Circumcision and cornflakes? Looking back at how circumcision was introduced to America we will come across a man named Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (of Corn Flakes fame) who believed circumcision—especially when performed without anesthetic—would create a link in the patient’s mind between sex and pain, and would make sex less pleasurable and abstinence easier. The pro-intact group Circumcision Resource Center agrees that circumcision reduces sexual feeling. They summarize a 2007 study published in the British Journal of Urology International, stating: “Five locations on the uncircumcised penis that are routinely removed at circumcision are significantly more sensitive than the most sensitive location on the circumcised penis.”
Now if you’re like most parents in the United States who are honored to be having a boy, you are now faced with a so-called decision as to whether or not to circumcise him. I personally subscribe to the school of thought “Facts Before Fables,” so let’s break this down.
I’ve found through years of research that many parents are misguided about circumcision, and do not know what the surgery entails. This is a quote from Dr. Sears on how a circumcision is preformed:
“Baby is placed on a restraining board, and straps secure his hands and feet. The tight adhesions between the foreskin and the glans (or head) of the penis are separated with a medical instrument. The foreskin is held in place by metal clamps while a cut is made into the foreskin to about one-third of its length. A metal or plastic bell is placed over the head of the penis to protect the glans, and the foreskin is pulled up over the bell and the circumferentially cut.”
When you grow up in an era where the trend is circumcision, a lot of people do not even know what a foreskin is, or what purposes it serves. The prepuce (foreskin) is a retractable, double-layered fold of skin and mucous membrane that covers the glans and protects the penis. The outside of the foreskin is a continuation of the skin on the shaft of the penis, but the inner foreskin is a mucous membrane like the inside of the eyelid or the mouth. These types of membranes on the body are meant to keep things wet and moist. Once removed, the penis must compensate in order to protect itself. It forms a thicker layer of skin to defend itself from damage which in turn desensitizes the penis in a process called keratinization. The foreskin contains 20,000–70,000 erogenous nerve endings, the majority of which are concentrated in the ridged band, which encircles the inner opening of the foreskin. When the penis is flaccid, the nerve endings are protected but, when erect, they are exposed. Circumcision removes about three-fourths of the nerve endings in the penis, leaving the circumcised penis severely lacking by comparison. In addition to the nerve endings lost, the foreskin is vital to maintain a healthy penis; the immunological functions of the foreskin help protect the body from pathogens. The sphincter action of the foreskin prevents entry of infectious contaminants. Glands secrete lysozyme, an enzyme that breaks down cell walls of pathogens. The moisture lubricates and protects the mucosal lining of the glans and inner foreskin. The high vascularization of the foreskin brings cells to fight an intruding infection, while Langerhans cells secrete cytokines, proteins that regulate the intensity and duration of immune responses, and langerin, a substance that provides a barrier to HIV infection. The foreskin also serves a few important sexual purposes: it has a gliding mechanism for smooth entry into the vagina, stimulates the female G-spot, works as lubrication, and traps/releases pheromones that help with intimate bonding. There are numerous negative side effects from circumcision, most significantly that babies die this way (about 100 per year), and some lose their entire penis.
You will still see arguments in favor of circumcision though, and some of them sound a bit like this: “He needs to look like his dad,” “It protects against Urinary Tract Infections,” or “It is better to get it done as a baby.” The truth of the matter is these are all fallacies, and hold no water. Your son may or may not look like his father. They more than likely will have a different hair color, or eye color, and it would be ludicrous to change those features to “match,” so why would you surgically alter a penis to match? During the potty training years your husband may be teaching your son, but the major difference he will probably notice is size, or pubic hair. If your son does happen to notice, you could just explain that everyone is different, and that is what makes us unique, and beautiful, or you could explain that when daddy was a baby people were under the impression that removing parts of the penis was needed– I am sure he will thank you after the cringe from hearing that!
Now, as a woman I am always surprised when I see people say they are considering circumcision to prevent Urinary Tract Infections. Woman and girls are ten times more likely to get a UTI than a boy who was spared his foreskin, and in the event they do happen to get a UTI antibiotics or other natural treatments are great at curing them. In the medical world, amputation is always a last resort and saving body parts is the number one priority. We need to get back to basics when it comes to the foreskin, and remember that this is a healthy function body part, and we should treat it as such.
Lastly when I hear people say, “It is better to get it done as a baby,” I am a bit perplexed. It is hard for me to see the logic behind inflicting that type of pain on a baby who is merely a few days old, when you think a grown man could not handle the same pain. Most men will not need to be circumcised as an adult, and if their foreskin was properly cared for during infancy (which means no forcible retraction since the foreskin is securely attached to the glans well into childhood) the odds of him needing an adult circumcision is slim to none. In the rare event that a grow man chooses, or needs a circumcision he could consent to the procedure himself, get proper pain management, and address any healing concerns he had with a professional during the healing process.
Nobody wants to put their child through unnecessary pain and surgery when they do not need to, right? The good news is you do not have to. Every medical association in the world deems circumcision as a procedure where the benefits do not outweigh the risks, and it is not recommended as a routine procedure. This is one thing you can cross off the list of new baby worries. With the circumcision rate down well below 50% in the United states, and 80% of the rest of the world sporting their foreskin as well, your son will be in good company.