Why male circumcision is (sometimes) morally kosher

The World Health Organization has estimated that approximately 30% of males over 15 in the world are circumcised. Male circumcision is morally controversial (see, e.g., Andrew Sullivan’s arguments). Have the parents of 30% of the world’s men done them wrong? Opponents of male circumcision usually use one of three arguments: that circumcision (unless I specify otherwise, I mean male circumcision) has more harms than benefits, that it violates an infant’s autonomy (as Sullivan argues), and that it violates a right to bodily integrity.

I can’t speak to the harms and benefits; I’m no doctor. I’ve read studies pro and con. I will say that if it is decisively shown that circumcision is on the whole a harm, then I think it should be universally banned. Everything I write that follows will not apply. Some people cite that there are fewer nerve endings after a circumcision as a reason to believe there is definitive harm. That doesn’t necessarily translate into sheer units of pleasure. The fact is, no one knows exactly how much pleasure is decreased due to circumcision as an infant, if any at all. People either were or were not circumcised, and have no access to the subjective experience of anyone else. People who are circumcised seem to enjoy sex and have fully functional sex lives.

So what about autonomy? The infant can’t consent to circumcision. As I’ve said before, we respect autonomy because we respect a person’s rationality – his ability to set ends and meet them. Infants don’t have rationality. So there is no way to respect their autonomy. Every day I violate my children’s autonomy. I decide whether they get haircuts, what they eat, what time they go to bed, whether they get vaccinated, what school they go to, what books they read. Doing any of these for a grown-up would constitute a violation of autonomy. But it’s actually part of my obligation for my children. It really is an awesome responsibility. If I am to do right by them, I must violate their autonomy.

Most obviously, I cannot wait for my child’s consent to give him a bad-tasting antibiotic that he needs. But medical necessity is one thing. How do we decide to do the other violations of autonomy that we practice on children? Because of course we can’t do whatever we want to children. I think we have respect for the autonomous person that he will become. We try to hypothesize what he would consent to. If a decision is ever deferrable, it should be deferred so the child can make it when he’s able. But sometimes a decision isn’t deferrable. That’s why we should educate her using our best guess about what will make a good education. We give him music lessons that he might appreciate. We help her try to grow into a person most capable of exercising informed autonomy. If a person is born into a culture that values circumcision (say, a Jewish or Muslim culture), then I think it’s reasonable to guess that he will want to have been circumcised. One can, of course, never be sure, and there are plenty of exceptions who resent that they were circumcised. But we can never be sure what our children will or will not have wanted, and yet we have to decide anyway. Adult circumcision is so dramatically different from infant circumcision that I don’t think it is a deferrable decision.

On the other hand, however, a child born into a culture that does not value circumcision, though, should not have one. The parents simply don’t have a good enough reason to suspect he would consent if he could.

What about bodily integrity? Well, it’s pretty clear a parent shouldn’t cut her kid’s leg off just because she think it looks snazzier. Anything that impairs the body’s healthy functioning shouldn’t be permissible. This is the distinction between male and female circumcision.  Female circumcision causes much more harm and impairs sexual functioning. Same with foot-binding.

It’s not the case simply anything that doesn’t impair the body’s functioning is fine. I can’t permissibly give my son a giant dragon tattoo on his back (or a mom with a heart tattoo!). But if both conditions are met, i.e., the non-deferrable decision is made based on his hypothesized consent, and it doesn’t impair body functioning, that’s when I think the decision is less problematic (I say less problematic rather than not problematic, because decisions made for someone else are always potentially problematic).

It’s interesting that people don’t have nearly the same problem with orthodontia and pierced ears on small children. Because they would seem to be similar, morally speaking: they are non-therapeutic procedures, they permanently alter the child’s body, they are done before the child can give consent. Birthmark removal might be sightly more controversial, but I don’t hear nearly the same amount  of hue and cry about it. Male circumcision doesn’t differ all that much from these, yet it inspires a passionate opposition these other examples never do.

Rose Woodhouse

Elizabeth Picciuto was born and reared on Long Island, and, as was the custom for the time and place, got a PhD in philosophy. She freelances, mainly about disability, but once in a while about yeti. Mother to three children, one of whom is disabled, two of whom have brown eyes, three of whom are reasonable cute, you do not want to get her started talking about gardening.


  1. You are trying to rationalize an indefensible practice. Any reasonable, rational person should recognize that cutting off a healthy part of the body with 20,000 pleasure nerve endings is by definition causing bodily harm, and that it necessarily reduces pleasure. It’s reasonable to fix the teeth in your child, but it would be criminal to knock them off so he does not get carries or so he wear dentures like his toothless dad. Comparing circumcision to vaccination or haircuts is simply laughable. Vaccinating your child against polio gives him almost 100% protection against a terrible disease, and it does not involve mutilating part of his body. By contrast, all the health claims made by circumcision advocates are either negligible, or provable fallacies, like the HIV protection claims, and the latest claims about prostate cancer.

    Saying that male circumcision does not adversely affect the sexual functioning of the man is simply ignorant. Why do you think so many couples rely on sexual lubricants in the US? Why do you think every other TV commercial in the US is for an erectile dysfunction pill? Why do you think that in many bad comedy movies, a joke is made of the teenager or man needing some sort or “cream” or “oil” to masturbate himself?

    To claim a “cultural” or “religious” right to continue this barbaric practice, is also nonsense; unless you’re for bringing back the stoning of women for adultery, slavery, and all sort of barbarous acts formerly sanctioned under the guise of “culture” and “religion”. Civilization is supposed to move forward, and not be stuck in ignorance and superstition.

    • “You are trying to rationalize an indefensible practice.”

      I respectfully disagree with that she is trying to rationalize the practice (indefensible or not). It seems to me she is trying to stake out in what circumstances she would be willing to condone it and in what circumstances she would feel compelled to oppose it. Of course, she does come out in (qualified) favor of the practice in certain circumstances, but she does admit there are different approaches to the issue and suggests that if circumcision creates an unequivocal harm, then it should be banned. I do not see this as a rationalization in the common way people use the term “rationalize.”

    • glad you are so against the removal of wisdom teeth. Sir.

      • Most wisdom teeth removals in the US are also unnecessary. Most European countries stopped performing routine removal wisdom teeth years ago (and some never did it). Up until last year, the American Association of Oral and Maxillofacial Surgeons was still saying this though: “The AAOMS/OMSF study strongly recommends that wisdom teeth be removed by the time the patient is a young adult in order to prevent future problems and to ensure optimal healing.”

        FWIW, I’m 46 and still have all my 32 teeth. I’d far rather have all four of my wisdom teeth out tomorrow than be circumcised though. Having them out is supposed to hurt like hell, but I can’t imagine life being too different with my back teeth missing. Life would be very different with the most sensitive parts of my penis cut off though.

        • My dentists advised me for years to get my wisdom teeth pulled. Many of them said it was only a matter of a year or two until they got infected. Decades passed. A couple of years ago I decided to get the one that was poking out pulled. It was fine – no infection, nothing.

          As for circumcision, there is no defense for it in any circumstance. Men need their whole penis. The foreskin performs a number of useful functions, including essential anti-viral functions that have only recently been discovered.

      • Most wisdom teeth removals occur when the kid is old enough to consent or pretty close to it.

      • When was the last time wisdom teeth were located in the genitals, Kimmi?
        What percentage of your current genitalia would you like to keep?
        I’d wager it’s the same for the baby boy.
        Here’s a handy rule of thumb. If it’s a surgery you couldn’t do to a girl, or a dog, or a cat, and it is not medically necessary, and it actually injures the child, leaving a scar for life, you might not want to do it.

    • Respectfully, your “ails” tied to circumcision are not, themselves, necessarily tied to circumcision. Erectile dysfunciton, for example, could be the result of a prostate problem or other “plumbing” issue. While you are so quick to identify these as “Caused” by circumcision do you have any specific facts or studies to support your case or are you simply spouting the anti-circumcision rhetoric?

      You call Ms. Woodhouse ignorant for failing to cite studies. Can you offer the same, sir?

        • Fair enough, however one study is blocked by some kind of log in, and the last one I’m having a hard time understanding how it supports the claims that Circumcision leads to disease. It does show that circumsicion is on the decline but I disagree that the actions of humans (male humans at that) is an indicator of known risk.

          That’s the same as saying that because alcohol abuse is on the rise, it must be commonly know that alcohol abuse is good for you.

          Now the middle study does raise some eyebrows, however I’m not sure the sample is sufficient enough to draw a conclusion about ~CAUSATION~.

          That’s the problem with the studies that the Anti-Circumcisers throw out. It’s a very weak correlative study that is then hyped further with emotional rhetoric. For example if you drill down enough on your link you get this:
          “Three hundred self-selected men were administered the Toronto Twenty-Item Alexithymia Scale checklist and a personal history questionnaire.”

          So that’s 300 men who decided that they wanted to get into a study on sexual function and enjoyment.

          While appreciate that you can just as easily demand that I bear some burden of proof, I would respectfully say that I am not trying to prove anything. However a self-admitted preliminary study, hyped three websites later as more than it was, isn’t really proof on your part.

          • that is a good point. anti circumcision groups often conduct their own studies so they can bolster their anti circ stance. the reality is that their studies are seldom conducted to a high enough standard to be used as evidence to assess the benefits/’harms’ of circumcision. they expect their own evidence to be without fault and push it like it was faultless. their ploy comes undone when they use these kinds of studies to rip apart quality, unbiased, peer reviewed studies which have found circumcision to have benefits. it sooner or later gets revealed that through their own questionable methodology, they haven’t got a leg to stand on and that their stance is not based on evidence at all, rather a personal opposition to the procedure.

  2. Hi Rose,

    I enjoyed this article, from a philosophical perspective. I am a soon to be Bachelors of Science in Public Health, and I am a caregiver for adults with developmental disabilities. The reason circumcision has more vocal opposition than the other examples you gave is it has a greater amount of potential lasting harm. With orthodontia and ear piercing, you are altering the appearance. However, with circumcision, the foreskin is entirely removed, changing not only the look, but the way the penis functions. You are also risking painful and messy complications which may require “re-circumcision”. It is hard to explain properly the harms of circumcision without first understanding what the foreskin is and its function. I recommend going there.

  3. If I might add another point. Claiming that female circumcision causes much more harm than male circumcision is simply female chauvinism.

    You can find Arab doctors and Arab women in YouTube claiming that women who have had their clitoris removed can still have vaginal orgasms, and therefore they’re not missing anything. Any woman with a working clitoris probably thinks that such doctors and such women are ignorant because they don’t know what they’re missing. You would probably feel sad for them.

    Men with intact penises have the same reaction when a circumcised man says his sex life is great and that he doesn’t miss his foreskin. I know that a man without a foreskin can have an orgasm, but I know that on his was to his orgasm he’s missing the best part of the trip.

    • ” I know that on his was to his orgasm he’s missing the best part of the trip.”

      You know this how, exactly? I would think that only a man who has undergone circumcision after becoming sexually active could say this with certainty. Does that describe you?

    • Female Genital Mutilation removes more tissue than male circumcision. It would be closer to removing most of the penis, and not just the foreskin, although the amount of tissue removed varies with the culture.

      • FGM means a lot of of things. Treating all of it like one consistent procedure is inaccurate.

      • In 2010, the AAP proposed allowing a token ritual nick to girls’ genitalia “much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting” (their words) lest worse befall the girls, but the backlash forced them to “retire” the new policy within a month. (This seems to have been very much the brainchild of one man, Dr DouglasDiekema, who is now in charge of the forthcoming male circumcision policy.)

        So why is something that is by their own admission much more extensive still allowed? It’s a pure double standard.

