The Pros and Cons of Male Circumcision: the Debate Continues
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The Pros and Cons of Male Circumcision: the Debate Continues

As many people know, circumcision has existed for thousands of years and also forms an intricate part of many religious faiths, primarily for Muslims and Jews. However, in the later part of 19th century, other religions also started to perform this ritual, especially when germ theory of disease gained prominence, as a circumcised penis was considered cleaner. But many modern doctors insist that cleanliness actually has little to do with it.

If you're one of those who thinks the need for male circumcision is a forgone, scientific conclusion, think again.

 In fact, the issue of male circumcision is as controversial as it ever was, with a wider and wider gap forming between those health professionals who advocate it and those who don’t.  And while there are well-known religious, social, and medical reasons why circumcision is often recommended, most major medical societies have now taken an impartial view of the procedure, neither recommending nor renouncing the practice.

As many people know, male circumcision has existed for thousands of years and also forms an integral part of many religious faiths, primarily for Muslims and Jews.  However, in the later part of 19th century, people from other religions also started to include this ritual in their practices, especially once a general understanding of disease became common knowledge and a circumcised penis was considered cleaner. 

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In simple terms, male circumcision involves the removal of the foreskin surrounding the glans of the penis. Every normal male baby is born with a prepuce or foreskin covering the tip of the penis.  This foreskin is supposed to protect the sensitive tip and keep it moist and clean.  But many modern doctors insist that cleanliness actually has very little to do with it.

In 1975, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stated in no uncertain terms that "there is no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision of the newborn."  In 1983, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) joined in this position, releasing a join statement to the same effect.  And again in 1999 and 2005, the AAP repeated this position of equivocation.  Yet these factors seem to have had little effect on general hospital policy.

Currently, the practice of newborn male circumcision continues to be very common--particular regarding hospital practices.  (It is estimated that 60%-75% of all males in the United States are circumcised.)  This number, of course, varies depending upon ethnicity and religious affiliation.

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And while most physicians today agree with the practice of informing parents of the risks and benefits regarding newborn circumcision, several large studies revealed a 60% decrease in HIV transmission in circumcised males compared to uncircumcised males. This may ultimately influence some changes in recommendations in the near future.

But whether parents are generally in favor of circumcision or not, the most common questions asked is, ‘Does the foreskin make a difference when it comes to your sex life?’  And according to a recent study published in the British Journal of Urology International, researchers from the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resources Center report that, yes, circumcision removes the five areas of the penis most responsive to light touch.

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Debby Herbenick, MPH., PhD, author of Bedroom Confidential for Men's Health, however, isn't impressed with the report, stating, “It was one small study and it conflicts with other research.  We don't know a lot about the penis and which parts are more or less sensitive."

Meanwhile, sex therapist and author of She Comes First, Ian Kerner, PhD, says that if you're circumcised, you may need more friction to reach orgasm.  He recommends trying different positions such as doggy style or missionary that allow you to maximize stimulation, or to ask your partner to do Kegel exercises and squeeze her pelvic floor muscles, which will put more friction on the head of the penis.  AAnd if you still have your foreskin,” Kerner says, “take advantage of it.  The foreskin contains nerves, and if you roll it back and forth, it stimulates the frenulum, which is the one of the most sensitive parts of your penis."

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So, what do the doctors who support male circumcision say are the advantages?

> A circumcised child is at a lesser risk of penis cancer and UTI (Urinary Tract Infection).  Some studies have also shown that a circumcised child may have lesser risk of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. The foreskin of a penis catches more infection and a circumcision rules out this risk, makes for easier hygiene, and in most cases, gets rid of the foul odor as well.

> Circumcision prevents penile problems. Sometimes, the foreskin of a boy's uncircumcised penis may be difficult to retract, which may lead to inflammation of the head of the penis, a situation known as Balanitis, and create unnecessary complications.

> Many men who go through prostrate or bladder gland problems in later life are seen to develop difficulties with their foreskin.  Early (preventative) circumcision can help them avoid this problem.

> With women, the cancer of cervix is caused by the viruses which thrive on and under the foreskin of a man's penis and thus, can be easily transmitted during intercourseCircumcision helps in decreasing the possibility of this cancer.

> Uncircumcised babies are at a 10% greater risk of kidney infection than the circumcised ones. In addition, uncircumcised babies run more risk of urethra problems as well.

> Studies have also shown that circumcised babies tend to have fewer problems achieving erections at puberty.

And what do doctors who do not favor male circumcision say are the disadvantages?

> Numerous arguments have been presented that there is no medical reason for circumcision.  In addition, as with any surgery, risks are certainly involved in circumcision as well.

> The foreskin of penis protects it and keeps it moist and clean. Circumcision will rob it of all these benefits.

> Because of circumcision, a male might face urination difficulty or some other surgical issues.

> It is widely known that the tip of the penis toughens up without its protective cover (which is removed during circumcision) and the sensitivity can be reduced considerably.

> Sometimes, circumcision may fill a male with apprehension which may keep him from being able to enjoy his sex-life, mainly owning to self-consciousness.

> If it is done without anesthesia (as is the case with many new-borns), the pain of circumcision is unbearable.  Also, if circumcision is performed in infancy, the memory of the pain can last indefinitely, and in some extreme cases, may put the child off sex altogether.

Thus the debate rages on . . .


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Comments (10)

An in-depth overview of this ritual which is of course a vital essence of manhood.

I am hardly qualified to comment.. I do know female circumcision is brutal and should not be allowed.

Ranked #25 in Sexual Health

I think the advantages of circumcision certainly outweigh the opposite point of view, in particular conferring medical advantages like mitigating the evils of cancer and HIV.The lone disadvantage that is often highlighted is it requires more time and friction to reach orgasm during the intercourse.But who wants quick orgasm during an intercourse?

Good presentation to an ongoing debate. In years to come, there probably will be ample discussion as well as there is at the present time. More pros and more cons with probably just the same balance there is today about circumcision.

Ranked #9 in Sexual Health

I did a series on female circumcision but it is on another site

Well presented article on this topic. Who decided that in US society this procedure should be done at birth? I am sure that if the results of the findings were carried out in a country where this practice is not carried out at birth they would have differing results. It is not standard practice in the UK and I have not heard of large numbers of people suffering from cancer because of this. Also the cleanliness issue is surely one of personal hygiene, and not whether you have been circumcised or not.

I am saving this one. I enjoyed reading it.

Thanks, all!

it is really very important and sensitive issue....well presented.thanks James

Well researched, written and presented! Keep it up James.