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Thursday, December 20, 2007

What is circumcision?

What is circumcision?

Surgical amputation of the foreskin, frenulum and about one-third to one-half of the skin of the penis.

What?? Half of the skin from the penis?

Approximately 15 square inches, yup.

It’s just a flap of skin though.

Actually, it’s not just skin. It’s skin on the outside with a thin, sensitive muscle sheath underneath and the same exquisitely sensitive mucosa as the inner edges of your lips on the inside. Right around the edge of the foreskin is a ridged band of tissue which attaches at the frenulum to the underside of the glans. (Together, that band and the frenulum are considered the primary erogenous zone in males - the head of the penis is secondary and much less sensitive.) The foreskin contains about 240 feet of nerves and somewhere around 40,000 nerve endings. You don’t need to be an anatomy expert to understand the basic concept that lost nerves equals lost sensation.

But most circumcised guys say if they were any more sensitive they’d go nuts!

The term ‘more sensitive’ isn’t defined. Men needlessly circumcised as adults have reported the sensitivity & sensation before and after the circumcision like the difference between seeing in colour (being intact) and only seeing in black & white (circumcised). With this analogy, a man circumcised as an infant might say “I have 20/20 vision - it doesn’t get any better than that!” because since he has never experienced seeing in colour, he cannot conceive how it could be different, richer or better.

So they slide the foreskin back and then they trim it off or something?

No, actually it doesn’t even begin to slide back until around age 2 or 3 at the earliest, and generally much later, even during puberty. In a newborn, the foreskin is tightly fused to the glans (head) and shaft of the penis - much like a fingernail is fused to the nail bed. It doesn’t slide back at all.

How do they get it separated to cut it off?

A blunt probe is shoved up into the synechia (the bond holding the foreskin & glans together) to separate them. They rotate the probe around and then rip the foreskin up. The sensation would be like having a fingernail ripped off, except the “fingernail” in this case is on the penis, the most sensitive part of the body. The head of the penis looks very raw and bloody.

Then they cut it off?

They slice into the foreskin and then they usually crush it with a clamp for a few minutes. Then they cut it off. Alternately, they put a plastic bell over the head, and tie a ligature around the foreskin, then cut the foreskin off.

I’m having a hard time picturing this.

Here’s a description of the procedure, with photos which might help.

It all sounds really painful. But they use anesthetic, luckily, right?

The majority of infant circumcisions are done without any anesthetic actually. Here’s a vid of a circumcison performed with a topical anesthetic.

Well, it’s much healthier to circumcise, isn’t it?

There is no medical reason for routine infant circumcision, and no national medical association anywhere in the world recommends it.

But they need it done later on.

No. Routinely amputating healthy tissue to prevent future circumcisions is somewhat like removing the breast tissue of all girls to prevent later breast cancer… except the risk of getting breast cancer over a woman’s lifetime is one in eight, whereas the need for circumcision for any reason is at less than one-half of one percent.

Circumcision doesn’t do any harm though.

Assuming you mean other than the harm of removing the foreskin itself, which always causes the glans of the penis to become keritanized (hardened and less sensitive), and the meatus (the opening of the urethra) to scar up and frequently narrow, requiring surgery to fix it about ten percent of the time, yes, it causes other harms. The latest statistics show that circumcising is actually the cause of more medical expense over a child’s lifetime versus not circumcising. Circumcision complications are deadly serious.

Alright, but it’s cleaner.

Like circumcising a baby girl would make her cleaner? The foreskin requires no special care. Wipe off or wash only the outside of the penis during infancy & childhood. DO NOT RETRACT. As the boy grows older, he will discover when he is retractable and can rinse his glans with water in the shower or bath just like he cleans his other body parts. He may forget to wash behind his ears, but penises generally get quite a bit of attention.

But he’ll be teased by other boys & men!

Doubtful, since barely half of the boys born in America today are circumcised (52% in 2003 and decreasing each year), Canada’s rate is even lower (around 13%) and on the decline as well. Worldwide 85% of men and boys are not circumcised. Instead of cutting normal, healthy tissue off our babies, why not teach them to be proud of their bodies?

Uncircumcised penises look….well…funny.

Only because you are used to seeing circumcised penises rather than whole, normal ones. We don’t amputate other healthy, normal parts of our kids’ bodies without their consent because they offend our tastes - why don’t genitals deserve the same respect?

He’ll definitely want it done when he gets older.

If that was true, then most of the men in the world would be circumcised as adults. However, they aren’t doing that, because they are happy to be whole. That being said, if your son decides he wants to be circumcised when he is old enough to give legal consent he can be, and the operation is much less painful, traumatic and less prone to complications.

Shouldn’t the baby boy match his dad?

There are many inborn differences between fathers and sons and also between brothers. What if the father is missing a finger or has scars from an accident or any other surgery? Should we amputate & cut the baby so he’ll match dad then? If older brothers are circumcised it’s simple to tell the boys that when the older brother was born his penis looked like the younger boy’s penis but back then the parents thought it was a good idea to cut off his foreskin (and that they thought that was a good idea when Daddy was born, too, if that’s relevant) but now we know that we don’t need to do it anymore. It really is that simple, honest!

What about family traditions though?

For most North Americans your “family tradition” is likely about two or three generations old at most and involves your father, possibly his father, and you. The real tradition, the one that goes back centuries, is to have a whole, normal penis, not one with an amputated foreskin. Routine newborn circumcision was unknown in the U.S. outside of Jewish families until the beginning of the 20th century, and the circumcision rate peaked in the 1970s at about 90%. It’s been dropping ever since, and is now right around 50% in the U.S. and 13% in Canada. Many Jewish & Muslim families are choosing to leave their children intact and let them decide whether they want to be circumcised.

Hmmmm… No medical benefits… Definite harms… Intense pain… Not any cleaner… Rather unethical…

Gee, there’s really no reason to do it at all!

You’ve got it.


Anonymous said...

The penis shape and erection angle vary from man to man - there is no normal shape or size and the average erection is roughly horizontal from the body. Most men cannot reach orgasm more than once in about an hour and most have between one and four orgasms per week, depending on their age

Lawrence Wade said...

I spent my first 22 years as a "wet end". I had it fixed when I was 22: circumcision by Gomco clamp after endless foreskin problems.

I love being circumcised, and any sons of mine will be circumcised. I'll give them a gift I didn't have.

Routine infant circumcision requires anesthetic: I'll side with you on that.

Anonymous said...

I was circumcised at age 8-9 according to muslim tradition in India. still remember the pain. No anasthetics are given before operation done by specialist muslim circumciser. The pain is intense during the cutting and afterwards the penis swells up and is black and blue for days.
The exposed glans rubs against clothing as causes pain/discomfort for weeks after until it loses sensitivity eventually. But the worst thing is the psychological effects both before and after which can last a lifetime.


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While some boys may clamor for tuli,

  • They are in no position to know what they are losing. Their consent cannot be considered informed.
  • The peer pressure on them amounts to coercion. Their consent cannot be considered voluntary.

The ethics of a doctor performing that or any cosmetic operation at a child's request are highly debatable. A doctor who did so in almost any other country would certainly be struck off.

Not A Birth Defect!

Not A Birth Defect!

Support Group for Uncircumcised Men in the Philippines

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