My husband and I are the parents of two girls and are now expecting a baby boy. I started thinking about this a long time ago, and I am quite sure I do not want our son to be circumcised. The problem is that my husband, who was circumcised as a baby, is very angry that I am taking this stance. He says that it will be impossible to keep our son clean, and that I will be ruining my son’s chances with future girlfriends. How can I convince him that it’s better to keep our son whole?
—Samantha, New Mexico
Sadly, I have heard some variation on this question many times. First, I want to congratulate you for following your instinct to protect your son from a painful and unnecessary surgery with a lifetime of consequences. Second, I want to suggest that you consider why your husband is reacting this way. It is likely that your husband, a circumcised man, thinks you’re saying “something is wrong with YOUR CUT PENIS” when you say you don’t want to cut your son’s penis.
Reassure him that you love him just the way he is, and that you know he has his son’s interest at heart. Ask him to hear you out so you can explain why you want to stop the cycle of unnecessary cutting by keeping your son intact.
Tell him that a lot has changed since he was a baby. More men are speaking out against circumcision, saying they wish they hadn’t been cut. Researchers have found that babies really feel pain when their genitals are cut, and many babies are traumatized by it. Explain that the foreskin has thousands of sensitive nerve endings that give men and their partners pleasure during sex. Tell him that more than 100 babies die each year because of circumcision complications, and that hundreds more live their lives with disfigured penises. Ask him if he thinks it’s worth the risk to perform basically a cosmetic procedure on your son. And ask him to check out this informative website covering the historical practice of newborn circumcision .
You can also point out that, because the U.S. is the only western country that routinely circumcises its boys, men in the rest of the world are intact. They know how to clean their genitals and have no problem finding women to love them .
Tell your husband that you hope he trusts your feelings about this issue, and that you both want the same thing: to peacefully welcome a beautiful and healthy baby boy into the world and raise him to be a wonderful man like his father is.
I was circumcised without my consent as a baby and I wish I could experience sex as an intact man would. I’ve heard about foreskin restoration, but I know it can’t restore the sensitivity of the natural foreskin on a normal penis. Is there any benefit to be gained by trying to restore my foreskin?
—Confused in Seattle
I am sorry that your foreskin was taken from you. You can regain some sensitivity with foreskin restoration (gentle stretching techniques) to cover the glans, making it more sensitive and providing the gliding mechanism that will improve sex for you and your partner. Although foreskin restoration is a tedious, time-consuming endeavor that takes several years to complete, every man who has succeeded has been pleased with the results.
Do an internet search for ‘foreskin restoration’ to learn more about it, find support groups, and see the current devices that have been developed. Good luck!
This is an embarrassing question. My husband and I are both 27 years old. Everything about our relationship is good, except that intercourse is very uncomfortable for me. Using lube helps at first, but he takes a long time to reach orgasm and by the time he finishes, I am in a lot of pain.
I am from Denmark, and this is my first relationship with a circumcised man. I’m wondering if this has something to do with our problems and, if so, what we can do to make things better?
—Liv C., Cincinnati
Your problem is a common complaint of American women. Most American women have never been with an intact male and don’t know what normal sex feels like, and most European women haven’t been with a cut male.
Circumcision amputates healthy genital tissue with tens of thousands of specialized erogenous nerve endings. All that sensitivity is lost. And sadly for you, as a result many men take longer to reach orgasm, which increases the pain. Cut men also lose the gliding mechanism of the foreskin that provides for gentle intromission (penetration) and sexual intercourse without abrasion.
So what can you do?
Start by trying a different lubricant, then try other positions. Many women say that being on top helps relieve some of the chafing they feel. This position often allows a woman to position herself so that she’s stimulated with less pain.
No man should be robbed of his natural penis and a healthy sexual future. And no woman should have to suffer the consequences. Understanding the underlying issue may help you and your husband work on a solution together.
Thank you again for writing. My best wishes to you.
My parents didn’t have me circumcised because they thought the choice should be mine. I felt a little self-conscious when I was in grade school because I was the only boy with a foreskin in my class. When I was in 7th grade, our science teacher told us circumcision was done so boys would be cleaner and healthier. After that, I felt inferior. Now that I’m 19, I’ve been considering circumcision for myself, but a couple of friends have warned me against it. My doctor told me it’s a simple surgery and a personal choice. That’s all he said. Can you tell me why I should or shouldn’t be circumcised?
– Uncut in Milwaukee
American doctors have been circumcising babies for several generations, so most doctors practicing these days don’t have a foreskin. They learned little or nothing about the structures, functions, development, and care of the normal foreskin. Instead, they were taught it should be cut off.
Even though, at 19, you are legally able to consent to circumcision, it’s clear that your doctor has not given you the proper information for that consent to be truly “informed.”
Here’s what you should know:
- A penis without a foreskin doesn’t work as nature intended for its owner or his sexual partner.
- Amputating the foreskin eliminates the penis’ “command and control” nerve center, the normal skin system that allows for comfortable erections and the gliding mechanism necessary for sensory pleasure, foreplay, and normal intromission (entry during intercourse).
- Circumcision amputates the tens of thousands of specialized, erogenous nerve endings that signal to the man where he is in relation to the orgasmic threshold.
