While it may be true that male circumcision is no more necessary than female circumcision, there is a fallacy is in equating the two practices. In a male circumcision the operation removes a piece of skin surrounding the head of the penis that is more than likely a vestigial remnant of a penis sheath, a common accessory among mammals. The procedure is done to aid in cleanliness, and because many cultures believe it to be the right thing to do. Female circumcision is slightly different. Whereas in the male procedure, only a small amount of skin is removed, skin I might add that serves little or no purpose; in the female procedure many useful parts are removed. There exist several different techniques. Some people practice the relatively minor procedure that calls for the removal of the outer or minor labia. A more drastic procedure, used in modern day Sudan, termed Pharonic Circumcision calls for the removal of the clitoris, and both the minor and major labia. The wound is then stitched together leaving only a small opening for the host to pass urine and menstrual fluids. Clearly female genital mutilation is varied in its severity, but some would argue that it is always severe. This, I believe was Jasonm's point. Furthermore, male circumcision is almost always performed shortly after birth, when the host is far too young to be traumatized by the action. Conversely, female circumcision is most often performed on hosts when they are between five and eleven years of age, certainly old enough to feel the pain and remember it well. Additionally, depending on the type of procedure, it may have to be revisited when the host is older and of a marrying age, especially in the case of the Pharonic Circumcision, where the stitched wound must be reopened to allow for intercourse. The Female procedure is much more brutal and obviously a method of male control and perhaps cultural misogyny. The Male procedure is nothing more than elective or cosmetic surgery, it will not hamper the function of the male organ or impede pleasure derived from stimulation.

Towsend, Patricia K. and McElroy, Ann, Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective, Third Edition. Westview Press 1996, pages 113 - 115.

Circumcision is suspected by many to actually lead to desensitization the glans (head of the penis), as this part of the body was not designed to be constantly rubbing against clothing. In theory, the incessant stimulation of the members of circumsized males will reduce the sensitivity—thus making sexual activities less pleasurable. Unfortunately, I haven't heard of an actual study of this phenomenon.

Infancy is exactly when one does not want to be subjected to the sort of painful trauma experienced during circumcision. Having parts of one's genitals chopped off is traumatic at any age.

Circumcision is not necessary for cleanliness. The uncircumcized penis can be easily kept clean: a simple 15-second rinsing every time one showers is an effective and simple method of ensuring sanitation and well-being.

While it is certainly nowhere near as severe as female genital mutilation, it is still no simple medical procedure. It's a bizarre, barbaric, and completely unnecessary practice.

I've read (or at least skimmed) a roughly similar number of articles and essays concerning the injustice and questionable nature of male genital mutilation (MGM, or circumcision) as I have seen materials opposing female genital mutilation. Possibly this is because I've gone out of my way to look for them both, or possibly it has something to do with the wide range of books and journals I read prior to becoming a full-time parent and homemaker. Since i'm a lifetime NOW member, you'd think I would have seen far more on FGM, if this were as lopsided as it sometimes seems the rhetoric would suggest. Much of what I've read opposed to MGM, by the way, has appeared in feminist and feminist-leaning sources.

So I support those who question the practice, and choose not to subject their children to it, and am thankful that, as someone whose partner is Jewish, but whose children are all apparently female, I haven't been presented with the quandary of needing to negotiate this particular emotional and ethical minefield.

I do tend to feel that there is a qualitative difference, at least between the sort of MGM typical in the U.S. -- performed near birth, usually with some form of anaesthetic (though that was not always the case) and limited in scope and effect, compared to what victims of FGM typically suffer.

I suppose my point in adding anything to this node is to point out that a wrong is a wrong, and that if you are a parent you should consider carefully what you allow caregivers and authority figures to do to your children. Both males and females in contemporary industrial cultures are subjected to many forms of abuse that tend to replicate themselves in further abuse, passed on out of habit, spite or resentment of one's unchosen fate.

