Deeper Into Circumcision: An Invitation to Awareness

[Printed in the September 1994 issue of The Backlash!, Rod Van Mechelen, Publisher, P.O. Box 70525, Belleview, WA 98007.]

Does Male Circumcision Help Spread AIDS?

The drawing on the cover of your May issue shows a woman saying, "Yes, let's make love. But I'm concerned about AIDS. How do you feel about safe sex?," and the man she's talking to replying, "Hey, don't worry, I've been circumcised."

It might make just slightly more sense for him to say, "Hey, don't worry, my foreskin is intact."

Of all the charges leveled against the human foreskin throughout its long, tortured history, none is more frightening -- and none warrants closer scrutiny -- than the ongoing, well-publicized charge that it predisposes its possessor and his sexual partners to an early, slow, agonizing death -- to infection with the AIDS virus.

Why have researchers and the media ignored the opposite, more obvious possibility?

Most sexual transmission of the AIDS virus is from the thrusting partner to the receiving partner at ejaculation during vaginal or anal intercourse.

A penis with its foreskin intact -- an uncircumcised penis -- can slip in and out of a vagina or rectum non-abrasively inside its own slick sheath of sensitive, self-lubricating, movable foreskin. A penis with its foreskin missing -- a dowel-like circumcised penis -- can only scrape in and out.

A penis with its foreskin intact requires relatively gentle thrusting -- and less time -- to ejaculate. A circumcised penis - - its head keratinized, desensitized, and dry -- requires rougher, more prolonged thrusting to experience the sensations necessary to trigger ejaculation.

(A prostitute who's had intercourse with literally thousands of men told me that intercourse with a circumcised man and intercourse with an uncircumcised man were two entirely different experiences, that she could always tell from the feeling alone whether a man was circumcised or uncircumcised, that circumcised men took longer to ejaculate, and that they "have to work at it.")

Which -- a penis with its foreskin intact or a penis with its foreskin missing -- is more likely to cause the breaks, tears, micro-fractures, fissures, abrasions, and lacerations in a vagina or rectum through which the AIDS virus in the thrusting partner's semen could enter the receiving partner's bloodstream?

And which is more likely to break a condom?

The United States has one of the highest male circumcision rates and one of the highest HIV infection rates in the world.

The Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta (1-800-342-AIDS) reports that as of June 1997, more than 612,000 cases of AIDS and more than 379,000 AIDS-related deaths had been reported in the U.S., that between 650,000 and 900,000 Americans were estimated to be infected with the virus, and that AIDS was the second leading cause of deaths among Americans between 25 and 44. [Date and figures adjusted after I called the CDC April 4, 1998.]

Does male circumcision contribute to the spread of AIDS?

Isn't it time to find out?

One more question: If a positive correlation between AIDS and circumcision were in fact established, would it be fully and accurately reported by the media in this country, or, like so many other facts about the foreskin and circumcision, would it be distorted, censored, and suppressed?

John A. Erickson

[I wrote this letter before seeing and hearing Peter Duesberg, author of Inventing the AIDS Virus (Regnery, 1996), on Tony Brown's Journal, mid-1996, then reading his book. Duesberg contends that the virus called HIV is harmless and that AIDS itself is not transmissible.]

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