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What is Circumcision Really All About?
Researching, early childhood trauma, i typed in C-I-R-C-U-M-C-I-S-I-O-N into my Internet browser, and found so much information, I could have read for hours, and days, and months — and eventually I did read for years.
I found there were many theories about how and why genital mutilation began but nobody knew for sure if any of them were true. Primitive people all over the globe have been practiced body modifications of every description, including genital cutting, for thousands of years.
As part of my inquiry, before I went to sleep one night I asked to know how circumcision began. In the middle of the night I saw a vivid vignette unfold, as if a television was sitting at the foot of my bed.
Two people appeared in the dream: an old man and a baby. The old man was crazy drunk and wanted to play with the baby’s penis. Since a foreskin will retract and pull the penis into the body when it is cold and also when its owner is afraid, the old man could not access the baby’s penis. This enraged him. He pulled out his knife and cut the baby’s foreskin off.
From “The Rape of the Phallus” by Dr. William Keith C. Morgan in the Journal of the American Medical Association, July 1965:
“Why is the operation of circumcision practiced? One might as well attempt to explain the rites of voodoo!… it is part of an ancient rite practiced by many primitive tribes whereby the young male and less frequently the young female, gives proof of his or her ability to endure pain. If they pass the test with fortitude, they are then accepted into the tribe as fully developed adults with attendant privileges. Thus in this respect the operation is similar to many of the tattoos and scars produced by burning, piercing or incising that are accepted as routine cosmetic procedures by these peoples.
“Second, in many primitive African tribes circumcision is performed to reduce libido. This mutilating practice is generally performed on women to keep them faithful to their husbands. Male infant circumcision is practiced by all Semitic races, Jew and Arab alike, and has been exported by them to all parts of the world and to most races. It will perhaps be a cause of surprise to those of Semitic origin to find that the Australian aborigine has practiced circumcision for as long, if not longer, and for the same basic reason as his more civilized brethren.”
Well, so much for modern and medical and upscale, logical and rational. Cutting off genitals is primal, primitive, base, emotional stuff.
The age chosen for circumcision varies according to the culture. The western, English-speaking world, which has followed the Judaic model, cuts the child at birth or a few days after. Other cultures wait until the boy is somewhat more grounded, around age five or twelve.
Some “coming of age” rituals during teen years involve not only genital mutilation but also haircutting, knocking out teeth, finger amputation, tattooing, scarring, and a variety of other quaint tribal markings. Some think the “coming of age” ritual is a message to the younger men in the family or tribe: “Our women are beginning to like you! Stay away from them! The women belong to us!”
You can read circumcision facts and myths from around the world and through the ages in Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery by David Gollaher.
But why, given that neither the New Testament, the Book of Mormon nor any national medical organization in the world encourages the practice does circumcision have such a strong foothold in the supposedly civilized, modern, predominately Christian, United States of America?
Dear reader, make sure you are sitting down, because this is something many people find difficult to believe – but it’s true! – circumcision began in the USA as a way to keep children from – egads! – touching themselves! – masturbating! Read these stirring words from the New Orleans Medical Journal in 1855…
Neither the plague, nor war, nor small pox, not a crowd of similar evils have resulted more disastrously for humanity, than the habit of masturbation: it is the destroying element of civilized society.
The last witch had been burned in the late 1700s as the evil spirit theory of disease was actively being discredited. But the evil spirit theory was soon replaced by the masturbation theory. Masturbation, doctors proclaimed, could make you crazy or physically ill – it could even kill you. You had to be saved from your evil ways – for your own good.
The witch hunt turned to an obsession for uncovering and punishing private sexual behavior, self-pleasuring.
“Over this period there was truly a remarkable upsurge in what can only be termed comic-book sadism. The advocacy of these bizarre [anti-masturbation] therapies was not confined to eccentrics. By about 1880 the individual who might wish for unconscious reasons to tie, chain, or infibulate sexually active children… to adorn them with grotesque appliances, encase them in plaster of Paris, leather or rubber, to frighten or even castrate them, could find humane and respectable medical authority for doing so in good conscience. Masturbational insanity was now real enough… it was affecting the medical profession.” – Alex Comfort
Pain was considered to be a good thing in the war against pleasure…
“In cases of masturbation we must, I believe, break the habit by inducing such a condition of the parts as will cause too much local suffering to allow of the practice to be continued. For this purpose, if the prepuce is long, we may circumcise the male patient with present and probably with future advantages; the operation, too, should not be performed under chloroform, so that the pain experienced may be associated with the habit we wish to eradicate.” – Athol A. W. Johnson, The Lancet, April 1860
When masturbation was thought to be the cause of all disease, doctors were under the spell of opinion-based medicine. They argued among themselves whether the masturbation theory of disease was to be blamed on loss of body fluids or from the shock of orgasm. Nobody bothered to test the theories surrounding masturbation and circumcision. No one has yet to research the long-term effects of circumcision. The U.S. is still working hard to replace opinion-based medicine with evidence-based medicine. Statistics mislead. The real story is in the numbers.
