Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Circumcision: Why is this such an issue?

Question: "Why is this such an issue? I mean, if parents govern what we do until we're 18, why can't they govern what they do with our wee wees? I'm fine with my parents' decision."

My answer:

This is an issue because it's dangerous, irresponsible and anti-ethical. It's dangerous because babies die (loss of blood, infections, cardiac arrest, reaction to anesthesia), some suffer botched circumcisions that often require additional
corrective surgeries and have long term issues, some suffer damage to their genitalia that can impair them from having a normal sexual life, some even lose the whole penis (it just happened yesterday to a pair of twins in Iraq). It also creates loss of sensation, which most men are not aware because they don't have a way to compare unless they sit down and study the subject: some mid aged men feel no sensation anymore and can't even reach orgasm during sex. Some studies indicate more chances of ED for circumcised men as well.

You may not remember the procedure if you went through it as a baby, but those of us who remember it (because we had it done later) know that it was traumatic and felt like being castrated. The solution would not have been to have it done earlier; the solution would have been to not have it done at all: we didn't need it, we didn't want it, it was out body...
Furthermore, our country protects girls from non-medical procedures in their genitalia (i.e. female circumcision or FGM), however males don't currently enjoy the same protection even though legally circumcision could be cause for prosecution. It's definitively an aggravated assault over a baby's genitalia, and I think it would be fairly simply to prove that proxy consent is not just cause to remove healthy parts of the body, invalidating the consent and allowing prosecution of parents and doctors.
Finally, circumcision is irreversible. Why would your parents have any right to cut a part of your body that is healthy? They don't. They can't take a baby to have an earlobe, or a finger, or a toe removed. So why do we assume that parents have the right to have part of their baby boys' genitalia cut off?
One thing is governing your life: telling you what to do, how to behave, to go to school, to take showers, to make your room, etc. A different thing is to have a doctor remove a part of your body for no valid reason. Circumcision does not treat a disease. There is no medical reason to do it.

One last thought: the AAP states that there are some "potential benefits" and some risks (while their current statement minimizes those risks). However, it does not speak of the benefits of having a foreskin. I say circumcision is irresponsible because the risks are not trivial and far outweigh the "potential" benefits -that are at best preventive. It's also not ethical because even if we ignore the risks and accept the "potential benefits", it's not a treatment; for example, your doctor doesn't give you drugs to treat diseases that you don't have. Operating and removing a body part with the "potential benefit" of treating a condition that you don't have, without your consent, is already ethically troubling enough even if there were no risks.

1 comment:

  1. Most American RICs are still performed without any anesthesia. This is barbaric and should be illegal. Doctors cut screaming babies simply because that's what they were taught to do in medical school.

    Circumcision is a nontrivial alteration of the most sexual part of a man's body: the tip of his penis. The foreskin is directly involved in all sexual acts. It is a major part of what comes in contact with the vaginal wall during intercourse, and makes it easier for women do to foreplay on men. From these facts alone, the possibility that what circumcision cuts off plays a major role in sexual pleasure and functionality should be taken very seriously.

    The classic detailed investigation of genital anatomy and human sexuality is the work of Masters and Johnson, done in the 1950s and 60s at Wash U medical school. That work in no way did justice to the foreskin, because circumcision was a middle class norm at the time. Masters was himself circumcised, and Johnson was presumably married to an intact man.

    A great deal of what we know about the sexual advantages of the intact penis, we know thanks to brave lay women who have blogged their sex lives on the internet. An American woman who has had 2 or more relationships with intact men while she was an undergraduate, knows more about the sexual properties of the intact penis than does the typical sex therapist with a PhD.