I joined tumblr last week.
And omg it’s so awesome. Don’t forget to come along and hang out with me there! If you have a blog about food, fitness, sexuality, gender, sex positivity, body positivity, nature, or humanism stuff lmk so I can follow you!
I have since received several messages asking how I feel about circumcision. This post will focus on the widespread practice of male circumcision in the US (but I would make many of the same arguments about FGM abroad). Once upon a time, I made a video outlining both sides of the circumcision debate. I’ll forewarn you: infant circumcision is something I feel preeeeeetty strongly about. In this post, I will outline why I oppose circumcision and shed some light on why I think routine infant circumcision is an unethical practice.
So we’re on the same page….
What is circumcision?
According to WebMD: “Male circumcision is a surgery to remove the foreskin, a fold of skin that covers and protects the rounded tip of the penis. The foreskin provides sensation and lubrication for the penis. In most cases, circumcision is elective surgery, which means there isn’t a medical reason for it. If it is done, circumcision is usually done soon after birth.”
The fact that so many parents choose to circumcise their male children alarms me. Here are my reasons why.
✄ Foreskin MATTERS!
Just like the sensitive clitoris is covered by a protective hood, so is the penis. The foreskin protects the penis from abrasion, drying, and environmental contaminants – an objective drawback to cutting it off.
Even more troubling is the harder-to-quantify aspect of lost pleasure in cutting off the foreskin. While not absolutely essential for sexual activity, the foreskin greatly contributes to the sexual fulfillment of males. The foreskin makes up 50% of the skin of the penis and is packed with 20,000 erotogenic (feels gooood) nerve endings. More and more circumcised males with pleasure dysfunction are speaking out against circumcision and corroborating research is being conducted.
✄ The Natural Penis is NOT Defective
When you are born, your little body in its unaltered, natural state is beautiful. There is nothing wrong with your natural penis. Circumcision right after birth implies that foreskin is an inherent problem with the male body.
✄ No Medical Necessity
Sometimes, newborn babies experience medical complications when they are born. They may need medical intervention to save their life or to keep them healthy. In these cases, medical intervention is necessary for their existence. In the case of circumcision, there is no medical necessity; there are no medical complications that can arise in a newborn baby that justifies the removal of a part of their genitals when they cannot consent. Further, the AAP’s Task Force on Circumcision does not recommend circumcision of newborns.
Some folks will argue that circumcision necessity is about better hygiene or HIV prevention. The hygiene argument is the weaker of the two. If you want your child to have a clean penis, why not teach them to clean it? It’s no harder than washing behind your ears, and I don’t hear anybody saying we should cut off our ears because it’s slightly trickier to clean.
As to the HIV argument, cutting off the foreskin will not prevent males from contracting any STIs or STDs, but it is true that there is a link between circumcision and lower HIV transmission. But again, it seems straight up whack to advocate solving the problem by the mass mutilation of male genitals. Is the solution to reducing HIV transmission really about cutting off every male’s foreskin? What about educating our kids on safe sex practices and healthy sexual habits? What about easy access to condoms and screening? Education & access to sexual health resources are far more ethical and effective forms of prevention.
✄ No consent=human rights violation
Consensual circumcision is not a problem. Occasionally, grown males will develop a particularly debilitating case of phimosis, or overly-tight foreskin which makes sex acts painful and difficult. This is a case of medical necessity where the individual is old enough to understand what is going on and to give consent for the removal of their foreskin.
When a newborn emerges from the vaginal canal, they cannot understand what is going on, they cannot say YES to having their foreskin removed, and they have no power to protest against the doctor’s knife. This alone makes my gut feel all weird. With no medical necessity and no way for the infant to give consent, circumcision is a violation of human rights. By even the lowest of standards, this bizarre, sex-based routine of cutting male genitals is morally questionable and medically unethical.
✄ Cultural Arguments are Derpy
So? Religion should not trump people’s basic rights or common sense. This is where religion becomes dangerous and harmful to people. In these cases, I would argue that your religion is messed up, not your baby’s foreskin.
I understand wanting to continue traditions that bond people together. There is nothing wrong with that until the tradition hurts people, is oppressive, and defies common sense. Some traditions are not worth continuing.
It is sad to me that the surgical modification of penises has become so mainstream that people actually believe the natural penis is ugly. Males everywhere should be outraged by this sex negative trend. Of course there is no objective “this looks better” or “that looks better”. Sure, circumcised penises look fine, different people have different preferences, and people who are circumcised should not be made to feel bad or ugly. There is nothing aesthetically wrong with a circumcised penis, and if someone wants to be circumcised when they’re old enough to understand: bombs away. I’ll be the last person to stop you. But applying this argument to infants who cannot make that call for themselves is nothing short of idiotic & backward. Again, there is nothing wrong with the natural penis or the foreskin.
Some of us happen to love it. ;D
Explaining Widespread Circumcision: So Why Do We Do It?
Lots of factors here. There are a number of people who do it because their religion tells them to, but most people do it just because “that’s what we do in America herpderp!” and they don’t think about it or educate themselves. My parents were one of these, and they later expressed regret for having circumcised my brother. There are also those folks who genuinely believe it’ll help their baby look better, fit in, be a more desirable partner etc. These folks are victims of a culture that has successfully removed them from reality. When nobody takes a stand, the cycle just continues. Lastly, there is also an incentive for doctors doing the procedure. Circumcision is a nice little “tack on” to your hospital bill. This stifles the protest of circumcision in the medical community – a community where there should actually be a lot of protest, IMO.
Overall, the parents that agree to it, the doctor that executes a medically unnecessary, nonconsensual procedure, and the society that condones it are all to blame for widespread male genital mutilation.
So…there you go. Would I circumcise my baby? No. I wouldn’t change a single thing.