Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Benefits of Keeping the Penis Intact

By Travis Wisdom

There is an increasing number of American parents who are saying no to non-therapeutic routine circumcision. This crucial choice will allow their boys increased health benefits in addition to enjoying the unequivocal pleasures of their foreskins later throughout life. While the circumcision rates continue to slowly decline in the United States, those who choose foreskin-friendly parenting find themselves in direct contrast of the greater circumcising culture. This consequently causes increased uncertainty about the decision that they elected as well as perplexities on behalf of the physicians who often provide inaccurate and misleading, if not completely fraudulent, information on the importance of the prepuce, its benefits and vital roles to optimum sexual function and health, and proper hygiene and care for intact boys and men.

This essay surveys various protective, mechanical, sensory, and sexual benefits and functions of the foreskin that would otherwise be lost to its surgical amputation. I discuss genital hygiene and care for the intact penis with hopes to help alleviate confusion and ignorance surrounding cleanliness. In anticipation, having an understanding of the benefits and functions of the human foreskin is useful for both the parents and the physicians in order to gain an appreciation and respect for intact genitalia.

Benefits of the Prepuce
George Hill defines the human prepuce, or foreskin, as a specialized organ that offers protective, mechanical, sensory, and sexual functions, all of which are necessary for operative sexual health [1]. All healthy functional males are born with the following preputial capabilities and should enjoy their benefits and functions throughout adulthood.

The article, Foreskin Sexual Function/Circumcision Sexual Dysfunction released by the Circumcision Information Resources Pages (CIRP) collaborates various scientific sources to examine the role of the foreskin in human sexuality in addition to studying the dysfunction that is cased by surgical amputation.

The foreskin either partially or completely covers the glans penis in the adult male protecting it from dryness and abrasion [2]. Remaining protected from foreign stimuli, the foreskin maintains the subpreputial area wet and moist with prostatic, vesicular, and urethral secretions [2]. The subpreputial moisture contains lysozyme, which destroys pathogens [1]. It is important that the glans remain in this state of moisture and wetness because it is covered with mucosa, not skin. In addition, the prepuce guards from the process of keritinization. This otherwise would cause the glans to thicken as skin cells begin to layer, which deadens sensation [2].

In infant boys, the prepuce protects the meatus from ammoniacal diapers and prevents meatitis, meatal ulceration, and meatal stenosis. E. coli that is found in feces is the most important pathogen in urinary tract infection. The muscle fibers in the foreskin act as a preputial sphincter, helping to prevent UTI in infants as it forbids contact between the meatus and feces. Additionally, the foreskin also helps to reduce incidence of non-specific urethritis and presence of Staphylococcus aureus in the urethra [1].

An important mechanical function of the foreskin is its ability to facilitate intromission and penetration [2]. As the foreskin unfolds, the penis enters his partner reducing friction, dryness, and abrasion allowing intercourse to be more comfortable [1].

Also, the presence of the foreskin allows for less forceful penetration. After penetration, the foreskin provides a unique gliding action that substantially reduces friction and vaginal dryness [1].

Sensory and Sexual
The foreskin is a specific erogenous zone that is the most heavily innervated part of the penis with nerve endings near the surface of the ridged band. This band originates from the frenulum and encircles the opening of the foreskin [2]. The tissue whose nerve endings most sensitive to fine touch and temperature is located in the foreskin [1].

The foreskin has a layer of a smooth muscle tissue, the peripenic muscle, which comprises a portion of the dartos muscle [2]. The nerve-endings that are present in the foreskin become stimulated through motion and stretching [1]. Through the contractions of the unique muscle fibers in this tissue, the foreskin obtains strong elasticity, which is crucial to erogenous sensation. The muscle tissue must stretch to glide over the glans upon erection, later to return to its normal flaccid coverage. The stretching movement produces great sensation and pleasure. The nerve endings produce pleasurable erotic sensations, which travel to the central nervous system, inputting to the autonomic nervous system. This process plays a vital role in controlling erection and ejaculation [2].

Nerve endings of the glans are concentrated in the corona. Likewise, they intrude against the corona during intercourse [2]. The foreskin protects the corona from direct stimulation, and because it is the most highly innervated part of the glans penis, this helps to prevent premature ejaculation [1].

