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The Pros and Cons of Male Circumcision

Shil1978 is a science buff with 11 years of experience writing about of psychology and related-topics.

In the United States, well over half of all male newborns are circumcised. These numbers are among the highest in the world with circumcision rates of between 60-80%. Although these numbers have been dropping in the recent years, they are much higher than rates in European countries, for example, where circumcision rates are less than 20%. It is interesting to note that most of these circumcisions are not medically or religiously necessicated. In other words, parents don't generally have any compelling reason, medical or religious, to circumcise their male newborns. Perhaps, the United States is the only country in the world where most non-medical, non-religous newborn male circumcisions are done. The circumcision debate has been an emotive one. You would find groups on both sides of the circumcision debate, passionately putting forth their views about why circumcision is good versus why circumcision is bad. In all the din, parents are often confused about who is right and who is wrong. Parents mostly make this decision based on preconceived notions or after listening to relatives, friends, etc., instead of taking a well-informed decision. It is thus important that parents know the full facts about the pros and cons of circumcision, so that they are in a position to make a well-informed choice. What follows are some of the important pros and cons of newborn male circumcisions. Hopefully, this would enable parents in making a well-informed decision.

Pros of Newborn Male Circumcision:

  • Circumcision is thought to be a much easier procedure when done at the newborn stage, rather than later on.
  • The circumcised penis is thought to be easier to care for.
  • Circumcised males are thought to have lower incidences of urinary tract infections.
  • Removal of the foreskin is thought to provide a greater degree of protection against sexually-transmitted diseases.
  • Circumcised males have good protection against penile cancer.
  • Circumcision may prevent potential future complications such as phimosis (inability to retract the foreskin or tight foreskin).
  • Circumcision may result in a lower likelihood of transmitting HIV.
  • Circumcision may lower the cervical cancer risk for their partners.
  • Circumcised males are thought to provider better sexual satisfaction to their partners, as a result of requiring longer times for reaching an orgasm compared to uncircumcised males.

Cons of Newborn Male Circumcision:

  • As with all surgical procedures, there are risks to newborn male circumcision. Some of these are:
    a. Excessing bleeding.
    b. Infection.
    c. Snipping of the glans (top of penis) accidentally (cases of these have been reported, though rare).
    d. Cutting the foreskin too short or keeping the foreskin too long.
    e. Possible future surgery to correct complications arising out of circumcision such as penile adhesions, tags, etc.
    f. Scar formation that requires a second surgey for removal.
    g. Adverse reactions to anesthetic drugs used during the procedure.
  • Circumcised males generally experience less sensation, as a result of the process called keratinization, which progressively is thought to decrease sensitivity of the glans. The foreskin has a rich supply of blood vessels and nerve endings and is thought to play a crucial role in sexual stimulation in males.
  • The foreskin makes it much easier for men to masturbate. Lack of foreskin necessitates requirement of artificial lubricants. The rolling-back-and-forth action of the foreskin provides for trauma-free stimulation, whereas circumcised ones may experience greater friction and trauma during stimulation. It is thought that male circumcisions were actively encouraged in the earlier part of the century primarily as a tool to discourage male masturbation.
  • The foreskin is thought to both protect the glans by shielding it as well as protecting it keeping it moist and soft by shielding it against friction via clothing and thus keeping it sensitive.
  • The foreskin contributes towards lubrication and the to-and-fro motion of the foreskin is thought to stimulate the female clitoris. This gliding action is thought to enhance pleasure both partners experience. Some of the functions of the foreskin are mentioned in the video link provided below.
Photo by Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

Photo by Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

Actual surgery on a baby done by a doctor in a hospital is shown, so viewer discretion is advised.

Some Common Non-Medical, Non-Religous Reasons Parents Choose to Get Their Sons Circumcised:

  • Because the father himself was circumcised and wants his son to be too.
  • Because of fear of your son being teased by his peers.
  • Preformed notions of the foreskin being a vestegial part like the appendix.
  • Preformed notions of the foreskin being dirty and hygienically unmanageable.
  • The notion that being uncircumcised increases the risk of penile cancer.
  • For cosmetic effect. The notion that an uncircumcised penis looks ugly and his girlfriends would probably look down upon him for that - because most American women consider it odd and unattractive.

