Elephant in the Room: Circumcision Part 1
By: Dion McNeil
One of the reasons why this piece was named “elephant in the room” is due to some people referring to an uncircumcised penis as an elephant trunk. Now of course many would interpret this as a derogatory term. In this piece we’ll be referring to and referencing the reasons why one shouldn’t have this procedure done on an infant. We’ll explore some of the most common misconceptions and “sneaky truths” behind the procedure many would refer to as MGM or male genital mutilation.
“There is no pain involved! The infant doesn’t even feel it!”
So right off the bat we have a statement that doesn’t match reality. We know the procedure hurts like hell. Let us take a snippet from Circumcision.org and see what they have to say:
“Circumcision is a surgical procedure that involves forcefully separating the foreskin from the glans and then cutting it off. It is typically accomplished with a special clamp device (see Fig. 2). Over a dozen studies confirm the extreme pain of circumcision. It has been described as “among the most painful [procedures] performed in neonatal medicine.” In one study, researchers concluded that the pain was “severe and persistent.” Increases in heart rate of 55 beats per minute have been recorded, about a 50 percent increase over the baseline. After circumcision, the level of blood cortisol increased by a factor of three to four times the level prior to circumcision. Investigators reported, “This level of pain would not be tolerated by older patients.”
Circumcision pain is described in this research study by Howard Stang and his colleagues from the Department of Pediatrics, Group Health Inc., and the University of Minnesota Institute of Child Development: “There is no doubt that circumcisions are painful for the baby. Indeed, circumcision has become a model for the analysis of pain and stress responses in the newborn.” They report that the infant will “cry vigorously, tremble, and in some cases become mildly cyanotic [having blueness or lividness of the skin, caused by a deficiency of oxygen] because of prolonged crying.””
Still believe circumcision causes no pain? Read the above statement again. Circumcision is so notorious for being painful to the point where it is the model for pain and stress responses in a newborn. Who in their right mind would say that circumcision causes no pain when it is quite literally a measurement for pain in a newborn due to the procedure being so painful? Are we really to believe that chopping off skin on a newborn is not going to cause pain? Anyone who believes otherwise doesn’t know much about the foreskin. Let us take a look at another quote from the Circumcision Decision:
“20,000 Nerve Endings
The foreskin is the most sensitive part of the penis. It contains:
10,000 nerve endings, or
20,000 nerve endings (the most frequently cited statistic), or
20,000 to 70,000 (the most recently cited statistic).”
Even if the foreskin contained just a couple of thousand nerve endings if someone were to say that removing that foreskin would cause no pain is either on some sort of powerful drug or is completely ignorant of the procedure and the male anatomy. Pain on this scale isn’t something that will be forgotten. Sure, some may not recall the procedure but that doesn’t mean that the pain inflicted will not cause negative consequences later on in life.
“I want my son to look like me!”
Really now? You want your son to look like you and that is the reason why you decided that having his foreskin chopped off was the greatest idea? This sort of logic is one of the weakest. It doesn’t even make any logical sense. Of course this is applied to fathers who were circumcised and wants their son’s penis to match their own. Think hard on that one for a moment. Nothing about that seems just a wee bit strange? In what other line of logic would that really make sense?
What if that father had a tattoo? Would we excuse that father if they had an infant get some ink work done to match them? Of course not. The people who think this way need to ask themselves why in the world would they want their children to match them perfectly. Isn’t that just projection and something that many of us frown upon if a parent wants to force a child into looking exactly like them or doing things exactly the way the parent does? Why does that standard all of sudden change when it comes to a procedure that is permanent?
If we are constantly asked to judge harshly the parents who force their kids to become super star athletes, singers and so on and so forth while robbing them of their childhood then it stands to reason that by the same logic we should be demonizing the parents who want to make a permanent physical change to their children for “reasons.” Just think of the criticism a woman would get if she had her daughter circumcised because she was circumcised as a child. Oh but of course circumcision is legal in some parts of the world so we need not worry about that double standard, right?
“But nobody has ever died while being circumcised!”