  4. Two notes:

    1. Friends of ours just took their child – at age six – to get surgery to fix his penis, the result of a circumcision that ended up with him peeing “up” as they described it. In other words, even when aimed down, the urine managed to go up in the air. There is literally no chance of this happening without the circumcision that he received. That’s just a potentially meaningless data point, but then, it is a scalpel placed on genitalia for either religious or appearance reasons.

    2. You say that piercing ears is analogous. I disagree (because piercings can close) and would suggest a better example might be not only ear piercings, but then those spacer things that weirdo barristas used to have, creating huge gaps in the ear that would not close back up. Would you be comfortable with weirdo barristas doing THAT to their children?

    • In answer to 2, no it would not be permissible, for reasons cited in the tattoo example above. I also don’t think male circumcision is always okay.

        • See OP. If not born into a culture that values it, then one is not warranted in hypothesizing that the adult would value it.

          • Roughly 50% of infants in the United States aren’t circumcised today. Which means that whatever you choose, your child is going to look like plenty of other men out there. (As if nudity were a common part of children’s life experiences! It’s not anymore.)

            So anyway, we can’t say the cultural value is uniformly on one side or the other. When in doubt, I’d say “don’t cut.”

            And in time, being uncircumcised will be the norm, with a strong presumption against cutting. An interesting game theoretical result, among other things.

          • Jason – I think that unless you belong to a subculture that strongly values it, which is quite a minority in the U.S., you should not cut.

          • But a baby has no culture. All his culture is imposed on him. If any other bodily cutting were an integral part of a culture, without any connection to religion, would it be tolerated? But circumcision slithers around the boundaries between culture and religion.

            Nor does a baby have a religion, and in the US at any rate the Constitution guarantees him his freedom to change his religion. Sikhism is one religion that explicitly disvows circumcision and values the intact body. While it will not refuse conversion to a circumcised man, would such a man not have justification in feeling that he was “not a real Sikh”?

  5. Thank you rose for your rational cool headed review of male circumcision. Now prepare yourself for a deluge of emotive anti circumcision myths and misrepresentations to litter the comments section of this page.

    Circumcision has been shown to reduce HPV in men, which is a cause of cervical cancer amongst others, It has also been shown to reduce the efficacy at which men are infected with HIV. It has recently been shown to possibly reduce prostate cancer and has a great deal of benefits in a mans life starting at birth after the circumcision has healed.

    Anti circumcision types like david, will claim that all the peer reviewed studies are lies and that anyone who has their sons circumcised is mutilating them. Utter rubbish.

    In recent years one will have seen that study after study has shown male circumcision to be of benefit to men, women and the health of the general public, the evidence is undeniably in favor of male circumcision. Anti circumcision zealots have been hard at work trying to sway the opinion of people away from scientific evidence with their own brand of ‘evidence’, claims that circumcision reduces pleasure, causes erectile dysfunction and all kinds of other fabricated ailments, all of which they cant back up with evidence, just anecdotes and their own in house ‘studies’. All of which is utter desperation and a clear sign that anti circumcision lobbyists have lost the fight for good.

    ‘David’ said ‘I know that a man without a foreskin can have an orgasm, but I know that on his was to his orgasm he’s missing the best part of the trip.’ A comment which is utterly laughable and totally baseless. It seems david has thrown his critical faculties out the window and has been sucked in by emotive anti circumcision websites of which it seems he has derived most of his misinformation from. He is inferring that men lose sensation after circumcision and are ‘missing out’ on pleasure, a typical anti circumcision tactic designed to make circumcised men feel bad about their circumcisions. Again, they cant back this claim up with credible evidence, every time failing and showing their claims as anti science and misleading in the extreme.

    Oh and for the record, I was circumcised as an adult, so unlike people like david and other gullible anti circumcision types, I have the experience of being circumcised and uncircumcised. I can say with utmost confidence that circumcision has not reduced my pleasure what so ever, and if I had to do it all again, I would.

    Dont get sucked in by anti circumcision rhetoric, its all hot air and has never been backed up by credible evidence of any kind.

    • I don’t agree with David, especially with his tone, but I think there’s a point in your comment that I don’t quite follow. You seem to suggest that the benefits of circumcision make it something almost obligatory in a similar way that vaccination is or should be. You don’t say that outright–either that it should be obligatory or that it is to be compared with vaccination (and by extension the opposition to circumcision to anti-vaccinationism)–but that is the direction I see the spirit of your comment going.

      Now that I’ve put so many words in your mouth, I’ll ask what you actually think: I know you believe that circumcision is not bad. Do you believe it should be obligatory?

      • the benefits are well documented in many quality peer reviewed studies that circumcision does indeed reduce things like HPV and hiv transmission. anti circumcision lobby groups formed in the 70s to oppose circumcision have not adapted their position with the new evidence supporting circumcision. instead they have desperately resorted to spreading egregious lies on the internet, conducting their own transparently biased ‘studies’ and personally attacking anyone who supports the practice. david seems to be someone who has been sucked in hook line and sinker to the anti circumcision lobbys artful interpretation of the truth; something i find quite sad.

        while i am personally not for or against circumcision per se, i certainly dont think it is bad, and i know for sure that the claims of ‘damage’ and reduced pleasure are all hogwash. i think that parents need to make the choice for their sons and they should not have that choice impaired by some lobby group that wants to control how people raise their children. and yes, if there is a procedure, like a vaccination, which can reduce or eliminate certain fatal diseases or conditions, why should it not be obligatory?

        • The benefits of circumcision are so well documented that not a single national medical association in the world recommends it. Not even Israel’s.

          How is that for “peer reviewed”?

    • For every “peer reviewed” study you can produce, I can produce a “peer reviewed” study that says the contrary. Also the facts are something that circumcision advocates seem to like to dismiss. Rate of AIDS is USA: 0.6% per 100,000. Rate of AIDS in Europe (2% circumcision rate among non-muslims and jews): 0.1 per 100,000. Rate of prostate cancer according to the 2012 Report on Cancer of the American Cancer Society (page 44) among White Americans (the most likely to be circumcised): 142.8 per 100,000. Rate of prostate cancer among Hispanic Americans (the least likely to be circumcised) 126.7 per 100,000.

      I could quote “peer reviewed” studies that indicate that being circumcised increases the chances of getting AIDS as soon as you quote yours. If you want to start a “peer reviewed” study war. I’m game.

      • Brian Morris, aka “someone with experience”, is a circumcision fetishist with a sexually charged agenda. Disregard him.

      • you’re a loon. sorry, but that’s my instant reaction when people prove they can’t do statistics right.

        • It looks like he’s made a mistake cutting and pasting, but the figures are accurate.

          Rate of AIDS in USA: 0.6%. Rate of AIDS in Europe (2% circumcision rate among non-Muslims and Jews): 0.1%.

          • again, I’m not happy with a metaanalysis that isn’t bothering to do more than compare America and Europe. Japan has doctors and researchers too, and I’d appreciate the info.

          • FWIW, male circumcision is very rare in Japan (probably well under 5%, but definitely in the “under 20%” bracket according to the WHO), and they have an HIV rate of about 0.01%, one of the lowest in the world.

          • Mark,
            which is why it fucking raises eyebrows when people don’t include East Asian countries.
            Oh, include China too while you’re at it. and India.

      • Wow, that is one of the least scientific things I’ve ever read. You can’t actually be serious about this topic if you’re willing to dismiss peer-reviewed studies that actually follow scientific methodology in favour of a few stats that don’t involve controlling for any other potentially relevant variables.

        • I’m not dismissing “peer reviewed” studies. I simply point out that for every study pretending to show some benefit to circumcision, there are “peer reviewed” studies that show the opposite effect. I also would suggest that blindly surrendering logic to people claiming “scientific authority” even when their studies are contradicted by the facts is infantile. If circumcision gives 60% protection against AIDS, why is there six times more AIDS in the US than in Western Europe? Why in 8 of 18 African countries AIDS is more prevalent in circumcised men? Why was this study done in Africa and not in the USA? (The answer to that would shock you).

          If circumspection protects against prostate cancer, why there is less prostate cancer among Hispanic men at all, even if you take into account other variables?

          • > I simply point out that for every study pretending to
            > show some benefit to circumcision, there are “peer
            > reviewed” studies that show the opposite effect.

            I will bet right now actual cash money that you’ve never done a literature review in your life.

            > If circumcision gives 60% protection against AIDS,
            > why is there six times more AIDS in the US than in
            > Western Europe?

            I will bet right now cash money that there is no study that makes the bald claim that circumcision gives 60% protection against AIDS.

            As for why there is six times more AIDS patients (citation needed) in the U.S. than in Western Europe, I will hazard an incredibly basic guess and say that early on in the history of the disease we had more prolific carriers here than there. Bloodborne transmissions don’t travel the way airborne ones do. Astonishingly enough, proper epistemology covers how to correct for this sort of thing.

            > Why in 8 of 18 African countries AIDS is more prevalent in
            > circumcised men?

            Basic correlation between sexual activity patterns and subpopulations that are more likely to be circumcised? I dunno, see, this is why you actually need to cite the study you’re waving your hands around. Surprisingly, often this sort of stuff is actually covered in the paper.

            > Why was this study done in Africa and not in the USA?
            > (The answer to that would shock you).

            Oh, shock me. This thread can only get better at this point.

          • Ohhhh I’m so intimidated by your intellect. Let me stop trembling first. Bring on your “literature review” skills, tough guy.

            It’s funny how when it’s convenient, circumcision advocates want to see citations for everything, but they don’t make think they should do the same. The reason is simple. Most circumcised men are in denial, and will not accept under any circumstances that their parents subjected them to irreparable harm as babies. Their male egos will never accept that their penises are less than they should be. That’s why self evident truths that stare them in the face, like the fact that cutting of 20,000 pleasure sensitive nerve endings from your penis makes your penis less sensitive, are met by outrage and denial by this men.

            Here is a link to the 60% claims (actually 63%): http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2005/07/0726_050726_circumcision.html

            Since you were willing to bet money…. should I tell you where to deposit my money?

            Here is a link to the CIA World Fact Book. Look up the USA and go down the list of facts until you reach the rate of AIDS. Then do the same with any Western European country you want.


            >Basic correlation between sexual activity patterns and subpopulations that are more likely to >be circumcised?

            Thanks for helping me make the point about denial. You’re basically saying that if the data shows that circumcision increases your chances of getting AIDS, then it must be some sexual activity pattern that its to blame. However, if the data shows that circumcision decreases the chances of getting AIDS, then the explanation must be that its thanks to the mysterious voodoo power of circumcision, and not by “sexual activity patterns and sub-populations”.

            Read this “peer review” of the three African studies that make the claim that circumcision prevents AIDS. It basically concludes that the studies are so poorly designed they would have never been approved in a Western country… so the researchers went to Africa. It also says that they are patently biases, immoral and would be illegal in a Western country:


      • are you going to back up your claims about erectile dysfunction and lubricant with any citations or were they just emotive red herrings you read on an anti circumcision website??

    • Oh and for the record, I was circumcised as an adult, so unlike people like david and other gullible anti circumcision types, I have the experience of being circumcised and uncircumcised. I can say with utmost confidence that circumcision has not reduced my pleasure what so ever, and if I had to do it all again, I would.

      That’s great. Perhaps you’d consider allowing adults to make this choice for themselves?

      I know lots of people who are very happy with their tattoos as well, but they didn’t receive them as infants.

      • There is also the probability that a man who got circumsiced as an adult, but now regrets it, is hardly likely to say, “I was wrong!” As a man whose penis was damaged by an old-fashioned doctor, I can only say that sex is a lot more difficult, even with lots of lubricant, and my penis is so insensitive that I can’t orgasm now in intercourse. My mother regretted agreeing to the doctors request, and so do I. My son is intact, as are almost all of his contemporaries, and no problems in the sex department for him. Americans have been exposed to damaged penises for so long, and the doctors are so used to have the extra money, that so many of them can’t see anything wrong. Thankfully more and more prents are thinking for themselves and keeping their sons whole.

