False beliefs predict increased circumcision satisfaction in a sample of US American men

Cult Health Sex. 2018 Aug;20(8):945-959. doi: 10.1080/13691058.2017.1400104. Epub 2017 Dec 6.


Critics of non-therapeutic male and female childhood genital cutting claim that such cutting is harmful. It is therefore puzzling that 'circumcised' women and men do not typically regard themselves as having been harmed by the cutting, notwithstanding the loss of sensitive, prima facie valuable tissue. For female genital cutting (FGC), a commonly proposed solution to this puzzle is that women who had part(s) of their vulvae removed before sexual debut 'do not know what they are missing' and may 'justify' their genitally-altered state by adopting false beliefs about the benefits of FGC, while simultaneously stigmatising unmodified genitalia as unattractive or unclean. Might a similar phenomenon apply to neonatally circumcised men? In this survey of 999 US American men, greater endorsement of false beliefs concerning circumcision and penile anatomy predicted greater satisfaction with being circumcised, while among genitally intact men, the opposite trend occurred: greater endorsement of false beliefs predicted less satisfaction with being genitally intact. These findings provide tentative support for the hypothesis that the lack-of-harm reported by many circumcised men, like the lack-of-harm reported by their female counterparts in societies that practice FGC, may be related to holding inaccurate beliefs concerning unaltered genitalia and the consequences of childhood genital modification.

Keywords: Circumcision; FGC; FGM; USA; bodily integrity; sexual experience.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Circumcision, Male*
  • Culture*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Linear Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personal Satisfaction*
  • United States
  • Young Adult