sons get circumcised because you happen to prefer it sexually deserves “snide” comments at a minimum.

          Christoph Dollis wrote on January 13th, 2010
        • The personal attacks are getting old and just as annoying as any replies Christoph might make (they haven’t annoyed me as he’s stuck to talking on-topic rather than attacking people). He hasn’t attacked people personally (at least that I’ve read so far).

          Shannon wrote on January 13th, 2010
  18. It must be painful, most boys don’t walk for almost a year afterward …

    Sorry. I remember it well, which isn’t too hard considering I was 8 (WTF?). I don’t remember why, I do remember it was against my will.

    I wish I wasn’t, and my three boys aren’t, and everything has worked out well as the world keeps spinning.

    Jeffery wrote on January 12th, 2010
  19. My husband was circumcised as an adult due to a tight foreskin. It was before we were a “we” but, he says it wasn’t a fun procedure for him. Not a shock. I still don’t think we will circumcise our son/s – if we are blessed with any in the future. However, if they were to have the same problem as dad, I would rather do the procedure when they are young and not an adult.

    Danielle wrote on January 12th, 2010
  20. This entire thread is silly. Jews have been circumsizing for 3,000 years, and we keep having sex and even large broods of children, at least in Orthodox Jewish households. Doesn’t seem to cut down on that, much. I don’t know of any rash of psychological problems ascribed to the ritual. Strangely, I don’t remember my circ at 8 days, but seems to have gone ok.

    Surprised that no one mentioned it here. Rabbinical circs take almost no time, and the baby is given a drop of wine and it’s over in a few seconds. I will say that medically, the way it is done in hospitals seemed to be a bit slow and possibly painful. That I’ll grant.

    I won’t say that we lasted 3,000 years because of circumcision, but it didn’t kill us off, either. I read these missives against circumcision..and I can understand the medical arguments, yea or nay, but the arguments that say it reduces sexual pleasure or hurt one’s psyche…c’mon folks, get a life. It ain’t the cause of your problems in life.

    Mo wrote on January 12th, 2010
    • “Jews have been circumsizing [sic] for 3,000 years, and we keep having sex and even large broods of children, at least in Orthodox Jewish households.”

      Orthodox Jews are supposed to start their day in prayer thanking God they weren’t made into a woman.

      Judaism is a culture in which it is the mother’s religion that determines if her child is Jewish or not.

      Orthodox Jews remove female Knesset (Israeli cabinet) members from their newspaper photographs:

      While I’m not generally a fan of this website, the the story covered “is what it is”.

      Please don’t talk to me about “no psychological problems…”.

      Circumcision served to break the bond between mother and child, and unite male members of the tribe with the other males, including those of generations past.

      I love the modern nation of Israel and long may it live. It isn’t for nothing that I have the Israeli flag on my wall, and have for years, since it was given to me as a gift by a Jewish man returning from Israel who agreed with me about nothing other than Israel’s right to exist, and it being fundamentally a good country.

      But man, don’t get me started on the traditional circumcision practices of Orthodox mohels.

      It is stomach turning. And not in the way 99% of people on this thread would expect.

      Don’t click this if you have a weak stomach: metzitzah b’peh

      The procedure described in the above article, is still legal in NYC, as it happens.

      It’s religious freedom, after all.

      But I don’t want to focus too much on the bizarre sexual nature of that bizarre way of performing bizarre genital mutilation.

      With the finest “medical” care in the world it’s still anathema to human decency and people’s freedom to choose over their own bodies.

      The U.S. congress passed a law last decade outlawing “infant female circumcision”, but not only that, any alteration of a female’s genitals without her informed consent as an adult.

      Is it too much to be asked that males be granted the same control over their bodies?

      The right to choose?

      Freedom from having your genitals altered without your permission is a natural human right.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 12th, 2010
  21. circumcision is a socially accpetable form of child abuse. It seems people never have seen a video of infant circumcision (got to youtube). It’s really painful. It’s quite inhumane and barbaric when the baby is strapped down. I couldn’t even finish the video. At least adult male circucision is performed with informed consent under general anesthesia, it looks like more a medical procedure but infant circumcision is torture.

    Nick wrote on January 12th, 2010
  22. Circumcision is barbaric genital mutilation. Period.