Some points to Ponder Over for Parents:

  • The foreskin is not a vestigial or function-less part of the penis. It has erogenous functions. See some of the functions of the foreskin in the video given below.
  • There are consequences to circumcision. Some of them are mentioned in the video links given below.
  • There is no significant difference in the risk of developing urinary tract infections in uncircumcised versus circumcised males. The difference can at best be categorized as slightly in favor of circumcised males.
  • The chances of an uncircumcised male developing penile cancer is extremely less. Only about 0.2% of all cancers in the US. Good hygiene is all it takes to deal with even this minimal risk.
  • The finding about circumcision decreasing HIV infection rates is based primarily on an African study, conducted in Africa among males who never use condoms. Whether one can realistically translate that finding and apply it in the Western situation is debatable.
  • As for the hygiene factor, an uncircumcised penis can be cleaned easily with soap and water and by retracting the foreskin and cleaning under, once it begins to retract. The hygiene argument can be put forth for other body parts as well. Cutting off rather than manage seems to be a short-sighted approach.
  • Some men grow up feeling that their foreskin shouldn't have been cut off and harbor resentment at the fact that theirs was. As circumcision is an irreversible procedure, parents should put a great deal of thought into this before deciding one way or other.
  • The pain factor: Doctors used to argue that since the newborn's nervous system is not fully developed, they don't experience pain. This view seems to have changed in recent years. Some doctors use anesthesia, others say they would, but don't. However, the fact that the baby feels discomfort can't be doubted, either from the actual procedure itself or from being restrained/restricted during the procedure. There could be long-term consquences to having been subjected to this invasive, traumatic process.

Parents who wish to have their newborn circumcised should view the video of an actual circumcision provided below. This would given them an idea of what their newborn would go through and what the process really is like. Also, if they are going to be physically present during the procedure, this would help mentally prepare you for the procedure. Viewer discretion is advised - it ain't a pretty thing to watch!!!

Getting your newborn circumcised should be an extremely well-thought-out decision. Some parents harbor life-long regrets at having their newborn undergo this procedure, especially since they discover many facts about circumcision later in life. Hence, it helps if you read up as much as you can and consider some of the points given above and view the instructional videos given above, before you make this most important decision.


Sam Wickstrom from High River, AB, Canada on November 22, 2016:

Thank you for writing this, excellent article, well written!

Davidwork on February 09, 2013:

I haven't been on Hub Pages for a while. I came across this while browsing the Hubs.

There will have been reasons why males evolved foreskins over millions of years. I personally feel that removing them surgically is a form of mutilation.

I intend no disrespect to religions such as Judaism and Islam, but I do not believe that circumcision should EVER be carried out on babies, children, or anyone WITHOUT their consent.

jeanine on June 24, 2012:

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don't cut, it is the shock that the baby goes through that's so disturbing to me. None of my three boys or circumcised. When the doctor came in and I told him, he asked what ethnic group my husband belonged to....My oldest decided to let his wife and family talk him into having his son done, and he said is was the stupidest thing he ever did... the pain on the little fellows face was over whelming... and as far as the scent... I never had anything to compare it to... he's my first and my only... so I'm sure the musty scent of the uncircumcised is very similar to the damp scent of my own place of pleasure... I am in love with the man, not part of him. He is extremely clean though and if a man scent is to much, then it can be what he eats, change what you feed him and the scent will change....

Kendra on May 28, 2012:

You all are pretty whacked out for judging a guy by the way god made them. stop worrying about what people will think of your son not being circumcised. its your choice to do what you feelis mprally right.

Denise on May 04, 2012:

If you don't like the scent of a natural intact healthy male, you have a small brain to go along with your "perceived" small vagina.

Otherwise, you were sniffing a diseased male or your sensory perception has been chemically altered.

An intact healthy male is perfection for heterosexual experience. Mutilation is deception and only homosexual people like it.

S on January 08, 2012:

Oh my g........

I am so glad i did not choose to have my son go through this procedure! Couldn't they have used an anesthetic?

