Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Sex and the Circumcised

(the following article appeared in the book Everything You Know About Sex is Wrong, 2004)

By Diane Petryk-Bloom

Want her to TOTALLY want it, TOTALLY need it and TOTALLY love it? Want to have her thinking of you instead of thinking of England? Men who want more sex, listen up. She needs to like it better and she'll like it better if you realize what's missing – your foreskin.

As you read this, at least 100,000 men (1) across America are taping, tying and tugging their penises to stretch new foreskin. Most lost their foreskins in infancy when they were circumcised, but somewhere along the line they discovered sex without a foreskin just isn't what nature intended.

In the uncircumcised man, the sexually aroused penis peeks from foreskin, then bursts full-out, sending ripples of skin back on the shaft. Those waves of stretching and retreating foreskin give the male one the most exquisite sensations in all sexual experience. That's because foreskin is the most important sensory tissue of thepenis. (2) Pleasurable sensations provided by a foreskin are "so incredibly great," in fact, that "no man should miss out on them," says author Jeffrey O'Hara, a circumcised-but-restored – as far as can be -- male.

That, in itself, isn't enough to motivate most men to worry about developing new foreskin. Here's what is: she needs it. It's the key to pleasuring your woman. Get it, get her more often.

Here's why: Circumcised men have lost considerable sensory tissue. Important nerve endings – gone. Some hate the idea. But many still say they have all the pleasure they can stand, so what's the problem? They have perfectly serviceable erections. They have orgasms and ejaculations. The problem is how they get there.

Researchers have recently discovered that the mechanism of arousal and intercourse is entirely different for the circumcised man and the foreskin-intact man. Whether or not a circumcised male has any problems, recent anatomical studies show his partner probably will.

In 1996, Dr. John Taylor and colleagues in the pathology department at the University of Manitoba, decided to assess the type and amount of tissue missing from the adult circumcised penis. (Incredibly, humans have been trimming penises since 2000-something B.C. (3) and no one had yet assessed the damage!)


Taylor found an elastic-like band of mucosal tissue at the tip of the foreskin. He called it the ridged band (4). It teems with specialized nerve endings – similar to those on the fingers and lips.

The head of the penis, or glans, by contrast, and contrary to popular belief, is fairly insensitive. When the penis is relaxed, the ridged band narrows over its tip like a drawn duffle bag. Sexual arousal dilates the band, sliding it back past the glans and onto the shaft, where it rolls up and down during intercourse. The rolling and stretching stimulates the erogenous nerves in the band to fire off sensations of pleasure. (5)

From an evolutionary perspective, the object of sexual stimulation in the male is to build up contractions in the genital musculature. Kristen O'Hara, with her husband Jeff O'Hara, explains in her 2001 book, Sex As Nature Intended It, that it is these alternate tensing and relaxing actions that lead to orgasm and ejaculation of sperm.

They point out that Josephine Lowndes Sevely's seven-year study comparing male and female genitalia revealed highly erogenous tissue equivalent to the female clitoris is located in the core of the penis through the entire length of the shaft. Only the foreskin is positioned to stimulate it by natural massaging action. The circumcised man has to reach for equivalent stimulation in an awkward, unnatural way. Sometimes he has difficulty reaching orgasm. Other times he may not be able to extend intercourse more than a few seconds. In either case, his female partner suffers.

"It is important to understand how muscular contractions can bring on orgasm because the intact (natural) man and the circumcised man induce them differently," the O'Haras write. "… the means they use to create these contractions affect their thrusting movements and rhythms.

"The design of the natural penis indicates that nature intended for pleasure and orgasm to be induced by actions taking place mostly in the upper area of the penis. However, for the circumcised penis, the upper penis mechanisms and responses have been drastically altered and do not function the way nature intended. Consequently, the circumcised male is left to improvise alternative or supplementary means to attain orgasm. It is use of these odd varieties or orgasm-building (pleasure seeking) techniques that causes him to thrust much differently from the intact man, and which his female partner finds frustrating and disrupting to her pleasuring needs." And sometimes downright painful.

Marsha Goudreau (name disguised), a Michigan woman whose late husband of more than 20 years was uncircumcised, who later experienced sex with circumcised men, said she now knows her husband's foreskin was a blessing for both of them.

"The nice thing that happens is that the gliding back and forth stimulates the head of the penis without irritating it," she said. (6) "The shaft moves in and out of that glove, which pleasures the woman without painful friction. And if you're not having intercourse for some reason, the foreskin makes a hand job a lot easier."

In technical terms: "Mucosal surfaces of the glans and foreskin move back and forth across the mucosal surfaces of the labia and vagina, providing nontraumantic sexual stimulation for both male and female."


This mucous membrane-to-mucous membrane contact provides natural lubrication necessary for sexual relations and prevents both the dryness responsible for painful intercourse and the chafing and abrasions which allow entry of sexually transmitted diseases, both viral and bacterial." (7)

Yet couples with a circumcised man need not despair. Foreskin restoration offers reparations. Recovered glans will soften again. Jeff O'Hara's message for circumcised men: "Restoring your foreskin is the best thing that's going to happen to you in this lifetime." Kristen's message: "From the woman's sexual perspective, the restored penis is virtually equivalent to the natural penis in every respect."

There are surgical and non-surgical methods of restoration. O'Hara opted for a graft of skin from his scrotum. It has the advantage of having muscle tissue able to provide that thrill of stretch upon erection. Non-surgical restoration involves pulling what is left of flaccid skin at the base of the penis when it is not erect, and exerting a tugging force to stretch it. Several simple devices have been invented for this purpose. (8)

One is simply taping drawn up skin with a clip applied to the end of the tape and tugging force applied by an elastic band around the waist. "It's cheap and works well enough," said David Steinburg (name disguised) from his home in the midwest. "While there's still a ways to go, there is no question that the regrowth of some skin has made a real difference in feeling," he said, "and I can only imagine what it must be like for those fortunate enough to have avoided circumcision in the first place."

