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All inclusive gender equality, not one-sided hypocrisy

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Male Circumcision IS Genital Mutilation

Posted by Curt on Friday, 4 June 2010

This is a topic that is very personal to me.  Like the vast majority of males born in the United States during the post-WWII era, I was circumcised as an infant.  When I first learned about circumcision in elementary school and learned more throughout middle and high school, I was constantly assured that male circumcision had nothing but positive effects – it reduces my risk of contracting HIV if I were to have sex with somebody who’s HIV-positive, it requires no periodic cleaning, it has no risk of future issues with the foreskin as it’s already been removed (however small that risk may actually be), and, most importantly to the young teenager that I was, American women are said to prefer cut guys over uncut guys.  Seems like a good thing that shouldn’t be a very big deal, right?

After being fed this information for so long, imagine what it would be like one day to wake up and begin asking the question of whether or not the lack of a foreskin has an adverse impact on sexual pleasure.  Throughout school, this issue was usually dismissed as unsupported and very few males challenged the idea that circumcision has no adverse impact on male sexual pleasure – likely because, if they thought at all like me, they were too afraid to consider what that might mean for them.  Most circumcised men I’ve known were only too willing to accept the idea that circumcision has no adverse impact on sexual pleasure, usually out of relief.

What we know for sure is that the foreskin contains a large number of nerve endings, something as high as 30 – 40% of all nerve endings in the penis (about a third at least) and is among the greatest concentration of nerve endings in a small space in the whole human body.  Think of the difference between the sensitivity of touch on the palm of your hand vs. your arm.  Poke yourself with a needle or something sharp right in the palm of your hand and your arm and tell me which you think hurts more.  Conversely, the more pain you can feel also means the more pleasure you can potentially feel.  Now suppose that the sensitivity in the palm of your hand was reduced to about the equivalent of the sensitivity in your arm.  Can you see the implication that, while you still may be able to feel something, you won’t be able to feel it as much, including pleasure if something were to feel good to your hand?  This analogy works for the removal of the foreskin – these nerve endings have only one specific purpose: to feel.  And like all senses, this feeling creates special areas inside your brain to amplify that sensation of it which can only occur prior to a certain point in the brain’s development, thus males who are circumcised prior to adulthood wind up missing out on this (and which, even if they could regain their foreskin, they’d still miss out on it as they missed the critical period necessary to form that, much like how a person born deaf cannot discern speech from sound after having undergone a cochlear implant surgery after adolescence as they missed the critical period to do so).

The argument that there is nothing to support this is ludicrous.  Logically, it would make a lot of sense that the removal of such a concentration of nerve endings would have an adverse impact on the pleasure a male can feel during sex given what we know about nerve endings.  Yet little research has been done on this until recently, thus making the argument that because we don’t know anything about the adverse affects of male circumcision grounds for dismissal (and continual assertion that it’s positive, at least until proven untrue) an argument from ignorance, a logical fallacy.  These are the kinds of things men have been fed with in school, a false reassurance rooted in a logical fallacy that very few choose to recognize; wishful thinking.

MSNBC commissioned an online poll asking parents if they had their sons circumcised as infants.  Even today, as peer reviewed research is beginning to assert more and more that male circumcision results in a reduction of sensitivity in the penis, a slight majority of parents still have their sons circumcised according to the poll.  A few reasons respondents gave against it included:

“I considered what would be best for my son socially. ‘Standing out’ in that area can be embarrasing to boys in school.”

“Ask any adult male who found it necessary to be circ’d as adult whether he would have his newborn circ’d. Hygenically it is advantageous.”

“It’s healthy, looks good and is attractive to the ladies. Right, ladies?”

“I thought he should look like his father and I think it’s healthier for him and his future sex partner.”

“I have 4 sons. All were circumsised. The Bible predates medical science by thousands of years and recommends circumsion. Jesus loves you”

“Absolutely–for both sons–less maintenance–better hygiene and for the sake of their future wives–lower incidence of cervical cancer.”

And by far the most callous argument, from the discussion of the article:

“As I see it, there’s really nothing wrong with a foreskin, but tbh I find uncircumcised penises to be, well, kind of creepy looking. And the kid isn’t going to miss it, as evidenced by all the comments here from happily circumcised men. If he is missing out on any sort of pleasure, he doesn’t know it.”

By far the most frequent reasons were hygienic ones.  These are vastly overstated.  At one point, male circumcision being one of the earliest surgical procedures among humans, hygienic benefits of circumcision may have actually been a benefit.  In today’s society, where every person usually showers about everyday (or at least once every week) and the availability to cleanliness is of very little problem, the idea that the removal of the foreskin provides a significant health benefit in this regard is ridiculous.  There can be something said for reducing the rates of infections of sexually transmitted diseases, although a condom almost always takes care of that by itself, making such concerns moot.

