Hello Anon,

"My first question is regarding research and biological function. Do you think there needs to be more research on the biological function of the male prepuce? If so, what kind? If not, why not?" -- I don't think any is needed, no, though obviously research of almost any kind tends to enhance our knowledge, so I wouldn't oppose it. The reason why I don't think research is needed is that if there were such functions, then I'd expect their loss through circumcision to result in significant adverse consequences. I don't see evidence of such consequences, so I'm inclined to doubt the notion that there are significant functions. This suggests that if unknown or poorly-researched functions do exist, they're sufficiently minor that learning about them is of a fairly low priority.

"My second question is also regarding biological function, but pertaining to ethics and medical evaluation. Do you think it's appropriate to consider removal of a body part that is otherwise healthy, to reduce the risk of disease that COULD occur in that body part, even if (hypothetically) we don't fully understand the function of that part?" -- I think there are several issues here. First is the absence of complete knowledge. It is always possible that the foreskin has some undiscovered function that means that circumcised males are disadvantaged, but lack of knowledge works both ways. It's equally possible that there is a presently unknown means by which the foreskin is a risk to its owner. I don't think the consequences of any medical or surgical procedure are fully understood, so to my mind the question is whether our knowledge is good enough to have reasonable confidence.

"What is your take on those who claim their foreskin gives them pleasure? Do you think this is a placebo effect? If a man touches his foreskin, and it feels good, do you think that's all in the brain?" -- I think the placebo effect is probably a factor in some cases, particularly those who've absorbed a lot of what they've been told by anti-circumcision websites. But it probably doesn't explain every case. Like most things in nature, there are a lot of variations, and the pleasure-giving capability of the foreskin probably obeys a normal distribution. So it may well be the case that while for most men it's nothing special, the 'tail' of such a distribution would contain a relatively small number of males with unusually sensitive foreskins.

"If not, how do you rationalize removing that feeling from someone without their consent?" -- I must admit that I'm a bit perplexed by the question; it seems to be an odd fixation on one relatively small aspect of the circumcision issue: the contribution of the foreskin itself. A broader (and, to my mind, more important) question is whether and how overall sexual pleasure is affected. Then there are equally important questions such as risks and benefits.

"Or do you (not) think consent of the individual is needed at all?" -- I think individual consent is desirable, but it's not achievable with infants. The question, then, is whether the "pro" of individual consent is worth the "cons" associated with delayed circumcision (greater risks, fewer benefits, cost, time off work, abstinence, fears, anxieties, and embarrassment, etc). I don't find the case for individual consent to be sufficiently compelling, I'm afraid.

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