Circumcision makes sexual promiscuity healthier

The American Association of Pediatrics has released a report that favors male circumcision on the grounds that it reduces the spread of sexually-transmitted disease among promiscuous heterosexuals.

Perhaps the most powerful evidence in favour of circumcision comes from randomized controlled trials in South Africa, Kenya and Uganda. These found that, for men who have sex with women, circumcision reduced the risk of infection with HIV. (No protection was observed for men who have sex with men.) The South African and Ugandan trials also found that circumcision reduced infection rates for human papillomavirus (HPV) and herpes.

So if you have a sexually-active infant, you should talk to your pediatrician about getting him circumcised.


  1. wholething says

    They also insist that insurance covers the procedure. It’s as if they just want the income stream.

    Even if their reasoning for circumcision is valid, it does not justify circumcising babies. Why not let people make the choice for themselves?

  2. says

    The Christian Reich oppose the HPV vaccine — and opposed all other VD prevention measures in the past — because they “make sin safe.” So if circumcision is actually found to prevent the transmission of HIV — for STRAIGHT couples, mind you — shouldn’t the Christian Reich be opposed to circumcision?

    I know, I’m overthinking this, but still…

    • davidjanes says

      There are Christian churches are opposed actually. In the US it is usually the White Supremacist, Christian Identity ones who also think the Jews come out at night and plant crabgrass in their lawns, but quite a few of the European mainstream churches think it is unnecessary without the other wingnuttery thrown in.

      • Corvus illustris says

        Some German Protestants interpret the dictum (St Paul IIRC) “if one is not called to be circumcised let him not be circumcised” as instructing all goyim to retain their preputia: he was ok with Jewish converts staying circumcised (there were, and are, methods to restore foreskins [at least in appearance]).

  3. Erista (aka Eris) says

    I keep thinking, “If circumcise is so great at preventing STDs, why can’t we wait for the baby boy to grow up and decide to have it done if he wants to? Heck, we could even do it relatively early on (teens) in case he was going to get sexually active before he’s a legal adult.”

    Of course, this is a silly question, as I know the answer: Because anesthesia can cause deaths, and you can’t just strap a grown man to a table and cut off part of his penis without anesthesia. However, we find this to be perfectly acceptable behavior with infants.

    • davidjanes says

      The Egyptians circumcised as a right of passage into manhood. In public, with it considered especially auspicious if no one in your cohort screamed during the procedure. (the things you learn when you fail to teach yourself to read hieroglyphs!)

      • Ysanne says

        Ah, and why stop here? Just look at subincision as a rite of passage for some indigenous cultures in various parts of the world.
        I wonder if people who advocate infant circumcision would be OK with parents deciding to have this done to their kids — after all, it’s a tradition, part of their culture, a sign of belonging to the community, and I’m sure someone could also pull some far-fetched positive medical implications out of their ass to support it…

  4. captainahags says

    Male circumcision isn’t in my opinion something that should be done to babies. But it annoys the crap out of me when MRAs come out of the woodwork to yell about how horrible THEIR problem is during discussions of female genital mutilation. At least there’s some scientific basis behind male circumcision, compared to FGM, which is entirely for repression and control.

    • artharjar says

      Scientific basis behind male circumcision? WTF! Sure, I guess. Just like there would be a scientific basis behind chopping off the whole damn penis. After all, you less likely to catch an STD if you can’t have sex!

      In any event, the aids studies are flawed. As I understand (and I have not read up in a while) the studies only looked at a short time period. That is, they only followed the participants for a month or so after the circumcision. Duh, their dicks hurt too much for sex so they had less sex so they were less likely to contract aids.

      Studies that run the time period out a bit show no reduction from circumcision.

  5. Earth Bound says

    “Culture” and religion are stupid reasons to do it, and “medical reasons” only exist because of stupid parents and stupid doctors.

    Evolution put it there for a reason. If males weren’t meant to have one, it would have been selected out. Anyone who says the foreskin “needs to be removed” is as arrogant a know-it-all as any religious nutbag.

    Education and proper hygiene solves HPV. The failure of parents and doctors is not a reason to mutilate boys against their will and against their interests.

  6. says

    Recommending circumcision for hygiene is putting in a floor drain to deal with a leaking roof.

    Foreskins are entirely self-cleansing, if you just drink enough water.

    Investing in decent plumbing — clean water supplies and hygienic toilet facilities — would remove the “need” for circumcision in the first place.

