Circumcision to Reduce Men's Sexual Pleasure

The complete amputation of the prepuce organ (as performed in North American style infant circumcision) initially began in an effort to curtail masturbation and 'promiscuous' behavior among boys and men. The prepuce ('foreskin') was well known to be the key organ at play in whole sexual health, and the theory was that if the prepuce was removed, men's pleasure and sexual drive would also be hampered as well.

The reason this genital surgery started to be performed on infants without anesthesia is twofold:

(1) It was commonly believed that babies 'do not feel pain' the same way adults do. Today, we know this is entirely false - newborn babies actually have a heightened sense of touch/feeling/pain so that they are able to feel their way around their mother's body in the early days/weeks of life.

(2) It was believed (and heavily promoted by key physicians at the time) that if this intense - almost unbearable - pain of genital cutting was connected with sexuality, it would further reduce a boy's desire to touch himself or use his penis 'inappropriately' as he grew older. Connect pain with sexuality right from the beginning of life, proponents taught at the time, and sexuality would take a back seat to more 'righteous' endeavors in boys' and men's later lives.

The plan to end masturbation and sexual behaviors did not work -- boys and men masturbate and have sex whether they are intact or not -- but men's sexual health in North America was impacted by this early push, and many of the myths fired up at the time still haunt and hurt us today.

What follows are several quotes from influential practitioners at the beginning of the North American push to circumcise, to offer up an example of where and why such madness began in our culture. To dismantle such pervasive myths, we must first understand where their roots lie. It is very clear when reviewing early materials on the foreskin and circumcision that physicians knew this organ played a key role in men's sexuality, normal functioning and pleasure, and that its amputation would impair each of these components of men's lives to one degree or another; a desirable outcome at the time.

"[The foreskin] is a source of serious mischief." ~William Acton, physician and venereologist (1814-1875)

"Circumcision, when performed in early life, generally lessens the voluptuous sensations of sexual intercourse." ~William Alexander Hammond, NYU physician and professor (1828-1900)

"[The physiological benefit of the foreskin] is that of maintaining the penis in a condition susceptible to more acute sensation than would otherwise exist. It may increase the pleasure of coition and the impulse to it. [...] One should be thankful [for the reduced pleasure due to circumcision and increased self-control]." ~Jonathan Hutchinson, physician, surgeon, pathologist (1828-1913)

"A remedy which is almost always successful [to stop masturbation] in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed. If any attempt is made to watch the child, he should be so carefully surrounded by vigilance that he cannot possibly transgress without detection. If he is only partially watched, he soon learns to elude observation, and thus the effect is only to make him cunning in his vice." ~John Harvey Kellogg, physician (1852-1943)

"I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is ‘against nature’ but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue that ‘God knows best how to make little boys.’" ~R. W. Cockshut, Circumcision, British Medical Journal, Vol. 2 (1935): 764.

Meme of original Kellogg's Corn Flakes advertisement. Kellogg's Corn Flakes and other 'bland' foods, as well as circumcision, were touted as being good for the reduction of men's sexual pleasure, masturbation and 'extramarital sexual relations' (especially during war times) which would, in turn, build strong men.

Related Reading:

Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America (book)

Circumcision: A History of the World's Most Controversial Surgery (book)

Circumcision: An American Health Fallacy (book)

History of Circumcision (website)

History of Circumcision (

Edward Wallerstein, "Circumcision: The Uniquely American Medical Enigma," Urologic Clinics of North America, Vol. 12, 1985, p. 123-32.

Circumcision in Canada: A Short Chronology of Events

The Rise and Fall of Circumcision in New Zealand

Intact vs. Circumcised: A Significant Difference in the Adult Penis

Functions of the Foreskin; Purposes of the Prepuce

Additional books on circumcision.

Are You Fully Informed? (websites, articles, books)



  1. roger desmoulinsAugust 11, 2012 5:12 PM

    The America in which:

    My teen years were filled with lewd talk and jokey references to a wide range of sexual acts,
    Many millions of copies of Playboy, Penthouse and Hustler were sold,
    The adult film industry rose and flourished, whose products were disseminated in every neighbourhood via video rental stores,
    The massage parlor and the lap dance were invented,
    Defiant homosexuality emerged and became much more common,
    The divorce rate underwent a massive increase from a 1960 low to a 1982 high,
    The swinger club and other organised forms of marital infidelity were invented,
    New forms of prostitution, such as the escort service and call girl, rose and flourished,

    and most of all, the America which underwent the AIDS holocaust 1975-2000...

    was a heavily circumcised America.

    So much for the theories of Kellogg et al.

    1. Or perhaps it was at least in part because of the ideas of Kellogg et al.



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