Genital Hygiene
The foreskin is one of the most easiest cared for parts of the human anatomy, and the most important rule to remember is: only clean what is seen [3]. Proper infant hygiene, for both boys and girls, is just that straightforward. In fact, Marilyn Milos, RN describes the cleaning of the intact penis as very similar to cleaning one’s finger [4]. Only clean the external genitalia, what is exposed, using warm water. Soap is not needed. Intrusive or interior cleaning is absolutely never needed. The boy’s foreskin will naturally retract at a point in his maturation that is unique to him, usually around puberty. It is utterly imperative to note that forcible retraction should always be avoided, as it causes trauma, pain, and destruction of the developing tissue and natural flora [4]. Of course the penis is immature at birth, and the foreskin is connected to the glans via a special membrane that ensures cleanliness and protection of the underlining penile structures [3]. In addition, this membrane also protects the high nerve supplied and erogenous foreskin of the developing penis from foreign stimuli, such as those found in feces, the ammonia in urine, and invading pathogens [3].

Both John V. Geisheker and John W. Travis in the article, “Only Clean What Is Seen: Reversing the Epidemic of Forcible Foreskin Retractions,” agree that while the foreskin is different in structure, it is appropriate to conceptualize it as the male’s hymen, protecting the internal sexual organ during the years when they are not needed for sexual purposes. In time, the membrane within will disappear as the child matures [3].

Once the boy has discovered that his foreskin is (naturally) retractable, he can easily care for his body through three easy steps: retract, rinse, and replace [4]. First, he can retract his foreskin. Using only warm water, he should not apply soap or any other substances on the mucosa membrane of the glans or the inner lining structure of the foreskin. Then, release the foreskin and allow it to naturally glide to its position [4].

Having an accurate understanding and appreciation of the advantages of the male prepuce will begin to offer women the opportunity to empower their lives and child birthing experiences. It is important that physicians be given legitimate resources on just how vital the foreskin is to protecting against disease and invading pathogens [1]; in addition to offering functional sexual organs with necessary skin mobility for intercourse as well as the opportunity to enjoy the full potential of the pleasures of sexual intimacy [1]. Also, the care for such a uniquely viable organ is extraordinarily simple. The prepuce can be cleaned and cared for with warm water, without the use of any artificial substances like soap, or invasive internal cleaning [3]. The first person to retract a boy’s foreskin should be the boy himself. Everyone else should leave it alone and let nature function in its own right. The membrane embedded under the foreskin is the male’s first line of defense against infection, and the foreskin’s forcible retraction disrupts this protective order, causing necessary and avoidable trauma and pain [4].

The advocacy for better knowledge of the male sexual organs helps to dispel myths about the human body and male sexuality as well as taboos surrounding childbirth. These available resources allow for an informed decision on foreskin-friendly parenting based on awareness and education as opposed to common inaccurate and misleading beliefs that can otherwise promote damage to the male body or cause unreasonable guilt for protecting boys from the damages of non-therapeutic circumcision.

[1] Hill, G. (2007). The Case against circumcision. Journal of Men's Health and Gender, 4(3), 318-323

[2] Foreskin Sexual Function/Circumcision Sexual Dysfunction. Circumcision information resource pages. Retrieved (2009, September 07) from

[3] Geisheker, JV, & Travis, JW. (2008, May 30). Only Clean what is seen - reversing the epidemic of forcible foreskin retractions. Kindred Community, 28-33.

[4] Milos, MF. (2010). Letters to the Editor: Re: Provencio-Vasquez, E. & Rodriguez, A. (2009). Collaborative practice: Circumcision revisited. Journal for Specialists in Pediatric Nursing, 14(4), 295-297. . (2010). Wiley periodicals, Inc.

About the author
Travis is pursuing Bachelor’s degrees in Philosophy and Women’s Studies, with a minor in Sociology. He is an intern for Doctors Opposing Circumcision and an affiliated member of Intact America, Feminist Majority Foundation, and the National Organization for Women. Travis has participated in various feminist conferences throughout the United States and is an active intactivist. He strives for better knowledge and awareness of genital tissue, its diverse functions and roles, in order to promote integrity and protection from invasive and damaging non-therapeutic and religious circumcisions on children. Most recently, he founded the Las Vegas, Nevada chapter of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I'm going to keep this comment anonymous. This article explains things about my own sexual behavior. I wish I hadn't been circumcised now. But if I do have a son, I won't have him circumcised after reading this. Thank you.