Opinion: Circumcision isn’t necessary

Opinion: Circumcision isn’t necessary

To be or not to be? Circumcised that is. Unfortunately for men, when this question arises, we are too young to have any input.

Circumcision is a surgical procedure that removes the foreskin covering the head of the penis. It’s a practice that has been around for thousands of years dating back to 2400 BC Egypt. In our day, many parents have their sons circumcised within their first few months of life due to culture, religion or personal preferences.

But how much research and consideration is actually being done by parents before they mutilate their newborn boys? Is circumcision really necessary? From my perspective, not enough and NO it’s NOT.

Circumcision is a thought-provoking and difficult topic for parents when it comes to their newborn sons. Around the world the practice rate of circumcision among males is rare, while in the U.S. it’s more prevalent.

The practice of circumcision for health or medical reasons is an issue that is still being debated. At present, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn males, stating that the evidence was not significant enough to validate the operation’s benefit.

There are multiple myths about circumcision. One being that circumcision is always safe but in reality it isn’t. Many parents that circumcise their newborns are not aware of the dangers behind this small yet dangerous procedure. Surgically removing part of the penis causes the infant pain and creates immediate health risks that can lead to serious complications.

It is believed that babies don’t feel the pain caused by circumcision but that is also false. Babies feel pain just as much as adult do and it causes discomfort during the 7-10 days that it takes to heal. It can also cause complications such as infection, hemorrhaging, scarring, difficulty urinating and/or loss of part or all the penis. It can even lead to death.

A study conducted by Director of the International Coalition of Genital Integrity (ICGI) Dan Bollinger showed that an average of 117 neonatal circumcision deaths occur every year in the United States. The claim that circumcision decreases the risk or prevents HIV or AIDS is false; in fact it has been exaggerated and repeatedly disproven.

Most people believe that doctors and health professionals recommend that newborns be circumcised but in fact no professional medical association in the world recommends routine circumcision as medically essential.

In fact it is now the norm in the U.S. to keep boys intact. Circumcision rates have fallen well below 40 percent. Although the popularity of circumcision is different in geographic areas, more than 60 percent of all male babies born in the U.S. will leave the hospital intact as opposed to most medically advanced countries in which 75 percent of the men are not circumcised.

The truth is there is NO connection between circumcision and better health. In fact, removing the foreskin may create immediate health risks. The foreskin is a vital and functioning part of the human body, since it protects the head of the penis from injury and provides moisture and lubrication. Circumcision has actually been proven to diminish sexual pleasure later in life.

Circumcision is only recommended for older boys and men to treat the inability to retract the foreskin (Phimosis), or in males who have penis infections.

Parents should talk to a doctor about risks of circumcision before making a decision.

Think about it: we don’t circumcise our dogs, our cats or any of our pets. We may neuter or spay them but never circumcise. So why do we circumcise our children?

For more information about circumcision visit intactamerica.org.

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  1. Anonymous
    Anonymous3 years ago

    Alex has written a great article. One might note that Idaho Medicaid stopped paying for the circumcision of boys on July 1, 2005. Non-circumcision is now the NORM among younger males in Idaho

  2. Mark Lyndon
    Mark Lyndon3 years ago

    It's illegal to cut off a girl's prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl's genitals, even if no tissue is removed. Even a pinprick is banned. Why don't boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It's *their* body.

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    "Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed."

    "Circumcision is a 'non-therapeutic' procedure, which means it is not medically necessary."
    "After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions."

    Royal Australasian College of Physicians
    " After reviewing the currently available evidence, the RACP believes that the frequency of diseases modifiable by circumcision, the level of protection offered by circumcision and the complication rates of circumcision do not warrant routine infant circumcision in Australia and New Zealand."
    (almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. "Routine" circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia.)

    British Medical Association
    "to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate."

