The damage done is a subject many men are not willing to talk about or seek help for, so nobody will ever know exact figures. But experts say it's likely that 10% of circumcised men wind up with lifelong physical problems as a result. And that's only the physical problems.
We're talking about permanent disfigurement, psychological damage, risk of death, violation of human rights, and the infliction of unnecessary pain (i.e., torture). Circumcision is literally mayhem, in the original meaning of the word before it got corrupted. Mayhem has a stark and unequivocal meaning: it is intentional dismemberment.
Most people think of circumcision as removal of the foreskin, which is incorrect because, in fact, there's no such thing as a foreskin. Instead there is a skin system. What we casually accept as routine circumcision is the partial amputation of a healthy organ. The inaccurately named foreskin is actually the forefold of the skin system, an ingeniously engineered mechanism with at least a dozen known purposes. The so-called foreskin is not a separate anatomical feature, but an integral part of this marvelous structure. If evolution put it there, its specialized design is one of evolution's finest inventions. If God put it there, no God worthy of the name could have done so with the sole intention of demanding that it be lopped off.
There's a point past which no custom can be justified. The antiquity of a tradition doesn't make it right. Churches are obliged to adapt to whatever degree of human rights are recognized in their vicinities. Any faith whose adherents think they can only achieve spiritual perfection by creating hell on earth for their kids, needs to be curbed. Religious persecution is bad, but sexual mutilation of babies and children is worse.
We are urged to condemn "cults" because they are evil: they take your money and make you give up eating meat, or whatever. Maybe so, but then by the same logic, a cult which takes a body part, and incidentally exacts the price of some or all of a person's sexual capacity, must be even more evil. That cult is in serious need of renovation, no matter how old, venerable or widespread it is. The removal of part of a kid's sex organ is a custom that belongs in a Satanist ritual.
Proponents claim the pain of the procedure is negligible or nonexistent. An infant may be too wounded even to cry, passing into a state of traumatic shock that can be mistaken for, or willfully misinterpreted as, a sign that he doesn't really mind. (There used to be a theory that children's teeth can be drilled without anesthetic, because their pain nerves aren't developed yet. This isn't true either, take it from one who knows.)
It's time to just say no to circumcision, regardless of the excuses made. The cleanliness issue is bogus. A boy can learn to clean his pecker just like any other body part. To rationalize that excising a portion of it prevents future problems, is ridiculous. The arbitrary removal of a body part because something MIGHT go wrong with it is insane.
You want to hear crazy? Some parents okay the operation because they want Junior to look like Dad. Suppose the old man lost an arm in battle or an industrial accident. Would they amputate the kid's arm so he'd match Dad? Some parents are afraid the boy will be embarrassed if he's not like his friends. Great logic: mess up your kid so he'll fit in with the other messed-up kids.
Subtracted from a baby, the so-called foreskin may not seem like much. Everything on a baby is small, including its toes. But by the time that baby grows up, he will be missing an area of sexually sensitive tissue about the size of a 3 x 5 file card. We're talking about the absence of as many as 15 square inches of miraculously functional flesh that ought to be left where it grew. The true enormity of this obscene operation is that the excised portion of the penile skin system contains enough highly specialized nerve endings to account for about half of the sensation available to an intact organ.
The issue of diminished sexual pleasure is not a frivolous or trivial matter. Circumcisers try to tell us this problem is unworthy of concern, because when he grows up the kid will still be able to beget children. Hell, he can even have a good time screwing (or making love). He'll just never know how good a time he might have had, were it not for the partial amputation of his sexual organ. We're supposed to believe this is no big deal. So it's okay to just partially blind a person (one eye only) or partially deafen him (one punctured eardrum to a customer, please.) Or burn his fingertips so they lose the finer nuances of the sense of touch. No, obviously it is not okay. Why do they think it's all right to steal another of the senses - which happens to reside between the legs?
This isn't Circ 101, since there are plenty of sources for the basic whys and wherefores. A vast amount of information is out there, especially about the effects of the operation on the sex lives of men and the women they share their sex lives with.
