Does Circumcision Cause Erectile Dysfunction?

By Dr. Gifford-Jones, M.D.

Why did my loving parents do this to me many years ago?

I’m sure their doctor told them it was the hygienic thing to do. But I’m equally sure I must have been screaming like hell while it was being done. Today, millions of circumcisions are still performed. But it’s time to stop this shocking brutality and the complications associated with it.

Dr. Guy Madder, a surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Adelaide, Australia, reports in the Annals of Family Medicine that there is no convincing evidence that circumcision decreases the risk of sexually transmitted disease, urinary tract infections, or penile cancer.

The rituals of some religious faiths advocate circumcision. But, apart from these circumstances, it’s hard to justify this procedure. In fact, a reading of the world’s medical journals makes your hair stand on end when you read of potential surgical complications.

How common are complications? This depends on how you label a complication. For example, penal foreskin is anatomically the most sensitive part of the organ. It ensures satisfactory sex. It’s therefore reasonable to argue that in this instance the complication rate is 100% because it decreases sexual satisfaction.

There’s another aspect to circumcision that is never mentioned in the discussion of the pros and cons of this surgery. Today, erectile dysfunction (ED) drugs are being used by an increasing number of males, and many of them are not in their senior years. I admit, I have no hard statistics on this matter. [Editor's note: recent ED statistics are outlined in The Rise of Viagra]

But I wonder how many males who require ED drugs could have experienced a longer and more satisfactory sex life, if this sensitive organ had not been removed. I suspect more than we realize. This is a great project for some aspiring researcher!

But why do some of the complications of this procedure make one’s hair stand on end? Harvey Cushing, one of Harvard’s greatest brain surgeons, once remarked that, “There is no such thing as minor surgery, but there are a lot of minor surgeons.” In this case, a profound remark.

Compared to brain surgery, circumcision is a minor procedure, and is normally performed without complications. But, no surgical procedure to my knowledge has ever been devised, regardless of how minor it is, without possible untoward results.

The world’s medical journals are full of reports dealing with a variety of surgical complications. And the vast majority of severe complications are not an act of God, but technical human errors made during the procedure.

A primary problem is the incorrect use of the circumcision clamp. In some cases too much foreskin is pulled into the clamp resulting in injury, not only to the shaft of the penis, but also to the urinary tube (urethra) that runs through it. The most traumatic complication in the past caused the amputation of part of the penis.

Such traumatic injuries to the penis and urethra often result in urinary stricture and difficulty passing urine. Or, the injury may result in a urethral fistula, in which urine is discharged through an abnormal opening. These complications are not easy to repair, and what starts out as a minor procedure, becomes a major one. Moreover, some of these injuries only become apparent following discharge from hospital. A fistula often takes weeks or months to make its presence known.

There have been bizarre problems that one would never think of happening. For instance, one newborn screamed during the procedure with such intensity that the stomach ruptured, requiring additional emergency surgery.

Another had heart failure [heart attack] from the circumcision surgery and died.

Still another died from a bleeding disorder post-op. It’s easy to see how this could happen since coagulation studies are not routinely done prior to circumcision surgery.

Why wouldn’t babies scream like hell when circumcised without anesthesia? And how many males who have it done later in life would agree to this procedure without anesthesia?

Today we criticize those cultures that believe in the barbaric act of female circumcision. Yet Western doctors continue to carry out this sadistic procedure in males without their permission. That’s why many argue that circumcision violates the United Nations Declaration of Human Rights. Amen to that.

Additional information on ED in the Doctors Opposing Circumcision Policy Statement and Circumcision Information Resource Pages

If you were circumcised at birth, and wish to proactively ward off ED and other sexual issues that commonly arise for circumcised men and their partners later in life, there are many restoration options available, and many men who have restored are willing to discuss the process and its outcome. See additional information at: The Restoration Resource Page.

Resources on the prepuce organ ('foreskin' or 'clitoral hood'), intact care, and circumcision found at Are You Fully Informed?

W. Gifford-Jones M.D. is the pen name of Dr. Ken Walker, graduate of The Harvard Medical School. He’s been a ship’s surgeon, hotel physician, and family doctor, and later trained in surgery at McGill in Montreal, University of Rochester N.Y. and Harvard. His medical column is published by 60 Canadian newspapers and several in the U.S. He is the author of seven books. Dr. Walker has a medical practice in Toronto. He can be reached at:


  1. This man's account also seems to lend an answer:

  2. This is why I'm restoring ... I just cannot believe I was robbed of such an essential part of my body.

  3. Yeah, it forces the brain to use images to make up for the loss in sensation from the act alone

  4. Often times this issue gets me violently angry. Such a huge violation of trust and personal space. I can't wrap my head around an almost always UNNECESSARY procedure occurring with such prevalence. I feel as if I and many others have be...en branded, duped. Without going on a much longer rant, I just can't see how anyone with more than a handful of brain cells could consider it a good decision to remove something natural from an infant. George Carlin was right; we don't have natural rights, merely temporary privileges. The rules only apply when they apply. We may have all been created equal, but we sure as hell aren't anymore.

