FEATURE

Sex talk
The Circumcision Controversy


Simon Sheppard, QSyndicate.com

To cut or not to cut, that is the question.

For years, most American parents routinely had the foreskin of newborn Johnny's willie removed. These days, that's changing – from 90 percent in the early 1960s, the circumcision rate has been, um, cut by nearly half, to 55 percent or less.

But does circumcision confer medical benefits? Or is it, as anti-circumcision activists contend, a brutal form of sexual mutilation? Studies have shown that snipping reduces the risk of penile cancer. And, in sub-Saharan Africa, it decisively lessens the risk that men will contract HIV via vaginal sex (or, presumably, from fucking butt) – not only is the foreskin more easily injured, but it contains specific cells more prone to viral infection. But as one pediatrician points out, "We have to be careful about universalizing findings from African research. Nairobi is not New York." And, after extensive debate, the American Academy of Pediatrics stated in 1999 that, despite potential medical benefits, there wasn't sufficient data to recommend routine circumcision.

Reasoned debate is sometimes overshadowed by the passion of anti-clipping activists who claim that infant circumcision is the nonconsensual "mutilation of sexual pleasure." It might indeed seem that the toughening of an unsheathed cockhead would fuck up the fun. But a number of studies of infant circumcision have shown that, later in life, there's no significant difference in sexual satisfaction between the cut and uncut. And though adult circumcision, often performed for medical reasons, does indeed tend to lessen sensitivity, it doesn't necessarily reduce enjoyment.

A study published in 2007 – and funded by an anti-circumcision organization – demonstrated that the five most sensitive parts of the penis are removed by circumcision, but even this potentially damning finding has been disputed by other scientists. As one group of medical researchers said several years ago, "Although many have speculated about the effect of a foreskin on sexual function, the current state of knowledge is based on anecdote rather than scientific evidence."

One gay commentator notes, "Sexual satisfaction is such a subjective thing. A circumcised man may complain of needing lots of stimulation to come, while an uncut guy might have problems with oversensitivity making him shoot too soon. And, of course, men who have been circumcised since birth have nothing to compare their feelings to."

On the anti-circ front, some studies of het studs show that women prefer the feeling of being fucked by an intact shaft. But though plenty of queer cocksuckers like to tongue foreskin, it's questionable whether a sphincter could truly tell the difference, unless it were sensitive enough to read Braille. And other notions – such as the idea that decreased sensitivity leads cut guys to have male/male anal sex – seem nothing more than phallic fallacies.

Then too, aesthetics play a part. There are parents who, thinking that prepuces are ugly, and wanting Junior not to feel odd in the locker room, have had them removed from their kids. On the other hand, one gay father says, "I never would have let the docs remove a part of my son's weenie without a compelling reason." And plenty of gay guys fetishize foreskins. Some cut guys envy those who've still got 'em, sometimes even using "restoration" techniques in an attempt to get their own "lace curtains" back. (Men with new-made foreskins often report greater sexual satisfaction, but once again, it's all about subjectivity.)

In the absence, then, of truly compelling evidence one way or the other, the debate rages on. As our gay commentator says, "Sure, one might argue that it's unethical to perform surgery on a newborn unless it's truly necessary...or unless you believe, as Orthodox Jews and Muslims do, that God commanded you to. But I don't think that anti-circumcision activists do their own cause any good when they call the operation, even when performed with anesthetic, a barbaric rite on a par with genital mutilation of women. That's a bit over the top, and I wonder whether there aren't sometimes other agendas in play."

Few guys want their dicks to get caught in controversy. And it's likely, given the uncertainties of the situation, that this one won't be settled anytime soon. So what's a fellow to do?

One rather obvious answer is "be happy with whatever you've got." As one cut chap confides, "Yes, I sometimes wonder what it would feel like to have a foreskin. But honestly, I enjoy sex so much now that – though it's possible I'd be more sensitive – I find it hard to believe I could ever like it more."

Simon Sheppard is the author of Kinkorama: Dispatches from the Front Lines of Perversion



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