    The Royal Dutch Medical Association
    "The official viewpoint of KNMG and other related medical/scientific organisations is that non-therapeutic circumcision of male minors is a violation of children's rights to autonomy and physical integrity. Contrary to popular belief, circumcision can cause complications – bleeding, infection, urethral stricture and panic attacks are particularly common. KNMG is therefore urging a strong policy of deterrence. KNMG is calling upon doctors to actively and insistently inform parents who are considering the procedure of the absence of medical benefits and the danger of complications."

    "[30 September 2013] – At a meeting today in Oslo, the children's ombudspersons from the five Nordic countries (Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland), and the children's spokesperson from Greenland, in addition to representatives of associations of Nordic paediatricians and pediatric surgeons, have agreed to work with their respective national governments to achieve a ban on non-therapeutic circumcision of underage boys."

    "The other claimed health benefits, including protection against HIV/AIDS, genital herpes, genital warts, and penile cancer, are questionable, weak, and likely to have little public health relevance in a Western context, and they do not represent compelling reasons for surgery before boys are old enough to decide for themselves."
    (signed by 38 senior physicians, about half of them presidents or chairs of national paediatric or urological organisations).

    Drops in male circumcision since 1950:
    USA: from 90% to 55%
    Canada: from 48% to 17%
    UK: from 35% to about 5% (about 1-2% among non-Muslims)
    Australia: 90% to 12.4% ("routine" circumcision has recently been *banned* in public hospitals in all states)
    New Zealand: 95% to below 3% (mostly Samoans and Tongans)
    South America and Europe: never above 5%

  3. Ron Low
    Ron Low3 years ago

    Foreskin feels REALLY good. Circumcision alters sex dramatically.

    Only the owner of the genitals has the moral right to give consent for non-therapeutic gential reduction surgery.

  4. Rebecca Fine
    Rebecca Fine3 years ago

    Circumcision rates are not below 40% – they are close to 60%. The recent figure for 2010 released earlier this year was 58%.

  5. Brother K
    Brother K3 years ago

    I pity the people who still defend the cruel Genital Surgery that doctors inflict on healthy baby boys in the United States. You are entirely correct that circumcision is dying fast now. In some communities only 1 or 2 boys out of 10 are being subjected to the horror. American doctors are making a killing with this worthless surgery. They introduced it to America as a cure for masturbation in boys and girls. The surgery on girls never became popular while the other became the biggest scam in American history. Thanks for this great article. Your generation of college students is part of the New American Revolution that says NO to Genital Surgery on healthy babies.

  6. Bob Harlan
    Bob Harlan3 years ago

    It IS below 40% in the eight western states. It is still above 70% in parts of the upper mid-west.

  7. Anonymous
    Anonymous3 years ago

    Almost no men (even in the US) decide to cut off genital parts as adults. The parts feel great and are fantastic to have. Shutting DOWN a huge part of someone's sensory system is NOT a parent’s DECISION. It is not their decision to cut off The MOST innervated parts of ANOTHER HUMAN.

    EVERY HUMAN (male and female) has the RIGHT (a human right) to reach adulthood with all of the tissue (particularly all of their erogenous tissue) that THEIR genetic code provides.

  8. Stefan Schritt
    Stefan Schritt3 years ago

    Thank you for this very well written article, Alex!
    I'm from Germany, where circumcision is virtually only done for religious reasons. We currently have a circ rate of ~6% here for boys under 5 years of age, which is pretty close to the rate of muslim and jewish citizens.
    In other european countries with a lower rate of muslim & jewish citizens the circ rates are accordingly lower.

    As for your arguments about health and hygiene, I can sign that without hesitation. I'm 41 and – just like my fellow germans – I do not have any health or hygiene issues of any kind. And just in case anyone is wondering: keeping it clean is actually way easier and quicker than washing between the toes. Even the middle of one's back is more difficult to reach.

