Circumcision most often refers to male circumcision, in which the foreskin is cut off. It is a comparative minor 'surgery', although quite memorable to the person it is done to. It is often preformed without anesthesia, although in the mid-1900s is gained popularity as a medical procedure for newborns, and nowadays when a circumcision is preformed in the hospital it is common to use local anesthesia. However, most people do no longer believe that the medical benefit of circumcision (better penile hygiene and decreased chance of passing STDs) is worth the trouble of preforming surgery on newborns. A notable exception is male children of the Jewish faith, who are ritually circumcised soon after birth in the brit milah ceremony.

Circumcision is not by any means a Jewish invention. Hundreds of cultures worldwide do it, and have done it for thousands of years. I cannot speak for any individual's experience, but it seems that in its proper place it is not a bad thing, culturally speaking.

Circumcision is usually a juvenile rite of passage, making a boy a man, warrior, or at least a young adult. It can be very important for the person it happens to. It can also hang on as a pointless and negative tradition. It may represent the removal of the mother's blood from the young man, giving him completely over to the men. It might also be a test of bravery, or the symbolic death of the young person and the birth of the adult, or just a experience all male members of a society go through -- A symbol of unity and membership. Circumcising young children (under 10 years of age) is a comparatively rare idea. Most circumcisions (by number of current and past cultures doing it) are done around the age of puberty.

There is also female circumcision, a much more serious operation where the labia or clitoris is removed (or sometimes both). It can represent a symbolic childbirth or just serve to get rid of the 'male' shapped thing down there, making a woman all female. Female circumcision is pretty much always a Bad Thing; while it has largely the same symbolism as a male circumcision, it is much more dangerous (and painful), and may result in serious infection and long term complications. You can find much more on female circumcision in that node.

As far as I know from what I've seen here in South Africa, it is a major medical problem when young men are taken on their ritual into adulthood by their sangoma, as it ends with their circumcision, usually performed out in the bush without proper care taken to ensure that it is performed in a sterile environment. It occurs several times a year that a number of young men are taken to a hospital all suffering from infections. Some have to have their penises amputated. Prolly sounds like a laughing matter, but quite a serious problem.

I've always maintained that the decision to have a circumcision is best left up to the individual owner of the penis is question. However, it is NOT an operation that should be performed on infants or young boys. In addition to consent being virtually impossible to obtain, it is dangerous to remove the foreskin before the penis has fully developed, which in some cases may take *years*.

See http://faculty.washington.edu/gcd/DOC/unnecessary.html.

A brief history of circumcision for those that don't want read an entire website.

1900-A prominent doctor(head of Bellvue and Prez of AMA) theorizes that childhood problems caused by irritation of penis. Practices on children and insane people and gets notoriety. The bloodletters drool.

The doctors then start talking about the evils of masturbation and insanity and cleanliness. The U.S. and England are the only two western countries to believe all this bullshit. The dirty immigrants start coming and the upper-class start circumsizing to flaunt their waspishness.

1945-Dr. Eugene Hand addresses the AMA. "The promiscuous and uncircumsized negro has an incidence of venereal infection of almost 100%, for the widely educated Jew, circumsized at birth, the rate has remained the same." Here the message is clear. If you don't get circumsized you are a wild animal, like those you know whos, with those you know whats.

1971-The American Academy of Pediatrics offically concludes that there is no medical grounds for circumcision. For some reason they do not announce this to the general public. Benjamin Spock reverses his position and calls circumcision, "unnecessary and at least mildly dangerous."

Here are my thoughts on the subject. Circumcision is a form of narcissistic mutilation to justify religious dogma. The high priests of the medical community get out their scalpel and perform their sacrificial rite on millions of innocent children who have no interest in some perveted covenant between Moses and God. Believe me, I do not want to single out the Jewish or Islamic community, but I wonder how much the irony of castrating gentile children is lost on the backdrop of all those years of persecution.

While 85% of the world is uncircumsized and there is no real medical reason for this surgery, especially with the discovery of anti-biotics, we still continue to accept this practice and I wonder why. Even England has stopped doing it . I mean they don't make that much money off it. It takes five minutes and they charge $100-$200.

And the evidence is in, the foreskin is not some useless piece of tissue. It has many functions. It keeps the penis protected from friction. You will never know the pain from having your penis head rubbing against your shorts because you now have scar tissue covering it. I mean if the head was made to be lubricated and protected, I don't care how much it resembles an animal penis, I want it lubricated and protected! Goddammit! I wish I had a lubricated and protected penis!

The real reason, and of course one of the original reasons for this procedure, which with a wink and a nudge is not talked about, is sex. Masturbation is greatly impaired. One of the main causes for female dryness is circumsized males. Sex is not as pleasurable. And I think that is the point. There is a conspiracy against the French model of three-hour lunches, mistresses and bidets. We say the French stink. The French are snobs and they don't shave. They are too busy having great sex and washing their privates in between menage-a-tois. They don't have time to shower in between every sexual encounter. They smoke and eat cheese and drink wine all day and live longer than we do. We work out and ingest viagra by the bucket and still can't compete with the French, or most other cultures for that matter.

