Don't Retract Pack

Christiane Northrup (Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom) on Circumcision

Excerpt from Dr. Christiane Northrup's, "Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom: Creating Physical and Emotional Health and Healing" (1994). New York: Bantam Books.

Author Christiane Northrup, M.D., an obstetrician/gynecologist, co-directs the innovative Women to Women health care center in Yarmouth, Maine. She edits the national health newsletter "Health Wisdom for Women" and is Assistant Clinical Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at the University of Vermont School of Medicine.

Circumcision of baby boys is another example of a painful procedure that is unnecessary. Circumcision is a perfect example of the triumph of emotion and outdated and unproven beliefs over common sense and scientific data that it is unnecessary. Dr. George Dennison sums up the circumcision issue very nicely: "To me the idea of performing 100,000 mutilating procedures on newborns to possibly prevent cancer in one elderly man is absurd."

The discussion of circumcision is a perfect example of the strength and influence of tribal programming on our thought and emotional responses. This programming is so ingrained that many people cannot even discuss the subject of circumcision without guilt, denial, or other strong emotions. I know that even addressing the subject of the baby boy's bodily integrity, choices, and pain if the procedure is done can cause a "kill the messenger" reaction. But this programming can be successfully questioned and worked through, if desired. Many Jewish couples have rethought the entire circumcision issue and have decided not to have it done to their sons.

I've seen circumcision done in the delivery room. Welcome to the world, baby boy"now to initiate you properly, we're going to cut off one of the most sensitive parts of your body with no anesthesia!' Circumcision is known to cause sleep disturbances for at least three days. I believe that it also has profound implications for male sexuality that I cannot begin to address adequately in this book. In fact, it is a form of sexual abuse. We certainly feel that way about female clitoridectomy, circumcision, and infibulation, but we justify male infant circumcision by pretending that the babies don't feel it because they are too young and it will have no consequences when they are older.

The foreskin is a highly innervated part of the body. There is no doubt that circumcision toughens' the delicate skin of the tip of the penis. Men who have been circumcised later in life and who therefore know the difference report a decrease in their sexual sensations. One of my friends who is NOT circ'd says that he wonders if rape is less common in countries in which the men are not circumcised. His experience is that having intercourse with a woman who isn't aroused and well-lubricated is as painful to him as it is for her because of the delicacy of the foreskin!


  1. I didn't realize Dr.Northrup was involved with the Women to Women clinic, but just looked up their history and see that she co-founded the place. How cool! I read the articles on the clinic' website and they are awesome -- on everything from adrenal fatigue to fertility to menopause. You can definitely sense Dr. Northrup's guiding spirit!
    Women to Women

  2. I didn't either! I too checked out the website and it's great. Tons of invaluable information about health conditions and concerns that affect so many women. I'm sharing the link with my friends - and telling them about the clinic!