Circumcision: Top 5 Myths
Many new parents in America do not hesitate to say “yes” when asked if they will be having their newborn son circumcised. For many Americans, circumcision has always been just what is done. Our fathers, partners and brothers were all circumcised. Woman gawk at the thought of a man with a foreskin even though they may have never actually seen one. With that, like many things surrounding pregnancy, comes many myths and “old wives tales”. The top 5 that heard the most often are laid out below.
Myth #1: “Uncircumcised penises are just ugly and dirty”
Fact: The penis in its natural form is an unfamiliar sight to many American women/men. Like trying a foreign food delicacy, the thought of trying something new and unfamiliar can bring uneasiness to a person. However, this is not the case for the majority of the people in the world. An approximate 70-80% of the world’s male population is left intact from birth. To the men and woman of these countries, the thought of having their foreskin removed is “ugly and dirty”. Cleaning their penis is just part of good hygiene. If the penis smells or is dirty, that is the fault of the owner, not the foreskin. They simply retract the foreskin and rinse with water after they hit puberty and the skin naturally retracts on its own.
Myth #2: “It’s no big deal. It’s just a useless piece of skin. Followed with “my husband/brother/father is circumcised and are just fine “
Fact: Foreskin is a far cry from “useless”. It actually has many, wonderful uses. Many people have no idea that the glans or “head” of the penis is intended to be an internal organ. It is meant to be kept moist and protected by the surrounding prepuce. Actually, all mammals have a foreskin, all with the same purpose. The foreskin is filled with more than 20,000 erogenous (fine touch) nerves making the tissue surrounding the penis the most sensitive part of his body. These nerves actually enhance the sexual pleasure the man feels during intercourse. In addition to feeling for the man, the skin is retracted to gather behind the head of the penis during sex. This not only creates the ridged band that many condoms and adult toys try to replicate but it helps keep the fluids that the woman produces inside, eliminating the need for artificial lubrication. Additionally, the foreskin acts as a mobile sheath or gliding mechanism. All of these wonderful uses combined, the foreskin is most certainly more than a “useless piece of skin”. Finally, it is estimated that the penis of an intact male will grow to be 25% larger.
Myth #3: “Circumcision prevents Cancer, HIV, STDs and UTIs”
Fact: Doctors have been known to spread this false information for years. There are several studies that prove just the opposite of what the doctors want to hear. Doctors cannot make this easy money if people are shown the truth.
Cancer/HPV: There have been no studies showing enough benefit in cancer reduction to warrant routine infant circumcision. The American Cancer Society released a statement in 1996 stating that
“Research suggesting a pattern in the circumcision status of partners of women with cervical cancer is methodologically flawed, outdated and has not been taken seriously in the medical community for decades.” The full statement can be read here: (http://www.cirp.org/library/statements/letters/1996-02_ACS/)
HIV/STDs: Many people are flaunting studies about Circumcision in Africa being beneficial in reducing transmission of HIV and other STDs. These studies are flawed, at best. 1) They do not apply to developed countries such as the USA based on economic/lifestyle reasons alone. 2) All developed countries where circumcision is not common (i.e: Europe/ China etc.) HIV rates are significantly lower than the USA by a staggering rate. 3) Recent polls coming out of Zimbabwe are showing an increase in HIV transmission among circumcised men and the numbers are now actually higher than those who are not circumcised. 4) Sadly, the most important discovery of all has been silenced by the push for African circumcisions. Scientists have discovered Langerhans cells in the foreskin. These cells are actually shown to provide a natural barrier against HIV transmission. More on all of these can be found here (http://www.thewholenetwork.org/research-circumcision.html#myths)
Myth #4 “Everyone is circumcised. He will be made fun of if he isn’t”
Fact: As stated before among the world’s men, approximately 70-80% are intact. So what about the USA? As of 2009 it was estimated that 60% of American boys are now being left just as they were made. We can only assume that this is because more and more parents are doing the research for themselves. With so much access to information and videos
of the operation itself, not researching circumcision is willful ignorance. That being said… as rare as it is for boys to share a locker room or to even change in the same room anymore the one looking are more likely the ones who will be made fun of.
As American Humans, you are granted certain rights. Rights to choose your own religion or freedom from religion; rights to choose whom you shall date or marry; rights to be protected from harm and the right to protect one’s self from harm. Circumcision removes all of these rights from the man he will become. In 1997, law was passed making any form of female circumcision a felony. This raises a question of why boys are not offered the same rights.
Courtney Gonzalez is a Midwife Apprentice and contributing writer.