Tuesday, September 30, 2014

F is for Foreskin

Today F is for Foreskin, or the removal thereof.  In the United States (my home country) circumcision for baby boys is routine and almost universal.  The American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Medical Association recommend it for all baby boys.  For Muslims and Jews circumcision is done for religious reasons.  Secular reasons for circumcision are getting hazier but revolve around hygiene and disease prevention, and historically, to prevent masturbation.  Phimosis (where the foreskin does not fully retract) is the only medically therapeutic reason for circumcision, and even then, there are nonsurgical alternatives.  

The policy of non-therapeutic, non-consensual, secular circumcision is getting quite controversial.  The intactivists (intact activists, clever!) use much of the same arguments that intersex activists use.  They claim any non-therapeutic procedure, especially an irreversible one, cannot ethically be consented to by anyone other than the patient.  They feel non-therapeutic, non-consensual, secular circumcision violates the baby’s bodily integrity (sound familiar?)  Some anti-circumcision activists extend their view of bodily integrity to oppose intersex surgery and female genital mutilation (FGM).  Laws in most western countries, including the United States, protect baby girls from FGM, but don’t protect baby boys or intersex children.

It is very controversial to compare circumcision to FGM, once euphemistically called “female circumcision.”  Circumcision does not alter sexual functioning or overall health, FGM and intersex mutilation does.  Thus I do agree that non-therapeutic, non-consensual secular circumcision is not ethical and should be stopped.  I am also glad the anti-circumcision crowd is giving intersex issues much needed exposure, but I disagree that the two are really comparable.          

1 comment:

  1. Hi! I am glad that you mention this subject, I am opposed to ALL types of cosmetic, genital surgery without consent. I agree with you that male circumcision does not have the sexual and health implications that FGM and "normalizing" surgery do. But I disagree that there are none. Male circumcision does alter sensation and the sexual experience, for both partners as the glans of a circumcised penis develops callouses which can be uncomfortable for partners. Also there are complications to the procedure like hemorrhage, sometimes treated with silver nitrate which in effect cauterizes the wound, and skin bridges, total or partial adherence of the remaining skin to the glans. Again, I would never argue that these things are as severe, but I do think they are worth mention. Thanks!