Numbers say that a lot of boys have been unnecessarily cut. Fortunately, I was savvy when it came to statistics — I knew how they can be used to mislead, so a 50% reduction in UTIs translates to: where there used to be two UTIs in a hundred boys, now there is one. 100% of one is one and two of two. But two UTIs in a hundred boys means that millions of boys have been cut who would never have had a UTI! You could safely say that out of 100 boys who are cut, all are cut unnecessarily. Why? Because while those two little boys had a UTI, five little girls got UTIs and doctors used antibiotics for the little girls – and therefore doctors could have used antibiotics instead of cutting the boys.
Only six boys in 10,000 are circumcised in Europe for medical reasons. European doctors explain to boys how to stretch the skin if it is too tight; antibiotics are used for infections. In Europe and other intact cultures, cutting genital tissue is thought of as a drastic measure, bad medical practice.
Here in the USA, circumcision was sold to parents as a way to end the cause of all disease, which was purported to have been masturbation. Now we read a study that said the less men between the ages of 20 and 50 masturbate, the more likely they are to develop prostate cancer. Masturbation helps clear out the tiny little tubes in the male reproductive system, it said.
I wondered if present-day parents should be concerned if their children don’t masturbate enough. Will doctors of the future recommend more masturbation so boys will be healthier?
“Son, you’re looking a little sickly! Go to your room, and don’t come out until you have had at least one healthy orgasm!”
“Aw, mom, do I have to? I wanted to do my math homework!”
And the irony is, now that studies have been performed, we find that loss of genital tissue results in more masturbation. Yes, the fact is, circumcised men masturbate far more than intact men – 40% more often. Are they trying to make up for in quantity what they are lacking in quality of experience?
What about loving family relationships in adulthood? How might loss of sensual tissue affect that? One man cut after adulthood said the difference between cut and intact sex is like the difference between black and white, or color TV. Something vital is missing. Could the loss of the foreskin affect the bonding process? Could loss of the foreskin be the cause of so much sexual dissatisfaction and infidelity? When something is missing, do people reach out to new partners, hoping that someone new will be the one who really “does it” for them?
Reducing the physical equipment reduces the sensual experience and sexual satisfaction, yet nature’s demand for reproduction burns as hot in the cut and the intact. With the loss of natural parts and skin, achieving the deepest levels of sensual contentment is thwarted… so a vicious cycle is established. Less skin means sexual frustration – the big itch is inadequately scratched. This surely accounts for the difference in desire among circumcised men and intact women.
People who don’t get the nutrients their bodies require to work well, crave food. People who don’t get the sensual satisfaction their bodies require, crave sex. It’s just the way it works. We naturally will try to make up for quality with quantity. Deficiency leads to obsession. Genital cutting creates sensual deficiency and sexual obsession.
The masturbation-as-cause-of-all-disease theory was bogus and the circumcision “cure” backfired. We now have a nation filled with people who are sexually frustrated and sexually obsessed. And yet circumcision persists.
We are meant to enjoy full-body orgasms, but when cut, we do not have them. The partners of circumcised people are also deprived of their full ration of pleasure and satisfaction.
Tens of thousands of delicate nerve endings are cut off with every foreskin. And some men spend months or even years stretching the skin and restoring the foreskin. Some attain excellent results that doctors cannot distinguish from natural foreskins. The restored function can be anywhere from 80 to 90% that of a natural, intact man. When a man restores his foreskin, he finds his rhythm of desire begins to more closely resemble his mate’s.
Some have called circumcision, “the cure desperately in search of a disease”.
Why the persistent sales pitch? Why do the same circumcision enthusiasts move from one claim to another? Why? Who is invested in what?
There is a predictable cycle: A claim is made for the health advantages of circumcision. The claim turns out to be untrue. Like a smoke and mirrors magic show, another claim arises to take its place. And that has been the pattern around the circumcision phenomenon for many years now.
Psychologist and author Alice Miller wrote, “What eventually happens to the person who was mutilated as a child? As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children, maintaining that their behavior does no harm because their own loving parents did the same.”
Circumcision makes circumcisers. Circumcision makes people who are obsessed with sexuality, babies’ genitals, cutting of flesh, and the shedding of blood. Trauma sets us up for acting out the trauma, repetition compulsion.