Briefly: circumcision causes sexual dysfunction in men. Victims speak of scarring, deformity, tightness, numbness, and numerous other conditions that impair function. The nervous system's exquisitely designed circuitry gets all tangled up. The brain knows it ought to be receiving messages from a body part that doesn't even exist any more.
Why should women care? Because this is a feminist issue to the very core. Intact men aren't the only ones who enjoy sex more - their partners do too. One study questioned women who had experienced both kinds of penises, and found that the intact kind is preferred by nearly 90% of those women. One reason is, the circumcised man is more likely to experience what is called premature ejaculation. Paradoxically, the man with the intact penis, whose natural sensitivity has been preserved, is able to "last" longer. This is counter-intuitive, yet those in the know swear it's true.
It's a feminist issue because circumcised men are more likely to balk at safe sex habits spurning condoms. And because there's good evidence that if they hadn't undergone this allegedly benign procedure as infants, some men wouldn't be the way some of them are. Sure, a thousand things can mess up a person's mind, from potty training to environmental toxins. But this much is certain: no matter what else is going on with a kid's heredity, environment, or previous lives, having a piece of his dick cut off doesn't help.
It is claimed that a baby can be genitally mutilated in the first days or weeks of life, with no lasting traumatic effect. This defies reason. Very convincing evidence shows that the younger a child is when molestation occurs, the greater the likelihood of severe emotional damage. We know what profound psychological harm is done when, for instance, a baby spends its first week in an incubator, unheld and uncuddled. How much more so must it affect a baby boy, to be surgically altered in such an intimate way? How can there not be a psychological impact, when the very first thing he learns about his dick is, it's the source of enormous pain? When the very first thing he learns about other people touching his dick is, they're gonna take a scalpel to it? What a horrifying introduction to life on earth.
Novelists struggle to invent awful incidents in their characters' pasts, violations sufficiently appalling to turn kids into sexual predators and serial killers. Well, what could be more damaging than to have part of your penis sliced away when you're only a few days, weeks, or years old? Forcible restraint and brutal violation result in fearfulness, distrust, anger, and later on a sense of loss, shame at being disfigured, and envy for the intact. I don't care how many thousands of circumcised infants have grown up to be "normal" citizens. (And "normal" ain't that great. Look around.) Is it only a coincidence that the most tireless warmongering originates with cultures that circumcise? Moslems and Jews have been at it for centuries, and American belligerence increases every year.
The conspiracy to circumcise is truly sinister. Historically, there were societies where the army was required to bring back foreskins as proof to the king of how many enemy troops they had slaughtered. On some level, the subconscious knows: it is the enemy who collects foreskins. By this pre-emptive act of hostility and grievous assault, whoever was responsible - the parents, the doctor, the hospital, the State - have declared themselves as enemies. If theories of the subconscious have any validity at all, this has to be true.
It must be dreadful to grow up knowing on some level that, no matter what cover stories they tell you about hygiene, etc, the bottom line (so to speak) is that somebody cut off part of your dick. It's no wonder some men take it so seriously they have to spend the rest of their lives proving how extremely macho they are. Of COURSE they're gonna have castration anxiety. They already got part of their dick cut off once. It's easy to believe that somebody out there wants to cut off the rest of it.
The '70s were a boom decade for circumcision in America, with 4 out of 5 baby boys chopped. The madness reached its height in the early '80s. Let's look at 1980, when about a million and a half infants were operated on. They're 26 years old now. If only 1% of those boys developed some kind of psychosexual pathology as a result, the number of 26-year-old sexual psychopaths is 15,000. Not a comforting thought.
And if you're male, you're not supposed to mind. You are in fact expected to be grateful for the excellent medical care, thankful that you live in a country where the government will pay to have part of your dick cut off when you're too young to consent or fight back. Adding insult to injury, this goes on at the expense of the taxpayer. Several groups are working to end Medicaid funding at the state level, but that's only a partial solution. Even parents who can afford it shouldn't be allowed to buy it. Circumcision is an unconscionable practice that needs to end, period.
I don't suggest that circumcised men should use this as an excuse for either armed retaliation or a pity party. There are enough officially sanctioned victim classes as it is, claiming a free pass for bad behavior. But for humanity's sake, let's stop circumcision, starting today.
- By Pat Hartman