Ever wonder why anyone would remove a healthy organ from a newborn baby? Me too! Maybe it’s because of the old mistaken impression that it’s “just a little snip” or “just a flap of skin”. Today we know that couldn’t be further from the truth. We have learned so much more about the important function of the foreskin (and the lasting effects of early trauma on an infant) that the common myths of the past have been discredited. A little bit of education can go a long way to understanding why it’s important for us to keep our boys intact. His penis, his choice.
Here is a list of the functions and benefits of the foreskin:
1. Full penis length and circumference. The “prepuce” (foreskin) constitutes 50% or more of the skin system of the penis. If unfolded and spread flat, the average adult foreskin measures 60-90 square centimeters (10-14 square inches), or about the size of an index card. The foreskin creates a visibly longer penis, especially when the foreskin extends beyond the head of the penis. Also, the double-layered tissue of the foreskin engorges with blood during erection and creates a visibly and sensually thicker shaft and glans. When the engorged foreskin retracts behind the coronal ridge of the glans, it often creates a wider and more pronounced “ridge” that many partners find especially stimulating during penetrative intercourse. The circumcised penis appears truncated and thinner than a full-sized intact penis. Click here to see the difference between circumcised and intact penises.
2. Protection. The sleeve of tissue known as the foreskin normally covers the glans and protects it from abrasion, drying, callusing (keratinization), and environmental contaminants. The glans is intended by nature to be a protected internal organ, like the female clitoris. The effect of an exposed glans and resulting keratinization on human sexual response has been linked to increased rate of erectile dysfunction, a reduction in penile sensitivity and increased premature ejaculation.
3. Ridged bands. The inner foreskin contains bands of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue. They constitute a primary erogenous zone of the human penis and are important for realizing the fullness and intensity of sexual response. The ridged band is primarily sensory tissue, and rolling over the corona of the glans, provides primary sexual stimulation.
4. Gliding action. The foreskin is the only moving part of the penis. During any sexual activity, the foreskin and glans work in unison; their mutual interaction creates a complete sexual response. In heterosexual intercourse, the non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of itself within the vagina facilitates smooth and pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding action, the corona of the circumcised penis can function as a one-way valve, dragging vaginal lubricants out into the drying air and making artificial lubricants essential for non-painful intercourse.
5. Specialized sensory tissue. In addition to the “ridged bands” mentioned above, thousands of coiled fine-touch receptors (Meissner’s corpuscles) constitute the most important sensory component of the penis. The foreskin contains branches of the dorsal nerve and between 10,000 and 20,000 specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types, which are capable of sensing slight motion and stretch, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations in texture.
Gently run your fingers over the back of your hand. Now, turn your hand over and gently run your fingers over the palm of your hand. Feel the difference? This is because the palm of your hand has Meissner’s corpuscles, just like the foreskin and frenulum. They are what make our fingers and palms so sensitive, as well as our lips, anus, and other openings of the body.
6. The frenulum. This is a highly nerve-laden web of tissue that tethers the inner foreskin to the underside of the glans. It is similar to the frenula found under the tongue, the upper lip and the clitoral hood (female foreskin). For many intact men, the penile frenulum is a male “G-spot” that is highly pleasurable when repeatedly stretched and relaxed during sexual activity. Depending on the surgical method used, the frenulum is partially to completely destroyed by circumcision.
7. Proper blood flow. The foreskin contains several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development.
8. Immunological defense. The soft mucosa of the inner foreskin produces plasma cells, which secrete immunoglobulin antibodies, and antibacterial and antiviral proteins, such as the pathogen-killing enzyme called lysozyme. All of the human mucosa (the linings of the mouth, eyelids, vagina, foreskin and anus) are the body’s first line of defense against disease. This benefit of the foreskin could be one possible explanation why intact men are at lower risk of chlamydia and other sexually transmitted diseases.
9. Langerhans cells. Cells in the mucosal lining of human genitalia produce a protein called Langerin. These specialized epithelial cells are a component of the immune system and may play a role in protecting the penis and its owner from sexually transmitted infections such as HIV (AIDS).
10. Proper lymph flow. The foreskin contains lymphatic vessels, which are necessary for proper lymph flow and immunological functioning.
11. Estrogen receptors. The whole of the foreskin is richly supplied with estrogen receptors, whose purpose is not yet fully understood and needs further study. We do know that estrogens are known to stimulate growth, blood flow, and water retention in sexual organs and that estrogen and estrogen receptors play a role in male reproduction and are produced in male genitourinary organs.
