More Than 5 Million American Men May Want Their Foreskins Back

It’s too early to conclusively say, but preliminary data indicates high willingness for regenerative procedure in just the U.S. alone.

Foregen and YouGov America

Earlier this year, with the help of a special donor for this project, Foregen commissioned YouGov America, “an international research data and analytics group”, to conduct two separate national surveys on the topic of male circumcision in the United States.

These two surveys which Foregen commissioned were based on an original survey from 2015 commissioned by YouGov themselves. We’ll refer to this original YouGov survey as the “2015 survey”. One of Foregen’s surveys, which we’ll refer to as the “2021 Survey”, is simply an identical reproduction of the original YouGov 2015 survey. We did this to compare any differences between public opinion between these two surveys using an identical set of questions. 

The second Foregen survey is a modified set of questions, which we’ll refer to as the “Modified Survey”. These two surveys by Foregen, along with the original YouGov survey from 2015, combine to make the three individual surveys that we’ll be discussing in this article. All of the surveys collected the standard demographic data of respondents and fielded five primary questions, while the modified survey rearranged the order in which the questions were asked and included additional questions. Foregen fielded both of its surveys at the same time.

In this article, we’ll be discussing some thoughts and ideas behind what we think is happening from the data that we collected and its comparison to the 2015 survey. Readers need to know that the margins of errors for the surveys are as follows: ∓4% for the 2015 Survey, ∓3.4% for the 2021 Survey, and ∓3.35% for the Modified Survey. As we’ll discuss later, we do believe that there are good inferences to be made even from those data that fall within the margin of error when reviewed holistically, in combination with those data which are outside the margin of error.

The Foreskin’s Current State of Affairs

The first question that was asked of respondents was “Do you think that male children should or should not be routinely circumcised?”

In 2015, 47% of respondents said that they thought male children should be routinely circumcised, and this dropped to around 43% in 2021. A slight increase in respondents reporting “No”, and little change in the rather large group of respondents indicating that they weren’t sure. We see that 42% - 43% of Americans think that male children should be routinely circumcised, but not the majority. In fact, over a third of Americans are not sure.

Most of us are aware of the pervasive myths used to justify circumcision, and these myths have been debunked compellingly many times before. One of the biggest myths that people think of as a reason to circumcise their sons is the idea that circumcised men are somehow inherently more hygienic than their uncircumcised (intact) counterparts, and we wanted to know the current status of public opinion on the matter.

The data shows a majority lean against the outright belief that circumcised men are more hygienic. In our view, the reported 25% (2015)  and 23% (2021) of respondents are healthy numbers because it indicates that a substantial amount of people -about a quarter of the population- are willing to admit that they aren’t sure if circumcision really is more or less hygienic. This is promising because many of these people could be very open to education on the subject, something that we’ll talk about later.

With the Modified Survey we asked something a bit different, yet fairly straightforward. Do respondents think that circumcision is medically justified? Almost 50% think it is. While at first this may seem depressing or aggravating for those who are educated on the subject, the good news is that nearly 20% of Americans understand that it is not medically justified, and a third of Americans are not sure.

The percentage of respondents who indicated “Yes” to this question is higher than the previous two questions, and this may simply be in part because people feel that circumcision is medically justified when it is performed, even if they don’t feel it needs to be done routinely or to provide superior hygiene. The good news again is that a third of Americans are not sure if circumcision is medically justified. To us, this can be seen as a subset of the population opportune for education surrounding the real lack of benefits and very real risks and consequences surrounding circumcision.

Hypothetically speaking, up to a third of all Americans could be open to making an actual “No” decision when asked if circumcision is medically justified, turning that “No” response rate from 19% to over 50%. This isn’t including the 48% of respondents who indicated “Yes” where the vast majority, we believe, are probably grossly uneducated about circumcision and could change opinions if given good education and resources.

The next question epitomizes the need for such educational materials and resources to be made available.


First, “risks or complications” can mean many different things to different people. While many “yes” respondents may have a very strong understanding of the risks and complications associated with circumcision, many could also have only vague ideas such as “bleeding” or “trouble feeding and sleeping”. More commonly accepted risks such as ”infection”, “injury”, and “pain” are often taken as a given or as irrelevant since they are intrinsic to virtually any invasive medical procedure, so respondents who indicated “Yes” may only have these in mind and not actually have a full understanding of the very real risks and complications of circumcision. This would not be entirely surprising given the apathetic, or at times even elated attitude toward circumcision in the U.S. and its general regard as something akin to a quick “snip”. In other words, many of those “Yes” respondents may not actually know of the real risks or complications as we understand them, such as meatitis and meatal stenosis, adhesions and skin bridges, phimosis at a rate as high as uncircumcised men, buried or trapped penis, death, and a plethora of other serious issues. [1]

