posted with permission
Let’s talk about my penis. Once you’ve stopped vomiting, I’ll continue. I am circumcised. When I was a baby, my parents put me in the hands of a man who cut off part of my genitalia — the nerve-rich organ around the head of the penis called the foreskin.
When their firstborn son came into the world, my parents didn’t bat an eye at the notion of a stranger surgically altering my penis forever. I find that deeply disturbing.
If you don’t understand why, let’s look at the other side of the equation: female circumcision. In some corners of the world, young women have their clitorises severed for any number of reasons — godliness, cleanliness or a sign of maturity.
The United Nations and World Health Organization call it “female genital mutilation.” They won’t even acknowledge it as a valid medical procedure. It’s just barbarism to them.
I think most Americans would — and should — agree. There’s no compelling reason to inflict that kind of suffering on a young woman, yet it’s acceptable — even expected — to inflict it on a young boy.
Circumcision got its start as a religious ritual. Without the foreskin to heighten sexual pleasure, sex would become less interesting, and men would dedicate themselves to scripture.
But this is America! Separation of church and state! Freedom to choose! Pizza Hut and Starbucks!
How did circumcision take hold here in the U.S.? Let me begin answering that question with a question: Who here has seen The Road to Welville? Sir Anthony Hopkins is almost unrecognizable as the health nut, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, the same man who made the cereal.
The actual Kellogg was a terrifying piece of work. This was a man who hated masturbation so much that he advocated the following: tying a child’s hands behind his or her back so that he or she could not masturbate at night, applying cage-like devices to the genitals, and rubbing acid on a girl’s clitoris, thus demonizing not just the act of masturbation, but its allure. He also believed circumcision should be performed without anesthetic so as to maximize the association of sexual arousal with physical pain.
It was this man — a man who could give Freddy Krueger nightmares — who became a linchpin in making circumcision a widely-practiced tradition in the United States.
But, let’s give Kellogg the benefit of the doubt. Even if he was 10 pounds of crazy in a 1-pound bag, I’m sure you’ve all heard that men with foreskin are prone to infections.
There’s actually a very simple solution to that concern. It’s called hygiene. Look it up.
If you never wash behind your ears or between your toes, your body is going to become a hotbed for all sorts of gnarly germs.
The idea that circumcision significantly reduces STI transmission is still a hotly-debated issue in the medical community. There have some saying foreskin is practically an HIV net, while others state there’s no difference between men who have it and men who don’t, and further studies show intact men with decreased HIV rates. [The circumcised U.S., for example, has significantly higher numbers of HIV than any other intact developed nation.] Even the experts don't always agree if each other’s methods or conclusions are sound.
Failing that, we have to fall back on good old common sense. Do you not want to get sick? Take a bath. Eat right. Wear a condom.
These are not mind-blowing or revolutionary concepts. Most people don’t go out of their way to do what is bad for themselves.
When you’re wounded, you don’t go jam the gaping wound into a septic tank, do you? Let’s not do that to our sons by slicing their penises and shoving that mess into a diaper.
If I ever have a son — and let’s be honest, that would be a disaster — I would lose him in a heartbeat if I took him to a tattoo parlor or a piercing place. A baby covered in tats and gauges would be hilarious, sad and illegal. The law would keep its pimp hand strong by slapping me with at least half a dozen child abuse charges. So, I’m not going to go the extra mile by letting someone mutilate his penis.
You’re not going to give your newborn a cosmetic nose job, are you?
You may be thinking, “The grass is always greener on the other side,” and maybe you’re right. Maybe I would be embarrassed to have it. Maybe I wouldn’t mind it at all. Maybe I'd actually like it.
I have no way of knowing because no one ever gave me the opportunity to know. That choice was made for me when I was a small, defenseless baby who had no way of stopping a doctor from harming me in a way that would normally make us cringe.
That’s a crying shame.
Patrick Hooper is a senior at the University of Georgia.
More men voice their feelings about having their prepuce amputated as infants:
The Circumcision Secret
My Story of Ritual Abuse
Hundreds of Men Speak Out in this Class Action Lawsuit
Men sue those who cut them, and win.
FGM/MGM Similar Attitudes and Misconceptions
MGM/FGM A Visual Comparison
The History of Female Circumcision in the United States
CUT: Slicing Through the Myths of Circumcision [DVD - watch abridged version online]
The Cut: FGM Documentary on Cutting Girls in Africa (justifications are the same as we often hear from those cutting boys in the United States)
For additional information on the prepuce organ ("foreskin" or "clitoral hood"), intact care, and circumcision see: Are You Fully Informed?