What is Circumcision?
Circumcision is the removal of a simple fold of skin (the `foreskin' or `prepuce') that covers the head (glans) of the un-erect penis.
The amount of this skin varies from virtually none to a considerable amount that droops down from the end of the flaccid penis. Thus, in some men, during an erection, the head of the penis peeks out from the loose foreskin that surrounds it. But in men with a lot of foreskin the head of the penis remains covered, either partially or completely.
A questionnaire-based survey conducted by Badger in Sydney, Australia found that among men with a foreskin, in 67% the foreskin not only covered the glans of the penis when flaccid, but there was extra skin hanging off the end, in 15% it just covered the glans, in another 15% it half covered the glans, and in 4% the glans was bare.
In the erect state these numbers were 15% extra skin, 22% still covered, 32% half covered, and 41% glans bare.
Racial differences exist. For example, in Malaysia, New Guinea, Sri Lanka and southern India the foreskin is very long and ends in a narrow extension that acts like a muzzle. This is an impediment to sexual intercourse, so that circumcision facilitates procreation for these men.
A short prepuce that rarely covers the glans completely is seen in Whites of the northern Mediterranean and many Asians (Chinese and Japanese).
In uncircumcised males the head of the penis is pink. This becomes more apparent when the head of the penis emerges during an erection, giving the overall penis a "two-toned" look.
In male babies the foreskin is lightly attached to the penis underneath it, much like the skin on an orange, and comes free over the course of the first few years of life in most. By this analogy the foreskin can be readily separated from the main body of the penis at the start of a circumcision. A variety of methods are, moreover, used to remove the foreskin, and the amount eliminated can also vary, depending on technique. More on methods of circumcision later.
Could it be that there is an underlying practical health, sex-related or evolutionary reason that would explain why circumcision is such a common procedure in many diverse cultures?