12. Apocrine glands. These glands produce pheromones, nature’s invisible yet compelling signals to potential sexual partners. The effect of their absence on human sexual behavior has not yet been studied.
13. Sebaceous glands. The oils produced by these glands lubricate and moisturize the foreskin and glans, which is normally a protected and internal organ, so that the two structures function together smoothly.
14. Dartos fascia. This is a smooth muscle sheath that underlies the scrotum, the entire penis and the tip of the foreskin. It is necessary for proper temperature regulation of the genitals (causing these structures to elongate in the heat and shrink in the cold). Approximately half of the Dartos fascia is destroyed by circumcision.
15. Natural texture and coloration of the glans. In the intact penis, the glans normally appears moist, shiny, and pinkish-red to dark purple. These visual cues often attract and excite a sexual partner. The glans of a circumcised penis is often dry, rough and often light pink to bluish-gray in color. Over a period of years the glans becomes keratinized, adding additional layers of tissue in order to adequately protect itself, which further contributes to discoloration.
16. Electromagnetic “cross-communication.” Some reports suggest that, without the mucosa of its foreskin, the penis lacks the capacity for the subtle electromagentic energy transfer that occurs during contact between two mucous membranes (the vaginal walls and the exposed inner lining of the foreskin). Such contact contributes to the full experience of sexual pleasure. These reports deserve further scientific study.
17. Zero risk of serious infection or surgical injury. Circumcisions can be botched in many ways. “The most common error is to remove too much penile shaft skin. This can result in excessive bleeding and an attempt to cover the wound with skin from the base of the penis. When the wound heals the effective length of the penis is reduced, the junction of the scrotum and the penis is pulled onto the shaft, and at puberty pubic hair will appear on the shaft of the penis. Surgery can only partially correct these conditions. Another result can be the “burying” of the penis in the pubic fat pad, which requires surgical correction and often results in an unsightly bulge of skin in the mid-shaft area. Upon occasion the round end of the penis, called the glans, can be cut or cut off in whole or in part. If the severed part is not immediately re-attached the boy will have a permanent and serious disfigurement. Not all re-attachment attempts are successful. These are just a few of the preventable errors that occur with circumcisions.”
18. Zero risk of death from surgery. Every year boys die from the complications of circumcision, a fact that the American circumcision industry ignores, obscures, or downplays. A baby only needs to lose 1 ounce of blood to hemorrhage, and just 2.3 ounces to die as a result of this blood loss. Approximately 117 neonatal circumcision-related deaths occur annually in the United States (though some reports indicate the number is closer to 230.) To put this in perspective, about 44 neonatal boys die each year from suffocation, and 8 from auto accidents. About 115 neonatal boys die annually from SIDS, nearly the same as from circumcision.
At least one boy dies every three days from unnecessary circumcision surgery in the US.
19. Zero risk of delayed or diminished maternal bonding. Circumcision, even if anesthesia is used, causes unavoidable operative trauma and post-operative pain that has been shown to disrupt bonding with the mother, which in turn interferes with the first developmental task of every human, that of trust (trust in human contact, in personal safety, etc). Circumcision often disrupts the breastfeeding relationship. Only 25% of obstetricians use anaesthesia for this surgery. Even when used, it is woefully insufficient due to the inherent risks involved in administering anaesthesia to newborns..
20. Emotional and neurological development. An infant subjected to circumcision is forced into a defensive psychological state of “learned helplessness” or “acquired passivity” to cope with the excruciating pain which he can neither fight nor flee. The trauma of this early pain has been shown to lower a circumcised boy’s pain threshold below that of intact boys and girls. Circumcised infants had higher behavioural pain scores and cried longer after subsequent vaccinations; thus neonatal circumcision may affect pain response several months after the event, and perhaps even longer.
Also, remember – not a single medical organization in the world recommends infant circumcision. In some countries, both boys’ and girls’ rights to bodily integrity are protected by law and it is illegal to perform male circumcision on an infant unless medically necessary. After all, if men were meant to have foreskins, they’d be born with them. They are there for a reason (such as the many cited above) and are not a birth defect.
- Click here to hear Marilyn Milos: The Penis – Sex Education 101
- Click here to see the Functions of the Foreskin video
The above list of foreskin benefits and functions is an adapted excerpt of Michelle Monroe’s articles, used with permission, which you can read in their entirety here: