Common Misconceptions About Circumcision

Top 11 Common Misconceptions About Circumcision and the Intact Male

MYTH 1: Circumcision protects boys from developing harmful medical problems.
TRUTH: No medical society in the entire world, including the USA, recommends routine infant circumcision. Circumcision does NOT:
-prevent infections
-prevent or reduce the occurrence of urinary tract infections
-prevent penile cancer
-prevent transmission of the AIDs virus
-prevent the transmission of STDs
There are absolutely no medical reasons to circumcise infant boys. The American of Academy of Pediatrics, along with every other medical association in the world have all made statements that routine infant circumcision provides no medical benefits. Infant circumcision is purely cosmetic and has been falsely promoted as having “medical benefits” for so long that most people are unaware of the truth.

MYTH 2: Having an intact boy means more work and extra cleaning to prevent infection.
TRUTH: It is actually easier to care for an intact boy. People are severely misinformed about the anatomy of the intact male penis. During the infant/childhood years the foreskin is fused to the head of the penis and the opening is only wide enough to allow for urine to pass through. This protects the developing penis from urine, feces, and other harmful pathogens. An intact boy should NEVER be retracted for cleaning or for any other reason. Premature retraction causes tearing and pain and can result in many complications, including infection. The proper care for the intact penis is to LEAVE IT ALONE, only the exterior gets cleaned. Should poop get on the penis, all you do is wipe it like a finger. Throughout childhood the skin will slowly separate from the glans and the foreskin opening will widen. Self-cleaning excretions prevent the need for cleaning during that time. Through self-discovery a boy will learn to retract his own foreskin. After retraction is possible a boy can easily clean himself with a quick rinse in the same way that girls clean their vulva. It is a good rule of thumb to never let anyone touch your intact son’s penis. Many people, including care providers, will ignorantly try to retract the foreskin. Fact is, the US medical profession cut off so many foreskins in the past that the doctors rarely if ever have seen an intact boy and have lost the base of knowledge of diagnosis and treatment. Now, they are operating in a vacuum of information or even worse, in an environment of false information. Protect your son from medical professionals who would attempt retraction. Retraction happens at a different time for each boy. Some boys do not retract until puberty, that is perfectly normal. 

MYTH 3: If I don’t circumcise my son he will be ridiculed in the locker room.
FACT: 85% of the world is intact. In the US, the circumcision rate is 56% and falling. In general, boys make it a point to not look at other boys’ penises. They are not interested in whether someone is intact or not and even if they are almost half of the boys you son’s age will be intact. It is safe to say that most people will never even see your son’s penis. When intact boys learn that some baby boys have their foreskins cut from them at birth and that you protected them from being circumcised, they often find it shocking that anyone would do that to a baby. Their reaction is one of pity for circumcised boys. A friend’s intact son learned about circumcision when he was about 5 years old. His response was, “OUCH, why would anyone want to do that?” Lastly, children will always find something to poke fun at. It is our job as parents to teach our children to love their bodies and love themselves, just as they are.

MYTH 4: If a father is circumcised then he must circumcise his son to “match”.
FACT: If this were the case then all amputees would have the limbs of their children removed at birth. Children are not carbon copies of their parents. If a boy questions his father as to why his penis looks different, parents can respond with a simple, truthful, and age-appropriate explanation. Here is a good example for a young child:
“Long ago people used to think it was good for babies to cut part off. When I was a baby Grandma had it done to me because she did not know any better. Now we know it hurts babies a whole lot, so Mommy and I decided not to let anyone do that to you”.
After explaining that you protected him from being cut down there, he will be thankful! A little boy is much more likely to question why Daddy has hair down there, it is a much more obvious difference. Besides, you already have to explain why Mommy is different, don’t you?

