How Circumcision Works

The Case for the Uncircumcised

A group advocating stopping infant circumcision demonstrates on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington, D.C., in March 2008.
David Hardman/Scoopt/Getty Images

There are many­ who believe circumcision is a practice that is antiquated, unethical and unnecessary, if not outright barbaric. Here are a few reasons they provide for this viewpoint:

  • It's often an unnecessary procedure. Circumcisions for infants are usually considered routine, when in fact there is often no medical reason to permanently change the child's genitals. The American Academy of Pediatrics doesn't endorse the practice.
  • Risks of the procedure include scarring, removal of too much or too little skin, and life-threatening bacterial infection. Even if it doesn't happen often, circumcisions can go wrong, resulting in permanent damage and, in extreme cases, partial or total amputation of the penis.
  • A male loses his right to choose for himself what he wants to do with his own genitals.
  • Female genital mutilation is banned in many nations around the world, and male circumcision should be viewed in the same light.
  • The health benefits of circumcision are overstated. Circumcision may drastically cut down on HIV and other STD infection rates, but so do safe sex practices.
  • Men lose a degree of sexual pleasure and stimulation when the foreskin is removed. Many unique nerve endings -- found only in the foreskin -- are lost forever.
  • A child might remember the physical pain, resulting in lingering psychological repercussions.
  • The ability of the uncircumcised penis to slide within its own sleeve provides for "nonabrasive" sexual intercourse and masturbation.
  • Some people believe the penis is more aesthetically pleasing in its natural, uncut state.
  • Circumcised men subconsciously -- and sometimes consciously -- don't feel "complete."
  • If we didn't need it, we wouldn't have it.

We'll look at some related issues in the next section.