This site discusses phimosis in its specific forms of phimotic ring, frenulum breve, adhesions or skinbridges. During erection these conditions inhibit the relationship between foreskin and glans. This functionally restricts the erection, and thus has an effect on the sexuality. With our culture's attitudes on health care, it would be appropriate to monitor boys before puberty and encourage early prevention.

2012 : note from author: My previous idea of monitoring boys before puberty is impractical, unecessary and now only of historical interest. please see Postscript.

updates and supporting education on new site :


The sexual significance of the circumcised penis vs. the uncircumcised has been discussed by almost every anthropologist since the days of Philo, Herodotus and other names which bear witness to their antiquity - (For general background info please see : Advised Anthropological Literature)

`s Encyclopédie (Fr) (1779)
Diderot English Translation
Ploss (1884)
Ploss original German
Ploss English translation
Richard Andree (.de) (1889)
Heinrich Schurtz (.de) (1902)
B. Renz (.de) revising Ploss (1912)
Hastings Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics (1910)

Bryk (1928)
Bryk original German
Bryk English translation
Bettelheim (1962)
Mircea Eliade`s Encyclopedia of Religion (1987)

For general background info please see : Advised Anthropological Literature

Following is a summary of anthropological literature regarding phimosis. A web of sub-files are linked to each individual researcher. - The only anthropologists who show any understanding of the specific sexual effects of phimosis were Bryk and Ploss.

DIDEROT - 1779
Diderot`s Encyclopédie shows considerable knowledge of phimosis and indicates some of the sexual problems involved with foreskin conditions. He makes one small implication that phimosis could be connected with the routine operation.

PLOSS - 1880s
Ploss is a time honoured authority in the entire anthropological field. Ploss's theory on the Origin of Routine Male Circumcision (published in 1884) is to my knowledge the first time in an anthropological treatise that phimosis was specifically indicated as cause and origin of the practice.

He concludes the Jewish practice was due to thoughts of ensuring offspring and numerous posterity, and he backs this up with Bible quotes, (and an awareness of fertility would be expected among such an advanced literate people).

When he talks of natural peoples Ploss principally discusses the normal appearance of the adult penis and the questionable or worrying appearance of infant phimosis, he talks of phimosis "causing difficulties during sexual activity", "as being more or less an obstacle to coitus", even that circumcision occurred at an age preparing for merely "the enjoyment of sex" ... "which prepares for sexual adulthood".

Plosses theory only received the rather limited interpretation that phimosis only hindered fertility. The original German and English translation are made available and please see paragraphs 3 and 4 which are the passages concerning Ploss's central theory.

Even the highly respected Andree rejected his previous indecision (1881) and embraced what he understood as Plosses new theory about fertility. (1889)

The theories on fertility should be in fact credited to Schurtz (1902) who never mentions phimosis, but who "agrees" with Ploss - even going so far as suggesting that following circumcision`s success (at increasin fertility), mutilations such as subincision were introduced to reduce the subsequent unwanted over population ....

RENZ - 1912
In 1912 Plosses original work was rewritten and considerably updated by Renz complete with Renz`s theories on the spiritual elevation of fertility, suggesting routine circumcision sanctified the generative faculties, as complement and expression of the fertility cult.

In 1899 Spencer and Gillan broke the news which is now an accepted anthropological fact : native peoples have no concept of the relationship between semen and fertility (see- fertility). Even though the medical discussion still continued on whether phimosis did or did not hinder fertility (till at least 1960), as far as any anthropological theories were concerned fertility was invalid as explanation for any of the customs and practices of the natural peoples.

Hastings Encyclopedia of Religion gives an excellent introduction to the subject in its entirety. Louis H. Gray who wrote the article, shows a good knowledge of foreskin conditions and modern medical practice concerning infections and even impotence, but does not make any connection between modern and ancient surgery.

Throughout the entire article on the ancient practice he indicates a number of general sexual reasons for the operation, but he mentions phimosis only once, when he quotes Ploss suggesting "as an attempt to correct nature, and, by averting phimosis, to ensure offspring for the person operated on. The frequent performance of the rite long before puberty he interprets as an effort to guarantee the child a posterity as numerous as possible'" (77).