    (Also, to what extent is reduced pleasure from sex responsible for the apparent drop in infection rates, i.e. because circumcised men have sex less often?)

    • Benjamin says


      The spread of sexually transmitted infections from the foreskin has less to do with the cleanliness of the foreskin than you might think. There are four plausible biological reasons why circumcised men transmit infection with less frequency than uncircumcised men.

      1) Compared with the dry external skin surface, the inner mucosa of the foreskin has less keratinization (deposition of fibrous protein), a higher density of target cells for HIV infection (Langerhans cells), and is more susceptible to HIV infection than other penile tissue in laboratory studies

      2) The foreskin may also have greater susceptibility to traumatic epithelial disruptions (tears) during intercourse, providing a portal of entry for pathogens, including HIV

      3) In addition, the microenvironment in the preputial sac between the unretracted foreskin and the glans penis may be conducive to viral survival.

      4) Finally, the higher rates of sexually transmitted genital ulcerative disease, such as syphilis, observed in uncircumcised men may also increase susceptibility to HIV infection.

      Patterson BK, Landay A, Siegel JN, et al. Susceptibility to human immunodeficiency virus-1 infection of human foreskin and cervical tissue grown in explant culture. Am J Pathol. 2002 Sep;161(3):867-73.

      Szabo R, Short RV. How does male circumcision protect against HIV infection? BMJ. 2000 Jun 10;320(7249):1592-4.

      Weiss HA, Thomas SL, Munabi SK, Hayes RJ. Male circumcision and risk of syphilis, chancroid, and genital herpes: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Sex Transm Infect. 2006 Apr;82(2):101-9; discussion 10.

      Weiss HA, Quigley MA, Hayes RJ. Male circumcision and risk of HIV infection in sub- Saharan Africa: a systematic review and metaanalysis. AIDS. 2000 Oct 20;14(15):2361-70.

    • Corvus illustris says

      A (negative) correlation between circumcision and rates of penile carcinoma is old news. However, the correlation goes away for first-world populations, the plausible reason being better access to personal hygiene (aka skin it back and wash it once in a while). The fact that this new report involves third-world countries suggests that something similar may be going on and needs to be factored out.

    • M Groesbeck says

      Are these the same studies that provided STD prevention counseling only for the group that was circumcised? (Also, I seem to remember at least one of the high-profile circumcision studies being short-term enough that the period of time in which men were prevented from having sex due to still healing from the open wound in question could easily have had a significant impact.)

    • Ysanne says

      Um, actually, having had several non-circumcised partners and caring for two non-circumcised boys, I can safely say that foreskins are not at all self-cleansing. In the course of a day, a fair amount of sweat, smegma, urine residue, dead skin cells and other dirt collects between glans and foreskin; this stuff smells bad, and is a great place for all kinds of germs.
      (Analogous to the white smelly stuff that collects in the folds between the labia majora and minora in women’s vulvas.)
      Thus, washing with soap (or non-soapy wash) and water under the foreskin is a trivial part of basic personal hygiene.

      As for the circumcision-HIV link:
      Afaik, the most widely cited study about this involved circumcising adult men, observing their HIV status for a few years after that, and comparing it to uncircumcised males — without taking into account that the discomfort after the surgery is very likely to strongly reduce the frequency of unprotected sex for quite a while. Also, without controlling for trivial things like condom use and levels of personal hygiene.

      • baal says

        My son is not circumcised, drinks plenty of water and still gets the occasional yeast infection / foreskin inflammation. when that happens, he needs to give the head more air time and specifically dry the foreskin folds (he seems to have a lot of foreskin). It’s far from a big deal but it does happen.

      • says

        My parents didn’t circumcise my brother or myself.

        When we were four-ish we both had something smelly develop (I really don’t remember what exactly happened. I was four (ish). I just remember it was yellowish.

        My dad took this to mean it was time to teach us how to keep our penises clean. Since then I’ve always pulled the foreskin back when I used the bathroom and washed it when I took a shower. Have never had a problem since.

      • Ysanne says

        Every 3-4 hours or so while they’re awake, but that doesn’t really make the difference.
        Look, urinating doesn’t actually clean between foreskin and glans, and especially not in boys whose foreskin extends over the glans, which often leads to a “ballooning” effect (i.e. a certain pressure is needed to get the urine out through the tip).
        On the contrary, it contributes to the sticky residue, and when the last pee drop stays in instead of getting wiped off, also to skin irritation.
        Think about it… one of the reasons that toilets need to be cleaned is that dried-on pee isn’t exactly residue-free, un-sticky or odourless.

