Foreskin may be the only uncharted territory Americans have no desire to conquer. In our country, circumcision is common enough that a foreskin-free penis is the expectation, but elsewhere, that’s hardly the case. Though it remains the most common elective operation globally, the majority of men in the world don’t undergo it. Surprised? Dismayed? Completely alarmed that you can no longer take a European lover?
The ever-proper Charlotte York may have once compared an uncut penis to a shar pei, but there’s no reason why you should be repulsed by foreskin.
Countless girlfriends of mine cringe at the thought of penises au natural, but my own varied sexual experiences have familiarized me with the lesser known peen and I’m on a mission to demystify it. Here’s some good news to start: uncut penises are pretty much the same as their counterparts. And yet, Americans and those with less colorful sexual pasts continue to treat foreskin as something of an anomaly and even a defect. I’ve isolated foreskinphobia into a few easily identifiable (and refutable) myths:
Foreskin is dirty. Female anatomy doesn’t exactly have the best reputation as far as smell is concerned, but it’d be ludicrous if a guy refused to sleep with me because he questioned my ability to clean myself. Since one would hope most men have mastered basic hygiene by the time they’re sexually active, concerns over cleanliness (or lack thereof) are mostly overblown or based on myths. An uncut penis is no dirtier than the alternative. If anything, guys with foreskin learn more about hygiene at an earlier age and are taught to be conscientious about cleaning themselves. And if hygiene really is an issue? Blame the man, not the foreskin. It’s not like his penis is actively opposing a shower.
Foreskin is ugly. This is a completely subjective opinion, so I can’t exactly debunk it, but attractiveness of genitalia is really in the eye/mouth/hand of the beholder. I’m personally indifferent to how penises look. An erect penis is far more aesthetically pleasing than a thumb, for example, but I’d still rather look into my boyfriend’s eyes than in his pants. Ultimately, though, we shouldn’t subject our partners’ genitalia to our visual preferences. After all, as much as I like my own vagina, I don’t expect anyone else to be enthralled by it, nor do I think I should be judged on the basis of its appearance. If the presence of some extra skin is enough to dissuade you from ever pursuing a sexual relationship with a guy, then god forbid he actually have a physical defect, like an entire extra toe.
Foreskin puts you at risk for STIs. Some studies have shown a significant reduction in HIV transmission rates among circumcised men. So why isn’t the global medical community suggesting that men get snipped en masse? For starters, these studies were done in extremely high-risk areas in Africa. Research in developed countries, such as Australia, has shown no difference in HIV transmission rates. Further, though the men in these studies were less likely to get HIV, their partners weren’t. Circumcision only improves the odds for the penetrative partners while those being penetrated (whether they were male or female) experienced the same rates of infection as partners of uncircumcised men. But more importantly, just because a guy has been circumcised doesn’t mean that you should forgo a condom. Ultimately, prevention of STIs depends on personal responsibility, not a decades’ old decision made by your partner’s parents.
All of the above seems pretty obvious, yet an American cultural bias against foreskin persists. The most feasible explanation, in my opinion, is probably the following:
Foreskin is foreign. I mean that literally and figuratively. In the rest of the world, uncut is the norm. The great majority of European boys get to keep their foreskin. In the U.K., only 4 percent are circumcised every year. Even our northern neighbor, Canada, frowns upon the practice. (The Canadian Pediatric Society has stated officially that it doesn’t recommend routine circumcision unrelated to religious or cultural practices). The story’s quite different in the States, where 83 percent of American male infants born in the 1980s — the majority of my sexual history — were circumcised. (That rate has declined to 55 percent in recent years.)
These seemingly meaningless numbers are actually quite significant. They mean that uncut penises remain foreign entities for many Americans. So perhaps what really bothers us is not hygiene, disease, or aesthetic underappreciation but rather, a lack of familiarity. Given how intimidated some of my friends are when face-to-face with a penis, it’s no surprise that they’re aghast upon encountering one that looks unlike all others before it.
Just remember: a penis is still a penis and friction is still your ally. Sure, your handjob or blowjob technique may have to undergo slight adjustments, but the end goal (and the way to reach it) remains the same. A couple inches of skin shouldn’t stand in the way of anyone’s pleasure, including your own.