More importantly, almost half of all Americans outright do not know of any risks or complications associated with circumcision, and this question doesn’t even allude to the known consequences of circumcision extensively discussed in the literature (namely, the removal of healthy and erogenous tissue). 22% of respondents said they were not sure, which for this question adds an additional element of uncertainty. Are they not sure of any known risks or complications associated with circumcision or are they not sure if what they may know has validity to it? In hindsight, we’d like to rephrase this question’s response choices in a future survey, but for the time being, we can say that nearly 70% of Americans do not know of or are not sure of any risks or complications associated with circumcision. This is an astoundingly high number of people who are lacking basic and essential education on an issue that is pushed so hard on new parents.

Do Parents Want to Circumcise Their Sons?

With an alarming number of Americans lacking even a basic understanding of the subject, how many Americans would circumcise their sons? Although the 2021 and Modified surveys differed slightly, data were largely similar between them where applicable with one exception. A notable difference was observed in respondents' answers to the following question.

Based on this data, fewer Americans may be willing to circumcise their sons, however other factors may be at play.


A possible explanation for the data is that individuals may have felt more compelled to answer either yes or no in the 2015 and 2021 surveys because the third option was “prefer not to say”. In contrast, the Modified Survey’s third option was “not sure”. This may be somewhat representative of the real-life situation that many parents are faced with when physicians offer, often pressuring them, with the procedure for their newborn son. When given the clear opportunity to be unsure (as opposed to effectively refusing to answer), people may be much more apt to openly take the “not sure” position, put off circumcision, and research the subject more thoroughly. If there’s any merit to this hypothesis, it’s good news as it could indicate that up to 21% of the population immediately wants to make an informed decision upon being proposed with the question. We’re confident that this decision would naturally be not to circumcise if accurate and appropriate education and materials were freely provided to them.


Additionally, this question was also reordered from the 2015 and 2021 surveys to be presented before the hygiene question, not after. This eliminated any reminders by the survey itself of any social myths surrounding hygiene since the survey is completed one question at a time. If this hypothesis has any truth to it, it is an important point not only concerning the value of properly educating the public about these myths but also that the public may be highly receptive to such education on the basis that merely lacking a reminder of a pervasive myth caused up to 6% more people to question the practice. This begs the question of what data we would see when persons are informed about the full risks and lack of benefits and may suggest just how powerful tactful education can be with this issue.

Circumcised Population Remains Unchanged

The number of circumcised adult men in the United States, according to these data, is probably somewhere around 83 million men [2]. At first glance, it appears that the percentage of circumcised men has increased, but we can also see that the percentage of men unwilling to answer or who are not sure of their answer to the question has decreased from the 2015 survey. It should be noted that an expected drop in circumcision rates would be unlikely to affect these figures because this represents only five years of population flow. It’s also important to remember that the percentage of circumcised men is not the same thing as the rate of circumcisions performed. To see the percentage of circumcised men reduced significantly, either a relatively long period of time would need to pass with overall declines in the rate of circumcision, or a very severe decline in circumcision procedures over a short period of time, which would need to have occurred many years ago as respondents were all over the age of 18 for all surveys.


It should be noted that an expected drop in circumcision rates would be unlikely to affect these figures because this represents only five years of population flow. It’s also important to remember that the percentage of circumcised men is not the same thing as the rate of circumcisions performed. To see the percentage of circumcised men reduced significantly, either a relatively long period of time would need to pass with overall declines in the rate of circumcision, or a very severe decline in circumcision procedures over a short period of time, which would need to have occurred many years ago as respondents were all over the age of 18 for all surveys.

So Who Wants Their Foreskin Back?

While the population of circumcised men is largely unchanged, we wanted to know how many of those circumcised men would prefer to be uncircumcised.

The percentage of respondents who indicated “Yes” may seem low, but we have to remember that education on this subject is probably going to inflate this number rapidly in the coming years. To further this point, let’s not forget that 6% of men in the Modified Survey said that they were “Not sure” if they were circumcised. If we assumed that the 14% of respondents who indicated “Not sure” were converted to “yes”, then we’d have a respectable 30% of the circumcised population who would want to be uncircumcised. Foregen will likely convert much of this 14%, and more, by pushing forward the key projects that will shatter the myths used to justify circumcision, such as Foregen’s recently initiated histological study of the human foreskin. Such a study has not been conducted since 1996, and never with modern techniques and equipment.

So then, who wants their foreskin back? The answer is that 38% of unhappily circumcised American men may want to get their foreskins back, with 13% reporting that they’re not sure about the idea.


