Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Are women responsible for unnecessary, non-religious circumcision of male infants in America?

I found this article (via HealthMad) by way of Jim over at No Circumcision, and sadly I agree with it...

Are women responsible for unnecessary, non-religious circumcision of male infants in America?

I didn’t know how the majority of women in America (mothers, wifes, girlfriends) view the foreskin and male circumcision until I happened to come across a heated discussion about whether infant male circumcision was child abuse in one of the message boards I frequent. It was an eye opener to me because I didn’t know American women think the way they do about the foreskin. I will come to the specific opinions these women had later in this article. First, I’d like to touch upon circumcision of male infants.

Circumcision of male infants happens mostly for religious reasons around the world, but in America, you have parents choosing to have their male child circumcised for non-religious reasons, specifically “hygienic” reasons. Now, the “hygiene” theory is highly suspect and I don’t know of any medical association that says that you need to circumcise male children due to “hygienic” reasons. In fact, routine male circumcision is not recommended by doctors in general. Also, do the propagators of the “hygienic” theory mean to say that most of the men around the world are unhygienic?

Most European men don’t get circumcised and by far the majority of men around the world aren’t – does that make them “dirty?” If an uncircumcised penis was so susceptible to infections, then all these men would be queuing up to get circumcised, but they aren’t. They are living just as normal as anyone else. Also, animals don’t get circumcised and they don’t seem to have any problems with infection.

It does make one wonder as to how the “hygienic” argument came about in the first place. Some believe that Dr. John Kellogg (of the cereal fame) was responsible for propagating this idea of “hygiene.” Apparently, this man advocated circumcising young boys to check/curb masturbation. This is what he said about the subject – to quote him.

“A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed.”

Its plausible that Dr. Kellog and his peers propagated this Victorian idea of hygiene to justify routine male circumcision. It probably caught on and came to be viewed as a must-doThere are risks to circumcision that most parents aren’t aware of or choose to dismiss, but they need to be considered. Some of the risks are.

1. Risk of fatal infections/uncontrollable bleeding.

2. Unintended snipping of the glans or part of the glans during the procedure.

3. Risk of burn and scarring during electrocautery.

These are just some of the risk factors circumcision entails.

Most supporters of male circumcision put forward the idea that the foreskin is a useless piece of skin. Well, its far from useless. It has many uses. I’d list some of them here.

1. Protects the delicate glans (soft tip of the penis) from injury and keeps the glans moist and sensitive. Its function is similar to that of an eyelid in its protective nature.

2. The foreskin is as sensitive as the tips of your fingers or the lips of your mouth. It contains over 3 feet of arteries, veins and capillaries and thousands of nerve endings (above 10,000).

3. Facilitates smooth and gentle motion between the mucosal surfaces of partners during sexual intercourse.

4. Prevents the desensitization of the glans due to constant exposure of the glans to clothing and other material.

Most parents in America don’t seem to understand the uses of the foreskin and that men can live normally with the foreskin intact. By circumcising their male children, they are taking away the right to decide on this irreversible procedure. Its also curious that while there is so much outrage towards female circumcision – the same outrage is absent when it comes to male circumcision. The reason given ostensibly is that female circumcision affects the pleasure factor significantly, whereas in men that isn’t the case. Well, chopping away the most sensitive part of the penis with all of its veins, arteries and capillaries and erogenic functions takes away from pleasure for men as well. So – shouldn’t people feel just as outraged? The reason they don’t is because they’ve been conditioned to accept male circumcision as opposed to female circumcision.

Talking about women, I think they are one of the main reasons why infant males continue getting circumcised in modern America. These American women (who are mothers, wives, girlfriends, etc) have drilled it into themselves that the foreskin is “ugly,” “dirty,” “disgusting,” etc. Here are some messages from the message board I mentioned earlier in the article. It was an eye opener to me. I am quoting them verbatim.

“It’s only a teeny weeny piece of skin, for heaven’s sake, get real!”

“An uncircumcised penis reminds me of a dog penis.”

“don’t forget the smegma smell – guess that’s why the French stink.”

“but they look GROSSSSS EWWW – i would never saddle my child with it.”

“the stigma of being an uncircumcized male!!!! I have only been with 1 man that was not and boy howdy does that thing look scary. Needless to say it didn’t last!!!!”

