Medical male circumcision’s single story


By Chikondi Daniel Sato:


The danger of a single story, as argued by Chimamanda Adichie, is that “it is not the falsity that makes a single story dangerous but its incompleteness”.

This article aims to tell the other single story of male circumcision while re-telling the other story often told. The single story of male circumcision often told is about male cleanliness, prevention of cervical cancer, reduced chances of contracting sexually transmitted infections and increased sexual pleasure.


The man is often not told about the decreased sensitivity on the erectile tissue found on the head of the male sexual organ, the sensitivity to underpants that causes rashes and irritations, among some. I intend to complete the story of male circumcision.


Medical male circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin—the retractable fold of tissue that covers the head of the male sexual organ.


It emerged to serve a number of medical purposes. The American Academy of Paediatrics has found, for instance, that the benefits of new-born male circumcision outweigh the risks associated with the procedure to recommend universal new-born circumcision.

But what are the benefits of medical male circumcision? Campaigners of male medical circumcision often give the following as benefits of the procedure: A reduced risk of sexually transmitted infections in men, a reduced risk of cancer—penile for the man and cervical for the woman—and a decreased risk of urinary tract infections.

Circumcision is also performed to correct a condition called phimosis which is an inability to retract the foreskin, or its converse paraphimosis; inability to return the foreskin to its original place.

Another often cited reason is that of cleanliness of the male sex organ. However, information obtained from, indicates that some studies have shown that good hygiene can indeed help prevent certain problems with the male sex organ including infections and swelling, even if the male organ is not circumcised. These are often told or even not told.

Theme message Malawi

Having looked at the single story of medical male circumcision, I will then look at the theme message of medical male circumcision in Malawi before looking at the disadvantages of the procedure. I will then weigh in on the two.

The theme message of circumcision in Malawi is styled Khalani Otsogola (Be smart). I raise preliminary objections to this message.

First, the message itself is a brainwash, In psychology, the study of brainwashing often referred to as thought reform, falls into the sphere of “social influence”.

According to an article by P Aldridge in the Criminal Law Review of 1984, brainwashing can be used to describe an abrupt, induced attitudinal change.

One of the methods used to achieve this is called social isolation. What the Khalani Otsogola, message does, therefore, is to isolate the man as being in a state of lack of contact, detached from the progressive society.

That is to say, if you are not circumcised, you are backward and detached from the society of “progressive individuals”. Men will therefore go and get circumcised to belong to this community and “benefit” from the fruits of the “progressive society”.

However, I must admit that brainwash and social analysis have been used as tools of analysis for convenience.

Second, the message itself is responsible for the single story of male circumcision. Whereas the first objection was on the substance of the Khalani Otsogola theme message, I raise the second objection on its merits.

Here, I argue that the theme message is in no respect wrong, but that it must be part of a complete story. That is to say that the male must see both sides of the coin. It should then be his choice to conclude whether, by procuring male circumcision, he will indeed be wotsogola (progressive).

What you are not told on the surgical table

What is the male not told about medical male circumcision? First, he is not told of the reduced sensitivity. An uncircumcised male organ is more sensitive than the circumcised organ. The implication of this is that there is a reduced “in-sex” pleasure for circumcised men than uncircumcised men.

Should this be seen as a form of male genital mutilation? Authors such as J.R. Taylor have proposed that the foreskin is the primary sensory tissue of the male organ. The removal of the foreskin affects the anatomy of the male organ.

I propose that this is all information a male has to be told on the surgical table. This point is not worth emphasis unless from a practical perspective. However, any man seeking to undergo circumcision must be clearly told of the gains and losses to his sexual life. They are too fundamental to be thrown into the drain.

Secondly, men are not told about the potential complications of circumcision. These include excessive bleeding and post-operative infections. The foreskin is also there to serve as the natural protection of the glans.

Complete removal of the foreskin, therefore, leaves the glans completely vulnerable to injury, small cuts from friction and loss of sensitivity over time.

This is all but a single question? What are the actual statistics providing for male circumcision? I believe such data must be included in counselling to help men reach a reasoned decision about whether they would like to undergo the procedure and forego the above lost advantage for a lifetime.

Should circumcision be performed for newly born babies?

Critics have argued that circumcising newly born babies may be against the principle of consent to treatment. This is a minor diversion from the aim of the article. But I write about it because newly born male children are also men.

Surely, someone has to speak on their behalf. My view with regard to circumcision of newly born babies is that this must be left to them to decide when they grow up for the reasons I have discussed above.

The issue at hand involves a story that has advantages and disadvantages, therefore, every individual must be left to choose what decision best suits them and this can only happen when the newly born comes of age.

Actual reasons men undergo circumcision

This article has been born out of the responses I received after I had posted a WhatsApp status against male circumcision.

Among some of the reasons that were prevalent, one really caught my attention. It went on to say that “ladies issue ‘ultimatums’ to men” that if they do not go under the knife, they should forget about further sexual encounters.

In other cases, the responses were that they heard that circumcision reduces chances of STI contraction. I would like to delve into the former having dealt with the issue of STIs above —ignoring the misleading impact they have had on men which I save for another day.

There are possibly two reasons why a woman would force a man to undergo circumcision. As I was informed, mostly by young women, they (women) find the uncircumcised male sex organ to be unclean and that, secondly, they would like to reduce the chances of contracting the HP Virus responsible for cervical cancer.


My goal was straight—forward; I wanted to complete a single story, to contribute to the prevention of effects of a single story.

Remember, Adichie has weighed in on single stories; their incompleteness is dangerous, their falsity dangerous too, but less so than the former. I rest my case hoping to have achieved this task.

For the benefit of doubt, I wanted to communicate the following things.

First, that those who procure male circumcision must do so out of their own volition.

Second, that females must desist from issuing “ultimatums” for the procurement of male circumcision by their partners.

Third, that children should not be circumcised as infants; they should do so when it wills them.

Fourth, that health communicators must tell complete stories about the male circumcision.

Lastly, that I am disturbed to know that everything about male circumcision is genuinely not about the man, he lives without it in perfect health.

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