My son did not cry for the first 2 days of his life. He is very kind, active, social, helpful and mild tempered. I can't imagine just ignoring his extreme pain under such a circumstance. No one even tried to comfort that, boy, from what I could see.

not telling for saftey reasons on January 04, 2012:

i am a twelve year old boy and was circumcised at birth. i am not sure if this is a good thing or not but i sure WISH i could masturbate more easily....... but im not sure it is a bad thing either. i didn't know i was circumcised until i heard it at school and wondered what it was so looked it up on google and here i am. i agree with the only the owner should alter thing because its kinda weird that my parents had my privates altered. they shouldnhavenleft it alone.

Nataly on December 07, 2011:

I am a young mother and learned to clean my son's penis everyday..morning and night. I am against circumcision. This is the way GOD created us with foreskin and all. If a man does not know how to clean his penis then that is his problem and should learn how to. A man shouldn't be lazy to clean what's down there. The same way they wash there head and ass, it is the same way they should clean there penis. Now, as a young mother I will teach and make sure my son learns how to keep his penis well clean that way there isn't any problem with it later. It's all about cleaning it, that's it.

Mike on December 05, 2011:

I guess the determining factor for me would not be statistics but talking it out with alot of men, if they were circumcised do they wish they had the choice themselves, those that are not, are they happy with the skin, do they wish there parents has made a different choice.

Shil1978 (author) on September 14, 2011:

Astaroth, thank you for sharing your perspective on this subject. I am not sure of the statistics you've alluded to. Purely from a personal standpoint, I have not seen or heard of any complications arising out of males in my family and those around my neighborhood having problems because of being uncircumcised.

I've put forth the pros and cons purely from the point of view of both sides, without seeking to be judgmental about it. However, personally, having read many articles and heard discussions on this subject, I am more inclined to be on the side of those who say male circumcisions are unnecessary.

-Astaroth- from Lebanon on September 14, 2011:

Good hub, you really eased up a bit of my curiosities on the cons side of this matter and strengthened my opinions of the pro side.

I remember being old enough to understand things when my youngest brother was born. Back then the circumcision issue wasn't even given second thought thought he was our first boy. My parents were both nurses and they had seen how lack of circumcision causes the accumulation of bacteria and fungi especially that not every person soaps his ass after urination or defecation. At that time, they explained to me that this is why it is required by religion and not simply "because the lord was" or because Adam and Abraham were.

As for infants, parents are legally and morally responsible of their children's welfare and thus they have to make decisions based on facts like statistics. Statistics show a great reduction in urinary tract infection especially for infants and in STD acquirement and transmission when slightly older ;).

As for a child's right in choosing, if the infant wants a say in it, he might as well go ahead and feed and diaper himself.

Lena on May 05, 2011:

McLaren calm down and stop accusing me or anyone else in such a way. If you'd read my whole spiel you would have noticed that I have decided against it. I only want the best for my son which is why I wanted to find out the pros and cons of circumcision. I don't know if you yourself have any children but am sure that you too as a parent would only want the best for your child/ren and would not want to harm them.

McLaren 83 from Planet Earth on April 11, 2011:

Circumcision is barbaric, and no one should have the authority to make such a choice but the man himself. If men found that altering womens bodies in such a way was more pleasing to them the women would be in uproar. Boys have to be educated that NO ONE but themselves should be able to make that decision about their bodies.

Lena, i dont care if he is your son. Leave him alone! You will not have to live with it, experience it or look at it! So i find the very fact you are thinking about this to be disturbing.

Shil1978 (author) on April 06, 2011:

Richard, the risk of penile cancer is miniscule. If it were a threat - doctors would be advocating circumcision and not let it be optional. I've known of many uncircumcised men, mostly in my family and otherwise, who haven't had any issues at all throughout their lives. Ultimately, it is a moral issue more than a health issue.

Richard on April 06, 2011:

I was circumcised when I was born in the 1960s when it was commonplace in Australia. I can appreciate the arguments for and against the topic. However reading above, the "pros" do highlight the fact that having the procedure lessens the risk of penile and cervical cancers among other hygenic issues. If the 'sensation and lubrication' thing is the only standout "con", I think that is secondary over the other evidence.

Lena on April 06, 2011:

I don't know, guessing just when he gets showered? Will have to check with the nurses at the clinic. They should be able to tell me more.

paulzand from CA, USA on April 06, 2011:

So you are saying you gonna pull foreskin every time to clean? Don't you think this will loose his foreskin. It is not good to pull every time because it will be painful for him and might lead to skin scare.

