American Circumcision On The Wane

picture of a circumcision
I never had any opinions about circumcision.

It was just something that is done to prevent disease or for religious reasons. Recently, a former distant acquaintance of mine posted to an email list that she was producing a documentary on the subject and had put up a Kickstarter page to fund the last part of it. I decided to do a quick Google search to see what the basic points of the anti-circumcision activists are.

I found the website of a group calling themselves Intact America.

I was surprised to learn there that in the United States 81% of American baby boys were circumcised in 1981, but that now only 40% are. I’m guessing somebody was listening to the activists.

The points on the Intact America site that really stuck out to me are that there is no medical need for circumcision, it doesn’t prevent disease, almost no other industrialized developed country circumcises baby boys, and that circumcision may decrease sexual pleasure as an adult.

Many people would call a medically unnecessary procedure done to a boy, before the age of consent,  “mutilation”. Understandably, this has worried people who may want to circumcise their boys, before the age of consent, for religious reasons.

Interestingly, I read on the web site for the documentary American Secret: The Circumcision Agenda that religious freedom in the United States is not total.

In the United States it is illegal:

  1. for parents to deny life saving medical care to their children for religious reasons
  2. to partake of certain drugs, even if a person’s religion requires it
  3. to have multiple wives, even for Mormons
  4. to cut the genitals of a female child, though there are Americans whose religions demand it
  5. to stone someone for adultery ( or any other reason ) for religious reasons.

So, my mind got opened about a new subject.   Interesting.


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One thought on “American Circumcision On The Wane”

  1. What emerges from Gollaher’s analysis is that the operation was less about health than power: priests over laymen, parents over children, doctors over parents, the collective over the individual: “Circumcision became a token of the medicalization of childbirth [and] a symbol of the rising authority of the medical profession over the laity”, he writes (p. 108). He also shows that doctors knew little about biology (and almost nothing about the anatomy and physiology of the penis), were heavily influenced by their moral and religious beliefs, and had an opportunistic attitude to scientific evidence, citing only those texts which confirmed the validity of positions already held. They embraced circumcision as a miracle-working cure-all with much the same thoughtless enthusiasm which greeted Thalidomide in the 1960s, and often with equally tragic results: until surgical techniques were refined and aseptic conditions achieved, the incidence of complications (bleeding, gangrene, transmission of such serous diseases as syphilis, tuberculosis and tetanus, loss of the glans and shaft, meatal stenosis and ulcers) was high, and as late as the 1940s some 16 children a year in Britain died as a direct result of the operation (Gairdner 1949). It has never been proved that routine circumcision has saved a single life, but it is an undeniable fact that the operation has killed thousands and injured many more. In primitive conditions the toll is higher: only recently it was reported that 35 South African boys had died as a result of “bush” circumcisions carried out as part of their tribal initiation and several hundred had been hospitalised with “horribly injured genitals” (New York Times, 6 August 2001, p. A6).

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