Circumcision: An Unnecessary Act
by Lynnea Dally


One of the most baffling cultural phenomena that still exists in our modern society is the practice of male infant circumcision. I’ve written about circumcision before in a more unbiased manner, but I’ve since decided that circumcision deserves to be torn to shreds, and that’s what I’m about to do. 

Before I talk about whether circumcision should or should not be done, I believe I should properly define the procedure. Sometimes the shock value of such horrific practices gets watered down because the names for them have become so common. During a circumcision, a newborn infant is strapped down, and sometimes, but not always, given an anesthetic. A cut is made down the length of the penis and along the corona of the head. In the past, anesthesia was not given because the drugs are not considered healthy for infants, but increasingly, parents and doctors are considering the removal of sensitive tissue too inhumane to do without the anesthetic. Because children’s foreskins do not separate from the head of the penis, the infant’s foreskin is scraped off and the remaining skin is stitched to the penis. It’s a pretty horrific procedure.

Of course, just because a procedure is horrific does not mean it should not be done. For example, I am sure that putting tubes in children’s ears is almost equally traumatizing, but if the child is plagued with constant ear infections and is at risk of losing their hearing, the procedure is very necessary. However, I do not believe such an invasive procedure should be done unless absolutely necessary. Circumcision, in my opinion, is simply not necessary. 

There are two commonly cited reasons why it might be medically beneficial to perform male infant circumcisions. The first is that baby boys who are uncircumcised have an increased risk of contracting urinary tract infections. The second reason is that foreskins can cause medical complications later in adulthood. I will address these complications, phimosis and paraphimosis, first. 

Poor hygiene can essentially cause the head of the foreskin to stick to the head of the penis (phimosis) resulting in discomfort, pain and the inability to roll back the foreskin. It can also cause the foreskin to be stuck retracted (paraphimosis), resulting in pain or priapisms: painful sustained erections that require immediate medical assistance. All nasty things, to be sure. But these conditions can be easily avoided with simple washing techniques. 

If a circumcision is needed sometime in the future, do it then. We don’t remove every child’s appendix on the off-chance he or she gets appendicitis in the future.  Likewise, we shouldn’t cut off the tip of a child’s penis on the off-chance he gets phimosis. The condition is incredibly unlikely; thus, circumcision is an entirely unnecessary procedure. It almost seems that infant appendix removal makes more sense, seeing as appendicitis is life-threatening, while foreskin problems only cause discomfort. Plus, few people would say they miss their appendices.

The second argument for circumcision is that is reduces the risk of infant urinary tract infections, or UTIs. While it is 100 percent true that “uncut” boys get UTIs at higher rates than their cut counterparts, it’s also true that female babies get UTIs at a rate that puts both groups of boys to shame.  And what do we do when females babies get UTIs? Give ‘em antibiotics. The infections are caused by bacteria and as such, can be easily solved with modern medicine. It’s simply mad to perform a preventative surgery instead of dealing with an infection if it does indeed arise.

Furthermore, the “preventing infections” argument falls apart when you consider that many boys get infections from the circumcision itself.  Weighing infections and complications, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) has declared that there is no medical benefit for routine infant circumcision. In fact, countries such as Australia and South Africa have made unnecessary infant male circumcision illegal. In my opinion, the best solution would be to ban unnecessary circumcision until 18 or even 16: an age when the person could decide for himself. 

I know a lot of people may get upset at me for having compared female circumcision to male circumcision. Female circumcision, a barbaric procedure most frequently performed on young teenage girls, can include anything from removing the clitoral hood to scraping the labia and sewing the vagina almost completely shut. Female circumcision removes the sensitive tissue from which the majority of women’s orgasms come. One rough comparison is that a female circumcision is the equivalent of removing half the penis, not just the foreskin. I’d probably agree with this claim, but what if we routinely performed female clitoral clippings? That is, what if we clipped off an amount of skin on the female’s clitoral hood equivalent to the amount males lose during circumcision? I’m pretty sure that most people would respond with something along the lines of, “That’s ridiculous. It’s barbaric and cruel, and there’s no medical reason to do that in the slightest.” But guess what? As I’ve already stated, the CDC says there’s no medical reason to clip boys either, yet we still do. 

So why do we continue to circumcise baby boys? Historically, it was a Jewish blood ritual carried over into medieval times because it was believed to reduce sexual pleasure. But despite the removal of sensitive tissue, science cannot prove that circumcision decreases sexual pleasure. Also, sexual sensitivity and pleasure are not necessarily related one-to-one. It’s like comparing wealth vs. happiness. People with excess wealth are not necessarily happier than those just scraping by. I believe that the same is true with sexual sensitivity vs. sexual pleasure. As long as the man is still able to function sexually, he probably isn’t better off with excess pleasure than men with slightly desensitized genitals. But that’s just my conjecture. 

The real reason we continue to perform the barbaric practice of circumcision is because we treat children, socially and legally, as property of their parents — not as individual human beings. Individuals are seen as having control over their own bodies, but infants aren’t even allowed the right to decide whether or not they keep one of their organs.

Imagine if we went around chopping tiny parts off adults; we’d be arrested in a heartbeat. Or how about this scenario: I come into a room, announce that there are marginal health benefits to removing your earlobes, and explain that everyone in the room will now be sedated and “earlob-otomized” regardless of their consent. I am pretty sure that the majority in the room would oppose such a move. Though they serve little or no function, most people are pretty attached to their ear lobes. We believe that those people have the right to choose to keep their earlobes; the same logic should be applied when those people are younger and unable to speak up for themselves.