Until 1721, Sweden (Sverige in the Swedish language) was the dominant state in the Baltic. A mere 60 years earlier, the time of maximum extent of the Swedish Empire, the country was the third largest in Europe. Following a series of military defeats in the years 1709 onwards, the empire contracted. The most notable loss was Finland, taken by the Russians in 1809.
Since 1814 Sweden has not participated as a combatant in any war, this despite being totally surrounded by belligerant or occupied nations during World War Two. The consequent saving in military expenditure, reconstruction and reparations has not always guaranteed economic success; in the period 1850 to 1910 more than one million Swedes emigrated to the United States of America to avoid poverty and famine. The economy continued to under-perform until about 1990. Since then the situation has improved markedly, enabling Sweden to afford one of the most highly developed welfare states in the world. The country has a higher level of social spending to GDP than any other nation. This results in the country having some of the lowest levels of both relative and absolute poverty, and one of the most equal income distributions. Additionally it provides equal as well as comprehensive access to education and health care.
The map above shows Sweden in relation to other
member states of the European Union. Sweden joined the EU in January 1995. It is not a member of the Euro currency zone.
The map to the right shows the boundaries of Sweden itself.
There is no historical tradition of circumcision in Sweden; neither the Swedes themselves nor any peoples they once dominated routinely practiced circumcision at any time in their history. Thus rates of circumcision among ethnic Swedes are very low. Jews entering Sweden were required to convert to Lutheran Christianity until 1718, when they were permitted to practise their religion, and circumcision came to Sweden for the first time. Jews were still subject to many restrictions, which were not lifted until the late 19th century.
Jack Johannson, Swedish singer and Mr. Gay Sweden 2013, Mr. Gay Europe 2014. He is most probably not circumcised!
Swedish culture values conformism very highly, and this in turn often leads to racial and religious intolerance. On the other hand, the Swedes also pride themselves being good global citizens and helping the unfortunate, which has led to them admitting many Muslim refugees in recent years. The ying and yang of these opposing forces largely accounts for their legislation controlling circumcision.
In 2001 the Riksdag (Parliament) passed a law that only persons certified by the National Board of Health can legally circumcise infants. The law requires a medical doctor or an anesthesia nurse to accompany the circumciser and for anaesthetic to be applied beforehand. After the first two months of life circumcisions can only be performed by a physician. The two month period was presumably an effort to appease the Jewish community, but it failed. The present editor had a lengthy email correspondence with the Chief Mohel of Sweden at the time, abd he was furious. To observant Jews, how the operation is done is all important. (Not so for Muslims, they just need it to be done). This correspoondence revealed an interesting back-story. One of the proponents of the new law in the Riksdag had a Jewish wife and pre-nuptially he had promised her that any sons of theirs could be circumcised. When sons came along he reneged on the deal. Could the law in part have been an added bit of spite aimed at her?
During subsequent reviews of the effects and effectiveness of the legislation, the Swedish National Board of Health and Welfare found that the law had largely failed because doctors in many areas were simply not willing to circumcise. To remedy this, the review (March 2007, Omskärelse av pojkar, National Board of Health and Welfare. Docket 2007-107-7) suggested that all county councils should offer non-therapeutic circumcision in their hospitals in order to ensure that safe circumcision was available to all. Implementation has been slow.
An unfortunate misconception has grown up to the effect that circumcision is illegal in Sweden. This appears to arise from a highly partisan letter written in 2002 to the UK-based medical journal The Lancet by one Yngve Hofvander (of Uppsala University), an outspoken critic of male circumcision. This is frequently mis-quoted by people who do not check their sources properly stating that male circumcision is illegal in Sweden. It isn’t.
Circumcised as an adult
Circumcision has not traditionally been popular in Sweden. We do not practice Routine Infant Circumcision. However, the practice is now becoming popular with young men and seems to be favoured by the people we date. That’s why I got circumcised and I know of several other guys in the 20s and 30s that have also requested circumcision for no reason other than asthetic. It seems popular with both gay and straight guys. I can tell you that the girls I’m intimate with find it fascinating and very much a turn on. I was circumcised freehand in May of 1998. The doctor removed most of my inner skin; I believe he simply cut away everything forward of my glans. A single incision was made down the top side of my penis. From there, he cut around using the curve of my glans as his guide. Most of my frenulum is gone, although a small tab remains. Sex is much better for me and my girlfriends.
