Sunday, March 05, 2006


The infant circumcision rate in the UK is less than 1%. In this country circumcision is generally regarded as barbaric genital mutilation, undertaken only by a tiny proportion of the population, for religious reasons. I was astonished to learn today that the circumcision rate in the US is more like 60%.

There are various possible health benefits to circumcision, but the American Academy of Paediatrics said in 1999 that they are not sufficient to recommend routine infant circumcision. There are some STDs which are more difficult to catch with a circumcised penis (because there are some cells in the foreskin which easily absorb whatever is going around), but there are simple ways of avoiding STDs which do not involve genital mutilation. Several of the risk factors can easily be dealt with by basic hygiene.

On the reverse side, there are risks associated with circumcision itself, from bleeding to infection and much worse. Estimates of the percentage of baby boys affected by such things vary between less than 1% and 10%, depending on who is counting. Use of anaesthesia is by no means universal, although the procedure is certainly painful. Duh.

Circumcision is not easily reversible, and affects sex. It makes it much harder to keep penis and vagina lubricated during sex. It reduces sensation in the penis and can affect the erection. It takes longer for circumcised males to come to ejaculation (some might find this an advantage of circumcision).

There is no guarantee that one’s son will thank one for having circumcised him. The surveys of males circumcised as adults cited on Wikipedia indicate that the satisfaction rate is only about 60%. There was nothing to indicate how many men circumcised as infants were happy about it.

If your son decides as a teen/adult that he wants to be genitally mutilated, that’d be the time to do it, IMO, when he can decide for himself.

I find it hard to imagine a viable justification of infant circumcision unless there are religious factors involved, and that deserves another post, which will have to wait till I have time to write it.

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