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Wise Guys: What Do You Think About Circumcision?

Tue, Sep 8, 2009

Advice, Wise Guys

scissors1photo by The_Artifex

Advice from three of our guy friends. This week they answer the following: What do you think about circumcision?

Gay Engaged Guy (Joel Derfner, author of Swish): I know one person who was circumcised as an adult, so he’s the only guy I can think of who knows what it’s like both ways — sort of the Tiresias of circumcision — but he’s also a famous actor and I have a huge, huge crush on him, so if I tried to ask him about it I would probably die of embarrassment.  From a purely objective standpoint I suppose I’d say it’s a barbaric practice, but as a Jew I can’t imagine being uncircumcised. A gay Jewish friend of mine was the sperm donor for a Jewish lesbian couple, and when the issue of circumcision came up (in the event that they had a boy) it almost ruined the whole thing — my friend wanted his son to look like him, which I think is perfectly understandable, and the couple wanted not to mutilate their child, which I also think is perfectly understandable.  They had a girl, so the point was moot, but I myself intend to avoid the whole issue by remaining blissfully childless forever.

Straight Single Guy (L.A. Chris): My friend recently asked whether he should circumcise his boy, and we found we were both passionately for it. But his wife was strongly against it (and she’s Jewish, go figure). We all did some research and found out that it’s generally healthier to be circumcised, so they decided to do it. But it’s a strange internal debate, because if you consider yourself anything close to a naturalist, then it’s almost hard to convince yourself of such a permanent and personal alteration of our time-honored design.

Straight Married Guy (Fred): As an adult you can’t really do anything about your own situation (grown men who get circumcised are nuts), so really what is there to discuss when it comes to sex?  They both work great.  It only really becomes an issue when you’re about to have a baby boy.  “To cut, or not to cut” becomes your decision — and it’s a biggie. On the one hand, no one wants their kid to be singled out and branded a weirdo in the locker room if they’re in the uncircumcised minority; on the other hand, why would you ask someone to take scissors to your baby’s penis? Ultimately, “normal” is what you know, and so I think most fathers want their sons to be like them, which means in most cases the clipped will opt to cut and the sheathed will choose to let it be.

Our “wise guys” are a rotating group of contributors, some of whom wish to remain anonymous and some of whom like the attention. This week’s Gay Engaged Guy is Joel Derfner, author of Swish. To ask the guys your own question, click here.

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71 Responses to “Wise Guys: What Do You Think About Circumcision?”

  1. Michael Says:

    80% of AmericAns are cut. The USA has high HIV rates. Cut men get genital warts (hpv)! If being cut cuts the mans risk of getting infected by HIV through a woman, the FIRST time, the second time he has sex with her, there’s a 50% chance he will get HIV. Think!!

  2. Jacob Says:

    I believe that there is a general misunderstanding regarding these studies in Africa. Similar as with contraception, effect cannot be measured after each intercourse.
    If I remember correctly, this kind of research is based on statistics and goes like this:

    Researchers use two groups of men with negative HIV test – men in one group were circumcised (I think at the beginning of the trial) and men in the other weren’t – and after a year they do the tests again (on those still willing to participate) and results show that X uncut men are HIV positive and only half (if the 50% is right) of this count = X/2 of cut men is HIV positive.

    They have established a correlation (means that two events are more likely to occur together) between having a lower chance of getting HIV and being circumcised. Having a little background in statistics, I’m afraid that this doesn’t mean as much as people think. Both these things can have a common cause elsewhere – such as religious beliefs (monogamy) or simply being more educated in hygiene or safer sex practices as the study and surgery was performed by “western” doctors.

    That is in my opinion why similar studies in first world countries do not confirm such relation.
    Unfortunately there seems to be an effort to perpetuate an originally religious tradition using a pretty weak argument from unrelated environment – it shouldn’t be so hard to create a statistical study that finds a correlation between say newborn survival rate and anything you want if you find it in a villiage with a red cross center nearby and from scientific point of view, there’s nothing wrong with it – it’s the unproven conclusion that it can lead to when not interpreted properly.

