There are many myths in the world about circumcision. Even the medical community perpetuates these myths. Circumcision is recommended to be a decision based on balanced information and family history. Unfortunately doctors often exaggerate the unproven benefits and downplay the risks. They often fail to mention the sexual side effects. The truth about circumcision is that none of the suggested medical benefits have been proven. It creates more problems than it solves. Moreover, it can be dangerous. Here are the myths–and the truths.
It’s painless, and they use anesthesia. Even for infants, the penis is extremely sensitive. Infants, having never felt pain, have a lower tolerance for pain and a higher sensitivity to it. Anesthesia is not used routinely. Typically a nurse dips their finger in sugar water and allows the child to suck on it for comfort. The procedure is performed while they are awake and not numbed. When anesthesia is used, doctors rarely wait the recommended time limit before beginning. Even when they use it properly, it doesn’t take the pain completely away. A shot in and of itself hurts, especially in the groin area. They cause the penis to swell, which causes pain, makes the surgery more difficult, and potentially increases the likelihood of a botched circumcision.
It only hurts for a minute. Circumcision takes longer than ten minutes. Beyond that, the child remains sore and in pain throughout the healing process. The mother must keep the circumcision site clean, or an adhesion could form–causing more pain. It is easy for fecal matter to get into the circumcision site area between diaper changes and cause irritation. Moreover, many men have tight and painful erections due to being circumcised. The pain does not always dissipate.
It hurts less for babies than it does for adults, so it’s best to do it when they are infants. Infants are at higher risk of hemorrhage, especially considering they could be undiagnosed anemics. Moreover, as mentioned before, they have a lower pain tolerance and a higher sensitivity to pain. Anesthesia is not used routinely or even properly when administered. Infants are given topical creams or local anesthesia to numb the pain but are awake during the procedure. Adults and older children are usually under general anesthesia during the procedure; they feel nothing. They are also given stronger pain medication to take during the recovery period than infants, who are simply given a few drops of Tylenol to help them cope.
They won’t remember it anyway. There is no proof that we retain no memory whatsoever of events that happen when we are infants. In fact, there is surmounting evidence to suggest that the events of our infancy do have an impact on the personalities we develop and the people we become. Crying for prolonged periods has been shown to have an effect on the brain that can be lasting, for example. Homebirthed babies, especially who experienced a lotus birth, tend to be calmer and more gentle, at least as infants. Circumcised infants have a stronger reaction to the pain of shots than intact boys do. Many people theorize that we remember even the events of our birth subconsciously. Regardless, the procedure is still painful, and it hurts whether the child remembers it or not.
It’s just a quick snip; all they do is nip the tip. No, it’s a surgical procedure. First the baby is strapped down so that he cannot move, which in and of itself is frustrating for a newborn. Antiseptic is applied to cleanse the area, and then a surgical drape is laid down. The foreskin is grasped with forceps, and the opening is stretched. A membrane called the synechia, which attaches the glans to the foreskin, must be torn apart. The foreskin is clamped, pinched tightly with surgical pliers, while a slit is made in the foreskin with surgical scissors. The foreskin is turned back. By now the surgical drape is stained with the infant’s blood. The plastibaell is pushed over the glans, and the doctor pulls the foreskin over the plastibell. A string is tied tightly around it. They wait a while for the foreskin to be crushed and then slice it off, leaving only a rim of tissue behind and removing one third of the sensitive penis skin.
Circumcision is safe and harmless. The complication rate is between 2 and 10%. There’s not nearly enough formal research on this aspect of circumcision. Sources disagree on actual rates of complication. Risk of hemorrhage may be as small as 0.1% and higher than 1%. Children have died from hemorrhage, some of whom had undiagnosed hemophilia or anemia due to their age. Sepsis may occur 0.5% of the time or more. Some men lose their entire penis or entire parts of it. Adhesions can form at the circumcision site, where the leftover skin adheres to the glans due to build-up. It must be ripped back, which is very painful. This happens to 71% of circumcised little boys, and one third of them will have very severe adhesions. Circumcision increases risk of ulcer formation at the urethra, requiring surgical correction so that the child can pee and to prevent kidney failure. Risks of other complications such as meatitis and meatal stenosis range from 8-21%. The risk of infection is higher. There are a host of complications that can occur with circumcision. They aren’t the norm, but hundreds of thousands are afflicted by them each year.
Doctors recommend it be routine. Actually, most medical organizations of the world are against routine infant circumcision. This includes the AAP, the AMA, and various other groups. They believe the parents should be given accurate, balanced information about the risks of benefits. The decision should then be made on an individual basis, taking into consideration risk factors such as family history. The medical benefits are not proven, and thus parents need to do their research rather than just nod their consent.
They may need it done later on anyway. Circumcision is rarely necessary. Most infections for which circumcision is used as a cure can be treated painlessly, effectively, and inexpensively with antibiotics and better hygiene. That treatment is much more efficient and much less painful. The chance of your child actually needing to be circumcised is incredibly low, as there are few conditions that would require circumcision. None of those conditions involve infections, but physical problems such as the foreskin not retracting in an adult male.
It prevents penile cancer. According to the American Cancer Society, the risk is decreased by less than 0.01%. They do not consider circumcision effective at preventing penile cancer. They do not list it as prevention. The risk of complication for circumcision is, according to all sources, at least ten times higher than the rate by which it supposedly decreases risk of penile cancer. The American Cancer Society believes that proclaiming circumcision as penile cancer prevention is misleading. Moreover, many studies have been done that conclude there is no difference between the number of intact men and circumcised with HPV–which is what causes penile cancer.
