"Because it's cleaner"

Hygiene of the Intact Penis

One of the commonest reasons for circumcising boys is "for hygiene" or "because it's cleaner". Yet the great majority of men in the world have intact penises, and are just as clearn as the average circumcised American man.

People in the US have been taught to lay great stress on "hygiene", but common sense is needed to put it into perspective. Every surface of the human body is covered in bacteria - millions per square inch. Antiseptics may kill off most of them, but they recover within a matter of hours. The quest to kill them all is useless, and would be dangerous to life if it succeeded.

In his seminal work Life On Man (Secker & Warburg, 1969), bacteriologist Theodor Rosebury gives a full biological and historical account of the microbes that live on the average human. ...

Rosebury estimates that 10 million individual bacteria live on the average square centimetre of human skin ... However, this figure can vary widely ... In the oily skin that is found on the side of the nose or in a sweaty armpit, the figure can increase tenfold, while once inside the body, on the surface of the teeth, throat or ailimentary tract, these concentrations can increase a thousandfold.

Conversely, on those surfaces where there is liquid flow removing bacteria, such as the tear duct or genito-urinary surfaces, the population of organisms is much thinner. Indeed, Rosebury could detect no microbial life at all in the bladder...

These figures increase if disease organisms are present, such as a virus or other infection, but not by any significant amount.

- the editor, New Scientist, No 2258
30 September 2000, p65

It is commonly claimed that circumcision began in desert regions where there was not enough water to wash, "but now it is no longer needed". In fact it was never needed, and some desert peoples have never circumcised.


Inside the genital folds of both males and females - and the area is much greater in females - a very small amount (~1-2 cubic mm - ~1/16,000-1/8000th of a cubic inch - per day) of a pasty substance forms, called "smegma" (Greek for "soap" - it washes out easily). It is made up of shed skin cells, skin oils, and a relatively small amount of bacteria. Similar stuff collects at the sides of your lips. If it is left, smegma develops a characteristic aroma, commonly compared to fish in women, cheese in men. People are conditioned to dislike these smells (except when they arise from cheese or fish). Leaving smegma unattended has been implicated in penile cancer, but in those cases we are talking about years of gross neglect, not days.

As with every other part of the body, neglect of commonsense care can lead to minor problems, smells and infections, but as with every other part of the body, they either clear up by themselves or can be treated with medicine, not surgery.


The notion that any healthy part of the body should be cut off for "hygiene" would be considered outrageous and outlandish if it were not already customary. And remember, that is not why circumcision became customary; it was originally done to "cure" masturbation, then to prevent it - unsuccessfully of course, but boys who had been circumcised for this reason would make very sure not to be caught again, lest worse befell. "Hygiene" to early proponents of "medical" circumcision meant "moral hygiene" and in fact Kellogg advocated infibulation, which would have made physical hygiene impossible. "To make it cleaner" is one reason female circumcision is done, where that is customary.

By contast, a baby's circumcised penis needs daily attention during the first two weeks, to make sure the cut edges do not adhere to the raw surface of the glans. If you want to avoid handling his penis, leaving him intact is the way to go.

And by contrast again, once a foreskin is taken from its owner, it miraculously ceases to be "filthy" and "disease-promoting", but becomes health-promoting and disease-preventing:

"In the past few years, [Lawrence] Schachner [a pediatric dermatologist at the University of Miami] said, doctors have experimented with grafting onto wounds skin created from healthy babies' foreskin. This technique is particularly useful, he said, since the foreskin contains enzymes that help the wounds heal..."

The Beacon Journal, Ohio, March 23, 2004


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