The Lost List

"To make an informed choice, parents of all male infants should be given accurate and unbiased information."

- Circumcision Policy Statement
American Academy of Pediatrics
March 1, 1999

When a baby boy's normal, healthy penis is circumcised, this is what is lost - forever:

1. The foreskin, which comprises up to 50% (sometimes more) of the mobile skin system of the penis.

5''x3'' postcard - area of unfolded foreskin

This highly specialized tissue normally covers the glans and protects it from abrasion, drying, callousing (keratinisation), and contaminants of all kinds. The effect of glans keratinisation on human sexuality has never been studied.

2. The frenar band of soft ridges - the primary erogenous zone of the male body. Loss of this delicate belt of densely innervated, sexually responsive tissue reduces the fine-tuning of male sexual response.

3. The foreskin's "gliding action" - the hallmark mechanical feature of the intact penis. This non-abrasive gliding of the penis in and out of itself within the vagina facilitates smooth, comfortable, pleasurable intercourse for both partners. Without this gliding, sealing action, the shaft of the circumcised penis functions as a leaky piston, drawing vaginal lubricants out into the drying air and often making artificial lubricants essential for comfortable intercourse.

4. Thousands of coiled fine-touch mechanoreceptors called Meissner's corpuscles, the most important sensory component of the foreskin, encapsulated Vater-Pacinian cells, Merkel's cells, nociceptors, and branches of the dorsal nerve and perineal nerve. Altogether, between 10,000 and 20,000 specialized erotogenic nerve endings of several types, which can feel slight motion and stretch, subtle changes in temperature, and fine gradations in texture, are lost.

5. The frenulum, the highly erogenous web-like tethering structure on the underside of the glans; frequently amputated along with the foreskin, which destroys its function and potential for pleasure.

6. Approximately half of the temperature-sensitive smooth muscle sheath called the dartos fascia.

7. The immunological defense system of the soft mucosa. This produces both plasma cells that secrete immunoglobulin antibodies and antibacterial and antiviral proteins such as the pathogen-killing enzyme lysozyme.

8. Estrogen receptors - the purpose of which is not yet fully understood and needs further study.

9. The apocrine glands of the inner foreskin, which produce pheromones - nature's powerful, silent, invisible behavioral signals to potential sexual partners. The effect of their absence on human sexuality has never been studied.

10. Specialized epithelial Langerhans cells, a first line component of the body's immune system in a whole penis.

11. The pink to red to dark purple natural coloration of the glans. The connective tissue which protectively fuses the foreskin and glans together while the penis develops is ripped apart during circumcision, wounding the glans and the foreskin remnant, leaving them raw and subject to infection, scarring, pitting, shrinkage, and eventual discoloration.

12. Some of the penis length and penis circumference because its double-layered wrapping of loose and usually overhanging foreskin is now missing, making the circumcised penis truncated and thinner than a full-sized penis.

13. Several feet of blood vessels, including the frenular artery and branches of the dorsal artery. The loss of this rich vascularization interrupts normal blood flow to the shaft and glans of the penis, damaging the natural function of the penis and altering its development. [The superior dorsal artery is invariably swollen in the erect circumcised penis, compared to the intact.]

14. The penis: every year some boys lose their entire penises from circumcision accidents and infections. They are then "sexually reassigned" by castration and "transgender surgery," and expected to live their lives as "females."

15. Life: every year some boys lose their lives from the complications of circumcision - the exact number is unknown, since these deaths are usually attributed to their secondary causes, infection or bleeding.

16. Bonding: the extreme pain of circumcision (or the effects of anaesthesia) disrupt the infant's bonding with his mother, with unknown effects on his future psychological and psychosocial development.

17. Intimacy: the removal of a large area of mucous membrane, the foreskin, and the hardening of another, the glans, reduces the potential for intimacy conferred by these tissues - as it is conferred by highly comparable structures, the lips.


Loss of each of the items 1-5, 9, 12-14, and 17 reduces sexual pleasure, gratification and fulfillment.

Adapted from the list compiled by Gary L. Harryman glharryman@aol.com

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