The primary issue here is that the sample size was pared down since the question was exclusively asked of men who were circumcised and specifically wished otherwise. We’d like to see a much larger sample size before we make any definitive inferences from this data, and respondents should also know slightly more about such a procedure before their responses can be considered more conclusive. However, if we do assume that this data is nationally representative, and understanding that regenerative medicine is factually the only current avenue to regrow a real foreskin and fully reverse circumcision, that would mean about 5.2 million men [3] could be interested in undergoing Foregen’s procedure, and that’s just in the United States alone! Imagine if people knew the harms of circumcision and the benefits of having a foreskin. That number would likely be quite a bit larger.

As we saw above, 70% of Americans do not know of or are not sure of any risks or complications of circumcision, and at least 48% believe that circumcision is medically justified. Understanding the fact that scientific research undeniably proves the harms of circumcision as well as the benefits and functions of the foreskin, it is only a matter of time before the information permeates the culture enough to heavily reduce these numbers. To get an idea of just how much an impact education could have, yet another hypothetical conversion of “Not sure” respondents into “Yes” respondents for Questions 6 and 7 (Modified Survey) would increase the number of American men who may seek Foregen to around 13 million. [4]

Moving Forward

If this data is taken to represent the national opinion, then it’s best to take the realist’s approach of “glass half full, glass half empty”. Many would, of course, have preferred to see widespread majority opinion staunchly against circumcision, but culturally the United States is not at this stage and we cannot expect such change to occur without serious and focused action. The great news is that it seems like a substantial percentage of the population is probably open to questioning the circumcision status quo, and they could be highly receptive to educational materials, provided that they’re made to be socially presentable and culturally digestible.

The data shows that responses of “No” to the questions “Do you think that male children should or should not be routinely circumcised?”, “Do you think that circumcised men are more or less hygienic than uncircumcised men?, and “Do you think that circumcision is medically justified?” tend to hover around the 20% range, and this may be a way to roughly gauge the overall percentage of the population’s stance against circumcision. If we continue in that vein and in that context, the percentage of the population against circumcision would be brought from that 20% zone to a majority of over 50% if one could convince the “not sure” respondents. In other words, a high-level educational campaign that is cordial, meaningful, and empathetic could turn public opinion on circumcision into a majority opposed to the practice. It would only be a matter of time from there before the practice comes to an end.

However, the data is different for the question “Do you think you would or would not circumcise any potential male child of yours?” because numerically speaking, converting “prefer not to say” or “Not sure” responses into “No” would not provide for a majority against circumcising their sons. As discussed earlier we strongly believe that this is a testament to the immense cultural and practitioner peer pressure that is exerted against parents to circumcise their sons. Since outside of this specific question, it appears rather clear that hard majority opinion is not dedicated to pro-circumcision stances, and that the decision to circumcise one’s son appears to have additional, lurking variables. As we see with the Modified Survey, there is a noticeable difference in respondents' answers when they are not first prompted with a reminder of a circumcision-supporting myth and are also given a “Not sure” option. When compared to the 2021 Survey for that same question, that 6%, numerically speaking, went directly from “Yes” to “Not sure”.

Obviously, and as mentioned at the start of this article, there is difficulty extrapolating definitive inferences from these data. Subsequently, as is very often the case in statistics, our inferences combine the data with general cultural and expert knowledge to produce hypotheses that could help explain the observations that we see. Despite this, the overarching theme within these parameters appears to be indicative of questioning views about male circumcision. We believe this because much of the data shifts as a general whole in a predictable manner, which very well could indicate a trend in changing opinions against outright support for circumcision, albeit slowly. As is so often the case in science and statistics, more research is needed.

If you’re interested in making more of that research happen, seeing more content like this, and furthering the science and education necessary to accomplish full foreskin regeneration, we encourage you to make a tax-deductible donation to Foregen here.

Individuals interested in looking at the data directly may do so with the following links: YouGov 2015 Survey; Foregen 2021 Survey; Foregen Modified Survey.


Sources

[1] Complications: Doctors opposing circumcision. https://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/for-professionals/complications/ 

[2] Based on the approximate combined survey average of 65% for “Yes” respondents to Question 4 (2015 & 2021) and Question 5 (Modified) applied to the U.S. adult male population. Population Source: United States Census Bureau.

[3] Based on the modified survey’s subsequential subset percentage of Question 7 “Yes” responses applied to the U.S. adult male population. Population Source: United States Census Bureau.

[4] Based on the modified survey’s subsequential subset percentage of Question 7 “Yes” and “Not sure” responses combined and applied to the U.S. adult male population. Population Source: United States Census Bureau.