How Circumcision Works

Why Circumcise?

Shalom Hen, the father of eight-day-old Ofir Hen, holds his child during a circumcision ceremony by the local rabbi inside a bomb shelter on July 26, 2006, in Haifa, Israel.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Supporte­rs of circumcision often give the following reasons for their belief in the practice:

  • If you're raised in a culture or religion in which the majority of males are cut, then it may seem like a natural decision to circumcise.
  • Many times, the decision comes down to a simple belief that the son's penis should look the same as the father's. One study showed that nine out of 10 circumcised fathers elected to have their sons circumcised as well, while nearly 75 percent of uncircumcised men chose not to have their sons cut [source: WHO].
  • Regardless of whether or not they themselves were circumcised, some parents simply want their sons to fit in as best as possible and will make the decision based on what the majority of people in the region do.
  • Uncircumcised men are about twice as likely to be infected with human papillomavirus (HPV) and pass it along to sexual partners, resulting in higher cervical cancer rates in regions where the majority of men are uncircumcised [source: Infectious Diseases Society of America]. It also appears that circumcision helps protect against infection from chlamydia and syphilis [source: JAMA].
  • Recent studies have shown that circumcision can dramatically reduce the rate of HIV infection. According to these studies, a circumcised man is 60 percent less likely to contract HIV than an uncircumcised man [source: Timbert]. (This holds true only in the case of female-to-male transmission -- circumcision hasn't been seen to influence the rate of male-to-male HIV transmission [source: JAMA].)
  • A majority of people around the world believe that it's easier to maintain the cleanliness of a circumcised penis than an uncircumcised penis [source: WHO]
  • Some people believe that a circumcised penis is more attractive, or, more importantly, more attractive to other people.

In the next section, we'll look at some of the arguments against circumcision.