About Circumcision

Hi! This is a very delicate subject, and I know some of you may not like what I have to say. But this is an issue that I take very seriously. It is an issue that we often take lightly in today's society, like it is a mere choice, with no consequence. But it's not, and that's what I would like to explore today.

Circumcision is a surgery that consists in cutting off the foreskin of the penis. This procedure is still performed on a large quantity of male infants in north america, at birth or in the days following.

Done without the consentment of the child, this act is irreversible and potentially dangerous.

Every year, in the United States, between 1 100 000 and 1 250 000 newborn boys are circumcised. About 117 of these babies die from complications related to the surgery.

Non-religious circumcision of babies started in the 19th century. It started because of a massive anti-masturbation hysteria. People were afraid that by having to pull back their foreskin during their washing-up, boys could be more inclined to start masturbating. Back then, it was thought that masturbation could cause dementia.

Another belief, also dating back to the 19th century, is that circumcision coud protect men from sexually transmitted diseases. This belief is false. Only a responsible and healthy sexuality, combined with the use of the condom can prevent sexually transmitted diseases like HIV. In Quebec and Canada, no serious study has been able to prove that intact (un-circumcised) men were more infected than circumcised men. In fact, during the AIDS crisis in United Stated in the 1980's and 1990's, 85% of adult men were circumcised. Nowadays, the United States remain among the industrialised countries the most affected by AIDS, compared to European countries where the rate of circumcision is much lower.

And how about the foreskin itself? The general belief is usually that it's just ''a useless piece of extra skin''. Actually, it is an important and useful part of the penis. It's first role is to protect and lubricate the glans. It also plays a big part in sexual pleasure. The foreskin, like the skin covering the clitoris in girls, contains lots of very sensitive nerves and is a highly erogenous zone. The foreskin is also one of the most sensitive parts of the penis. It has many other functions, that you can discover here.

So what happens during a circumcision? The baby is taken away from his mother, and brought into a cold and sound-proofed surgery room, where he is undressed and strapped in a restraining device. Then, with cold surgical instruments, his penis is mutilated, often without anesthesia. Even if he screams in pain, his protesting is ignored. His penis is then bandaged, he is brought back to his family, and he has to learn to trust again.

This way of proceeding was established at a time where we considered the baby's brain and nervous system as too under-developped to feel pain or remember the surgery. It has been proven since that babies are actually highly sensitive to pain, and that they do have a memory. Men under hypnosis have painfully recalled their own circumcisions. How can we ignore the distress calls of a newborn and call them ''reflexes''? How can we instigate such practices without thinking they could have negative consequences on these children?

Here are two videos about circumcision. In both, we witness the circumcision of an infant, with sound. Beware, the images as well as the distress of these newborns are very hard to watch.

In Canada, it is illegal to perform genital mutilations (circumcision/excision) on girls, even for religious reasons. Then why is it accepted to mutilate little boys? It is interesting to note that circumcision of babies (girs AND boys) without medical reason is already illegal (or about to be) in countries such as Sweden, Finland, Norway and Iceland. 

Since a large number of adult men in north america are circumcised, one of their worries is that if they leave their sons intact, they will feel different from their fathers and other boys and be complexed by it. In a situation like this, it is always possible to have a discussion with the young boy, when he will notice his difference. Like a case in the book Birthing From Within by Pam England, where a four year-old boy notices for the first time that his penis is different from his father's. The father simply answered that when he was a baby, his foreskin was cut off. When the boy was born, they decided not to have it done to him, because it hurt a lot. The boy simply answered ''thank you for not letting them hurt me too''.  See how easy it can be to explain this to a child? And when this boy will be himself a father of intact sons, the problem will have vanished, the chain will have been broken. 

What message are we sending to small babies by welcoming them in torture? Right from the start, they have to learn to create protection mechanisms, by fear of having to suffer again. How then can they build a heart-to-heart relationship, in confidence, with the people who chose to put them through this painful experience? And if the first experience a boy had with his penis is one of violence, of pain, what kind of sexuality will he have in the future? Like Marilyn Milos said so well: ''circumcision is where sex and violence meet for the first time''. 

I tend to have very firm opinions on most subjects related to birth and babies, but most of the time I do my best to give the informations in the most objective way I can, to let people make their own decisions. However, in cases like this, it is very hard for me to stay objective. When it is a question of imposing ireversible and potentially dangerous mutiltions to a child, without his consent, it is impossible for me to see the pros. 

I feel sorry for moms who already chose circumcision, whatever their reason, and who regret their choice today. To these moms, I suggest they establish a dialog with their child, and explain to him what happend, to try to heal the consequences. Love can heal many things...

For more informations: 

ENGLAND, Pam et HORROWITZ, Rob, Birthing from Within, 1998, Partera Press, USA, 309 p.
CHAMBERLAIN, David, What Babies are Teaching us About Violence(article), journal of prenatal and perinatal psychology and health, Volume 10 issue 2, 1995.

Have a nice day!

image: http://www.circumstraint.com/Images/circumstraint2_lrg.jpg