I’ll admit, I don’t know a lot about how much more likely an uncut penis can cause cervical cancer than a cut penis.  Though if so, it does not appear a just enough reason to harming the sexual pleasure of men to protect women.  If anything, such a sentiment reeks of chivalrous sentiment – the idea that the male should sacrifice himself for the female.  The same could be applied for circumcising men’s penises to look better for women (moreover, given that most women I know say penises generally are ugly to begin with, I’d have to question how much better that even is).  In any case, circumcised penises do not appear to be a much higher risk for women to develop cervical cancer, otherwise you’d expect cervical cancer to be a much bigger problem for women in Europe where male circumcision is much less common.

Religion is perhaps the next most common justification you will see for male circumcision.  For Judaic and Islamic tradition (Semitic derived tradition), it is a requirement that one’s son is circumcised on the seventh day of his life as a sacrifice made to God (implying that male circumcision does hurt the male in some manner).  But Christians, the vast majority of Americans?  One of the major interpretations of the New Testament is the forgoing of many Jewish traditions, including circumcision.  This was the result of a Gnostic sect (a branch of early Christians who interpreted much of the New Testament to forgo the Old Testament practices) of Christians that eventually won out in Western Christianity in this regard some 1700 years ago.  This is why Christians are still allowed to eat pork and have been for this long.  It would thus be hypocritical for Christians to justify male circumcision on religious grounds if they still eat pork and engage in other things which have been prohibited in Old Testament mandates, which have not been in practice for almost all of Western Christianity’s history.

I find the arguments to become callous as soon as they become arguments arguing for tradition’s sake – arguments that suggest that simply because the son’s father was circumcised and most everybody else was circumcised, one’s kid should be circumcised as well regardless of whether sexual pleasure is diminished.  This, to me, is representative of the dangers of blind conformity.  Instead of questioning what is best for an individual, they are instead forced to conform to a senseless tradition that ultimately hurts their sons.

It is especially callous when the argument is essentially that of “he won’t know what doesn’t hurt him”.  In other words, an argument advocating that ignorance is bliss.  To justify the practice on this ground alone is ridiculous and quite cruel when used in conjunction with other arguments that don’t stand up to reason or when used to diminish a circumcised male’s suffering when they find out that their sexual pleasure has been diminished.  It would be exactly as if I argued that female genital mutilation is quite all right for women if it’s done before adolescence simply because they won’t know what they’re missing.  That kind of argument, in my opinion, is absolutely ignorant and barbaric.

You will never see any of these arguments being used for female genital mutilation because it is generally recognized in Western society for the atrocity that it is.  Most Western feminists are fortunate in that they will never one day have to wake up and come to accept the stark reality that their genitals have been mutilated and that they will never be able to fully experience sexual pleasure.  Perhaps they are privileged in this sense, being able to ignore what’s going on with men in American society and being able to characterize female genital mutilation as an institution of patriarchy and manifestation of misogyny, when males are being harmed in a similar way in regards to their bodily integrity (yet you know the reverse will never hold true for this).

Now, male genital cutting is typically not as bad as female genital cutting (perhaps why people have been more inclined to notice the atrocity of female genital mutilation first), but that does not diminish the point.  All individuals should have the right to the integrity of his or her body and this is the argument a feminist will make against female genital mutilation – to advocate this right for one gender only, and even go as far as to mischaracterize it as if one gender has it all good, is inhumane, even sexist.  Feminists may argue that it should be men who address this issue, but how can men do it if they have not become empowered?  There are few people in the United States who will take criticism of male genital mutilation seriously, which suggests that men are not exactly empowered in this regard.  How can they do it if they are ignored, many of whom trying to deny the reality?  Any feminist has to ask him or herself, is this really pushing for gender equality, or does feminism as a whole merely care only about the female half of the population?

Male genital mutilation hurts men in ways very few Western women can comprehend.  When I first realized that circumcision was more than just a simple “snip” around the age of 19 or 20, it had dramatic effects on my libido.  I began to regard sex with cynicism and I quit seeking it.  I, more or less, began to stop caring.  I’m not sure if my feelings about sex will ever be able to be the same, and I am sure that many more have felt the same way.  But this issue is larger than I or any individual is – if we are to stop men from being mutilated in the future, this is an absolutely necessary thing to come to accept.  We cannot continue to pretend that we do not know what we are missing out on and pretend that genital mutilation is a female only issue.  It is imperative that male genital mutilation, as well as any form of genital mutilation, is stopped.


10 Responses to “Male Circumcision IS Genital Mutilation”

  1. Well said. The reasons for male infant circumcision fail the test of gender equality because no one would cut a girl’s genitalia for those reasons. Every child, girl and boy, deserves to grow up with all their body parts.