I appreciate and do not intend to minimize the injuries done to anyone in "our" culture. But I would ask (perhaps as spark for another node?) what is accomplished by what seems at times to be a tussle over "bragging rights." Perhaps this is only an effort to be heard, and I can accept it as such. But I have a tendency to hear some implicit message never stated, like, perhaps: "I was abused too, dammit, so why don't you just shut up about what was done to you? Life's a shit sandwich, get used to it."

Please understand that this is an attitude that I heard a lot where I grew up, so it very well may be merely an echo in my head that has nothing to do with what you are meaning to say here. But I sense I am not the only one who hears messages like this, implied, when they may not be intended, and perhaps an exchange on those sorts of unspoken, assumed connotations is part of what is needed to help all of us, whatever our sex or gender might be, to get beyond what seems like a sometimes pointless, frustrating kind of struggle.

Hmm, I think a great deal of the problem most people have with Female Genital Mutilation is ignorance. There are 2 types.

1. Full removal of the clitoris and labia (both inner and outer}. This is what most people think of.

2. Removal of the labia which helps expose the clitoris.

I am aware that most often number one is performed, but sometimes a woman will want number two voluntarily, and this is the key.

If a person wants to pierce, prod, remove, etc. any part of their body, what business is it of mine? None. If any bodily change occurs, from ear piercing to circumcision without the concent of the person receiving the modification, then it is wrong. The effects may be different, but the effect is the same. "Does a person have domain over their own bodies?"

Hell yes.

As a muslim, I am circumcised, and would agree with almost all the points as laid out by mecolleague Cletus.
Circumcision is terribly misunderstood outside of the cultures that practice it, and often the term "barbarity" is bandied about as a way of diverting attention from the real issue:


It may or may not surprise the readers that male circumcision is practised as a matter of course for Muslims, Jews, and a large number of Christians. This constitutes a rather large percentage of humanity, and I would dare to say that most of these people are not living in the past, nor were they abused by evil parents. I myself do not feel traumatized by my circumcision, I simply don't remember it. It did after all happen two weeks after I was born.

To be honest I think that this whole discussion was prompted by a need to vent hatred at a set of cultures that are so alien to people here that they automatically feel the need to reject them. To these people I would point out that these cultures often create individuals who are intelligent, open minded, and capable of deciding for themselves whether or not to continue in the footsteps of their ancestors. (ahem, like yours )While some move to different value systems, many more choose to keep their beliefs and so the cultures remain alive.

Please don't be quite so eager to judge others simply on the basis of your personal emotional response to a situation.

This has been a public service annnouncement on behalf of the "Think Again Party".

  1. Male Human beings are born with a foreskin that has an evolutionary purpose. We are not talking about the appendix here.
  2. The Hippocratic Oath says, "First, do no harm".
  3. Chopping healthy bits off of infants can't be right.
Anyone who supports non-religious circumcision has obviously never changed the diaper of a freshly circumsised boy.

And to the supporters of religious circumsicion, I ask this question: "Why is your religious practice of genitally mutilating males legal, but if I sacrifice a chicken to Baron Samedi in my front yard I risk arrest for cruelty to animals?"

The reason infant males are genitally mutilated in this country goes back to the Victorians. It was done, originally, with one specific purpose -- masturbation prevention. All the reasons that have been tacked on since are justifications, after-the-fact propoganda to mask the ugly fact that in America, sex is considered to be dirtier than murder.

This has been quite an informational node with logically presented arguments, despite the emotionality of this topic. The point has been made that comparison of male genital mutilation, to female genital mutilation is difficult and suspect. They are two different phenomena, with different ramifications and FGM is by far the worse of the two, but this does not make MGM any less brutal or any less inhumane.

To discuss this further we must define mutilation. Mutilation is best defined, as the intentional removal or damage healthy, functional tissue, without consent.