    It’s very hard to convince people that their long standing tradition is actually not so harmless and to accept that for example there is at least a tradeoff in decreased sensitivity (that is indesputable biological fact) would mean to accept that someone has taken from them and they did the same to their children.

    Appendectomy is a procedure with lower chance of complication than circumcision, yet it’s performed only when necessary. The rule here is – don’t fix what’s not broken. AUA states only two benefits – no phimosis (duh, as good reason as preventing ovarian cancer by removing ovaries – last resort cure for phimosis is circumcision) and reduced occurence of urinary tract infections (can’t dispute that, but look it up and see how serious it is).

  3. Jenn Says:

    Yeah, it really is NOT healthier to cut your baby. Did you know the main reason that circumcision became such a popular practice in North America because Henry Kellogg said that it would stop young boys from masturbating??? Obviously did not work! I have been with several circumcised men but my current guy is uncircumcised. The sex is much more tender, loving and intimate. He does not pound away at me until it hurts like other guys did because he feels more too. I do not agree with circumcision. I think that there is a reason why evolution has made that part of the body, it obviously serves the purpose of protecting the penis.

  4. Pinpinat Says:

    I think male circumcision is good for medical reasons. I want to find and chat with someone to get other ideas about circumcision. And I want to know which celebs are uncut or cut


    I think the procedure is barbaric. This is the only country were people actually discuss it. Look at England, France, Italy, Spain Greece and the whole of South America, were the question would be irrelevant. It is a well documented fact that circumcision deaden, to a degree, feeling. If is to be a religious question, are we trying to improve on God’s work? If not, perhaps nature made a mistake by giving us a prepuce? Jewish girls in my youth, use to refer to it as “The removable mouth piece” or “Lace curtains”, which amused me, since it reflected the fact that it was something they would not get at home.

  6. Blaise Says:

    Jacob misses out a key component of the African trials, namely that they were RANDOMISED. The men were allocated to the circumcised or non=circumcised groups by random numbers. This enormously increases the validity of the studies compared to observational studies, which just establish a correlation. A randomised trial can definitivly rule out confounding variables, including the ones that he mentions “religious beliefs (monogamy) or simply being more educated in hygiene or safer sex practices as the study and surgery was performed by western doctors”. In a randomised trial such effects will tend to distribute themselves equally across the treatment and control arms of the study, and cancel themselves out. If the sample sizes have been chosen properly (which they were) these extraneous effects can be discounted. This is why the Randomised Controlled Trial is the ‘gold standard’ of statistical studies. I don’t agree with cicumcision either, but as a statistician I recognise the powerful evidence provided by these well-conducted studies.

  7. Madamoselle L Says:

    I think this is a horrible thing to do to a child, and a mutilating way to welcome a new, beautiful baby boy into the world.

    My husband is cut, our son is not. At first (before we knew he was a boy, as our first two kids are girls) my husband was going on with the “I want my son to look like me.”

    Three things changed his mind. My mother has AAA cup breasts, she always has. I asked him, “When I was 15, and I grew my C breasts, should I have had a breast reduction, immediately then, or should I have one now, so I would “look JUST like Mom?” “GOD NO!” he yelled. Of course not.

    So, having seen these done, I described the Procedure to him: “It’s attached to a baby’s penis with the same strength that your fingernail is attached to your finger. Imagine someone just giving you some freakin’ TYLENOL, (for the “discomfort”) then restraining you to a plastic board, with straps, (they might give you a pacifier for “comfort” OK.) then jamming a metal tool between your finger and your nail, RUNNING the tool in a circle all the way around, to make sure that nasty nail, where DIRT can collect is no longer attached all the way around, then CUTTING OR CRUSHING the remaining tissue until the nail is ripped off? Horrible thing to do. BUT, it will keep your hands cleaner, won’t it?” He winced.