- It denudes and exposes the glans (head of the penis), causing it to become dry, calloused, and desensitized. Circumcised men talk about becoming impotent during their 50s or 60s while intact males tell me the urge doesn’t come around as often but their sensitivity hasn’t diminished.
- Circumcision makes the penis smaller, too.
Your seventh-grade science teacher was wrong! Circumcision does not make the penis cleaner, reduce the risk of penile or cervical cancer, or prevent urinary tract infections, STDs, or HIV/AIDS.
Remember: Once the foreskin is cut off it can never be replaced. Though many men are now stretching the remnant foreskin to re-cover the glans and regaining the gliding mechanism and some sensitivity, the nerve endings in the foreskin are lost forever.
Your parents protected your body and your rights when you were a child. Now, it’s up to you to protect yourself, if you want to maintain the wholeness of your body and the fullness of your sexual experience.
I am having a boy this summer. My sister-in-law is a nurse and she insists that I should circumcise my son. She says it will be easier for me and for him to keep his penis clean and prevent infections. She adds that it is particularly gross when men grow old. I’m thinking that she may know what she’s talking about because she’s nurse who has cared for elderly patients for years. Do you think she is right?
— Barbara, Dan Diego
As a registered nurse myself, I’m astonished at how little my colleagues know about the normal penis. Intactivists know that the foreskin protects the glans penis when a boy is in diapers. We know that the foreskin preserves the sensitivity of the glans penis when the boy grows into a man. We know that infections occur in both cut and intact men. As for the cleanliness of an elderly man’s genitals, nurses in countries that keep their babies intact do not have issues caring for men (or for women, of course) as they age.
Your sister-in-law is spreading a common myth about circumcision. Would she recommend pulling off a baby’s nails because he may not be able to keep his fingernails clean when he grows old? Probably not. Please keep your baby boy intact. He’ll thank you for it one day.
I read your response to Katherine in Canada in which you said the doctor was wrong to prescribe a steroid to retract a boy’s foreskin when it was likely that the boy had a yeast infection. The question is timely because I’m facing a similar situation with my fourteen-year-old son, whose foreskin has not yet retracted.
Several weeks ago, my son began to feel a burning sensation when he peed and he wasn’t able to urinate much. We went to his pediatrician. We thought it was a UTI, but the pediatrician noticed an irritation on the tip of his penis, so she prescribed a topical antibiotic and an oral antibiotic. Neither worked, so we were referred to a pediatric urologist.
The urologist said that the fact that he couldn’t retract the foreskin could be the root of the issue. Then, without warning, she pulled his foreskin off his glans. I didn’t know what she was doing until I heard my son scream. I couldn’t believe it! Doctors tell you that it’s going to pinch when they give you a shot, and this was much worse.
The urologist prescribed a steroid for my son to use on his foreskin, and since using it he has been able to pull his foreskin further back and clean better. His pain and the urge to urinate has subsided a little bit.
One of the doctors also suggested that because my son was experiencing constipation, his full bowels were pushing on the walls of his bladder and that may have caused some of the discomfort, too.
My question after reading your response to Katherine in Canada is whether or not my son should continue to use the steroid. He’s still not 100% better. What can I do?
— Leslie, Connecticut
I’m happy to know that you kept your son intact. It won’t be long until he understands you’ve given him a wonderful gift. In the meantime, there’s an easy solution to your son’s irritation. A reddened foreskin is usually caused by yeast overgrowth; some soaps, shampoos, bubble baths, or chlorine in pools or hot tubs can disturb the balance between the normal bacteria and yeast that live on our bodies. Antibiotics also can kill healthy bacteria as well as harmful bacteria, so it is counterproductive for a doctor to prescribe antibiotics to heal a reddened foreskin, unless there are other indications an antibiotic is needed.
You can treat yeast yourself by restoring the body’s healthy bacteria. I recommend you purchase a liquid probiotic (acidophilus culture works well) and have your son apply it six times a day. He can pour a tablespoon or so of the liquid into the palm of his hand, hold it for a moment to warm the solution, and then dip his foreskin into the solution and use his fingertips to rub the liquid onto the affected area. He doesn’t need to retract his foreskin because the bacteria will multiply and fill whatever empty tissue there is. You should notice an improvement in three days
You also asked about whether your son should continue to use a steroid cream. The doctor prescribed a steroid to prematurely retract the foreskin, which I’ve already said is not necessary when treating excess yeast. Your son should stop using the steroid cream and let nature take its course. His foreskin might tighten after steroid treatment stops, but the foreskin will loosen up with time . (Some men find their foreskins do not retract fully until their mid-twenties because men do not complete their sexual development until then.) Right now, as long as your son is urinating normally, he doesn’t need to fuss with his foreskin.
To prevent a yeast reoccurrence, don’t use cleansing products that harm good bacteria. If your son swims or uses hot tubs, have him apply non-petroleum jelly on his foreskin prior to going into chlorinated water. After swimming, he should shower to remove the chlorine from his body and then gently wipe away the protective cream from his foreskin.
I’m sorry you were misled by your doctors. As more and more boys are kept intact, health professionals need to learn to respect the foreskin and it treat it properly.