Friday, 26 July 2013

The Normalization of Male & Female Circumcision

What is so great about this video is that it demonstrates the societal explanations for practicing male & female circumcision are exactly the same in both the 'barbaric' Islamic east & the 'enlightened' American west. In both cases religious traditions are fundamentally at the root but are more widely explained as being done in the interests of health, hygiene & some mysterious localized standard of 'normality': "it's just what we DO here". In both cases it is ultimately presented as something done for the child's benefit, something that they will thank you for in later life, for making them like all the others in their area, & then carry out themselves on their own children. 

One of these, of course, is seen (in our own present paradigm) as essentially harmless & trivial, whilst the other is seen as the greatest evil under the sun, even though the actual procedure - the taking of a razor blade to the healthy genitals of children - is exactly the same in both cases.

This whole issue I find a great thought experiment, to try take oneself out of ones culture to see the thing before you as it really is, stripped of all the cultural explanations attached to it, which can be so different from how you've always seen it before.

The video was brought to my attention by the excellent Tumblr blogger Oratorasaurus, whose posting it naturally brought forth all the usual comments, such as:

Circumcising girls is a lot more harmful than circumcising guys. The long term effects of a circumcision for a guy? The penis is less sensitive. For a girl? It makes sex painful.
To which he responded:

First things first: Did you watch the video?

Secondly, circumcised penises tear during sex, the skin actually will tear because it is stretched too tight across the erect penile muscles. This causes pain. This causes soreness. This causes a week or longer of not being able to have sex, of hoping that you don’t have an involuntary erection because it will cause the skin to tear even more. I know, this happens to me. And according to a recent study, women find sex with a circumcised penis more painful than sex with a uncircumcised penis (which makes sense, since the foreskin keeps all the vagina’s juices inside of the vagina whereas without the foreskin, they leak out all over the thighs, legs, and bed).

Thirdly, I feel that MGM and FGM are rather equal in their severity. The clitoris being removed is rather terrible, but the foreskin has 20,000–70,000 of erogenous nerve endings, the majority of which are concentrated in the ridged band, which encircles the inner opening of the foreskin. When the penis is flaccid, the nerve endings are protected but, when erect, they are exposed. Circumcision removes about three-fourths of the nerve endings in the penis, leaving the circumcised penis severely disabled by comparison. Compare this to the 8,000 erogenous nerve endings in the clitoris and the complete lack of them in the labia. I am not suggesting that one is worse than the other, but people need to realize that the severity of their shock and rage when they hear about FGM needs to the same when they hear about MGM.

Fourthly, only a lack of sensitivity?
"For the glans penis, circumcised men reported decreased sexual pleasure and lower orgasm intensity. They also stated more effort was required to achieve orgasm, and a higher percentage of them experienced unusual sensations (burning, prickling, itching, or tingling and numbness of the glans penis). For the penile shaft a higher percentage of circumcised men described discomfort and pain, numbness and unusual sensations." - See more at:
"burning, prickling, itching, tingling", “numbness", “discomfort", “pain", “unusual sensations"… see those? Those are not simply descriptions of less sensitivity.

And lastly, I feel that you are woefully uninformed about circumcisions and are only looking at what society tells you in order to come to those woefully inadequate views on the subject. So let me lay down some facts for you to go through, to read up on, and hopefully come out of this little exchange far better prepared and informed about circumcision and how it is, in fact, genital mutilation:
The vast majority of medical organizations in the world with a policy on circumcision are outright against it. Including:

Swedish Pediatric Society (they outright call for a ban)
Royal Dutch Medical Association calls it a violation of human rights, and calls for a “strong policy of deterrence." this policy has been endorsed by several other organizations:
The Netherlands Society of General Practitioners,
The Netherlands Society of Youth Healthcare Physicians,
The Netherlands Association of Paediatric Surgeons,
The Netherlands Association of Plastic Surgeons,
The Netherlands Association for Paediatric Medicine,
The Netherlands Urology Association, and
The Netherlands Surgeons’ Association.
College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia
This procedure should be delayed to a later date when the child can make his own informed decision. Parental preference alone does not justify a non‐therapeutic procedure…. Advise parents that the current medical consensus is that routine infant male circumcision is not a recommended procedure; it is non‐therapeutic and has no medical prophylactic basis; current evidence indicates that previously‐thought prophylactic public health benefits do not out‐weigh the potential risks.…. Routine infant male circumcision does cause pain and permanent loss of healthy tissue. |
Australian Federation of Aids organizations They state that circumcision has “no role" in the HIV epidemic. TheGerman Association of Pediatricians called for a ban recently.
The German Association of Child and Youth Doctors recently Attacked the AAP’s claims, saying the benefits they claim, including HIV reduction, are “questionable," and that “Seen from the outside, cultural bias reflecting the normality of non-therapeutic male circumcision in the US seems obvious, and the report’s conclusions are different from those reached by doctors in other parts of the Western world, including Europe, Canada, and Australia." (scroll to page 7 for the English translation.)
The AAP was recently attacked by the President of the British Association of Paediatric Urologists because the evidence of benefit is weak, and they are promoting "Irreversible mutilating surgery."
The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Saskatchewan has taken a position against it, saying it is harmful and will likely be considered illegal in the future, given the number of men who are angry that it was done to them and are becoming activists against it.
The President of the Saskatchewan Medical Association has said the same (link above).
The Central Union for Child Welfare “considers that circumcision of boys that violates the personal integrity of the boys is not acceptable unless it is done for medical reasons to treat an illness. The basis for the measures of a society must be an unconditional respect for the bodily integrity of an under-aged person… Circumcision can only be allowed to independent major persons, both women and men, after it has been ascertained that the person in question wants it of his or her own free will and he or she has not been subjected to pressure.
Royal College of Surgeons of England
"The one absolute indication for circumcision is scarring of the opening of the foreskin making it non- retractable (pathological phimosis). This is unusual before five years of age."…"The parents and, when competent, the child, must be made fully aware of the implications of this operation as it is a non-reversible procedure." |
British Medical Association
it is now widely accepted, including by the BMA, that this surgical procedure has medical and psychological risks. …. very similar arguments are also used to try and justify very harmful cultural procedures, such as female genital mutilation or ritual scarification. Furthermore, the harm of denying a person the opportunity to choose not to be circumcised must also be taken into account, together with the damage that can be done to the individual’s relationship with his parents and the medical profession if he feels harmed by the procedure. …. parental preference alone is not sufficient justification for performing a surgical procedure on a child. …. The BMA considers that the evidence concerning health benefit from non-therapeutic circumcision is insufficient for this alone to be a justification for doing it. |
Australian Medical Association Has a policy of discouraging it, ad says “The Australian College of Paediatrics should continue to discourage the practice of circumcision in newborns.
Australian College of Paediatrics:
"The possibility that routine circumcision may contravene human rights has been raised because circumcision is performed on a minor and is without proven medical benefit. Whether these legal concerns are valid will probably only be known if the matter is determined in a court of law …..Neonatal male circumcision has no medical indication. It is a traumatic procedure performed without anaesthesia to remove a normal and healthy prepuce.”|
Royal Australasian College of Physicians
Some men strongly resent having been circumcised as infants. There has been increasing interest in this problem, evidenced by the number of surgical and non-surgical techniques for recreation of the foreskin.|
ON that note, 74% of Australian doctors overall believe circumcision should not be offered, and 51% consider it abuse. Circumcision used to be common in Australia, but the movement against it spread faster there than America, where rates continue to drop.
Royal Australasian College of Surgeons I like this one especially. It’s a detailed evaluation of the arguments in favor of circumcision, They note that during one of the recent trials in Africa, the researchers claimed there was no loss of sexual satisfaction, when in fact there was. But the RACS called them out:
Despite uncircumcised men reporting greater sexual satisfaction, which was statistically significant,Kigozi et al (2008) concluded that adult male circumcision does not adversely affect sexual satisfaction or clinically significant function in men." In general, they discuss how there’s no evidence to support it.
The Norwegian Council of Medical Ethics states that ritual circumcision of boys is not consistent with important principles of medical ethics, that it is without medical value, and should not be paid for with public funds.
The Norwegian Children’s Ombudsman is opposed as well.
The Denmark National Council for Children is also opposed.
And recently, the politically appointed Health minister of Norway opposed a ban on circumcision, yet the ban was supported by the Norwegian Medical Association, the Norwegian Nurses Organization, the Norwegian Ombudsman for Children, and the University of Oslo.
Swedish Association for Sexuality Education published this guide that talks about circumcision, in a pretty negative way. not an official advocacy policy but it makes it fairly clear. it also mentions the frenulum is sexually sensitive, and helps prevent infection by blocking fluid from the urethra; the frenulum is often removed in an infant circumcision, yet easier to leave intact if an adult is circumcised.
this study shows significant harms to men’s sexual ability and satisfaction after circumcision.
And here’s a list of medical literature proving the dangers.
Circumcision decreases penile sensitivity
Circumcision associated with sexual difficulties
Circumcision linked to alexithymia
The exaggeration of the benefits of circumcision in regards to HIV/AIDS transmission
Circumcision/HIV claims are based on insufficient evidence
There is no case for the widespread implementation of circumcision as a preventative measure to stop transmission of AIDS/HIV
Circumcision decreases sexual pleasure
Circumcision decreases efficiency of nerve response in the glans of the penis
Circumcision policy is influenced by psychosocial factors rather than alleged health benefits
Circumcision linked to pain, trauma, and psychosexual sequelae
Circumcision results in significant loss of erogenous tissue
Circumcision has negligible benefit
Neonatal circumcision linked to pain and trauma
Circumcision may lead to need for increased care and medical attention in the first 3 years of life
Circumcision linked to psychological trauma
Circumcision may lead to abnormal brain development and subsequent deviations in behavior
Anyone who supports this rather despicable practice is directly and justifying the mutilation of infant boys (which kills roughly 117 every year). And they have the gall to say that we are contrived in our outrage, because it can’t possibly be as bad for men as it is for women.
The fact that they can go on calling the foreskin “just skin", and ignore the countless articles and studies proving that it is far more than that, is mind boggling to me.
- See more at:

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