    Then I got some pictures and a video from Nurses Against Circumcision, and had him watch it (it took me DAYS to get him to do it, he keep making excuses, and he NEEDED TO SEE what they do to those poor babies)

    He watched the video, legs crossed, hands protecting his crotch, he gagged three times, if I remember, and then he said, “OK, you’re right. It’s horrible. Is it always THAT horrible?” Being a nurse, I could answer “YES, sometimes it’s worse. Sometimes they cry so hard they do that Silent Scream thing, and then pass out. For what? Is that skin, that the Good Lord placed there REALLY need to be savegely ripped off?” What no one tells you, in the USA, is at least 2 or more baby boys a year are given a “free” sex change operation, when the “circ” goes too far, and too much tissue is removed (babies have really tiny penises, it’s easy to “cut” too much) and often the damage is too great and the entire penis has to be removed. THAT ALONE should stop anyone who thinks babies should be mutilated for any reason. Not to mention all the other reasons NOT to do it.

    I have tried to remain calm, I was NOT going to even reply to this, because this upset me SO much. Everyone who thinks this is a “good idea” needs to see one, a real, bloody, screaming unnecessary circumcision, in real life, or on video. It’s awful. I’d never do that to my own child. Men who had this done when they were little had NO control over the situation, but adult men and women need to learn the facts about this most barbaric and needless and COSMETIC procedure.

    You wouldn’t tattoo a baby, or pierce one, until the child was old enough to make the decision for himself, would you? Please don’t mutilate or alter his genitalia without his consent, either.

    It’s the only Humane thing to do. Leave that foreskin alone.

  8. Gerald Parker Says:

    I agree with Bismarck Reine, who is a very good friend of mine. I am a gay male who is multiorgasmic (or at least was so when I was younger) and it was only the friction caused to my pecker while having sex that would limit me from going on after several times having attained orgasm. It is a drag to have been circumcised. The procedure is unnecessary and inhibiting in some ways. However, if one really does have religious scruples about the matter, one should respect them.
    Regarding Bismarck himself, I was even aware that he still was alive! I hope that he contacts me here in Rouyn-Noranda (QC.)where I now live.

    Gerald P{arker

  9. amo45 Says:

    having had 2 husbands (one of each)have to say uncut is definately more sensitive its rather unfortunate that most American men don’t know the pleasure-or women who haven’t had the pleasure of having that little extra something to play with

  10. Bettyboo Says:

    I find this all quite bizarre, in the UK it isn’t even pondered unless you are a member of certain religions, and even then I think quite often it isn’t done, maybe because it isn’t a social norm here. Out of the dozen or so penis’s I’ve seen over the years (in a sexual and nonsexual context, our family isn’t particularly prudish so I’ve seen my dad and little brother too) only 1 was circumcised. He was my first boyfriend, we’ll call him S, who I was with for 5 years so, unusually for a brit I can comment on the differences, and unusually for this US based forum I have more experience with uncut guys.

    With S (who wasn’t done as a baby but due to some problem later on) it actually took me a while to notice as he was generally ‘ready for action’ and I was in experienced and knew no different. I seem to remember presuming that the little ridge of scarring under the head was a rolled down foreskin. In my defence I mostly saw it in the dark in a car.

    However, on reflection, the sex with him was different to the guys that followed, and handjobs even more so, he needed spit or lube and alot firmer handling I remember getting quite a sore wrist on occassion.) I lot of the differences can’t probably be put down to the presence of otherwise of a bit of skin but there are 2 things I do remember that stood out from the guys I’ve been with since about our sex life. The first is that he was the only guy I’ve ever been with who has been really really into porn, in magazine form at the time (this was the early-mid 90’s) and heavily influenced by it which was a problem for me at the time (he used to use the line ‘all the women in the porn mags do it’ to try and persuade me to try new things, all I can say is thank god it was pre-internet). I wonder now if the decreased sensitivity of his head meant he needed more masturbatory aids as it were to get him over the edge? The second is that with him I was very prone to UTI’s especially cystitis. These can be caused by the guy being less than clean or by the urethra getting bruised during sex. I suspect a combination of these 2 factors with cleanliness maybe being the biggest issue. My current intact guy is very fastidious about cleaning himself and despite some pretty intense potentially bruising sessions I’ve never had any problem with cystitis with him in all the time we’ve been together (10 years on and off, we were FWB’s until getting together properly 3 years ago). That seems to contradict the ‘accepted’ wisdom about cleanliness and circumcision. I suspect S was a lot less fastidious (which may be why he’d had to have it removed, we never discussed it) than the guys that followed because he didn’t have to worry about smegma etc which lead to the issues I had with him.