    As for the HIV argument – it's even worse then you wrote. The african studies you refered to proved that circumcision only delayed infection – the risk fell from 3.3% to 1.5% (hence the often quoted 50-60% reduction, which is only a relative value), which means that a man WILL become infected – just a little later.
    Unless, of course, he chooses to practise safer sex, which will actually prevent an infection – and makes a circumcision pointless to begin with.
    On top of that, the study does not mention that the female partners had 0% protection – male circumcision will not affect their risk at all. If you want to protect the women, too, there is – again – no other way then the condom.

    In clonclusion:
    – concoms offer protection against HIV for both partners
    – the use of condoms makes male's circumcision status irrelevant
    – unprotected sex is playing russian roulette, repeatedly
    – the HIV protection-factor of male circumcision during unprotected sex is like using a 6-shot revolver instead of a 5-shot one in russian roulette
    – unprotected sex reduces protection of the females to 0%

    It's similar with the sometimes mentioned prevention of phimosis – circumcising leads to more post-operative phimosises in the area of the scar then it prevents normal ones (which are pretty rare, and can mostly be cured with cremes, or foreskin-preserving methods like triple incision).
    Also, circumcision often leads to meatus stenosis, which virtually never occurs in intakt boys.

    If I may add a very personal experience: having a foreskin does give one a tremendous amount of sexual sensitivity, and I for my part would never ever give mine up at any cost.

  9. Anonymous
    Anonymous3 years ago


    The incidence of circumcision in the Western Region of the United States was 24.6% in 2009. This means that for every boy circumcised, three were not circumcised. Genital integrity, not circumcision, is the NORM in the West. Parents, by an overwhelming majority, are rejecting circumcision.

  10. James Thornton
    James Thornton3 years ago

    Rebecca Fine: quote:
    WHO/UNICEF/UNFPA Joint Statement classified female genital mutilation into four types.

    Type I — Partial or total removal of the clitoris and/or the prepuce (clitoridectomy).
    Type Ia, removal of the clitoral hood or prepuce only;

    Are you in favor of Type Ia circumcision in girls? It is exactly parallel to male circumcision.

  11. James Thornton
    James Thornton3 years ago

    After March 31, 2015, when the first boys turn 18 since the FGM law took effect, circumcision will for the first time enter the courts. Then we will see fireworks.

  12. Tim Hammond
    Tim Hammond3 years ago

    Incredibly, the medical community has never researched the long-term adverse consequences to boys – and the men they become – from the practice of newborn circumcision. Heretofore, men's silence on the matter was taken to mean that there was no harm.

    The Global Survey of Circumcision Harm [CircumcisionHarm.org] is a grassroots effort to document these consequences.

    In 2011-2012, more than 1000 men responded to an online survey to document the physical, sexual, emotional and psychological damage they suffer from newborn circumcision that met the medical or religious standard of care. Many uploaded photographic evidence and/or video testimonies. Jewish men comprised 4% of the respondents, a level much higher than their actual presence in U.S. society.

    This effort to give a voice to men damaged by early childhood genital cutting stands in stark contrast to the commonly-held but erroneous belief that infant circumcision is merely a harmless snip.

    This evidence of harm, as well as increasing knowledge about the important functions of the male foreskin, form a foundation for the broader understanding that infant circumcision is a violation of the child's basic human right to bodily integrity and eventual self-determination.

  13. David Sohns
    David Sohns3 years ago

    Great article. Barbaric procedure.

  14. Andrea Run
    Andrea Run3 years ago

    Great article. Thanks for sharing this important information. Good for college students to hear this so they go into adulthood informed 🙂

  15. Zack Kear
    Zack Kear3 years ago

    Nice article overall. I've read that phimosis is treatable with non-surgical, non-cutting methods such as the use of steroid creams and the use of stretching techniques which could actually stimulate new cell growth. Think of ear gauges and how people can apply constant, gentle tension to stimulate the cells to divide and therefore make the holes in their ear lobes larger and larger.