Lena on April 06, 2011:

I've been trying to decide whether to circumcise my son - even from the time I was pregnant. Deep down I kept avoiding the issue as I didn't really want to do it. The medical people here is Aus which I've spoken to about it gave me the impression they weren't supportive of it (without really saying so outright). My husband is circumcised but my dad isn't. I'm from a European background and the men in our culture don't usually get circumcised yet my husband who is Australian said all the boys in his year at school were done... My mother in law was trying to convince me to do get my son done and kept going on about the hygiene reasons. I don't think that's a good enough reason, and after doing more research and esp after reading your article and watching the videos I've decided not to go ahead with it.

I'm determined to teach my son how to keep it clean. Whilst we're on the topic of hygiee though, my auntie watched me change my son's nappy the other day and told me I should start to push the foreskin back and clean underneath. I did so but didn't realise you had to do so from such a young age. My son is 10 months old, so what I wanted to know is, how often do I have to pull the foreskin back to clean the penis? Is it done when I give him a shower or bath? Or should it be done at every nappy change???

paulzand from CA, USA on March 31, 2011:

I was reading an article about circumcision and i came to know that its compulsory in Muslim countries like Pakistan. I don't know whether they do because of medical advanatge or they have some religious belief.

JP White on January 23, 2011:

I regret not having my son circumsied as a baby. he suffered from phimosis. Fixed as a teenager but I'm not happy with the outcome of the procedure. Not sure the penis adpats as well later in life.

I was circumcised as a baby and have my own pet theory that certain gene lines need to have it done due to higher than average incidence of phimosis. I was born in France where it is standard practice. My son was born in the UK where it isn't common.

As for the comments about reduced sensitivity and masturbation? I am very sensitive, maybe too much so and have zero issues giving head when manually stimulated by myself or by my partner. No lube is necessary.

I view it as a sanitary way to care for your penis, it cleans up automatically in the shower, no need to retract foreskin. As adults we will remember this, but kids often forget to clean their teeth, never mind their penis.

Unless contra-indicated I say git 'er done!

G man on January 19, 2011:

I was uncircumcised till i was 18. I had phimosis and didn't want to deal with that anymore.

All my life though I wish i was circumcised. It was painful as hell when i got it done and i walked around in a towel for over a week. If i ever have a son, he's getting circumcised.

Men should be circumcised on January 18, 2011:

Thanks for posting this article Shil. I am woman, and I am definitely vote for circumcision.

You mentioned that many men in the world aren't circumcised and they live normal lives. I completely disagree with your statement. I grew up in China. I have male friends and classmates get circumcision when they are 20s and 30s, because they can't handle the trouble caused the long foreskin anymore: odor and difficulty to clean. I don't know about the sex part, since their girl friends or wifes didn't share this with me.

I also have some Chinese girl friends complain that their partners unclean pennis cause cervical erosion and clymedia.

Thanks for posting the video as well. It is hard to watch the little boy getting circumcised and crying so hard, but it is better for him to get it done when he was a baby than when he is 20 something.

Shil1978 (author) on November 24, 2010:

Ale, yes, that's pretty hard to watch, isn't it! Your mom is correct. As long as the foreskin is cleaned properly (which isn't hard at all), there is nothing to worry. Most men in the world aren't circumcised and they live completely normal lives. Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!

ale21 on November 24, 2010:

saw the videos you have!!! It made me cry!! I dnt want my baby to go thru all that pain!! My mom told me that as long as you know how to clean it right then all ok

Shil1978 (author) on August 21, 2010:

I'd disagree with you on that, John. It is easier to snip it off than get it restored. Also, many of the pros don't come into play in a practical sense. For example, the prevalence of penile cancer is next to nothing. Many European males do just well without being circumcised, so do the vast majority of adult males around the world!! Thanks for stopping by and commenting!!

johnshade from Pandora on August 21, 2010:

nice hub and good structure,

i believe the pro's are better than the cons plus i thought i will mention,

there is foreskin restoration procedures for people tht want foreskin back, maybe you can do a follow up hub.


Shil1978 (author) on August 10, 2010:

Thank you edguider for stopping by and commenting. Yes, circumcision is a much easier procedure if done at the newborn stage, but the question that should be asked is, how many uncircumcised adults medically require circumcision at a later stage?

