|—||Martin Novoa, Bioethics Advisor, Doctors Opposing Circumcision|
It originally caught on in the US in the 1800s as a practice to stop boys from masturbating (we see that didn’t work!), and then later on it was promoted as having health benefits. Which it doesn’t, of course, but it’s a medical myth that has yet to die out. Originally it was touted as being a cure for all sorts of unrelated diseases; these days it’s touted as cutting down on HIV rates (which it doesn’t; studies that have claimed that have been debunked) and being overall more hygienic… as if it’s difficult to simply clean it in the shower for 5 seconds.
It also persists because a) It’s very profitable, so the medical industry doesn’t want it to end, and b) Not many fathers want to take the step to say “Okay, this shouldn’t have happened to me, so I won’t let it happen to my son.”
It actually used to be popular in the UK in the early 1900s (due to the medical/hygienic myths), but the rates there declined starting in the 1940s once the NHS decided to no longer cover it.
I was told that circumcision became so prevalent in the United States because the United States Army circumcised servicemen, so to stop infections of the foreskin, particularly by sand, to gain an edge over the Axis in North Africa during WWII. Naturally, I am skeptical of any claim of the human foreskin being anything but a deleterious organ and that the fear of losing soldiers to the specter of foreskin infections sounds pretty absurd, anyway. So, I decided to do some research, and, while I was researching, I found this page from The New Zealand Medical Journal:
The riddle of the sands: circumcision, history, and myth
I thought that it would be a great idea to share this to your blog.
Thanks! This was a really interesting read. Just further goes to show how ridiculous it is to think of circumcision as beneficial to health.
Super interesting AMA yesterday on Reddit with a guy who has TWO (intact) penises, aka diphallia! You’d love it. Here you go:
Sorry if someone has already sent this to you, but you HAVE to see it!
Thanks to both of you for sending me these! This is really fascinating. And it’s great to see how comfortable he is with himself.
It happened right in Pittsburgh.
Yikes, that’s terrible. According to this link that another follower sent me, the lawyer stated that the average pediatric urologist spends about 20% of their time dealing with children who have suffered botched circumcisions. I wish more people would realize this, that botched circumcisions are EXTREMELY common, whether performed by a mohel or a doctor.
I’m especially sad that this happened in my state. Which already has one of the highest circumcision rates in the country…
Yeah, definitely. We don’t describe people who haven’t had their tonsils removed as “untonsilectomized.” Nor do we describe people who haven’t had their appendix removed as “unappendectomized.” Yet circumcision has become so common, you need an adjective to describe you if haven’t had your foreskin removed.
Botched circumcisions aren’t just some rare thing that you heard happened to your friend’s roommate’s acquaintance’s boyfriend whose name you don’t know. Botched circumcisions aren’t just the butt of a joke about a one-night-stand whose penis you thought looked funny.
Botched circumcisions occur rather easily due to the difficulty of performing precise surgery on what is such a tiny area at the time of the procedure. Botched circumcisions not only alter the penis cosmetically, but can also seriously impair it physically and sexually. Botched circumcisions are disturbingly common, and likely affect at least a few people you know and love. Except you’ll never even know it, because openly discussing genitals in detail is so taboo (not to mention a very personal subject), and more importantly, circumcision is so commonly accepted in this society as a standard thing, that relatively few people feel able to comfortably discuss how this has affected them physically or emotionally.
Even sadder, some of these people will live their lives not even realizing they’ve suffered a botched circumcision, because of how poorly informed society is regarding their own sexual anatomy. For many, painful erections or jagged, uneven scar tissue just seems like a normal part of their sexual experience.
And don’t forget. You know what separates a botched circumcision from a botched face lift or a botched nose job?
The person who has to live with it almost never asked for the procedure in the first place.
For more on this, see How to Identify Circumcision Damage.
A lot of doctors perform circumcisions very shoddily, unfortunately. From taking off well over half of the penis’ skin to cutting unevenly, circumcision damage is sadly all too common. I’m glad your boyfriend isn’t too impacted by it though, and that it’s influenced the decision if it ever arises.
Circumcision is often covered by insurance or Medicaid (though increasingly less so), but for those who don’t have it covered, it’s disturbing to think of people paying to have their kid circumcised. It can cost up to $600 dollars. There are so many things you could do with that money… yet you put it towards having part of your newborn’s genitalia removed.
The circumcised penis loses sensitivity in three ways:
1. Loss of the foreskin nerves themselves. As has been demonstrated by studies such as the one by Dr. Taylor and by the testimonials of the majority of intact men, the inner foreskin possesses a greater density of nerve endings. It is thought to be more erogenous than even the glans. The is no question that the foreskin is a highly erogenous tissue. This tremendous amount of sensitivity is lost completely when the forefold of the skin system is amputated. In addition to this, the most sensitive part of the penis, the frenulum of the foreskin, is either partially or totally removed in most infant circumcisions. The frenulum is the continuation of the inner foreskin which attaches to the underside (ventral part) of the glans. Thus, a significant percentage, if not the majority, of erogenous nerve supply to the penis is removed in circumcision at birth.
2. Damage to the glans. The erogenous sensitivity that remains after circumcision is primarily in the glans. This is further reduced by removal of the protective foreskin which leaves the glans permanently exposed. Unlike the shaft of the penis, and most of the rest of the body, the head of the penis, does not posses its own attached skin. This structure, like the eye ball and the gums of the mouth, is a somewhat naked structure. Its surface is non-keratinized, like that of the gums, the eye ball, and the clitoris in women. That means that it does not posses a protective thick layer like the keratinized skin of the outer penile skin system. Like the gums and the eye ball, the glans of the intact penis has a retractible skin covering. The skin covering of the glans is the foreskin. The eyelid is very similar in architecture to the foreskin. If the eyelid were removed and the eyeball were to become keratinized, you’d have a much harder time seeing. The same is true of the glans. It becomes artificially keratinized (dry, hardened, discolored, and wrinkled) as a result of permanent exposure, and thus less sensitive. Because most American men are circumcised and have a glans of this nature, it is harder to notice the abnormality. But just compare the glans of an intact man with that of a circumcised man next to each other and you’ll notice a big difference. Thus, in addition to removing lots of erogenous nerve endings in the inner foreskin and frenulum, circumcision further desensitizes the remaining sensitivity of the glans by leaving it exposed.
3. Loss of skin mobility. The nerve endings in the glans are predominantly complex touch receptors also known as mechanoreceptors. This is different from the light touch receptors of the skin which detect surface friction. The mechanorecptors are best stimulated by massage action rather than surface friction. Thus, the glans is best stimulated to feel pleasure by a rolling massage action. With an ample and highly mobile skin system that rolls over the glans with pressure from the opposing surface, this optimal stimulation of the glans is achieved while avoiding direct friction of the delicate glans surface. Direct friction tends to fire off pain receptors causing irritation and also causes further keratinization of the glans. With the skin system of the penis significantly reduced by circumcision, the mobility is essentially gone and now the penis is a static mass with no dynamic self stimulation mechanism. Now, it must be rubbed. Direct friction is now the primary form of stimulation. So then circumcision further reduces erogenous sensitivity in the penis by reducing skin mobility and thus the ability to use the foreskin to massage the glans. The combination of foreskin and glans in concert results in an even higher level of stimulation which is unknown to the circumcised male.
— Francisco Garcia, “What exactly is circumcision and what is it not?”