Circumcision has been done for several thousand years. It may have started as a hygiene measure in communities living in hot, dry, dusty climates, and then became a cultural and religious ritual. Today, worldwide, approximately 35% of males are circumcised. Higher socio-economic-educational ranking is associated with higher rates of circumcision, being 85% for US-born males. Rates for newborns’ circumcision decreased in the 1970s-80s, then rose again in line with medical research findings of benefits.
There are conflicting points of view about the risks and possible benefits of circumcision. The focus of this article, however, is on the debate that whether circumcision really affects male penis size or not.
Average penis size
According to statistics from about two years ago, average penis size was 3.5″ in flaccid state (not erect) and 5.5 – 6.5″ in erect state. This is measured from the base of the penis, under the stomach, to the end of the head of the penis. Penis size has been shown to continue long into the late teens and even up to 21 years. However, penis thickness and length both are highly variable and mainly depend upon one’s family / genes.
What is circumcision?
Circumcision is the removal of the flap of skin which naturally covers the tip of the penis.
Some people believe that removing the foreskin may lead to the tip of the penis being less sensitive, perhaps leading to less sexual pleasure later in life. However, to date, there is no strong scientific evidence to support the same assumption. Similarly, another common myth is that circumcision affects penis length, making it relatively shorter.
Does circumcision affect penis length / size?
It should be noted that while circumcision removes some extra skin (foreskin) from around the head of the penis, it does not shorten the actual penis length nor does the procedure affect the growth of the penis. The actual penis length and girth comprises of skin, protein tissues, cells and blood vessels and circumcision does not affect any of these structures. In other words, as only skin is being removed, the actual penis is not touched. Penis size (both thickness and length) is determined by the cell structure of the penis not the amount of skin.
Another, very important evidence-based argument is that growth and development of the penis is an “on-going”, natural process that continues actively and consistently from birth to adulthood. Therefore, to date, there is no reason to believe that circumcision (when it is mostly done after birth) interferes with penis growth.
Finally, the growth and development of the penis is mainly under the hormonal influence (especially testosterone, the major male sex hormone) and there is no established association between circumcision and reduced production or release of testosterone which would lead to small or micropenis.
Benefits to women of male circumcision
The load of infectious bacteria and viruses that accumulate under the foreskin is delivered into the female genital tract during sex. Thus when the male partner is circumcised there is:
- A 5-fold reduction in risk of cervical cancer (which is caused by human papillomavirus).
- A 5-fold reduction in risk of a woman being infected by Chlamydia, thus reducing risk of infertility, pelvic inflammatory disease, and ectopic pregnancy.
- A 2-fold reduction in risk of genital herpes.
- A reduced risk of other sexually transmitted infections such as HIV (the virus which causes AIDS), syphilis, and chancroid, since it is less likely that the male partner has any of these.
- A lack of malodorous smegma and associated bacteria on the penis during sex.
- No need for concern that the man has phimosis and thus being unable to engage in sexual intercourse, because the 1 in 10 uncircumcised men with phimosis cannot get an erection.
- Improved sexual pleasure, where women prefer the circumcised penis for appearance, hygiene, increased penile-vaginal contact, stimulation, staying power during sex, and greater likelihood of the woman reaching an orgasm
Benefits to men of male circumcision
HIV prevention: A WHO/UNAIDS study indicates that circumcised men have up to a 60 per cent lower risk of HIV infection (WHO, UNAIDS, 2007). German development cooperation takes the position that it is absolutely essential to combine male circumcision with other HIV prevention methods, particularly with information and education and with condom use.
Less risk of Phimosis: Circumcision eliminates the risk of phimosis, which not only prevents sex, but makes cleaning under the foreskin and passing urine difficult and painful, as well as greatly increasing the risk of penile cancer and geriatric problems.
Enhanced sexual pleasure: It is reported that the sexual experience is more intense for circumcised males and that the man can better control his arousal when the glans is thus exposed. Some men and women also feel that the circumcised penis is more aesthetic.
In addition, circumcision:
- Reduces the risk of inflammation and infection of the skin of the penis.
- Substantially reduces the risk of urinary tract infections (UTIs), particularly in infancy.
- Virtually eliminates the risk of invasive penile cancer.
- Reduces the risk of prostate cancer.
- Reduces the risk of being infected by HIV, the AIDS virus.
- Provides substantial protection against thrush, syphilis, papillomavirus and chancroid.
- Eliminates the need for later circumcision for medical reasons.
All in all, apart from the obvious loss of the overhanging length of foreskin, there is no difference in the length or girth of a circumcised penis compared to an uncircumcised one.
Circumcision does not cut your penis. It is just the foreskin that is cut. Your penis is under the foreskin and remains of the same size, thickness and length. A circumcised penis may have a glans rim that flares out a bit more as it is not compressed by the foreskin, but that is to say the only difference one might notice.