It’s no secret that I’m an opponent of infant circumcision – and not without good reason. But rather than bitching about the many, many reasons why circumcising day-old kids is bad, perhaps I should do something positive instead – addressing a few common misconceptions about foreskins!
I believe this would be valuable because the most common reason parents and doctors continue to promote circumcision is ignorance.
They simply aren’t familiar with how an uncircumcised penis operates (which isn’t really surprising, as about 80% of kids were circumcised up until only a few years ago.) This is why parents are so keen to get their kids circumcised in the first place – and so ready to believe American doctors when they tell them they “need” to get the procedure done.
When my mother-in-law was up visiting my boys, for example, she was definitely out of her comfort-zone being faced with two uncircumcised kids – and some of the things she thought you were supposed to do during bath time, etc. were not just ignorant, but potentially dangerous (more on that later.)
Likewise, I’ve heard dozens of parents tell me that they’d left their kids uncircumcised, but later doctors had told them they’d “had” to get their kids cut because of “complications.” These sort of “complications” don’t occur as frequently (if at all) in Europe, where almost all boys are uncircumcised, which suggests that the problem isn’t foreskins, but American doctor’s ignorance about them.
So without further ado – here are answers to three of the most common questions people ask about foreskins:
What does the foreskin do?
The pro-circumcision lobby might tell you that the foreskin doesn’t have a purpose, but it actually has an important one: it’s a means of facilitating vaginal penetration.
It’s not a very sexy analogy, but the best way I can describe the sexual function of a foreskin is by comparing it to a tampon applicator. When an uncircumcised man presses the tip of his penis against a woman’s vaginal opening, the foreskin acts kind of like an applicator and rolls back, holding the vagina open, while the glans extend and penetrate the woman.
It makes penetration easier and more comfortable, and doesn’t require a woman to be as lubricated (although one would hope she was!) So while you can certainly have sex without a foreskin – it’s definitely better with one.
Aren’t uncircumcised penises unhygenic?
One of the most common misconceptions about uncircumcised penises is that they’re somehow “dirty” or “unhygienic.” This is totally untrue – a penis is pretty much as clean as its owner, and you’d be better off with a clean guy’s uncircumcised cock than a skuzzy fellow’s cut one.
But it’s true that keeping an uncircumcised penis clean and serviceable is a little more involved than an uncircumcised one. The fact is, you need to clean under the foreskin daily because lubrication and fluids can get trapped underneath the foreskin, and after a few days turn that can turn into smegma - a cheesy film that nobody wants to discover in an intimate moment.
So adults (and only adults – more on this later) need to pull back their foreskin and give it a thorough cleanse in the shower each morning. Use your finger to clean every crease, crevice and wrinkle. It’s actually quite fun.
Alternatively, men should use a baby wipe every time they go to the bathroom. Baby wipes are one of society’s greatest gifts to uncircumcised men. The other is that blowjob trick when somebody slips their tongue into the space between glans and foreskin – but I digress!
Finally, like every item of heavy machinery, an uncircumcised penis benefits from daily lubrication. After a guy showers each and every day, he should slather every inch of his penis in baby oil. This is one of the highlights of my day, actually!
Mineral oil helps keep the penis smooth and soft, and lubricating under the foreskin with baby oil helps it retract and roll back more comfortably and easily. In addition, the baby oil inhibits any funkiness from developing underneath the foreskin, and makes sure that you’re clean, gleaming and ready for action at a moment’s notice.
I have a son. Should I tell him to wash under his foreskin when he takes a bath?
Quick answer: No. Lightly longer answer: Hell, no.
One of the reasons so many kids get circumcised because of “complications” with their foreskin is because American parents and doctors alike are woefully ignorant of how a boy’s penis grows and develops during childhood – and they can actually damage them as a result.
Contrary to the popular misconception, a boy’s glans and foreskin aren’t separated like they are with an adult. They’re joined together by a mucus membrane which means a boy’s foreskin does not retract until they’re ten or eleven years old.
Yes, you read that right. Ten or eleven years old.
Forcing a boy to pull back his foreskin before that age can actually tear the mucus membrane holding the foreskin and glans together; which can cause intense pain and scar tissue which results in those “complications” American doctors are so keen to rectify with circumcision.
It’s terrifying that so many Americans – from my mother-in-law to parents themselves – think that their boys need to be able to retract their foreskin and wash underneath it. That’s not just ignorant – it’s dangerous.
A boy should always be the first person to pull their foreskin back; and only ever when they’re comfortable and ready to do it. And speaking from experience, by the time a boy has discovered the lingerie section of the Sear’s catalogue, that’s something they’ll figure out on their own!
One thing everybody should know about uncircumcised penises is: That’s the way they’re supposed to be. The foreskin is a useful, healthy, pleasurable and practical part of the body – and I really, really wish that new parents would understand that, and give their little boys the opportunity to grow up uncircumcised, so they can discover that for themselves.