Some of the widespread misconceptions that are used to justify circumcision:
- It’s cleaner
- It’s a useless piece of skin
- It's aesthetically nicer
- It's painless and quickly forgotten
- Everyone does it
- It reduces risk of cancer
- It decreases the risk of STDs and HIV
- It’s an important tool in the fight against AIDS
It is enlightening to realize that many of these myths are not similar, but identical to the justifications used to rationalize the excision of sexual tissue from females in parts of Africa.
HuFo puts to rest these ever-changing justifications for this millennia-old practice, a deliberate attempt to blunt male sexuality and deter masturbation. (1) (2)
Addressing the Individual Circumcision Misconceptions
Doesn’t circumcision make the penis cleaner?
The foreskin is largely analogous to the eyelid. Would your eyes be cleaner if your eyelids were cut off? No. By nature, your glans is an internal organ just like your eye. The secretions of your foreskin are as essential as the secretions of your eyelid to maintain your penis' health. Not one study has confirmed a single carcinogenic property of preputial secretions although many postulate their existence to promote the practice; but there isn’t any evidence to suggest these secretions cause cancer any more than your tears do. The reason this myth still exists is because at the turn of the 20th century doctors advocated circumcision for morally hygienic reasons, i.e. a masturbation deterrent. The hygienic myth has been repeated so many times many have accepted it as fact unaware that we assign a different meaning to the word today.
Other justifications some doctors employ is that circumcision will make it easier to clean your child’s penis. You wouldn’t clean inside your infant’s vagina or under your child’s eyelids would you? Medical advice to retract and clean under your child’s foreskin is equally ill-advised since the foreskin and glans are naturally-fused structures in childhood. To clean your baby’s intact penis you simply rinse the exposed part with warm water. As an adult, cleaning your penis is as simple as retracting your foreskin and rinsing it. Ask an intact friend, he can confirm this.
Isn’t the foreskin a useless flap of skin?
HuFo shatters this myth. Not only is HuFo integral to natural penile form and function, it is the primary sensory tissue of the penis that is half skin, half mucosal tissue, and all of the male G-spot.
It is, we contest, impossible to hold onto this myth after watching the HuFo video.
Isn’t the circumcised penis aesthetically nicer?
This is a matter of opinion. Identical mechanisms are operating for many tribes in Africa, who genuinely prefer the aesthetics of a circumcised female. Each culture thinks of themselves as morally superior. Given such relativity, is it ethical to amputate functional tissue from any infant to conform to the selective and changing beauty standards of the present, which may change and be held differently for him or her? With females the answer is no. With males the answer is no as well unless it relates to his penis. This double standard is a relic of custom and fear, to which surely has no place in the medical world.
Isn’t circumcision painless and quickly forgotten?
It’s actually a fact that circumcision is extraordinarily painful. We have measured the physiological changes in the newborn infant who endures this surgery. He has sharp increases in breathing rates, crying, blood pressure, and stress hormones. (3) (4) Not to mention post circumcision babies routinely exhibit signs of post-traumatic stress: decreased appetite, disrupted breastfeeding, disinclination to interact with mothers and caretakers, altered sleep patterns, and diminished REM sleep. (5) (6) Many psychologists contend that the pain from tearing apart and then crushing / amputating the most exquisitely sensitive parts of the infant’s body are so painful that they permanently alter the child’s brain chemistry forever, modifying his response to painful stimuli and the depth of his social and sexual relationships. (7) (8) (9)
If everyone else has this done to their child, shouldn’t I?
Not only is this not true, as the vast majority of the world’s men are genitally intact, but it is no longer true for the US. Circumcision peaked at about 90% in the 1970s to approximately 55% today. Even if everyone did circumcise their child, that would not be a valid reason to do it. In fact, it directly conflicts with the American ideals of rugged individualism and personal autonomy.
What about penile cancer?
Penile cancer, although scary, is exceedingly rare and treatable. Prophylactic amputation of any body part is wrong. If we wanted to use that reasoning, prophylactically mastectomizing male infants would be far more effective in preventing cancer and saving lives; but why stop there? Prophylactically mastectomizing female infants would save many hundreds of times more lives. Of course… that would be ethically outrageous. Although it's conceivable that removing half of the skin on the penis does reduce your chance of this exceedingly rare and treatable cancer, it's tough to explain why non-circumcising nations like Finland and Denmark have half the rate of penile cancer as Americans. (10)
Doesn't the foreskin pose a health risk increasing your chance of STDs and HIV?
Circumcision is a powerful expression of cultural and religious beliefs. When studying circumcised vs. intact cohorts one needs to account for these beliefs as they drive behavior more than the presence or absence of a foreskin. Nothing is more evident than the early population studies that “proved” circumcision conferred health benefits.
The failure to recognize circumcision as an expression of culture, which drives behavior, is largely repeated today in African studies. When measuring STD-contraction rate, researchers fail to (consciously or not) take into account that men who have already been circumcised outside of western influence are more likely to be Muslim and thus culturally tend to be more sexually conservative and less prone to engage in high-risk behavior. Additionally, researchers make sure to thoroughly educate those who are circumcised of proper sexual habits and condom use (the actual way to prevent HIV). Lastly those who are circumcised cannot engage in sexual activity for 8 weeks post-amputation because of the pain and healing, thus minimizing their viable time for STD exposure. Combining cultural behavior, proper education, and the smaller time-frame to contract the virus that the circumcised population has in these "studies" ensures that these researchers "prove" their pre-conceived conclusions. NOTE: There are also studies that show that circumcision has no or detrimental effects in contracting disease so the fact that something is "in a study" means nothing if you don’t analyze the study’s validity.
