The Circumcision Debate – Carley Edwards, DC Student

The Benefits of keeping males intact

New parents have a lot of decisions to make when it comes to what’s best for the health of their child. A few decades ago the question of whether or not to circumcise male infants was not a question for most parents living in the US. The majority of infants were put under the knife with parents under the belief that it was healthier and cleaner. Times have changed, and so have circumcision rates.

The history of circumcision dates back to cave paintings and ancient Egyptian tombs. Muslims consider circumcision to be sunnah (routine) and Jews consider it to be a Mitzvah (commandment).  In the late 19th century, people feared that a male’s foreskin would lead a boy to masturbate, and that would lead to insanity, and therefore it was cut off. In 1981, the US circumcision rate was 81 percent. Today, parents are becoming more aware of the physical and emotional effects of circumcision and the rates are dropping. Circumcised boys are actually the minority with over 80 percent of males worldwide intact. As of 2009, the US rate of male circumcision was 32.5 percent. This was a huge drop from 56 percent in 2006. Circumcision in the US costs between $150 and $270 million dollars. It is a major surgery that has many risks including, infection, hemorrhage, septicemia, gangrene, and even loss of the penis. Fifty-one infants died after the procedure in 1999 according to The National Center for Health Statistics. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) website, “circumcision is not essential to a child’s health,” and “data are not sufficient enough to recommend routine neonatal circumcision.”

Infants are circumcised with no anesthesia at all. A Canadian study showed that infants who were circumcised were more sensitive, crankier, and cried more often. According to the AAP, “there is considerable evidence that newborns who are circumcised without analgesia experience pain and physiological stress,” and “physiological responses to circumcision pain include changes in heart rate, blood pressure, oxygen saturation and cortisol levels.” It also has been shown to disrupt the mother-baby bond. After the procedure, babies had trouble nursing and would not look into their mother’s eyes.

A male’s foreskin makes up 80 percent of the skin on a males penis and contains antibodies, antibacterial and antiviral proteins, and an enzyme called lysozyme that helps kill pathogens. This may explain why intact men have a lower risk of contracting STD’s. The glans (head) of the penis is anatomically equivalent to the female clitoris. A woman’s clitoris is protected, and therefore so should the glans. This covering protects it from abrasion, drying and callusing. It is not just skin that is removed during the surgery, but nerves and blood vessels as well. The penile frenulum is an area of the foreskin that is covered with nerves and is considered to be the male g-spot for most intact men. Intact men seem to have better sex lives and the sensitivity of the foreskin has been compared to the lips of the mouth, but this area is partially or completely destroyed during circumcision. The foreskin and the glans work in unison to increase pleasure response. The foreskin also serves as lubricant for females, and without it can cause drying out of the vaginal canal. Foreskin contains several feet of blood vessels that are removed during circumcision. Removing the foreskin removes the most sensitive part of the penis. It was believed that it was harder to keep an intact penis clean, however the opposite has actually been proven.

Another false belief is that those who are circumcised have less chance contracting HIV and other STD’s, when the exact opposite is true. Thirty-five studies have been conducted and was concluded that circumcised men were more at risk for contracting HIV than those who were not. This may be because the lysozymes in the foreskin have anti-viral properties. The AAP says, “behavioral factors appear to be far more important risk factors in the acquisition of HIV infection than circumcision status.”

There are social reasons surrounding a parent’s decision of whether or not to circumcise their child. A father may be worried that his son will look different than him or that he may be picked on. Circumcision rates have dropped dramatically as stated above and more boys are being kept intact which means less chance of them being a minority. It is believed that fathers feel their sons will be different because they have past regret about their own circumcision. According to The Circumcision Resource Center, it may be helpful to explain to ones child that other children have had a part of them removed and that you wanted to keep him natural and whole and then list the reasons why. Overall, an adult can choose to be circumcised later in life if he feels unhappy, but the rate of this is very rare perhaps indicating that intact men are very happy indeed.

As with every birth decision, parents are advised to make an informed choice about their future bundle of joy. For more information, visit and


2 responses to “The Circumcision Debate – Carley Edwards, DC Student

  1. it’s interesting that you do not reference a single study lol
    terrible read

  2. ;;;;;;; There is a movement of Jews who are questioning circumcision, and working to end this abuse of children. The movement ranges from the Orthodox to the secular, and includes mothers, fathers, scholars, historians, medical professionals, activists, and intellectuals.

    Jewish Groups for Genital Integrity

    * Jews Against Circumcision

    * Brit Shalom Celebrants by Mark D. Reiss, M.D.

    * Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective by Ron Goldman, Ph.D.

    * The Current Judaic Movement to End Circumcision: Part 1

    The Kindest Un-Cut Feminism, Judaism, and My Son’s Foreskin by Professor Michael S. Kimmel

    Jewish Intactivist Miriam Pollack has some great commentary on Foreskin Man in this recent interview.

    Jews Speak Out in Favor of Banning Circumcision on Minors ;;;;;;;;

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