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Circumcision

What it is, and questions from readers

Circumcision is surgical removal of the foreskin. It is a controversial procedure ordinarily performed only on infant males. Circumcision was devised as a means of preventing masturbation. Some people, such as Jews and Muslims, perform circumcision for religious reasons. Circumcision practice varies widely among Christians. It is for the most part not a religious practice among Christians but is done for cultural reasons. Although preventing masturbation is not important to very many people anymore, some advocate circumcision because it makes it less work for the caregiver to clean the baby's penis. Most Christians in western Europe no longer practice circumcision. Circumcision is still common among North American Christians. Practice in the rest of the world varies.

There is also an even more controversial circumcision performed on girls in some cultures. There is greater interest among human rights bodies in banning female circumcision than male circumcision. However, female circumcision is beyond the scope of this site, and the rest of this page pertains to male circumcision.

Opponents of circumcision focus on the usefulness of the foreskin in sexual functioning. They also note that the individual should be the one to decide if he is circumcised, not his parents. For this reason, many people favor the legal prohibition of infant circumcision.

A little about the history of circumcision

Allen Edwardes writes in the book Sexual Self-Stimulation (Sherbourne Press, 1967):

Eternally united with the masturbation mystique is the circumcision mania, which evolved as a sacrifice of sinful flesh to a jealously phallic god. Removal of the foreskin, cabalistically symbolized in the evil servant, was a removal of "original sin": this being "self-abuse," contraception, "infantile eroticism." Amputation of that peccant part, which was thought to provoke excessive if not unnatural erection and manipulation by its constant contact with the highly susceptible glans, symbolically cleansed the spirit of fleshly lust -- readying one for obligatorily routine reproduction, not the vain pursuit of pleasure -- whence the Arabic tuhur, "purity," for circumcision. [...]

Removal of the prepuce in males was complemented with antimasturbatory amputation of the clitoris in females, a mutilation fatuously deisgned to discourage if not prevent "infantile sexuality" and to prepare the victim for adult generative intercourse.

There are many web sites whose focus is the circumcision debate. The purpose of this page is not to duplicate their efforts, but to contain the questions about circumcision from readers of this site on a single web page.

Questions from readers

Hi, I am circumcised and my head is extra sensitive. It gets so sensitive that it gets uncomfortable. When I masturbate I try to not touch my head. Is this normal? I'm 15.

Yes, that's very normal. The head is usually extra sensitive. Males learn to masturbate in ways that don't irritate their sensitive parts. The challenge is when they try to teach others the same thing when touching them.

Is it healthier to have an uncircumcised penis rather than a circumcised penis? (age 14)

I think it's healthier to be uncircumcised. Circumcision is unnecessary surgery, and I have to believe it affects a person's sexual feeling in a negative way. Surveys consistently show that uncircumcised guys masturbate more, and although I'm not certain that means they enjoy it more, it probably does. The only drawback I can see to being uncircumcised is that uncircumcised guys have to work a little harder to keep their penises clean.

What does "roughing yourself up mean"? (age 14)

I've used that phrase a couple of times, so I should probably explain what it means. Basically, masturbation is not supposed to leave marks on your penis. A lot of guys, when they're just starting, use too much force and chafe and bruise themselves. As they get used to masturbation, they use less force and less speed and learn to avoid roughing themselves up. Some guys start using lube just to avoid those kinds of injuries.

I am circumcised. One of my friends is uncircumcised, and he can masturbate without lube. Why do parents have their kids circumsised? I think a lot of guys would be happier if they weren't, cuz it's such a pain to have to lube up (especially in the morning) before jerking. (age 18)

Not all circumcised guys use lube, and not all uncircumcised guys go without it. I think circumcision is unnecessary. Some do it for religious reasons (like Jews and Muslims). It was originally devised to prevent masturbation. It seems to work, because surveys shows that uncircumcised guys masturbate more often. If I had a son, I'd wait until he's 16 or so and let him decide if he wants part of his penis cut off and thrown away.

I just found out I am circumcised. My grandma told me. Can you tell me how circumcised penises look because I don't know if she's lying. (age 13)

If you can see the whole head or nearly the whole head when you're not erect, you're circumcised. If you were uncircumcised, you would only be able to see the tip of the head when you're not erect.

Overall how much length is lost on the penis when you are circumcised? Also what is it that is cut off? (age 12)

There isn't any length lost. Part of the foreskin is cut off.

What does a circumcised penis look like? What does an uncircumcised penis look like? Whats the difference between them and how does it affect masturbation/orgasm? (age 11)

They both look the same when they're erect. When not erect, you can see the entire head of the circumcised penis but only the head of an uncircumcised penis, kind of like it's hooded. It's not clear how it affects masturbation, but uncircumcised guys tend to masturbate more often. It might be they enjoy it more.

Do girls like circumcised penises better, or uncut ones? (age 15)

I think most like what they're used to. In the US, that probably means circumcised ones. In Europe, it would be uncut ones. Of course, both kinds look the same when erect.

I have seen web sites promoting regrowing your foreskin after circumsision. They give the impression that foreskin grows during puberty even though you have been circumcised. Is this true, and do the foreskin restoration methods work? (age 14)

While I am opposed to circumcision, I don't think those restorations have proven useful. The foreskin does not grow back once it has been removed.