  2. Cessen said

    I’ll toss my experience in as well: I feel extremely violated for being circumcised without my consent, and I want the rest of my penis back. This is not a victimless procedure. I am a victim.

    I think it’s very difficult for most men to speak out about this, though, even if they are suffering due to it. As a guy it is very difficult to identify as a victim, I think. So I try to speak out as much as I can about my own experience so that people don’t stay under the illusion that infant circumcision is a victimless procedure.

    Through friends, I know of several other men that also feel greatly violated, but basically refuse to talk about it. So I suspect there are a lot more men who feel violated than speak up.

    To be fair to feminism, however, my general observation–especially recently–is that there is a higher proportion of anti-circumcision people among feminists than among the general population.

    But still, it does bug the hell out of me when the the pro-circ feminists espouse their views. It’s totally inconsistent with their supposed passion about bodily autonomy. And frankly, it hurts.

    • Curt said

      I agree with you on all points, particularly that individual feminists are typically more likely to be against male circumcision than the general population is. I know I criticize feminism all the time, particularly in this topic, so I want to make that absolutely clear.

      Just bear in mind that feminism, being all about the empowerment of women, does not need to have a full consensus on men’s status as victims in regards to male genital mutilation. Hence it does work and is consistent, but in an extremely one-sided manner as it only works if the discourse is kept within the realm of women. And that’s my issue with it, at least as a whole. The ideals feminism espouses ought to be done so for both men and women, not just women alone.

  3. Troy said

    First of all to those men out there who feel victimized by their circumcision I am truly sorry for your pain. Personally however I am glad that I was circumcised, I like the way it looks and don’t feel that my sex life is lacking in pleasure. If the foreskin does in fact create more pleasure (and I believe you when you say it does) then that could lead to a higher risk of premature ejaculation. Which I am fairly sure no man wants. Just a thought.

  4. Dave said

    I am so glad I wasn’t circumcised! If I decided I really needed to get cut, I could make that decision as an adult. Leave the kids alone! Religion has no place within this topic. A bunch of mumbo jumbo and I am not swayed.

    I don’t feel left out or different at all being uncut. Growing up, I wasn’t ashamed in the school showers as someone implied might happen. I didn’t care and wasn’t fixated on the view.

    Curt is correct in that the foreskin is sensitive; but do you know what is even more sensitive for me? My glans penis! At 57 years old, I have to believe that my foreskin-covered-glans has garnered extra protection over the years from constant chafing from my underwear. The foreskin kept the glans skin soft and sensitive in my view. Is it possible for a leathery looking circumcised glans penis to be more sensitive than a soft-skin uncircumcised glans? It seems to me that a penis would lose sensitivity over the years due to all the rubbing. Troy’s comment about premature ejaculation is laughable. I don’t have that problem and I think it is more in the mind anyway and not due to an overly sensitive glans.

    I have to say the feeling on my soft, smooth glans is so exquisite during sex, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I sympathize with those who have been cut and didn’t want it. I also understand how others can be defensive about their being cut. One doesn’t want to feel the decision for them to be circumcised was wrong and that they are somehow disfigured, different or unnatural.

    As far as attractiveness goes? That’s hilarious. Cut or uncut, my wife thinks guys look funny anyway with all that junk hanging down between our crotch. Women are so much more streamlined, aerodynamic she says. LOL.

    I didn’t have my son circumcised because I feel it should be his choice. If he wants to be circumcised because of religious reasons or whatever, then he can do as he pleases, as an adult. I am sure God will forgive him and damn me. I don’t feel it was my right to do something to his body when he was a baby or child. That would be a personal violation of his rights.

    I hope my comments help parents make an informed choice and don’t base their decision to circumcise because of family pressure, religion, tradition, or some bogus medical study. Remember, your son may resent your actions someday.

  5. It is utterly sad and enraging that my first sexual experience was torture. My cunt of a mother chose to have me sent off with a stranger so that he could mercilessly and violently destroy my birthright while I had my arms and legs tied down. I was treated as property rather than a person and I have nothing but hatred for this abomination. Not only did circumcision rob me of autonomy in my sex life but it carved a great divide between me and the person who was supposed to love me unconditionally and protect me from harm when I was too young to defend myself, my mother. Such is the reason why I live 1500km away from her with no intention of increasing proximity.

    We mutilated were not just infants, we were fucking people god damn it!!! We had rights that were ignored just like our screams of agony!!!

  6. Cervical Cancer Smart Woman Approaches…

    […]Male Circumcision IS Genital Mutilation « The Gender Equality Movement[…]…

  7. uebungen said


    […]Male Circumcision IS Genital Mutilation « The Gender Equality Movement[…]…

  8. Our society is only like this due to the hierarchies that begin with family, god, and country. Do not blame anyone but yourself for you did not take a stand.

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