    Ypa wrote on January 12th, 2010
  23. Perhaps a more ‘primal’ take on this topic: has anyone seen this documentary :”the disappearing male”?

    http://www.cbc.ca/documentaries/doczone/2008/disappearingmale/chemicals.html

    It’s about the effect certain chemicals increasingly prevalent in our society are allegedly having on the male sexual/genital development in the womb and beyond. This worried me when I saw it. More so when I have a son who has had to have a medically required circumcision due to a condition not dissimilar to one mentioned in this disturbing documentary. Its about stuff in plastics, shampoos, toys, bottles etc, leaching into our systems.

    PJ wrote on January 13th, 2010
  24. Ouch! I’m thinking that nature gave men a foreskin for a reason. Why get rid of it? Or is it something like a dogs 5th toe that is genetically going out anyways?

    Richard Shelmerdine wrote on January 13th, 2010
  25. The US idea that there’s something wrong with humn penis is just crazy. Circumcision is a cure in search of a disease and none of the so called benefits of circucision manifest in the real world.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=srGTtm56R2A

    Nick wrote on January 13th, 2010
  26. My crowd does it for religious/cultural reasons, but a useful side-benefit is much lower cervical cance rates in jewish/muslim women. (Also nuns for obious reasons .) And a reduced sensitivity tends to work to the female partner’s advantage. as ther journey becomes as interesting as the arrival! Definiteky its not essential, but has useful advantages for women!

    edella wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • As regards sexual pleasure, circumcision has 0 benefits.
      The Number One complaint of circumcised males in America is premature ejaculation, which occurs because the specialized, erogenous nerve endings in the foreskin that let a man know what his penis is feeling and allow him to ride the wave to orgasm are missing. Without them, a man goes “Ooh, ooh, oops! Sorry, honey, it’s because I’m so sensitive.” Nope, it’s because he lost what was rightfully his, a normal penis, with the 20,000-70,000 nerve endings that encircle the opening of the foreskin.

      At the other end of life, the exposed, calloused, desensitized, glans becomes more and more difficult to stimulate. It’s no surprise that males in the US have a high rate of erectile dysfunction, and the USA has the highest sales of Viagra in the world.

      You cannot alter form without altering function. When a male’s foreskin is amputated, it affects him for life and his partner’s sex life is affected as well. The mechanics of sex must be altered to compensate for what was lost. As CJ Fallier wrote in JAMA in 1970, “…the fundamental biological sexual act becomes, for the circumcised male, the satisfaction of an urge and not the refined sensory experience it was meant to be.”

      Nick wrote on January 13th, 2010
      • Although I agree with a lot of what you say, the high rates of Viagra sales are from two things (IMHO)
        1. Poor diet, which affects everything.
        2. Tons of Viagra ads that try to make us think that Viagra is the only answer, and that every man should use it.

        Dave, RN wrote on January 13th, 2010
  27. Here’s my two cents: 1) medically it appears more helpful than harmful.

    2) Physically, speaking from experience, I can say the uncircumcized feels like the man is wearing a baggy that is sliding back and forth. Sorry, but it is not a good experience for the recipient. The foreskin basically slides on and off the head, and there is less stimulation for both parties. Of course, certain men don’t care whether the woman enjoys it anyway. Uncircumcized men I’ve known also seemed more preoccupied with theirs, inspecting it for problems and irritation more often than circumcized men. I’m all for naturalness in general, but this is one area that can be improved. We don’t run through briars unclothed anymore, so I don’t see the need for the foreskin, and I certainly don’t miss it.

    Cynthia wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • You are a piece of work.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 13th, 2010
      • No, you are a piece of work. I normally don’t get this angry at some person on the internet, but you have done it. Congratulations. Circumcision whether it’s good or bad is not serious enough to be called genital mutilation. Or are you seriously suggesting all circumcised men have mutilated genitals? Thanks.

        Robert wrote on January 13th, 2010
        • Yes, Robert, by definition men who’ve had a part of their genitals cut off have mutilated genitals.

          It’s a fact. I’m not happy about it, but there you go.

          Christoph Dollis wrote on January 13th, 2010
        • Yes, of course they are mutilated!

          Alan wrote on December 26th, 2010
    • Hmm, last time I had intercourse with my wife I distinctly remember my foreskin not sliding on and off of my glans ! :)

      As a man with a foreskin I can tell you that
      that depends, at least in my case, on the degree or intensity of the erection.

      fullyoperational wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • I think that is something that depends on the person in question… as each is made/formed differently.

