The prepuce is primary, erogenous tissue necessary for normal sexual function. The complex interaction between the sensitivity of the corpuscular receptor-deficient glans penis and the corpuscular receptor-rich ridged band of the male prepuce is required for normal copulatory behavior. ~Dr. Christopher Cold, M.D. and Dr. John Taylor, M.D.
We have found that most fully informed parents do not wish to amputate the prepuce organ from their newborn son for several reasons - one being the excruciating pain it causes a baby at a time when baby's sensitivity is heightened and he is new to the world, and a second being the many functions the foreskin serves on the body of all mammals on earth (male and female).
The two most common types of circumcision surgery in North America are the Gomco and Plastibell. Recently, many parents have been told that the Plastibell style of circumcision surgery does not hurt. This is far from the truth. Cutting occurs in exactly the same manner as other prepuce (foreskin) amputations, but it is a plastic bell used to cover the glans (head) and separate the prepuce from the glans so it can be severed. Rather than cutting high up on the shaft as in some amputations, the person cutting with the Plastibell typically cuts further toward the glans, and leaves the bell and string in place to sever the remaining part of the prepuce.
Even if circumcision was entirely pain free, to amputate the prepuce would still be removing a healthy, vital, fully functioning organ from a non-consenting person. We forever change the sexuality of this future adult man and his partner. All human beings - male and female - have the basic human right of genital integrity. They have a right to all their functioning, healthy body parts. A man (even as a newborn) has a right to his whole, intact penis, to do with as he pleases.
In the documentary, CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision, it is noted that a man's sexual life without the prepuce may still be great -- but it is as though his sexuality is an orchestra missing the entire strings section. The music just isn't the same. It cannot be. The #1 organ necessary for full functioning was taken from him. Men (and women) ought to have their full 'orchestra' intact.
Studying this topic as a young grad student, I was continuously floored with the amount of information and research we do have that is not shared openly with the general public (or taught as a standard in medical school). Even those who will be working in obstetrics, gynecology, or pediatrics are rarely well versed in research of the prepuce if they have completed their training in the United States. As part of my research, I reviewed top used medical anatomy textbooks and found the prepuce organ to be missing from most of them. It is also rarely examined (or present) on cadavers practiced upon in medical schools across the nation.
When parents are asked "do you want your son circumcised" they answer 'yes' or 'no' without ever being fully informed of what that question entails. Their doctor may not even be fully informed on the topic. (Side note: If you work on a labor and delivery floor and are the one posing this question to parents, you might consider rephrasing the question to accurately represent these new, perfect, little babies: "Do you wish to keep your son intact?" and make sure parents at your hospital have access to full and accurate information before making their decision).
It is crucial that we spread this wealth of knowledge. Rarely is there a body organ that comes fully formed and functioning at birth on all mammals (male and female alike) that is not also important and useful throughout life. Even the appendix has important functions that we were once in the dark on. The prepuce, however, is an organ that we do know a lot about -- we just have to start talking about it!
The following is an excerpt from the outstanding book, What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Circumcision written by Dr. Fleiss and Dr. Hodges (two experts on the prepuce who have studied the subjects of intact care and circumcision for the past 30+ years). Fleiss is a practicing (Jewish) pediatrician in Los Angeles and Hodges has served at Yale University for many years.
After Fleiss and Hodges' work, there is a video clip below in which Marilyn Milos (founder of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers) discusses some of the ins-and-outs of the functions of the foreskin. Her commentary adds to the reading by Fleiss and Hodges in a manner that is easy to understand and thorough.
The foreskin has a great number of important protective, sensory, and sexual functions.
The Foreskin in Babyhood
Babies are born perfect. Every part of your baby’s body is there for a purpose. Every part of your baby’s body helps him grow, develop, learn, and experience our wondrous world. The foreskin is one of these special body parts. In fact, the foreskin is an important body part throughout the entire life of the male.
The foreskin adds more to the penis than just increased sexual functioning and pleasure. It keeps your baby’s penis safe, warm, clean, and moist. It allows the baby’s glans (head) to complete its development normally. The glans is meant to be an internal organ, covered and protected from the outside world.
