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Negative Effects of Circumcision in Later Life: Long-term Implications

long-term effects of circumcision

An aspect of circumcision that is often overlooked is the potential long-term consequences of surgically removing the foreskin from an infant’s or child’s penis. In this article, we will shed light on the physical, psychological, and sexual implications that may arise years after the procedure. We believe presenting personal testimonies, scientific studies, and societal narratives can make a difference in the ultimate health and well-being of babies, boys, and men and their partners. The choice to circumcise or to respect a baby, child, or man’s natural body is an irreversible decision that has lifelong effects.

Physical Complications Post-Circumcision

Although there is information about physical complications post-surgery on babies, there is very little documentation on the long-term physical complications of circumcision, as this requires the testimony of adults, and if their parents never discussed the potential long-term consequences of circumcision, adults may not understand the relationship between their disorder and circumcision. However, studies cite these long-term issues: “meatal stenosis, in addition to excess or inadequate excision of the foreskin, concealed penis, adhesions between penile skin and glans penis, penile deformities, secondary hypospadias, bad wound healing, granuloma, skin bridges, and psychological disorders.” 1 Intact America board member and author of Please Don’t Cut the Baby! A Nurse’s Memoir, Marilyn Milos, recalls hearing about the long-term consequences of circumcision from the gay community in the mid-1980s.

Besides the emotional damage, they talked to me about ugly scarring, especially from the Gomco clamp that allows blood to seep into the peripheral tissue of the penis, leaving large dark patches under the skin. They told me about tight cuts causing painful erections and loose cuts that helped prevent painful erections, at least somewhat. They told me about the curvature of the penis, something that occurs when more skin is taken from one side than the other. They told me about the skin bridges and the hunks and slices missing from the glans.

The worst long-term physical consequence is lifelong disfigurement, which involves the loss of part or all of the penis. Milos writes about two infants at an Atlanta hospital in 1985 “that suffered severe disfiguring electrical burns to the penis and adjacent areas when each of their physicians used an electric cauterizing needle as part of the circumcision procedure.” The burns to one of the infants were so severe that his parents opted to surgically alter the sex of their son to a girl. The other boy underwent continuous reconstructive surgeries but would never function sexually as a normal male and required lifelong urological care.2

Don’t think that these kinds of mistakes can no longer happen. A doctor in Palm Beach County, Florida, botched two circumcisions as recently as 2017, which resulted in the amputation of an infant’s penis, and in 2021 when another infant lost a third of his penis and his urethra was sliced—the same doctor, mind you, who had continued to practice.3

Psychological and Emotional Impacts of Circumcision

Circumcision can have deep psychological and emotional impacts. The normal response of a body to physical trauma is lingering psychological trauma. You might think babies would have no memory of the physical and psychological trauma of circumcision, but studies have shown that is not true.

In her book, Please Don’t Cut the Baby!, Milos talks about how the groundwork for the field of Birth Psychology changed thinking about babies and their experience of pain and trauma.

“Dr. David Chamberlain, a California psychologist, had been using hypnotherapy to discover and resolve traumas arising in the womb and at birth and had done research demonstrating that birth memories were reliable memories.”

While working on materials for the 2nd International Symposium on Circumcision, Milos was queried by a customer at the cafe where she had spread out her papers about what she was doing. When she revealed it was for a symposium on circumcision, the man, who was Jewish, told her that he had relived his circumcision during Primal Therapy to get to the root of his trust issues. She heard similarly disturbing stories from many circumcised men who had a sense of violation, loss, and self-esteem issues.

Sexual Ramifications of Circumcision

Circumcision significantly impacts sexual health and pleasure. Dryness due to the absence of natural lubrication provided by the foreskin is an issue for some circumcised men, leading to discomfort during intercourse. Moreover, some studies show that the removal of the foreskin reduces sensitivity, requiring more intense stimulation for arousal and pleasure. Some men may experience difficulties achieving or maintaining erections, stemming from both the physical and psychological consequences of circumcision.

Director of IA Georganne Chapin has a chapter called “What’s Sex Got to Do With It?” in her book This Penis Business. The answer is—everything.

“How could cutting off a sexual body part not affect the mechanics and quality of the victim’s sex life, sexual relationships, and psyche?” asks Chapin. “You’re missing blood vessels, muscle, specialized nerve endings, and other features unique to the foreskin designed for the optimal performance, protection, pleasure, and satisfaction of the man—and his partner.”

Milos and her colleagues conducted and published a study on the sensitivity of a circumcised penis versus an intact one.4 Not surprisingly, considering circumcised penises are missing 20,000 to 70,000 erogenous nerve endings, intact penises were more sensitive.

Chapin also points out in This Penis Business that “an intact penis is a bit longer and a bit chubbier than a circumcised penis” and that a circumcised male has been robbed of an index-card-size area of sensitive, mobile, protective tissue that was provided by nature.


