Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin, the fold of skin that surrounds the glans of the penis. As a result of circumcision the glans of the penis is fully exposed when the penis is flaccid. The procedure can be performed at any age, but in Western societies it is usually done shortly after birth.

Not all males undergo circumcision. Today, it is done primarily for religious and cultural reasons. Another reason for circumcision is related to hygiene.

Removal of the foreskin is said to help prevent the build up of a white, cheesy secretion that can possibly lead to irritation, infection, or offensive odor. This substance, called smegma, is a natural secretion from the glands in the coronal area of the penis and can accumulate under the foreskin of an uncircumcised penis. However, this accumulation can easily be avoided simply by moving the foreskin back and washing the area daily. Thus, circumcision can seem like a rather extreme remedy purely for the avoidance of smegma.

The Theory on Circumcision

Perhaps this custom has persisted because it has been suggested that smegma may be responsible for transferring a virus that may encourage cervical cancer. Although the rate of cancer of the cervix has been shown by some researchers to be considerably lower in the spouses of circumcised men, it is not certain that this is a cause-effect relationship.

In any event, uncircumcised men who practice routine hygienic care (as well as their partners) are unlikely to be at any major health risk. Many parents who recognize that there is apparently no medical advantage to circumcision are now choosing not to have their sons circumcised.

There is no evidence to suggest that circumcision has any effect on male sexual functioning one way or another. Opponents of routine circumcision argue that removing the foreskin lessens the sexual sensitivity of the glans since it constantly rubs directly against clothing.

Nor is there any evidence demonstrating that circumcision makes a difference to sexual excitement, erection, and the ability to reach orgasm or the ability to have a pleasing and complete sex life with a partner.

Copyright 2002 Sinclair Intimacy Institute