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6 November 2006
The Case For Penis Pruning
by Paul Aitken

About six months ago, I wrote a series of columns on circumcision. Generally, I'm against the procedure, especially as it's practiced on newborns; any operation that's going to expose you to a great deal of pain and rob you of a functioning body-part should be performed only with your informed consent. I feel the same way about tattoos and piercing. This seems a fairly unassailable position. But I'm not an ideologue on the issue. I'm willing to admit there are many instances where circumcision is the best - and sometimes the only - way to deal with certain dick-related problems.

There are two sides to every issue and circumcision is no different. You wouldn't know it from trawling the Internet of course. There is a lamentable lack of balance on the subject of circumcision. Nearly every website is a polemic. On one side are the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRCs), to whom circumcision is the moral equivalent of pitch-forking babies onto bonfires. On the other, are the circumcision apologists who claim that foreskins are the root of all evil. Of the two, the NOCIRCs are probably more convincing but their tone is dour and accusatory. The apologists have their j'accuse moments, but on the whole their tone is more upbeat. Circumcision is clean, sexy and as American as apple pie. Replace "L.A." with "circumcision" in Randy Newman's I Love L.A. (Circumcision: We love it!), and you'd get the gist of their argument. Why they care so much I really couldn't say, but there are guys I know who care deeply about bad grammar or their hometown hockey team. For those seeking to tilt, to each his own windmill. So in the interest of providing a balanced perspective, I'm here to make the case for circumcision.

Let's start with the obvious. Uncircumcised dicks are high maintenance. They must be cleaned regularly to prevent dick-cheese build-up, infection and possibly cancer. Normally this isn't a problem. Roll it back in the shower, soap it up, rinse it out and you're good to go. But what, if for some reason, you're unable to perform this simple function? Take my son for instance. He's a delightful young man, but he's mentally and physically handicapped. Because he only has good use of one hand, it's difficult for him to clean his penis. The importance of penile hygiene has been drilled into him from day-one and he's learned to perform the task in a grudging, half-assed manner. And hey, so far it's worked, but I worry what will happen when we're no longer around to harp on about hygiene. My son was born after the backlash against circumcision had begun and the righteous decision was made to keep him whole, but I often wonder if he wouldn't have been better off if he'd been circumcised at birth.

The same logic applies to all those who, for whatever reason, are unable to perform their own penile hygiene. Having one's back soaped by a nurse is one thing, but having one's penis touched and manipulated by another is a highly charged affair for both parties. It's not all bad I suppose. If I were in the full throes of drooling dementia, I'm guessing that having my penis ministered by a pretty nurse could well be the highlight of my week. But it would probably not be so much fun for the nurse, especially if I still had good circulation and a glint in my eye.

Secondly, uncircumcised dicks tend to harbor communicable venereal diseases more than their snipped counterparts. HIV infects and is transmitted at twice the rate in uncircumcised men. Ditto for human papillomavirus (HPV) which can cause cervical cancer. Quite a few studies have arrived at these conclusions, and while the NOCIRCs take exception to the methodologies employed and the causal relationships implied, the smart money is on the scientists. So, if your uncircumcised dick is a potent transmitter of potential death, shouldn't you do something about it? Well, hmmm, in my case I'd say no. Given my inclination to monogamy and my inherent unattractiveness to women, I certainly wouldn't be subjecting myself to a painful, permanently disfiguring operation. But even if I had the means and desire to outdo Wilt Chamberlain, I still wouldn't be going under the knife. I mean hello? Haven't you heard of condoms? Nevertheless, I guess if you are something of a pants-man, and you eschew condoms, the "Jesus" thing to do would be to do whatever was necessary to reduce the risk. Note the emphasis: reduce does not mean prevent. If you're slipping your key into every lock in your quest for true happiness, slip on a rubber first.

The third argument for circumcision is cultural. In the battle between the pro-circs and the NOCIRCs, culture is the most actively contested front. It drives the NOCIRCs barmy to think that infants are being mutilated because "everybody else is doing it." And from a moralistic perspective I'm with them on this. But culture can't be summarily dismissed as a factor. Leaving aside notions of moral legitimacy for a moment, let's acknowledge that culture is a huge component of just about every important choice we make in life. In the American mid-west the infant circumcision rate is 80 percent. The number one reason cited: "Wanting son to look like dad," followed closely by "Don't want son to feel different from peers."

Let's face it; humans are attracted to the familiar. In numerous surveys, women express a strong preference for the penises they're used to. French women may prefer their foreskins intact, but in the American mid-west women want their penises like their men: clean-cut. No one likes to talk about this much, but mothers have a natural desire for their sons to be sexually attractive to women. They don't want to saddle their son with a dick that nobody's going to want to go near. Now, it can and should be argued that culture can change for the better. Are we not better off without slavery? But change can be slow in coming and often involves sacrifice for those in the vanguard. Virtue be damned, if you're a guy growing up in the American mid-west, you'll probably be grateful for your parent's decision to cut the thing off.

Which brings us to our final, and what some would consider most convincing, rationale for circumcision: you'll get more head. It's true. Even in cultures where circumcision is uncommon, women prefer not to get any surprises when they pop something in their mouth. Whether or not the excruciating pain/more blow-jobs trade-off is worth it will depend on your own personal cost-benefit analysis. But in reality, if you're uncut and you keep yourself spick an' span, you'll probably get your share.

Ultimately, it's your choice, or at least it should be.

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