Facts on foreskin: 5 circumcision myths explored


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The American Academy of Pediatrics has revised its stance on male circumcision, saying that while it won’t recommend it as a routine practice, new evidence on its potential health benefits suggest that it should be covered by insurance. In light of this news, we explored some of the more common myths regarding this controversial procedure.

It’s not painful. Any way you slice it, circumcising a newborn male is painful to some extent, and many anti-circumcision groups argue that the level of pain can even lead to post-traumatic stress disorder. However, there are a number of safe pain medications available, and having the procedure handle by skilled professional will ensure that the procedure is as quick and painless as possible.

Circumcised men can’t contract AIDS and other STDs. While new research from Johns Hopkins reveals that declining rates of circumcision have contributed to increases in healthcare costs associated with sexually transmitted diseases and infections, it is important to understand that circumcision alone will not protect a man or his partner from contracting one, and proper precautions should always be taken when engaging in sexual activities.

Adult men don’t get circumcised. While men are certainly very sensitive when it comes to their penis, there are reasons why some choose to be circumcised. Aside from cultural reasons — such as converting to a religion that requires males to be circumcised — other reasons for having one’s foreskin removed include phimosis, a medical condition in which the foreskin is too tight and hard to retract; having the foreskin removed reduces the risk of developing penile cancer and helps lower the risk of contracting an STD.

Sex is much better for uncut males. This one is a bit tricky, as there is limited scientific data on the matter. Anti-circumcision advocates argue that the foreskin is highly sensitive and serves an important role in sexual pleasure. In our research for this story, we had trouble finding conclusive support for the argument that uncircumcised have a significantly better sexual experience than their circumcised counterparts. In fact, a recent study lead by a urologist based in Istanbul found that circumcised men take longer to reach ejaculation, which many consider a benefit.

Circumcision should be performed in a hospital. When discussing the topic of circumcision, it is hard not to think of “Seinfeld” and the episode involving the “one-in-a-million mohel.” It is important to understand that mohels (the Jewish men — and increasingly women — who perform religious circumcision) are required to go through extensive training, and many are also licensed medical doctors. It might also surprise you to learn that circumcisions performed by religious leaders outside of the hospital take about 15 to 30 seconds, whereas the procedure done at the hospital can take five to 20 minutes.

Though there are many reasons why someone might choose circumcision for himself or his child, it is important to understand that in the industrialized world, the decision remains largely one of cultural preference. Like with any medical procedure, you should be sure to learn as much as possible to make sure it is right for you.

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