Human males, like all mammals, are born with a foreskin. Sometimes called the prepuce, the foreskin is thus an integral part of the normal penis.1 Its female counterpart is the clitoral hood, with which it shares many valuable features. The average adult’s foreskin is:
- the most sensitive part of the penis, with 3/4 of its nerve endings2
- fifteen square inches in surface area, about the size of a regular postcard
- a specialized double layer for a unique purpose.
The foreskin is intact in most Europeans, and in 80-85% of all other men around the world. At one time, virtually all Americans were intact, too. Circumcision became popular in the Victorian era because doctors (mistakenly) thought it curbed masturbation, which they viewed as an unhealthy practice.3 The circumcision rate increased due to social reasons and peaked in 1980 at 85%. Since then it has been declining steadily, dropping to 56% in 2006, 54.5% in 2009,4 and plummeting to 32% today.5
Our expert panel's consensus, after an extensive review of the literature, is that the only possible justification for circumcision is to treat boys or men with penile diseases or disorders—never as a preventive measure. The foreskin is a vital, functional part of the male genital anatomy. It is not a birth defect. Therefore, if there is not an absolutely urgent reason for removing it, it should remain intact—for ethical, psychological, and sexual reasons. The boy himself, when he is old enough, is the only person who should make any decision affecting the looks and function of his penis.
This information has been reviewed by our panel of experts and other trusted advisors, however, it is not a substitute for professional medical, legal, or spiritual advice.
- Cold CJ, Taylor JR. The prepuce. BJU Int. 1999;83Suppl.1:34-44. ↩
- Sorrells ML, Snyder ML, Reiss MD, Eden C, Milos MF, Wilcox N, Van Howe RS. Fine-touch pressure thresholds in the adult penis. BJU Int. 2007;99:864-9. ↩
- Wallerstein E. Circumcision: An American health fallacy. New York: Springer Publishing Company; 1980:217. ↩
- CDC. Trends in in-hospital newborn male circumcision—United States, 1999-2010. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report. 2011;60:1167-1168. ↩
- Rabin RD. Steep Drop Seen in Circumcisions in U.S. New York Times. 2010 Aug 17; Sect. D:6. ↩