OpEd: Why Is Circumcision Still Considered a Humane Procedure?
© 2013 by Trish Causey. All Rights Reserved.
In my current class on Methods of Inquiry, one topic that came up is the ethics of the social sciences and research. My professor shared a power point presentation from a friend of hers, and in it, various points were made in regard to research on human subjects. The Nuremberg Doctors’ Trials, the Tuskegee syphilis scam research project, and the Stanford prison study all contributed to the passing of the National Research Act of 1974. This act allowed for the creation of the National Commission for the Protection of Human Subjects of Biomedical and Behavioral Research, which helped establish certain guidelines for conducting tests and research on human beings:
- Voluntary Participation
- No Harm to Participants
- Informed Consent
- Protection of Vulnerable Populations
- Honest Reporting of Results
Of course, I had to bring up the human rights violation that is routine infant circumcision. Circumcision itself is not a research project, except that there is research surrounding circ that just happens to use live babies, and apparently, circ is not covered in ethics classes or the social sciences when discussing inhumane, unnecessary medical procedures.
Here, then, is my post in my class’ discussion of the humane treatment of consenting volunteers — I thought my avid activist readers would enjoy a good Irish rant.
On the subject of human experiments, my activist ire is burning brightly, so you can ignore the entire rest of this post…. But if you’re brave….
Saying research on humans must be completely voluntary is great, but the reality is that is not what happens in the United States on one particular kind of “research”. Non-consensual human research does in fact still happen. In the United States, routine infant circumcision (RIC) on baby boys occurs on a daily basis — female genital cutting has been outlawed in the United States, but it is still practiced in some parts of the world. Both male and female genital mutilation are violations of a child’s basic human rights to body autonomy and self-determination.
While parents think they have the right to mutilate their sons, the boy himself actually has the only say in what happens to his body, especially when circumcision is an unnecessary cosmetic procedure. Even if the parents’ religion “requires” circumcision, the boy himself is too young to voice if he has chosen to join his parents’ religion. Thanks to the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States, every American citizen is guaranteed the Freedom of Religion; and in the case of circumcision, boys have the right to Freedom FROM Religion. HIS body. HIS choice.
So why do I bring this up? (Besides the fact that I’m an intactivist — an activist for keeping boys’ and girls’ genitals intact.) When a child is circumcised, he may not receive any anesthesia — even if given a local anesthetic, it does not do much. The male foreskin has 20,000 – 30,000 nerves. Yes, he DOES feel it. If he isn’t screaming, he’s in shock. So, is this humane?
Circumcision is now being shown to hinder a baby boy’s desire to latch on during breastfeeding — the baby probably feels betrayed by the mother. New studies are showing that circ affects the way in which the neurological pathways grow and connect as well as the psychological development — it’s no coincidence that the most violent and misogynist countries in the world tend to practice routine infant circumcision — America is especially included!
I invite you to watch a video of circumcision on YouTube. If you can’t sit through it without wincing, ask yourself how HE feels — and why does our culture still do this to infants who are only days old? Is this humane?
Worse than all of this is that the foreskins aren’t just thrown away. The hospitals sell the amputated foreskins to research labs since animal research is no longer an accepted practice (and rightfully so!). The DNA and cells from the foreskins are used in research by bio-engineering and cosmetic companies. Cosmetic companies are looking for the “fountain of youth”, and they’ve found it in the mutilated genitals of non-consenting newborn babies. The next time you’re shopping for some anti-wrinkle cream, call the company — Mary Kay, SkinMedica, Cover Girl, etc. — and ask if they STILL use foreskin-derived cells in their products.
Interestingly, the buying and selling of body parts is illegal in the United States. I can’t sell a kidney or an ovary or even a length of my hair because it would be considered trading in body parts. And yet the medical system does exactly that — buying and selling the human body parts of non-consenting children and profiting handsomely from it. Must be nice to own the FDA like that.
Over the course of its use and being sold and re-sold and then put into over-priced facial creams, one baby foreskin can eventually be worth $100,000. So everyone from the doctor to the hospital, to the labs, to the bio-medical and cosmetic companies gain big returns for stealing parts of a boy’s body, and yet the boy loses — so much more than just the foreskin.