Could it be that the act of circumcising is an addiction of sorts? For some, it must carry quite a charge. There are people who have blood fetishes, people who have tissue fetishes, people who get off on torturing others, people who like to fondle children’s genitals. Put them all together and circumcision surely is an ideal job for some.
And it’s not easy to give up addictions. There are no circumciser detox centers, no “Circumcisionists Anonymous” meetings. It’s unlikely circumcision clamps and knives will be easy to pry out of the hands of those who want to continue. It is an extremely emotional subject. I was shocked to read that some doctors who were surveyed said that even if it was made illegal, they would continue to circumcise. Now that’s hard core.
So I went public. I had booth at an outdoor celebration. “Circumcision is my religion,” screamed one kindly grandmother at me. Thumbs down for my Save the Males sign from one very nicely dressed and coiffed elderly lady. “You don’t know how hard I had to work to get my grandson circumcised!” spat a third.
Adults defending circumcision rather than protecting children – this truly perplexed me.
In the interest of human rights, I think it is time for circumcision to be examined with a microscope that can see beneath the surface of emotional arguments. When we are so deeply mired in anything we can’t see clearly. We need a mirror.
Westerners look askance at the ritual mutilations of the body performed in exotic tribes, but they justify their own ritual mutilations as medically appropriate. Europeans sneer at the Maasai custom of lengthening the ear lobes, but they have their own noses bobbed and their faces lifted.
“Americans are horrified at the Arunta practice of subincision (slitting the penis on the ventral side) or the Sudanese tradition of infibulation (excising much of the female genitals and sewing up the vagina), but they stand with few other modern nations in clinging to a ritual that is no less “barbaric” and no more “hygienic”, routine circumcision.” – Karen Ericksen Paige
Look at babies’ faces before and after circumcision. Before, they look peaceful, content, happy. After, their faces look dismayed, betrayed. Listen to their cries.
When I was studying the subject, research had still not been performed on the long-term effects of circumcision on the infant, the bonding process with mom, the psychology of the circumcised baby, the boy and man he becomes, his relationships, the quality of life.
In England, circumcision ended abruptly after a few facts were provided to the medical boards. Europeans seem to do quite well with their natural, sexy, relaxed bodies.
But it’s as if the U.S. is under a spell, in a trance. It can’t see itself objectively. Americans are prudish and yet are inundated with sex wherever they look in the media. Even Disney films titillate.
Circumcised doctors imagine the natural penis to be a birth defect. “I can do something about that for you!” doctors say, as if natural anatomy is a condition that needs fixing.
Is circumcision really good for babies? No. Does anybody know for sure that circumcision has ever saved anyone’s life? No. Does anybody know for sure that being intact has led to anyone’s death? No. Has circumcision killed? Yes. Has it deprived? Yes, deprivation is a sure thing, 100% of the time.
Some men say every circumcision is a botched circumcision. Every circumcision maims.
So, as I read and read, it seemed to me that circumcision was a cosmetic, elective procedure, never beneficial and inevitably harmful… unless the owner had gangrene of the foreskin.
How good of an idea can it be to traumatize infants for the sake of cosmetic genital surgery? How good of an idea can it be to deprive anyone of natural body parts and natural sensation?
We owe it to our children to examine the circumcision subject carefully. It’s important we put on our thinking caps and be objective, not just argue to be “clever” or “right”, or to “win”.
Each time objective reality checks prove that circumcision claims are false, the circumcision promotion machine moves on, like a huge monster that eats foreskins for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
What could be the motivation? Who does circumcision profit? Well, there are doctor and hospital fees. I heard once a pediatric urologist complain that people who speak up and tell their stories are “scaring patients away” from circumcision.
A retired doctor-preacher man once told me he didn’t like doing circumcisions, but, “If I didn’t do them, someone else would get the money.” He looked rather shocked after he said those words.
Medicine is a business and circumcision has been big business in the USA for a century or more.
There are circumcision tools and instruments and equipment to sell. What about the commercial uses of the amputated skin? At one time there was at least one business that made and sold goods made from foreskins. One can only imagine how they obtained the foreskins… many colors, many sizes… we can only speculate. From a very odd catalog:
Introducing MANLY ARTS of Ohio, purveyors of circumcision memorabilia. MANLY ARTS specializes in providing a channel for those historians, researchers and collectors who are involved in the development of the “manhood movement” as it has been expressed in literature, research, graphics, objects and cultural practice. Foreskin Quarterly #7 (Winter 1987), pages 20-21.
Item 61. Wallet, actually made from human foreskins. Supple and imminently serviceable. Comprised of fourteen skins ranging from 3″ by 5 1/4″ to infant 1 1/2″ by 2″, the wallet contains eight compartments and is sewn together with leather thread. Of such a commanding appearance that viewers will have to ask what the material is. After that, it’s up to you. Beautiful brownish patina on the outside; the inside composed of checkerboard alternating Caucasian and Black skins. $1,000.
