Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Male Genital Mutilation - What's the Harm?

"Circumcision" (hereafter male genital mutilation, or MGM) is routinely believed to be a relatively harmless procedure, removing the "foreskin" - which we are told is just extra skin that we didn't really need anyway. There are, we've been told, no harmful effects.

This couldn't be further from the truth.

First of all, the MGM is a painful process. Want to see what it involves? Check out this explanation (be warned - there are graphic pictures here, and they aren't pretty!). There are videos around on the internet if you really want to see them - forgive me if I don't have the stomach to watch. They're pretty easy to find, though. Just search for "circumcision video" on Google.

Keep in mind that infant MGM is done without anesthetic! Using anesthetic on infants is considered far too dangerous. So they have to deal with the whole thing. Whether your an intact man or woman or a mutilated man or woman, just imagine somebody cutting off part of your genital area without any anesthetic. That's what MGM feels like to an infant.

Unfortunately, pain is not the only damage done. The portions of the penis that are removed serve important functions. Here is a look at what is removed or damaged by the procedure.

What's Physically Lost?

The "Foreskin" Itself

This is the obvious one, but it's more than you might think. First, the foreskin is not an anatomically separate structure! It is simply part of the rest of the skin of the penis. Imagine simply having part of your penile skin cut off - that's the equivalent of what circumcision does.

How much skin is lost? To get an idea, take an ordinary 3" by 5" index card. Fold it in half (the long way) and then wrap it into a ring. This is basically the structure of the foreskin, and its size. That's about how much skin is removed. It is estimated that this is approximately 30% of the skin of the penis. This is no small loss.

Specialized Nerves

The section of penile skin known as the "foreskin" is the most sensitive area of it! MGM removes approximately twenty thousand specialized nerve endings from the penile shaft. Even if we assume that these nerve endings aren't any more specialized than any other in the penis, that's a lot to lose!

The Frenar Band

The frenar band is a ring of ridged skin that forms the boundary between the inner foreskin and the outer foreskin. From NORM's Lost List: "This region is the primary erogenous zone of the intact male body." I don't think I need to expand upon that.

The Frenulum

The frenulum is a V-shaped structure on the underside of the penis just below the glans. On an intact male, it tethers the foreskin in place. Most MGM surgeries either remove this structure with the foreskin or sever it, severely damaging it. Unfortunately, this is also a highly sensitive area (even moreso than the rest of the penis).

Dartos Fascia

This is a group of fascia that lies just underneath the penis skin. The skin on the shaft of the penis is among the most "mobile" on the human body. What that means in simple terms is that it can actually "glide" along over the body, without moving the structures underneath it. This fascia is a large part of what facilitates this process. Unfortunately, the part that was under the foreskin is lost along with it.

Immune System

The loss of the inner foreskin removes lymphatic vessels as well as an immunological system that is designed to protect the glans.

Estrogen Receptors

Yes, there are estrogen receptors in the penis. Nobody knows what they're for - they've only recently been discovered. But they're lost during MGM.

Apocrine Glands

This is one set of glands that produce male pheremones. You guessed it - they're clipped.

Sebaceous Glands

These glands are believed to produce a lubricant that moisturizes the glans. Not all men have them to begin with, but those who do have them cut during MGM.


MGM has been documented to reduce both the length and the girth of the penis. The amount of this reduction varies widely, and may not happen in all cases.

What Are the Long Term Effects of These Losses?

The Glans

To put it bluntly, the glans was never meant to be constantly exposed to the elements. However, MGM forces this to happen. Some of the effects of this vary from man, but some are constant. In every man, a process called keratinization occurs. Basically, the glans is not covered in skin! It's a mucous membrane, much the same as the female clitoris. In its natural state, it should be dark red or purplish in a white guy and dark brown in a dark skinned person. However, it tends to be quite whitish after it's been exposed. Keratinization is responsible for this. Keratinization is the process of building callouses.

That's right - if your glans is white, you have one giant callous over it! This reduces the overall sensitivity of the glans from what it should be.

Constant exposure has other effects as well. In some men, it is actually painful. In others, the penis becomes hypersensitive. In my own case, it was nearly constantly stimulated, causing me to be semi-erect almost all the time. None of these are pleasant effects.

Furthermore, the constant exposure is a huge contributing factor to the loss of sensitivity as men age.

Sexual Losses for the Mutilated Man

A man who has had MGM performed on him loses a lot of the sexual response he would otherwise have had. As I've already mentioned, two of the most sensitive structures on his penis have been removed or damaged. Furthermore, the third most sensitive structure has been severely desensitized. That alone hints to a large loss of sexual enjoyment - and men who have undergone the process as adults report exactly that loss.

However, there are more losses, and they effect not just the man but also his partner(s).

Sexual Losses for the Mutilated Man

An intact man has quite a bit of extra skin on his penis. As I've already mentioned, this is the most mobile skin on the body - for a reason! When an intact man has intercourse, his penis often actually slides back and forth within his own skin, not against the vaginal walls. This greatly reduces friction, resulting in a far more pleasant stimulation for him and his partner both.

The extra skin also serves to form somewhat of a seal with the opening of the vagina, preventing the loss of lubricant that occurs during sex with a "cut" man. Most guys don't complain too much about this - but boy, their partners sure do! Furthermore, some of his ability to generate natural lubricant of his own is diminished, cutting down even more the natural lubricant that makes the process work so well.

The overall result is a far less pleasant experience for his partner. Although the research is woefully incomplete, what has been done overwhelmingly demonstrates the loss of satisfaction for a mutilated man's partner.


All of that happens if the surgery is successful! But when the surgery is unsuccessful, far worse things can happen. It is estimated that in the United States, complications arise in between 2% and 10% of all circumcisions. That's not a trivial number!

It should be obvious at this point that "circumcision" is neither minor nor trivial. In fact, it does severe damage to the recipient, both in the long term and the short term.

Parents, PLEASE heed the call and choose not to have your sons mutilated - or your daughters, either (Just because this blog isn't really aimed at them doesn't mean I don't care!)! Give your sons and their future wives the chance to have all the happiness that is they're birthright!


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