Circumcision becomes as American as apple pie and baseball
Today, circumcision is still one of the most common surgeries in the United States. In 2010, approximately 58% of American newborn males were circumcised -- if you slice up the data more, you'll find that there’s a difference between the East and West Coast rates (with 65% and 40% circumcised, respectively).
So if parents don’t know the real reasons why their children are being circumcised, why are they having it done? A survey from the late '80s asked both mothers and fathers why they wanted their child circumcised, and found that the most important reasons were, “It will make him easier to keep clean,” “I don’t want him to look different,” and, “The baby’s father is circumcised.” In short, most people don't base their decision to circumcise or not on medical grounds. Nothing like a fear of a little locker room bullying to really scare the foreskin off of you, right?
Wait, but doesn't circumcision help prevent STIs?
With the exception of circumcision reducing the risk of HIV transmission in high-risk populations like sub-Saharan Africa, there are no solid studies that suggest circumcision helps prevent STIs.
Look at the rates of infection in the highly turtlenecked countries of Europe (the incidence of circumcision across the Atlantic is significantly lower than in America, at around 7%), and you’ll find the incidences of gonorrhea and chlamydia are strikingly lower as well. This may have more to do with the efficacy of European safe-sex campaigns and condom use than it does with circumcision, but obviously snipping foreskin isn’t significantly changing anything.
So Americans get circumcised because of graham crackers?
Well, kind of! Penises are sensitive things, in more ways than one, and the Puritanical habits of the United States die slow deaths. Almost no one thinks that circumcision prevents masturbation or premarital sex, which was Graham's reason for supporting the practice, but parents tend not to consider the historical context of their choices when it comes to their newborn children. Often even the most serious medical decisions are based more on habit than on the latest scientific evidence.
I’m sorry if I’ve instigated a fight about your foreskin at your next family gathering. Don’t worry, though: if you really wish you had your foreskin back, we have ways -- or should I say "weights" -- to help you out. Google "foreskin restoration." You’ll thank (or hate) me later.
Sign up here for our daily Thrillist email, and get your fix of the best in food/drink/fun.
Dr. Cameron Hill is a urologist who lives in Washington, DC. He's a big fan of s'mores.