Louis H. Gray is the only researcher (apart from myself), who relies on Plosses original text instead of Renzs rewritten misinterpretation.

JENSEN 1930s
In Jensen's entire book on circumcision, his only mention of phimosis is where he rejects Ploss who suggests "as reason the correction of phimosis which we reject, along with many other attempts at explanations, because this suggests that the originators of this practice had ulterior motives and from everything we know of them, this was certainly far from these peoples way of thinking." (43). (implicitly referring to the principle that natural peoples had no understanding of fertility - though Jensen`s logic is not apparent then "the correction of phimosis" which is what Ploss suggested is not the fertility for which he is rejected ... nevertheless ... rather than bore you with Jensen ...).

BRYK 1930s
The Summary of Bryk gives quotes and references in full

Bryk's book is the most detailed study of circumcision. He devotes 116 pages to the origins of the practice. Bryk`s study is entertaining and enlightening, however it also displays his ability for academic debate of all possible angles and this can confuse the reader!

Bryk based his understanding of routine circumcision on "the foreskin complex" and the natural response to this was to uncover the glans, which he calls denudation. He refers to many cultures where an almost intuitive uncovering of the glans takes place. He establishes (Bryk`s italics) "This mechanical uncovering of the glans is the fundamental motive for circumcision." - Undoubtedly this is a very common and elementary occurrence, sometimes even a custom, but as he says "It did not cause circumcision, but stimulated it and prepared the ground" He argues that this "prepared the ground" for observations in the animal and adult world, which provided the "impetus" to introduce circumcision as a routine measure.

Bryk discusses at great length the "foreskin complex" as though this were a general problem with foreskins, which mysteriously sometimes displays disconnected symptoms, however, he fails to identify the symptoms of frenulum breve and phimotic ring in their differing lengths and forms.

"... the foreskin often places a decided restriction in the way, which is sometimes even painful, for after penetration the glans can be strangulated, which complicates the act, or, when the prepuce does not lay the glans bare, ..." - Here, Bryk describes paraphimosis and phimosis without actually naming them

Bryk continues quoting Eylmann and demonstrating his clear lack of understanding . "Cases of the sort where the opening is so small, that making love causes pain, and even urinating is not easy occur so seldomly that our discussion does not need to take them into consideration." - All the different degrees can not be jumbled together in one sentence. The degrees of phimosis which cause pain during sex do not restrict urination. (see Phimosis)--- Concerning the frenulum he writes "by which the glans of the penis is drawn crooked during erection, ejaculation is made more difficult". (see Frenulum)

He understands phimosis as a rarity, and he fails to identify phimosis in its various forms and symptoms. He argues "the foreskin complex" as a general problem with foreskins with denudation as the natural response.

LEYMANN - 1950s
In 1957 Leymann presents the most recent anthropological source available to me which mentions phimosis. He jumbles phimosis and infections together as `hygienic' reasons for the operation, and then says that hygienic reasons will "always remain individual cases." (79)

The logic of the above discussions was accepted as common sense, and as hygiene and fertility were discounted, and anyway as phimosis only required "an occasional operation" then any theories on phimosis vanished from the books. Bettelheim Weiss and Eliade`s Religious Encyclopedia not even mentioning foreskin conditions except in one remarkable passage:

Bettelheim's is a wonderful source book, but he never mentions phimosis. He collectively discards all theories to do with fertility, (including Freud`s oedipus complex) for the reasons given in the discussion on fertility. His psychological perspective on the subject is truly fascinating, but he missed the obvious, the physical.

In one remarkable passage about a boy suffering painful adhesions, Bettelheim says: "From this we cannot draw conclusions about the emotions of boys in pre literate societies toward circumcision, if they are not suffering from adhesions." (12). He does not seem to have realised that practically all infants suffer these adhesions.

NOTE: Hastings, Bryk and Bettelheim are wonderful source books (moreso than the inspired Ploss who unfortuantely rambles repetitively) well worth reading, thoroughly researched, offering intelligent information and thought on many aspects of circumcision.

ELIADE - (1987)
A modern perspective on the subject. Short, balanced explanation of the modern anthropologist's thinking on the subject. Eliade never mentions phimosis.

For general background info please see : Advised Anthropological Literature