Circumcision is genital mutilation

By Will Owen /// Staff Writer

The practice of circumcision has been so normalized in our society that we forget that the above statement is factually sound: we are allowing the systematic mutilation of the genitals of almost half of our population. If this is true, then why does America circumcise over 80% of its penis-slinging population while other developed countries, including those in western Europe and East Asia only circumcise approximately 20% of males?

America’s high circumcision rate is generally attributed to hysteria surrounding the practice. John Harvey Kellogg (maker of Kellogg’s cornflakes), who believed it would prevent boys from masturbating, succeeded in popularizing it in the early 20th century. Doctors in this era also believed it helped prevent syphilis, which has since been disproven, according to the National Institutes of Health. Because of this misinformed belief, circumcision became compulsory in the military during both world wars. Once such a high proportion of the population was circumcised, fathers would generally have their infants circumcised simply because they had been circumcised as well, causing a steady circumcision rate throughout the 1900s.

Today, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) recommends snipping every infant that has a penis to snip; their claim is that it helps mitigate the transmission certain STDs. They claim that HPV — which has already been vaccinated against — is among the diseases in which transmission is slightly decreased among circumcised people. Genital herpes is another disease purported to be affected, but it’s already infecting an estimated 1 in 6 Americans, meaning a mild decrease in transmission rate wouldn’t have much of a demonstrable benefit for the American population. Lastly, human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the most harmful disease with a transmission rate that is slightly reduced by circumcision. However, this only applies to vaginal intercourse — so, even according to the CDC, this doesn’t even remotely affect the 78% of new HIV cases in America attributed to men who have sex with men. Ultimately, the claim that circumcising the entirety of the penis-having population will have a significant reduction in STD transmission doesn’t appear to be very plausible.

Despite this supposed benefit, it seems like we are neglecting the obvious detriments associated with harming the bodies of millions of infants. First of all, circumcision is a serious plastic surgery done on infants without their consent, which is an obvious human rights violation. We seem to neglect this because they’re infants — we forget that they’ll grow up soon enough to be adults without the ability to decide whether or not to have a foreskin. In spite of how much of a blatant violation of infant’s fundamental human rights it is, people will still brush this off because our society has conditioned us to think that foreskins are weird.

Furthermore, there are medical reasons why circumcision shouldn’t be recommended. The CDC calls the procedure safe, with a complication rate of .2%. Even though this seems low, when more than 80% of the penis possessing population is circumcised, the result is hundreds of thousands of botched circumcisions — hundreds of thousands of penises that will have to suffer the consequences uncontrolled mutilation — potentially affecting the sexual capacities and urinative abilities of those poor souls.

How can the CDC justify slightly lowering STD transmission rates with so many botched circumcisions? But more importantly, why is the method for preventing STDs snipping people’s peepers instead of discontinuing abstinence-only education and teaching our children about safer sex?

Ultimately, the antiquated practice of male genital mutilation has been resurrected in America during the past century. Through a tumultuous process, it has become the norm to the point where the government recommends it, while the unscathed have become the object of harassment in men’s locker rooms across the US. Thankfully, parents in the United States are opening their eyes to the uselessness of circumcision, and its prevalence is declining rapidly. In the past decade, circumcision rates have dropped by roughly 6%, primarily on the west coast. It seems as though American parents have finally begun to ask themselves, “why?” when given the option to mutilate their infant’s genitals.

5 Comments

  1. Will Owen, thank you for this thoughtful and concise essay! I was not aware that circumcision was required during both world wars due to the false belief that it prevented syphilis, and leading to its popularization in the U.S. Great historical fact. Today even a growing number of Jewish people deciding to opt out of the practice. My coauthor and I have written a book specifically for Jewish families who wish to hold an alternative bris that does not include circumcision. It’s called Celebrating Brit Shalom.

  2. While the present prevalance of circumcision among male US adults is about 80%, the current incidence of infant circumcision is only 55%.

    So about half of male infants are being left intact. Elsewhere on the planet, 95% of Christian familes do not circumcise.

    Note also that the CDC HAS NOT recommended circumcision. What they’ve done is circulate a draft recommendation based on the AAP’s policy. The draft has been roundly criticized (e.g. the Dutch Medical Association says “There are no compelling health arguments in favor of circumcision”) and will likely be revised before publication.

  3. No one has the right to amputate healthy tissue from an un-consenting patient. Every boy has the right to keep all his junk!

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