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The Perspective on Circumcision

By Julian Bonte-Friedheim
 Getty / Christopher Furlong
*Updated 2023
Male circumcision is a ritual that has been performed by humans for thousands of years. It’s a long-standing tradition in many societies based on practical, religious, health and cultural reasons. The majority of male Americans are circumcised (more than 60%, according to the World Health Organization) whereas most Western European countries have generally ended the practice (circumcision rates there are lower than 20%). Though the trend – even in America – has been in decline over the decades, why do we continue to circumcise our boys? Based on what we know now, are there good reasons for continuing to do so?
Here are three reasons against the practice of circumcision and three advocating it.


Arguments against circumcision


It’s non-consensual

Circumcising a newborn child is inherently done without his approval. They aren’t old or self-aware enough to make a valid decision, much less communicate it. Often this procedure is done without painkillers, which can be extremely painful. Just because the infant is too young to remember this incident doesn’t mean it can’t be traumatic. If every individual were able to make the choice as an adult, they may reconsider, given the significant pain that circumcision involves.


It can cause deep psychological trauma

Several studies have indicated that circumcision may lead to profound psychological trauma. While the mind may not remember the pain, the body does. Being a genital procedure it can lead to aftereffects as an adult, such as PTSD, higher sensitivity to pain, feelings of having been mutilated, violated, and feeling incomplete. Cutting off a piece of the body, albeit a very small one, can have a strong emotional effect, particularly in such an intimate area, even after the fact.


It can reduce sexual stimulation

The removal of the foreskin has been shown to reduce sexual satisfaction. The foreskin contains nerve endings that are highly sensitive and it moves during sex in ways that can increase pleasure. Cutting it off it dulls sensitivity in the “head” of the penis. (This has led some men to resort to “un-circumcision,” which can be done with surgery and may increase pleasure.)


Arguments for circumcision


It reduces the chance of contracting AIDS

According to the World Health Organization, circumcision reduces the chance of heterosexual men getting AIDS by 60%. The foreskin can be torn and inflamed during sex, increasing the chance of HIV entering the body. It can also trap fluids that contain the disease, making it more likely for the man to develop it. Additionally, the foreskin fosters the lingering of certain types of bacteria that can raise the chance of an AIDS infection.


It may help men last longer in bed

Circumcision may reduce the chance of men ejaculating too early. In fact, removing the foreskin can ensure that men last long enough for their partners to get off, too. This is considerable given that premature ejaculation in men is an issue that may lead to sexual dissatisfaction in their partners. It can also cause performance anxiety that risks further worsening this problem. As such, circumcision can help enhance men’s sexual performance and, thus, his relationship with his partner.


It helps boys fit in

A large majority of American baby boys are circumcised at birth. This has been the case for many decades and is the norm in US hospitals. Medical and practical benefits aside, physically fitting in as a boy is a comfort during childhood and, especially, adolescence. While boys have been bullied and singled out for far less significant reasons, boys and teens who are not circumcised may suffer from locker room teasing or bullying. Others around the world who are uncircumcised have also felt left out and harassed. Perhaps just fitting in is a good enough reason to get circumcised.


The Bottom Line: Circumcision has several up and downsides. many young and grown men who went through it don’t remember the procedure or even think twice about it. However, not remembering the circumcision doesn’t mean it didn’t have an adverse effect on them. Would you circumcise your child?

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