WHAT IS CIRCUMCISION?
Circumcision (ser-cum-SIH-zhun) is the surgical removal of the foreskin, which is a continuation of the skin of the penis over part or all of the head of the penis, or glans.
HAVE I BEEN CIRCUMCISED?
Take a look at the picture below. The guy on the left has been circumcised, while the one on the right has not. If the end of your penis looks a little like a small elephant's trunk, and you can expose the head of your penis only by pushing back the skin around it, you are uncircumcised. If the head of your penis is always visible and the skin on your penis doesn't slide up and down the shaft very easily, you are circumcised.
WHY IS CIRCUMCISION PERFORMED?
That's kind of tough to answer. It's an ancient (perhaps even prehistoric) operation that has long been associated with religious beliefs. In biblical times, the foreskin was removed for hygienic reasons -- to make it easier to keep the penis clean. Uncircumcised men have a very slightly larger risk of infection and cancer of the penis, although as long as the penis is kept clean, both of these are rare.
WHO GETS CIRCUMCISED TODAY?
Newborn boys in Islamic countries are routinely circumcised, and boys born into the Judaic (Jewish) faith are circumcised when they're eight days old. In the U.S., circumcision is still routinely performed on newborn infants by some doctors -- although a lot of people are against this practice, claiming it is unnecessary and reduces penis sensitivity.
For more information and opinions on circumcision, see Question of the Week, as well as other sites on the World Wide Web. Go to your favorite search engine and type in CIRCUMCISION.
The top illustration is from The Facts of Love by Alex and Jane Comfort. All Rights Reserved.