We will start with some facts courtesy of www.infocirc.org

  • In the year 1998, 57.2% of male children born in the U.S. Were circumcised before leaving the hospital.
  • Over 80% of the world's male population is genitally intact, with 20% being subjected to some form of childhood genital mutilation
  • Over 90% of infant circumcisions performed in the U.S. are for non-religious reasons, making the U.S. The only nation to circumcise the majority of its infants for non-religious reasons.
  • 100% of infant circumcisions are done without the consent of the individual concerned.
  • The fact that the foreskin in infancy is usually non-retractile serves to protect the baby's glans penis from urine and feces during the period that he is incontinent.
  • Infant circumcision interrupts natural penile development.
  • No accurate statistical records are kept of infant circumcision complications
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the exact incidence of postoperative complications is unknown.
  • Complications are often overlooked or un(der)reported. They include: Lacerations, skin bridges, chordee, meatitis, meatal stenosis, urinary retention, glans necrosis, haemorrhage, meningitis, sepsis, gangrene, and penile loss requiring sex reassignment. The literature abounds with reports of morbidity, and even death, from infant circumcision.
  • Infants rarely receive anaesthesia or postoperative pain management.
  • No anaesthetic has been found to be safe and totally effective in preventing circumcision pain in infants. (A man circumcised in adulthood will be given the benefit of general anaesthetic, postoperative pain management, choice and informed consent over the fate of his own genital integrity.)
  • Breast feeding has a protective effect against urinary tract infection (UTI) and other infant infections. There is a threefold reduction in urinary tract infections during the first year of life in breast-fed infants according to the AAP. Interestingly, 195 boys would have to be circumcised to prevent one hospitalization for UTI in the first year of life according to the study by To, while breast-feeding provides a threefold reduction of the risk.
  • Long-term possible adverse outcomes (physical) include: skin tags; skin bridges; prominent scarring (keloid scar formation); tight, painful erections; bleeding of the circumcision scar during prolonged intercourse (constituting an efficient portal of entry for HIV among other viruses); penile curvature due to uneven skin loss; skin tone variance; progressive sensitivity loss (progressive keratinization of the glans-surface); excessive/painful stimulation or prolonged exaggerated thrusting needed to achieve orgasm; bevelling deformities of the glans.
  • Ob/Gyn's, specialists in female genitalia and practising out of their field, perform most new-born male circumcisions, and are generally unaware of perpetual (foreskin) structure and function.
  • Annually, there are more infant deaths from infant circumcisions than deaths from cancer of the penis.
  • this list is nowhere near comprehensive.

The three major methods of western circumcision used can be found on www.infocirc.org with pictures and graphic description, too graphic to be placed here. I will warn you now that anyone with less than a cast iron stomach may with to forgo viewing this material.

There are a multitude of groups within, Judaism and Islam, that seek an end to circumcision, and this practice has never been required or recommended in any of the Christian sects. The Koran, makes no reference to either male or female circumcision. More information can be found at www.infocirc.org

I regret not being able say all that should be said on this subject, but know that it is not my place to create a node so large that no one will be able to download it in my lifetime.

Note, this W/U is limited to first hand knowledge of circumcisions done in hospitals in Maryland. IMO, it is likely similar in other hospitals in the US. IMO, it is likely NOT similar to circumcisions done at home on or around day 8 of life.

Socialist Wolf correctly points out that breastfeeding has a protective effect against urinary tract infection (UTI) and other infant infections. Since small statistical increases in the frequency of UTIs in the first year of life is the most current fatuous justification for routine infant circumcision in the United States one additional fact needs to be pointed out. In the current US hospital based practice of circumcision on day one or two of life the infants' acquisition of breastfeeding skills and mothers' confidence in their ability to succeed in breastfeeding are both seriously undermined due to the circumcision. This leads directly to the loss of the breastfeeding protection from UTIs and other infections.

The timing of the surgery is totally for the doctor's convenience. Often infants are unnecessarily prevented from feeding for hours before the surgery. They are lined up in the hallway awaiting their turn, maybe sleeping, maybe crying with hunger. After being strapped down, awake and spread eagled and operated upon they are returned to their mothers in a stuporous state. Often they are incapable of effectively breastfeeding for many hours. Meanwhile the bottle brigade is all too ready to feed with the other stuff because "the baby has to eat". Once again breastfeeding (as well as the innocent foreskin) is sacrificed upon the altar of ignorance just when it could have prevented the very thing that circumcision is often purported to be done to avoid.

