Sunday, April 30, 2017

Intact Male Hygiene: You're Doing It Wrong

Right, so something intact guys often get dirt for is being "dirty" and "smelly" all the time, and having to take extra steps to keep clean.

First off, this is a bit unfair, not to mention sexist.

I mean, let's just ignore the fact that there is an entire aisle of hygiene products for women.

Yes, I'm pretty sure women's genitals perpetually exude the aroma of fresh raspberries and cream, especially around that time of the month.

There is so much a woman has to do to keep clean, tidy and fresh-smelling down there, but let's give intact men all the shit for it.

What's an intact man's penis supposed to smell like?
Giving advice to one woman self-conscious about her smell, another woman gave this advice:
 "Your vagina is supposed to smell like a vagina, not a mango. If your partner complains about the natural smell or taste of your vagina, they can go fuck a mango." ~Lily R. Mason

I want to bring attention to the contrasting advice that women get vs. what men get.

While most women are told to love their bodies as they are, men get body shamed. Why is this?

Why can't intact men get similar advice as above?

A penis is supposed to smell like a penis, not some tropical fruit.

Partners that complain about the natural smell or taste of your penis should go eat a banana or something.

What's the right way for an intact man to wash?
First off, let's start with how NOT to wash.

Ever been told to retract your foreskin and use soap and water to wash under it?


It's wrong.

As it has been mentioned before on this blog, sadly, doctors in the United States are geared towards circumcision, and they gear their patients and their parents towards circumcision, so any information they give is often wrong for one or all of the following:
  • They were taught misinformation in med school regarding anatomically correct male organs and they never bothered to do any actual research on the matter (Why should they? Their patients are all going to be circumcised anyway, right?)
  • They're pulling it out of their rear end (As doctors with PhDs, they need to sound like they know what they're talking about, even when they actually don't.)
  • They are quite deliberately giving patients and their parents misinformation that will give them iatrogenically caused problems that they can use as an example of why all males need to be circumcised

Soap should never be used to clean the delicate mucosal tissue on the inside of the foreskin and on the glans because:
  • It disrupts the natural flora of the penile microbiome
  • It can dry out the mucosal tissues on the inside of the foreskin and on the glans, which are normally supposed to be moist and supple.
If you use soap to wash under the foreskin, you run the risk of giving yourself a yeast infection (AKA balanitis) and a reason for charlatan doctors to suggest circumcision.

In the industrialized world, including the US, women are told not to use soap or to douche too often for the same reason; it results in disruption of the natural flora that grow in the vagina and around the vulva, increasing the risk for a yeast infection.

So how should an intact man wash?
If he can, he should retract the foreskin of the penis, and let water from the shower head fall over it. Using his fingers he should play with the foreskin to knock loose any smegma and let the water wash it away. Once he is finished, he should pull his foreskin back up over the penis. That's it. The whole process takes two or three seconds to complete.

 When in the shower, merely pull back the foreskin as far back as it will go
and allow water to wash over it. Use your fingers to knock any smegma loose
and let the water wash it away. When you're finished, put the foreskin back
over the glans. This should take no longer than a few seconds.

Video of a Man Showing How It's Done
The following video shows a man in the shower demonstrating how intact men usually wash down there. As it is a naked man in the shower, please be advised that this video is not suitable for work.

Hygiene in Children and Early Adolescents
It has been mentioned in a previous post, but it is common for the foreskin not to be retractable in children and adolescents. Usually, baby boys are born with the foreskin fused to the glans, so not being able to retract the foreskin is normal in babies. Research conducted in Europe and Japan shows that retraction can take place anywhere between 0 and 17 years of age, the median age for retraction being 10 years of age.

Do not listen to a doctor that says a child's foreskin should be retracted and washed with soap; this advice is mistaken and the doctor is giving parents potentially harmful advice that can result in serious, permanent damage.

Forced retraction can cause bleeding, infection and other complications.
Do not attempt to forcibly retract your child's foreskin, as this can result in injury.
Do not let a doctor forcibly retract your child's foreskin.

Beware of doctors who insist that they must retract your child's foreskin. When taking your child for checkups, warn your doctor not to retract your child's foreskin. If your doctor disrespects your wishes, you may be able to take legal action. Click on this link for further information.
What respected medical organizations have to say on early, forced retraction
Medical associations advise not to forcibly retract the foreskin of an infant, as this interferes with normal penile development, and may result in scarring or injury.(1)(2).