Ron Low of Chicago thought taping lacked something in elegance, so he invented a cone-shaped attachment that pulls naturally after skin is inserted. Obversion, the tendency of skin to roll back, keeps it in place. Low said one can expect to add about one inch per year if the tugger is worn 12 hours a day. His progress with his TLCTugger is documented on his website

Low said he's sold more than 2,000 with "nothing but positive feedback."

The Joy of Uncircumcising by James Bigelow, 1995, is the complete guide. (9)

Whatever method, the object is to restore enough skin to cover the head of the relaxed penis, or glans, such as happens naturally when the penis is uncircumcised. Complete coverage, which the O'Haras advise, allows the penis to maintain its naturally moist, softly-stiff characteristic. (The glans of the circumcised penis are continually exposed, and as a result, can become hardened or keratinized.)

While foreskin restoration can replace this protective covering, merely stretching the skin cannot restore the special orgasmic triggers and glands that were cut and eliminated. Especially the very sensitive frenulum. The frenulum is the connecting tissue of the foreskin and shaft. Structurally, it is similar to the frenulum that connects the tongue to the base of the mouth. In the same way that frenulum controls the tongue, researchers envison the penile frenulum controls thrusting. It's on the underside of the shaft, or on top of an erect penis when a man is lying on his back. It, too, is highly enervated, erogenous tissue.

"Often only a remnant of the frenulum is left after circumcision, if it is not also removed," says anti-circumcision crusader Marilyn Milos. "Many circumcised men consider it their 'G-spot,' but only because their 'G-area,' the ridged band and frenular delta, has been removed." (10)

During sex, there is a way to compensate for that loss, Jeff O'Hara found. "The ridged band of the foreskin and the skin of the nipples are comprised of the same specialized nerve tissue called 'rete ridges.' Nipple skin abounds with Meissner's corpuscles (erotically responsive touch-sensitive nerves), like those found in the foreskin and frenulum.

"When you have your partner twiddle your nipples during intercourse, combined with the increased pleasure experienced after restoration, I reckon that it heightens your sexual feelings to those experienced by the genitally intact man when his penis alone is stimulated during intercourse…During this activity, the levels of ecstasy are so magnificent, I don't feel cheated in any way, even though I'm missing the nerves of the ridged ban."

Sex as Nature Intended It came about after Kristen O'Hara experienced both natural and circumcised sex and tried to make sense of the difference. While happily married to Jeff, she came to realize that foreskin is what's missing millions of bedrooms across America -- bedrooms where sex is unfulfilling, uncomfortable and/or avoided. Her personal experience (11) and comparisons led to attempts to discover if she was alone in her feelings. She wasn't!

Surveys of about 138 women showed almost all women preferred the natural sex. It was the difference between not being able to get enough and "There, that'll hold you for a few days." Sitcoms spend a lot of time on male jokes about pursuing sex in the face of expected feminine refusal because it reflects the situation in the real world, she said. Women in their 20s are often gung ho, regardless; in their 30s, it's okay, she said, but much beyond that age their interest falls off with their lessening vaginal lubrication and the built-up resentment of sex that's been too often uncomfortable and unsatisfying.

Female partners of circumcised men become aroused, crave the sensation of penetration and enjoy orgasm just as much as partners of intact men. But they express dissatisfaction with the overall experience of sexual relations. Kristen was no different. She loved her husband and they were compatible, but their relationship wasn't good sexually.

"Our love lacked depth," she writes, "the kind of depth that exists when a couple has a deeply satisfying, exquisitely delicious, sensuous, sexual interconnectedness." Because sex with Jeff was annoying, even though desired, Kristen drifted back into her uncircumcised lover's bed. "During our rendezvous, I couldn't help but notice that his penis felt much more sensuous inside me; it felt infinitely better, deliciously better, indescribably better.


"In characterizing the differences… I would say the circumcised experience is like being repeatedly penetrated in an annoying way, even though simultaneously there is pleasure. And the penis feels too hard, almost foreign-like – you want it, but don't want it, at the same time, driven onward only in hopes of achieving orgasm, the sooner the better. Whereas, with natural, the vagina totally surrenders to the soft sensuousness of lingering ecstasy, as it hungrily caresses and lovingly responds to the erotic movements of the softly-stiff penis, and the penis adores and gently strokes the vagina in return.

"Like two halves of a perfect whole, each organ swoons and sighs to a passionate intermingling… "With no holding back, you TOTALLY want it, you TOTALLY need it, and you TOTALLY love it."

One explanation: Since the natural penis tends to stay more deeply embedded in the vagina using short strokes, it brings the man's pubic area in frequent contact with the woman's clitoral mound, allowing her clitoris to be pressure-pleasured more often, and at a consistent rhythmical rate throughout much of the intercourse experience. Not only does the circumcised man make longer strokes to stimulate his pleasure areas, he needs to pause, often outside the vagina, to let the nerve endings recharge.

The natural man's penis retreats into its foreskin, not having to withdraw from the vagina. Jeff O'Hara said you can witness the longer strokes and withdrawals in x-rated videos with circumcised men. In fact, he said, he watched a video made of John Bobbitt performing sex. Bobbitt is the man whose wife cut off his penis in a fit of rage. Doctors reattached the organ, but Bobbitt lost nerve connections.

He performs just like a circumcised man must, O'Hara said, "Pull out, rest, come in fast. Like pile-driving with punishing blows." Even if the woman can tolerate it, that technique precludes rhythmic build-up for the clitoris.

In her best-selling book, How to Have An Orgasm…As Often as You Want, Rachel Swift says a lack of consistent rhythm is one of the chief causes of a woman's failure to climax.

"If the pace is broken, so's the ascent to orgasm." Why do SO MANY women fake orgasm? Because SO MANY men are circumcised.