      I’ve had more stimulation from the ones I’ve been with, and less from the one who have been circumsized. I’ve had this “baggy” issue that you speak of.

      CMR wrote on January 13th, 2010
      • ack. never had the baggy issue.

        CMR wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • Like the post but I have to respectfully disagree though. There are no more medical benefits to being circumsized. My wife is a PA and has specific training in this and even she disagrees with that statement. This sounds more of a personal opinion then based on fact. Again this is your choice and I can understand the stigma associated but again CW isn’t always the answer.

      Uncircumsized feels like a baggy? I will admit I have never heard of that one before but again to each their own. I do feel my sexual prowess has never had any issues and has actually been quite astounding. I think of it as a more natural way to be. On this site we preach eating more organic, unaltered and natural foods, working out to get back to more of a primal existence so why is this argument any different? If evolution wouldn’t have wanted foreskin there then it would have eventually gone away on its own. Yes we do not run through the briar patches anymore but we confine our manhood in boxers or tightie whities that are made to absorb sweat which leads to bacteria and if any dirt gets in there then it stays unnoticed until we cleanse. Not very appealing to me.

      Foreskin offers more protection from the elements. When this practice first started most people wore the same clothes they worked in everyday so dirt, grime, bacteria and everything under the sun would have access to a very important part of the man.

      AppalachianMatt wrote on March 11th, 2010
  28. hmmm… this makes me think of the book, Guide To The Perplexed… people should probably read the part about circumcision… i am not getting my sons cut.

    troy

    Troy wrote on January 13th, 2010
  29. The bottom line is this procedure violates the bodily integrity of a child. What gives you the right to do this?

    Instead of parents forcing this unnecessary procedure on unconsenting minors, how about simply doing the right thing, which is to wait until they are old enough to decide for themselves?

    WHAT is the rush? Do you suspect your pre-teen child is going to pick up or spread a STD? Do you imagine that the child will develop some severe foreskin-neuroses? How about being solid and loving parents and developing the child’s self-esteem before chopping off body parts? Maybe we should do plastic surgery at 5 when we think a nose is not as pretty as it should be and we need to avoid the child’s social discomfort because of it. Or maybe we should remove the mammary glands of infants to prevent breast cancer later in life.

    The rush is because nearly no adult male would willingly let a doctor go near his genitalia with a scalpel, unless it was medically necessary. But adults holding a child down and forcing them to have parts chopped off is somehow more palatable to people?! Would I call this mutilation? Maybe. But minimally it is child abuse.

    Charles wrote on January 13th, 2010
  30. We did not get our son circumcised when he was born. We did a good amount of research before he was born and the arguments for it were just not there…especially the infection myth. He’s almost 10 with one infection during that time. He’s incredibly conscious and hygenic about the whole issue.

    I applaud Christoph for taking this as his cause as I too personally believe that it is a completely unnecessary procedure (rooted in religion for the purposes of de-sensitization) that determines how one deals with pain for the rest of their lives.

    AND, we wanted our son to be able to REALLY enjoy sex throughout his life. Trust me, he will thank us when he’s older.

    Lovestoclimb wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • Thank you.

      I come here for the Primal, not for the moral debates, but this post has made me think.

      I may need to pursue this cause further.

      Christoph Dollis wrote on January 13th, 2010
  31. The only thing that is irritating about this page is the incessant commenting by Christoph.. God it is so annoying ! For god’s sake stop replying to each and every comment !! Its like ruining the entire discussion thread!

    brisb245 wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • I agree – a bit too passionate on the matter – makes me want to go get circumcised now just to spite him :P

      Charles wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • A congratulate him on it, because all too often this debate ends with some snide and misguided comment.

      He’s pushing it beyond that and forcing people to think about, even justify, their attitude, while also correcting a lot of myths.

      Keep it up Chris!

      Alan wrote on December 26th, 2010
  32. I don’t believe in taking away people’s body parts without asking them. Doesn’t seem very nice or fair.