Anyone who makes such an asinine statement is either supremely ignorant of the deaths due to this procedure being done or, worse, being intentionally dishonest. According to Circumcision Information, Dr. Darcia Narvaez over at Psychology Today, Dan Bollinger’s “Lost Boys: An Estimate of U.S. Circumcision-Related Infant Deaths” and a whole host of other sources show time and time again that at minimum the deaths directly related to circumcision in the United States alone is over a hundred a year. Whenever someone makes a statement that no one has ever died due to circumcision that person is in desperate need of some education.
But a hundred of a year isn’t exactly a cause for concern, is it? Well that would be true if it were just limited to merely a hundred a year. You see it is actually more like 117 deaths a year directly pointing at circumcision being the root cause. But those are only the deaths we are aware of. Rather than try to get into a whole diatribe about some hospitals and medical professionals not being so forthcoming with deaths directly caused by circumcision at the root we’ll allow Circumcision Information clear this up:
“Part of the answer lies in the fact that most circumcision-related deaths are not officially as recorded as due to circumcision at all, but to the immediate cause, most commonly stroke, bleeding, infection or reactions to anesthesia. Medical statistics are thus at fault in that they do not give the true cause of death at all. Previous studies have given wildly varying estimates the death toll from circumcision. In 1949 pediatrician Douglas Gairdner found that sixteen British boys died each year, while more recent estimates range from a low of two boys per year to a high of as many as 230. Some textbooks and most circumcision promoters claim that there have never been any deaths from circumcision in a modern clinical context (whatever may happen in the insanitary conditions of the Third World). For his study Bollinger collected data from hospital records and government sources to attempt to provide a more accurate estimate of the magnitude of the problem.”
So what we see here is a clear example of some hospitals and some medical professionals not being super honest about the procedure and the clear risks involved. Yes, infants can die from this. This is no joke. Considering the risks and considering the nature of the procedure one has to wonder how in the world someone thought this was going to be an innocent and less than dangerous process.
“But my religion calls for me to do it!”
Now of all the arguments, and there will be more below, this is by far the weakest of them all. After all anyone making this argument needs to first demonstrate that they follow their religious beliefs to some reasonable extent before pushing a belief onto a child. In other words if you are a Christian and the ten commandments are a thing don’t be a liar but then project your belief on a child as if you are the pope and even the pope isn’t perfect. It’s one thing to teach your child a belief system. Another issue arises entirely when you want to force a child to undergo a procedure and risk their body and their life for that belief.
Now when it comes to circumcision multiple religious beliefs call for the procedure with the most noticeable being Judaism, Islam and Christianity. What is ridiculous about all of this is, again, the people pushing this standard on little boys tend to not follow their beliefs very well. How much sense does it make to not be perfect even by your own standards and yet forcing an infant without their consent to look a certain way based off of your belief system? Common sense tells us that in any other situation we would frown upon this and yet circumcision of males gets a free pass. If there was ever a double standard this is certainly it.
But as mentioned before the United States alone has over a hundred deaths of year thanks to this procedure. Imagine what happens in some parts of the world that is a little less sterile than some of the hospitals found in the US. Combine that with perhaps more radical than usual religious beliefs and you get some pretty interesting results. According to ABC News in 2003 and 2004 three children died due to being infected with Type 1 Herpes. How could this happen? Well the rabies who circumcised these boys sucked blood from the wounds with their own mouth for cleansing.
The above example shows the absolute lunacy that circumcision can produce. When we give rabies, priests and any other religious figure the authority to mutilate boys we really can’t blame anyone ourselves. We allowed the inmates to run the asylum and therefore what we’ll continue to get is bat crazy cases like this. The insane part is that cases like the one before with the rabies putting their mouths on baby penises is a long held religious tradition which doesn’t even seem all that crazy compared to the amount of circumcisions performed for strictly religious reasons. Long story short if someone wants to impose a standard due to religious reasoning then that person should impose every standard of their religion on themselves. After all, it was Jesus Christ who said those without sin should cast the first stone which could be easily interpreted as Jesus telling others to not set standards and try to impose their will on others regardless of the reasoning.
“I’m a woman and I like a cut penis!”
Now a question could be asked, “well if everyone has their preferences what is the problem?” Fine. Stick with that premise. But ask yourself an honest question and don’t use mental gymnastics or try to skate around it. Suppose a man would say the exact same thing about a woman with circumcision (referred to as FGM or female genital mutilation) or with breast implants. A lot of us would call that man a sexist misogynist who views women as a sex object. Yet the amount of double think involved here is absolutely astounding. We’d demonize that man but not the woman for thinking an infant should be subjected to a procedure that has the potential to put their lives in jeopardy just because they want a cut penis.
