By George Hill, Bioethicist and Medical Scientist,
Member of Doctors Opposing Circumcision
Article also posted by Prashant
The emotional and behavioral effects of circumcision.
Psychologists now recognize that male circumcision affects emotions and behavior. This article discusses the impact of male circumcision on human behavior.
Medical doctors adopted male circumcision from religious practice into medical practice in England in the 1860s and in the United States in the 1870s. No thought was given to the possible behavioral effects of painful operations that excise important protective erogenous tissue from the male phallus. For example, Gairdner (1949) and Wright (1967), both critics of male neonatal non-therapeutic circumcision, made no mention of any behavioral effects of neonatal circumcision. 
"In contrast to the sometimes dramatic somatic responses of the neonate to operation without anesthesia, the psychological consequences of this trauma are conjectural. Psychoanalyst Erik Erickson has described the first of eight stages of man as the development of basic trust versus basic mistrust. For the baby to be plucked from his bed, strapped in a spread eagle position, and doused with chilling antiseptic is perhaps consistent with other new-found discomforts of extrauterine existence. The application of crushing clamps and excision of penile tissue, however, probably do little to engender a trusting, congenial, relationship with the infant's new surroundings."
Behavior during unanesthetized circumcision
Behavior immediately after unanesthetized circumcision
Behavior at vaccination
"A traumatic experience is defined in DSM-IV as the direct consequence of experiencing or witnessing of serious injury or threat to physical integrity that produces intense fear, helplessness or (in the case of children) agitation. The significant [circumcision] pain and distress described earlier is consistent with this definition. Moreover, the disturbance (e.g., physiological arousal, avoidant behaviour) qualifies for a diagnosis of acute stress disorder if it lasts at least two days or even a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) if it lasts more than a month. Circumcision without anaesthesia constitutes a severely traumatic event in a child's life."
"It is, therefore, possible that the greater vaccination response in the infants circumcised without anaesthesia may represent an infant analogue of a post-traumatic stress disorder triggered by a traumatic and painful event and re-experienced under similar circumstances of pain during vaccination."
Behavior in later life
- a sense of personal powerlessness
- fears of being overpowered and victimized by others
- lack of trust in others and life
- a sense of vulnerability to violent attack by others
- guardedness in relationships
- reluctance to be in relationships with women
- diminished sense of maleness
- feeling damaged, especially in the presence of surgical complications such as skin tags, penile curvature due to uneven foreskin removal, partial ablation of edges of the glans and so on
- sense of reduced penile size, a part cut off or amputated
- low self-esteem
- shame about not "measuring up"
- anger and violence toward women
- irrational rage reactions
- addictions and dependencies
- difficulties in establishing intimate relationships
- emotional numbing
- need for more intensity in sexual experience.
- sexual callousness
- decreased tenderness in intimacy
- decreased ability to communicate
- feelings of not being understood
Behavior of circumcised medical doctors
Behavior of circumcised medical authors
"One reason that flawed studies are published is that science is affected by cultural values. A principal method of preserving cultural values is to disguise them as truths that are based on scientific research. This 'research' can then be used to support questionable and harmful cultural values such as circumcision. This explains the claimed medical 'benefits' of circumcision."
"The medical literature on circumcision is voluminous and contentious. Circumcised doctors create papers that overstate benefits and minimize harms and risks. When these doctors publish such claims, other doctors come forward to refute them....The result is an unending debate driven by the emotional compulsion of circumcised men."
Behavior of medical societies
"Although medical committee members highly value rationality, a rational and objective evaluation of an emotional and controversial topic like circumcision can be difficult. It is suggested that the potential psychological and social factors surrounding the practice of circumcision could affect the values and attitudes of circumcision policy committee members, the attitude toward evaluating the circumcision literature, and the publishing of circumcision literature itself. If the members are polarized, the process of negotiating to arrive at a consensus statement could introduce additional psychosocial factors that could affect the final policy."
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