    Those who are upset with the comparison to female circumcision should read Dr. Fuambai Ahmadu’s work. She makes the exact arguments that pro-male circumcision proponents do. I think people are just uncomfortable once they realize that these arguments have no weight. And at least in Ahmadu’s culture, the procedure is done on people old enough to consent, which she did after doing much research on the subject.
    http://www.thepatrioticvanguard.com/article.php3?id_article=2434

    Melissa wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • Well-said Melissa, I don’t either.

      Shannon wrote on January 13th, 2010
  33. my kid is uncirced and half-Jewish. if he wants to have himself circed at age 18, he may, just as it would then be his choice to get a tattoo or body piercings. but i certainly wouldn’t encourage it! (tattoos actually i wouldnt mind, solong as they are artistically rendered and tastefull, lol).

    emily wrote on January 13th, 2010
  34. I’ve brought up the major — and varied — points I wished to make.

    I brought up several points no one else made, and learned from several great points others made.

    I learned more than I expected or could have imagined I would when I woke up yesterday and checked my favourite fitness blog about other men’s experiences in particular, and their thoughts on sexuality and even their penis.

    This thread has made me mad, even sad, but at the same time I’ve seen there are one heck of a lot of fantastic people here, male and female.

    I see people who can cut through conventional wisdom and focus on the underlying truths.

    I’ve seen people who care about children, even male children, a lot. I’ve seen people bare their souls on private sexual matters which, for all my comments, I have not done.

    I realize the popularity of male sex organ mutilation is falling fast.

    No, it isn’t fast enough for my taste, but it’s still come a long way.

    I’m grateful to learn from my Australian friends that it is much rarer there than here in North America, and this news too also brings me hope.

    I don’t mean to compliment everyone and I won’t pretend that I do.

    But I mean to compliment a lot of you, and our host for giving us this venue.

    I have an inkling as to what his private views are on the subject and I could understand him not wanting to get into the most concise descriptions of them for business reasons.

    Or I could be wrong about that.

    I hope you’ll keep a few things in mind:

    Female genital mutilation (including removal of the clitoris) does not stop women from having orgasms. That is a myth. It’s based on false data.

    Sure, it diminishes sexual feelings, but there are other nerve endings.

    Likewise, circumcision in males. It mutilates, it changes sexual response, but it doesn’t generally destroy it utterly.

    There are so many points I could rehash from above, but I will give you that as food for thought.

    The differences between male and female circumcision are those of degree, not of kind.

    What right do we have to change someone’s sexual response, or physical form in their most private and personal organs, WITHOUT THEIR PERMISSION?

    To cut them; to amputate.

    Good day, people.

    Christoph Dollis wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • Christoph, I think you added a LOT to the conversation, and I don’t have any problems with your style (the truth hurts I guess). Thanks! For a lot of folks that I know it’s been a topic of shallow consideration, and my husband and I were the only ones who gave it much thought, and came to the same conclusion as you. My Boomer mother in law insists uncut is unsanitary, like it’s so easy to keep a diapered vagina clean haha. My OB said “it’s for either cultural or religious reasons, not medical” and those are the last reasons I’d do anything at all much less genital mutilation.

      athena wrote on January 13th, 2010
  35. I have a dime-sized scar on my upper-arm from vaccination, performed at birth in an eastern European country. You can bet that shot hurt like a mofo. Since it was done without my consent (as is all childhood vaccination) and it left a scar (which actually did lead to a traumatizing social experience when I was about 10yo), is that mutilation, too?

    Maria wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • Of course any procedure done on your behalf while you are a child (because of you lack of capacity to do so) in order to prevent or minimize serious illness that might happen DURING childhood is entirely different than circumcising an infant. There is no impending and common genital disease (while a child) that would necessitate such an action. When a child grows up they can look at the facts and data themselves to determine whether circumcision will be better for them.

      So you are scarred for life – for the possible benefit of not getting certain diseases as an infant/child. So… do we need to circumcise infants because of some childhood disease? The “urgency” is purely cultural and because the victim is simply defenseless so it is easier to do then than to convince your teenage or adult son to go through with it for the “religious, health and aesthetic benefits”. No choice, no argument.

      It is basically a case of ruthless opportunism: get it done while the child cannot prevent it.