No attempt should be made to retract the foreskin before the penis has fully developed. Premature retraction causes the glans to become dry, hard, and scarred. The foreskin protects the glans from injury simply by covering it. The first person to retract the foreskin and expose the glans should be the child himself, and only when the child is ready to do so. It is best that parents avoid concerning themselves with this natural process. All by themselves, little boys will make the discovery that their foreskin can be retracted.
[How to care for an intact son - resource list.]
Intact vs. Circumcised Newborn Baby's Penis
Top Right: Circumcised by Plastibell
Bottom Right: Circumcised by Gomco
View back side of postcards here.
Top Right: Circumcised by Plastibell
Bottom Right: Circumcised by Gomco
View back side of postcards here.
Just as the eyelid protects the eye, the foreskin protects the glans, keeping its surface soft, moist, warm and sensitive. It also maintains optimal warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands – glands that produce the moisturizing oil that our skin needs to stay healthy.(2) The foreskin produces the moisturizer that keeps the surface of the glans glistening, smooth, soft, and a deep healthy red or purple color.
The foreskin will protect the entire penis when accidents happen, such as contusions, abrasions, lacerations, and burns. The foreskin is the first layer – a double layer – of defense from injury to the rest of the penis.
The intact penis is naturally clean. The common view of the penis or the foreskin as ‘dirty’ is unscientific and irrational. The penis, however, does provide an entry point into the body, and it is exposed to foreign microbes every day, especially during sexual intercourse. The immunological functions of the foreskin and the self-cleansing functions of the penis protect the body from harm.
Every time a genitally intact male urinates, the urine stream flushes out the urethra and foreskin of foreign microbes that may have strayed inside. In healthy individuals, urine is sterile and has a disinfectant quality. Researchers have demonstrated that the swirling action of urine as it rushes through the foreskin flushes it out effortlessly and naturally.(3) This function is especially efficient when the foreskin is long and the preputial orifice is narrow.
Though urine passes through the foreskin every day, the inner foreskin is remarkably free of urea – a by-product of liver metabolism that is secreted in the urine. Studies demonstrate that washings from the foreskin are rich in fructose, acid phosphatase, and mucin, but never urea. It appears that the secretions of seminal vesicles, prostate, and urethral mucous glands, collectively or individually, keep the foreskin clear and clean as well. (4) These self-cleansing functions of the penis are analogous to the self-cleansing functions of the eye, which similarly maintains its cleanliness through fluid washings (tears) and mucus secretion. Therefore, you never need to worry about the foreskin being ‘unclean.’
The urinary meatus (the opening of the glans through which urine and semen flow), is an entry point into the body. From infancy to adulthood, the foreskin ensures optimal protection of the glans and urinary meatus from contaminants of all kinds. During childhood, the foreskin is also usually firmly attached to the glans to prevent contaminants from invading the urethra. The neck of the foreskin places the vulnerable urinary meatus at a distance from the external environment and defends it against invading contaminants. The fusion of the foreskin and glans and the nonexpandability of the preputial orifice in the child’s penis are therefore necessary for the health of the child. Even after the foreskin separates from the glans and becomes retractable, it continues throughout life to cover the glans and meatus in order to protect these delicate structures from dirty, contamination, abrasion, or bacterial invasion.
The mucous membranes that line all body orifaces are the body’s first line of immunological defense. Glands in the foreskin produce antibacterial and antiviral proteins such as lysozyme. (5) Lysozyme is also found in tears and mother’s milk. Specialized epithelial Langerhans cells, an immune system component, aboud in the foreskin’s outer surface. (6) Plasma cells in the foreskin’s mucosal lining secrete immunoglobulin’s, antibodies that defend against infection. (7)
Rigorously controlled studies have also demonstrated that the foreskin plays a protective role in shielding the rest of the penis and thus the rest of the body from the contagion of common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) encountered during sexual activity. (8)
In infancy, antibacterial substances, such as the complex sugars (glyconutrients) in breastmilk, the oligosaccharides, are passed from mother to child during breastfeeding and are secreted in the baby’s urine. (9) The penis retains these substances in the foreskin. Universy studies have shown that these substances protect against urinary tract infections (UTIs), as well as from infections of other parts of the body. (10) Babies excrete in their urine 300-500 mililgrams of oligosaccharides every day. These compounds prevent virulent strains of Escherichia coli (e.Coli) from adhering to the mucosal lining of the entire urinary tract, including the foreskin and glans.
