Circumcision is the removal of the foreskin from the penis. But why is it done? And what percentage of boys get the chop?

Be prepared for the healing process to take up to six weeks

What is it?

All boys are born with with a hood of loose skin around the penis head, but ever since human history began, foreskins have been chopped off. One theory is that our Ancient forefathers had had enough of sand collecting under this flap of skin...

Today, the debate over whether circumcision is a good thing rages all over the world, and circumcision rates vary across the globe. In some cultures, circumcision is essential to belonging. It is a rite of passage and a sign of identity.

Occasionally, a circumcision is medically necessary; most often this is because a boy's foreskin is too tight, which causes problems. In the UK today, Marie Claire magazine cite that 15% of men over 15 have had it done.

Routine medical circumcision was previously much more common - you can check out the advantages and disadvantages on this NHS page. Being circumcised does not protect against STIs.

Some men feel their sex life is affected by their circumcision. The skin on the head of the penis gets thicker if not covered by a foreskin and this may reduce sensation, but some say sensitivity increases.

What happens when you get circumcised?

The procedure for a circumcision is fairly simple. That said, it hurts and there is a risk of bleeding and/or infection. After the procedure there may be some swelling and irritation - be prepared for the healing process to take up to six weeks.

Only circumcisions that need doing for medical reasons are available on the NHS, so most are done privately. All adults must refrain from both masturbation and sex for a short period afterwards.

And what do girls think?

Most girls don't mind one way or another. Basic hygiene, basic technique and basic consideration. After that, a penis is a penis is a penis. Foreskinned or not.

BBC Advice factfiles are here to help young people with a broad range of issues. They're based on advice from medical professionals, government bodies, charities and other relevant groups. Follow the links for more advice from these organisations.

This factfile was updated on 23 June 2017


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