    Of course that’s just the one guy, so not exactly statistically valid but comparing him to the uncut guy I’m with now, I remember that the skin on the head of S’s was alot tougher and drier than on my uncut guy which made it less fun to lick and suck and personally I find my current guys look a lot more pleasing and more fun to play with, suck and fuck (this may not entirely be due to a foreskin though.. ;0) ) It looks a lot more natural to me having that skin there rather than a strange mushroom shaped head on a stalk, and it definitely contributes to both or fun and his on his own (or with me watching) as he masturbates by moving the loose skin up and down… And as a final thought, not learnt through sex for once. I remember when my little brother was about 3 he found that he could play peepo (do they call it that in the US?) popping the head of his penis out from his foreskin which amused him greatly at the time and gave us a wonderful childhood memory to really embarrass him with now he’s 26 ;0) i feel sorry for all the guys and girls who miss out of that, and all the other benefits just because their parents wanted to conform to the norm..

  11. Bettyboo Says:

    whoops, not final thought, in this much touted HIV study, it strikes me that there could be plenty of reasons why a newly circumcised guy might be less likely to get infected. 1) did they take account of healing time? if the study is over a set time starting when they’re snipped then i’m guessing for at least the first few weeks they’re definitely out of the game. NO one is going to want sex when their cock has just been operated on. So it could be comparing 1 year to 11 months or less depending on the aftercare. 2) if circumcision detrimentally changes how sex feels for a man (very likely given the amount of nerve rich skin lost) then he may well seek it out less thus also reducing his likelihood of infection. if either of these are contibuting to the results then circumcising infants will have zero effect on HIV as obviously the wounds will be long healed before sex is an issue and he will never know any different so he’ll not have a diminished sex drive because of it. In fact, if he knows he was circumcised to prevent infection he may feel a false sense of security making infection more likely.. i’d be interested to see the paper and whether any of these issues were taken account of and whether follow up studies were done, i.e. does the difference still exist after x no. of years, or whether there is any difference in infection rate between men circumcised at birth, men circumcised as adults and those never done.

  12. Dan Says:

    I had my foreskin removed in my mid thirties after my wife and I traded yeast infections back and forth for 6 years. Phimosis was developing. Prior to that, I had not had any trouble. After the surgery, the infections stopped and sensitivity did not change. I don’t understand why people are so adamant one way or the other. Most men function fine with or without a foreskin. This is for the parents to decide. There have become way to many “experts” on this topic. When you only see a situation through the prism of your own ideology, then you will never be able to see the other perspective. Relax people.

  13. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Dan, if you were developing phimosis, and you had tried at least a month or three of Diflucan each (at the same time) and were using a cortisone ointment for the impending phimosis,(which is standard treatment for such a problem) I guess could see why. It’s a little bit of a drastic procedure, but if the Diflucan and the cortisone WERE tried, with no effect, maybe.

    As a nurse, I’ve actually never seen a circ performed for a yeast infection. A few weeks or months of Diflucan usually clears it up, but everybody is different. (After a few years in postpartum and the nursery, and seeing what I saw, I refused to assist in infant circumcision, on moral grounds. A LOT of nurses feel this way, and an increasing number of doctors do, too.)

    But, I have to disagree, it is NOT “the parent’s choice.” No one has a right to take away a foreskin, but the owner of that foreskin.

    You are very lucky. Most men who get circed in adulthood REALLY miss the sensitivity the foreskin gives them. Actually, you are the first man I have heard who said “It makes no difference.”

  14. Madamoiselle L Says:

    Bettyboo, the HIV studies done in Africa were not only flawed, but are not applicable to people living in Industrial Nations. First of all, it is believed that the strain of HIV in USA and Europe is different and actually transmitted slightly differently than the strain common in Africa. (The African strain is VERY contagious via heterosexual sex, and the American/European strain is actually LESS likely transmitted via hetero sex, NOT IMPOSSIBLE, just not as virulent via hetero sex (intercourse, mostly) than the African strain.)

    You also have to look at the lifestyles in Equatorial and Sub Saharan Africa, (NO judgments here, this is just fact, and why HIV may be transmitted VERY differently there) The average man in his 40s has had over 400 partners, not the case in USA and Europe. Also in Western Nations, the common use of prostitutes, who refuse to use condoms has fallen precipitously. It is also beleived that adolescent homosexual acts are much more common in Equatorial and Subsaharan Africa than most admit to. Also, the killing and eating of “Bush Meat” Gorillas, Monkeys and other primates) is VERY common (although usually illegal) in these areas of Africa, and this may well add to MORE HIV being added to the human population. All this adds up to: “What may work in parts of Africa usually cannot be simply used as a template of how to “prevent” HIV in the West.” Circumcision included.

  15. Truth Spoken Says:

    How will you rub your prepuce over her clitoris? What about her… she needs a little for-play.. Sex is not for pleasure? Meissner’s Corpuscles are a strong indicator… How do you feel loosing 20 thousand of them… I would say the reality is: that is one thing money can’t purchase. Maybe in due time we can get a neurosurgeon to load us up with meissner corpuscles.. Lets pray stem cell research works out (quickly) We will buy meissner corpuscles on the black market …Fresh pickings… I ran out of room so I started getting grafts on my forehead .. It looks like I’m thinking really hard doesn’t?

  16. Michele Says:

    I think it boils down to a matter of asthetics and preference. I was uncircumcised until my early 40′s when I decided to have it done. Why? Primarily for asthetic reasons. I like the look of my helmet headed fellow better than the elephant’s trunk. I was not instructed on penile hygiene as a child so when I had a problem “down there” and the doctor pulled back my foreskin for the first time I was aghast at the smegma that had accumulated there. Of course, after that, I was meticulous in my hygiene(after I found out tht the darned thing retracted) but was always self conscious in the shower rooms at high school and college and secretly wished that I had been circumcised. So, I just had it done. There was absolutely no loss of sensation, in fact, the exposed glans probably keeps me in a greater state of arousal. It has now been over 30 years since the operation and as sexually active as ever in my 70′s so the idea that somehow you will lose sensitivity is, I believe, all in your head, and I do not mean the little one.

  17. WICKEC WILLY Says:


  18. Hal Says:

    I chose to get circumcised at age 42. The removal of the foreskin permitted better contact to the rim of the corona and to the sulcus area behind the ridge- really noticeably better!

    I do enjoy the look of the exposed glans- not just reserved for a minority of time when foreskin retracts. It is obvious that this is a more disease free environment with the glans exposed to air for drying. less smell.

    Why not remove the unnecessary foreskin and enjoy that “ready to go look)!

  19. D - Tours Says:

    There are many web sites, like circinfo.net, that chooses the medical studies it wants and conveniently ignores studies with the opposite conclusions. The dirty little truth is that real unbiased medical reporting is an on going series of reports, each, with concussions, conflicting with other reports from many sources. The more sure and unequivocal the medical source is the bigger the bias.

    Here, in America, circumcision is a multi-bullion dollar industry and no one can make a cent opposing it – hence there are far more pro-circ sites than anti.

    Another example of the bias selectiveness of circinfo.net; circinfo.net wants use to believe that Christianity is pro-circ. To the contrary, the New Testament has a moratorium on circumcision. “Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing.” Galatians 5:2 King James

  20. Ben Edmore Says:

    My friend wrote up a hilarious (yet accurate) argument about circumcision. Read it at his blog: http://thingsthatshouldntstillexist.wordpress.com/2010/09/23/03-circumcision/

  21. Tattoo Removal Says:

    Not looking to go back to my anteater days.

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