 MYTH 5: The foreskin has virtually no functions so it doesn’t matter if it is cut off or not.
FACT: The foreskin is extremely functional. The skin that becomes the foreskin on men is the same skin that becomes the clitoral hood and the inner labia on women and shares many of the same functions. Like female circumcision, male circumcision impairs the sexual function of its victims by removing erogenous tissue that is designed to enhance sexual pleasure. The foreskin includes the frenulum, the ridged band of nerves, and thousands of specialized nerve receptors that are an essential part of male genital anatomy. The foreskin itself is composed of completely different tissue than any other portion of the penis. The cells in this tissue has been proven to provide both sensory and protective function. The male foreskin is designed to protect the glans of the penis throughout a man’s life, ensuring that the internal mucosal tissue remains moist and sensitive (much the same way that a woman’s clitoral hood protects the clitoris). In addition, the foreskin acts as a natural gliding mechanism to reduce chafing and dryness during intercourse. The total amount of tissue removed is the equivalent of 15 square inches on an adult male and contains over 20,000 nerve endings. 

MYTH 6: Circumcision is a quick and relatively painless procedure with little to no risk.
FACT: Circumcision is a surgery that involves cutting a slit down the foreskin, tearing it away from the entire head of the penis (remember it is fused during childhood), and then clamping and severing the skin that has been cut away. Male circumcision is actually longer and more involved than many forms of female circumcision. The entire head of the penis is left bloody and raw. There is a 20%-30% complication rate ranging from mild to severe. There IS pain even if the infant receives anesthetic.  Most people don’t realize that anesthetic is used less than 20% of the time in the US. Why? Because the effects/risks of anesthetics in infants are not well studied. During circumcision, an infant will experience such incredible pain that he will scream, become stiff and rigid, and then eventually go into neuro-genic shock causing him to pass into a deep sleep. This is the body’s coping mechanism to handle the intense pain he is experiencing. It is said that due to the immature nerve receptors that the pain an infant feels is actually more intense than what an adult would feel. If you have ever spoken to a victim of female circumcision they will tell you that the pain is indescribable. Nurses that work in the nursery are told to tell parents that the baby either didn’t fuss much or that the baby slept through the procedure. Nurses are not allowed to return an infant to his parents until he has calmed, if he did not pass into sleep due to the shock during the procedure. New studies are now reporting that circumcision also interferes with breast feeding due to the trauma and even prevents some babies from ever establishing a breast feeding relationship. 

MYTH 7: If I don’t circumcise my son, it may need to be done later in life. I’ve heard of some 5-10 year old boys having to be circumcised.
FACT: This misconception is another that stems from the problem that doctors are not being educated about the normal development of the intact penis. The only reason that a boy or man would ever need to be circumcised would be in the case of frostbite, gangrene, malignancy, or serious trauma; the same as females. Doctors that do not know about the anatomy and development of the foreskin often prescribe circumcision for a multitude of incorrect “reasons”. For example if a 10 year old boy is not retractable a doctor might tell a parent that he needs to be circumcised. This is not true. In fact, only 50% of boys are retractable by age 10. Many boys do not become retractable until puberty. This is normal. In the rare event that a man is not retractable by adulthood, there is steroidal cream that can be applied which will allow the skin to stretch. Amputation is not necessary. Another example is repeated infection. The foreskin is NO more likely to become infected than any other part of the body. In the rare chance that there is an infection, antibiotic ointments are sufficient. Parents that complain of repeated infection are almost always parents that are trying to retract their child’s foreskin for “cleaning”. As stated before, there is no reason to try to clean under a boy’s foreskin. Trying to “clean” under the foreskin is the equivalent to trying to wash out a girls vagina. It will ultimately cause a flora imbalance and result in infection.

 MYTH 8: The medical industry has no interest in continuing circumcision.
FACT: Circumcision is a $400 billion dollar business. That precious, nerve-rich foreskin is actually being sold for use in skin grafts, medical testing and cosmetics. Talk about robbing Peter to pay Paul! In light of the fact that circumcision is classified as an unnecessary (non-therapeutic) surgery, insurance companies and Medicaid in some states are now refusing to pay for it. Every Canadian province has cut off funding for circumcision. 