Lastly, we find that even if circumcision conferred a benefit to the recipient, we know lifestyle choices are VASTLY more important in the contraction of STDs. Want proof? Well the US has both the highest rate of STDs, HIV, AND circumcision in the developed world. Meaning… it's not how much penis you have, it's what you do with it.
What about the campaign to circumcise Africa?
It’s well known, even by the most ardent of circumcisers, that safe sex practices are far more effective than the absence of a foreskin. Then why promote circumcision? There are two possible reasons:
- To gather “evidence” that circumcision reduces your risk of HIV from the biased studies noted in the passage above. Circumcision was first hypothesized in 1986 as an HIV-deterrent for heterosexual men, during a time when there was no heterosexual HIV in the US, thus shifting attention to Africa. Africa provides the perfect environment for pre-determined studies, rife with easily overlooked systemic biases that shift the research towards the wanted conclusion.
- Africa, by and large, is lacking an established first world medical community to advocate for normal penile anatomy, such as those found in Western Europe and Australia. Pro-circumcision doctors have been trying and failing to spread this practice to Europe for decades. An established medical community would never adopt a painful and prophylactic amputation based off of dubious medical value that also directly violates the person’s right to bodily integrity. Luckily for pro-circumcision doctors, many parts of Africa do not have a pre-established medical community to battle this highly patronizing “relief-effort” based off of cherry-picked studies.
If circumcision is so terrible, then why do many doctors still perform or recommend circumcision?
It has to do with systemic ignorance with the human foreskin. Anatomy books throughout the 20th century described the foreskin in one sentence: "the prepuce covers the glans," in spite of groundbreaking research in the 1990s that undeniably demonstrates the highly erogenous qualities of HuFo. Urology books devote many pages to obscure infections, but circumcision is often granted only a paragraph or two, meaning the most popular surgery in the United States is granted only 4 sentences! (11) That is because circumcision is not medicine, it started as a blood sacrifice and continues to this day through misinformation, ignorance, subjective beauty standards, tradition and fear.
Even the very premise of this question is flawed. Not only would most doctors in the world never perform an involuntary circumcision, they are righteously appalled that a so-called "civilized" nation would perform this on their young. There is, however, a vocal minority of doctors in the US who vehemently defend and promote circumcision. The cultural biases of these doctors and their incessant need to justify their own circumcisions are painfully obvious to the objective observer and formally documented by an extensive panel of multi-national physicians. (12)
 A Circumcised penis is actually markedly less hygienic as feces and urine will come in contact with the glans during infancy. The foreskin is there to protect this delicate structure from these and other contaminants.
 One may deem breast tissue and foreskin tissue a false equivalency. The relative importance of the tissue and scarring imposed is relative to the individual and cannot be ascertained as a neonate. The simple fact that adult men and women do not volunteer for circumcisions or mastectomies in large numbers respectively speaks volumes for the future preferences of your child.
 These studies of course receive no media attention.
 We also have the highest rate of sexual violence.
1. Geiger, Abraham. Nachgelassene Schriften (Unpublished Writings). Berlin : s.n., 1878.
2. Kellogg, John Harvey. Treatment for self-abuse and its effects. 1888.
3. Letter regarding peri-natal hospital stays and the performance of circumcision. Van Howe, R. 1996, Journal of Family Practice, p. 431.
4. Comparison of Ring Block, Dorsal Penile Nerve Block, and Topical Anesthesia for Neonatal Circumcision. Lander, Janice, et al. 1997, Journal of the American Medical Association, pp. 2157-2162.
5. The effects of circumcision on serum cortisol and behavior. R., Gunnar M., et al. 1981, Psychoneuroendocrinology, pp. 269-275.
6. Neonatal circumcision reconsidered. Rhinehart, J. 1999, Transactional Analysis, pp. 215-21.
7. Genital pain vs. genital pleasure: why the one and not the other? Prescott, J. W. 1989, Truth Seeker, pp. 14-21.
8. Huff, Ethan A. Extreme trauma from male circumcision causes damage to areas of brain. Natural News. [Online] March 8, 2015. http://www.naturalnews.com/048907_male_circumcision_brain_damage_child_abuse.html.
9. Can adverse neonatal experiences alter brain development and subsequent behavior? Anand, K. J. and Scalzo, F. M. 2000, Biology of the Neonate, pp. 69-82.
10. Falling Incidence of Penis Cancer in an Uncircumcised Population-Denmark, 1943-1990. Frisch, M., Friis, S. and Kjaer, S. K. 1995, British Medical Journal, p. 1471.
11. Smith's Urology. New York : McGraw-Hill, 1963, 1975, 1981, 1992, 1995, 2004.
12. Cultural Bias in the AAP’s 2012 Technical Report and Policy Statement on Male Circumcision. Pediatrics. [Online] March 8, 2015. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/131/4/796.short