What level of mental sickness, twisted thoughts and a disgusting level of shallowness does one have to have to want circumcision to hang around due to sexual preference? We aren’t sure. But New York Magazine and Cosmopolitan actually got some women to comment. Let us take a look:
New York Magazine
“I’ve had sex with sixteen guys, eight circumcised and eight not. In general, the cleanliness thing was an issue for me. I’d rather have circumcised, just because you never have to worry about that.”
—31-year-old married woman
“Circumcised penises are definitely more attractive. Uncircumcised tends to look like there’s been a lot of wear and tear on them after a while, because the foreskin stretches. Not that that hurts the sex.”
—50-year-old woman, divorced from an uncut man, dating a cut man
Do you have a preference between the two?
Woman A: For sheer aesthetic purposes, circumcised. It is not a deal-breaker at all if they’re not, because it doesn’t feel different, but it is definitely more aesthetically pleasing to have them be circumcised. It’s also something my girlfriends and I talk about, and there is always a negative stigma associated with non-circumcised guys. The weird thing is, it’s very comparable to the female vagina, but yet I have never heard of that comparison.
If you had a son, would you get him circumcised?
Woman A: Definitely. For all the things I mentioned above, there are far more negative circumstances he would encounter than positive in having an uncircumcised penis. Unless I heard some very good reasons why having an uncircumcised penis was necessary, I don’t think there is a reason not to just snip it at birth.
Woman B: I think I would have him circumcised for sanitary reasons. I just feel like it is more hygienic for a baby to be circumcised. I mean, the poor little things sit in diapers all day for, like, a year.
Honestly, ask yourself if this is acceptable? Ask yourself is this okay with you that someone would actually want a little boy to have his life put in jeopardy for supposed “sanitary” reasons as if cleaning a penis is all that difficult or for aesthetic purposes? Do you think this is a good reason for any woman to want this done to a young boy? Do you think that this is acceptable from grown women who obviously wouldn’t want their clitoris lopped off at birth because of what someone else desired? Why are we not treating these women like the monsters they are?
To be fair men were also questioned in the Cosmopolitan piece. Let us take a look at their responses:
What are the pros and cons, in your experience, of being circumcised/uncircumcised?
Man A: I would say the benefit of being circumcised is that it’s not a surprise. I assume the guys that I will be sleeping with are, and I’m thinking that they probably assume the same thing of me. But I don’t want that to seem like I’m insulting uncircumcised guys. I’m a pretty laid-back guy. Whatever you have in your pants is probably a nonissue.
Man B: Pros: I think it looks better to be circumcised. Cons: Sex is less pleasurable, for both men and women, and the organ itself is more sensitive than it ought to be. I remember reading somewhere that there are about 12 square inches of skin removed in circumcision. Also, there is probably buried body trauma of the event itself that still affects me in sex although I don’t consciously remember it.
Do you ever wish you were/weren’t? And has that opinion changed over the years?
Man A: I have never thought too much about the possibility. I feel like most guys are circumcised so I guess I just feel like I was “normal.”
Man B: I wish I wasn’t — mostly because I’ve learned that uncircumcised men experience more pleasure. It took me until my mid-20s to learn about this, and I felt cheated out of a natural and beautiful part of my body by a decision that was never given to me.
Pay attention to what these men are saying. These aren’t just some small time feelings either. Maybe not most circumcised men feel this way but we know lots of them do. Notice the answer given to the second question from Man B, “I wish I wasn’t — mostly because I’ve learned that uncircumcised men experience more pleasure. It took me until my mid-20s to learn about this, and I felt cheated out of a natural and beautiful part of my body by a decision that was never given to me.” How sick and utterly despicable does a person have to be in order to not realize him being circumcised without his consent was wrong? He clearly doesn’t want it. Should he have not been given a choice?
This is only part 1 of the series and it already looks like circumcision should be banned. What are your feelings? Let us know in the comments.
Thanks for reading!
Dion McNeil is a writer for the Soap Box Corner. Dion is a 29 year old stay at home dad who specializes in social issues and psychology.