While its origins in the United States are still questioned, the general consensus is that the non-religious circumcision procedure was popularized in the late 19th century as a means of discouraging masterbation and promoting good hygiene. Despite these archaic beginnings, the procedure is still being performed in the United States, more so than any other developed nation in the world, and there is intense stigma against uncircumcised men being dirty and not pleasing to the eye. Nobody should feel ashamed for their genitalia just because they were born that way.
Uncircumcised penises are not health hazards
Uncircumcised penises do have a higher risk of developing infections, it’s true, but these usually occur because of lack of proper hygiene or forced retraction. When a male reaches adolescence, the foreskin will retract (pull back) by itself and he can clean underneath it. Many people believe that you are supposed to pull the skin back and even force it back to clean it, but forcing it to retract can not only cause it to rip, but will allow bacteria to enter the penis and cause infection. Intact penises require no special cleaning care. The foreskin is attached to the penis like your fingernail is attached to your nail; we do not force our fingernails up to clean underneath them, and we certainly do not remove our fingernails so that we do not have to clean underneath them… definitely a cringeworthy image, but bear with me!
Even in these modern times, infantile circumcision is still considered a relatively harmless medical procedure. But the procedure can cause hemorrhaging, scarring, trouble urinating, penial damage and even death; over 100 infant boys die every year due to effects of their circumcision surgery. Performing such an intense and sensitive surgery on a newborn baby is not without complications; local anesthetics only dull the pain, causing infants to go into shock and/or experience choking, seizures, and other trauma-related responses. I will spare you the more gruesome details, just know that it’s horrific and devastating — and completely unnecessary.
There is no reason to fear an uncut penis. Parents should have frank conversations with their kids about proper hygiene and ensure to keep their infants clean when they cannot clean themselves, and that’s all! Just wash your hands and wash your dick, and everything will be fine.
PTSD and STDs
Besides healing from a traumatic surgery, the lasting impacts of the procedure may be worse than people realize. Having to experience such intense pain at such a fragile age can have irreversible psychological effects on the newborn. According to R. Goldman at the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, MA, circumcision surgery can actually alter the infant’s undeveloped neural pathways and cause changes in behavior and responses to pain as the child grows up.
“Canadian investigators report that during vaccinations at age 4–6 months, circumcised boys had an increased behavioral pain response and cried for significantly longer periods than did intact boys. The authors believe that ‘circumcision may produce long-lasting changes in infant pain behavior.’”
A common argument used in favor of infantile circumcision is that the procedure helps to prevent contracting and spreading STDs. While there are studies to support the theory that circumcised men are less likely to contract certain STDs than uncircumcised men, there are studies that refute this claim, stating either the parameters were flawed, or that the percentage of possible prevention is so minimal that infantile circumcision surgery is hardly worth it.
Furthermore, studies that showed such a dramatic difference in STD rates in circumcised vs. uncircumcised boys were conducted in African countries where STD pandemics are difficult, if not impossible, to get under control, i.e. the AIDS crisis; some scientists believe that data cannot be applicable in more developed nations. The only proven, inarguable way to help prevent STDs is to wear a condom during sex. receive frequent STD testing, and promote comprehensive sexual education. All we know for sure is that even though circumcision is a routine procedure in the US, we have the highest STD rate in the developed world.
In fact, preaching that circumcision prevents STDs is playing a dangerous game, because while some data supports that conclusion, other studies have entirely different results. Not to mention that fact that most of these studies only analyze heterosexual couples. We simply do not know the effects, if any, that circumcision has on the LGBT sexual relationships involving a penis. Any sexual education taught in the United states should focus on promoting safe sexual practices (wearing condoms, frequent STD testing, etc.), as opposed to preaching the merits of circumcision, which are constantly being called into question. Not to mention that infants and children should not be sexually active anyway… Adults with penises can make this decision for themselves, based on their own experiences, individual circumstances, and research. There is no reason for an adult to make this decision for their newborn.
Your genitals, your rights
If someone was not circumcised as an infant and decides later on in life that they would like to be, adult circumcision is a relatively straightforward outpatient procedure. But infants cannot choose for themselves or give consent. A medical decision that will alter your body and potentially have a harmful impact on your psyche should fall into your own hands, not somebody else’s. In 2012, Germany brought the circumcision debate to their Cologne courts. Ultimately, after protests from Muslim and Jewish citizens, they ruled to keep the procedure legal. But they discouraged citizens from choosing this option for their children, because “”the child’s body is permanently and irreparably changed by the circumcision. This change conflicts with the child’s interest of later being able to make his own decision on his religious affiliation.” A new bill has been drafted, stating that the circumcision age be changed to 14 years, so that the young boy could consent to the procedure, or decide against it.
Female genital mutilation is defined by Merriam Webster as “a procedure performed especially as a cultural rite that typically includes the total or partial excision of the female external genitalia and especially the clitoris and labia minora.” This barbaric practice is performed on young women as a way to prepare them for marriage and help them stay “clean”. According to Global Citizen, an estimated 200 million women and girls all over the world have been mutilated; 44 million of those girls are 15 years old or younger. Thankfully, FGM is illegal in more and more countries as time passes. The United States has decreed it and passed a federal law prohibiting the procedure from being performed in the United States, as well as knowingly transporting a girl out of the US to have the procedure done.
While this is a great step forward in preserving the rights of women in this country and asylees who come here to protect themselves, why has no such law been passed to protect young boys from having their penises mutilated? There is no scientific evidence to justify male genital mutilation, just as there is not scientific evidence to support female genital mutilation. Both of the practices are based on archaic ideas of what genitals “should” look like, fear of having frank conversations about medical care and what really goes on with our bodies.
Parents say that they want their son to be circumcised like them, either for religious purposes or for a sense of bonding, but neither of these are reasons why children should be subjected to an incredibly painful and invariably harmful procedure. No child should have their body permanently altered because of someone else’s beliefs; especially since they might not embrace such beliefs when they grow up. All children deserve the right to bodily integrity and agency to make their own choices when they come of age. Some adults who have been circumcised are ashamed and angry that their body was changed without their consent, especially given the likely sexual ramifications. There is even a foreskin restoration surgery for circumcised men that can restore the look and feel of their penial foreskin! Many uncircumcised adults love their life with foreskin, and are happy that their parents protected their rights to uncut genitals.
If a man decides that he wants to be circumcised, that is his prerogative as an adult; there may be a rare medical condition that warrants the surgery, or he simply wants to look different. That’s perfectly fine! But there is no data compelling enough to take away a child’s right to make decisions for themselves. Whether you are circumcised or uncircumcised, nobody should feel ashamed for the way they look. We are all perfect just the way we are and we live in a beautiful world where all genitalia should be respected.