It decreases a man’s risk of HIV and HPV. These studies are considered highly flawed by most medical organizations. Many socioeconomic factors were not taken into consideration. The medical community considers the data suggestive, but inconclusive. Other data, which isn’t as highly publicized, suggests that the risk is not increased. Common sense tells us it’s probably increased, being that the foreskin exists to prevent infection and is even equipped with antibodies. There is a lot of evidence concluding that a man’s risk of passing on HIV and HPV, once he has contracted it, is much higher when he is circumcised. It may very well decrease these risks, but no one knows for sure yet.
It’s cleaner. Smegma is a substance made of dead skin cells, oils, and bacteria that accumulates under the foreskin. It has a strong odor, and thus many consider it to be unclean. The truth is that it is only unclean when allowed to build up for several weeks and then to start decaying. Smegma is very clean and is an emollient. It keeps the penis moist, smooth, and soft. It protects genitals from infection, because it contains antibodies. It provides lubrication during sex. It is actually used in some skin care products, because of its antibiotic properties and its functionality as an emollient. That build-up under the foreskin isn’t dirty or unclean; it’s a substance that is there to protect the penis.
It’s easier to keep a circumcised penis clean. Not really. In the diapering years, mothers have to gently retract the circumcision site to wipe there and keep an adhesion from forming. We also have to avoid wiping fecal matter into the circumcision site, which can cause irritation. Wiping an intact penis is like wiping a long, flat finger, as the foreskin is closed around the glans until the child is several years old. Later on, a circumcised man still needs to wash his penis, taking extra care around the head where his circumcision is to clear dirt that may build up. Even a circumcised man can have smegma. An intact man has to take a few seconds to retract his foreskin in the water and massage the smegma away for a few seconds. All men need to keep their penises clean, and it’s not difficult to clean a foreskin.
It prevents infections. Actually, the function of the foreskin is to prevent infections. Smegma has antibodies in it that fight off foreign agents. The foreskin keeps dirt away from the glans to prevent penile infection. Circumcised boys tend to have more penile infections and irritations, especially in the early years. Circumcised men can still develope conditions such as phimosis. Good hygiene is much more effective at preventing infection than circumcising. Antibiotics are a much better way of treating infections. The foreskin prevents infections, not circumcision.
It prevents UTI. All studies conducted on this are again considered highly flawed and thus inconclusive by organizations like the AAP. Urinary tract infections are very rare for little boys, only about 1% for intact males. Dr. Wiswell was the first to conclude that circumcision prevents UTI, and even his flawed numbers suggest we’d have to perform almost 100 circumcisions to prevent one case. He studied babies in the NICU, who were too sick to be circumcised and more likely to develope UTI which is associated with many of the problems babies are placed in the NICU for. They were likely to have catheters, which increases risk of UTI. He should have studied healthy babies. Other studies have been unable to prove that circumcision decreases risk of UTI, and some studies suggest it may actually increase the risk. The AAP and NKUDC don’t consider circumcision useful in reducing rate of UTI. Intact boys may be at higher risk for the first few months of life, but most boys are left intact due to prematurity or illness–which is what increases their risk of UTI. There are much more effective ways of preventing and treating UTI than circumcision.
Because it is so uncommon, intact little boys are often teased. Actually, only 60% of boys these days are circumcised. Intact penises are less common, but not unheard of. Little boys tend to judge each other by factors other than the appearance of their penises anyway. As more parents become informed, more are deciding not to perform the procedure. The numbers are fast approaching a split 50/50, with intact being just as common as circumcised.
It has no negative side effects, because the foreskin is useless. Circumcision greatly affects a child’s sexuality. Circumcised adult men lack 15 square inches of penis compared to their intact counterparts. The foreskin not only prevents infection but provides lubrication during sex, which enhances the experience. It also keeps the glans smooth, moist, soft, and above all sensitive by preventing it from becoming calloused as it bumps against clothing and whatnot. The foreskin is extremely sensitive in and of itself. Men lose much sensitivity when they are circumcised. They are more likely to thrust harder and faster working twice as hard to adequately stimulate themselves than their intact counter parts. This, and the lack of lubrication, can make sex less enjoyable for their mates. Men who begin foreskin restoration report an immediate increase in sensitivity and sexual satisfaction.
Little boys need to look like daddy. When circumcision first became popular in the US, many children were circumcised who had intact fathers. No baby has a penis who looks like his father’s. The penises of adults are much larger and hairier than a child’s will be. All penises are different in shape and size. Some bend to the left, and some to the right. It is not difficult to explain why daddy has no foreskin, while Johnny does. Children do not develop a complex over being left intact. However, many circumcised men feel raped, robbed of a functional organ, and angry that it was done without their consent.
Male circumcision is incomparable to female circumcision. Only female circumcision is genital mutilation. The definition of mutilation is “to injure, disfigure, or make imperfect by removing or irreparably damaging parts; to deprive of a limb or other essential part.” During circumcision, the foreskin is removed, depriving the little boy of that organ forever. That is exactly what the definition of mutilation is. Circumcision has no proven benefits and many risks, like female circumcision. It decreases genital sensitivity and sexual sensitivity. It is done without the consent of the patient “for their own good.” Many victims of male circumcision, just like female victims of female genital mutilation, feel angry, raped, or depressed because of it. They wish it hadn’t been done to them and that it could be undone. Many men seek restoration, just as women do. Female and male genital mutilation are both wrong. The effects of male circumcision are almost the same as that of female circumcision.
Male circumcision is genital mutilation, and it is wrong. It should not be done to a person without his consent. It is unnecessary and dangerous. It has negative sexual side effects and increases a man’s risk of many problems. There are no proven benefits to circumcision. It is no longer recommended as routine. More and more parents are becoming aware of these facts and choosing not to circumcise. Leave your son’s perfect penis intact, the way God made it. He’ll thank you one day. And if he’d rather be circumcised, he can always decide himself to have the procedure done.