While circumcision of the penis is a commonly accepted practice in many geographical areas, a lot of misunderstanding still exists around the procedure, and the differences between cut and uncut penises.
Read on to explore some of the most common myths about circumcision, and clear up some potentially confusing misinformation.
Myth: Most Penises Are Circumcised
Circumcision is more common in areas such as the United States, Canada, Africa and the Middle East. Folks who live in these areas may perceive circumcision to be fairly common, because many or most of the penises they’ve encountered have been cut. However, only approximately 30% of penises worldwide are circumcised.
Myth: Foreskin Is Unnecessary
Since so many people are circumcised, clearly people with penises are able to function and survive without foreskin! However, there are some functional purposes of the foreskin.
Intact foreskin can provide protection for the head of the penis (or glans). Similar to the clitoral hood on a vulva, foreskin on a penis can help maintain the sensitivity of the glans by protecting it. The foreskin can also minimize friction and chafing during penetrative sex, as it moves in a gliding motion.
Myth: People Who Are Circumcised Are Cleaner
It is commonly recommended that the foreskin of uncircumcised penises be pulled back during bathing to be cleaned. While this is a step that those with an circumcised penis do not have to consider, it is a relatively simple task that folks with uncircumcised penises get accustomed to performing during their regular bathing routine.
Myth: Circumcision Prevents HIV
This myth is kind of a myth. There has been some compelling research that circumcision can sometimes help prevent the penetrating partner from contracting HIV in some situations and populations, but those results are not necessarily generalizable to everyone everywhere.
Intact foreskin can provide protection for the head of the penis
It may be something to consider for those living in areas with epidemic levels of HIV, but would not be the most effective prevention method for people living elsewhere. Other risk reduction strategies such as using condoms properly and routine HIV testing provide significantly more protection than circumcision.
Myth: Uncircumcised People Are More Likely To Have A Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI)
The connection between circumcision and sexually transmitted infections has been studied for decades, with mixed results. There are no clear and consistent findings that circumcision has any impact on the general population’s risk of acquiring an STI.
Myth: Circumcision Is Medically Necessary
As previously noted, approximately 70% of penises around the world aren’t circumcised and are nonetheless able to function and survive… so that would indicate that removing the foreskin is not a medical necessity.
In a minority of cases - if there are problems with a tight foreskin for example - circumcision may be medically recommended. However, circumcision is most often practiced for cultural or religious reasons, or just because it is the norm in a given community.
Myth: Uncircumcised Penises Are Prone To Smelly Buildup
Just like any moist area of the body (such as the skin flaps of the vulva, behind the ears, the armpits, between rolls of skin), the foreskin can breed bacteria and buildup that can produce an odor if not cleaned. Regular washing can easily prevent this from happening.
Is Circumcised Or Uncircumcised Better? Either Is Fine!
The truth is that circumcised and uncircumcised penises have more similarities than they do differences. Both cut and uncut penises can be of various shapes and sizes, can get erect when turned on, can ejaculate, and can provide and experience pleasure.
When learning about circumcision (or any sexuality topic!) it’s important to think about whether what we hear are true facts or just myths. So much of our sexuality education is rooted in generalities, shame, and misinformation. The truth is, sexuality is diverse! Different choices are going to work for different people, and circumcision is no different!