Circumcision - Irrational Precept?
A topic came up yesterday while the RRS was recording. KellyM brought up male circumcision as an irrational religious custom.
At this point, if you dislike this subject because it's taboo or gross, or whatever, feel free to excuse yourself. I'm not going to treat it as taboo, and I'm going to address it with medical professionalism and candor. This topic, in my opinion, DOES belong in such a category as "irrational precepts" although I doubt the practice need be "eradicated off the face of the Earth."
Based on my own education as a chiropractor, I had been exposed to this topic rather briefly (since it is not within my scope of practice). However, I had been taught that there were actual medical reasons for circumcision beyond religious custom; including decreased risk of HIV & other STD's, decreased risk of penile cancer, decreased risk of infection, hygenic purposes, and prevention of "phimosis" which is an inability to retract the foreskin.
Based on this data, I am inclined to challenge Kelly's assertion that it is purely based on religious custom. However, I might posit that because it is such a widespread custom and because it may have began as a religious custom; certain physicians might have looked for "medical reasons" for such a procedure -- whilst clinging to religious reasons as the undertone of their efforts.
Now to get a bit more taboo, I must confess that all the men of my family and extended family (including myself) are/were Catholic, and circumcision is the custom of our family.
Thus, confronting the possibility of non-circumcision is a psychologically difficult thing to do for one who is circumcised. So again, psychologically, I could also posit that some physicians and researchers have had personal justification to find a rationalization for a procedure that had been done to them unwillingly.
The point is that upon further examination, I must conclude that circumcision is probably NOT a wise decision. The medical claims made in favor for circumcision are minimal, false, and vastly outweighed by the negative effects of the procedure. Almost all of the complications of non-circumcision are so minimal that they should be considered negligible. Furthermore, the risks of the actual circumcision surgery -- such as amputation of the glans of the penis -- or even death in some cases; are much greater problems than non-circumcision.
The greatest concern is that research indicates the foreskin serves a genuine purpose in sexual arousal, as it contains a vast number of nerve endings; and it protects the glans of the penis from "chafing," that is, it prevents a callousing effect from rubbing on clothing, and hence decreasing the sensitivity of the glans.
Most convincing was a study on 5 men who had circumcisions as adults for overhyped "medical reasons". These 5 men all regretted their decision due to loss of sexual arousal. One man compared it to "seeing in black and white" vs. "seeing in color." One man said he'd even sell his house in order to get his foreskin back.
For one who has never know what it would be to have it, I cannot even understand what these men are talking about.
There are other arguments for circumcision, such as "fitting in" or for aesthetic purposes.
Curiously, while the rate of circumcision in the US has fallen from 90% to 60% in modern times; Great Britain has about a 6-10% circumcision rate. Only 1/6 of the men in the world have a circumcision. So fitting in is purely a cultural thing. One might ask WHY he would care about having a circumcision "just to fit in." I can say for a fact in my hometown locker room that non-circumcision was taboo.
Still more curious, I wondered if women found non-circumcision "gross" or unattractive. Unable to find a survey on such a topic, I posted a question to Yahoo! answers. Only 3 responses, but to my amazement, there was no preference either way. I found a couple other questions on Yahoo! answers who had posted before me with similar questions and there were few if any female respondants who had a problem with non-circumcision.
In conclusion on this topic, I would posit the following broad health care policy:
1. Circumcision should probably illegal for parents to make such a decision unless there is some kind of special medical reason that outweighs the risks of the procedure. (Such as a saturated family history of penile cancer.)
2. Circumcision should be legal for young men to decide at the age of puberty -- circa age 13.
3. Young men should be thoroughly informed about the procedure -- the pros and cons, so that they can make a fair decision.
4. Parents should not pressure their children into such a decision -- ie Jewish Bar Mitzvah.
In the stickam chatroom, 2 analogies were brought up:
1. comparing female breasts to the male foreskin.
2. comparing the end of one's nose (risk of skin cancer) to the foreskin.
3. Although no one brought it up, I could see someone comparing the female clitoris to the male foreskin. In some African countries, it is custom to remove the female clitoris in order to prevent female sexual satisfaction and ensure fidelity.
Although I have ultimately sided with the non-circumcision position, I think all of those analogies are poor. While the male foreskin [may] provide some functions for male sexual arousal, which I cannot attest to, I highly doubt that the function lost is comparable to a female having a double mastectomy, cutting off your nose Michael Jackson style, or cutting off a female clitoris.
The function of the female breasts are both for milk production and aesthetic necessity (in western culture, at least). Cutting off your nose makes no good sense, as it is vital for breathing and prevention of inhaling particulates. And the function of the female clitoris in arousal, although I am certainly not an expert, is far more important than the preservation of the foreskin.
Since we have no studies in existence (to my knowledge) measuring or comparing the arousal of the foreskin vs. the clitoris, there is no definitive answer. I can only conjecture that some women without a clitoris may have NO arousal at all while men without a foreskin still have some degree of arousal. The degree lost would be completely subjective, and would be impossible to objectively measure.
