The Case Against Circumcision
Since this book is intended to serve as a layman's manual on the
practical aspects of the sex act, the author feels nothing should be omitted
that has a direct bearing upon the subject. Futhermore, whether it be utilized
or not, it is impossible to provide a public, starving for adequate
instructions, with too much information calculated to promote sexual
compatibility in the home.
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The remarks in this chapter will probably not have much influence on present-day
American practice. They are made for what they are worth and the possibility
that some future parents may think them deserving of consideration in the event
of the birth of a male child. The author refers to the practice of circumcision,
the disadvantages of which far outweigh any advantage.
One wonders what acute health situation led to its advocacy and makes it so
often a routine operation at birth in this country. Paradoxically, a similar
structure is found within the female genitals; yet no physician would recommend
amputating the small lips of the vulva, which correspond to the foreskin of the
penis and perform the same function of protection. Nor is circumcision of the
small lips unknown. Female circumcision is practiced ritually by some African
tribes. It has also been practiced by the Turks to allow the male organ easier
access to the vagina. Fortunately, it has been overlooked in this country.
Of course, there are certain organs of the body that apparently serve no useful
purpose and can at times cause serious harm. The most common of these are the
tonsils and appendix. It is a peculiarity of these organs that they are not
necessarily subject to control by careful living. Infection can occur
notwithstanding the attention given to one's body.
But the same is not true of the foreskin. In fact its existence could scarcely
be less related. First of all, it performs a necessary function, a function
intended it by nature; second, given the most indifferent attention, it cannot
possibly threaten the health of the human body. These statements do not permit
any argument whatsoever.
It represents a minor hazard—at no times is it major— only to those who are
unclean or neglectful. Even in these instances, the blame can be laid directly
upon parents for not having trained a child to a simple observance that
completely eliminates any threat. In truth, there is no more justification for
routine circumcision than for mechanically extracting a youngster's teeth simply
because lack of care may one day result in abcesses. At the very worst, there is
always more than ample time for the removal of the foreskin, should it start
giving trouble. At no stage is circumcision a serious undertaking. Its practice
upon a week-old baby indicates this.
The discussion in this chapter pertains exclusively to its acceptance by
gentiles. With Semitic people it has the influence of their religion behind it,
and this is sufficient to justify it. The ceremony is a holy one, and has for
its background the teachings of Moses. But since circumcision is no part of
Christian dogma, it has been adopted by the gentile on the basis of health
alone; on that basis it is challenged.
The foreskin is a sheath of flesh that is a proper and continuous part of the
skin of the penis. It extends over the head or glans, precisely as a cap or
hood, and prevents its coming into contact with the groin or clothing, much the
same as the outer and inner lips of the female protect the vulva. The skin is
snug yet sufficiently elastic to be drawn back completely exposing the head.
This action occurs during intercourse.
The foreskin protects the glans from contact with rough surfaces, and enables it
to retain a pronounced sensitivity. The slightest touch upon the head by
anything not lubricated, even the finger, creates a sharp feeling of tenderness
similar to that experienced when a piece of raw flesh is exposed.
Before circumcision, the glans is a deep pink, much as the organ of any male
animal when upon erection it protrudes from its sheath. Also it is kept moist by
the foreskin in the same manner that the vulva of the female is lubricated by
the small lips.
The head comes to a rounded blunt point, but its base is somewhat larger than
the rest of the male organ. This creates a ridge or band, as if a ring were
placed around it, and which, when in contact with the vaginal canal during
intercourse, produces a rippling along the walls. In fact, devices exist, known
as "ticklers," that fit over the glans of undersized organs to increase
stimulation of the vaginal canal.
Since the glans is larger than the section of the penis adjoining it, an
encircling crevice is formed. Like any crevice it invites accumulations, and in
the case of the male organ, a white deposit gathers there called smegma.
If allowed to accumulate for several years, smegma might possibly cause some
irritation. But, even this is doubtful. It is troublesome only in connection
with adhesions. However, to give advocates of circumcision the best of every
possible argument, let it be assumed that a deposit of years will result in
irritation. The fact is, then, smegma can gather for months without producing
the slightest discomfort. The gatherings are not vast materializations of a
suddenness, but slow, tiny accumulations that may or may not become larger only
over a considerable period of time. Meanwhile, since a child or his parents can
have removed it on a hundred different occasions, this leaves an uncir-cumcised
adult without any excuse for its accumulation other than unpardonable
Smegma is easily removed. The foreskin is simply drawn back and the area cleaned
with a wash cloth. A female performs a similar operation each time she showers.
In her case, though, greater difficulty is encountered, because of the many
folds and convolutions of the vulva and the fact that inspection is awkward.
