MALE CIRCUMCISION. KINDER TO CUT?
UPDATE: August 28, 2012
The prodecure of circumcision of newborn boys has been approved by the influential American Academy of Paediatrics.
After a 10-year evaluation, the academy found the benefits included: prevention of urinary tract infections, acquisition of HIV, transmission of some sexually transmitted infections, and penile cancer.
It said the procedure “does not appear to adversely affect penile sexual function/sensitivity or sexual satisfaction”.
The new stance is a significant change from the academy’s neutral position on the issue, which was last stated in 1999.
Earlier this year, Malcolm Knox wrote on the topic for The Hoopla:
For such a small shred of the male appendage, the foreskin arouses surprisingly large passions.
You might think, given that being circumcised is a moment that passes as forgettably and routinely as the snipping of the umbilical cord, few adults would spare it much thought either way.A German court has stepped into a religious minefield by banning male circumcision. Photograph via Time.com.
It’s not even worthy of a fight between the Palestinians and Israelis.
But the circumcision debate, for those who participate in it, is as hotly contested as any religious or political dispute.
A court in Cologne, Germany, ruled last week that a doctor performing a circumcision could be prosecuted under criminal law for violating a child’s ‘right to fundamental bodily integrity’.
The actual case in question did not result in a conviction, as the doctor who had botched the circumcision of a four-year-old Muslim boy had operated with parental consent; but in its judgement, the court remarked that circumcision ‘contravenes the interests of the child to decide later on his religious beliefs’.
As one of the 60 to 80 per cent of Australian boys who were circumcised in the 1960s, I do not feel that my rights are violated by having to be Christian, Muslim or Jew – if my non-possession of a foreskin is, as the court deemed, a qualification for membership of any of those clubs.
The German decision does not bother my religious identity or my sense of self.
But it does interfere with my email inbox.
About six years ago, I wrote an article about circumcision for Men’s Health magazine. Little did I know that I would be poking my nose into a hornet’s nest.
Professor Brian Morris, a molecular biologist at Sydney University, e-bombs the world with evidence to back his passionate pro-circumcision stance. Morris believes foreskins are a threat to the health of both men and women. He thinks they are prone to infection, harbour germs that cause sexually transmitted diseases, and are associated with cervical cancer in women.
If you think that the only people who really care zealously about the foreskin are men who have lost it, you would be wrong. Morris is a convincing and sober advocate for his case, which is that circumcision should be universal.
Morris criticises the Royal Australian College of Physicians, which is neutral on circumcision. Neutral, for Morris and other pro-circumcision advocates, means effectively anti-circumcision, because society’s and the medical profession’s default position now is to leave the foreskin alone.
Most parents, to be honest, don’t give it much thought.
But there is also a group of anti-circumcision campaigners who believe that men are damaged for life, psychologically and physically, by losing their foreskin.
Shane Peterson, who was part of my story, holds his beliefs with at least as much passion as Morris holds his. Peterson likens circumcision to female genital mutilation. He believes an inept circumcision denied him a sexual life and self-esteem to the point where he wished he was never born. With Sydney paediatrician, George Williams, Peterson has campaigned passionately to have circumcision banned.
When I asked the participants on both sides of the debate about their adversaries, they uttered the kind of contempt you would think were reserved for actual, not metaphorical, wars.
Some men do take the loss of their foreskin very personally.
I interviewed doctors who treat men seeking foreskin ‘restitution’, which usually involves pulling the skin around the penis up over the head and taping it, or even hanging heavy objects from it, to stretch it out.
In my upbringing, the foreskin was always a bit of a joke – you know, as in: “why you don’t buy calamari rings from the takeaway next door to the synagogue”. But for many men, the loss of their foreskin is no laughing matter.
Interestingly, both sides claim that they represent better loving: the pro-circumcision brigade contend that the foreskin’s absence leads to a desensitisation of the glans that gives longer lasting sex. The anti-circumcisers say this is tosh, and that a penis with a foreskin gives greater pleasure to both partners.
In the impossibility of a test case who has done it both ways, each argument must be taken as a profession of faith rather than fact.
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