What Is The Purpose Of The Foreskin?

Why do men have foreskins? What purpose does it serve?? If it causes so many problems that doctors usually snip it off, why did it ‘evolve’ in the first place???


It protects the head of the penis, preventing it from drying out and keeping it soft and moist.

Snipping it off has more to do with religious supersition than actual medical problems.

It serves the same function as the stars on the Sneetches who have them on thars.

Sometimes I think the phrase, “It’s the little things that make all the differences,” is better rendered as, “the big things are basically all the same.”

The real answer to your questionis probably lost along with lots of other evolutionary baggage in C. Darwin’s giant closet. Predictably, someone will be along soon to assert some teleological explanation (like, the foreskin serves to enhance the pleasure of sexual intercourse, thereby making foreskin-bearing men more likely to be fertile), but remember that these explanations are our attempt to understand and sometimes glorify our history and development. Evolution needn’t work by these “acendency to perfection,” types of rules. We may have a foreskin as a result of the way we develop (similar to the idea that your clothes may have a basting stitch, because of the way they were sewn). The foreskin needn’t confer an advantage, as long as it doesn’t saddle its bearer with a considerable disadvantage. Neutral features like this may in geological time be transformed into something useful by selection. Perhaps in 10 million years, the foreskin will balloon in size and become filled with hot gas, allowing us to float up to the treetops in search of vittles.

BTW, I’m a member of the foreskin deficient club. I’m glad Mr Chubby always matched the expectations of various lady-friends, but I do think it’s damn odd that we cut these buggers off our sons right and left.

He beat me to it. Damn! Gotta type faster.

Well, Andrew L, as I mentioned I’m a foreskin amputee. However (and I full know this is anecdotal evidence), I haven’t had much trouble with dry, cracked penis skin (and I’ve put this thing through the ringer).

As I understand, the foreskin has to be pulled back and the area has to be washer frequently, to prevent infections and other problems. How many of the early humans would have bothered doing this?

Wouldn’t they have had foreskin problems, therefore causing them to have fewer offspring, therefore selecting AGAINST having a foreskin gene?

Apparently not. I’ve never had a foreskin to care for, but rest assured, if it promoted disfiguring or life-threatening infections at the rate implied, we’d all have been vulture-bait long ago. I was going to post a link, but just try to find a site with a balanced view on the issue of circumcision.

According to this week’s issue of the New England Journal of Medicine, there may be a biological advantage to being circumcised:

from the MSNBC site:

and here’s a link to the abstract of the NEJM article:

With this new info, it does make one wonder about the foreskin’s evolutionary usefulness if it can harbour and pass on pathogens that can render one’s mate sterile.

OTOH, you can wonder about the study design, too. Besides, HPV and cervical cancer don’t cause much infertility. It’s mainly a disease of the late and post-reproductive years. Therefore, higher HPV transmission rates shouldn’t affect selection.

There must be about a million combinations of body parts and practices that can habor & pass on pathogenic problems to another person which will do far worse than render them sterile. Covering our mouths/noses when we sneeze or cough with our flexible and dextrous hands and then shaking hands with someone (who does the same thing periodically) or touching others with those hands spreads a lot more sickness/disease than having a foreskin does… especially considering the ratio of people we touch with one versus the other. But - evolution hasn’t selected against having touchy-feely apendages and digits that we can and do stick everywhere…:eek:

I’ll vote for it’s presence being yet another evolutionary trait that may have been useful at one time and has simply stuck around since it didn’t hurt on a population scale to have it… sorta like an appendix or back hair. Remember too that foreskin removal is a surgical proceedure done by us AFTER our genomes have been set, therefore it doesn’t matter if having it or not gives one an advantage (which by all accounts I’ve seen it doesn’t) since all boys will be born with them anyways; regardless of whether their fathers had one or not. So you’re not likely to see many evolutionary trends stemming from foreskin removal, since it’s a medical proceedure we perform on ourselves and not a heritable genetic trait.

Well, maybe it would be selected against, but the mutation
which removes the foreskin hasn’t appeared yet? The foreskin
is probably a vestige of the sheathes that lower mammals
had to protect the penis.

Also, if a foreskin-removing gene were introduced, It would
take quite a while to spread.

He he, the “dick-snipping gene” hasn’t shown up yet to cull our species… neither have the “acne-free”, “no ear hair”, and “anti-ugly” genes come along to weed out 99% of the population anytime in the past couple million years… you’d figure having these traits would give a guy or girl an evolutionary advantage in procreating; apparently not.
So yeah… it appears to be a bit of a left-over from days gone by.

choosybeggar, Honestly, I had some questions about the study design too, as did some other scientists… Anyhow, yes, higher HPV transmission rates probably wouldn’t affect foreskin selection in the human population. But, what if the presence of foreskin made other diseases easier to transmit that are more immediately serious (there’s apparently studies trying to correlate HIV transmission to foreskin presence/absence). My comment was more a musing upon the evolutionary future of that hunk o’ flesh, in light of these findings. Who knows, some new bad bug may come along that reeeaaallly likes living in the foreskin, rendering those that have it or their sexual partners unable to reproduce or live long enough to do so. I suppose that the natural selective pressure to get rid of the foreskin in such a scenario would be short-circuited by humankind’s use of medical intervention (most likely circumcision) to stave-off the spread of such a disease.

Yes, mmmiiikkkeee, we probably spread alot more nasties with our hands and through our noses and mouths, but we usually aren’t sticking them up into mucus-lined orifices of everyone we meet, either. :slight_smile: HPV may not exist long on that middle digit that you’re gonna stick up your girlfriends’ vagina, but it apparently gets along fine within the folds of one’s foreskin where it can attain close proximity to another place it likes: her cervix. That being said, I do agree with your assertion regarding the foreskin’s reason for existence. The male members of the human species has been flopping around with a foreskin many more millennia than we’ve been hacking it off, and it probably served more of a positive, physical protective function. And, at least up til now and maybe forever, nothing negative in the environment (other than women who dislike the smell/taste of smegma ) has cropped up to make having it a disadvantage…so it just hangs on until the end :wink:

Over the eons, the sheath has remained the same size while the penis has shrunk.

[sub](No, of course I’m not serious.)[/sub]

Don’t you mean put through the WRINGER? And doesn’t that hurt?

Wringers are old-time laundry tools. After the clothes had been boiled and stirred, they were lifted with a wooden paddle and put through a wringer, which would squeeze most of the water from the laundry.

Captain of the Spelling and Grammar Police

Now I’ve got the j dt’s.


It’s to protect and lubricate the glans of the penis. Just as (as mentioned on another thread on circumcision) the eyelid keeps the eye protected and moist - though of course, the effect of removing the foreskin is far less drastic than removing an eyelid, which would leave you blind. Without a foreskin, the surface of the penis is dry and hard, which is not what nature intended.

Apart from the US and a few places influenced by the US, circumcision for non-medical or non-religious reasons doesn’t take place.

I would be happy to inspect your penis frequently to make sure that it is soft, moist and free of cracks. Fee negotiable.


Well I have mine. And the foreskin emits a secretion called stegma wich is an anti-bacterial and smells awful. But it also stimulates the clitorus my the folding of the skin up and down. It also acts as a masturbation sleeve by supplying its own lube(stegma) and is easier for hand jobs and b.j’s