“he may not be so thankful to you once he starts dating…” (in response to a woman who chose not to circumcise her kid)

“My husband was not circumcised and says he was teased b/c of it in gym class and was adamant about our boys being circ’ed.”

“It is a little piece of skin”

“with the foreskin ON, they stink even more”

“men don’t want an ugly uncircumsized penis, so get over it and do your boy a favor. Not to mention all the health reasons. Sheesh!”

These are the enlightened American women who make the decisions for their male infants. For them, its just a “piece of skin” and its no big deal. Well, it is a big deal for some men. They wouldn’t be so matter-of-fact and callous if the topic was female circumcision, but they are just so dismissive of male circumcision. Not a surprise that – is it? I think its high time these women read up on male circumcision and the facts about male circumcision. Instead of treating the foreskin as an “ugly piece of skin” and wanting to do circumcision for cosmetic or hygienic reasons – perhaps they should educate themselves a little better. Isn’t it surprising that most Americans have been brainwashed so thoroughly into believing that the foreskin is “ugly,” “abnormal,” “unnecessary,” etc.


Lucy Pevensie said...

But it ORIGINATED with God and Abraham OR God and Ishmael IF you are Muslim ...
That's who's really to blame - ladies these days are just following tradition .... :) Without thinking.
My hubby wanted if for our infant son b'c he was not and went to VietNam uncircum .. and it was HELL there too .... he cursed his MOTHER'S decision several times.
Hope you have a Happy New Year! :)

Dionna said...

I don't know why I'm shocked by those comments, but I am. How tragic that mothers choose to be completely ignorant about their children's genital integrity. I've blogged about why we chose to keep our son intact, there is absolutely no health reason to circumcise. And for those women who find it squeamish in a sexual situation, an intact penis brings more pleasure to BOTH people - the man and the woman.
Think about it!
~Dionna @ Code Name: Mama

Corin said...

@ Lucy: Yes, circumcision orginally was a religious tradition, and still is in parts of the world. However, the focus of the article is American women. Your observation that, "ladies these days are just following tradition .... :) Without thinking." is correct. Although it, in most cases, (for American women) is not a tradition of religion they are following at all. Like the article argues, it's a tradition based on falsehoods that perpetuated the idea that a removed foreskin would prevent males from masterbating. This is the tradition women are unknowingly following, only it has been repackaged and repackaged through the years to better suit the current culture. Now, the current mantra is that the foreskin is something "icky" and "dirty" and to be discarded. But no one really thinks past that. They only know what they've been told and taught by our culture, that foreskin=gross. Foreskin=dirty. Foreskin=ugly. Repeating the mantra over and over and over again even in the face of sound science (and logic) that says that the healthiest penis and human is an INTACT one.

I'm a little confused as to the subject of Vietnam. Would you mind clarifying that for me?

Caroline said...

Great post, Corin. Thanks for researching and speaking out!

chaoticmama said...

I am a woman and I was more for circumcision for all of the silly reasons named above. My husband who is circumcised was agaist it because he didn't want to subject our son to unnecessary pain. We didn't do it, & now I'm really glad we didn't. I would have hated him to be in pain during the healing process, & what if something had hone wrong? Also, it seems wrong to do s mainly cosmetic procedure on a baby. I'm also against infant ear piercing

Corin said...

@ Chaoticmama: I'm glad to finally meet someone else who is against infant ear piercing! I thought I was the only person in the entire world. My motto is, "I don't put holes in or remove body parts from children unless it's medically neccessary." Once they turn 18, they can do whatever they want with their body. Because I always think it's a freedom of chioce issue. A baby can't say whether it would like a needle rapid firing at it's ear or not. But it's also not even safe to pierce with a solid needle. In the case of body piercing, it's so much safer to use a professional piercer who uses a hollow needle so that there's minimal scare tissue. But in most cases babies are taken to the piercing pagoda's at the mall. It makes my stomach turn to see little ones sitting there!

AS for something going wrong, unfortunately I've seen that happen first hand. And it happens more often than people think. A very close family member had to have their son RE-CIRCUMCISED because the first one became infected. I can not imagine the type of pain the baby must have been going through.

MamaOyster said...


I am outraged by male circumcision and I don't need to reiterate why. I am also outraged by the comments you quoted--the ignorance and selfishness is saddening. My partner is circumcised and he is angry that this was done to his body without his permission--he would never circumcise a son, not even so that "they look the same" as is the reason many give for choosing to do it.