  5. Answer: Yes. When Viagra sales are exclusively in nations that have cut their men, and "ED" is almost unheard of among intact nations... we have an answer already.

  6. A psychologist once told me it was because of "salt in the neurons hindering sensation with age". He fought tooth and nail against my loss of sensation arguments.

  7. yeah, it does... but we have viagra - so does it really matter? (sarcasm in case anyone is wondering.)

  8. How is big pharma going to make any money if people continue to save little boys from genital mutilation???

  9. I came to this conclusion myself without even reading the research. It makes total sense.

  10. Hitting the nail on the "head" here.

  11. The Doctors make money doing the circ, the Drug Companies make money selling little blue pills.... Men get screwed, and not in the good way LOL

  12. Women get screwed too. Why do you think we all need so much lubricant to have a good intimate experience?

  13. Exactly!
    And not only that, lube is now a product needed for us b/c of the missing foreskin. There is a HUGE profit to be made off cutting our young, innocent baby boys. Later in life they will have problems that aren't "normal" by intact standards. And no, it doesn't "happen to all men" at some point (like they tell them to make them feel better), just the ones who happen to be circumcised. :(

  14. Wow, that's horrible. I'm just starting to learn about keratinization, but I had no idea it was a problem for large numbers (or all) of circumcised men... does restoration make a substantial difference (my husband is circ'd--and when we have our own children, they definitely will *not* be)?

  15. Maybe its me...but are the pharm perps still trying to push circ for profit? I more circ...not as much ED...then not much of a demand for the little blue pills...just sayin

  16. Carla- My husband is just in the beginning of the restoring process, and he is noticing a huge increase in sensitivity already. So yes, restoring does make a difference. And so far it has improved sexual feelings for both of us!

  17. Thanks for all the links--what technique(s) do you (or Grace?) recommend for restoration? I'm assuming non-surgical, but are there reliable sites with good information that you refer people to?

  18. How long, on average, does restoration take (let's say, assuming there's some skin to work with as a starting point - that there wasn't a complete removal of all foreskin)?

  19. Carla- my hubby uses the TLC tugger. He definitely would recommend it.

  20. This logically has to be true.

  21. The extra features on the DVD "CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision" also have really good info on restoration.

  22. Just found this, which has pictures since I didn't know what keratinization was. Thanks for posting this info and educating me and my husband!

  23. Carla, I'm a big fan of the DTR. It stays very secure especially during more vigorous activities.

    Here's the website:

  24. Thank you so much for spreading this. This is the major issue I press on when attacking involuntary circumcision. So many people just do not comprehend. "Through lack of understanding they remain sane."

  25. Erectile dysfunction (ED) has a medical (clinical) meaning and a popular meaning. As used by lay people, any difficulty with erections is considered ED. When I reached my mid-40s, I found that I was starting to have trouble with sex. It was more and more difficult to get off. Sex was lasting longer before I could ejaculate. It was lasting too long because my wife was complaining about it and getting sore from it. By the time I hit my 50s, I had trouble keeping an erection during vaginal sex. Masturbation was fine, but sex did not give me enough stimulation to keep me erect.

    After doing some research, I learned about others who were circumcised and had similar sex problems. They had restored their foreskin and their sexual life had improved.

    I was circumcised as an infant. I began restoring my foreskin when I was 52. Within months my sexual performance got better and my sexual satisfaction increased. After about 8 months of restoring I started having whole body orgasms - my whole body would get tingly and I would collapse after my orgasm. I was out of breath from the orgasm, not from the exertion of trying to ejaculate. I never experienced this before. With my restored foreskin I am enjoying sex like never before. My wife loves my restored foreskin, too. As added benefits, we don't need to use lube anymore and she does not get sore after sex.

    Bottom line is that circumcision can cause erectile problems and foreskin restoration can correct them. But, it would have been better if I had never been circumcised as an infant.

  26. The reason in undergoing circumsicion is more cultural than medical. Doctors long ago claimed that it is more hyginic to be circumsized. Recent studies show there are no significant differences. Rather than risk yourself to erectile dysfunction or other complications, it is better to just leave it as it is. That's if you have a choice and your parents havent have you circumcised long ago...

  27. Restoring does stop the continued loss of sensitivity and increases sensitivity as well. When the body no longer feels a need to keratinize and protect the glans, the restored foreskin will offer much-needed protection.

    Resources for loss of sensitivity due to circumcision:

    Effect of neonatal circumcision on penile neurologic sensation. Bleustein CB, Fogarty JD, Eckholdt H, Arezzo JC, Melman A. "In the dysfunctional group, circumcised men (49 +/- 16 years) were significantly younger (P <0.01) than uncircumcised men (56 +/- 13 years)."

    How Male Circumcision May Be Affecting Your Love Life

    Sexual side effects

    Foreskin restoration:



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