Over the years, there has been a remarkable evolution in the medical community’s perspective on routine infant circumcision. This shift highlights the ever-evolving nature of medical knowledge and stresses the importance of reevaluating practices in light of new research and understanding. Once hailed as a normative and medically advantageous procedure, opinions have changed dramatically in recent decades as the truth about the dangers and consequences of circumcision has come to light. Many health organizations and professionals now recognize that circumcision is not medically necessary and that there are long-term consequences in addition to short-term risks.

Intact America believes that circumcision decisions should be based on the informed choice of the individual in question, emphasizing bodily autonomy. By staying informed, we can further the cause of informed decision-making and ensure that every choice regarding circumcision is made with careful consideration and respect for individuals, regardless of age. By fostering open dialogue without judgment or prejudice, we can pave the way for nuanced conversations that empower future generations to make choices aligned with their best interests and well-being. Let’s raise awareness, advocate for informed decision-making, and create a supportive environment for all.

  1. MK Atikeler et al., “Increased Morbidity After Cırcumcision From a Hidden Complication.” BJU Int. 2001;88:938–40, http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1464-4096.2001.02416.x; E. Benli, O. Koca, “Circumcision Research in Bingol Province.” The New J Urol. 2011;6:22–5.
  2. https://www.nytimes.com/1985/10/08/science/a-circumcision-method-draws-new-concern.html.
  3. Holly Baltz, “5 Takeaways: Palm Beach Post Investigation into Florida OB-GYN and Babies, Moms Who Died Under His Care.” Palm Beach Post, September 23, 2021, https://www.palmbeachpost.com/story/news/2021/09/23/west-palm-ob-gyn-malpractice-lawsuits-moms-babies-died-circumcisions-botched-doctor-kept-practicing/5524867001/.
  4. Morris L. Sorrells, James L. Snyder, Mark D. Reiss, Christopher Eden, Marilyn F. Milos, Norma Wilcox, Robert S. Van Howe. “Fine-Touch Pressure Thresholds in the Adult Penis.” BJU International (99, 4:864-9), March 19, 2007.


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Marilyn Fayre Milos, multiple award winner for her humanitarian work to end routine infant circumcision in the United States and advocating for the rights of infants and children to genital autonomy, has written a warm and compelling memoir of her path to becoming “the founding mother of the intactivist movement.” Needing to support her family as a single mother in the early sixties, Milos taught banjo—having learned to play from Jerry Garcia (later of The Grateful Dead)—and worked as an assistant to comedian and social critic Lenny Bruce, typing out the content of his shows and transcribing court proceedings of his trials for obscenity. After Lenny’s death, she found her voice as an activist as part of the counterculture revolution, living in Haight Ashbury in San Francisco during the 1967 Summer of Love, and honed her organizational skills by creating an alternative education open classroom (still operating) in Marin County. 

After witnessing the pain and trauma of the circumcision of a newborn baby boy when she was a nursing student at Marin College, Milos learned everything she could about why infants were subjected to such brutal surgery. The more she read and discovered, the more convinced she became that circumcision had no medical benefits. As a nurse on the obstetrical unit at Marin General Hospital, she committed to making sure parents understood what circumcision entailed before signing a consent form. Considered an agitator and forced to resign in 1985, she co-founded NOCIRC (National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) and began organizing international symposia on circumcision, genital autonomy, and human rights. Milos edited and published the proceedings from the above-mentioned symposia and has written numerous articles in her quest to end circumcision and protect children’s bodily integrity. She currently serves on the board of directors of Intact America.


Georganne Chapin is a healthcare expert, attorney, social justice advocate, and founding executive director of Intact America, the nation’s most influential organization opposing the U.S. medical industry’s penchant for surgically altering the genitals of male children (“circumcision”). Under her leadership, Intact America has definitively documented tactics used by U.S. doctors and healthcare facilities to pathologize the male foreskin, pressure parents into circumcising their sons, and forcibly retract the foreskins of intact boys, creating potentially lifelong, iatrogenic harm. 

Chapin holds a BA in Anthropology from Barnard College, and a Master’s degree in Sociomedical Sciences from Columbia University. For 25 years, she served as president and chief executive officer of Hudson Health Plan, a nonprofit Medicaid insurer in New York’s Hudson Valley. Mid-career, she enrolled in an evening law program, where she explored the legal and ethical issues underlying routine male circumcision, a subject that had interested her since witnessing the aftermath of the surgery conducted on her younger brother. She received her Juris Doctor degree from Pace University School of Law in 2003, and was subsequently admitted to the New York Bar. As an adjunct professor, she taught Bioethics and Medicaid and Disability Law at Pace, and Bioethics in Dominican College’s doctoral program for advanced practice nurses.

In 2004, Chapin founded the nonprofit Hudson Center for Health Equity and Quality, a company that designs software and provides consulting services designed to reduce administrative complexities, streamline and integrate data collection and reporting, and enhance access to care for those in need. In 2008, she co-founded Intact America.

Chapin has published many articles and op-ed essays, and has been interviewed on local, national and international television, radio and podcasts about ways the U.S. healthcare system prioritizes profits over people’s basic needs. She cites routine (nontherapeutic) infant circumcision as a prime example of a practice that wastes money and harms boys and the men they will become. This Penis Business: A Memoir is her first book.