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This question originally appeared on Quora. Answer by Dan Holliday, technical recruiter.

Americans don't get circumcised for “no reason.” Some people assume there isn't a reason, or the reason is insufficient for them. Americans mostly circumcise out of tradition. The tradition started over a century ago in the white-ish English speaking world for various reasons that mostly boiled down to flawed ideas about preventing masturbation and because of the legitimate needs that warfare placed on the military.

The second reason was the biggest (at least in the U.S.). In that era, health care was not so good, [1] men didn't bathe properly and went to war and had nasty habits of getting infections in their foreskin; [2] because of young men’s silly habit of practicing unsafe sex and contracting venereal diseases (there is some evidence that circumcision will help prevent certain STIs). The military organizations in the U.S., U.K., Canada and New Zealand just began circumcising the men who were drafted to fight in the trenches in World War I. The men came home and wore the wound like a badge of honor. Health advisers started saying it was healthier and so infant boys were mostly getting circumcised by about 1920. In the U.S., the military actually required circumcision as a matter of regulation in both World Wars and by the end of World War II, some 90 percent of men in the U.S. were circumcised.

Then universal health care in the other nations began reducing instances of circumcision (because, correctly, it was considered unnecessary and was eliminated to save money, especially necessary in cash-strapped Britain). The U.S. doubled down and stuck to its guns and still covered it under private insurance (which was offered along with other lavish benefits to American workers after World War II). American dads said, “I want my boy to look like me.” (Not altogether out of the ordinary). American women said, “Eew. Uncircumcised penises are gross,” enough to make everybody still think it was just a good idea while American doctors until just a decade ago said, “It’s cleaner. Healthier.” So everybody just keeps doing it.

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