Another Swedish adult agrees
Yes, as a circumcised Swedish man and according to my own experience it is certainly true that there are not many circumcised men in Sweden. This might also be the reason why Swedish women love the different experience of a circumcised man - and they want it high & tight! My girlfriend loves my complete nakedness.
A Blog concerning adult circumcision in Sweden
My account of an adult circumcision in a country where circumcision is rare.
Swedish Exchange Student gets circumcised in the USA
I was born in 1975 and had very little knowledge about what circumcision was before going to America. The reason for the stay was an exchange year at high school. Since children aren’t usually circumcised in Sweden I didn’t know much about it other than it is a thing Jews practice and that it is a procedure where they cut away a part of their penis. To me it seemed to be a primitive thing before going to America, but it really didn’t occupy me since it’s not a topic that is discussed in Sweden. The first time I saw someone who was circumcised was in the locker-room at school at the beginning of the semester and soon I realised that I was in the minority in class, if not the only one, not being circumcised. Since I didn’t know that there existed such a thing as routine infant circumcision my best guess was that maybe the majority in class were Jews.
A couple of days later when I had made some friends in class I talked to one of them about it and he explained to me that probably nobody was Jewish in class but circumcision is something that is done anyway on Americans. The reasons are hygiene, culture (look like your father and "everyone" else) and because it looks better without an "elephant-trunk". I can’t say that I agreed with him since there is no known general problem with penile hygiene in Sweden and the "elephant-trunk" was something that in fact made you look like everyone else where I come from.
Two months later I had an American girlfriend. It didn’t take her long to discover that I was uncircumcised. She complained that my penis had a bad smell and said that a circumcision would make the smell disappear. In her opinion it would also look better and more manly without the foreskin. I laughed and tried to talk about something else but she said that I would at least have to wash my penis before having sex with her. The hygiene argument really hurt because I showered every day and washed myself with soap under the foreskin so I couldn’t understand where the bad smell came from, especially since my first girlfriend in Sweden before her had never complained. However I had to admit that if I pulled my foreskin back at the end of a day’s urination and rubbed the moisture off the glans with my hand, my hand wouldn’t exactly have a pleasant smell after that. This was the smell she complained about and called a turn-off and disgusting. I couldn’t blame her when I smelled it myself.
It took me a couple of days to find out where the smell came from. I found out that it was urine (the extra drop which comes a minute after you have finished urinating) that accumulated under the foreskin. The foreskin then provided a perfect moist and warm place for bacteria to grow. Considering the fact that the number of bacteria doubles every 20 minutes, the bad smell was no longer a riddle.
I also found out that if you are circumcised, the extra drop of urine ends up in your underwear and dries out there causing no bad smell under the foreskin.
My first idea was to keep my foreskin retracted after having urinated and thus make the extra drop end up in my underwear. This way I would get the advantage a circumcision provides without loosing any foreskin. At the beginning when I tried to keep my foreskin retracted I got a constant erection from the rubbing of my glans against my underwear. And when the erection finally went away, hair would get caught under the foreskin causing pain. That’s why I came up with the idea to use surgical tape to keep the foreskin retracted when my penis was soft. I kept my foreskin retracted like this for approximately 3 months. I got used to what it felt like to have a constantly bare glans and had to admit to myself that I kind of enjoyed the feeling. My glans was by now dried out, and stroking it wasn’t uncomfortable any more as it had been before. In fact it was now a joy to stroke it softly with dry hands. I guess I had been overly sensitive before because my glans had not been used to any dry friction.
If I compared sensation when the glans was moist, as it is during sexual intercourse or oral sex, there was no big difference. But my girlfriend was thankful for the improved hygiene during oral sex. Besides the improved hygiene and sensation I also liked the look of my penis without the foreskin. I actually started to consider a circumcision with my girlfriend as an eager supporter.