    • I don’t agree with Someone With Experience’s tone, nor with their ‘facts’.
      Neither do medical societies, nor research.
      Circumcised and foreskinned men get the same diseases, at the same rates.
      Here are four studies which show it. Two from the US, and two from the UK.
      Here is an NIH study which shown no statistically significant difference in the infection rate between circumcised and foreskinned men: http://gateway.nlm.nih.gov/MeetingAbstracts/ma?f=102282676.htm

      Here is one from the University of Washington, where both contracted HPV at the same rates.

      These are from the UK:


      Here is a study of 16 studies, which showed no evidence that the women of men with foreskins had any more cervical cancer, than the women of circumcised men.

      You can’t tell me, especially in a smug tone, that removing half the skin from a human genital doesn’t cause it damage. Think of how absurd that statement would be, if you were talking about a face, or a hand.

      • This is a much better job of providing citations, thank you.

    • If a man has himself circumcised as an adult, his experience is valid for him. It does not follow that it is valid for someone who did not choose to have himself circumcised, whether as a baby or an adult.

      Clearly, David did not value his foreskin, assuming he was not circumcised for medical necessity. Other men, who were obligatorily circumcised, give a different, negative, report on the sexual outcome. (Or again, if the medical necessity also impaired their sex life and circumcision improved it by relieving that impairment, then it might still be sub-optimal.)

      Some men can acheive orgasm by stimulating their foreskins alone. That in itself should give pause for thought.

      SWE’s link is to the website of Prof Brian Morris, not a medical professional – though he comes as close as dammit to saying he is. He is a professor of molecular biology in a medical school. He has never seen a reason for circumcising he didn’t like, up to and including “to prevent bathroom splatter” and “to prevent zipper injury” – like getting your glans in a zipper is fun (Morris, BioEssays 29:1147–1158, 2007). He has co-authored a paper with the editor of a circumfetish website. He spins statistics, refers to studies that don’t support his claims for them and contradicts himself – his latest paper claims to prioritise parental choice but in 2009, he said “Circumcision should be compulsory” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=74BjXjR8FdM

      His claim that “in uncircumcised infants, the risk of urinary tract infection and kidney inflammation is 10 times higher than for circumcised boys.” is typical. 10 times higher than what? It turns out that by his own figures, the risk is 1% vs 0.1% so at a very minumum, it would take more than 99 circumcisions to prevent one UTI.

      • I think you are confusing me. I value my foreskin, thank you very much.

        “Some men can achieve orgasm by stimulating their foreskins alone.”

        I proudly pledge “guilty” to that.

        Since I know a lot of haters will try to say that all this penile sensitivity must necessarily lead to being “quick to the draw” and unsatisfied women, let me just say this: More sensitivity = more control… if you want to.

        • My apologies. I was indeed confusing you with someone else – someone with less experience than he might have had.

      • I think you are confusing me. I value my foreskin, thank you very much.

        “Some men can achieve orgasm by stimulating their foreskins alone.”

        I proudly plead “guilty” to that.

        Since I know a lot of haters will try to say that all this penile sensitivity must necessarily lead to being “quick to the draw” and unsatisfied women, let me just say this: More sensitivity = more control… if you want to.

    • If you were circumcised as an adult, you had to have had some very serious problem with your foreskin to begin with (or a very bad doctor) and therefore it’s not surprising that your sexual experience has improved as a result of circumcision. However, medically necessary circumcision is uncommon and doctors in non-circumcising countries only practice it as a last resort. Your personal experience, with all due respect, isn’t the norm for the vast majority uncircumcised men.

      I’ve seen testimonies of several men who were circumcised as adults because they converted to another religion, in which they openly regret ever doing it, and wishing they could have their foreskin back. Their testimony is as valid as yours.

      The fact that you don’t seem to know of any lubrication advantage from personal experience despite your claim to having had a foreskin at one time is really puzzling. I’ll leave it at that.

  6. > Why do you think so many couples rely on sexual lubricants
    > in the US?

    Are you claiming there is a correlation between sexual lubricant use/need and circumcision? Citation needed.

    > Why do you think every other TV commercial in the US is for an
    > erectile dysfunction pill?

    Are you claiming a correlation between erectile dysfunction and circumcision? Citation also needed for that one.

    > Men with intact penises have the same reaction when a
    > circumcised man says his sex life is great and that he
    > doesn’t miss his foreskin.

    At the risk of providing too much information to the Internet: I can attest that this is not true for all men who are uncircumcised. Frankly, if someone says their sex life is great I’m inclined to believe them with the same degree of trust regardless of any details they provide.

    Even a cursory glance at Google Scholar would lead one to believe that the jury is well out on all of your claims.

    On the other hand, even a cursory glance at Google Scholar would lead one to believe that the claimed health benefits of circumcision are likewise of dubious veracity.

    I don’t find compelling evidence one way or the other.

      • circumcision doesn’t have much to do with the biomechanics of needing lubrication, which is either needed because:
        1) the girl isn’t ready
        2) it’s taking too long and she’s getting bored.
        3) the guy’s not terribly good at getting her excited.

        Erectile dysfunction is far more correlated with size/shape than with circumscision

        • But you’re ignoring the foreskin, whose rolling action is very like that of a lubricant.

          Size/shape? Huh? (Well I know that men who are out of shape are more likely to have ED. Is that what you mean?)

          Frisch et al. (Int J Epidemiol. 2011 Jun 14 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed?term=21672947) found
          “Age at first intercourse, perceived importance of a good sex life and current sexual activity differed little between circumcised and uncircumcised men or between women with circumcised and uncircumcised spouses. However, circumcised men reported more partners and were more likely to report frequent orgasm difficulties after adjustment for potential confounding factors [11 vs 4%, OR(adj) = 3.26; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.42-7.47], and women with circumcised spouses more often reported incomplete sexual needs fulfilment (38 vs 28%, OR(adj) = 2.09; 95% CI 1.05-4.16) and frequent sexual function difficulties overall (31 vs 22%, OR(adj) = 3.26; 95% CI 1.15-9.27), notably orgasm difficulties (19 vs 14%, OR(adj) = 2.66; 95% CI 1.07-6.66) and dyspareunia [painful intercourse] (12 vs 3%, OR(adj) = 8.45; 95% CI 3.01-23.74). Findings were stable in several robustness analyses, including one restricted to non-Jews and non-Moslems.”

    • While most men enjoy sex, regardless of their circumcision status, their is at least anecdotal evidence of men experiencing a loss of sensitivity by being circumcised as adults, and there is documented evidence of men re-gaining sensibility while restoring the foreskin, which is attributed to the fact that keeping the glans covered causes it to soften (as during a lifetime of friction it has become hardened and dry).

      For a website that explains the correlation between lubricant and circumcision, please see this link (note, it’s NSFW, graphic images): http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com/10F/1hook_scrapes.html

      I have at least anecdotal evidence of women who experience burning sensations and pain after sex with a circumcised man.

      • The study I linked to below seems to indicate otherwise (oddly, there was a statistically significant difference in favor of more pleasure in those who were circumcised).

        Without going into too much detail, I have had experience with both circumcised and uncircumcised. I noticed no difference. In fact, until today, I didn’t even realize people claimed there was a difference for female partners.

        • Some female partners sense no difference – especially if the male has not learned the proper mechanical function of the foreskin. Women who have experienced sex with sexually mutilated men as well as with intact men who know how the foreskin works for sex, report more pleasurable sex with intact partners. Also, women in relationships with intact men report fewer vaginal infections. The reason has to do with the chafing action of a sexually mutilated man, and with the immunological functions of the foreskin, which protects both partners from bacterial, fungal and viral infection – these attributes of the foreskin are only now being discovered.

    • Are you claiming there is a correlation between sexual lubricant use/need and circumcision? Citation needed.

      Have you been around an uncircumcised penis? I mean, in business mode? I’ll just say that that’s all the citation you’d need.

      • How shall I put this delicately?

        I don’t know that I can put this delicately. Yes, I’ve been around an uncircumcised penis. In business mode.

        Maybe we should save the rest of this conversation for when we’re all drunk in Vegas.

        • Maybe we should save the rest of this conversation for when we’re all drunk in Vegas.

          All the more reason to show up, I suppose.

          And there have been several comments that I’ve mentally deleted before posting, on the grounds that the Internet doesn’t need to know certain details of my life.

          • I want to see Jason sloppy drunk arguing loudly about the merits of lube at a blackjack table. With a 90-year old woman who’s more drunk than he is and really into the conversation.

          • Russell, if you don’t capture this on video for my viewing pleasure, you relinquish your title as best friend.

          • I tend to think that delicate talk prevents any serious treatment of these questions. I would much prefer to speak frankly, if you don’t mind. We are all adults, aren’t we?

            Here are some things that are absolutely true:

            1. In all, uncircumcised men need much less lubrication for very ordinary sexual activities, including masturbation, vaginal sex, and anal sex.

            2. Frustrating that function, above all to prevent boys from masturbating, was a primary reason why 19th-century “reformers” supported circumcision.

            3. Masturbation is harmless, and performing surgery to stop it is unjustified.

            4. It’s good, and true, to say that straight men should wait until the (younger) women they have sex with are “ready.” It’s another thing to say this about older women, who typically self-lubricate a lot less, or to say it about gay men, who don’t self-lubricate at all. Performing surgery for the purpose of making sure women are “ready” really does the opposite — it ensures that fewer women will have an enjoyable sexual experience, as has already been noted on this thread. It also makes sex a lot more difficult for my tribe, too. (Thanks!)

          • I don’t have much of a disagreement with your argument as set forth, Jason.

            There’s only the quibble that some (probably not many or most, but some) people who perform circumcisions do not, in fact, have any causal link to the 19th century reformers to whom you refer.

            There’s no real reason for circumcision to be a commonly held default medical practice for non-religious observation, any way you slice it.

          • I think you’re all missing something, so let me give you a tip.

          • ‘Frustrating that function, above all to prevent boys from masturbating, was a primary reason why 19th-century “reformers” supported circumcision.”‘

            Epic fail on that part, for sure.

          • so let me give you a tip.

            Always a good line when the subject is circumcision! (Or leprosy.)

          • “‘Frustrating that function, above all to prevent boys from masturbating, was a primary reason why 19th-century “reformers” supported circumcision.”‘

            Epic fail on that part, for sure.”

            They did it when the kids were caught masturbating (Kellogg recommended circumcision for boys, carbolic acid for girls), and surprise! The kids weren’t caught masturbating again. So they concluded it worked.

  7. I find it a bit odd, the sort of things that notables such as Sully would take on.
    And this one seems really misplaced.
    From what I understand, circumcision is more of an American thing, and Europeans, not so much.
    My own opinion is that it’s completely a matter of social norms, not only within a larger culture, but within the family itself.

    Here’s the TMI part:
    I was circumcised as an infant, and I’ve actually received several compliments on it. A personal “Thank you” to the doctors at the Naval Hospital. I will say that I’m glad they didn’t do it in the manner depicted in the photo above.
    Now, I’ve stated elsewhere that I’m currently celibate, and I’ve stated why. That doesn’t mean that I’ve never done it before (I was married for 14 years), and I have the assumption that I will again at some point.
    While I’ve had an issue with sexual dysfunction at one point (stress related), I’ve never had issues with premature ejaculation. In fact, I can hold back for 45 minutes or more on regular occasion, and I’ve been known to hold back for over an hour. It’s simply a matter of conditioning, just like anything else. But I have a fairly strict “Ladies first” policy.
    There has been twice in my life that I have had a long-term partner that had difficulty enjoying sex. I got them past that. The one had been married previously, and was very desirous. She needed it in the right way. The other had been previously married twice, and thought that she didn’t enjoy sex, and had come to accept that. I think she was truly ‘frigid.’
    At any rate, according to my diary, with the second one, I had sex 176 times, in which she achieved orgasm 174 times. In one of those no-gos, I simply grew tired of her tepid kissing and rolled her off of me.
    What I’m getting at is that the loss of the foreskin hasn’t diminished the enjoyment of my partners any.
    And I wouldn’t say that the circumcision benefited in that regard either.