On the subject of ear piercing....this also outrages me but mostly because people think that because my partner and I have piercings that we are going to pierce our daughter--I find it so insulting!!!! We would never make that choice for another person, especially not an infant!!! Again, the ignorance.....alright I have to stop, I'm getting upset!

MamaOyster said...

...oh, and I forgot to mention that my partner was a victim of a "mess-up". The doctor didn't cut it right so he is not only circumcised but it looks funky because not all of the skin on the underside was cut away.

I just looked at pics of the procedure and it is so clear, deep in my guts, that it is WRONG! I could just cry, imagining how violating it would feel to have this done to myself. How can it even make sense to uncover something that is so obviously being protected?
Alright, I'm stopping again.

Corin said...

@MamaOyster: I think people don't realize how often a circumcision can go wrong, and I think they also don't realize how much it can effect a man, because men's feelings are VERY often discounted in our culture. My husband is also circumcised. He too wishes he had been left the way he was born.

About the piercings, I used to have seven in my face alone, so body piercing is something really familiar to me as well! Which, like you, is why I feel pretty strongly about putting holes in people without their permission. Especially the way it's usually done with a gun and solid needles.

MamaOyster said...

We're so on the same page, and I am now following your blog : )

Damn the piercing gun!! LOL

Joel said...

Thank you so much for this article!

It just seems like common sense that the foreskin, one of the most sensitive, awesome parts of my body, does not belong to the government, potential female suitors, doctors and researchers and cosmetic companies, my parents or my parent's religion... it belongs ONLY to me.

Thankfully my parents understood that my healthy, sensitive, functional, erogenous, VALUABLE body parts were not theirs to cut off.

The new arguments in favor of HIV or whatever make the least sense of all, really. How can you cut a child under the assumption that they will be having unsafe sex with infected partners. I think if someone understood what was being sacrificed for such an unlikely scenario, they would not even SUGGEST it.

Anyways, THANK-YOU for spreading the word about this subject. I hope you'll keep talking about it, because without people like you, a lot of parents will not even QUESTION the practice that seems so normal in our culture.

Restoring Tally said...

I am one of those males that was circumcised at birth. To me, my penis was always normal. I knew nothing else. When I researched circumcision last year, I learned that part of my penis was damaged during my circumcision. I always thought the frenulum area of my penis was normal, even though it was often painful to the touch.

I also learned about foreskin restoration at that time. That is when I discovered that my penis was damaged when the circumcising doctor ripped my foreskin from my glans. I have scar tissue on the ventral side of my penis from where his forceps tore through the adhesions. Fortunately, restoring my foreskin has eliminated that pain. It has also made sex much more enjoyable for my wife and me.

Thanks for writing this. I believe education will eventually stop the practice of infant circumcision.

Knitted_in_the_Womb said...

Thank you for such a great post! I'm going to post links on my Facebook page.

I completely agree with you (and with the commentors that mentioned piercing baby's ears, though I did let my oldest daughter get hers pierced when she was 9--because she'd begged and pleaded for SO long).

Saddly, I've heard some of the same misinformed comments about why to circumcize. As I like to say, ALL of my children are intact, even my girls, even though their hygeine is a bit more complicated than the boys.

SuSuseriffic said...

Great post! Where are you? you need to post again!

From a proud mama of two intact boys.

Corin said...

Oh I know! This blog has totally been on my mind lately. We've been SO busy lately, so much major stuff going on, life is just at one of those points, where everything is changing. All good stuff though, just time and mind consuming! Anyway, I will post again very soon!

Aesculapius said...

two things:

1) there is an original history of the jewish people that contained no circumcision covenant... it's called "The Book of J" - jewish scholars are well aware of the fact that circumcision was added to the abraham story and the 'rape of dinah' story hundreds of years after abraham & moses' deaths.

2) a guaranteed circumcision problem is 9-10% of ALL circumcised males - and ONLY circumcised males - will develop meatal stenosis. this is reported in even the most conservative of medical websites. that problem reverses any imagined health benefit of circumcision.

great discussion.

Tamara said...

Ah Corin... I am telling you we are so like minded it is starting to freak me out. haha. Thank you for using your gift of words and photo skills to educate women in this way!!