Thus, I will concede that non-circumcision is a better public health policy. I believe medical data is the most convincing way to go about it, though.
And if you simply type, "circumcision," in on any web browser, in my research, there is plenty out there to support such a case. In fact, I did not find ANY PRO-circumcision literature. I found some spurious articles on Medline (medical research article browser), but meta-analytic reviews are hard to come by. There appear to be some books on the subject, but I see no one coming out waving a pro-circumcision flag.
I can only guess that the reason this is not in the forefront of cultural debate is
This would seem to be an extremely important issue, if indeed non-circumcision is like "seeing in color" and circumcision is like "seeing in black and white." I will never get that precious flap of skin back!
REDUCTIO AD ABSURDUM.
iluvc2h5oh wrote:I dont think any government should have the right to change a persons right to practice religion.
You can't mean that. Animal and human sacrifices? Blowing up buildings? Preventing your children from receiving necessary medical care to save their lives?
I agree that the government in the broadest sense should not prevent the practice of religion, but there IS a line in the sand where religion does not get a free pass.
This is when harming others. I don't care if you want to flagellate yourself, nail yourself up on a cross, commit suicide to catch a spaceship, or whatever to yourself... It's not my business to tell you what you can and cannot do to yourself. I think, however, that forced circumcision may be a matter of child abuse.
Sexual, physical, and verbal abuse are considered to be wrong when they are turned towards children. Taking away pieces of their anatomy without their permission should also be cause for pause.
I'm asking you to step outside of custom and your preconceived notions about the issue and look at the issue with a "blank slate".
I showed in my initial posting that the foreskin of the male penis has true biological function that in at least some men, provides extra arousal during sex for two reasons. First, the foreskin has a mass network of nerve endings that have the potentiality to be "aroused". Secondly, the foreskin prevents chafing and a gradual loss of sensitivity to the glans of the penis.
Do you dispute these claims? I saw nowhere in your response any refutation of these points.
Let me ask you this question: Would it be permissible for you to pierce your child's tongue without his permission? To give him a full back tatoo of the American flag? Or to shave his head and tatoo it blue?
This would probably sound absurd. And it should. These choices about body modification, EVEN IF cosmetic and customary, should be the choice of the child when they are old enough to comprehend the decision. This is akin to protecting the virginity of a child until he or she is ready to handle the decision and deal with it effectively.
No But I do go as far as religion is ok if it doesnt hurt anyone outside of your family. I dont think people should do things to thier children that are unpleasent for any reason. But I would rather have that happen than a government saying which things are acceptable and which are not. It is a sticky situation and I dont think there is a perfect solution just the lesser of two evils...
So yes I would rather see child brides than government intervening in personal/family matters. Actually I think most of those things sort thier self out. If Incest wasnt illegal would you be more likely to try it? I didnt think so.iluvc2h5oh wrote:If that is the case is all modification of your natural body wrong? Is it only wrong to modify for astetic reasons? What about Ear piercing, would that be allowed?
Point noted. What about forcing your child to get his ears pierced? Not at all am I saying that modification to your natural body is wrong. Some men get sex change operations. Some men protecting and serving the harems of crazed polygamists would hack off their members completely so that no risk of impropriety could be taken (eunuchs). But the difference here is choice. To take it a step further, consider the case of hermaphrodites. I read an article in the Rolling Stone several years ago about a hermaphroditic child who had its penis cut off at birth. The child then grew up as a girl, but later had a sex change operation to a man because the child was "psychologically male". Was it right for the parents to snip the child's penis? In sum, I don't think this is a religious issue whatsoever. We have laws that prevent certain acts, period. Polygamist mormons are forbidden to allow statutory rape and incest... We don't give a damn about their religion. So I don't think the religious card should even be played here. If we create a standard to follow, why does circumcision get a free pass? I have demonstrated how it causes REAL and SEVERE harm to a man.
I realize you and I have both had this procedure done. I was actually on your side, and I was voraciously defending the practice against Kelly in the chatroom. I then decided to research the topic and found how mistaken I was.
The thing that did it for me was reading accounts by men who had the procedure done later in life. One described it as "seeing in black and white versus color." Having never had this flap of skin, I have no idea what he's talking about... And that pisses me off a bit. I'd at least like to KNOW the sensation and decide as a mature adult whether or not I neede to get rid of it. Why does the practice need to be done to a child? What women are going to see the child's penis -- in a sexual setting -- PRIOR to the child's maturity and ability to make the decision on his own?
The point I made for doing it at a young age had more to do with awareness than sexuality, I think you read that part later.
You make a point that women think circumcised penises are icky. Probably, some do. I wouldn't dispute that. I would think it sure would be interesting to take a poll for some scientific data on it. But why cut the foreskin of a child who is not even having sex? When the child comes of age to HAVE sex, then he can make the decision!