    Further, all the talk of nerve endings is entirely misplaced.
    The most powerful sex organ in your body is the brain.
    The sex act begins long before the humping.

    And why is it that so many men are more concerned about their own pleasure rather than that of their partner?
    Take care of your partner, and she’ll take care of you.
    I’ve found that to be the case, anyway.
    I kinda thought that was the point of doing it with a partner to begin with.

    I don’t think it’s a big deal one way or the other.
    People making a big deal out of it, on the other hand, is a big deal.

  8. “Adult circumcision is so dramatically different from infant circumcision that I don’t think it is a deferrable decision.”
    Perhaps I’m ignorant, but could you expand on that? What is different about adult circumcision?

    • From what I gather, it’s much more painful with a longer recovery time.

      • If nothing else, the psychology is different. I don’t harbor any ill-will towards my parents’ decision to circumcize me, though I suspect the prospect would horrify me today.

        • See, that’s exactly the kind of argument that mediates AGAINST circumcision, in my mind. You feel you’d be very reluctant to consent as an adult. That seems to me like it would be a evidence that you shouldn’t hypothesize consent on the part of an infant, to use Rose’s words.

          • This presupposes a lot of things about the state of infancy and its equivalence to the state of adulthood.

            I mean, there’s lots of things I did, and enjoyed, quite a bit at age 7 that I contemplate with horror, now at 40+ when I see my 7 year old do them… like eat a ton of candy.

            I’m kinda with Rose on this one: children have very limited agency. It’s not just different in degree, it’s different in kind.

            All that to say, “I don’t find this a compelling argument for or against circumcision, either”.

          • There’s not really any need to hypothesize consent to huge amounts of candy or baloney with mustard. The child gives actual consent (and, in the case of the candy, perhaps couldn’t be stopped if the parents tried). To use another example, I do feel piercing the ears of very young girls is a bit icky, but I feel differently once they’re old enough to ask for it, even if they’re still children. A child’s consent may not be as meaningful as an adult’s consent, but it is worth something, especially for things without permanent consequences, like occasional candy binges in the context of an overall healthy diet.

      • hi,

        adult circumcision is not so much painful as inconvenient. it all would have been easier if it was done at birth as opposed to this whole ‘defer and decide’ thing.


        • With child circumcision, they don’t have to use anesthesia. Often, they don’t.
          They take a blunt probe, stick it between the foreskin and head (which are attached by a membrane called the synchea), and jam and jab it back and forth, until the membrane is all ripped. Considering the sensitivity of the area, this must be about as much fun as having a fingernail ripped off the nail bed.
          Why are you so intent on taking the choice away from someone else?

        • Of course there are differences, between adult and infant foreskin removal! Firstly, the adult decides if he wants to do it, and how much to remove if he does. The baby has no say in the matter, and the result has to be guesswork regarding how much he’ll need when his penis develops. Secondly, fewer than 5% of adults decide to have their foreskin removed, but the baby gets no say in the matter. Thirdly, the adult can decide why HE wants his foreskin removed, but baby boys have the choice made for them, which is often no more than a parental whim, faulty scientific reasoning, or even pure greed on the part of the surgeon(I use the word advisedly).

      • It’s *less* painful. You can use general anesthetic for a start, and the most painful part of the operation (separating the foreskin from the glans is no longer necessary). It’s safer too, and the cosmetic results are better.

        There are just two countries in the world where more than half of baby boys are circumcised – the USA and Israel (other countries circumcise, but generally anywhere from the age of seven to puberty or adolescence).

        Most men who weren’t circumcised as children *never* get circumcised though.

        • use general anesthetic? yes, everybody! Let’s go try and kill ourselves, needlessly!
          general anesthetic is not a “magic happy fun time” — it’s a serious medical procedure in of itself.

          • Babies die from circumcision. It’s very rare, but it happens. That sounds like needless death to me. I’ve never heard of a death caused by an adult circumcision in a western medical setting.

            We’re talking about an operation that rarely needs to be done at all. The rate of medically required circumcision in the UK is about 1 in 140 and dropping.

          • I’m going to guess that fewer babies die from complications from a circumcision than adult males die from cancer of the foreskin.

            That link shows an incident rate of 100,000 in the U.S., where less than half are attributable to people without foreskins. So you have ~66,000 penile cancers for the uncircumcised crowd, and ~33,000 for the circumcised crowd. Penile cancers have a five-year survival rate of about 50%.

            So, yeah, I’m thinking the number of babies that die due to a botched circumcision are statistically negligible in comparison to the number of men who die from penile cancer.

            Not that this is a very germane argument for *all sorts* of reasons, but still. You want to talk about risk, it’s several orders of magnitude more likely that you’ll kill your child putting them in an automobile than giving them a circumcision. And people put kids in cars for all sorts of reasons that are more frivolous than religious observations.

          • In fact, it seems most adult circumcisions are done with local or regional anesthetic. Which deals with the pain, though it may still be an unpleasant experience, and pain during recovery is certainly possible (although, there too, adults have access to painkillers than infants don’t). It does appear that recovery takes somewhat longer for adults; infants apparently heal in about a week, it looks like 2-3 weeks before full activities can resumed in adolescents and adults, with warnings about sexual activities (obviously not an issue for infants) out to 6 weeks or so.

            Adult circumcision in the industrialized world does seem to be relatively uncommon. It’s more common in Africa, though; that’s the whole AIDS thing.

            Regarding penile cancer: from citation 10 in the wikipedia article:
            “In two studies, the protective effect of childhood/adolescent circumcision on invasive cancer no longer persisted when analyses were restricted to boys with no history of phimosis.”

          • Well, that’s it for me.
            I was just casually reading through the thread to see what I had missed, and then I cam across this bit about penile cancer.
            Not sure if you’re aware of this, but I am sort of famous (or infamous) for having a weak stomach.
            And that penile cancer just did it for me.
            There are a lot of things that I’m willing to talk frankly about and views I am willing to carefully consider; but for some reason, penile cancer does not fall in this category.
            I understand it could happen to me. And if it does, I intend to find out all I need to know about it at that time.
            But until then, I would rather not consider the matter.
            I think you might have just spoiled my dinner.
            I regret that I will no longer be able to participate in the discussion.
            But I think I need a drink.
            I knew I was keeping that bottle of Auchentoshan around for some reason.
            But I had hoped the reason would be somewhat more pleasant.
            Over and out.

          • Thanks, Pat.
            Better now.
            I just get these terrible images of cauliflower, for some reason.

          • I just get these terrible images of cauliflower, for some reason.

            You’re thinking of genital warts. Or a delicious vegetable. (Sorry!)

          • You’re thinking of genital warts.

            No, not when it has that much Cheez Whiz on it.

          • How many babies have died from circumcision, lately, even without anesthesia?
            There were two in New York, from herpes, when the mohel was sucking on their wounds.
            There was the kid in Northern Israel, who had the end third of his penis severed the other day.
            Nobody will ever know how many American boys die, because the CDC won’t keep track of them.
            Something about killing off the cash cow, I would bet.

          • > Something about killing off the cash cow, I would bet.

            I have no idea where this comment is going.

            The CDC gets some of its funding from the Hidden Brotherhood of Mohels?

          • @ Patrick

            According to American Cancer Society report of 2012 (page 4) there were a grand total of 1570 cases of penile cancer in the US in 2011 out of a population of about 150 million men. Several hundred thousands babies would have to be circumcised to prevent one case of penile cancer if the 2/3 ratio you mention is correct. In the vast majority of cases penile cancer, it involves older men.

            According to one study ( http://mensstudies.metapress.com/content/b64n267w47m333x0 ) about 117 babies die from circumcision every year. These deaths are 100% preventable. Then you must add thousands of seriously botched circumcisions every year, which include up to partial castration. The life of a men living with a catastrophically botched circumcision is something I would not wish on my worst enemy.

          • Jason, you are not seriously suggesting that this company is paying off the CDC, are you? I assumed the cash cow comment was heading in a slightly ugly direction, myself…

            And, re: that article – ewwwwwww

          • Jason, you are not seriously suggesting that this company is paying off the CDC, are you?

            Not at all. But might there have been some influence exerted? Seems possible. I’d like to know more, at least.

          • This summer, Steve Carrell and Paul are are back in “How to Serve Schmucks”.

    • A study run by people trying to promote circumcision where 98%+ of the respondents (including controls) think everything is great? Doesn’t look solid to me. Uganda has a literacy rate of 73% btw.

      How about these:
      “About 6% answered that their sex lives improved, while 20% reported a worse sex life after circumcision.”

      “Conclusions: Circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment.”

      • I’d need to read the methodology in that first study, Mark.

        I can imagine, if you had a medically necessary circumcision (vs. one of choice), you might attribute all sorts of things to that procedure.

  9. Just a few scattered thoughts as I head out the door on the way to work:

    1) I actually do object to piercing the ears of infants.

    2) From what I understand, the HIV risk reduction conferred by circumcision is only really seen in Africa, and is closely tied to particular sexual practices there. In places like the US and other developed nations, the benefits are negligible.

    3) I’ve never seen a circumcised male infant with a UTI. Please keep in mind this is only my observation, and thus doesn’t come close to meeting the standard of scientific evidence.

    4) I’ve seen many, many circumcised male infants whose circumcisions needed revision because of various reasons.

    5) The topic of circumcision for our son was an issue of some debate in our household, but we opted against it largely because we do not belong to a community that values it strongly. If I had a stronger tie to the Jewish part of my heritage, it would likely have tipped us in the other direction.

    • I actually think both ear piercing and orthodontia are somewhat more deferrable, and therefore less likely to be permissible. That said, I’m happy my parents got me braces because otherwise my teen years would have been less happy – so in that sense, like birthmark removal, it’s less deferrable.

      What was the nature of the revisions? Did they require general anesthesia? Did any impair future sexual functioning?

      Also, does the study I linked to look like a pretty good one to you, if you have the time to check it out? I’m very curious.

      • I disagree with you somewhat about orthodontia. First of all (and I am far from an expert), it is my understanding that orthodontic problems can worsen over time, and thus intervention may become more complicated the longer it is deferred. Further, there can be functional problems or pain that come from more severe orthodontic problems. Finally, though it may be “merely” cosmetic, for some people their orthodontic problems are of sufficient severity to be disfiguring, with resulting negative impact on their quality of life.

        Earrings on infants have nothing to recommend them, other than the perception that they are pretty.

        And I look forward to reading the study soon.

    • I knew a father, who had his son circumcised. The kid kept getting UTIs. They had him re-circumcised.
      He continued to get UTIs.
      Less uncut boys get UTIs than girls. Nobody talks about surgery with girls, they just give them the antibiotics.

    • I’ve never seen a circumcised male infant with a UTI. Please keep in mind this is only my observation, and thus doesn’t come close to meeting the standard of scientific evidence.

      I was circumcised as a kid because I had a UTI

      • UTIs are almost all caused by urinary tract abnormalities. The idea that the foreskin causes UTIs was debunked decades ago. You were almost certainly circumcised as a kid because a doctor was too ignorant to give you proper therapy. Your UTI cleared up because your immune system worked.

  10. There are people who have been circumcised as adults, after having an active sexual life, and they have documented the loss of sensitivity in their sexuality, often leading to depression as they know they won’t get back what they lost.