      Charles wrote on January 13th, 2010
  36. My husband is intact, so is my son. Funny story about how I came to realize my husband was not cut. We were 18 at the time (ugh, 15 years ago?) and 6 months into our relationship. We were two horny kids that had a lot of fun. We were at a bbq and one of the guys there decided to “make fun” of another guy there about not being circumcised. then my husband (then boyfriend) piped up and said “i am not circumcised”… everyone looked at him with a little shock. even myself. haha, he had always been, um, full attention when i was around him, so i never noticed. anyway, all the guys there dropped it right away. maybe it’s because they respected my husband and it really wasn’t something to “make fun of”.

    i will say this. all kids get make fun of. if my son is in the locker room getting remarks, i sure will give him some things to say to come back with. but it might not be his penis they make fun of. they might make fun of his ears, his head (um, the one on his shoulders) because he has a huge head! hahaha… kids are cruel no matter what.

    and as for women, my son doens’t need a woman in his life that thinks his penis is “gross”. she doens’t deserve my son. i get really sad when people think someone’s natural state is “gross”…

    Luckykoi wrote on January 13th, 2010
  37. By any definition of the word, circumcision is, by its very nature, mutilation. Our sensitivity to the practice, or lackthereof, is entirely cultural and religious.

    Many of us look in horror upon similar practices performed in other countries, yet see no comparison to our own outdated system.

    We congratulate ourselves that, in these modern times, we continue to practice infant mutilation because it is somehow better for the child. We have convinced ourselves that this is the case, but the reality is, we are only fooling ourselves.

    It is done because we are used to doing it. Because we have done it for so long we can’t remember not doing it. Because it is now the norm and it would look funny if we didn’t.

    Katt wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • This practice is a result of thinking that sex is bad. It never had any scientific basis. We do fall back to Grok many a times and this is one where it makes sense too. If it was healthier to be circumcised (enough to matter), we would have not had that skin to begin with.

      Hindus never had this practice. We were quite open in sexual matters prior to the arrival of muslims. We did become sexually closed (and still continue to be closed) with their influence, but luckily didn’t get this practice.

      America is still not sufficiently open sexually. This will take a lot of time. This practice will go away when the society opens up. It is evident that there is still a lot of ways to go for Americans ;-).

      Anand Srivastava wrote on January 15th, 2010
  38. I was. We are expecting in April and “if” its a boy we may leave him with a ‘covered wagon.’ The bacterial and HIV argument seems like more WHO fodder for telling us what to do. It seems very Grok like to just let nature be natural. Man did not evolve because we chopped some skin off and all of a sudden we saved humanity.

    In my circle of friends in HS I remember one guy who would always talk about how he was not circumcised and how cool it was. There was not a day that went by where after football practice he’d walk around the locker room without a towel to prove it. The kid was nuts and ended up fighting in Iraq and someone posted on his wall on Facebook “Larry with his covered wagon.”

    Daniel Merk wrote on January 13th, 2010
  39. I am 43 and I was circumcised at 12 year old. It was painful and took about 2 weeks to recover.

    I think that circumcision should be left in the hands of the individual who can make an informed decision about it. There is no medical necessity to circumcise the child at birth. As for circumcising the child so he doesn’t “different” from daddy, I think that’s an ignorant and vain reason to do it.

    The correct approach would be to avoid any non-medically necessary intervention of the body. Certainly a primal man wasn’t circumcised. That was a rite introduced by religion and the need for tribal distinction.

    Victor wrote on January 13th, 2010
  40. I’ll bet Grok had some tattoos. So what’s the difference? Still hurts when done, still “self mutilation” as some put it… just a thought…

    Dave, RN wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • The difference is that circumcision is an outdated religious practice and it’s hidden under the guise that it’s more sanitary or safe for the person, which is far from the truth. There’s typically no choice that goes along with said procedure. It’s become the norm as has most stuff within conventional wisdom. People just follow along because it’s the easy and comfortable thing to do.

      A tattoo is a tattoo. There’s no hidden agenda as to what a tattoo is for.

      Lovestoclimb wrote on January 13th, 2010
    • I’ve not heard of tattooing your newborn babe, and I’m sure many folks would be appauled at the thought of permanantly changing a newborn’s body right after birth in that manner. Why is it any different w/ circumcision (which is actually cutting OFF part of a newborn babe’s body–not just decorating it…)

      What if someone wanted to cut off the pinky toes of their newborn babe? Would everyone be a-ok w/ that? Sounds barbaric, but is no less barbaric and hurtful than circumcision…

      FairyRae2 wrote on January 13th, 2010

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