To circumcise or not to circumcise. That is the question. There has been a long-running debate amongst public health officials and sex-educators on the subject, with major studies lending evidence to both sides. Circumcision is the surgical removal of the penis foreskin, so that the penis head can be seen. This kind of procedure is more common in some cultures than others, as not all cultures view it as necessary.
Advocates of circumcision believe that circumcision improves public health by reducing transmission of infections. Meanwhile, those who are anti-circumcision, believe that it is a form of genital mutilation whose health benefits can be easily attained through simple hygiene and safe sex-practices.
Advantages & Disadvantages of Circumcision
- 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 like syphilis.
- The foreskin of a penis catches more infection and a circumcision rules out this risk, makes for easier hygiene, and in most cases, get 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 complications.
- Many men who go through prostrate or bladder gland problem in later life are seen to develop difficulties with their foreskin. Early circumcision can help them avoid this problem.
- In women, the cancer of cervix is caused by the viruses which thrive on and under the foreskin of a man and thus, can be easily transmitted during intercourse. Circumcision helps in decreasing the possibility of this cancer.
- Uncircumcised babies are at a 10 percent 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 with erection, at puberty.
- Arguments have been put forward 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 as well. Circumcision will rob it of all these benefits.
- Because of circumcision, a guy might face urination difficulty or some other surgical problems.
- It is widely believed that the tip of the penis toughens up without its protective cover (which is removed in case of circumcision) and the sensitivity might also reduce.
- Sometimes, circumcision may fill a guy with apprehension and he may not be able to enjoy his sex-life, mainly owing to self-consciousness.
- If it is done without anesthesia, the pain of circumcision is unbearable. Also, if the circumcision is not done in infancy, the memory of the pain lasts for a long time and in some extreme cases, may put the child off sex itself.
Possible complications associated with circumcision
- Bleeding after or during the infection.
- Infection after the procedure.
- The foreskin may be cut too short.
- The foreskin may be cut too long.
- The foreskin that remains behind may reattach to the end of the penis. In such cases minor surgery is required.
- Urinary retention.
- Inclusion cyst.
- Phimosis – the foreskin is too tight to be pulled back to reveal the glans.
What pediatrics says about circumcision
Male circumcision benefits are greater than the risks, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) after carrying out a comprehensive review of available scientific evidence. However, the Academy emphasizes that it does not consider the benefits are enough to advise parents to have their newborn male babies circumcised; this should be a parental decision based on their cultural, ethical and religious beliefs.
What sexologists say?
To those of us in the sex-education field, there is not a whole lot of mystery about the relationship between circumcision and sexual pleasure. The foreskin has thousands of nerve endings and is an important part of the male sexual system. Removal of the foreskin also leaves the head of the penis — the most sensitive part of the male genitals — constantly exposed. Constant rubbing on clothing and exposure to temperature changes reduces the sensitivity and responsiveness of the nerve endings, creating the demand for more stimulation to trigger a pleasure response.
The head of the penis is the anatomical homologue (match) to the head of the clitoris. So for all the ladies reading this, imagine the very tip of your clitoris constantly exposed and rubbing against your clothes, and you can begin to imagine the desensitization that would occur over time. The clitoris is protected not only by the clitoral hood (the match to the foreskin), but also the fleshy labia. The foreskin is nature’s protective sheath for the sensitive head of the penis.
The foreskin keeps the glans of the penis moist and warm. During arousal, it slowly retracts to expose the glans and acts as a fleshy sheath through which you can stimulate the penis. Many uncircumcised men love the feeling of the foreskin being moved over their erect penis, just as many women love to have their clitoris stimulated from the side, using the hood to buffer direct stimulation.
Missing from the debate about male circumcision has been the question about female pleasure. As a sex-educator, I have spoken with thousands of women about their experience of intercourse with circumcised and uncircumcised men, and a clear pattern has emerged. It seems that circumcision not only affects male pleasure, it changes how they make love. Circumcised men tend to penetrate much more vigorously, in the jackhammer style that is so familiar from our cultural depiction of intercourse. This style of penetration comes from a desperate search for more stimulation and the need to concentrate sensations on the tip of the penis.
Some love it and some hate it. As we have discussed before, depending on your ethnic, cultural, and personal values, you might need to decide for it or against it. Or else you can say, I’m circumcised and my son will be circumcised too!