    Why do you think it’s so different to circumcise an adult from a child? If a circumcision of an adult is so dramatically different, it’s only because an adult can tell you in words how much it hurts, while the baby can’t. Why is it that it is so urgent to chop off a part of a baby’s body?

    I think that since circumcision means cutting a healthy part of the body off, it’s an important enough decision that it would be morally incorrect not to defer this decision until the subject of the circumcision is rationally fit to know what he is going to lose.

    Just think of it: if you were to remove an eye from a baby, they would never know the difference, they would never learn to see in real 3D with depth of field. Maybe removing an eye from an adult might be more dramatic because they would know what they lost. But in both cases, what they lose is something they will never be able to get back, so isn’t it incorrect to do it to someone who is vulnerable and has no saying on it? Circumcision is just the same.

    Circumcision, additionally has many dangers: just in the U.S., over 100 babies die every year as a consecuence of routine circumcision. Is this not reason enough to stop it?

    There are adults who, even enjoying sex, will always experience pain during sex because of circumcision: too tight of a cut means not enough skin to allow for a painless erection. Isn’t this reason enough to stop it?

    Now, for kosher circumcision: http://www.algemeiner.com/2012/04/18/mohel-cuts-off-a-third-of-babys-penis-during-circumcision/

    • >If a circumcision of an adult is so dramatically different, it’s only because an adult can tell you in words how much it hurts, while the baby can’t.

      I deeply, sincerely, do not think this is true. Of course, we don’t know for sure. But I have been to several brises. I’ve never heard the baby cry for more than five minutes, tops. I have heard babies cry more from just getting wet in a bath.

      >Just think of it: if you were to remove an eye from a baby, they would never know the difference, they would never learn to see in real 3D with depth of field. Maybe removing an eye from an adult might be more dramatic because they would know what they lost. But in both cases, what they lose is something they will never be able to get back, so isn’t it incorrect to do it to someone who is vulnerable and has no saying on it? Circumcision is just the same.

      If I had evidence it did impair functioning to that degree, there’s no question I would want it banned. I have not seen evidence of that that I find convincing.

      Please bear in mind that I am not a pro-circumcision zealot by any means. If the Jewish, Muslim, and any other communities who currently value it got together and decided they would no longer value it, then I would be perfectly happy to see it go, since indeed there is some risk.

      • Infant circumcision is different from adult circumcision because the brain is still mapping the body in infancy. When you circumcise and adult, the brain has already incorporated the foreskin and its nerve supply into the man’s body image. Behaviorally, he has learned masturbation and sex with a foreskin, so it’s going to be an adjustment to suddenly have it removed. It’s also a big psychological adjustment to suddenly have your penis remodeled in adulthood, when you’ve gotten used to it being a certain way.

        Also, most adult circumcisions are for medical reasons, so you’re looking at people who are more likely to be having dick problems in the first place. Are we really seeing the impact of the circumcision, or the toll of a lifetime of a painfully tight foreskin or years of infections?

        If the effects of infant circumcision don’t show up in behavior, they don’t exist. Circumcised men have as much sex as their intact peers, they masturbate just as often, they report the same level of satisfaction with their sex lives.

        If you remove an infant’s eye, his behavior will be measurably different from a person with two eyes, even if he’s never known anything else. He’ll have trouble catching and throwing because he lacks depth perception. There are no such lifelong deficits from circumcision.

        • Circumcision is surgery, which guarantees some level of harm in every case. Skin is removed. A scar remains. The only thing that’s compared against, because it’s non-therapeutic, is the potential benefits and preferences of someone other than the non-consenting child. The analysis becomes a matter of weighing objective costs (i.e. harms) against subjective benefits. We incorrectly assume that parents are qualified, and therefore justified, in making this decision for their sons if they wish. This disregards the fact that the child may not value the costs and benefits the same way his parents and peers do. All individual tastes and preferences are subjective.

          There is a distinction between circumcision and female genital cutting (FGC), as you say. But that distinction is a matter of degree, not kind. You imply that, but use it to draw an odd conclusion. FGC causes much more harm. First, without intending to be flippant, so? A punch in the face isn’t acceptable because a knife to the gut is worse. Second, that is almost always true of FGC as it’s practiced, but it’s irrelevant in the West with respect to laws against non-therapeutic FGC on minors. All non-therapeutic genital cutting on a female minor is illegal, including that which is unarguably less harmful than male circumcision. The only conclusion is that non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual is either wrong, or it isn’t. A gender distinction is interesting (and relevant for punishment, probably), but it’s irrelevant if the law is to provide equal protection. Stated differently, either parents have a right to cut their healthy child’s genitals or they don’t. Any supposed distinction requires invalid assumptions for the conclusion.

          As a result, I don’t follow your bodily autonomy argument. It seems flawed. You’re addressing the child’s autonomy from the perspective of his culture. You’re basing the extent to which he should have it on his social environment. It’s up to his parents and peers to decide how he should fit in, which is not bodily autonomy at all. It’s the difference in the examples you use of non-deferrable parental decisions. Parents of an adult aren’t still telling him what to read, when to go to bed, when to get his hair cut, which books he can read, and so on. But, in effect, they are telling him he has to have a circumcised penis regardless of what he would now want. That is not bodily autonomy when it’s forced on healthy children. Infants don’t have rationality, but the adults they become do. The truly non-deferrable decisions do not have the same permanence that this deferrable decision has.

          Now, if your argument is that children shouldn’t have this kind of bodily autonomy, then your approach fits. Although, if that’s what you’re saying, I’d then object to your argument that the harm of FGC matters with regard to acceptable parental decisions. But I don’t think you were saying that children shouldn’t have bodily autonomy.

          You write that any parental action “that impairs the body’s healthy functioning shouldn’t be permissible.” Circumcision impairs the healthy functioning of the child’s body. I’m not making the claim that it worsens it, although I think the logical inference for that is reasonable. But it alters the healthy body. Where the penis has its foreskin’s nerve endings, protective effect, and gliding action, the circumcised penis no longer has those. It impairs the healthy functioning. Again, since all tastes and preferences are subjective, altering the child’s experience (generally and sexually) for non-therapeutic reasons is indefensible. Parents can’t know what he’ll want. He may decide he prefers circumcision, but he may not. It’s deferrable. It should be deferred where the child is healthy.

          Adult circumcision is different from infant circumcision, but in ways that demonstrate the latter as deferrable, and preferably so. The foreskin is fused to the glans at birth. In infant circumcision it must be separated. The penis is smaller, so it’s more difficult to judge how much to remove. (Hence, the non-trivial number of child circumcision revisions.) Beyond not getting a say in whether to be circumcised, the child can’t consent to how severely the way an adult can. And, despite the rhetoric about the recovery period, an adult can factor that into his decision. Either he values being circumcised more than the costs in pain and time, or he values avoiding the costs more than being circumcised. Because he might not do what he only says he wants to do is not a reason to excuse forcing it on him as a child with a speculative guess about what he will want.

          • (This was meant as a general reply to the original article. I must’ve inadvertently clicked the wrong reply button.)

          • But they are telling him what books he will have read, what education he will have received, what food he will have eaten, etc. He cannot go back and give himself an early education in childhood. I allow my child birthday party cakes even though they are not healthy because I assume he would value that sort of fun when he’s older, etc.

            My distinction between male and female circumcision is based on what I perceive to be a difference between being functioning and non-functioning. Not just harm. If the distinction is not there, and the anti-circa people are correct about sexual functioning, then I would agree with you.

          • I.e., I perceive female and male circ. to be different in kind, not degree. If I am wrong about that (and I may well be), then I would conclude that circumcision in all cases is wrong.

          • Rose,

            Yes, but what books, what education, and what food are not permanent, and are in a real way, necessary. I received a good education as a child, went to college, and have built a solid career. But I’m in the process of going back to school for a complete change. I won’t be “unlearning” my education, and it would’ve been awesome if I’d known to pursue this route at 18. But I can adjust. I’m not entirely stuck with the choices my parents made involved in me being where I am.

            I was also raised as an omnivore. I went vegetarian in college, then vegan in my late 20s, and now I’m back to vegetarian. I suspect I’ll be an omnivore again in the future as I learn more. I can’t go back and eat eggs at 30, but I can eat them now.

            I can’t undo my circumcision, even though I wouldn’t choose it for myself.

            As for the distinction, the foreskin is functional. It is the anatomical equivalent to the clitoral hood. I don’t think anyone we’d find reasonable would argue that the clitoral hood is non-functioning. Our society doesn’t value the foreskin, but that’s not the same argument. And it ignores what the individual thinks about his own body. Any reason an individual has for wanting to keep his or her healthy body parts is correct. There’s nothing complicated or unique to males to justify circumcision.

            Nor are they different in kind. They are both non-therapeutic genital cutting on a non-consenting individual. Some of the argument you made for circumcision applies to FGC. What does the culture value and how does it weigh those subjective benefits against the harm cutting inflicts? If that’s relevant for boys, why should it be irrelevant for girls? The argument is usually based on harm, but I think it’s obvious that all surgery is harmful. Normally we’re aiming for a resolution for an obvious malady, which makes the cost-benefit useful. The benefits of non-therapeutic intervention are purely subjective/speculative, and not necessarily to the patient as discussed here.

            The argument that FGC is done to repress female sexuality is more complicated, but I agree with the general assumption. But there’s enough evidence (primarily religious) that circumcision has been used to repress male sexuality that its history can’t be ignored. Even now, the difference in the argument of repression (or control) is degree. How many parents circumcise because they worry about the preferences of their son’s future sexual partners? How many women say they wouldn’t have sex with an intact man? It’s all on the same spectrum that ignores the individual males and violates his bodily autonomy and integrity.

        • Why do Americans, about 3% of the world’s population, consume 50% of the viagra produced?
          Why, when you talk to most circumcised men about circumcision, even in the most neutral of ways, do they most often cross their arms over their crotch, or cover it with their hands?
          Why is Peyronie’s disease more common in circumcised men? What about meatal stenosis (scarring of the urinary opening), or skin briddges, or hidden penis, or erections so tight the skin splits?

          • “Why do Americans, about 3% of the world’s population, consume 50% of the viagra produced?”

            Because we’re fishing full of ourselves and have elevated male erections to a standard to which basic women’s health cannot compare. A man’s erection has been deemed a medical necessity whereas female oral contraception (possibly to make use of that erection) has been labeled a luxury.

            Rate of Viagra use is not going to win any arguments given that fact that most of the world considers Americans to be … well… ya know.

        • “Infant circumcision is different from adult circumcision because the brain is still mapping the body in infancy.”

          This is nonsense. We’ve known it to be nonsense for 30 or 40 years.

          Also, tight foreskins are most often caused by premature foreskin retraction. If parents and doctors were to simply leave their boys’ penises alone, the foreskin develops normally.

          Circumcision has life-long deficits in terms of normal sexual and immunological function. A circumcised man can never have normal healthy sex, nor can his foreskin do its job of protecting the man or his sexual partners from damage or infection.

          • A circumcised man can never have normal healthy sex

            What a preposterous statement, absurd on its face. And, as I’ve said elsewhere, I’d love to see a decent citation for your claims about the immunological importance of the foreskin.

          • Circumcision does not occur naturally – it is by definition an abnormal mutilation that prevents normal sex because part of the penis is missing. The missing part has known protective and mechanical functions during sex. The idea that this is preposterous is itself preposterous..

            As for a citation showing the immunological attributes of the foreskin, here you go:


          • I will say again that your blanket statement that circumcised men can never have normal healthy sex is absurd. You are blatantly, laughably begging the question by defining “normal healthy sex” entirely on your own terms, which in no way comports with what the overwhelming majority of circumcised men would tell you.

