Right. Male circumcision. Where to start?
First, the impetus for writing this piece was a conversation I had with a colleague who characterised male circumcision as a form of mutilation. I strongly disputed his position.
I’ve been circumcised and I’ve had my son circumcised, so I know there are a lot of myths that surround and distort the issue.
I felt it was time to set the record straight, and dispel the falsehoods and fictions.
However, as a first-time author writing in my third language, I didn’t feel confident enough to submit this article without help.
Therefore I enlisted the help of the editor of KinBox, Paul Connolly, who helped me put together this story.
So, from the outset, let’s get one thing clear.
Male circumcision is an entirely different proposition to female circumcision.
In fact, the term “female circumcision” is inaccurate and misleading – it’s how evil people (generally men) try to justify and hide their misdeeds. The correct name for this barbaric practice is “female genital mutilation” (FGM).
It’s the act of deliberately cutting, injuring or butchering female genitalia for no good medical reason. It is a sadistic, misogynistic tool designed to prevent women enjoying sex, and nothing more.
Put simply, FGM is a crime against women.
Male circumcision, by comparison, is not banned anywhere
While there is at least debate about the benefits, or otherwise, of male circumcision, that is emphatically not the case when it comes to the cruel practice of FGM.
No respected medical organisation or practitioner has extolled its virtues; quite the opposite, in fact, and throughout Europe pressing is growing to carry out more prosecutions of complicit parents and of those doctors found carrying out the practice, often upon young daughters of fellow countrymen from northern and northwestern Africa, especially Somalia.
Male circumcision, by comparison, is not banned anywhere. In Iceland, there was a recent attempt by five MPs to ban male circumcision but was dismissed by parliament; the same progressive country banned female “circumcision” [sic] in 2005 (what took so long?).
There is a strong indication that the recent attempted ban was motivated by racial and religious intolerance, since such a ban would overwhelmingly impact the Jewish and Muslim communities.
So why is it that female circumcision is rightly viewed with repulsion and male circumcision is not? Quite simply, the first is a gross surgical invasion designed to prevent a woman experiencing orgasm. Male circumcision, by contrast, is simply the removal of the foreskin, the retractable flap of skin that covers the end of the penis.
There are three reasons why male circumcision is carried out. The first, most common, reason is religious or cultural. Circumcision is a common practice in Jewish and Islamic communities, as well as in many African countries that do not fall into those two groups.
The ceremony to remove the foreskin is known as “brit milah” or “bris” for Jews, and is carried out on the baby’s eighth day after birth; in Islam, although not as universal as it is for Jews, “khitan” is in practice carried out on the vast majority of Muslims – the preferred age is usually around the age of six or seven but many are circumcised on the seventh day after birth.
So, why did my wife and I opt for circumcision for our son?
The second reason is medical. It could be that the man in question is experiencing repeated and frequent infections under the foreskin, or others complain of discomfort from a tight foreskin. Typically, patients present for such procedures later in life.
The third group is that of elective circumcision, where adult males choose to do it for one of a number of various personal reasons. These range from cleanliness, cosmetic or aesthetic considerations or for increased sexual pleasure (or so some claim).
Take-up and practice of male circumcision can also be affected by where one is born. In the US, for instance, the American Center For Disease Control and Prevention reports that as many as 80% of American males are circumcised.
In the UK, in contrast, it’s fewer than 20%. In fact, the global average is nearer to that of the UK, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) stating that 33% of the world’s male population is circumcised, and that 70% of that figure is accounted for by Muslims.
Based on a population of 7.8 billion, of which around 52% are men, that would still leave us with a little less than 400 million circumcised males who do it for cultural or medical reasons.
So, why did my wife and I opt for circumcision for our son, Julian? The simplest, and most honest, reason is that I am circumcised myself so it seems natural. It’s not something, in my opinion, that others should read too much into.
I suppose, if I thought about it at all, I simply thought, I had it done and I am fine, so my boys should also have it done – and they’ll also be fine. It really isn’t different from the many things parents indirectly impose on their children in the early years.