By this time I had (of course) also heard the arguments from the anti-circumcision folks about loosing sensitivity and that circumcising meant mutilating. But I made an appointment with a doctor to hear the arguments for and against circumcision and to ask the questions I had. The doctor explained the medical benefits with reduced risk for sexually transmitted diseases, urinary tract infections, yeast infections and hygiene improvement. He also explained that there was no danger with loss of sensitivity if the circumcision is done the "right" way. The trick was to keep the entire inner (the pink part) foreskin and to only cut away the outer foreskin (the brown shaft-skin). The inner foreskin is the sensitive part and the outer foreskin is just a part of the shaft-skin which I would have plenty of even after the circumcision. This style would mean that I would have the scar lower down on my penis and that it would be more visible that I was circumcised than when the inner foreskin (or a part of it) is cut away and the scar is closer to the glans. But cutting away the inner foreskin wasn’t wrong. The doctor explained that lots of people wanted to hide the scar in the coronal groove to get, in their opinion, a better look. But even these patients that had no inner foreskin left never complained about loss of sensitivity.
I went home and thought about what the doctor had said. When stroking my penis I recognised that the inner foreskin indeed was the more sensitive part. I decided to keep the entire inner foreskin if I were to get circumcised. The only thing that kept me away from circumcising by now was the anxiety about what friends and family in Sweden would say when I got back without a foreskin. If I told them that I had done it voluntarily they would think that I was nuts.
The strategy I came up with was to say that I had always had a tight foreskin and that it had become necessary for me to get circumcised in America. None of them had of course examined me closely to be able to say that I didn’t have a phimosis and that the phimosis was the reason for the circumcision. This was a brilliant explanation and a valid reason to get circumcised.
With all these considerations behind me I now called the doctor and told him that I had decided to get circumcised and we set a date for the surgery. He circumcised me under a local anaesthetic and we agreed that only outer foreskin was to be removed. But as he was circumcising me he noticed that I had a quite large and loose foreskin. He said that it would be better if he removed the frenulum if I didn’t want to have excessive foreskin bunching up. By removing it my ventral side of the penis would be just as smooth as the dorsal side. The end result was a circumcision where the inner foreskin was preserved (except the frenulum) with a scar-line far down on the shaft. The glans is always bare even when flaccid but I wouldn’t say that I was tightly circumcised because I have no pain during erection.
Three months later I went back to Sweden. After sports, in the locker-room it didn’t take long for my friends to see that I had been circumcised. I got the expected questions why and I said that I had had a phimosis and that it had been necessary to get circumcised. Then the questions about what it was like came up. I said that it was much better without the foreskin and that I wouldn’t want it back even if it were possible.
I explained the medical, hygiene and sensation advantages. Because I was so positive about my circumcision and told them about the disadvantages a foreskin, my nickname was Kojak for a couple of days after this conversation.
My two years younger brother first laughed when he first saw that I was circumcised. But a couple of weeks later he said that he had tried to keep his foreskin retracted to see what it was like to be circumcised and he agreed with all those advantages that I had mentioned. He said that it felt and looked cool to have a bare glans and I can only agree. Two years later he also went to high school as an exchange-student and also got circumcised.
My Swedish girlfriend of the last 13 months prefers my circumcised penis. She likes the looks of it and the improved hygiene. She can’t however feel any difference when we are having sex compared to an uncircumcised penis. This goes pretty much the same for the two other girlfriends I have had since I broke up with my American girlfriend.
The fact that circumcision is unusual in Sweden makes my penis kind of unique and I am proud of having a cleaner and better-looking penis than the rest. My experience being almost the only one circumcised has never bothered me or been a problem. Sometimes people have been curious about what it is like to be circumcised but I have never experienced being teased because my penis looks different. Neither my brother nor I have regretted our circumcision.
Daniel (back in Sweden)
Personal testimony of members of the CIRCLIST discussion group.
Omskärelse av pojkar
Rapport av ett regeringsuppdrag (S2005/7490/SK)
The Lancet, Volume 359, Issue 9306, Page 630, 16 February 2002 (accessed 21.Oct.2010. Note the typographic error in the online copy. For "1966" read 1996 in the first sentence of the second paragraph).
Maps courtesy of www.youreuropemap.com and the US Central Intelligence Agency.