Sure, but that should be up to the parents.iluvc2h5oh wrote:I think circumcision is a safe practice, if someone chooses it for thier child so be it. I dont know very many people who are circumcised that are really angry because of it.
If you were color-blind, would you be mad about it? Maybe not. But what if you didn't even KNOW that you WERE color blind? Then you take a test at age 20 and someone tells you that you're color-blind? You may not be mad about it, but you'd probably want to know what it's like to see color. Furthermore, what if you were then told that your parents had a procedure performed to your eyes or brain that caused the color-blindness unnecessarily, because it was their religious belief that red and blue were the colors of the devil and their perception needed to be prevented?
You need to meet the argument head on that loss of the foreskin results in significant loss of sexual sensation.
I dont need to meet anything Im just saying what my opinion is. I am aware my stance is an IRRATIONAL one in a vacuum. but I think it is a rational one in the world we live in. If my son was born with a physical defect that would not affect him in anyway other than apperance. There was a cure that was painful but would correct the unpleasing visual defect would I get it done? Yes I would...this too could be considered irrational in a vacuum because it doesnt change who he is at all but we know people look at someone differently based on appearance that is just the way it is.
I know that a foreskin is not a physical defect I am just trying to draw parallels. I think it is more acceptable to be circumsized in the USA.iluvc2h5oh wrote:Yes you could wait until you are 13 but why? Someone is much more self aware at 13, at least when you are an infant you really dont know what is going on.
Ever heard of anesthesia? Name one adult circumcision done without anesthetic.
I didnt mean actual physical pain. But fear of the upcoming operation. Time missed from school/work. I just think if you are going to get it done and you have a choice you would choose to have it done when you are an infant as opposed to when you are 13. (as a side note religion makes it get done early more to force someone into the religion without giving a choice)iluvc2h5oh wrote:When it came time to have my son circumcised I chose to, not for any other reason than if I were given the choice today I would choose to be cicumcised. So I made the choice in what I thought he would want in the future.
1. Did you have all the information necessary to make an effective choice?
I was not an expect but I felt comfortable with my choice.
2. Whether or not you chose to makes no difference. I do not care whatsoever what my father would have chosen. I make many choices in my life that differ from my father's choices. I think that's a poor standard.
But when yo uare a child parents make choices for you in your best interest, sometimes they are wrong but if they wait until you are old enough to make your own choices with everything that would be a sad state of affairs.
3. I think you're in defense mode. Perhaps you understand that now, that decision may not have been the best thing. As such, you're searching for ways to defend your decision because it would imply that you're a bad guy. But that's not really what I'm arguing here. You probably made a decision based on poor information without even having access to alternative views/facts. I don't think you're a bad guy at all. I think parents make the best decisions for their children based on the information that they have. And because at least you thought at the time you made the decision that you were doing the right thing, I don't think I can fault you. I don't hold a grudge towards my parents for the procedure. BUT; the fact that we don't have access to all the information is the real crime, and whatever forces are preventing more mainstream discussions about this in the medical community, in my opinion, is to blame.
I didnt even bother reading this whole thing honestly. I am not defense about it nor regret my choice. If I have another son I will choose the same procedure.iluvc2h5oh wrote:Most girls I know rather have a circumcised penis connected to thier lover, but most girls I know are American, my Ex was from Iceland and I was her first circumcised guy and she said she didnt care either way. But I think American women are used to circumcised penises so they look more appealing.
You really have no scientific data to support the idea that "most" American women prefer circumcised penises. Just your opinion and personal experience. I would certainly agree that some prefer it. But as I stated in my original post, I posted a question on yahoo! answers about this, and no female respondents said that they preferred circumcision. Realistically speaking, if you were promiscuous and having sex with lots of women, it might be more of a concern. But if you fell in love with the right woman in a monogamous relationship... you could reason all this out with her, and if the circumcision issue was still a problem, then you can have the procedure. But it should be a rational decision, not a religious one or a decision based on possibly unwarranted fear of rejection.
Well not a scietific poll, but my biased sample group I never met a girl that prefered uncirc. And I think most girls my son will sleep with will be American so I choose that. And dont all mean want to be promiscuous? I try to be as often as possible.
I do think in time the practice will be abandoned, but I would never like to see it made illegal.
Well, perhaps there is a compromise. I think there is probably a very large proportion of people who know NOTHING about the information that is out there. Doctors at least have the responsibility to give a pamphlet to their patients or discuss this in detail. It's the medical profession that is to blame, in my opinion.
The process would certainly be abandoned if full disclosure of the evidence was made and parents could make these decisions better.
Yes we agree, 100 years from now I hope it isnt discussed. I just think conforming is sometimes best.
"When the missionaries arrived, the Africans had the Land and the Missionaries had the Bible, They taught us how to pray with our eyes closed. When we opened them, they had the Land and we had the Bible." - Jomo Kenyatta