Think circumcision prevents AIDS? It doesn’t. Prevents infections? It doesn’t. Looks “better”? No, it doesn’t. The studies done in Africa were skewed from the beginning, and a recent study showed higher HIV rates among circ’d men than intact. In fact, the foreskin contains special cells — Langerhans cells — and according to Nature Medicine magazine, “Langerin is a natural barrier to HIV-1 transmission by Langerhans cells.” The foreskin is not supposed to retract until it is ready to, usually around the onset of puberty; the foreskin actually protects the penis from infections. The foreskin also keeps the head of the penis smooth and soft, unlike circ’d glans that tend to look dry and cracked and develop keratinization (thickening of skin similar to scar tissue) from rubbing up against the boy’s/man’s clothes.
It is also estimated that 60% of erectile dysfunction in adult men is due to routine circumcision that was done when they were newborns. While the foreskin itself is small when it is amputated during RIC, once the boy grows into a man, the amount of skin removed equates to about 15 square inches of penile skin, including the frenulum (of the frenular delta) which is the most nerve-dense part of the foreskin.
Women who have been sexually active with intact men say there is a difference in the way intact men approach sex. These men seem to be more sensitive to the woman and more aware of what is happening in her vagina than cut men are. The foreskin mucosa also acts as natural lubricant. I can attest that men who have been circ’d have problems expressing themselves emotionally and in bed. Many cut men need “dry sex” to feel friction against the scar tissue (keratinization) on the underside of the penis in order to reach ejaculation. Dry sex is painful for women, but I can also attest that women don’t want to hurt the man’s feelings; and so, we endure painful sex so as not to further damage the man’s self-esteem. (Note: Not all circ’d men need dry sex “to feel something”, but many do, and many circ’d men have fulfilling sex lives.)
At Good Samaritan Hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, a study is being done on 200 newborn boys who are being mutilated to determine which of two circumcision clamps is “better.” This “better” clamp will be determined subjectively by seeing which clamp produces fewer blood-soaked bandages and by judging the amount of pain expressed on the babies’ faces. Again, when did these boys give consent to participate in this study? Is this a humane study? Doesn’t this violate the National Research Act of 1974?
Circumcision can cause all sorts of problems from infections to damage to the meatus and urinary tract. And there is even a consequence called “degloving”, in which the doctor accidentally removes ALL of the skin from the baby boy’s penis. Yes, this happens often enough that there is a name for it.
If all of this were not bad enough, on average, 117 baby boys die each year in the United States from “routine” circumcision. If a diet pill caused 117 deaths each year, the FDA would ban it. And yet, circumcision is “routine”.
So why, then, is it not outlawed? Because some people are afraid of offending people of Jewish culture — however, few Americans would be afraid to offend Muslims, who also practice circumcision. A person can be proud to be of Jewish culture and NOT circumcise their son, who may or may not choose to join Judaism as his chosen religion, if any. A baby cannot voice that he does or does not want to be Jewish (in religion), so whatever his parents’ religion might be is superfluous. (Again, I point out the freedom FROM religion guaranteed to every American citizen.) Added to that, the “ritual nick” that is supposed to be the “bris” is NOT what is “routinely” done by skinning the penile glans of its protective barrier, the foreskin. Circumcision as it is practiced in America today is actually the modus operandi from the sexually repressed Victorian age, who touted circumcision — to the otherwise intact population — as a means of preventing boys from masturbating. But if you’re interested in the Jewish perspective of RIC, check out JewsAgainstCircumcision.org.
For more information on the erroneous myths and so-called science behind the pro-circ propaganda, visit IntactAmerica.org, Circumstitions.com, and similar — and for those in the SanFran area: BayAreaIntactivists.org.
As a tribute to the natural penis, I asked intact men to submit photos of their penis in various states to help women (and other men) get accustomed to what a natural penis looks like, and I wrote this article on my blog (warning: it’s NSFW :-) ). If you’re on Twitter, you can ask a question about circumcision, and be sure to use the hashtag #i2 to reach out to the #nocirc intactivists. To learn more about the history of circumcision, how it’s done, and consequences, watch “Circumcision: The Whole Story” (also NSFW).
Activist rant is complete… for now…. :-)
This entry was posted on December 1, 2013 by Trish Causey. It was filed under activism, anatomy, body image, body mutilation, bullying, circumcision, erection, male orgasm, male perspective, OpEd, politics, reclaiming sexuality, sexual abuse, sexual health and was tagged with circumcision, ethics, human rights, humane, penis, research, routine infant circumcision, sexual health, social sciences, United States.