I’ve got a new sibling on the way who is due in a few months. Along with the many experiences I want to pass along to my sibling, there are also a few I wish to shield it from. Should he be a boy, the most immediate and foreboding offense that I must fend off is the circumcision.
Mutilated at birth without any say in the matter, my parents had the doctor abbreviate my penis. What I’m left with is what I assume to be a “normal”-looking organ, but as you can imagine, I’m totally ungrateful. The most important issue to me is the decrease in physical pleasure. Apparently there are some major nerve endings in the foreskin, and, allegedly, that sexual pleasure is significantly decreased when the skin is removed. It’s like that old saying, “If I had a penny for every time …” If I had foreskin for every sexual encounter … well, my sex life would be a lot better.
On top of that, there’s a practical reason to have a foreskin — a skin shield on one of the most important biological organs seems like a good idea. According to healthychildren.org “Without (the foreskin) the tip of the penis may become irritated and cause the opening of the penis to become too small. This can cause urination problems that may need to be surgically corrected.” Fortunately no terrible medical incidents have befallen my penis because of circumcision, but that’s not always the case.
There’s the famous David Reimer of the “John/Joan Case” who had his penis destroyed during circumcision — and he isn’t the exception. While the issues aren’t always as extreme, the American Medical Association says that complications arise during 0.2 to 0.6 percent of neonatal circumcisions, and the rates are much higher in non-developed nations. The American Medical Association, the American Academy of Pediatrics and The British Medical Association don’t recommend routine, non-therapeutic circumcision for males.
This procedure also produces a severe amount of pain for weeks on end. I remember my brother’s circumcision soon after birth. As you can imagine, it was a grueling healing process. Though babies don’t remember their pain, this doesn’t excuse the infliction.
The other problem with circumcision is the total lack of consideration of a child’s rights. I obviously regret that I was circumcised. Had the decision been left up to me, I would have kept my body intact. But if a boy is not circumcised, he can always choose to be circumcised at a later age. If there’s a health issue, it might be necessary for parents to make a decision on behalf of their child, but if cosmetic, the decision should be left up to the child. We shouldn’t let parents tattoo and cut up their child’s genitalia because it’s the prevailing societal trend.
In the U.S. there seems to be a social taboo against the natural penis. It’s anecdotal, but I personally have heard girls voice complaints about the uncut penis. Is this any different than men in Mauritania suggesting that women undergo female circumcision? One might prefer it, but in an attempt to reverse a backward social trend, people should encourage the abstention from circumcision and open their sensibilities to less mutilated genitalia.
About 56 percent of infants born in the U.S. are circumcised and the rate is much lower in Europe and Australia — where they’ve begun to abandon the procedure. Unfortunately religion plays a large role in the world, and circumcision is a common practice among Jews and Muslims due to religious traditions. This is no excuse and religion shouldn’t be a mask to hide behind child abuse or any other detrimental activity. Circumcision is a total violation of rights, and religious tradition shouldn’t be the influential force that decides the fate of the penis.
If circumcision were necessary, it might be acceptable, but in most cases there is no significant advantage to the procedure. There are some therapeutic reasons to circumcise a boy — like phimosis — where the foreskin is too tight and is difficult to retract, but this is a rare occurrence. Other benefits of circumcision are minor and achievable through responsible health practices. For example, circumcision can slightly lower the risk of HIV and the chance of infantile urinary tract infections, but proper hygiene and the practice of safe sex make permanent mutilation of the male sex organ totally unnecessary.
If a male truly wants a circumcision, then it should be granted, but to circumcise an infant at birth — for cosmetic or social reasons — is totally inexcusable. One day, maybe, all men will have the penises they were born with.
Teddy Papes is an LSA junior.