Women know they're not going to climax the way he's doing it…and they're taking a battering. They might just as well fake it and hope he gets it over with soon. Often the best you can do with circumcised sex is pleasure the man and woman separately, in succession, rather than simultaneously.

"It was like we were using each other's body to masturbate against," Jeff said of his marital sex before he restored, "which is not the same as making love. Lovers totally abandon their individual egos, their individual awareness, and become a union of pleasuring."

Here's a sampling of comments from Kristen O'Hara's survey respondents:

My circumcised husband was totally engrossed in satisfying his own sexual needs; therefore, he pounded and banged as if he were having intercourse with a non-feeling person.

"It feels so good to have the feeling of a man's foreskin in my vagina…it glides easily.

Once a natural penis is in your vagina, you wish it could stay forever.

My natural partner kept more constant pressure in my whole genital area during intercourse. I felt like he was in sync with me… I had more time to relax, and I would always orgasm before it was over, so afterwards I felt content.

My sexual experiences with three natural men were extraordinary in the gentleness, sensuality and mutuality.

Natural men have a more laid-back approach. They don't seem to feel as rushed or pressed to achieve orgasm. They seem to enjoy the act rather than the resulting orgasm.

There is definitely more clitoral stimulation with natural. Sometimes it's (circumcised sex) too much work for too little reward. When it's over I think to myself, "thank God he finally came."

I have noticed that the vagina is much more accepting of the natural penis Once the head of the natural penis is at the opening of the vagina, it just kind of naturally slides in. I've often said to myself after one of these circumcised encounters: I would have been better off masturbating. With my natural man, I always glow after intercourse, but with circumcised men, I couldn't wait to get dressed and get away from them. I never glowed.

The visual effect of seeing an impending erection just starting to peek out of its foreskin is just so much sexier.

I never made the connection between this feeling of hostility and circumcised sex until now.

O'Hara's research was first published in the British Journal of Urology in 1999. Best-selling author Dr. Christiane Northrup (12) credits the O'Hara's research for helping her fully understand the reasons for the design of the penis and foreskin.

"I always felt that the male foreskin, one of the most richly enervated and hyperelastic pieces of tissue in the male body, is there for a reason, she wrote in an article for her newsletter, Health Wisdom for Women (10) Volume 8, No. 6, June 2001 "Until recently, I didn't know exactly what that reason was. But now thanks to Kristen O'Hara's well-researched book…I finally understand the reasons for the design of the penis and foreskin and how this design ensures optimal penile function, including the organ's ability to satisfy the female sexually."

"O'Hara makes a compelling argument that circumcised intercourse may frustrate the primordial subconscious that seems to know 'real sex ain't this way.'" Northrup writes. "She also suggested that each circumcised experience has the potential to build-up negative memory imprints so that over time, repeated sexual encounters with the same partner may lead to , negative feeling between the two that carry over into everyday life."

As an obstetrician-gynecologist, Northrup said, she performed hundreds of circumcisions. While she stops short of saying she regrets doing them, she does say it's past time to re-think the practice. She reported elsewhere that when she would tell parents at hospital-based childbirth classes that circumcision need not be done, her invitations to such classes were withdrawn. She quotes obstetrics colleague Dr. George Denniston, co-author of Doctor's Reexamine Circumcision:

"Circumcision violates the first tenet of medical practice: 'first, do no harm.' According to modern medical ethics, parents do not have the right to consent to a procedure that is not in their son's best interest. The removal of normal, important part of the male sexual organ is not in their son's best interest."

Jews, Muslims and a few other groups circumcise as part of their religious practice. But, as a nation, we do not allow parents to impose their religious practice on children to the extent that it does physical harm. Blood transfusions, for instance, are often imposed by court-order for children whose parents do not approve for religious reasons. Should genital mutilation (13) be any different?

From a world-wide perspective, the non-circumcised state is the norm for males. Most Europeans and Orientals do not circumcise.

Wrongful circumcision attorney David Lewellyn said he attended a conference in Padua, Italy last fall and told a 35-year-old Italian pediatrician that Americans circumcise about 65 percent of all boys. "You're kidding!" she said.

Although circumcision rates are dropping here, it is estimated that about 60 percent of all newborn males in America are still being cut. If you're an American male between age 25 and 45, the probability is very high that you were circumcised. Newborn circumcision rates in the U.S. climbed after World War II and peaked at about 80-90 percent somewhere between 1970 and 1980.

If you are older or younger, chances are still good that if you were in an American nursery you lost your foreskin. In our cultural acceptance of circumcising males, we keep company with countries like Afghanistan, Algeria, Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, Somalia and the Congo. Some circumcise newborns, most do it at older ages, as part of religious practice. The United States is the only circumcising country that, generally, has no religious pretense. Circumcisions are usually performed on newborns in hospitals for aesthetic preference, hygienic theory or for nor reason at all.

Many parents simply acquiesce to circumcision when the physician offers it, without asking questions. "If it's offered, it must be recommended," seems to be the prevailing view. It's familiar. It's the accepted norm. Several groups, such as NORM (National Organization of Restoring Men), NOHARMM (National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males) and NOCIRC have formed to fight the practice, but it is entrenched. For many it's a matter of "like father, like son." Males who cannot accept that they are less than perfect, perpetuate the practice. "Recognizing male circumcision as a mistake reflects on circumcised males." (14) Others, doctors and mothers, may be in denial as well.

American's willingness to conform and disinclination to inquire deeply is another. Parents are usually unaware of the extent of the surgery. The amount of skin amputated results in the loss of about one third or more of the penile shaft skin system. Adult foreskin is about two and a half inches long. It's double layered, so when unfolded would be about the size of a 3 x 5 card, enough skin to hold millions of cells and nerves.