Camille et al (2002), in their guidance for parents, state that:

"[t]he foreskin should never be forcibly retracted, as this can cause pain and bleeding and may result in scarring and trouble with natural retraction."(3)

Simpson & Barraclough (1998) state that:

"[n]o attempt should be made to retract a foreskin in a child unless significant separation of the subpreputial adhesions has occurred. Failure to observe this basic rule may result in tearing with subsequent fibrosis and consequent [iatrogenically induced] phimosis. ..."(4)

The American Academy of Pediatrics cautions parents not to retract their son's foreskin, but suggest that once he reaches puberty, he should retract and gently wash with soap and water.(5) The Royal Australasian College of Physician as well as the Canadian Paediatric Society emphasize that the infant foreskin should be left alone and requires no special care.(6)

Forcibly retracting the foreskin in babies, children and young adolescents can result in permanent injury that may require surgery. Some sneaky doctors may actually be deliberately giving this "advice"; they see a price tag at the end of your child's penis.

So how should you clean your child's penis?
First off, do not try to retract your child's foreskin, especially in a baby or a young child.

Merely wash his penis without retracting the foreskin as you would any other part of his body, like his fingers or toes. No special care is needed.

 Clean your child's penis like you would any other port of his body.
First, wipe the shaft like you would a finger, wiping between the
shaft and the scrotum. Next, clean around the scrotum, between the
folds of skin where the child's legs connect with his abdomen.
Always leave the anus and surrounding areas for the very last.

In an older child, ask if he is able to retract the foreskin, and if he can, let water fall over it washing away any buildup.

If your child can't retract, or can only partially retract
Sometimes, the foreskin becomes completely retractable all at once, sometimes it takes time, and the retraction process happens in increments. Your child may be at a stage where the foreskin is still adhered to the glans and the foreskin only retracts half-way, for example. Sometimes most of the glans is visible, but the foreskin is attached to the glans just above the corona. Your child's foreskin may be tight and not allow for retraction at all. This is normal and your child's foreskin will come loose as time passes, as the child experiments with himself in the shower, or when he's by himself exploring his body. Remember, complete retraction can happen any time between 0 and 17 years old, 10 being the median age. Please read more about the foreskin retraction process here.

Ask your child to retract as far as he can without feeling discomfort, and let water wash over the exposed part of his glans. Then ask him to pull his foreskin back forward to the default covered position, and he's done.

Never ask your child to retract his foreskin further than is comfortable for him. Some children retract earlier and quicker than others, and in some children the process is slow. But don't worry; a child's foreskin usually becomes fully retractable with time. Never forcibly retract a child's foreskin, as this can result in serious, sometimes permanent injury. Please read more about the foreskin retraction process here.

A word of caution regarding bubble baths
Some, though not all children, may be sensitive to chemicals in soaps and bubble baths. Exposing the inner mucosa of the foreskin to soap or bubble bath in these children may cause the foreskin and surrounding areas to become inflamed. For this reason, it's not a good idea to allow your baby to soak in soapy water or bubble baths.

If you notice that your child's penis may be inflamed, discontinue the use of the bubble bath solution immediately, and/or do not allow your child to sit in soapy water. It could be that chemicals are interfering with the natural flora in the microbiome of your child's penis. Sometimes trying a different, mild soap is advised

Instead, allow your child to sit in warm, non-soapy water after washing and rinsing his body thoroughly.

Keep in mind that this advice is nothing special; it is the same advice given to parents of girls, where some soap products may cause inflammation in a baby girl's vulva, and in cases where a baby girl's genital become inflamed, discontinuing the use of bubble bath solution and/or changing soaps is advised. 

Related Posts:
My Doctor Says I Should Get Circumcised

Medical References:
1. "Care of the Uncircumcised Penis". Guide for parents. American Academy of Pediatrics. September 2007.

2. "Caring for an uncircumcised penis". Information for parents. Canadian Paediatric Society. July 2012.

3. Camille CJ, Kuo RL, Wiener JS. Caring for the uncircumcised penis: What parents (and you) need to know. Contemp Pediatr 2002;11:61.

4. Simpson ET, Barraclough P. The management of the paediatric foreskin. Aust Fam Physician 1998;27(5):381-3.

5. American Academy of Pediatrics: Care of the uncircumcised penis, 2007

6. Royal Australasian College of Physicians. (2010) Circumcision of Infant Males.