Sexually Speaking

Dear Alexis, The guy that I’m dating right now is uncircumcised. I didn’t realize until I was with him. This is the first uncircumcised guy I’ve ever been with. Why is it more common for guys to be circumcised? Is it better or worse for them as far as their health and their sex life are concerned? How does it affect the girlfriend?

– Curious about circumcision

Dear Curious,

Circumcision, or removal of the foreskin of the penis, is quite common in the United States; more so, in fact, than in European countries. It usually takes place in the hospital approximately two days after birth, or eight days after birth as required by Judaism. The Muslim faith also requires the circumcision of males.

Religious motivations aside, circumcision is also practiced for hygienic reasons. The Tyson’s glands are located in the foreskin of the penis and secrete an oily substance that can mix with dead skin cells to create a substance called smegma. If smegma is not regularly removed from under the foreskin, it can irritate the glans penis (or head of the penis) and possibly cause infection. Uncircumcised males must manually retract the foreskin to remove any buildup.

The American Academy of Pediatrics has released several statements since 1971 that say there are no medical reasons for circumcision. This caused U.S. circumcision rates to drop from approximately 95 percent in the mid-1960s to about 58 percent in 1987.

However, the AAP reversed this statement in 1990 based on findings indicating that uncircumcised infants were 10 times more likely to have urinary tract infections than circumcised babies. Other studies have shown no difference in rates of infections.

Another matter regarding circumcision is that of sexual stimulation. Some argue that the foreskin interferes with stimulation because it covers the glans penis. Others argue that, since the foreskin retracts during erection, it does not interfere and may even help to protect the glans penis from becoming desensitized since it would not be repeatedly coming into contact with clothing and other materials that could cause reduced sensitivity.

Other arguments made in favor of circumcision state that uncircumcised males may be at greater risk of penile cancer and may be more likely to harbor and transmit STIs. However, for every study that supports these claims there one that offers evidence to the contrary.

The only thing medical experts can agree on when it comes to circumcision regards males experiencing phimosis, a condition involving the foreskin to become so tight during an erection that it causes pain and discomfort during intercourse. In this case, removal of the foreskin is recommended. Other than this, circumcision continues to be debated and remains a personal preference rather than a procedure that is either “good” or “bad.”

– Be safe and have fun! Alexis