The often described "snip of skin" is considered a major amputaton by some. It is usually done without anesthesia. Milos, who first witnessed circumcision as a student nurse, went on to make a video of the operation and show it to expecting parents. She was told it was too much for parents to see. "Perhaps then," Milos responded, "its too much for the baby to endure." "We didn't learn anything about foreskins or circumcision in medical school," said Dr. Paul Fliess. (16) "I watched one, that was it." They were taught infants do not feel pain, he said, which has been shown to be an absurd notion.

Taylor and colleagues who discovered the Ridged Band, have also noted "the current tendency to eliminate the prepuce from anatomy textbooks."

How it became thus is no mystery. Circumcision got its first big jump-start in this country in the late 19th century when doctors decided masturbation was harmful. A boy with foreskin would have to retract it to urinate, so, they reasoned, he would be more likely to learn to give himself pleasure by self-manipulation. Cutting the foreskin off as a remedy became the rage. In 1888, John Kellogg, of corn flakes fame, wrote a book blaming masturbation for 31 ailments, and identified as symptoms of masturbation things like shyness and insomnia.

Soon, circumcision was advocated for infants to prevent, rather than cure, masturbation.Here are excerpts from medical journals of the late 1800's: There can be no doubt of (masturbation's) injurious effect, and of the proneness to practice it on the part of children with defective brains. Circumcision should always be practiced. It may be necessary to make the genitals so sore by blistering fluids that pain results from attempts to rub the parts (17)

In consequence of circumcision the epithelial covering of the glans becomes dry, hard…the sensibility of the glans is diminished, but not sufficiently to interfere with the copulative function of the organ or to constitute an objection... It is well authenticated that the a fruitful cause of the habit of masturbation in children... I conclude that the foreskin is detrimental to health, and that circumcision is a wise measure of hygiene. (18)

Great Britain joined in the masturbation hysteria, as did Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Those countries have since rejected arguments for circumcision as fallacious. Dr. Benjamin Spock advocated circumcision in 1946. He reversed himself in 1976. (19)

The British circumcision rate peaked at something more than 30 percent, then, by the 1950s, it fell dramatically. By the time Princess Diana gave birth to Prince William, it was less than 1 percent. Prince Charles was circumcised, but Diana insisted the young princes be left intact (20).

In her case, the fact that the National Health Service dropped coverage of the procedure probably wasn't a deciding factor. For the majority of the Brits, it may have been the biggest one.

By the 1930s, even those who ate corn flakes accepted that masturbation wasn't harmful, but by then circumcision was going strong.

Since Jews circumcised for religious reasons, some Jews promoted it for health reasons, too, applying to all, so Jews wouldn't be singled out by the practice.

Doctors latched onto the next promulgated theory: circumcision was more hygienic. After awhile claims were made for its cure or prevention of a host of diseases from epilepsy to insomnia. These arguments were debunked one by one, but circumcision still has its proponents. They often tout penile cancer and cervical cancer prevention as benefits of circumcision.

Penile cancer is exceedingly rare and preventing it is not a reason for depriving millions of their bodily integrity and sexual birthright.

Women with uncircumcised partners do not get more cervical cancer. Studies that have shown such links have been seriously flawed. (21)

Recently AIDS prevention has been suggested as justification for circumcision. This flies in the face of facts. The United States and certain African countries that circumcise have the highest rates of HIV infection.

Some wonder, might it not all come down to an innate human compulsion to mutilate, especially the sexual organs? Or a drive to control others' sexual behavior. Coleman reports on one American woman's suspicion that her inconceivable genital mutilation at the hands doctor might be linked to circumcision. Retribution?

Circumcision is known to harm the bond between mother and son. Does the circumcision approving parent ever think ahead to the day when the boy is seven or eight and wants to know what was done to him, and why? (22) Does the rise in circumcision in this country correlate with its rise in crime? These questions are being asked. It seems that we've gone through a century and a half of searching for a justifications for circumcision, seeing them debunked one by one, creating new ones and seeing those debunked.

Now we are waking up to the fact that circumcising has been damaging sexual organs, sexual performance and sexual relationships. But, in fact, this is something that has been known from antiquity. We just forgot it. In Marked in Your Flesh – Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern American, author Leonard Glick painstaking recounts the history of circumcision. It begins with Chapter 17 of Genesis. God makes promises to Abraham and puts forth the inexplicable requirement that "every male among you shall be circumcised." "You shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin. And that shall be the sign of the covenant between Me and you. And throughout the generations, every male among you shall be circumcised at the age of eight days." Why? No one knows. No one single author wrote the Torah. The Bible includes the essential feature of the Genesis 17 narrative, but eliminates mention of circumcision.

Historically, one function of circumcision, for Jews, was that it identified with whom a Jewess may have sexual intercourse and therefore it served to preserve national identity. (23) Jews in the Roman Empire knew that others looked down on circumcision. Some did not have their sons circumcised and some tried foreskin stretching to restore themselves even back then.

The ancient Greeks and their Hellenistic successors considered the "ideal" prepuce to be long, tapered and well proportioned. Removing it was mutilation. (24) Philo of Alexandria wrote in the first century that circumcision served to excise "pleasures that bewitch the mind." He may have been the first to state that circumcision decreases sexual sensation, Glick suggests.

Later, in the 12th Century, Moses Maimonides, Jewish physician and community leader, wrote, with regard to circumcision: "One of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question…The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure in indubitable."