            And your citation describes the biological activity of one cellular protein found within the cells of the foreskin with regard to HIV. That’s a damn shaky foundation for saying that circumcision irrevocably impairs a man’s immunological function, particularly when there is a very healthy consensus that there is a small reduction in HIV transmission conferred by circumcision.

          • It goes to the issue of denial at all costs that circumcised men go through. The good doctor would need no proof to know that cutting off your lips has a detrimental effect on kissing and the pleasure you experience while kissing, but he’s doubtful that cutting off 20,000 stretch and pressure sensitive nerves from the end of the penis has an adverse effect on sexuality. He needs volumes of proof to accept something that should be self evident, because he has never experienced having a foreskin and deep down he knows he is missing something.

  11. This essay is so poorly done. It is such a mess it is difficult to critique. You argue that the amputation of nerves (about 20000 nerves in the case of penis parts removal) ” doesn’t necessarily translate into sheer units of pleasure. The fact is, no one knows exactly how much pleasure is decreased due to circumcision as an infant, if any at all.” Humans have indeed known about the loss of pleasure (even the degree) for thousands of years. That was a main purpose of religious based penis parts cutting. In the last 80 years that basic knowledge has been hushed up.

    So you argue “no one knows” as to cutting off male erogenous tissue and then you argue: “This is the distinction between male and female circumcision. Female circumcision causes much more harm and impairs sexual functioning. ” Oh so someone knows on that point. So female nerves are more valuable than male nerves? Male sexual function (the actual dynamics of the penis) is not valuable, but female function is valuable? The loss of the female prepuce causes much more harm and impairs sexual functioning than the loss of the male prepuce?

    I hope the nonsense that is this article will get people thinking. Cutting off penis parts of another human is wrong, wrong wrong. How is it that most of us agree that messing with the genitals of a girl is evil and yet someone can have these views as to messing with the genitals of boys??

    BTW, for men, the issue is very clear as to sexual pleasure before and after prepuce amputation . The parts cut off have stretch and touch sensors. One touches or is touched at these parts, one stretches or one is stretched at these parts and the result is pleasure. Remove the parts, the result is removal of pleasure from ones life for good.

    • Humans have indeed known about the loss of pleasure (even the degree) for thousands of years. That was a main purpose of religious based penis parts cutting. In the last 80 years that basic knowledge has been hushed up.

      Citation needed.

        • I am having a terrible time understanding how your comment is in any way germane to either the conversation at hand or my request for citation regarding JackieNO’s claim.

          • The practice of RIC on infant males amongst non-Jewish or -Muslim families in North America grew out of Kellogg’s theory that the pain of circumcision would discourage masturbation. That seems germane, no?

          • 1) It has nothing to do with her claim that the basis for the religious practice was to deprive men of pleasure, or her further assertion that this basis is both widely known and covered up.

            2) Whatever Kellogg’s recommendations about little girls, given than nobody followed them they add nothing to the conversation.

      • In the words of Moses Maimonides, one of the greatest physicians of all time, and a mohel himself:

        Similarly with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible. It has been thought that circumcision perfects what is defective congenitally. This gave the possibility to everyone to raise an objection and to say: How can natural things be defective so that they need to be perfected from outside, all the more because we know how useful the foreskin is for that member? In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally. The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken away from it, it must indubitably be weakened. The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him. In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision.

      • On the religious side, Tom Tobin mentions the quote from Maimonides. If one looks into Jewish and Muslim tradition, there is quite a bit about a sacrifice of the flesh, giving up pleasures (only it is giving up someone pleasure of another). On the side, masturbation is clearly more difficult and less pleasurable after penis parts are cut off and that works in well with the prohibitions of Islam and Judaism.

        The ancient Greeks and Romans also wrote about the absurdity of harming the natural form and giving up this source of pleasure.

        Of course Kellogg noted that masturbation was less pleasurable and removing the prepuce cuts down on male sexual pleasure and urges. There was a great deal about reducing male pleasure and lowering ones ability to masturbate viz penis parts removal 100 – 150 years ago.

        Do the author and others really not know that the touching the touch sensors and stretching the stretch sensors (that are cut off by baby boy penis parts removal) provides pleasure and the pleasure is gone when the senors are CUT off?

  12. Obviously, I’m not a scientist, and I happen to be personally opposed to circumcision, not only because I think it is an absurd religious ritual, but because of particular objections to the permanent altering of a body without consent and without overwhelming evidence of its benefit. That said, anti-circumcision advocates can occasionally come off as being utterly bananas. Nobody knows the difference in sexual satisfaction between circumcised and uncircumcised men, nor will they ever, because it is an unknowable. It is absurd to talk to men who have been circumcised as adults (as a side note: why are men getting circumcised as adults?) because when we argue about this topic, we’re arguing about circumcising babies who cannot consent to the procedure.

    • Sam’s comment comes closest to my own thoughts on the matter, I think.

    • I think the topic can make both sides bananas, but perhaps the anti-circs are bananas-er? In arguing against it, it makes me sound more in favor than I am.

      FWIW, although everyone except you two are arguing from consequences, the stronger argument (given what I’ve read) is actually what you two are saying.

      • It’s basically a bananas-off:

        1. You’ve got one side that passionately cares if their child has a very small bit of skin on their penis, to the point that they want that skin off of the there, either because some ancient religious text said so, or because they’re worried their child will be a freak.

        2. You’ve got another side that very calmly approaches each debate by very reasonably saying, “OH MY GOD CIRCUMCISION IS THE WORST THING EVER AND YOU HATE MEN AND PENISES AND I’M GOING TO LIGHT MYSELF ON FIRE ABOUT THIS.”

        • As I said on Jonathan’s blog, I’m actually far more interested in the consent and moral obligations to children than I am in this specific issue. This is one of the most passionate ramifications of it (maybe food and obesity, or vaccines trump slightly), for reasons that I guess have something to do with that religion and penises both make people a little crazy.

          Re: 1, I don’t think it’s quite fair to say that they’re worried that their child will be a freak. One can have a loyalty to a culture or tradition without a loyalty to a religious text.

          But as to being a bananas-off, yes. Although I wrote about it, and find it an interesting topic, this is not the defining moral issue of our times.

        • > It’s basically a bananas-off:

          Sam, that’s the best line on the Internet today.

    • Why is the difference in sexual satisfaction between circumcised and uncircumcised men forever unknowable? I really wish it was a lot easier to measure, as I believe that circumcision rates would plummet, but there are ways to measure it.

      This study concluded that “Circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment.”

      Re your side note: Very few men get circumcised as adults, and some of the ones that do really wish they hadn’t. It’s their decision though, and that’s the way it should be. Men that were circumcised as babies can’t become intact (they can restore their foreskins, but the nerve endings are gone forever).

      • because you can’t doubleblind it, and you have a 30% placebo effect. Therefore, unless you’re seeing a large, large effect, you lose.

        Is that study excluding those of the Jewish Religion? as you mentioned, few people who aren’t Jewish have it in Europe. Do I really need to say the rest? Okay, I will anyhow, just to be clear. When you’re comparing a seriously inbred population to the rest of society, yes you do get weird issues…

          • Saying that Jews are “inbred” is pretty low. I trust that’s what you mean.

          • Jason,
            goyishke kop.
            Do I need to talk about Tay Sachs for you to get the point? Jeepers Creepers.
            (gotta LOVE how I can be anti-semitic against my fellow Jews).
            (also gotta LOVE how you call me out for calling people inbred, but not for accusing them of higher than average rates of a particular variant of incest. Maybe you missed that thread).

            I can speak of other populations which are historically more inbred, if you like. But I think I’m on a fairly solid basis for this, and will provide statistics if you really insist (yes, I’ll have to look them up).

            (note: I’m not in any way trying to claim that I’m going to be able to substantiate a linkage between genital diseases in particular and being inbred (let alone being of Ashkenasic Jewish Ancestry). Jason wasn’t calling me out for that.)

          • Heh. I knew you hadn’t really killfiled me. You never will, either.

          • Jason,
            no I’m pretty sure I had. for a couple of months. Eventually figured it was enough of a bother not to bother anymore. Will put you back on if you return to harrassing me about stuff that isn’t topical to the thread we’re on.
            (Just so long as we’re dredging up old shit, I killfiled you over apples, about when you demonstrated that you really weren’t going to take my word that “I knew that.”)

          • how I can be anti-semitic against my fellow Jews)

            By criticizing Israel in any way, of course.

          • Mike,
            Those people who say shit like that — let me at ’em!
            (full disclosure: I have Jewish relatives who are not Zionists)

          • (Just so long as we’re dredging up old shit, I killfiled you over apples, about when you demonstrated that you really weren’t going to take my word that “I knew that.”)

            Ah yes, I remember it fondly! You said that apple scabs cause cancer. Then you couldn’t prove it. Then you claimed victory — after linking to an article that didn’t say anything of the sort.

            Say, what killfile plugin do you use? I’m… just curious. No reason, really. Just curious.

          • No, not that conversation. the one where you wouldn’t believe that I understood that apples don’t bloom in two years.
            (apps? we don’t need no stinkin’ apps! just skipped your messages)

      • According to the Danish study, only about 5% of Danish men are circumcised. Here’s a critical point: “Of the 103 circumcised men, 15 men (15%) reported the circumcision to have occurred before age 6 months.”

        The majority of the men in this study weren’t circumcised as infants, which makes sense given routine circumcision isn’t the norm in Denmark. This study isn’t a reliable indicator of the effects of infant circumcision on adult sexual function. Men who are circumcised after infancy usually have it done for medical reasons. It’s a methodological bias to compare the average Danish guy to a small subset of guys who mostly had to have foreskin surgery for gentiourinary problems. It wouldn’t be surprising if the guys with a history of genitourinary problems had a higher rate of sexual dysfunction.

        If you want to study the effects of routine infant circumcision, you need to find a population where the practice is actually routine.

    • I’d say the craziest on both sides are circumcised men, and for the same reason – they don’t know what they’re missing.

      The pro-circ ones don’t miss it, and don’t want to know. Their denial makes them say crazy things like “The foreskin is not part of the penis.”

      The intactive DO miss it, and not knowing drives them crazy. If their sex is less than optimal, they can’t know for sure their circumcision is to blame (unless it was obviously botched – which is much commoner than you might think) but the suspicion that it is fuels their opposition.

      You’ll get more measured opposition from the rest of us,
      Men who enjoy their whole penis
      Women who enjoy its unique rolling action
      Mothers who have seen what circumcision did to their sons
      Nurses who have been told to lie to parents that “He slept right through it”
      Doctors who have to repair botches (A Richmond VA pediatrician saw 1600 in three years, suggesting a rate of more than 13%)
      Lawyers who handle botch cases
      and other people who think human rights are for all humans.

      • As a circumcised man, I do miss the great sex I should have had, I did have some ordinary sex when very young, but I get none now. But I am trying to restore, whether I shall ever regain what I lost as a baby, I don’t know.

  13. “Female circumcision causes much more harm and impairs sexual functioning.”

    Some of the most common forms of female circumcision do a lot *less* damage than the usual form of male circumcision. Sometimes there’s just an incision with nothing actually removed. One form just removes the clitoral hood (the female foreskin), so it’s the exact equivalent of cutting off a boy’s foreskin. In some countries, female circumcision is performed by doctors in operating theatres with anesthesia. Conversely, male circumcision is often performed as a tribal practice. Over 100 males died of circumcision in just one province of South Africa last year and there were at least two penile amputations.

    Are you aware that the USA also used to practise female circumcision? Fortunately, it never caught on the same way as male circumcision, but there are middle-aged white US American women walking round today with no external clitoris because it was removed. Some of them don’t even realise what has been done to them. There are frequent references to the practice in medical literature up until at least 1959. Most of them point out the similarity with male circumcision, and suggest that it should be performed for the same reasons. Blue Cross/Blue Shield had a code for clitoridectomy till 1977.