The answer to that is very few. Most adult males around the world are not circumcised and so there is nothing fundamentally wrong in not being circumcised. The choice of circumcision is mostly made for non-medical reasons.

edguider on August 10, 2010:

I believe the pros out weight the cons, and agree that circumcision is thought to be a much easier procedure when done at the newborn stage. I could not imagine getting it done at a later age.

Shil1978 (author) on July 28, 2010:

Thank you ASH for stopping by and sharing your story. I hope you share your story with other new would-be moms. Maybe then they can make a well-considered decision!! Thanks again for commenting!!

Antisheephood on July 27, 2010:

I let my husband decide whether or not our child was going to get circumcised without doing any research on it. It ended up being one of the biggest mistakes of my life. I am a new mommy, so I'm sure that I will probably make mistakes that are even worse, but not if I can help it. Read my personal experience/story about my son's circumcision at

Shil1978 (author) on July 17, 2010:

Gina, the 'odor factor' alone should never be the reason to get your son circumcised. If you found the information in here inadequate, do read up more on the subject.

Gina on July 17, 2010:

My husband is not circumcised, and I can't say that I am a fan. The odor factor alone is tough to deal with. We are pregnant with our first son, and I really wanted to have him circumcised. I thought it was going to be a battle with my guy, because he is not, but to my surprise, he was 100% on board. Says he wished that his parents had made a different choice, because to have the procedure now would be costly, and so much more painful than if it had been done in infancy.

Shil1978 (author) on July 10, 2010:

Thank you netlexis for stopping by and sharing your story. Yes, a lot of folks do try and warn you about the supposed ill effects of not circumcising your male child, however most of these warnings aren't based on anything compelling - mostly just hearsay!

Glad you took the decision you took and glad you have a story to tell now - that you didn't circumcize your boys and nothing untoward happened to them. Yes, moms and sons can't talk on that subject, but am sure their sex lives are as normal as anyone else.

Most men in the world are not circumcised and they seem to have done pretty well, so nothing to worry. Thanks again netlexis for stopping by and sharing your story - appreciate it very much :)

Katherine Koch from Southern California on July 10, 2010:

I always heard it was the other way around -- that uncircumcised men had more sensation. But being of the other gender, I'll never know.

What I can tell you, though, as a mother I decided not to have my two boys circumcised. I didn't start out that way. I was going to go with the flow, even though the DH was pretty adamant about not having it done. My turning point came while I was in labor with son #1. I was watching the local newscast when the TV doc did a spot on how unnecessary circumcision was. I figured a higher authority was trying to tell me something (and no it wasn't KNBC news).

What's really important is my sons never had problems, even though a lot a people warned me of the horrors that would befall them. Nothing ever did. My husband and I taught the boys how to clean themselves and pull the foreskin back. They're healthy young men now and all seems to be well. Whether or not their sex lives are good or bad because of the decision, I'll never know. There are just some things a mother and son should never talk about.

Thanks for sharing, Shil.

ArntRoarStegane from Norway. Phone code: +47 on March 10, 2010:

I do not understand all this talk about circumcision. I've even done it in adulthood and has been circumcised in 16 years. It looks ugly with foreskin, and it is not cool to have, either. My sex life has improved. The 3 women I've had after it, gets an orgasm much faster because they feel so clearly the edge of my penis head and even I have easier to control my own orgasm. Sex has become so good that it just may be in the imagination, in real life. The only thing that is not as good, is the ability to masturbate, but if you have to do it, so there's baby oil. So why is all this bullshit talk about circumcision? Many more should be circumcised, so they get can experience the joy and pleasure of not to having that ugly skin bag over the penis head. This area has become a negative taboo issue. There are several good things at the circumcision, but no one dares to say anything about it I think. Children will always avoid pain. Do not think long term and can not understand the meaning of circumcision. This is a difficult question, so I'm partially in agreement with: Sheila. And:(Making circumcision without anesthesia and with inappropriate tools. I am against that.)

Shil1978 (author) on January 04, 2010:

Thanks for your comment Sheila, couldn't agree with you more!!

Sheila on January 04, 2010:

Only the owner should be able to alter his own penis. It's his body and it's no one elses business. Leave it up to him to decide, when he's old enough.

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