He adds: "The Sages, may their memory be blessed, have explicitly stated: 'it is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him.' In my opinion this is the strongest of the reasons for circumcision. "…because his foreskin has been removed from him, and the power of his member has been diminished, he has no strength to lie with many lewd women. "Women who have had an opportunity to make comparisons, know quite well the difference between circumcised and intact lovers. But it's all for the best, since Jewish men don't waste time and energy trying to satisfy women sexually." Maimonides understood that the foreskin is a highly sensitive source of sexual pleasure. His words could be slid in between the comments of women responding to O'Hara's survey and no one would spot the 800-year gulf between them. Maimonides wrote:

"An attractive woman will court the man who is uncircumcised...and lie against his breast with great passion, for he thrusts inside her a long time because of the foreskin, which is a barrier against ejaculation in intercourse. Thus she feels pleasure and reaches orgasm first. When an uncircumcised man sleeps with her and then resolves to return home, she brazenly grasps him and says to him 'Come back, make love to me.' This is because of the pleasure that she finds in intercourse with him, from the sinews of his testicles – sinew of iron – and from his ejaculation –that of a horse – which he shoots like an arrow into her womb. They are united without separating, and he makes love twice and three times in one night, yet the appetite is not filled…

"But when a circumcised man desires the beauty of a woman, and cleaves to his wife, or another woman comely in appearance, he will find himself performing his task quickly, emitting his seed as soon as he inserts his crown…He has an orgasm first…She has no pleasure from him…and it would be better for her if he had not known her and not drawn near to her, for he arouses her passion to no avail, and she remains in a state of desire for her husband, ashamed and confounded, while the seed is still in her reservoir. She does not have an orgasm once a year…." (25)

Pro-circumcision pediatrician Dr. Edgar Schoen, Clinical Professor in Pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, (26) has lamented that some Jewish boys are now intact thanks to "some ill-advised back-to-nature movements." Foreskin might have been useful in pre-historic times, he says, when men where running naked through thorn bushes and brambles" but now is no more useful than an appendix or wisdom teeth. Compelling medical data much of it accumulated in the past two decades, he says, have "conclusively" shown that a boy circumcised as a newborn has multiple lifetime health advantages compared to one with an "intact" foreskin.

Even if the various health benefits touted by Schoen were true, and they are debated, medical ethicist Margaret Somerville says that wouldn't justify circumcision.

"A common error made by those who want to justify infant male circumcision on the basis of medical benefits," she writes, "is that they believe that as long as some such benefits are present, circumcision can be justified as therapeutic, in the sense of preventive health care. This is not correct.

"A medical-benefits or 'therapeutic' justification requires that overall the medical benefits should outweigh the risks and harms of the procedure required to obtain them, that this procedure is the only reasonable way to obtain these benefits, and that these benefits are necessary to the well-being of the child.

"None of these conditions is fulfilled for routine infant male circumcision. If we view a child's foreskin as having a valid function, we are no more justified in amputating it than any other part of the child's body unless the operation is medically required treatment and the least harmful way to provide that treatment. "(27)

Somerville said she once accepted circumcision without a second thought. After studying it, she came to the conclusion it is "technically criminal assault." "Once you decide that circumcision is not medically necessary, you take away the therapeutic intent. Take away therapeutic intent, and circumcision becomes an unjustified wounding."

Dr. Leo Sorger told ObGYN News readers circumcision, "removing normal healthy functioning tissue" violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 5) and the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (Article 13). Schoen, unsurprisingly, also denies foreskin contributes to sexual pleasure.

What would he make of Maimonides?


Northrup: "I am not Jewish, (or Muslim), but I can assure you that many Jews are rethinking circumcision (I do not have any information about Muslims). As a matter of fact, two of the most well-researched and eloquent books on the harmful nature of circumcision have been written by Jewish men. I urge you to read Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma by Ronald Goldman Ph.D., (Vanguard, 1997) and Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy by Edward Wallenstein (Springer Publishing, 1980)."

Ronald Goldman can be reached at

Restoring male David Steinburg is Jewish and despite his unhappiness with having been circumcised, he said he's not sure he could combat it for a newborn son in the face of family pressure.

"Many of the rituals of the Jewish community were developed as reminders of "separateness" and don't have any rationale otherthan ritual -- which is fine," he said. "I do think it would be healthy –but probably impossible -- for society to have something of a discussion about why keeping a foreskin is a good idea. But let's face it -- how do you get Americans to talk about sexual pleasure within the context of a newborn? It ties in too many things even open-minded people are squeamish about: parents don't want to think about their child's sexuality, especially that early on (if ever).

"And since it's too late for the (Jewish) father making the decision, there must be a reluctance to come to grips with the fact that his own experience may have been diminished by something his parents did before he had any consciousness at all."

"Someone must start," Jeff O'Hara asserts. As for Muslims – circumcision is not mentioned in the Koran. According to Islamic websites, "there is no compulsion to circumcision." (28) But Sami Aldeeb found otherwise. A Muslim lawyer based in Switzerland, Aldeeb would certainly call the circumcision he underwent at age 11 compulsive. Note his discussion of anger, terror, and thoughts of suicide:

"One of the issues rarely discussed in the topic of circumcision is the relation between its damage and the age at which it is done," he writes. "I was circumcised at the age of 11, during the summer break after 5th grade. "Growing through my childhood uncircumcised, gave me the opportunity to discover myself while intact," Aldeeb writes. "I was curious about my body and the changes that were happening at that age; so I became very conscious about my foreskin. I knew what circumcision was from an incident where a neighbor's kid (aged 10) ran from his circumciser, his brother who witnessed the circumcision through a window was terrified about how they tied his brother with a robe to the bed and about all the screams and blood.

"I asked about the circumciser, how he looked, I wanted to run away if he ever showed up at our door. I remember once my father jokingly telling me I will be circumcised, and my mother asking me why I did not want to have it done. I thought the subject would be brought up in front of me one day.

"The dreadful day came when my father told me I had to go with him for some tests at the hospital. I did not know what tests, but went along to acrowded local hospital. …Here a male janitor-nurse pulled open my hospital robe and made a quick mark on my penis. I was then given a shot and carried by that person to the operating table. The last I remember was a nurse arranging "things" on a tray. I never saw the face of the doctor as it took few seconds for me to go under full anesthesia.

"I woke up in a bed with my father beside me, he asked me if I knew whathappened, I pulled the blanket because I could feel the dry bandage againstmy raw glans. … I realized what had happened. …I felt stunned. I could not say a thing. Right then I thought about suicide.