    One victim wrote a book about it:
    Robinett, Patricia (2006). “The rape of innocence: One woman’s story of female genital mutilation in the USA.”

    Nowadays, it’s illegal even to make an incision on a girl’s genitals though, even if no tissue is removed. Why don’t boys get the same protection?

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m totally against female circumcision, and I probably spend a lot more time and money trying to stop it than most people. If people are serious about stopping female circumcision though, they also have to be against male circumcision. Even if you see a fundamental difference, the people that cut girls don’t (and they get furious if you call it “mutilation”). There are intelligent, educated, articulate women who will passionately defend it, and as well as using the exact same reasons that are used to defend male circumcision in the US, they will also point to male circumcision itself (as well as labiaplasty and breast operations), as evidence of western hypocrisy regarding female circumcision. The sooner boys are protected from genital mutilation in the west, the sooner those peoples that practice FGM will interpret western objections as something more than cultural imperialism.

    • Only after we give them the right to make unlimited political contributions.

  14. Can someone provide a citation for the “20,000 nerve endings in your foreskin” claim? There’s even ask.com threads where people are asking where the number came from.

    I see 1,300 nerve endings per square inch in your hand, which I would assume is pretty high, as far as nerve-endings per square inch. I see crazy numbers for the foreskin by a Google search (one site claimed “between 20,000 and 70,000”).

    • I’ve seen an incredibly long and detailed estimate of how the higher figure of 70,000 was arrived at by a pathologist. I have to go out now, but will try to dig it up later. It goes into incredible detail and talks abuot various different types of nerve endings.

      For now, this study found that parts of the foreskin were more sensitive than the fingertips:

      On a personal level, if I touch the most sensitive parts of my inner foreskin with the tip of my index finger, my foreskin is way more sensitive. That’s why this whole thing is a big deal. If people were cutting their kids’ earlobes off, I’d think it was weird, but not something to get too bothered about.

  15. This conversation keeps getting crazier:

    1. Am I to understand that people are claiming that a woman’s lubrication has something to do with a man’s circumcision status?

    2. The correct answer on the amount of nerve-endings in a foreskin is eleventy bajillion.

    3. Although I obviously know what people mean by “business mode” can I just clarify: you guys say this with a straight face? As in, “Honey, get over here, I’m in business mode!” Just checking.

    • +1

      This is my favorite comment in a series of bizarre threads. Additionally:

      1. For those that claim this, I would love to hear a rationalization. Does the foreskin release pheromones from a distance? Does it read the dirty bits of 19th century erotica at a high frequency that only girly parts can hear?

      2. Eleventy bajillion is going to be my new answer for all questions.

      3. “When I’m down to my socks it’s time for business
      That’s why they’re called business socks, oooh”


      • >Does the foreskin release pheromones from a distance? Does it read the dirty bits of 19th century erotica at a high frequency that only girly parts can hear?

        This got me in the giggles again.

      • That said, eleventy bajillion is space awesome.

      • That’s not at all what I was saying.

        I meant that the shaft of the penis glides through the foreskin itself. Mechanically.

        That’s what the foreskin does, and it was very obviously selected by evolution to do just that.

        • not to improve the odds of pregnancy? Kinda like how dogs swell up afterward?

        • Jason,

          I gotta be honest: nothing gets me going more than a discussion of my penis’s mechanical function. Fap, fap, fap.

        • I meant that the shaft of the penis glides through the foreskin itself. Mechanically.

          Serious question here. How does that affect female response? Is the foreskin just kind of sitting in place, so that the nerve endings inside in the penis are getting stimulated by rubbing on it while the female gets less stimulation than when the whole (uncircumscribed) penis is moving back and forth?

          Perhaps that’s completely wrong, but while we’re talking about evolution, let’s keep in mind that selective pressures on the foreskin may have had damned little to do with the female’s pleasure. I’d like to hear from some women who’ve experienced both, if anyone’s willing to talk about it.

          I suppose men who’ve experienced both would be a useful source of information, too, come to think of it.

    • No, circumcision has nothing to do with a woman’s lubrication status. However, the foreskin captures and preserves the male lubrication (usually called pre-cum) in its folds and also prevents whatever female lubrication there is from being drawn out of the woman’s vagina because the retracted foreskin forms a ridge that holds it back as it moves.

      I know anecdotal evidence is worthless in the internet, so take it any way you like. A young woman I had been dating finally invited me to her bedroom, and after getting frisky we were ready for the act itself. At that point this woman reached inside her night table drawer and took out a lubricating jelly tube. Since I’m an uncut man, I associate lubrication exclusively with anal sex, so I was a bit taken aback by how forward she was. Fortunately I realized just in time that she probably had never been with an uncut man before and assured her we wouldn’t need her jelly… at least not that night. The next morning, after a long night in which zero artificial lubrication was used, she said to me that sex had always been uncomfortable for her unless she had plenty of artificial lubricants. I have no doubt in my mind that I made another circumcision opponent that night.

      • oh david. ‘I have no doubt in my mind that I made another circumcision opponent that night.’

        what a joke. you really have been sucked in by anti circumcision propaganda. sorry buddy. your anecdote is worthless and so is your biased opinion based exclusively on anti circumcision propaganda.

        ‘However, the foreskin captures and preserves the male lubrication (usually called pre-cum) in its folds and also prevents whatever female lubrication there is from being drawn out of the woman’s vagina because the retracted foreskin forms a ridge that holds it back as it moves.’ nice theory. citation?

        • A predictable response from you. By the same token, your anecdotes about your former foreskin are just as worthless.

          Let me give you another anecdote, just to double down. Initially, I couldn’t care less if other men were circumcised or not. All I cared about was that my foreskin felt great. When my son was born, the doctor asked me to sign a consent form to have my son circumcised. I naturally declined, but at that moment the doctor turned into a salesman and started to list all the miraculous healing powers of circumcision. Needless to say I’ve never suffered any of the horrible diseases that the doctor foretold for my son if I didn’t surrender to the voodoo magic of circumcision, so I laughed at his face and told him that my perfect son didn’t need to be mutilated and that I would not pay $800.00 dollars for the “privilege” of seeing him put to the knife for bogus reasons.

  16. Apropos of nothing, I have decided that I am going to tag all of my future posts with “circumcision” to drive up my page views.

    • That’s interesting. I was just thinking I was going to avoid all such tags in the future, and just use “Victorian Attitudes Toward Ants.”

      • I love that, through the years of our friendship, you’ve stuck with “Victorian Attitudes Toward Ants” as your placeholder boring subject.

        • Are you guys kidding? Ants aren’t boring. Bark beetles can occasionally be boring, but not ants.

          • Ants aren’t boring! Just the Victorian attitudes toward them. And the joke actually started because I have way too low a boredom threshold, and would even find that interesting.

          • I remember how the joke started, because we agreed that we would probably both actually watch a television program about Victorian attitudes toward ants.

  17. I will reiterate what I said at the very beginning. Until we are on the same page about what the foreskin is and what it does, this conversation will continue to go in circles. Perhaps I did not include a good enough link for that purpose, as most people probably will not stop to watch a 1.5 hr. documentary with visuals. Scroll to 37 minutes.


    And yes, lubrication is easier for the receptive partner because the foreskin creates a moving buffer and results in less friction. And yes, men with foreskins generally do not rely on lotion to masturbate for the same reasons.

    • With the way you wrote that last paragraph, it is like you’re my own marketing department.

    • I dunno about you, but from what I’ve observed, the primary problem is stuff drying on to the lower parts of the shaft…

    • It sort of amazes me how little straight men sometimes know about their own genitalia. I had a friend as an undergrad who thought he wasn’t circumcised — he still had that purple part on the tip.

      • little straight men

        I assure you, it’s because it’s cold outside and anyway, the motion of the ocean is far more important than the size of the wave.

      • I didn’t know until I was in college. Perhaps it’s because the only other ones I saw, for brief moments in the high school gym, were similarly equipped. It’s not really a topic of conversation that comes up with the folk.

        That said, I have an idea of how an uncircumcised penis works and, like you, am amazed at how little most people know about the differences.

        • I have an idea of how an uncircumcised penis works

          Well, when the man has to go to the bathroom, urine comes out a hole in the end.

          When the man gets sexually aroused, the penis gets hard, and when the stimulation reaches a critical point, semen comes out a hole in the end.

      • I’m pretty sure uncircumcised men occasionally use lubricant as well.

      • I’m pretty sure that a great many men do.
        They refer to it publicly. It’s in videos all the time. Why does lube sell so well in the US, compared to other countries?

    • nice try posting a biased anti circumcision propaganda video. its very easy to get sucked in by anti circumcision propaganda, you need to use your critical faculties and assess the subject from an unbiased perspective.

  18. I think we should find uncircumcised men willing to go undergo circumcision for a fee, so we can compare their before and after sexual pleasure.

    Anybody want to join me as co-principal investigators on the NSF application?

    • I’m trying to figure out a baseline amount.

      Eleventy bajillion is probably a good starting number.

      • Yeah, we’re probably going to have to dole out a hell of a lot to get men to agree to participate.

        And then there’s the whole human subjects clearance problem (even though their voluntary cooperation in exchange for huge sums of cash definitionally means it’s all legitimate and just *grin*).

        • Much cheaper to do it in Africa, where they only want a few dollars. And the ethical bar is set lower.
          But if it’s voluntary, men who value their foreskins will step back. So you’d better do it to men who can’t refuse. Prisoners? Then you’d need a mixed-sex facility. I see Godwin’s Law coming.

          • Hugh7,

            I’m a libertarian, sir. It’s voluntary or it’s no-go.

          • In that case the experiment just can’t be done. There’s no rule that says that every experiment can be practicable, ethical and doable. Sometimes we just have to make do with indirect, incomplete or faulty evidence, and correct for its faults as best we may.

            But I don’t think the sexual pleasure test Rose cites (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2007.07369.x/full) is one such. It WAS done in Africa (Uganda, to be precise) by circumcision advocates, with men who got into the trial by volunteering to be circumcised, thinking it was going to protect them against HIV, and it never found less than 98% sexual satisfaction. Clearly, either their tests of satisfaction were too insensitive, or Uganda is a sexual paradise and we should all go there (unless you’re gay, when you risk death).

  19. When our oldest boy was born, I remember that the circumcision question came up and that everyone had an opinion to share. The dynamic I noticed then was pretty much what I think I see here now:

    Guys tend to be very emotionally invested in their own junk, and it becomes very, very important to them that the male children of other people have similar penises. Much “science” is quoted, as well as much vouched testimony by women they know that their kind of penis is the one women prefer. They tend to get very emotional about arguments that other kinds of penises are better, or preferred by women. The same for all of the above seems true for each side, regardless of turtleneck.

    Similarly, women I have known over the years do tend to have a preference between partners with and without the iPod case, but it seems to vary from person to person and – I expect – probably has more to do with historical partners than anything else.

    This is not to say that there is no moral decision to be made, or not made, about circumcising a baby. But I do believe there’s a lot of, um, junk behind going on behind these arguments.

    • > Becomes very, very important to them that the male children
      > of other people have similar penises.

      I never understood this.

      So do you glue hair on your adolescent son’s genital area, or do you shave? Can’t have them thinking that un-hairy genitals are *abnormal*.

      • Actually, given the brutality of the adolescent locker room, not wanting your kid to have another reason to be picked on is, I think, not an unfair motivator. Maybe it’s not a “good” motivator. Maybe it’s even a bad motivator. But as someone who was bullied for a variety of reasons as a child, and as a father, I can empathize with the logic of “I want my kid to look like everyone else so he doesn’t get picked on.”

        Granted my circumcision status was never an issue as a child. This could be the result of luck or it could be the schools I went to, or it could just be that it’s really not that big of a deal and that a group of kids who would beat you up for the color socks you wore didn’t care about your boy parts.