Researchers conducting immunological experiments with the foreskins of bulls have found that plasma cells in the mucosal lining of the foreskin secrete immunoglobulin. (11) The researchers hypothesize that this provides immunity from bacteria and other germs. This is likely to work the same in other mammals, including humans.
Apocrine glands are important glands found in the skin. They are found in the foreskin and elsewhere on the body. (12) They secrete the important lysosomal enzymes cathepsin B, lysozyme, chymotrypsin, and neutrophil elastase. (13) All of these enzymes help protect the body from many kinds of bacteria. These enzymes are also found in tears and other bodily fluids. Human apocrine glands also produce cytokine, a nonantibody protein that generates an immune response on contact with specific antigens. (14) All these substances have immunological functions and protect the penis from viral and bacterial pathogens. This natural protective function has been destroyed in circumcised males.
To help fight harmful bacteria, the foreskin supports a rich flora of beneficial bacteria. Friendly bacteria exist in a symbiotic relationship with the body and are found on all body surfaces and through the gastrointestinal, genitourinary tract (the urinary system that runs from the kidneys, through the bladder, and out the penis), and the mouth. Friendly bacteria also thrive in the eyes. Without the presence of friendly bacteria, the human body would be vulnerable to attack from pathogenic bacteria.
The good bacteria that live in the inside of the foreskin are similar to the bacteria found in the mouth, nose, the female genitals, and the skin in general. It must be stressed that this good bacteria is both harmless and highly beneficial. Without these friendly bacteria, the urethra would become an easy entry point for germs and harmful stains of bacteria, which could cause disease.
Coverage During Erection
During erection, the penile shaft becomes thicker and longer. In some males, the penis can extend to twice its flaccid length. Sometimes, it can become even longer. The double-layered foreskin provides exactly the right amount of skin necessary to accommodate the expanded organ and to allow the penile skin to glide freely, smoothly, and pleasurably over the shaft and glans.
It is important to consider the fact that every penis is unique. By looking at an infant’s penis, it is impossible to predict how big his penis will become when he is an adult. Heredity does play a role in determining the ultimate shape, size, and configuration of the penis, but it is still difficult to predict the adult size and shape of an infant’s penis even if one looks at the penises of his father, brothers, and other male relatives.
What we can say with certainty is that your baby’s penis will develop and mature according to his own unique genetic coding. Thus, the amount of foreskin he is born with is exactly the amount he will need for his penis to develop properly and experience comfortable, pleasurable erections throughout life. As a result, the idea that any amount of penile skin can be cut off without affecting the later function of the penis is false. In nature there is no surplus, only economy. Everything provided is required.
In the natural penis, as the shaft elongates during erection, the lips of the foreskin slowly expand. The glans begins slowly to protrude through the widening opening. Since the foreskin is soft, elastic, and pliable, it can easily and comfortably stretch to allow the passage of the glans. The stretching process elicits pleasurable sensations as the foreskin gently unrolls (everts) over the glans and shaft. Eventually, in most males, the glans can be fully exposed.
Some males, well endowed with a generous foreskin, have the glans fully covered even when the penis is fully erect. Most, however, if they choose, can manually roll the foreskin all the way back to expose the glans.
During full erection, the sensitive inner sleeve of the foreskin is turned inside out, exposing it. In this position it receives and transmits pleasurable sensations. The natural penis is a marvelously engineered organ for receiving and giving natural pleasure.
Needless to say, circumcision destroys all these functions and imposes a diminished, scarred, immobile, dowel-like penis that has permanently lost the ability to experience normal levels of sexual sensations. A circumcised male, or his partner, for that matter, can never know the intimacy of the normal penis and the ability of the foreskin to open and glide up and down the shaft. An entire dimension of sexuality has been lost to both the male and his sexual partner.