At no point did I think, I’ve had a piece of my penis removed and so I must punish my son by inflicting the same upon him
We indirectly impose our religious beliefs (or lack thereof), food choices (meat-eating, vegetarian/vegan and so on), and habits such as hygiene – how many times we brush our teeth each day is something we impose upon our children without thinking about it, after all.
At no point did I think, I’ve had a piece of my penis removed and so I must punish my son by inflicting the same upon him. That’s simply not the case; I could make a list of other things that my parents imposed on me that haunt me to this day. This is categorically not one of them.
There are people out there who claim that imposing circumcision upon a baby or young boy is wrong, akin to abuse; they say, among other things, that in doing so, their parents ruined their sex lives. This baffled me; how could you say it ruined your sex life? You would need “before” and “after” experience to say that with certainty.
So I researched it. I sought out comments by adult men who had had a circumcision later in life, and more importantly, by choice. And I was surprised to learn that many of them said that it was a great decision. They said that they felt better, that sex was also better, and some said that an odd odour that they had sometimes noticed had now gone.
One comment, though, drew my attention. The writer said that all four of his siblings had been circumcised but that he hadn’t, and that he had always felt “discomfort as a child”.
Adult men who were circumcised showed 81% fewer penile bacteria
This point about feeling cleaner and more comfortable is one that comes up repeatedly; perhaps it is is one reason that, despite medical advancement and hygiene in the 21st century making circumcision not quite as essential as it once was, the practice continues to endure.
That said, I believe it’s cleaner and more hygienic, despite never having any problems nor anything to compare it with, given the young age at which I was circumcised.
While many in the medical community say that it is no longer necessary to the extent it perhaps once was, nonetheless, a recent study has shown that adult men who were circumcised showed 81% fewer penile bacteria one year after the procedure.
And there are other tangible health benefits, it seems.
In fact, the American Medical Association, the WHO and the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) all state that circumcision can reduce the chance of infection, of cancer of the penis (yeah, it’s a thing) and even assist with HIV prevention. Several trials carried out in Africa and reported on the NHS website show evidence that circumcised men have an up to 60% lower risk of getting HIV from infected women.
There is also evidence that it can reduce the chance of contracting infections such as gonorrhoea and herpes.
One study in Uganda showed that in couples where the woman is HIV positive, none of the circumcised men contracted it, while 29% of men who were not circumcised were infected. There is some evidence that men who are circumcised are less likely to transmit sexual diseases.
So let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind. How does it affect sex?
And if you are thinking, I only have girls so why should I care about boys and their toys?
Well, you should. Take the HPV virus which is the leading cause of cervical cancer – while men are not affected by the HPV virus, they are carriers and can transmit it to their partners. A circumcised male reduces this risk for his female partners considerably.
So let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind. How does it affect sex? A study of 47 men who reported suffering from premature ejaculation showed that after circumcision they reported lasting ten times longer than previously, and their partners were more satisfied.
Though a word of warning, ladies, before you reach for your knives and meat slicer: you should know that, according to the NHS, there is a risk of bleeding and infection during a circumcision procedure.
As for us, our son had his circumcision carried out at the hospital within a couple of days of his birth. A female doctor undertook the procedure; I told my wife afterward that I was glad that it was a woman rather than a man who was circumcising our son. I told my wife that I just had a feeling that a female doctor would be more careful “not to ruin it”.
When was the last time men willingly did anything that would reduce their own sexual pleasure?
As for my son, he didn’t even flinch or cry – he was completely oblivious.
Finally, for those of you still unconvinced that male circumcision is not a conspiracy to hurt boys, one question. When was the last time men willingly did anything that would reduce their own sexual pleasure?
In fact, don’t tell anyone about my research – if they knew there was evidence that male circumcision would increase your sexual fun by even a smidgeon, every religion and culture would find a way to ban it.
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The above piece represents the personal views and beliefs of the writer. You are advised to speak to your doctor before making any decisions regarding circumcision.
If you have a story to share, please email KinBox’s editor, email@example.com. He helped me tell my story – he can help you tell yours, too.