Laurie Toby Edison

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Got Those Circumcision Blues?

Debbie says:

My first reaction was to make fun of this, but on reflection I’m not so sure it’s a bad idea. The product, that is: the advertising copy just begs for sarcastic comment, but I’m going to refrain.

picture of artificial foreskin in the palm of someone's hand

The SenSlip helps restore the sensitivity to the penis of circumcised men. It protects the head of the penis against dryness and chafing caused by constant exposure to clothing. It looks, feels and works similar to a real foreskin.

This is a very odd product: it is not a direct sexual aid. The instructions say clearly that it is not to be used in penetration. What it is, basically, is a chafing protector, comparable to the “split slip” that a woman might wear to keep her thighs from chafing in humid weather.

Whatever you may think about male circumcision,* infant circumcision is undeniably common in the U.S. and Canada. What’s more, there is at minimum a host of anecdotal evidence that one effect of circumcision is to reduce penile sensation. (A lot of attention has been paid to a current small study which had the opposite result; I’m just not very interested in 300-person studies.) If, in fact, there is a reduction in sensation, even in some men, and if it is even sometimes related to chafing nerve endings on the head of the penis (which seems plausible), this apparently trivial and inexpensive device just might be useful.

At four for $30, if I had the equipment and any concerns, I just might try one. Body Impolitic does not endorse this product, but it welcomes your reports.

* The evidence for male circumcision as a female health issue seems to be waning. The most recent studies linking male circumcision to female cervical cancer–at least the most recent ones easily found on the Web–are over five years old and the results are statistically inconclusive. What’s more, the availability of Gardasil, a good safe HPV vaccine, presumably lessens any risk significantly, which may be why the studies stopped when they did.

At the same time, however, the evidence for male circumcision as AIDS prevention for everyone waxes. However, the World Health Organization recently released an African study showing that circumcision does significantly effect the spread of AIDS.

The link for this was from BoingBoing; I wish I could remember who sent it to me.

10 Responses to “Got Those Circumcision Blues?”

  1. SugarLeigh Says:

    You know… I’d always thought that, since I’ve no clue what it is to have a penis, what a penis is to a man, I would have a conversation, if I ever got married and desired children, with my husband on the subject. After said conversation (or more than one if needed), I would leave the final decision of what to do with a male baby’s parts up to the one who, you know, might understand what it will mean for him later in life to have things removed from the head of his manhood (remove his man-hood?).

    Now that I have seen this product, and had the opportunity to become completely confused as to what exactly a foreskin even is or does (they all look the same erect, so yeah, I don’t really know), I’m fully convinced that is the correct course of action. Even after being yelled at by some fanatic-woman that I should never bear children because I am a vile torturess.

    Thank you for clarifying that for me. :)

  2. Miriam Heddy Says:

    I especially like this bit:
    “There is now conclusive medical evidence that a circumcised penis with the glans exposed has less nerve receptors and is less effective than a naturally covered penis.”

    The question is–less effective at *what*?

  3. Lisa Hirsch Says:

    A longish comment about just one small part of the above posting -

    Gardasil was approved by the FDA in June, 2006. I am not sure when it became available. I don’t know if that’s a reason the studies you mention seem to have stopped. Do you have access to Medline?

    Gardasil is also problematic in several ways. At most, 25% of the target group of girls have gotten it, and it protects against, I think, 4 strains of HPV. There are at least 8 strains, I believe. There is another HPV vaccine as well and it protects against different strains.

    The long-term effects of Gardasil use aren’t know yet. The Times recently had a big article on the effects of media hype on Gardasil use: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/08/20/health/policy/20vaccine.html?scp=1&sq=gardasil&st=cse

    Additionally, the New England Journal of Medicine has had an article about Gardasil, questioning the role of the media in pushing Gardasil.

    My personal concern about Gardasil is that it might reduce condom use.

  4. Lady Says:

    Whoa, thanks for bringing this up. And although circumcision may reduce AIDS, there are many other dangerous evil STDs and you still still need condoms to prevent them–so you can’t get around the fact that nothing replaces condoms if you’re not monogamous!

    Why cut a piece of your body off that can feel and protect? Poor guys!

  5. Debbie Says:

    SugarLeigh, I used to have exactly the same confusion, until I worked with Laurie on Familiar Men. Unfortunately, the best pictures of uncut men aren’t up on the site at the moment, but if you have access to the book, it will help you understand.

    Miriam, dead on target.

    Lisa, very good points. I’ve written about Gardasil some time back, and I do know it’s not a cure-all, but I should have been more specific.

    Lady, yes, absolutely on the STD issue.

  6. Jen Says:

    We chose not to get our son circumsized because we knew that the foreskin protects the penis and helps enhance sexual pleasure later in life. There’s no need to worry about your kid being ‘dirty’ or anything if you, y’know, BATHE him regularly. *headdesk* Circumscision where I live is considered an elective, cosmetic surgery for newborns so it’s not covered by OHIP (I’m Canadian, yay free health-care!) and would’ve cost nearly 300$ and we would’ve had to drive 4 hours to get it done. O_o Not worth it all the way around

    As for the product itself, it looks like a great idea but I dont’ see too many men buying them.

  7. shiva Says:

    There is no justification whatsoever for removing or surgically altering *any* body part of a child too young to consent, however “major” or “minor” that alteration is.

    (Well, i suppose if the body part was cancerous or something and had to be removed to save the child’s life, that would be a *sort of* justification… but it would still be a case of the lesser of two evils rather than something entirely unproblematic.)

    If male circumcision wasn’t sanctioned by major world religions, it would be looked on exactly the same way as any other nonconsensual mutilation of a child’s body – as child abuse.

    Yes, it’s nowhere near as damaging as female genital mutilation, and the comparison is often used in an appropriative/”men’s rights activist”-ish way, but there’s no logical way to deny that the difference is one of degree, not of kind.

  8. Paul Says:

    Having been circumcised as a baby of course I can’t compare my experience with that of anyone who wasn’t, but my nerve endings seem to work just fine, thanks. I mean it’s not like I mope around wondering what it must be like to have sensation down there. Frankly I’m not sure how I could be expected to focus if I had any more sensitivity. I suppose I could find out by wearing one of these Thangs but I find the idea definitely silly, probably uncomfortable, and potentially unhealthy. Give the little blighter more air, not less. Try nudity; it’s free.

  9. Shae Says:

    I really only have anecdata to add to the discussion, but one of my exes had to have surgery on his penis when he was 19. He wasn’t circumsized, but the doctor recommended that it happen at the same time as the surgery to prevent complications later on. He didn’t want to, but his parents refused to cover any problems that might arise from that decision. He says there’s a definite loss of sensation, he doesn’t enjoy oral as much as he used to, and it did cause him some angst for a while. It’s entirely possible that A) the power of suggestion worked it’s magic, or B) it was a temporary loss because he’s since stopped complaining and enjoys all sexual activity with his customary gusto.

  10. rickey long Says:

    FORE WARNED UNSHORNED

    DELAY DELAY DELAY .

    LET AN ADULT MALE DECIDE IF HE WANTS OR NEEDS TO HAVE HIS PENISE CUT .

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