Item 62. Woven finger ring made from actual human foreskin. Braided, and done so by twisting: the skin was apparently not cut longitudinally during its removal. Thus there is no joint between the two ends, because there are no ends. A beautiful piece of engineering, much like a Chinese puzzle. Beautiful mahogany patina with honey-colored highlights. Would fit the middle finger of the average man. $500.
Item 63. Small (9″) pair of lamp shades made from human foreskins. Mounted on solid brass cast and polished bases. Excellent form and design. The foreskins are Caucasian, Black, Olive, Oriental and Indian and are used in a regular pattern. The mellow light shed by the foreskins produces an enviable atmosphere of calm and romance. $2,500 the pair.
Item 64. Beautiful vest made entirely of human foreskins, lined in emerald green moire. The foreskins are used as squares alternating with small diamonds of much darker skin. The seven buttons are solid gold and each is stamped “Tiffany and Co.” $5,200.
Item 65. Gentleman’s pinkie ring made from human foreskin. In constructing this item, the inner and outer layer of prepuce were left in their original relative positions, so the ring is double thickness. This may have been the product of a re-circumcision, as the forward edge retains a distinct pattern of suture marks which had healed. Being a double thickness, small circular holes have been placed in the outer skin and cat’s eye stones inserted which contrast handsomely to the honey-brown color of the ring. The width being only 1/2″ contributes to the theory that the ring was produced by a second circumcision. $375.
Item 66. This is an outrageous item. A large and long human foreskin has been expertly tanned to provide all the suppleness and softness of the intact version. It is connected to a sulcus ring of silver with cabochons of lapis lazuli so that the wearers looks as if he were an uncircumcised male wearing only a sulcus ring (granted that the ring is worn above and not beneath the prepuce). The skin is connected to the ring with a dozen silver rivets; not recommended for use in masturbation or intercourse, rather obviously. But a hekkuva decoration for those special parties. $225.
Babies’ genitals are used in expensive beauty creams. Stem cell research is performed with foreskin tissue. Flattening out football-field-sized sheets of very expensive artificial skin containing – yes! – infant foreskin.
“Just one foreskin per football field! We promise! And it was donated from the owner of the company’s son! – Honest!”
European and Japanese men do not suffer from foreskin problems. Europe and Japan score high up on World Health Organization charts – the USA is 37th. No national medical association in the world – even in the United States – endorses circumcision. Even our own American Medical Association (AMA) and American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) do not accept the health and hygiene claims. And yet circumcision myths keep on going and going and going… like the Energizer bunny.
Doctors? Poor doctors. In the past they created such a successful demand for circumcision that now they are trapped. Even though they claim they don’t want to perform circumcisions, they claim they must! Bloodthirsty parents insist! After all, medicine is a business and the customer is always right.
And so, cosmetic surgery on healthy infant penises continues.
I wonder what doctors would say if a parent insisted they cut off a baby’s nose? Or an ear? Or an eyelid? Would they do it? If the parent insisted? Why? Why not?
A cruel beast circumcision is – for all involved, but especially for the brand new visitor to the planet, the guest of honor, the baby.
No child has ever voluntarily chosen to go under the knife. Every child resists. Babies have to be held down, strapped down, restrained. Babies fight circumcision. Children do not want to be circumcised. And yet, when they have children, the circumcised will pass it down…
Pshew! Time for me to take a breath.
That was an interesting bit of reading and research. Such an emotional issue. Even for me, though it appears – so far, anyway – that I’m just an innocent bystander!
And now I have even more questions.
Did God really tell us to circumcise our babies? Or is it possible we are living under the tyranny of an ancient superstition?
Have we all been duped? Everyone? Everyone medical? Everyone religious? By tricksters from the past?
Do we really need blood rituals and tribal markings? Now? In the 21st Century?
Is circumcision at the root of man’s inhumanity to man? Early childhood trauma? Power-over? Powerlessness?
We have a big trash can of historical mistakes: stonings, crucifixions, holocausts, routine tonsillectomies, appendectomies, mammograms, and bleeding with leeches.
It’s certain that someday circumcision will take its place among those others. I’m already embarrassed for the doctors and nurses and rabbis who have done it to babies. Surely it goes against their best intentions, their highest value, which is to do no harm to any living thing, especially I am sure they do not wish to harm a baby.
Perhaps all it will take is one tiny voice that says “The emperor has no clothes,” like the courageous doctor who said to a classroom of nurses, “There is absolutely no medical reason for doing this.”
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