James Hrynyshyn has a post up about circumcision and its relevance to cutting the risk of HIV infection & loss of pleasure. There are a priori reasons to believe that circumcision could reduce the risk of catching diseases through intercourse & that pleasure might be curtailed, ceteris paribus of course in both cases.1 Assuming a straightforward acceptance of the likelihood of the possibility of both which factor should be taken into consideration when making a decision regarding male circumcision? That decision must be, I believe, conditioned upon the prior facts in a particular circumstance and include both variables appropriately weighted. For example, in Africa where HIV infection rates can be as high as 30-40% among the young adult population the trade off might be judged acceptable because of the risk of infection. In contrast, in Japan where the HIV infection rate is very low the trade off might not be deemed acceptable (as a matter of fact South Korea has about the same rate of infection though in that nation the vast majority of young adult males are circumcised). In this case the cost vs. benefit calculus doesn’t seem to be invariant as a function of location.
1 – I am qualified about this because pleasure is not simply a function of the number of sensory cells generating inputs. One can imagine for example that those circumcised in youth go through physiological and neurological changes which might close the gap. Additionally, if the gap in pleasure is not closed one can also imagine circumcised males engaging in higher risk activities like anal sex to heighten sensation and excitement, and yet in the process mitigate or eliminate the reduced risk of infection.