  16. Peter G. Escobedo
    Peter G. Escobedo3 years ago

    Well written article. Kudos.

  17. Detroit Circumcision Resources
    Detroit Circumcision Resources3 years ago

    There is no medical reason to circumcise a newborn. If he wants to be cut when he can decide, that should be left to him. It is not cleaner nor more hygienic, in fact a baby boy is easier to clean than a baby girl, no folds. Just clean the outside, never try to move the foreskin away from the head of the penis. In a newborn, it is attached like your fingernail to your finger. The only person who should ever touch his foreskin to move it is the boy himself. When he is old enough and retractable, a quick rinse in the shower is all he needs. Since the foreskin has 20,000 nerves, removing it changes his sex life forever. If you want your son to have his best life, and that includes his sexual life, do not circumcise him. ~ An RN and Mother of an intact daughter and son

  18. Craig Adams
    Craig Adams3 years ago

    Thanks, Alex. Worldwide, only about 20 out of every l,000 male infants are circumcised— but 18 of those 20 are in the U.S. The medical evidence however is overwhelmingly against infant circumcision. Numerous medical studies describe the pain of infant circumcision as severe and persistent. Many of the infants who stop crying during circumcision are actually in a state of traumatic shock. Before a baby's foreskin is cut off, it must be forcibly separated from the glans with a metal probe. (See for yourself on YouTube. It is horrific). Tightening the circumcision clamp puts crushing pressure on a large area of sensitive skin. Studies show that infant circumcision causes significant pain and trauma, behavioral and neurological changes in infants, potential parental stress from persistent crying (colic) of infants, disrupted bonding between parent and child, risk of surgical complications, reduced sexual pleasure, potential psychological problems, and unknown negative effects that have not been studied. Many parents today realize that if they had been given accurate information about circumcision, they would never have let anyone circumcise their baby. When we know better, we do better. I was neonatally circumcised at a U.S. hospital and it completely injured me. Today's parents are educating themselves in every way they can. This includes watching videos of the surgery (thank you Internet) and the effect on the babies. They are also thinking about how their adult son might feel about having been circumcised (many feel a sense of violation). Today's American parents, including Jewish Americans, are saying no to circumcision and joining the rest of the world where circumcision is rare. I invite college students to begin their education here: http://www.circumcision.org.

  19. Greg Hartley
    Greg Hartley3 years ago

    Great post, Stefan! Ich bin ein bisschen Deutsch – one set of great-grandparents emigrated from Germany. Unfortunately, I didn't escape the knife, but learned enough to protect my son. I really like your "revolver" analogy. To your point about no protection for females, the Wawer study in Rakai, Uganda (terminated early due to "futility") showed an increased risk of HIV for female partners of cut males.

  20. Greg Hartley
    Greg Hartley3 years ago

    Great article, Alex! Well-written and persuasive. Unfortunately, the overall circumcision rate for the US remains too high at 58%, based on recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. I think you're citing the number used by pro-cutting researchers in Vienna a couple years ago (they were lamenting the low rate). The rate varies widely by region; it's much lower in the western US. Young people are the key to genital autonomy – keep up the good work!

  21. Jayla McKenzie
    Jayla McKenzie3 years ago

    Great article. <3 I'm happy to see something that doesn't quote Brian Morris.

    Just a heads up: For phimosis to warrant circumcision, it has to be a pretty severe case. Usually, it's curable with creams and stretching. Also, you can't diagnose a man with phimosis until he's 18 and even after that, some men are not able to retract their foreskin fully (and that's normal and needs no treatment as long as it doesn't cause them problems). When boys are born, the foreskin is fused to the head so the foreskin can't retract. Remember that this is not phimosis. The foreskin takes several years to fully separate from the head and become retractable.

  22. Connor DeVries
    Connor DeVries3 years ago

    You answered your final question in your second paragraph. That answer, in my opinion, is reason enough to let people circumcise their children if they want to, medical benefits or no.