"After I came back home I "surveyed the damage" and counted 10 stitches. My feeling was: now I am just like all of them.

"Years have passed and by the age of 16, I was having painful erections. The tension in the shaft skin used to make my erections very noticeable to me to the degree they cannot be ignored. They give me the sense that they have to be relieved or soothed. I confused the excessive tension on my frenulum with an urge for pleasure. At the age of 17 I severed my frenulum with a blade to relieve that tension. The tension was reduced, but the damage of the mutilation has become more noticeable.

"To show you how angry I was, I remember the day when my mutilator (doctor) died from a heart attack at the age of 44, on a nice summer day few years later.

"At the age of 33, I started to read about the subject on the Internet. I learned about foreskin restoration and tried a technique that worked for me. It was not the aesthetic results that I was looking for, it was the functionality, and that eliminated the premature ejaculation problem I had, just by having some loose skin during erection.

"Physiologically, the experience left me feeling mutilated, for no reason or benefit. It damaged the relation I had with my father, and affected myattitude toward my parents. It also affected my religious beliefs. The effort and pains thinking about the subject, reading literature, andattempting the restoration could have been better spent, if this has notbeen done. "

A few words about Islamic religion and circumcision. My understanding is that God created the human body in best image; why mutilate it? Islam prohibited practices that cause body harm, like tattoos; and prophet Muhammad himself did not undergo circumcision. At this day and age where we laugh at witch-doctors and feel sorry for children who were blinded at childhood to become good masseuse, we still give a wink about this topic." (29)


In September 1996 the United States passed a law against female genital mutilation. Opponents of male circumcision are asking for the same. There is some tension with those who crusade against female mutilation, some of them believing male circumcision is much less harmful and fighting it less urgent. But circumcision opponents say all involuntary genital surgery is mutilation that should be stopped.

For now, we can expect that if legal prohibition comes, it will come first in Canada. Canadians are already being warned. In 1996 the Canadian Medical Association approved a code of ethics that instructs doctors to "refuse to participate in or support practices that violate basic human rights."

This suggests, Mark Jenkins writes, "that in the case of circumcision, parental preference should not override the child's physical rights to his body."(30) Canada's National Post newspaper, in February, 2001, reported the Association for Genital Integrity's preparations to challenge the ban on female genital mutilation in Canada's Criminal Code as being discriminatory against males, who are not given similar protection.

"Every day in this country a quarter of the boys that are born are having this procedure performed on them without their consent and without any medical need. We don't see why half of our society should be protected by a law and not the other half," said Dr. Arif Bhimji, a Newmarket emergency room physician.

In February, 2002, the College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan warned physicians against routine circumcision of newborn male infants and, among many words, essentially told doctor who will perform the surgeon based solely on parental preference, to consult their lawyers! (31) In her book The Ethical Canary, Somerville, a Canadian, argues physicians who undertake infant male circumcision could be legally liable for medical malpractice (civil liability in battery or negligence), which can result in an award of damages simply for carrying out the circumcision, even if it was competently performed (and many are botched with resulting horror stories of physical damage and death.) They could also, as explained, be charged with criminal liability for assault.

In both ethics and law, a physician has a primary obligation of personal care to the patient (not the parent). In France, journalist Michel Orcel has pointed out the absurdity of arguing over Muslim head-scarf law when "ritual circumcision is still an elective amputation done on a subject who cannot resist mentally or physically."

He says Article 16-3 of the French Civil Code is perfectly clear: "The physical integrity of a person cannot be violated except in cases of medical necessity. The consent of the person must be obtained beforehand except in cases where the person's condition necessitates a therapeutic intervention to which the person is incapable of giving consent..." In this country, attorney J. Steven Svoboda, a former Human RightsFellow at Harvard Law School, recently founded Attorneys for the Rights of the Child. "Our position is that circumcision is medical malpractice," he explains.

"The medical profession, which has perpetuated this tragicdisfigurement of baby boys' genitals, will now be challenged by anorganization of legal professionals." The courts are considering many cases. Samples: On July 22, 1995, a jury in Montgomery, Alabama, found Jackson Hospital and Clinic guilty of negligence in a case where a newborn was mistakenly circumcised against his mother's wishes. The minor plaintiff was awarded $65,000.

More recently a Suffolk County New York teen won an undisclosed settlement from a hospital and the doctor who circumcised him . He sued because his mother's permission was obtained while she was debilitated by the effects of a Caesarian section and painkillers – a common scenario.

"Never again can someone say that a young man who is dissatisfied with his circumcision as an infant is being frivolous when he objects to his mutilation and brings suit to obtain justice," said Llewellyn, his attorney.

Based in Georgia, Llewellyn's firm specializes "wrongful circumcision" and has handled about 20 cases, such as where the mother opposes a father's desire to have a son circumcised. "Doctors need to be sued," he said. "The only thing people seem to understand is lawsuits and money."

He believes it is women who need to take up this issue and defend their sons, he said.

"Fathers aren't going to do it because they won't acknowledge the wrong that has been done to them."

And the only way circumcision rate will be reversed, Kristen O'Hara contends, is to make people aware that women are the primary victims, since they are the ones who enduring discomfort, punishing blows, and lack of orgasm.

"The man suffers too, of course, because when women loseinterest in sex, men are deprived. And when it ultimately affects the love bond, and can lead to divorce, it's a tragedy for everyone."

