Within days of his birth, he is taken from the comfort and security of his mother, he is strapped down against his will and part of his tiny body is cut off with limited to no pain relief. He thrashes in a desperate attempt to free himself and he cries, a devastating cry of distress, a heartbreaking plea for help, but no one responds and the cutting continues. Is this a day at a factory farm or a day in an American hospital’s maternity ward?
Like the meat and dairy industry, circumcision has become so engrained into American culture, people don’t often stop to question the morality of the practice; however, once you look through those glass walls, you will discover that circumcision is an unfathomably painful, completely unnecessary, terribly damaging–sometimes deadly–immoral violation of a living being’s rights.
By dispelling some of the common falsehoods surrounding foreskin amputation, the true nature of this barbaric ritual will reveal itself.
Doctors perform circumcisions and I trust my doctor.
In medical school, the majority of American doctors are not taught about the many important functions of the foreskin, nor are they taught about the lifelong complications that often occur as a result of circumcision. Dr. Adrienne Carmack, a board certified, practicing Urologist, is a perfect example of this American phenomenon: “During her urologic training, she discovered that US medical studies on circumcision are profoundly flawed. Driven to learn the truth, Adrienne reviewed international medical research… She realized that most American birth practices are founded, not on fact-based science, but on current cultural norms.” Dr. Carmack explains, “I began to do my own research on male circumcision. What I found has led me to believe that the guidelines by medical societies that say it’s the parents’ choice are frankly unethical and untruthful. The most basic tenet of medical practice, one which all doctors swear to before they are granted their degree, is ‘First, Do No Harm.’ The truth is, circumcision is harmful.”
Just as “farmers” will tell you the animals they enslave are treated well, they like being milked, they aren’t in pain, and the many other convenient answers they have for confining, using, abusing, and killing animals, doctors will likewise tell you what you want to hear. Nurses and doctors are notorious for telling new parents, “He did great. He slept right through it.” As one nurse explained, “What were we going to say? ‘Your son had a very difficult time. He broke out into a sweat and screamed so hard that he choked and stopped breathing a couple of times’?”
Thankfully, circumcision is not the norm on a global scale and there are a growing number of ethical American doctors who are speaking out against this shameful cultural practice. According to the World Health Organization, after you remove Muslims, Jews, and Americans from the equation, less than 18% of the world’s population of males are circumcised. In addition, “The Australian and New Zealand Association of Paediatric Surgeons (ANZAPS), the Australasian Urological Society and the Royal Australasian College of Physicians (RACP) do not recommend that boys be circumcised routinely.” They state that, “Very few boys need circumcision for medical reasons.” Why do American doctors continue to support, encourage and perform routine infant circumcision? It boils down to ignorance, cultural conditioning, and greed.
This is my husband’s decision. He’s the one with the penis.
The sad truth is that most American men who were circumcised defend the practice. They say they are happy their foreskin was amputated and they want to have the same amputation done to their own sons. If it’s so awful, why do men defend it? For a man to admit that something awful was done to his genitals, his most prized body part, as a baby and to admit that his sex life isn’t as good because of it, is a very, very difficult thing for the male ego. So difficult that many men will subject their sons to the same suffering rather than face what happened to them. A brilliant article in the Daily Kos asked, “What good can come from encouraging men to examine what really happened to them? The answer is simple and of critical importance. A man unwilling or incapable of admitting the truth about his own circumcision… will affirm his own manhood by diminishing that of his very own sons…a shameful cycle of violence that must be broken, even at the risk of bruising the adult male ego”.
Sadly, circumcised men do not know what it is like to have intact genitals and they may be unable or unwilling to face the truth of what was taken from them against their will. For this reason, the decision not to circumcise must sometimes come from a strong mother who will not allow her son to go through what her husband went through. Does the mother wish her own genitals had been cut when she was born? No. And that is what she should want for her children, sons or daughters. It is a mother’s job to protect her son’s body, not her husband’s ego.
Circumcision is no big deal. It’s just a little snip.