MYTH 9: If you are Jewish then you must be circumcised.
FACT: The only requirement to being Jewish is that one’s mother must be Jewish. There is a growing community of Jews who strongly oppose infant circumcision and reject it as a practice of Judaism. These Jews offer a “Brit Shalom” in place of the “Brit Milah”.  
MYTH 10: Christianity does not address circumcision.
FACT: Christianity directly protests infant circumcision. ~Phil. 3:2 “Beware of the mutilation! For WE are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God, and glory in Christ Jesus, and put NO confidence in the flesh!” ~Gal. 5:3 “And I testify again to every male who receives circumcision, that he is in debt to keep the whole Law. You who do so have been severed from Christ. . . you have fallen from grace.” ~Gal. 5:2 “Behold, I Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing!” ~Gal. 6: 12-16 “Those who desire to make a good showing in the flesh try to compel you to be circumcised, simply that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. . . They desire to have you circumcised so they may boast in your flesh. . . ” ~Lev.19:28 “You shall not make any cuts in your flesh.” ~Deut. 23: 1 “No one who…has his male genitalia cut off shall enter the assembly of the Lord.” “I desire mercy and not sacrifice.”-Jesus (Matt. 9:13) 
MYTH 11: If I unknowingly circumcised my son, I must continue to support circumcision.
FACT: It is never too late to save babies. When people know better, they do better. Parents who learn the truth about circumcision after already having circumcised their children can educate their own children and others as to the harms of circumcision. As parents, we do the best we can with the knowledge we have. Sadly, many of our care providers have failed to provide us with the information necessary to make informed decisions with regards to circumcision. It is important to remember that admitting to having made a mistake does not make anyone a bad parent. Saving other babies from harm can be a source of healing for parents in this situation. In fact, these Intactivists can provide powerful testimony to expecting parents and they are vital to the cause of genital integrity.. There are also support groups to help parents who regret circumcising. It takes a strong and wise person to admit their errors.
SUMMARY: Keep your baby boy intact. If at the age of 18 he would like to be circumcised, he has that option, but it is HIGHLY unlikely that he would choose circumcision. Less than 1 in 500 intact, adult males choose to lose their precious foreskin because they KNOW what they would be missing. Bottom Line: HIS BODY, HIS CHOICE. ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Circumcision Information and Resources
National Organization for Circumcision Information and Recourses Center (NOCIRC):
Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC):
National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males
Intact America:Penn and Teller Video
Top 12 Reasons to Say “No” to Circumcision
Information for Daddy to be (also have him see the Penn and Teller video)
National List of Foreskin Wise Pediatricians
2008 Male Genital Mutation Bill:
Ask Your Questions Here
 originally posted on Tribal Baby.  Some edits by Gloria Lemay 

8 thoughts on “Common Misconceptions About Circumcision

  1. Gloria,

    Thanks for this post. Here is what I wrote on circumcision, which you may find of value. My post was born out of mine and my husband’s discussion on circumcision, as well as some discussions I got into on some birth sites.

  2. Yes, please do, Sheila. I took it from someone else’s website and edited it a bit so it’s not mine originally. One thing that I’ve noticed in the “intactivist” community is that no one seems to copyright anything and they are all more than happy if you use their material. It’s such a burning commitment on the part of people to end circumcision that there is no room for pettiness or turf wars.

  3. Thanks for posting my work! I wanted to let you know that i have a newer version that is now on my blog. I added quit a bit of info and some more links. You may want to replace this one with the newer version.
    Thanks again for sharing!!!

  4. Great list of myths and misconceptions about circumcision. This information is very relevant this week with the announcement that the CDC is considering if routine infant circumcision should be recommended.

    I was circumcised at birth, and I, along with many other men, are restoring the foreskin that were taken from us at birth. See to read accounts of men who wish they had never been circumcised and are doing something about it.

  5. Wow. Please see reputable websites with research that uses blind studies, large population analysis, and unbiased information. Then consider yourself educated.

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