Circumcision is beyond the merely religious.

  • Circumcised males have a much lower incidence of urinary tract infection in the first year of life than uncircumcised males.
  • There are zero reported cases of penile cancer in circumcised males.
  • Uncircumcised males have a much lower chance of getting a yeast infection. A friend of mine who is uncircumcised got a yeast infection. Betcha thought only women got those!
  • Uncircumcised males don't have to worry about smeg, or have to worry very little about it.
The sexual sensitivity argument is probably somewhat valid, but directly stimulating the glans is not the only way to achieve bliss, and there is no shortage of circumcised males who have back-arching orgasms on a regular basis.

These are all great arguments about why circumcision is not the great evil (for males anyway) that some would have everyone believe. Nevertheless, I think it will probably be an obsolete practice in a couple of centuries, even for the Jews.

I'd like to see a writeup on reversing circumcision, but I know nothing about it.

I'll back up Tem42's writeup above, with an example of circumcision in Philippine culture.

Circumcision is believed to have been practiced by our ancestors, before the Spanish conquest. Although the Catholic faith did not require circumcision (note that Judaism never did gain a significant foothold here), most boys are circumcised before puberty, at the ages of 8-13. It's also possible the Muslim influence contributed to this tradition.

It is a rite of passage, considered a mark of manhood. The uncircumcised (called supot) are subject to ribbing from their peers; basically, anybody who hasn't gone through the pain of a circumcision isn't a "real man" yet (with the implied belief that circumcised men are better in bed). Those who have their circumcision done traditionally (described below) generally have bragging rights over those who wimped out and went to a clinic. Locals also believe that a boy won't get any taller if he is uncircumcised, or that he won't achieve full sexual development (i.e., won't grow hair). The few uncircumcised adult men in standard Philippine society will almost never admit to it.

It isn't a religious ritual; here it's more like getting your ears pierced. It's something you do when you can't stand the peer pressure anymore.

The pagtutuli is an operation traditionally performed by the local albularyo (herbalist). A labaha, or straight razor is the traditional tool; the foreskin is gripped, placed under the blade, and the blade is hammered down with a handy piece of wood. The patient is given leaves from the guava tree (dahon ng bayabas) to chew while the operation is performed; these leaves are also boiled in water, and the hot mixture poured over the wound to disinfect it (although other herbs can be used). A boy walking around wearing a loose skirt (borrowed from mother or a sister) is a sign that he has just gotten his tuli.

These days, of course, we just go to the local clinic at the appropriate time. There is a superstition that if a female witnesses the actual operation, the wound may get infected (termed pangangamatis, due to the tomato-like color of an infected member), although many disregard this belief, especially if you get a cute nurse.

I have no idea of practices in South Africa, but I have never heard of any cases where the penis was permanently damaged due to circumcision. The occasional infection is expected (of me and my two brothers, only one suffered from pangangamatis, and only because he refused to let the hot water touch his skin...) but competent medical care for minor infection is usually available, if not an actual doctor, then the local albularyos, who usually know several different herbs that can be used to combat infection.

Bonus circumcision joke (translated from Tagalog):

    Girl: Hey, I hear you're getting circumcised. Could I have the skin?
    Boy: Why? What for?
    Girl: I'm going to make myself a coin purse.
    Boy: Why the skin?
    Girl: So if I rub it, it'll grow into a handbag...

The reason that circumcision will not become a dead practice among practicing Jews is that it is not done as a result of antiquated medical beliefs, to prevent masturbation, as a rite of passage, or anything of that sort.

The removal of a Jewish male's foreskin on the eighth day of his life is a symbol of the Covenant that the Jews made with God when they were given the Torah.

As the story goes, the Lord asked the Israelites what they would give Him to insure that they would follow His Word, and the answer that He accepted was "our children". Ritual circumcision is symbolic of that promise.

More Orthodox members of Judaism sometimes hold the belief that uncircumcised Jews are cut off from God, and when a non-Jew converts to Judaism, circumcision is a mandatory part of the process. Even those adult males who were circumcised in the hospital will undergo bloodletting from the penis when they convert to Judaism as a way of affirming their commitment to the Jewish people's Covenant with the Lord.

Cir`cum*cision (?), n. [L. circumcisio.]

1.

The act of cutting off the prepuce or foreskin of males, or the internal labia of females.

⇒ The circumcision of males is practiced as a religious rite by the Jews, Mohammedans, etc.

2. Script. (a)

The Jews, as a circumcised people.

(b)

Rejection of the sins of the flesh; spiritual purification, and acceptance of the Christian faith.

 

© Webster 1913.

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