Newborn baby boys go from the calm and warmth of their mothers’ arms to being strapped down and having part of their genitals cut off without proper pain management. Research shows that even the most effective pain management options, “do not eliminate circumcision pain”. If you want to truly grasp the intensity of the pain, watch a circumcision video and listen to the baby scream when the knife begins to cut his flesh. As Dr. Frisch details, “most parents don’t know that the foreskin is fused to the head of the penis at birth… before the doctor can cut it off, he or she has to forcefully separate the foreskin by inserting a probe between it and the glans and then scrape it all the way around… Studies have shown that this early step is particularly painful–only to be followed by the clamping and cutting parts of the circumcision procedure”. The three most common devices used for this medieval torture (aka circumcision) is the mogen clamp, the gomco clamp or the plastibell. Type these words into Google Images and prepare to behold a shocking and heartbreaking sight. These awful devices are being used on our precious newborns within days of their birth. A cruel welcome to the world, if ever there was one. It does not take a medical degree to know that a knife cutting skin off of a newborn’s most sensitive body part is excruciating. Our hearts ache to think of a calf being branded or a pig having his tail docked; we close our eyes if such a sight is put before us and yet we are handing over our newborn boys to suffer a worse fate.
Everybody gets circumcised. People will make fun of him if he’s not.
The majority of the world doesn’t circumcise their sons and the rates in the United States are dropping significantly. In 2007, the average circumcision rate in the United States was 55%. Parents often use the “I don’t want him to be made fun of in the locker room,” excuse as a justification for circumcision, but the truth is, with the rates continuing to drop, it will soon be circumcised penises that are in the minority. Imagine having to explain to your ten year old son, “Your penis looks different than Tommy’s because when you were two days old I authorized a doctor to cut off part of your penis.” If your son wants to be circumcised later in life (he won’t), let that be his decision. What’s done to him as a newborn can never be undone. If he chooses it for himself at an appropriate age, he can be given proper pain management, something a newborn is denied. If the cultural tradition of circumcision were postponed until children were old enough to accept or decline the amputation for themselves, the tradition would end immediately. Imagine the response from a four year old if you asked him if he wanted to have part of his penis cut off to match his daddy’s penis. If the only way a cultural tradition can continue is to force it on a newborn baby who cannot speak for himself, then the tradition should be stopped. No child would choose to have a healthy, functional, significant part of their penis removed. No man should grow up with a scar on his penis because of a choice that was made without his consent at birth.
Foreskin is “extra” skin.
Foreskin serves many important functions. The foreskin covers the head of the penis just as the clitoral hood covers the clitoris. One of the foreskin’s main jobs is to protect the head of the penis and keep it sensitive and lubricated for sexual pleasure. When circumcised, the head of the penis is constantly and unnaturally exposed and becomes calloused and desensitized from the constant friction of clothing against the sensitive tissue. Foreskin also creates a natural gliding motion that not only makes sex better for the man, but also for his partner. The loss of foreskin leads to many sexual problems, including impotence and decreased sexual pleasure. Many men experience painful complications because of botched circumcisions, usually caused by too much skin being removed. Think about this: There is no other body part that supposedly “needs” to be, or is legal to be, removed at birth. All mammals have foreskin and it is not a mistake; it is an important and functional part of the body.
Female circumcision is nothing like male circumcision.
One of the most common types of female circumcision performed is the removal of the clitoral hood, also known as the prepuce. The most common type of male circumcision performed is removal of the foreskin, also known as the prepuce. The same body part is being removed on males and females: the prepuce. People are typically repulsed and adamantly against female circumcision, but will blindly hand over their baby boy for male circumcision. Just like American men, the majority of women who were circumcised will defend what was done to them and want the same for their daughters. They give the same reasons as to why female circumcision is preferable: it makes them more desirable for a partner, it’s cleaner and it’s healthier. These lies have been told so many times, for so many generations, they have seeped into the medical community and are believed as fact.
A Time for Change
A newborn baby has no more of a voice than a piglet being born on a factory farm. They will both suffer needlessly at the hands of someone bigger and stronger, someone who will ignore their screams in order to fulfill their own desires. If you take a stand against the suffering of animals, it’s time to take a stand against circumcision too. It is our job to protect those who are incapable of protecting themselves. As Ayaan Hirsi Ali passionately declared about her fight against female circumcision, “…Some things must be said, and there are times when silence becomes an accomplice to injustice.” This must be said. Male circumcision is an injustice done to our most vulnerable citizens.
Isn’t saving a baby from this injustice worth the possibility of an awkward moment? Please, take the risk. Start a conversation that matters.