A few days ago, I posted my thought on ‘The trouble with ‘circumcision’. A friend replied – in a private email, so as to save me the embarrasement of lambasting me in public – pointing out to me the medical benefits of male circumcision. His heart is definitely in the right place!
Still, this is a very important debate – which is why I thought I ought to post my reply to him. It was a bit long – I do go on a lot – so I split it up into two parts: the ‘physical issues’, below, and the ‘rights issues’.
Thanks for the sensitivity of a private reply.
Still, I do stand behind what I wrote.
The studies, so often touted and cited to justify male circumcision have long been debunked. As a matter of fact, when it comes to urinary tract infections – circumcised males have a higher incidence of them than uncircumcised men.
Plus – I didn’t put this in the post because I thought it would bring a wrong focus to any ensuing debate – circumcised men have a much, much higher incidence of impotence than uncircumcised men. This is the direct result of cutting off all them pleasure-sensing nerve endings AND of desensitizing the glans by exposing it.
One has to balance the benefits and dangers of circumcising versus the benefits and dangers of not circumcising!
If you live in the middle of a desert, where you often substitute sand for water when cleansing, one could make a case for circumcision being beneficial. It is true that it requires a person to maintain a certain level of hygiene to clean an uncircumcised penis, which is not possible in a desert. Under those circumstances, the long-term damage from circumcision is less harmful that the damage from lack of hygiene to an uncircumcised penis. That, I agree with.
That is why circumcision arose among desert cultures in the first place.
But, we do not live in a desert. Our kids have the ability to maintain basic hygiene. As such, the danger of damage from poor hygiene and not circumcising our sons is very, very low – while the dangers of circumcising are in no way diminished.
While cleaning an uncircumcised penis, boys will learn that it is pleasurable to touch their penis. This naturally leads to healthy masturbation: something many religions forbid. It was precisely in order to prevent young men from masturbating that circumcision was popularized in our society!
As for the STDs….. let me just note that masturbation is a much safer sexual release for young single men than using condoms and a much more realistic option than trying to get them to abstain from all sexual activity altogether!
Which brings us to the claims that circumcised men are in less of a danger of an STD. The danger of infection because of a ‘tear in the foreskin’ only comes into play if people engage in high-risk, rough sex (rape, anal sex, multiple partners etc.) and do not use a condom.
If a man decides that he wants to engage in this form of ‘entertainment, he can choose to get circumcised as an adult. It will give him all the ‘protection’ he seeks (though, as I explained in the post, there is not a convincing case that this reduction in infection rates is the result of the circumcision itself rather than the safer-sex education that accompanied the circumcision in the adult male populations on which these studies were carried out).
Not circumcising him as an infant does not prevent a man from seeking this ‘protection from STDs’ as an adult – should he CHOOSE it!!!
Let me recap: Several decades ago, doctors claimed circumcision was ‘cleaner and healthier’ than leaving the penis intact.
You know, like about the same time these ‘same’ doctors prescribed thalidamide for morning sickness…
About the same time as menopausal women were pressured into routine hysterectomies – no longer need for the womb, so take it out, just to make sure. Right? Except we now know just how very important a role the uterus plays in the immune systems of post-menopausal women….
Let’s face it: many things that doctors in the past never even considered have since turned out to play an important role in our body. Randomly removing bits that are not diseased may have effects we have not even considered, much less measured their impact.
Current medical body of evidence – even considering the old studies – falls squarely on the side of ‘circumcision has no measurable health benefits – but it does have measurable harm to one’s health’. The push to continue circumcision is political, cultural and religious – and financial…. Remember, those who claim circumcision prevents AIDS get tons of international aid money to perform these circumcisions, so they are hardly an impartial source of information.
Let me put it a different way: have you ever examined what is under our fingernails?
TONS of germs!
Even the cleanest-looking nails harbor germs under them…. And kids’ nails? A hotbed of infections!
And – infants often scratch their faces with their little nails: you can see the danger there!
And – many kids stick their hands, fingernails and all, in their mouth! Or even – do I dare say it – pick their noses! Then they rub their eyes…
The potential for spreading these germs under their nails are, well, big!
And then there is the danger of blood poisoning from an infected hang-nail….
Just how much ‘cleaner’ would it be, how much more protected from infection would our children be, if we just removed their nail-beds while they were in their infancy?
After all – when they are little, the nail-beds are tiny. The scarring will be minimal. And if you do it early enough in infancy, they won’t really understand the pain, or remember it.
So, all parents who want their kids to be clean and healthy should have their infants’ nail-beds surgically removed!
Let’s face it – it is the same argument….