The foreskin is more sensitive than the fingertips, the glans (head) of the penis, or the lips of the mouth. It contains a richer variety and greater concentration of specialized nerve receptors than any other part of the body. (15) These specialized nerve endings can discern motion, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations of texture. (16) This function enables genitally intact males to experience a superior dimension of sexual pleasure, compared to males who were circumcised. Intact males can be more tender, gentle, relaxed, and loving during sex because the slightest and subtlest gesture or motion evokes deeply satisfying sensations. Circumcised males have to work harder just to feel sensations. This is an unhealthy situation for both the male and his partner.
Self-Stimulating Sexual Functions
The intact penis has moving parts. The foreskin’s double-layered sheath enables the penile shaft skin to glide back and forth over the penile shaft. The foreskin can usually be slipped all the way, or almost all the way, back to the base of the penis, and also slipped forward beyond the glans. This wide range of motion stimulates the orgasmic triggers in the foreskin, frenulum, and glans.
This is the natural way that the penis is erotically stimulated. The movement of the foreskin over the glans and the pressure of the glans pressing against the foreskin is pleasurable. Sadly, males circumcised at birth can never imagine the pleasure of this natural sensation.
In the natural penis, the foreskin is the most important source of erotogenic, orgasm-inducing sensations. As we learned in the previous chapter, the foreskin contains a highly organized erotogenic sensory nerve-receptor system. It transmits special sexual sensations to the central nervous system and brain. The glans also has erotogenic sensory nerve receptors along its rim (the corona glandis), but far fewer than the foreskin. The massaging action of the foreskin against the glans produces sexual stimulation in both organs – something else that the circumcised male will never experience.
Some genitally intact males can even stimulate themselves to orgasm without touching their penis. They simply clench the groin muscles that help fill the penis with blood. Each voluntary contraction of the muscles forces more blood into the erectile tissues. This causes the shaft and glans to engorge even further and pushes the glans through the lips of the foreskin. Each dilation of the lips of the foreskin stimulates the specialized nerve receptors in the foreskin. In addition, the tension exerted on the foreskin stimulates the nerve receptors in the glans. The resulting sensation can lead to orgasm. A circumcised male would never be able to accomplish this natural feat.
Forepleasure is the pleasurable stimulation of the genitals with or without the intention of eliciting orgasm. Forepleasure takes place during foreplay. Forepleasure of the penis stimulates the brain to release beneficial and health-giving hormones into the bloodstream. These hormones improve overall bodily health, improve the emotional state, and can even reduce pain in any part of the body. Forepleasure, as the name implies, feels great.
Orgasm and ejaculations are usually the smallest part of sexual activity. They take only a few seconds and generally signal the end of sex interest. The period devoted to forepleasure is the greatest component of sexual activity and can continue as long as there is interest to do so. The intact penis is masterfully designed to give and receive forepleasure. Its many surfaces, structures, and moving parts lend themselves to pleasurable exploration. Unrolling the foreskin and exposing the glans is an intimate discovery that provides fascination and delight, since different parts of the penis respond to different kinds of pleasurable attentions. The exploration and discovery of these differences provide a lifetime of intimate enjoyment and satisfaction.
Sexual Functions of the Foreskin During Intercourse
One of the foreskin’s functions is to facilitate smooth, gentle, and slow movement between the two partners during intercourse. The foreskin enables the penis to slip in and out of the vagina nonabrasively inside its own slick sheath of self-lubricating, movable skin. The female is thus stimulated by moving pressure rather than by friction only, as when the males’ foreskin is missing.
The foreskin fosters intimacy between the two partners by enveloping the glans and maintaining it as an internal organ. The sexual experience is enhanced when the foreskin slips back to allow the male’s internal organ, the glans, to meet the female’s internal organ – a moment of supreme intimacy and beauty.
You may have heard circumcision promoters allege that the foreskin is ‘dangerously thin and delicate; and that it ‘rips and tears easily during intercourse.’ This is unscientific nonsense and has no basis in anatomical fact. I am sorry to say that it is a deception calculated to provide false reassurance to anxious circumcised males and to frighten parents into letting their children be circumcised. The simple truth is that the foreskin is perfectly designed to function effortlessly and pleasurably during sexual activity. Its double-layered integument is strong, flexible, and resilient. The foreskin is a durable and vigorous organ that enhances and facilitates sexual intercourse. If it didn’t, it would have atrophied years ago.
