Journal : Removing The Original Sin

Adding My Voice Against Circumcision …

In 1650, English physician John Bulwer in his study of body modification, ‘Anthropometamorphosis: Man Transform’d, or the Artificial Changeling,’ wrote of the loss in sexual pleasure resulting from circumcision: ‘the part which hangeth over the end of the foreskin, is moved up and down in coition, that in this attrition it might gather more heat, and increase the pleasure of the other sexe; a contentation of which they [the circumcised] are defrauded by this injurious invention. For, the shortnesse of the prepuce is reckoned among the organical defects of the yard, … yet circumcision detracts somewhat from the delight of women, by lessening their titillation.’


According to Darby, it was also seen as a serious loss of erogenous tissue: ‘During the Renaissance and 18th century the centrality of the foreskin to male sexual function and the pleasure of both partners was recognized by anatomists Berengario da Carpi, Gabriello Fallopio and William Harvey, in popular sex manuals like Aristotle’s master-piece, and by physicians like John Hunter, who also appreciated the importance of the foreskin in providing the slack tissue needed to accommodate an erection.’

The English historian Edward Gibbon, author of The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, referred to the practice as ‘a painful and often dangerous rite,’ and a ‘singular mutilation’ practiced only by Jews and Turks.

The first formal objection to circumcision within Judaism occurred in 1843 in Frankfurt. The Society for the Friends of Reform, a group that attacked traditional Jewish practices, said that brit milah was not a mitzvah but an outworn legacy from Israel’s earlier phases, an obsolete throwback to primitive religion. With the expanding role of medicine came further opposition; certain aspects of Jewish circumcision such as periah and metzitzah (drawing the blood from the circumcision wound through sucking or a cloth) were deemed unhygienic. Later evidence that syphilis and tuberculosis – two of the most feared infectious diseases in the 19th century – were spread by mohels, caused various rabbis to advocate metzitzah to be done using a sponge or a tube.

Dr. John Harvey Kellogg recommended circumcision of boys caught masturbating, writing: ‘A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering anaesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment.’ But he was opposed to routine circumcision of infants …

An early British opponent of circumcision was Herbert Snow, who wrote a short book called ‘The barbarity of circumcision as a remedy for congenital abnormality’ in 1890. But as late as 1936, L. E. Holt, an author of pediatric textbooks, advocated male and female circumcision as a treatment for masturbation. The first serious questioning of the practice did not occur until late 1949 when Gairdner published ‘The Fate of the Foreskin’ in the ‘British Medical Journal’; according to Wallerstein this began to affect the practice of circumcision in Britain. According to Darby and Cox, the persistence of circumcision in the US has led to more vigorous protest movements. A 1980 protest march at the California State Capitol was reported in an Associated Press article. The National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), was formed by Marilyn Milos, R.N., in 1985. The organization’s stated objective is to secure the birthright of male, female, and intersex children and babies to keep their sex organs ‘intact.’ Protest rallies have been held in the US and other areas. NOCIRC have consistently criticized the American medical community’s circumcision guidelines. According to Milos and Donna Macris, ‘The need to defend the baby’s right to a peaceful beginning was brought to light by Dr. Frederick Leboyer in his landmark work, ‘Birth Without Violence.”

An area of continuing dispute is the effect of circumcision on penile sensitivity. In 2007, the ‘British Journal of Urology’ published a study that stated it ‘conclusively shows that circumcised males have a significant penile sensory deficit as compared with non-circumcised intact men’ and that ‘the most sensitive regions in the uncircumcised penis are those removed by circumcision.’

Current laws in many countries, and United States Federal Law as well as laws in several U.S. states, prohibit the genital modification and mutilation of female minors, with some exceptions based on medical need. Opponents of male circumcision assert that laws against genital modification and mutilation of minors should apply equally to males and females. Many anti-circumcision groups have joined the International Coalition for Genital Integrity and endorsed its declaration, which was adopted by the First International Symposium on Circumcision, in 1989, at Anaheim, California. (There have been nine such further symposia held since, with the proceedings of several subsequently published in book form.) ‘Intact America,’ founded in 2008, lobbies organizations such as the American Academy of Pediatrics, American Civil Liberties Union, and Centers for Disease Control to alter policy and change attitudes toward male infant circumcision.

However, linking male circumcision to female genital mutilation (FGM) is itself highly controversial.Organizations actually involved in combating FGM have been at considerable pains to distinguish the two, as a UNICEF document explains: ‘When the practice first came to be known beyond the societies in which it was traditionally carried out, it was generally referred to as ‘female circumcision.’ This term, however, draws a direct parallel with male circumcision and, as a result, creates confusion between these two distinct practices.’ This stance has been largely echoed by Western medical and political authorities. The Australian Medical Association states: ‘The AMA rejects the euphemism ‘female circumcision,’ sometimes used to describe the various forms of female genital mutilation, because the use of this phrase trivializes the severe and often irreparable physical and psychological damage occasioned to girls and women by these practices.’ In the United States, the organization sent a proposed bill to the US Congress and 15 state legislatures between 2004 and 2007 to extend the prohibition on genital modification and mutilation of minors to include male and intersex children. The proposed bill has not been endorsed by any member of Congress.

While circumcision debates are often dominated by the concerns of Anglophone countries, very different controversies over the procedure regularly erupt in other cultural contexts. In South Asia, Pakistan has long used circumcision status as a definitive marker of Indian covert involvement in its internal affairs. But this assumption was thrown into confusion when it was discovered that large segments of its own Muslim male population, specifically from western tribal areas, were themselves uncircumcised. Opposition to circumcision exists among Jews in Israel. Even though there is often pressure from family to circumcise their sons, a small but growing number of Jews are choosing to forgo the procedure. Islamic anti-circumcision groups, such as Qur’an Alone (the principle that by universal agreement of Islamic scholars puts one out of fold of Islam), have also emerged, arguing among other things that routine circumcision is an insult to Allah since it tries to improve on his perfect creation.

In 2012, a court in Cologne, Germany ruled that circumcision was ‘inflicting bodily harm on boys too young to consent,’ deciding that the practice contravenes the ‘interests of the child to decide later in life on his religious beliefs.’ The decision of the court in the city of Cologne, that a child’s right to physical integrity trumps religious and parental rights, is non-binding and does not apply to the whole country.

Adapted from :

circumcision map


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