        • In my experience, if you’re the sort of kid who is going to get picked on, you’re going to get picked on for something.

          They’ll just make stuff up, if nothing else. Currently we’re having a minor issue at the school where the eldest is getting picked on for playing with Lego.

          By kids who play with Lego (this absurdity works in 2nd grade.)

          It’s not really about the thing they’re picking on you *for*.

          • By kids who play with Lego (this absurdity works in 2nd grade.)

            I know politicians who get picked on for being fiscally irresponsible. By Republicans!

        • Given that nowadays roughly 50% are and 50% aren’t, you don’t need to worry. Odds are he won’t be the only one regardless.

          • And which would you rather have to tell him – “They’re different because their parents all had part cut off of theirs, but we didn’t”? Or “You’re different because we had part of yours cut off so that you wouldn’t be different – but theirs didn’t, so you are.”?

          • Yeah, fair points. My own was more along the lines of “I’m not sure I’d blame someone for this logic.”

        • It’s no reason to cut a kid.
          If it was, they would have fixed Prince Charles’ ears.

  20. “Have the parents of 30% of the world’s men done them wrong?”
    Fallacy of argumentum ad populum. Would it be the first time a substantial minority (or even a majority) was wrong?

    “Some people cite that there are fewer nerve endings after a circumcision as a reason to believe there is definitive harm. That doesn’t necessarily translate into sheer units of pleasure. ” Reductio ad absurdam: cut the whole thing off and see how much pleasure he has.

    But bear in mind that the ~20,000 nerve endings of the foreskin (specialised like those of the fingertips or lips) are concentrated into a ridged band encircling the tip, where they are protected, until it everts in a unique way on erection, making them ready for action. If God/evolution DIDN’T design/select that for sexual functioning, WHAT was he/she/it thinking?

    “I decide whether they get haircuts, what they eat, what time they go to bed, whether they get vaccinated, what school they go to, what books they read. Doing any of these for a grown-up would constitute a violation of autonomy.” Do you give his foreskin back at 18? Circumcising a baby DOES do it to the grown up.

    (Haircuts, died, bedtime, vaccination, schooling, books can be compared with male genital cutting – but not female genital cutting – no matter how minimal, surgical and sterile – oh no, that’s COMPLETLY different!)

    “Adult circumcision is so dramatically different from infant circumcision that I don’t think it is a deferrable decision.” Adult converts to Judaism and Islam (and their mohelim and imams) don’t think it’s so dramatically different that it’s not religiously valid – on the contrary, the more orthodox insist on it, and the converts accept it. If they can decide to have it done later, why can’t anyone else who wants to?

    • the so called ‘ridged band’ is one of the many theories about the functions of the foreskin that anti circumcision activists wheel out whenever trying to sway peoples opinion about circ. the reality is that there is no such thing as a ‘ridged band’ and its just a theory based on the same flawed means of gathering evidence as all their other studies. ever since the 70s anti circ people have been trying to dream up functions for the foreskin so they can manipulate people into thinking that its a really important part of the penis and that to remove it with a circumcision would be a travesty and should be stopped for good. the anti circ people like to frame the foreskin as some sort of infallible sacred cow of untold pleasure, but in reality, its just a theory they have conjured up, and in the end it has no function in modern times and is a relic of the past when we used to walk around naked.

  21. Thank, someone, for bring it up.

    Here are some more Sexual Functions of the Foreskin explained in Pictures, Videos, and Text:

    http://www.foreskinfunctions.com [Warning: Explicit Sexual Content. Not Suitable For Work}

    • this website has been created by anti circumcision activists in order to muddy the waters of the circumcision debate. they have no *evidence* to back their opposition up, so, they concoct ‘functions’ which of course are merely theories that they themselves have conjured up in an attempt to create a justification not to circumcise. the headline of the webpage is ‘TOP 10 ways Circumcised SEX Harms women’ another clear sign that this website has nothing to do with evidence or anything credible. the funny thing is that when you strip all the emotive rhetoric like the website J. F. O’Hara has just referenced, you will find that the anti circumcision lobby has nothing to back their opposition up, its all hot air and not based on evidence of any kind.

      Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.
      – Daniel Patrick Moynihan.

      • And this from someone who links to the website of Brian Morris. The irony! It hurts!

  22. Here are some highlights of the anti-circ movement’s theory as to nature’s sexual purpose for the foreskin.

    1. The penis foreskin is highly erogenous tissue. It contains 20,000 – 40,000 touch-sensitive nerves that produce exquisite feelings of pleasure. Circumcision removes most, or all, of these highly erogenous touch-sensitive nerves. Cut off. Stripped away. Gone forever. And although a circumcised man can still derive pleasure, sex with a circumcised penis can be deficient in many ways. Certainly, circumcised sex is not the sensual experience nature intended.

    2. On an intact penis, the foreskin supplies sufficient shaft skin for a comfortable erection. Scientific studies have shown that when the penis becomes erect, the length of the penis shaft can double. Where does the skin come from to cover that longer shaft? From the foreskin. The foreskin–after it moves to the shaft upon erection–has been scientifically shown to provide a doubling of shaft skin.

    In contrast, circumcision may cause a man to have only half the shaft skin nature intended. On a baby, the skin removed during circumcision may seem small, but on a fully grown man, it can amount to a loss of one-third to one-half of the man’s penis shaft skin system. This loss is equivalent in size to a 3” by 5” index card–about 15 square inches. Insufficient shaft skin can cause abnormal bowing of the penis when erect. An overly tight shaft skin can often compress the penis’s inner tissue, which can create a discomforting erection for the circumcised man. And insufficient shaft skin, due to circumcision, is the cause.


    3. The foreskin acts as a natural gliding mechanism to reduce friction, chafing, and dryness during intercourse. Because of the foreskin’s unique gliding mechanism, sex is less abrasive to the vaginal walls of the female. Many women have commented that sex is much more comfortable when the man has a natural, intact penis. Because of the gliding mechanism, sex is also more comfortable for the man, resulting in no chafing, soreness, or burning after intercourse or masturbation.


    4. The foreskin works to retain lubrication during intercourse by bunching up at the vagina’s entrance. It acts as a dam to block lubrication from escaping. This bunching-up action of the foreskin also provides a delicate pressuring that excites the woman’s G spot, helping her to achieve vaginal orgasm.


    5. Nature designed the penis head to be an internal organ. On the intact man, the purpose of the foreskin is to keep the glans and surrounding tissues protected, moist, and sensitive, for the most complete enjoyment of sex. The foreskin’s moisture keeps the penis head spongy and resilient, which gives both partners a more sensuous experience. The foreskin protects the penis head from drying out and from the abrasive effects of clothing, in much the same way that a woman’s vulval lips protect the female’s sexual parts.

    6. An intended purpose in nature’s design of the foreskin is to make intercourse more comfortable and pleasurable for the woman. Anecdotal reports, and preliminary scientific evidence, indicate that women find intercourse with an intact man more satisfying and rewarding due to the extraordinary gentleness, sensuality, and mutuality of the experience.


    In contrast, these women report that when men are circumcised, they thrust rougher and tougher, and they are often overly forceful in their thrusting movements–sometimes to the point of banging and pounding.


    Certainly, circumcised sex, for the woman, as well as the man, is not the sensual experience nature intended.


  23. What J. F. O’Hara posted is generally true from my own personal experience. I speak only for myself.

    • sorry caroline, but your opinion is without credibility after posting links to anti circumcision propaganda videos. im sure your experience is ‘generally true’ in your mind, but i wonder what your experience would be like if you engaged a more critical means of assessing information you encounter on the internet..

      • It is amazing to me how anyone who ever links to any anti-circumcision site is immediately and forever “without credibility” to “someone with experience.”

          • Can you clarify your use of the term ‘propaganda’ with respect to arguments against non-therapeutic child circumcision? Is it different for arguments in favor of non-therapeutic child circumcision?

  24. I’m fine with debate. But I would strongly appreciate it if everyone could keep a civil tone.

  25. It’s not evidence based that circumcision was started in this country to stop masturbation. It’s not evidence based that circumcision has been touted as a cure for all kinds of random illnesses from breast cancer to insanity. It’s not evidence based that Europe, which is vastly superior to us in the health and health care system of its people does not buy any of this pro-circ ideology. And I guess we’re not even free to share our own experiences, huh?

  26. Ms. Woodhouse might I suggest that you put yourself in the place of the male infant. Imagine you are restrained, against your will, and a healthy organ is amputated from your healthy body. Would you still be so callus toward the feelings and rights male infants? If the same cutting were to be the fashion for little girl infants would you still feel so indifferent? I AM A VICTIM OF MALE GENITAL MUTILATION. I will live out my enter life having been deprived of an important and functional part of MY body. I am a human being, just like you. Would you let some one alter your body forever, without your consent? You would better serve if you were to call out the perpetrators of male genital mutilation, the doctors and moils. They are the ones who need a lesson in ethics and morality. It is a known psychological fact, the abused
    become the abusers. Where will it all end, Ms. Woodhouse? Where?

  27. Talk to an adult male who has phimosis and has or has not been surgically corrected. Get their opinion on whether they wish their parents had had them circumcised at birth.

    The condition where the child was “peeing up” is called hyperspadias. If he was peeing down, it would be “hypospadias.” Both of these conditions can occur regardless of whether or not the person is circumcised, so this really can’t be used as an arguement against circumcision. In any case, circumcision would not involve the urethral meatus. The meatus would be covered by the bell-shaped device used to cover the glans during the procedure.

    Female partners of men who are uncircumcised have a higher incidence of cervical cancer than those whose partners are not circumcised.

    Those of you mourning the loss of your hoodies are, I suspect, imaging ecstasies far beyond actuality and assigning it magical properties, or using its absence as an excuse. It is probably time to stop perseverating on the head of your penis and move on.

    • It’s actually very rare for someone to have a medical need for circumcision though – about 1 in 140 in the UK, and going down. I actually know someone (under 30) who’s had parts of her inner labia and external clitoris removed for medical reasons, but that’s hardly an argument for doing to it to baby girls.

      Peeing up can be caused by circumcision and not just by hypospadias or epispadias, which you refer to as hyperspadias. If you look up the galleries of botched jobs, one thing that may surprise you is just how many jobs were botched cosmetically, rather than medically. Twists, bends, skin tags, skin bridges and hair growing half way up the shaft are not normal, but would not be counted as medical complications.

      There are plenty of countries which don’t circumcise, but have lower rates of cervical cancer than countries which do. A 2003 paper in the Israeli Medical Association Journal discusses circumcision and cervical cancer at length and says the following: “Although the dispute over the association of circumcision and cervical cancer in various populations is still ongoing, there seems to be no hard evidence that circumcision prevents its occurrence in Jewish women, and it is no longer considered to play a protective role.”

      I’m not mourning the loss of my hoodie btw, as I’m still intact. It’s by far the most pleasurable part of my penis, and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s wrong to cut it off small boys before they have a chance to decide for themselves. It’s their body, so let them choose.

      Many circumcised women are as dismissive as you of the parts they’ve had removed btw, or of the people that are against cutting girls.

    • Circumcision for phimosis is rare everywhere in the world except the US. Here doctors reach for their knives as soon as they see a foreskin; in other places they simply prescribe a steroid cream and “stretching exercises” (read: liberal masturbation), as a remedy for phimosis.

      I’m not mourning the loss of my “hoodie” because I have mine, but I do mourn for the babies that are denied the full enjoyment of their sexuality

  28. I certainly mourn the loss (theft) of my foreskin, can confirm that lotions for masturbation make a big difference, and am sad that only since the Internet made information so much easier to acquire have I discovered why sex wasn’t has good as it could have been. Must continue with my restoration, another thing I’ve learned from having the Internet.

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