1. A conservative figure according to restoration activist Ron Low, Chicago.
2. Taylor, John, The Ridged Band website (
3. The oldest documentary evidence for circumcision comes fromEgypt. Tomb artwork from the Sixth Dynasty (2345 - 2181 BC)shows men with circumcised penises……The examination of Egyptian mummies has found both circumcised and uncircumcised men.
4. Taylor, John, Lockwood, A.P., Taylor, A.J. "The prepuce: specialized mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision," British Journal of Urology, 1996, Vol. 77, pp. 291-295
5. O'Hara, Kristen and Jeffrey. Sex As Nature Intended It. Turning Point Publications, (Hudson, Mass.) 2002, p. 141.
6. See how the foreskin works in animation:
7. Human Sexuality: an Encyclopedia edited by Vern L Bullough and Bonnie Bullough New York: Garland Pub., 1994 p. 119-122.
8. Simple tape – a man stretches his shaft skin then tapes it in place and applies tension with a strap or string; devices such as the TugAhoy (; RECAP method ( or ( Other options, surf
9. The full title is The Joy of Uncircumcising! Exploring History, Myths, Psychology, Restoration, Sexual Pleasure and Human Rights, 2nd Ed., by Jim Bigelow, Ph.D. Hourglass/pprbk. 1995.
10. She went on to found NOCIRC, the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers.
11. For more details see
12. Northrup is author of Women's Bodies, Women's Choices, 1998, The Wisdom of Menopause, 2003 and Mother-Daughter Wisdom, 2005.
13. O'Hara and others defend describing male circumcision as genital mutilation.
14. Goldman, Ron, Circumcision, The Hidden Trauma, How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All, Vanguard Publications, 1997, p 73.
15. For a complete discussion see Say No to Circumcision! 40 Compelling Reasons, by Thomas J. Ritter, MD, and George C. Denniston, MD. Second Edition. Hourglass Book Publishing, 1996)
16. Fleiss, with Frederick Hodges, has written "Nontherapeutic Circumcision Should Not Be Performed," American Medical News, vol. 38, no. 26 (July 17, 1995)
17. Angel, Money. Treatment Of Disease In Children. Philadelphia: P. Blakiston. 1887.
18. Jefferson C. Crossland, MD, "The Hygiene of Circumcision," New York Medical Journal, 1891. 19. Coleman, page 60. 20. Coleman, page 293.21. Coleman discusses the long-term psychological effects of circumcision on children and adults, p82-123.23. Glick, Leonard. Marked in Your Flesh, -Circumcision From Ancient Judea to Modern America, Oxford University Press, 2005, p. 29.24. Glick, p. 3125. Glick, p. 6726. Schoen's pro-circumcision website is
27. Somerville, Margaret A. The Ethical Canary Science, Society and the Human Spirit, Viking/Penguin Canada, Toronto, hardcover, 344 pages (chapter 8, pp. 202-219); or
29. Aldeeb's homepage:
30. Jenkins, Mark. "Separated at Birth - Did Circumcision Ruin Your Sex Life?" Men's Health July/August 1998.
31. For more legal cases see

The following related essay is by Deane Jordan, author of 1,001 Facts Somebody Screwed Up and 1,001 More facts Somebody Screwed Up, Longstreet Press)

By Deane Jordan

Parents sometimes do to children things which if they did to adults would be crimes.

If one strapped down an adult, and then without anesthesia or his permission, cut off his foreskin, one would have committed several crimes: False imprisonment, sexual assault, and sexual battery are at least three. You also would have diminished his sexual pleasure for life, a damage he and his mate could sue over in civil court.

Yet when this same injury is done to an infant we not only ignore the violation of his rights and the permanent loss, we also make the false claim that it is good for him. It is as good as cutting off an eyelid, and as painful as skinning his finger alive and cutting off the fingernail. It is as rational and justified as cutting off a baby girl's nipples.

If medical benefits were the reason for involuntary circumcision it would have ended decades ago because years of research have shown it provides is no significant benefit to him or his sexual partner. In fact, quite the opposite is true. Thus, the most common medical assault in the United States is also the least justified.

It is difficult to find an argument for involuntary circumcision other than the only way to perpetuate the mutilation is to force it upon those who cannot say no. Indeed, given circumcision's persistence through history, it is rather clear that urge to mutilate is the one constant element whereas the unfounded justifications change with time.

Doctors used to claim it cured epilepsy. Now they say it is hygienic. Both claims are false. There is also the issue of denial.

Circumcising others is a way to deny ones own injury or the injury one has allowed to be done to infants. It is passing on the pain.

Of course, in the modern era, many parents allowed this amputation based upon the poor advice of their doctor. It is difficult to accuse parents with good intentions with this child abuse thus the real problem lies with the medical profession, which literally makes billions off this injury not only in the cutting but the selling the ill-gotten flesh for commercial research.

Financially, infant circumcision is a lose-lose situation. Very few actual complications arise from foreskins compared to the number of circumcisions done. Treating those few instances over a lifetime costs society far less than the millions spent on involuntary circumcisions year after year.

Morally, involuntary circumcision is reprehensible.

It is forcing onto someone something quite unnecessary and what he would most likely not choose for himself if he had any say.

Adult males rarely want to be circumcised, and most men on earth are happily intact. Ethically, circumcision is a violation of the doctor's oath to do no harm. The foreskin of an infant is not damaged, diseased nor life-threatening. Indeed, foreskins do not kill infants - millions healthily keep them ever year—but many infants die from circumcision every year.

Others have the ends of their penis damaged more than usual or have it completely cut off. This sometimes leads to total genital amputation and raising the child as a girl, but this has proven to be rather unsuccessful. These "girls" act like boys only without penises, such as urinating standing up and a strong dislike of things feminine.

Medically, little benefit is to be gained by involuntary circumcision.

The Victorian notion that the penis is dirty is the most often given reason for involuntary circumcision. Yet the fact of the matter is it is the circumcised penis that is more dirty. The foreskin-protected glans is soft and supple, kept that way by emollients secreted by the foreskin, emollients that also have anti-bacterial and viral components.

The soft protected glans forms a resilient barrier to invading germs. The circumcised penis however is not only unprotected but keratinized, giving it a gray, wrinkled look not found in the natural penis. Keratinzation leads to drying and cracking, creating places to harbor sexually transmitted diseases, and in fact circumcised men have higher STD rates.

