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By Kurt Kleiner Circumcision and other forms of male genital mutilation have always been a puzzle.
The ritual mutilations can leave the man vulnerable to infection and even death.
READERS: The latex genitalia study wasn't terribly convincing because the models were circumcised, and in real life the foreskin would interfere with the semen-displacing functions of the coronal ridge.
So, does the foreskin pose a problem for the semen displacement theory?
So why do some societies insist on such a risky ritual for their men?
There may be an evolutionary explanation, according to Christopher Wilson, of Cornell University in New York, US.
Their widely-quoted study does not mention the foreskin.
One of the popularisers of that theory, Jesse Bering, put readers' questions to Gallup for Scientific American (May 30, 2009) about that issue.
READERS: So why did human penises evolve to have foreskin at all then? The best way to think about most adaptations is in terms of cost/benefit ratios.I also examined an alternative hypothesis suggesting that MGM signals group commitment for collective action, particularly inter-societal warfare.Although other forms of male scarification fit this model, the distribution of MGM is not predicted by frequency of inter-societal warfare. put forward a theory that the shape of the glans has evolved with the function of pumping a rival's sperm out of the vagina, tending to ensure that a child born after that intercourse is that of the man concerned and not an earlier one.Especially in societies where paternity uncertainty and reproductive conflict are high, the social benefits of MGM as a signal may outweigh its costs.This sexual conflict hypothesis predicts that MGM should be associated with polygyny, particularly when co-wives reside far apart, and that MGM should reduce the frequency of extramarital sex.
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Genital mutilation, in this view, is just another way to win the sperm war.