Actually, the only inconvenience likely to develop results from adhesions. If
the foreskin is not drawn back regularly, it may grow in spots to the ridge
about the head of the penis; or if not stretched, it may in rare instances bind
the glans. This can only occur if an uncircumcised individual never draws back
the foreskin over a very long period. The word "regularly" implies as seldom as
once every 2 or 3 days in maturity, and then only if the boy or man is lazy,
stupid, or not clean. An intelligent person, obviously, will attend to this
matter frequently, perhaps upon each urination. A male spends at least fifteen
seconds holding his organ, and only an instant is required to draw back the
Under these circumstances, due to regular stretching, both binding of the glans
and adhesions are not even to be considered. Perhaps, even nature, herself,
anticipated carelessness on the part of man and deliberately created conditions
to offset it. The glans is smooth and moist, and neither smooth nor moist
surfaces encourage adhesions.
Nevertheless, let it be further assumed that the threat of adhesion is far more
serious than it actually is and that the ridge of the glans and the foreskin
will eventually grow together. Since the actual condition is one to discourage
this, the surfaces at worst can adhere only in spots. Smegma then accumulates in
the crevices below the ridge of the glans and beneath the adhesion. There it
cannot be reached and pain and irritation occur. What now? The adhesion is cut
and deposit removed. Or what is more probable, the doctor, realizing he has a
careless individual for a patient, will recommend a complete circumcision.
Therein lies the sole reason for routine circumcision: the neglect of a few.
Male children from clean homes and clean parents are mechanically penalized
because a careless minority must be protected from its own stupidity.
Notwithstanding the fact that circumcision is unnecessary, the author still
would not question it but for a most unfortunate consequence. The man with a
foreskin, although he does not realize it, experiences an intensity of pleasure
in intercourse that does not extend to the circumcised. Let this be clarified.
It must be admitted that nature makes few mistakes, considerably less than man,
and she definitely intended the foreskin. Sound, specific, and clever functions
were provided for it and those functions it performs. So long as it does,
mechanical removal cannot be justified.
The functions of the foreskin are two in number. The first is to protect the
head of the penis and keep in sensitive. Why? Because the nerve center of sexual
sensation in the male lies at the base of the head of the penis and nowhere
else. It requires greater protection than the clitoris of the female, to which
it corresponds, because in many women other parts of the vulva may be almost
This is not the case with the male organ. The sensation of climax starts only at
the head and develops its intensity there. Who, then, will insist that nature
intended that particular zone to be desensitized unnecessarily?
Certainly, if the ovaries become infected, a hysterectomy must be performed to
protect health. If a leg becomes gangrenous, it must be amputated for the same
reason. But for what intelligent consideration does one mechanically remove an
organ, limb, or section of the human body so long as the part is performing an
important role in life and is not menacing health.
It has been remarked that before circumcision the head of the penis is pink, and
tender to the touch. Following the operation it rapidly becomes greyish and so
insensitive that sandpaper can be rubbed against it without creating the
slightest pain. Since circumcision exposes the bare glans by necessitating the
amputation of all the protective skin, constant contact, then, with clothing
quickly reduces its sensitivity to that of ordinary epidermis. This is the
effect of circumcision upon the sexual center of the male body.
The second function performed by the foreskin is an ingenious one. It acts as a
natural "tickler," a contrivance referred to earlier, and adds to the
stimulation of the female by increasing the circumference of the male organ.
Since the foreskin is a loose section of flesh surrounding the head of the glans,
the forward motion of the penis in the vaginal canal during intercourse forces
the foreskin back automatically and causes it to bunch in folds at the base of
the head. The withdrawing motion then reverses the operation. The clinging
contact of the foreskin to the vaginal walls causes it to be drawn forward, and
again, cover the head of the penis, increasing its size.
It should be mentioned that the vaginal walls are in many cases extremely
sensitive and will respond to any variation of pressure against them. It is the
rippling of the walls brought about by the ridge of the glans that produces the
highest ecstasy in a passionate woman. So susceptible are vaginal walls to
stimulation that the pulsing of the penis alone, as it expands and contracts,
can induce an orgasm in many women, or heighten a climax already in progress.
During a female orgasm, the vagina, likewise, expands and contracts as if
attempting to crowd itself more snugly about the male organ. This gripping
sensation can be felt by the penis.
Consequently any variations of pressure against the walls, regardless of how
slight, registers directly and immediately upon the sexual mechanism of the
female and intensifies her pleasure. This function the foreskin performs by
increasing the head circumference upon one motion and decreasing it upon
another. Furthermore, since the thrust of the penis drives the foreskin back to
bunch itself at the base of the head, it tends to thicken the ridge. This also
varies the pressure against the vaginal walls.
It becomes clear then that the foreskin in addition to playing a protective role
also serves as an important instrument in varying the sensations experienced by
the female during intercourse.
Its amputation, therefore, actually reduces the circumference of the penis, by
more than Vi6 of an inch, and sentences it to perform in an unvarying manner.
Since the vaginal walls will respond violently to the even more minute momentary
increase in size brought about alone by a pulsation of the penis, 1/16 of an
inch is a large measurement by comparison.
To future parents of male children, it is suggested that they weigh the matter
very carefully before exposing a boy to a mechanical operation that has no
better recommendation that the argument that some people are unclean and
neglectful. The questionable gain does not at all compensate for the unnecessary
loss. It must be emphasized again that since sexual incompatibility constitutes
such a threat to domestic happiness, a man requires every support he can obtain
to meet it. Circumcision will not aid him.