Analogous to the eyelid, the foreskin protects and preserves the sensitivity of the glans by maintaining optimal levels of moisture, warmth, pH balance, and cleanliness. The glans is an internal organ. The glans itself contains no sebaceous glands and relies on the foreskin for production and distribution of sebum to maintain proper epithelial lubrication. Lubrication is naturally secreted by Cowper’s glands in the urethra. This clear fluid begins to flow out of the meatus as the male becomes sexually aroused.
During intercourse, this natural lubricant assists the male in inserting the penis in to the vagina. Because the fluid is sheltered under the foreskin of the erect penis it is less likely to dry up. Instead, it keeps the penis well lubricated and prevents the vagina from drying out.
In the circumcised penis, the Cowper’s gland fluid quickly evaporates. When the circumcised male inserts his dry penis into the vagina, it soon uses up all the female’s natural lubricants, causing friction and pain for both partners. This can lead to small tears and painful bleeding in the organs of both partners. It comes as no surprise that in the United States today, where a large majority of sexually active adult males have been circumcised, painful vaginal dryness is the biggest complaint women have about sex. This is also the reason that there is such a large industry in the United States that manufactures artificial sexual lubricants. I doubt there has been a study to determine the longer-term effects of using these chemicals on such delicate organs.
Genitally intact males are free of the need for lubricants of any kind either for manual stimulation of the penis, or for vaginal intercourse.
Many circumcised males must also resort to using these artificially factory-made lubricants to masturbate. Other circumcised males research orgasm by friction of their hand over their externalized glans. They have been deprived of the gliding movement of the foreskin to stimulate themselves naturally. The penis is a different organ without a foreskin, and a sexual function is altered when the foreskin has been amputated.
Many circumcised men will think they are normal because they are able to function sexually to their satisfaction, never realizing that their sexual functioning as an adult was changed forever by a medically unnecessary and extremely painful procedure done to them as an infant.
In my practice, I have examined little boys how have had so much foreskin removed that there is hardly any loose skin on their penis. The skin on their flaccid nonerect penis is taut. I wonder what will happen to a boy with such a radical circumcision when he gets an erection: Will he be able to have as much pleasure from his penis as he would have had if the circumciser had amputated less of his prepuce organ? This most unfortunate situation is all too common in the United States.
Production, Retention, and Dispersal of Pheromones
The sense of smell is one of the oldest, most precise, and most important senses in humans. Smells convey vital information to the brain. Pheromones are hormonal chemical messengers secreted by an individual and perceived by another individual of the same species. They create sexual arousal and attraction in the person perceiving the pheromone. These glands are found in the armpits, breasts, and in the genital area. The penis itself is a specific site for these glands. Pheromones are secreted by the apocrine glands in the foreskin. These glands are present at birth, but during puberty they develop in the presence of testosterone.
Although pheromones themselves are odorless, they are released by the foreskin into the air where they are perceived by the vomeronasal organ, a small tubular structure in the mucosa of the nasal septum. This organ is a component of the accessory olfactory system. The olfactory area of the cerebral cortex is closely associated with the limbic system, the part of the brain that organizes emotional responses, mood, memory, and sexual arousal. Although most complex smells and their emotional associations are learned, the identification of pheromones is hardwired into the brain. The automatic sexual arousal elicited by the perception of pheromones is as certain as the automatic pleasure reflex elicited by a caress.
The perception of any scent associated with pheromones varies from individual to individual and depends largely on bacteria. The bacteria itself may be needed to chemically interact with the pheromones to make them active. (17) Diet, bathing habits, and general health also impact the quality of these scents. The predominant odor associated with male pheromones is musk. Nearly all human cultures esteem the rich, earthy, musky, pheromone-rich scent produced by the glands in the foreskin. Perfume makers obtain musk from the foreskin glands of the musk deer. The nonhuman pheromones contained in this muck are unable to elicit sexual arousal in humans, but the fragrance of the musk itself may, bay association, elicit a pleasant response in humans that evokes a sympathetic erotic arousal. (18) This is, at least, the effect that the perfume industry hopes to create.
Intact and Circumcised: A Significant Difference in the Adult Penis:
Anatomy of the Prepuce: NOHARMM: