Wise Guys: What Do You Think About Circumcision?

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.


  1. 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..

  2. 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

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. 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

  8. 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.

  9. 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).

  10. 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!!

  11. I think there is a question parents should ask themselves regarding circumcision – is it good for my daughter?

    I believe that it is an established fact, that clitoris is the same tissue as penis (you can even see the same structure). Therefore I suppose, that clitoral hood is the same tissue as foreskin of a penis and all (medical) benefits gained by removing foreskin also applies to girls.

    In my opinion looks and tradition are not valid reasons. Elective surgeries such as breast augmentation is not routinely performed for young girls, but instead tolerance for all shapes and sizes is promoted. And female genital mutilation is considered tradition in many countries and we would have to withdraw our interference against it, if we accept surgeries on infants based on tradition.

    Also I would like to add one thought to circumcision/HIV debate. HIV is a very special case of virus – instead of being fought by immunity system, it feeds on it. Removed foreskins are used for anti-virals. Removing this bodily part therefore removes one prominent entry point for HIV (for male in case of penis-vagina intercourse), because it contains more immunity cells. I accept the conclusion that circumcision lowers chance for getting HIV, but then I have to also conclude, that this should also increase chance of getting other STDs. I don’t think removing any bodily part is a replacement for irresponsible behaviour – especially when in this case as it only lowers chance of getting, not passing on, HIV under quite specific conditions.

  12. Elizabeth-

    I suppose there is little point in arguing the specifics of whether or not circumcision is justified in your son’s case. I would say it is a definite gray area and I just don’t have enough information to evaluate that. You certainly have a more persuasive argument than that typical parent.

    But in light if this issue with your son, what is your opinion regarding parents choosing circumcision where their son does NOT have this genetic anomaly? Do you think infant boys have any right to genital integrity as girls do?

    BTW, this is from the Encyclopedia of Surgery: “Some elective procedures are necessary to prolong life, such as an angioplasty. However, unlike emergency surgery (e.g., appendectomy), which must be performed immediately, a required elective procedure can be scheduled at the patient’s and surgeon’s convenience.”

    In addition, regarding elective cosmetic procedures (excluding reconstructive plastic surgery for anomalies), they are done for psychological reasons. The patient needs to have a psychological evaluation before such procedures can be done. A purely cosmetic procedure could not ethically be done on an infant because the psychological evaluation could not be performed.

  13. Sorry I misunderstood about the elective procedures fletch. They really aren’t considered “unnecessary”? How odd. I always thought “elective” and “unnecessary” were… well, synonymous. 🙂

    Just to clarify – I would only allow any surgery done on my child for a legitimate medical reason. I am not saying it’s likely that I would have a daughter who would need that procedure – Just trying to make a comparison, and to explain why I don’t see medical circumcision as mutilation. Clitoral hood trimming for a medical reason wouldn’t really be considered mutilation, either.

    The only reason I would not wait is because of what I stated about my FIL’s feelings about the matter. He explains it as this: If his parents had chosen to have him circumcized as an infant, the likelihood of the problems he had would have been significantly decreased. He would not have had to miss weeks on end of school, become hugely embarassed in gym (Not because he had intact foreskin, but because the infections were noticible), and dealt with incredible pain from infections, hospitalizations, pre-op/operations, and recovery… as well as the humilation of having that occur to him just as he hit puberty. Because this is in part related to genetic immune system issues that my fiance has, and, unfortunately, I have as well, it’s fairly likely (roughly 50% if my science classes were right about that phenome thing) that our children will have similar problems. I feel that saving my son fairly probable pain and humilation (Again, not because of having a foreskin, but because of the infections) is a decent reason to do so.

    I do see your point, though. I agree that in theory, it would be best to see if this problem exists. However, we wouldn’t know that the problem existed until it was too late and my son would endure what my FIL did. All I can say is that I promise that I will listen to the advice of our physician when the time comes. If he feels circumcision, even with our genetic history, is unnecessary – and can convince my fiance – then we won’t go there. 🙂

  14. Elizabeth-

    I’m not sure how intent matters. To the individual, the outcome is what is most important. It is like saying “My father beat me every night, but he did so with the best of intentions.” I also don’t see how mutilating a female’s genitals in a clean surgical setting makes it ethical, as if that somehow makes everything OK. BTW, I have never opposed circumcision when there is a legitimate medical reason for doing it and circumcision is the least invasive means of resolving an actual problem. Regarding future sons, what are the odds of this genetic problem will be passed on to him? Isn’t it prudent to wait to see if he has a problem before hacking off body parts? Apply the same logic to a daughter where the mother is predisposed to breast cancer. Would you recommend removing the infant girl’s breast buds?

    Oh, and Elizabeth, I was not speaking to elective cosmetic procedures, which BTW, are not considered “unnecessary” because they are done for psychological reasons at the request of the patient.

  15. Oh, and Fletch – ALL unnecessary cutting on female genitals is not illegal. There are a number of “cosmetic” procedures a woman can elect to have done down there… Just for your random information…

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