Throughout history, many religious and cultural traditions have dictated the necessity of male circumcision; over the past few decades, however, attitudes regarding circumcision in America have changed drastically. Although most men do not have a say in whether or not they keep their foreskin since doctors typically perform circumcision on newborns, the divisive procedure carries with it long-term implications for health and sex in adult life.
Since the 1960s, the rate of circumcision in the United States has dropped from 83 percent to approximately 77 percent in 2010. Reflecting a shift in opinion, the decline in circumcision rates indicates normalization of the belief that circumcision serves neither as a medical nor social function, and might amount to more of a disservice than a responsible parenting decision made at birth.
Examining the effects of circumcision on sexual activity reveals that circumcised men typically experience delayed orgasms, which some researchers attribute to decreased penile sensitivity. While there are many studies on the effects that circumcision have on the sex lives of males, only more recent studies have studied the effects on females’ sex lives.
Studies indicate increased documentation of sexual difficulty reported by women married to circumcised men—among the problems reported, achieving an orgasm presented itself as the forefront. Indeed, studies by the Danish research enterprise Statens Serum Institut’s Associate Professor Morten Frisch show that, when their male partner is not circumcised, women have reported they are twice as likely to experience an orgasm.
Combatting the increasingly popular opinion that circumcision fulfills no role in health, many medical doctors still maintain that circumcised men have a lesser chance of developing prostate and penile cancer, and the foreskin acts as an incubator for sexually transmitted diseases and inflammations. In giving such opinions, however, these doctors also commonly present alternatives to circumcision for cancer prevention such as wearing a condom and thoroughly washing after sex.
While employing condoms during sex can facilitate the prevention of contracting STDs for uncircumcised men, putting on and wearing a condom can present certain obstacles specific to uncircumcised men whose foreskin might ultimately push off the condom.
Despite circumcision serving neither a medical nor socially significant role, a stigma has developed against uncircumcised men, whom potential partners might perceive as lacking in personal hygiene or at a greater risk for contracting and spreading STDs.
While such stereotypes and misconceptions about men with foreskin can force them to feel more self-conscious than their circumcised counterparts during sex, these anachronistic stigmas have begun to slowly die away. If recent statistics bear any significance, then we can assume that the socially constructed assumption of circumcision’s necessity will soon decrease even further.
Circumcision is a procedure that has been motivated by both cultural and religious customs for hundreds of years. While some studies show that being uncircumcised can increase sexual pleasure, many are still under the impression that it is healthier to have a child circumcised. As the cultural implications around circumcision continue to change, we may soon find ourselves to be living in a country where uncircumcised penises are the norm.