Wednesday, February 6, 2008

New circumcision study

I have previously written quite a lot about circumcision. See for example (1) here, (2) here, or (3) here. Circumcision proponents use different arguments when they try to spread this surgical procedure. Sometimes they say that your hygiene benefits, which may be true if you never ever clean yourself under the foreskin - hardly a reason for removing the foreskin. Another rather medievil argument is that circumcision will make it harder for the child to masturbate, and after all sexual pleasure is something you should avoid!

The only potentially valid argument for the use of circumcision, an argument which has only been around for perhaps five years (before that circumcision was conducted for irrational reasons entirely), is that it may reduce the risk of getting HIV if you have unprotected sex. Based on this some people argue that we should use mass circumcision to prevent the spread of HIV. There are many arguements against this.

First of all, people normally don't make their sexual debut when they are still in diapers, so let them choose themselves whether they wan't to be circumcised when they have reached an age where they can actually make such decisions. Secondly, condoms work much better than having your penis circumcised, so why not spend all the money advocating the use of condoms and handing them out for free instead? Furthermore, people who have been circumcised may feel safer and therefore have more unprotected sex, thus cancelling the potential gain...

Another serious argument against circumcision is that circumcision may cause serious problems for the patient in terms of penile function and penile sensitivity. The foreskin has a lot of sensory nerve endings. According to estimates that I have read, 50% of the nerve endings in the penis are in the foreskin. Just recently a study investigating the consequences of circumcision came out.

The study seems to show that people who have been circumcised do not suffer from reduced pleasure, at least that is what they say. However, as Mary Crewe points out, studies like these do not take into account psychological biases which are very likely to be at work. If you go and have yourself circumcised (the people in the study voluntered of course), then you will want to justify that decisions afterwards. As a result, minor troubles are likely not to be reported. The patient will simply bite together and say "I am fine, and my sex life is great".

For this reason I think it would be a mistake to start circumcising people based on this type of questionnaire evidence. Some sort of medical examination of penile function (or dysfunction) would be preferred.


Felicia Gilljam said...

Good post, just one nitpick: It's HIV, not AIDS, that spreads from person to person. AIDS is the result of a HIV infection but the syndrome can't spread, just the virus. :)

rasmussenanders said...

Thanks, I'll change that so that future readers don't get the wrong impression

Anonymous said...

Other reasons not to trust new so called "evidence" for circumcision:
*Who is sponsoring the research and what premise is it undertaken on?
*The industry in human body materials profits from the procedure.
*There is an industry in medical devises to strap the screaming infant into whilst being mutilated. Also instruments specially for the procedure.
*Medical and non-medical persons get money from performing circumcision.
I hope people go on speaking about the barbaric practise until its banned everywhere. Once people really know about the procedure they would not have a child circumcised unless they are insane sadists. This is proving true as religions that practise it have now got dissenting progressive groups and there is widespread unity against circumcision. Only due to the factors listed that its not banned already.

Anonymous said...

Good job. There IS no medical reason; never has been and likely never will be. It's a procedure looking for an excuse to exist. Time to just stop it. By the way, a couple of studies have come out in the US about circumcision makes no difference in the HIV infection of gay and bisexual men. Perhaps it's time for women to start experimenting with cutting off their labia and such? We tried and it didn't work, your turn! In any case, the unlikely scenario that your child will be having sex with African rape victims without a condom is a bit far fetched when he's in the nursery trying to get used to light.

sadunkal said...

I'm circumcised myself and I agree that it's a primitive concept. None of the arguments for it make any sense. If I had the choice I wouldn't have wanted it of course, but I was too young to make my own decisions back then. I'm from Turkey, so it's a part of the culture there. Whether or not it has any medical benefits is usually considered irrelevant, it's tradition.

I'm not sure if it affects my pleasure level though, but that's plausible I guess. Still it doesn't bother me so much.

And by the way, I don't believe in the thing called "HIV". If that sounds too crazy google "Rethinking AIDS", "Perth Group", "Fear of the Invisible", "Andrew Maniotis" etc...

Anonymous said...

Hey, what was created by nature (God) has it's reason and purpose. So, do not cut it off!!!

Thanks for good article.:)

Nash, Boston