Boulder Teen Clinic

I have an un-circumcised penis. I might be having sex soon but my foreskin doesn’t go back…

I’m worried and curious if circumcision is an option at 16?

That’s a great question! Let’s start out by talking about the simple difference between a circumcised and uncircumcised penis; a thin layer of skin! That thin layer of skin is known as the foreskin. The foreskin surrounds the head of an uncircumcised penis and is highly sensitive to stimulation. When a person with an uncircumcised penis gets an erection, the foreskin will generally retract over the shaft and expose the head of the penis.  But for some people who are uncircumcised, the foreskin may not retract completely when erect. This will leave the head of the penis covered, and may make intercourse either painful and/or impossible. Sometimes you are able to manually retract the foreskin by pulling it back over the shaft of the penis. But remember, foreskin is very delicate and full of nerve endings so be gentle! If you experience any pain when attempting to manually retract the foreskin, stop!

Some people have a longer foreskin, which is actually quite normal. This means that the foreskin would not completely retract when the penis is fully erect. Having a longer foreskin can actually be beneficial sometimes because of the added lubrication it provides during intercourse.

Circumcision is often done when someone with a penis is an infant, but adult circumcision is not unheard of. Circumcision is actually a safe procedure, and for adult men it can be easily performed with anesthesia. Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin. This can mean removing all of the foreskin, or just certain parts, but it is usually the skin that covers the head of the penis.

Although adult circumcision is a relatively simple procedure, there is a 4-6 week recovery time, and in that recovery time certain side effects may include:

  • temporary pain after surgery
  • temporary irritation of the head of the penis
  • different or decreased sensation during sex

You would also need to refrain from sex or masturbation (or any instance where you would get an erection) because this may cause pain and discomfort or disrupt sutures.

Having a conversation with a health care provider would be the best step for you to take next. Talk with them about your concerns with the foreskin not retracting. This may be something that may or may not need to be resolved with circumcision, but either way talk to a health care provider about what might be the best option for you and your body!

For now, remember to thoroughly wash your penis using these simple steps:

  • Gently pull back the foreskin
  • Clean beneath the foreskin with mild soap and water
  • Rinse and dry beneath the foreskin

How does being circumcised help prevent the AIDS infection?

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), the inside of the foreskin contains less keratin—a waxy coating that helps prevent infection—than other parts of the penis.  Because of this, it tears more easily during intercourse, providing an entry into the bloodstream for infections like HIV.  The foreskin also contains more of the cells HIV tends to target (Langerhans cells) and has been more easily infected by HIV than other parts of  the penis in laboratory studies.  Finally, there is evidence that the environment between the unretracted foreskin and the head of the penis allows viruses to survive longer, increasing the likelihood of transmission.

There is still debate among medical professionals as to the extent that circumcision should be used as a prevention method.  After all, plenty of circumcised men still get HIV!  Keep in mind that wearing a condom, talking to your partners, and getting tested will help protect you from HIV transmission whether you’re circumcised or not.

To learn more about the studies being done on circumcision and HIV, check out this fact sheet from the CDC.

Doctors rethink views on male circumcision

Some Doctors are saying that being circumcised may help reduce the transmission of AIDs.