ALTERNATIVES TO CIRCUMCISION
by Jeffrey R. Wood
(Nothing that follows should be construed as medical advice. That must come from a licensed physician after examination of the patient. Yet, we must be quick to point out that sadly, most American doctors are trained to think of circumcision as the only alternative to any problem involving the foreskin when, in fact, there are many other choices which may more advantageous to the patient, though less remunerative to the doctor. INTACT* maintains that anyone who doesn’t want to be circumcised doesn’t have to be, except in the rarest cases. Needless to say, one cannot be too cautious in choosing a physician.)
Each and every part of the human body is subject to a variety of disorders, and the penis is no exception. Statistically, it has been demonstrated that routinely removing foreskins to avoid penile difficulties actually causes more problems than it prevents. Furthermore, most foreskin-related problems in America are brought on by the failure of parents and doctors to leave the child’s prepuce completely alone during its early development, while most circumcisions performed on adults are done because of personal preference based on misinformation.
Problems affecting the skin in general are normally treated the same way whether they involve the foreskin or not. Sexually transmitted disease is not prevented or made less prevalent by circumcision, nor does its treatment require this surgery. However, there are two conditions– phimosis and balanitis– which need special consideration here because they concern the foreskin specifically.
Any discussion of phimosis must of necessity begin with establishing what phimosis is, and what it is not. Many doctors mistake the normal condition of the infant’s penis for phimosis. Phimosis is usually a developmental arrest condition. The foreskin simply fails to loosen up at the prescribed time which for each individual is one of nature’s great secrets – it may be before birth or after puberty. Though normally retractibility occurs before the age of four, some foreskins are not fully loosened until around 25. So while there is still the possibility of a spontaneous loosening up for a male in his late teens, the likelihood of this happening steadily decreases as he grows older. In these cases, therefore, some sort of stretching exercise seems advisable to facilitate the loosening process.
If the foreskin can be retracted when the penis is flaccid (soft), this is a very encouraging sign. If, however, there are adhesions present (usually resulting from premature retraction in infancy) and these cannot be freed without a lot of pain and bleeding, then professional attention is definitely necessary.
Although a medical instrument may be used to stretch the foreskin, it is not required if the opening is large enough to admit the smallest fingers of each hand, placed together nail to nail (nails cut short and filed to remove sharp edges). With the aid of his thumbs and a little practice, one can usually work the constricted area over his fingertips without too much difficulty. The stretching is then accomplished by laterally separating the fingers. Since the owner of the foreskin is in control, he can use his own judgment as to the duration and degree of stretching taking place. Patience is required, as progress may be slow at first. A hot bath beforehand always helps produce the best results. We realize that it is not uncommon for a stretching session of this sort, done in private, to involve or end with masturbation. However, it is known that virtually all boys will masturbate anyway, and there is no evidence to indicate that these simple stretching exercises will lead to excessive masturbatory activity. It is also known that in a normal young man, masturbation in no way deters the eventual development of interpersonal relationships leading to marriage.
“Balanitis” is a blanket term commonly used to mean any infection involving the foreskin or the area it protects. (To be absolutely correct, balanitis means inflammation of the glans and/or sulcus. The same condition affecting the foreskin alone is called posthitis, while inflammation of the entire area is known as balanoposthitis. ) In intact (non-circumcised) infants and children, penile infections occasionally occur as a consequence of the foreskin being forced back prematurely, particularly if the act is repeated and accompanied by bleeding. When left alone, the area is naturally sealed against infection until the prepuce becomes retractile on its own. Even then (and on into adulthood), neglect of hygiene does not alone appear sufficient to cause infection. In addition, the individual must have a lowered resistance to infections of all types. Such persons are at least as likely to suffer from tonsillitis, appendicitis, ear infections, etc. as they are to get balanitis.
ncreasing emphasis is being placed on good nutrition as a key factor in building up one’s resistance to infections of all types. Progressive thinkers suggest that over dependence on cows’ milk, refined sugars and red meat (not to mention “junk” food!) makes all of us (some much more so than others) susceptible to a wide variety of infections that otherwise would not occur. Under ideal conditions, the foreskin is designed to take care of itself, but where, due to man’s tampering with nature, ideal conditions no longer exist, balanitis and its recurrence can be effectively prevented in a far more practical way than by circumcision by simply washing under the foreskin. It should be added that the adhesions which sometimes result from premature foreskin retraction may persist beyond puberty, making complete retraction for hygienic purposes difficult and being a source of irritation during sexual activity. This can also predispose one to recurrent balanitis. The corrective medical procedure does not require circumcision.
In the rare cases where surgery is required, there are two alternatives to the radical, or complete, circumcision that most doctors perform (and which often results in the remaining skin being overstretched upon erection). The simplest operation is known as the dorsal slit, in which nothing is actually removed, and the effect of which is to make the foreskin more easily retractable. Unfortunately, the dorsal slit may leave unsightly flaps of skin on either side of the incision, and for this reason is objectionable to some. On the other hand, partial circumcision offers all the “advantages” of the radical operation, with fewer of its disadvantages. In this procedure, only the contractile tip of the foreskin is removed — the part which in phimosis has not acquired the ability to relax and expand. Partial circumcision produces an organ that is less disfigured than one with no foreskin at all, but while what remains of the natural sheath continues to protect the glans in the flaccid state, it automatically and instantly retracts upon erection and thus no longer aids in the lubricating process that normally occurs prior to intercourse.
And last but not least, those fortunate enough to have been left intact should be encouraged by every means possible to think positively about their foreskins — this alone can work wonders. Considering the amount of negative thought that gets focused upon the average foreskin, it’s truly amazing that it performs as well as it does.
By Jeffrey R. Wood – 1981
(Updated for website by Rosemary Romberg – 2000)
*Jeffrey R. Wood was one of the original, modern day “pioneers” in questioning and opposing routine infant circumcision. His writings were published in the 1970’s. Mr. Wood was of great help to me during the early stages of my own research and writings. INTACT Educational Foundation was the name he gave to his organization. The title INTACT is an acronym for Infants Need To Avoid Circumcision Trauma. – Rosemary
updated – 2013
(Photos provided by Pablo de la Rosa in 1979, for the purpose of showing future parents what a child’s normal, intact penis looks like.)