(Reasons Given for Circumcising a Male)

"If it seems too good to be true, it probably is"

- Anon

"Any phenomenon that apparently exceeds the functional
cries out for explanantion"

- Daniel Dennett, Freedom Evolves, p183

"...the cause of the origin of a thing and its eventual utility, its actual employment and place in a system of purposes, lie worlds apart; whatever exists, having somehow come into being, is again and again reinterpreted to new ends, taken over, transformed and redirected ... an adaptation through which any previous "meaning" and purpose" are necessarily obscured or even obliterated."

- Friedrich Nietzsche, Second Essay sec 12, p 77


The variety of reasons given for male genital cutting (and the irrationality of most of them) is amazing. Put them all together and your mind will boggle. When I started collecting them, I thought I'd find about 30 "reasons", and that seemed strange enough. The number has since passed 550.

To the complete list

Here are the major categories, in approximate order of frequency, with some choice examples.


  1. Conformity
  2. (but see also non-conformity)

    Because "a boy should look like his father"
    Because all the nice families are having it done.
    Because it is a cultural norm.

  3. Medical
  4. To prevent or cure alcoholism, arthritic hips, asthma, balanitis, blindness, boils, cervical cancer, chicken pox, epididymitis, epilepsy, gallstones, gout, headaches, hernia, HIV, hydrocephaly, hydrocoele, hypertension, insanity, kidney disease, kleptomaina, leprosy, moral depravity, paraphimosis, penile cancer, plague, phimosis, posthitis, prostate cancer, rectal prolapse, rheumatism, schistosoma, spinal curvature, stomach infection, tuberculosis, urinary tract infections and/or yeast infections.


    A survey of UK hospitals in 2010 found the following diagnoses given as primary indications for circumcision:

    • Balanitis xerotica obliterans 41
    • Balanoposthitis 9
    • Bladder, unspecified 2
    • Diverticulum of bladder 1
    • Hyperplasia of prostate 1
    • Lichen sclerosus et atrophicus 1
    • Malignant neoplasm of kidney, except renal pelvis 1
    • Other inflammatory disorders of penis 2
    • Other specified disorders of penis 4
    • Penis 2
    • Prepuce 1 [Those two are normally considered necessary but not sufficent diagnoses.]
    • Redundant prepuce, phimosis and paraphimosis 186
    • Routine and ritual circumcision 103
    • Scar conditions and fibrosis of skin 1
    • Sterilization 1
    • Urethral stricture, unspecified 1
    • Vascular disorders of male genital organs 1
    Total 358

  5. Religious
  6. To draw down the Divine light, bring down the soul of holiness into the body...
    Because it is a good Christian thing to do.
    Because Mohammed was "born circumcised".
    Because a baboon the Egyptians considered sacred is "born circumcised".

  7. Sexual
  8. Because his mother and her friends prefer circumcised men for sexual pleasure.
    Because it enhances sensitivity.
    Because it reduces sensitivity.

  9. Aesthetic
  10. Because it makes it uniformly pink.
    Because it makes the penis look more modern

  11. Irrational
  12. Because the foreskin will fall off if a baby is put into a hot tub of water for a bath.
    Because it only seems natural.
    To prevent "psychological trauma due to castration anxiety".

  13. Instructive
  14. To teach him that the world is a painful place.

  15. Submission
  16. Because his master ordered it.

  17. Pre-emptive
  18. Because it will have to be done sooner or later.

  19. To benefit someone else
  20. To provide collagen for cosmetic surgery on lips and cheeks.

  21. Cleanliness
  22. To stop him dribbling when he pees.

  23. Control
  24. "Because [my sister's] doctor said having his glans exposed would help calm him down a little".

  25. Revenge
  26. Because his mother had an episiotomy. ("I was cut, why shouldn't he be?")

  27. Financial
  28. Because a military surgeon "wanted to get back into practice because she could get $100 apiece for them in private practice."

  29. Initiation
  30. To prepare him to receive tribal secrets.
    To separate him from his mother.

  31. Non-conformity
  32. Because he belongs to the upper class.
    Because "I kind of think it is 'American'... in the early years of this great nation, we took pride in BEING DIFFERENT thon ether nations".

  33. Concealment
  34. To pass as a Muslim.

  35. Punitive
  36. To spite his absent/divorced father.
    To get even for having been raped as a teenager.

  37. Symbolic
  38. To make the penis look like that of a kangaroo.

  39. Status
  40. Because he will be prevented from speaking in public if his (Samoan) father is intact.
    "If you ain't circumcised, you ain't shit."
    Because he's an orphan.

  41. Reproductive
  42. To prevent infertility.

  43. Reward
  44. To use his foreskin for a dowry.
    In exchange for not having to change his diapers.

  45. Convenience
  46. Because "we just do it. It's better this way." (to a man being operated on for kidney stones)
    Because he is under anaesthetic already for another operation.
    Because his mother was having another baby, so they could go in together.

  47. Iatrogenic
  48. To treat paraphimosis caused by improper insertion of a catheter.

  49. Ignorance
  50. To make his penis bigger.
    "...to protect the boy or man from the psychological trauma of an abnormally small penis"
    Because it's a law.
    Because his mother had never seen an intact penis and thought it was deformed.

  51. Mistake
  52. Because of an "accident on medical records..." According to the "paperwork guidelines, I was not supposed to be Circ."

  53. Pity
  54. Because the father "just didn't want to argue with her after she'd been through all that suffering."

  55. Prudery
  56. Because his mother thought that cleaning him was too much like masturbating him.

  57. Sympathetic Magic
  58. To give him the appearance of permanent arousal.
    To remove the female element from him.

  59. Vague
  60. "She's not even clear on [it]. She just wants it, you know."
    "[I] thought [he] might as well be circ'd."


(All of these reasons have been seriously offered, or even led to circumcisions. All spelling and punctuation is sic.)


See also Circumcision as a Memeplex for an attempt to impose order on this list.

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