  7. kraut says

    Circumcision – a procedure without any medical value whatsoever, at the same level as homeopathy or any other religiously inspired bullshit.

    “For American society, circumcision is a solution in search of a problem, a social custom disguised as a medical issue. Beware of culturally-biased studies on circumcision posing as science, and take your whole baby home.”

    My guess pediatric specialist in search of added income…

    • Corvus illustris says

      Circumcision – a procedure without any medical value whatsoever, at the same level as homeopathy or any other religiously inspired bullshit.

      Not the religion you might first guess. The US obsession is WASPish, and was originally motivated around the turn of the 19th-20th c. as a measure to prevent (oh, the horror!) masturbation. Battle Creek’s Kellogg brothers (they of the cornflakes) were involved. Of course the Jews get the blame (in spite of the numerus clausus in med schools–even public ones–in the early 20th c.). See the Wikipedia article for further info.

  8. says

    They brand men like a herd of cows. American men are such wimps to let their sons be subjected to this absurd surgery. If it were women tied down & cut, the Feminists would be howling all over the world. The male genitals are a cheap commodity. There is no argument too absurd for the circumcisers. They insult the appearance of the intact penis, claim that circumcision heals everything from body warts to HIV, and draw an illogical distinction between female & male genitals. Circumcision is the mark of a slave, not a free man.

    • Happiestsadist, opener of the Crack of Doom says

      …Dude, you know women and girls ARE genitally mutilated all over the world, right? And it’s usually a lot more drastic and dangerous for them?

      Educate yourself a little before you type more.

  9. lorn says

    I have little love for USAT ,and it doesn’t directly deal with your point, its focus is the financial side, but the article has links to much of the relevant information:

    Sure, a bit of a regular wash and consistent use of condoms would take a bit of the beneficial advantage away from circumcision but then again but for a few minor behavioral changes a lot of infection control issues would be much smaller. Yet those minor behavior changes never seem to get implemented.

    A good example is hand washing by, mostly male, physicians. Consistent hand washing would greatly reduce infections. The hand washing rate is abysmal in many hospitals. One wonders what the compliance rate would be if it was washing their penis.

    Multiple layers of protection are far more reliable than depending on the perfect application of any one safeguard.

    • Corvus illustris says

      A good example is hand washing by, mostly male, physicians. Consistent hand washing would greatly reduce infections. The hand washing rate is abysmal in many hospitals. One wonders what the compliance rate would be if it was washing their penis.

      Holy Semmelweis! I don’t know what hospitals are like where you live, but here in the north central US the physician’s penis comes in contact with a patient only infrequently.

  10. says

    I really think the STD argument is stupid. I really do.

    Sex is something that our laws kinda treat as being outside the scope of a child. We even have laws against having sex with children because they aren’t old enough to understand what they’re consenting to.

    So why do we use sex as an excuse to mutilate them without anesthesia?

  11. says

    This is one of the medically stupidest things I have ever heard. I agree with the posters above, sexually mutilating a child based on what he might do later as an adult is completely without justification.

  12. NiOg says

    Aside from outright malice, which seems doubtful, I suspect the reasons physicians seem so keen to keep the practice of circumcision in hospitals are manyfold:

    1. it’s a thing they know how to do safely and easily.
    2. it (allegedly) solves some health and hygeine problems later.
    3. There is a huge (religious) demand for it.
    4. There is a sizable community of others (rabbis, unlicensed doctors, quacks) who are happy to do it badly and unsafely.

    it’s items 3 and 4 which are the real problem.

    Anyone who argues for keeping abortion legal (and i do!) can see the inherent trouble with banning circumcision. Get rid of the religious precedent, and the ‘medical’ ones will wither away, to be replaced with other, more sensible procedures that endow the same benefits with less harm.

    • Corvus illustris says

      There is a huge (religious) demand for it.

      By whom? For observant Jewish a minyan (10 adult male Jews) must be present, and one probably needs a mohel (or a Jewish pediatrician). Do it wrong and it has to be done over (at least enough of a cut to draw blood), so just having the operation performed in the hospital probably won’t satisfy ritual requirements. For Muslims circumcision is customary, though apparently not required. (Is there a huge demand in the “West” outside North America, with its small Muslim population?)

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