Saturday, November 19, 2011

Another Reason Why Not To Circumcise

There are reasons why not to circumcise your boy: it's a medically unnecessary procedure and to break the covenant with the sociopathic Judeo-Christian-Islamic God. (I always state the latter point in pleasant conversation on why my boy isn't cut.) Now it turns out that being uncircumcised is a lot more fun. I originally found out about this study on The Advice Goddess Blog and then went to the original article Male circumcision leads to a bad sex life that can be found in ScienceNordic.
If a man is circumcised, he faces an increased risk of experiencing delayed orgasm, and his female partner has an increased risk of not feeling sexually fulfilled.
...Some 5,000 sexually active men and women were surveyed about their experiences and possible problems with their sex lives. With a specific focus on circumcised men and their women, the results are startling.
“Circumcised men are three times as likely to experience a frequent inability to reach an orgasm,” says one of the researchers, associate professor Morten Frisch of SSI, a Danish research, production and service enterprise.
Circumcised men prefer it rough
The study has received international attention. Politicians from California, for example, have been in contact with the researchers because they want to ban circumcision in their federal state. (Photo: Colourbox)There appears to be a very simple reason why circumcised men and their partners are having problems with their sex lives.
The circumcised man develops a thin layer of hard skin on his penis head, which decreases the sensitivity. This means that in order to reach an orgasm, he needs to work harder at it, and that can lead to a painful experience for the woman.
It's been a while since I took a statistics or an experimental design class, but whenever I read a study I wonder above what other factors may be influencing the scientists' reading of the data. The article delved into that issue.
Sources of error were filtered out
A vast majority of the circumcised men in the study were circumcised based on a doctor's estimate.
“Only five percent of all Danish men are circumcised, yet we have statistically valid evidence that male circumcision can be associated with sexual problems.
The study did not involve many religiously circumcised men – Jews and Muslims, for example. But even with these factors taken into account, the data pointed in the same direction. The statistical analyses also took a long list of additional relevant factors into account, including:

Cultural background

Religious background

Marital status

Levels of education

Household income

Age at first intercourse
Number of sex partners

Frequency of sexual activity with one partner in the past year
“We adjusted for all these factors in an attempt to ensure that circumcision is the actual cause, and that the link isn’t attributable to other factors.”

Of course the study's findings need to be replicated, but there is a controversy brewing.
“This is a highly sensitive issue, and some people oppose the publication of this kind of research. Some people have actually tried to stop the publication of our article,” he explains.

One of the reasons why there is resistance to these kind of studies is that there have been some unsubstantiated evidence that circumcision may lower the risk of getting infected with HIV. Here is PZ Meyers writing on the matter.
Now Salon has followed up with an article that suggests that circumcision may actually have some health benefits. I am not impressed. They cite a couple of incomplete epidemiological studies in African populations for HIV infection, and they come up with some astounding figures: a 50-60% reduction in infection rates. Wow, with that kind of advantage…sign me up.
However, these are deeply flawed studies. None of them were completed: they all abandoned the protocol and stopped the research as soon as preliminary results gave them positive values. This is like shooting craps and announcing that all your dice throws were practice…until you get a good roll, and then, yeah, that was the real deal. That one counts.
They all overstate their results. That 50-60% reduction was in relative rate, in comparison across the two groups. The actual calculated protection in absolute terms conferred by circumcision was a 2% reduction in the likelihood of infection. That doesn't dazzle me, either, and given that the studies were terminated when they got their best results, I'm not persuaded.

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