There also may be a correlation between circumcision and cancer of the penis, but the opposite from what is often touted. The penile cancer is high in Israel where circumcision is almost universal because of the religion. It is low in Scandinavia where circumcision is extremely rare.

Further, foreskins have estrogen receptors and one cannot help but wonder if research will show if foreskins pick up estrogen from intercourse and if that benefits intact men.

Sexually, circumcision is the unkindest cut of all. It not only permanently removes some 20,000 nerve endings but also a ring of specialized pleasure cells where the inner and out fold of the foreskin meet. It also reduces blood flow through the penis often requiring corrective surgery.

The trauma of denuding -- removing a third or more of the penile skin—and the resulting keratinization-- forces more layers of dead skin on the circumcised glans, burying what nerve receptors that are left under more layers of skin. That lessens or deadens tactile sensations.

Day-to-day friction on the circumcised penis further reduces its sensitivity. The circumcised penis is numb compared to the natural one. And it may be this fact which accounts for the overwhelming dislike among circumcised men to use condoms. A desensitized penis wrapped in latex feels little, like kissing through a screen. It is more than ironic that an injury perpetuated by doctors under the guise of prevention is actually causing more disease. Rarely discussed but also important is how circumcision affects a man's sexual partner. The most comprehensive study to date shows circumcised men engage in more non-mainstream sexual activity than do their uncut brethren. They engage in more homosexual and heterosexual anal sex and in more homosexual oral sex. The theory given is that the desensitized penis leads them to engage in rougher sex to achieve physical stimulation, or said another way, so they can actually feel something.

During heterosexual sex the lack of a foreskin also changes how the penis pleasures her. Without the foreskin it is but direction friction in the vagina whereas the natural penis provides friction and moving pressure. The desensitized penis also reduces her ability to please him during fellatio.

Fortunately, the circumcision rate is dropping in the United States, mainly because of reports in the popular press rather than medical publications. It has gone from a high of some 90 percent in 1990 to under 60 percent today, one third on the West Coast. The tide has turned and in a generation or two the rates could be fairly low and confined to religious marking.

Interestingly, most women inherently know that infant circumcision is wrong, but it is often the misinformed circumcised father who demands the amputation. Fully informed parents rarely circumcise.

In fact, one group of nurses who began to inform parents of the detrimental aspects of circumcision -- including pictures of the procedure and wound—were forced to stop by doctors who complained they were frightening parents-to-be. They preferred parents be fed circumcision fiction.

Research also shows infant circumcision not only affects the mother child bonding but nursing habits as well. It also makes the infant more sensitive to pain. Circumcised boys have a lower threshold of pain than girls or intact boys.

Research shows the brain does not forget the intense pain of circumcision - many children lapse into shock while being skinned— so there may be long term neural behavioral implications among the circumcised.

While there has always been rape, research might show the circumcised rape more than the unmutilated.

There is little to be said for involuntary circumcision other than it is common. And no doubt those who are psychologically motivated to mutilate - not misinformed parents but advocates—will continue to invent spurious reasons to pass on the pain. And therein lies the truth.

Circumcision really has nothing to do with sex or hygiene. It is a willingness to injure a hapless infant, a willingness to force upon him what he most certainly would not choose himself, a willingness abrogate his rights and rob him of a say and choice over his own body.

Infant circumcision is primitive aggression perpetuating itself on the most defenseless among us.

Doctors have a duty, an obligation to protect their youngest patients from this injury. Unfortunately, many a doctor sill cuts for a buck then sells the flesh. That is fundamentally wrong. It is immoral. Circumcision is a mistake that lasts a lifetime.

(Deane Jordan is the author of 1,001 Facts Somebody Screwed Up and 1,001 More facts Somebody Screwed Up, Longstreet Press) ###


Stephanie said...

FABULOUS POST! I completely agree. I've had both circ'ed and INTACT(uncirc'ed) men....and if I could choose my future husbands penis type, it would without a doubt be an INTACT penis. Circumcised isn't all it's cut up to be.

TheOneTrueRace said...

This is very very minor but:
"Historically, one function of circumcision, for Jews, was that it identified with whom a Jewess may have sexual intercourse and therefore it served to preserve national identity."

This term is considered to be offensive by the Jewish community.

Imagebloke said...

I honestly don't know what to say. I am from Brazil so circumcision is not a common procedure but I was circumcised and after reading this I really don't know what to say. My girlfriend says it is good and I am not sure she noticed any different but it makes me think about being circumcised ... good post though. People say circumcised penis is less sensitive but I think I have plenty of sensitivity.

RD said...

This enormous post is also highly informative. There are three fundamental problems with routine infant circumcision, still done to a majority of newborn boys in the USA.

1. It is still often done without effective pain reduction. This is barbaric, and should be illegal and actionable.

2. There has never been a careful study of the sexual consequences of infant circumcision. Such a study would require a very large stratified random sample, and would include a clinical examination of the genitalia, and careful interviews of spouses and partners as well as of the subjects themselves. It would have to be conducted in a nation where there were both kinds of men at in all socioeconomic classes; I nominate Canada (French Canadians seldom circumcise their boys). Absent such a study, doctors who circucmise cannot fulfill their duty to "first do no harm."

We still do not know for sure whether circumcision exacerbates PE and ED. Whether circumcised men sometimes go about intercourse in a hard frantic way that leaves women dissatisfied is the subject of anecdote but not hard data. Evidence on the impact of circumcision after age 40 or 50 is still merely anecdotal. We still do not know just how the foreskin enhances natural lubrication, and whether circumcision affects the willingness of couples to use condoms.

3. American and Australian advocates of routine circumcision for prophylactic reasons are silent about the possibility that the moving foreskin makes vaginal intercourse more enjoyable for women. BTW, Kristen O'Hara's research methods can be much improved.