I'm not circumcised and when I get an erection, I can't pull my foreskin back to reveal the head, but I can still masturbate and ejaculate fine. Is this a problem? (age 15)

It doesn't sound like a problem, but most uncircumcised guys can retract their foreskins. Might be worth asking a doctor when you get the chance.

I am circumcised but not all of the foreskin was removed. My penis is so sensitive that I can still feel the pain from where he cut the upper side of the foreskin. (age 13)

I don't think the wound still hurts after 13 years. You just have a very sensitive foreskin. It's common for not all of the foreskin to be removed. Try to stay off that part when masturbating.

I'm a 22-year-old circumcised male, and I've been masturbating since I was about 14. Since I'm circumcised I have difficulty achieving orgasm bare-handed, and have to masturbate with something, usually something soft like a thick blanket or fleece (in the normal position). Having masturbated like this 2-3 times a week for the last six to eight years, I'm starting to build calluses on the head of my penis. My sensitivity seems to be markedly decreased. I know the only way a callus will leave is if the area is free of abrasion (like masturbation), but as you mention, it's tough to DO that. Is there something else I can do to substitute for masturbation (or some better technique I can use) for long enough for the calluses to leave and to help them stay gone? Is there anything I can do to help thin them down faster?

Your problem is not being circumcised. Most guys your age are circumcised and do not masturbate like you do. What you really need to do is learn to masturbate bare-handed. The abstinence program on the main page should help you achieve that. As a rule, try to touch the head of your penis as little as possible, and try to vary the places on the head that you touch.

Circumcision was not invented to prevent masturbation but as an oath to God. (age 14)

And why circumcision, as opposed to dipping the head in water, which many religions practice as an oath to God? It has something to do with the penis being a source of sexual pleasure. Circumcision persists among many people who do not have religious convictions about it. It was justified by its proponents in earlier times as a remedy for masturbation, and it is justified by its proponents today as a way of making less work for the mother in keeping her son clean. If there are people who really believe they are honoring God by mutilating their infant sons' genitals, then perhaps this is the best evidence in support of those (atheists) who claim that religion is irrational.

I think I'm circumcised, but I'm not that sure. What is circumcision's effect on masturbation and can you give me a specific description of a circumcised or uncircumcised penis? Also, I am Muslim. Is circumcision customary in that culture? What cultures is it customary in or not customary in? (age 16)

If you can see all of the head of the penis when it is not erect, you are circumcised. If you can only see the tip, you are uncircumcised. It's generally easier for uncircumcised guys to masturbate. They don't have to have lube since their uncircumcised head produces its own lube. It's normal for Jews and Muslims to be circumcised, and Sikhs and Christian Scientists are never circumcised. Among Christians, it varies. It's more of a personal preference rather than religious thing among Christians. In Europe, most Christians don't circumcise their infant sons, while in America, most still do. Suprisingly, one reason for the decline in circumcision in the U.S. is that hospitals are starting to charge extra for it instead of including it with the birth.

Why is it harder for circumcised guys to masturbate? (age 16)

It isn't harder, really. It's just that their penis doesn't produce the natural lubricant that uncircumcised guys have, so they either have to use a commercial lube or be extra careful not to rough themselves up.

I'm pretty sure I am uncircumcised, but I don't use a lube to masturbate. What exactly is a lube? How would I rough myself up masturbating? (age 16)

If you're uncircumcised, it's less necessary to use lube than if you are circumcised. A lube is a slippery product that lets you engage in genital friction for an extended period of time without hurting yourself. You can hurt yourself by chafing your penis without a lube, if you're circumcised. If you don't use lube, you have to be especially careful.

I agree that male circumcision is unneccesary surgery. However, you casually call the minuscule work needed to keep the penis clean a "drawback." Cleaning one's body isn't a drawback; it's life. You also neglected to mention that the foreskin is VERY sensitive itself, and protects the sensitivity of the head of the penis. Men who've had circumcision later in life have related the pain to bone-crushing wounds, and report as much as a 70% loss of pleasurable sensation. Isn't it time to ban circumcision without the person's consent? Shouldn't we let boys keep their whole penises? (age 31)

My point was that having to clean the penis is the only drawback of not being circumcised. I think you're right. I don't think there should be infant circumcision in the civilized world.

What is wrong with infant circumcision? Don't most people do that? Should people get circumcised when they are older? (age 16)

The problem with infant circumcision is that the infant doesn't get to choose. How many males do you think would choose to be circumcised if they had to decide at your age?

When I pull down my prepuce (foreskin) I find it hard to pull the skin back and forth over shaft. Is there any other way I can masturbate, because this way hurts my head. I think it's due to a slightly tight foreskin. (age 16)

I advise both circumcised and uncircumcised guys to touch the head as little as possible while masturbating. Try to focus on the shaft more. It might help to use some lube.

I just wanted to be more clear about the term "circumcised." I have known from friends that men with circumcised penises don't have pain while having intercourse or masturbating. Is this true? Or is it that men with uncircumcised penises suffer from pain while having sex or masturbating. Please don't mind my lack of knowledge on this issue. (age 21)

There is no general pattern of painful sexual activity along with being either circumcised or uncircumcised. In men in either condition, painful intercourse or masturbation is a rare thing, and not often related to circumcision.

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