James W. Hicks, M.D.

Circumcision

In Sexploration* on September 7, 2010 at 8:56 pm

About three-quarters of men in the United States are circumcised, slightly down from a peak of 80% fifty years ago. Rates are highest among white men, while only two-thirds of African-Americans and half of Latinos are circumcised. In no other country in the world are men circumcised at birth so routinely, unless for religious reasons. Circumcision was once thought to prevent boys from masturbating and becoming morons. Though that Victorian myth has been debunked, three-quarters of American mothers still consider a circumcised penis more visually and sexually appealing and more hygienic and request the procedure for their newborn boys.

The foreskin of uncircumcised men cloaks the head (or glans) of the penis in the flaccid state, often covering it completely like a drawn purse, except when it is manually retracted. The foreskin is like a cuff, with skin on the outer surface and a pinker mucous membrane on the inside. This inner surface is similar to the mucous membranes of the lips, vagina, and anus. When the penis is erect, the foreskin unrolls over the lengthening shaft, and the penis becomes virtually indistinguishable from a circumcised penis, except that the unrolled portion may be moister and pinker.

Medical journals continue to debate whether circumcision (or “male genital mutilation,” as some refer to the practice) affects sexual functioning in men. The foreskin contains specialized sensory nerve cells that detect vibration and motion, and glands which secrete lubricating fluids during sexual arousal, and these would be lost during circumcision. The head of the penis is probably more sensitive in uncircumcised men, because the mucosal surface turns into normal skin if the foreskin is removed. But it has been difficult to scientifically prove any difference in sensitivity, or whether greater sensitivity is good (easier to arouse) or bad (more tender) for uncircumcised men. Also, men with intact foreskins can accumulate a greasy white substance, called smegma, though this is rarely noticeable and easily cleaned. A number of studies have shown that men who are circumcised as adults are generally happy with the results, and circumcised men may have more oral sex, more anal sex, more frequent masturbation, and less sexual dysfunction.

There is no objective medical or aesthetic reason for prefering a cut or uncut penis. For most men, the choice was made for them by their parents. Otherwise, it comes down to personal preferences one might have in a partner, if one cares at all.

  1. 158 men and women took a quick poll on my original blog, and about half said they preferred their partner to have a circumcised penis. About one-quarter preferred uncircumcised. The remainder did not have a preference.

  2. Also, as a nonbinary trans man with a vagina (and intact penis) who has had the experience of both, I prefer the intact/natural penis over one that doesn’t have the friction-reducing function of moving skin. On others, and myself.

    I used to think I “liked the way it looked” until I had to deal with NEEDING lube because the glans scrapes it out on each thrust, sex taking WAY too long, soreness and burning after from hard unnatural and painful BANGING, UTIs every month from friction sores. Ouch!

    Sex as nature intended it (.com) is where it’s at. 😉 My husband of 10 years is intact, and woo, I can’t get enough of him! Now I’ve seen the natural penis is much sexier, as it’s without dry, cracked skin and a dark scar line. Plus, amputated penis looks weird, always being exposed, instead of the glans tucked away when it’s not aroused. It makes me feel uncomfortable to look at–as in, makes my own penis hurt to imagine being exposed in my boxers like that!

  3. (Sorry if I double posted this, I don’t think my comment got through so I edited some links out. Feel free to approve the other comment with all the links and delete this one if you see this, site author!)

    Interesting site, lots of info here. However, as a human rights activist, and intactivist, I have a problem.

    This article seems biased toward circumcision and doesn’t discuss any of the harms of the nonconsensual cosmetic surgery on infants, the negative effects of removing foreskin on the topic of natural penis in vagina intercourse (i.e. the pain and soreness during/after that 1/3 people with vaginas are blamed for in the US or the high sales of viagra and lubricant that Europe doesn’t need) or the numerous benefits of the foreskin intentionally placed by nature and evolution. It’s illegal to cut girls here, as it is illegal to cut boys in many places in Europe. I hope someday we can all agree, it’s absolutely ridiculous to perform surgery for cosmetic reasons on a child who cannot understand or consent and should be up to them as a grown adult to make an informed decision (which, if you’ll see in Europe, few in their right mind would amputate a beautifully working body part that has many functions without major regret afterward).

    Here are some great resources I highly recommend. Ethics are extremely critical in this day and age!

    yourwholebody.org
    bloodstainedmen.com

    • I personally agree that it would be preferable to let boys chose whether or not to be circumcised when they are old enough to consent, and I suspect most would pass, given the choice.

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