Credit for the phrase "sacrificed upon the altar of ignorance" is given to Dr. Jack Newman of Toronto who frequently uses it as he teaches the masses about the many, often subtle, ways we are led, as if by a nose ring, into bottle feeding our children.

I find many doctors joke a lot while performing circumcisions. Perhaps this is to pass the time, perhaps it is to deal with their own feelings. It has been found that dentists have higher blood pressure and suicide rates than the average person, and speculated that this is due to the stress of inflicting of pain. Many doctors when asked by me have expressed distress at the financial need to do this surgery (circumcision). They don't believe in it but their patients want it and if they don't do it the patients may leave their practice. This certainly must stress the doctor.

Recently (2001/2002) there has been an increased interest in DOCUMENTING pain relief in hospitals as it is one of JCAHO's current topics of interest. In my experience this has resulted in very little EFFECTIVE pain relief for neonates subjected to circumcision. Dorsal penile blocks with lidocaine are seldom performed my hospital where thousands of infants are born annually. Even when a block is done it is also painful itself. Remember, this is a shot at the base of the penis. EMLA is used occastionally but often without sufficient time to be effective. It is debatable whether EMLA's effect gets through to the inner forskin or the glans which are both injured during the circumcion. Containment (snug wrapping comforts infants) is sacrificed for the convenience of the circumcision board (a stiff piece of plastic the infant is tied to; spread eagled and naked from the waist down). Pacifiers dipped in sucrose are given with cursory attention to the baby and much more attention to the flirting/joking between doctor and nurse. But in the chart, pain relief is documented. WE LIE DAILY. Actually not "we". Some of us have refused to participate in this procedure. I do not assist in circumcisions, nor will I obtain the "consent" for them.

See these URLs and books:

  • nurses objecting -

doctors objecting -
Doctors Re-examine Circumcision, by Thomas Ritter, M.D. and George Denniston, M.D.

  • mothers objecting -

  • Jews objecting -
    Questioning Circumcision, A Jewish Perspective, by Ronald Goldman Ph.D.

    I don't think mostly mothers make the decision, I think they are just the one who is there to sign the "informed consent". The decision was made earlier.

    7 minutes of torture is still torture. There is also pain afterwards, for many hours.

    So fine is the line between propaganda and entertainment, and so much misinformation has been propagated on the topic male genital mutilation, aka circumcision, that it is, to me, entertaining. I note that several of the sources cited above are obviously biased (e.g. infocirc.org.) Some observations:

    1. Of the nearly half of the population that has them, nobody went through puberty and that crucial period of nerve development and stimulation-feedback with both a circumsized and un-circumcized penis. This makes it extremely difficult to make objective comparisons on pleasure/sensitivity level. People who claim that there is a sensory benefit to one state or the other either have a "the grass is always greener on the other side" mentality or a gigantic ego.

    2. Infant circumcisions are not medically necessary.

    3. Research into the American database of pornography, on the web or in your local truckstop, reveals a asthetic bent towards the circumcized penis.

    4. Conversations with many women reveals that many don't understand the difference. (I'm not kidding here. And I actually talk to many women about this because...)

    5. I've perfomed several hundred circumcisions as a doctor. I always use anesthetic, in the form of local lidocaine. It usually seems to work. But not always. Most American doctors follow the current recommendations, and also use the same anesthetic.

    6. In my practice in Wisconsin: a.) The majority of times it is the mother who makes the decision on circumcision. b.) Religion seldom is the deciding factor. c.) The national average of 55 percent going for it seems about right. d.)If they are uncertain, I always tell them not to have it done. It can always be done later...

    7. I can do an infant circumcision using a gomco in less than seven minutes.

    8. It really doesn't seem like a good idea to go for speed in doing a circumcision.

    9. Gender reassignment for botched circs is not done. Find me one case in the last twenty years.

    10. I am happy with my penis the way it is.

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