I’ve been thinking about this a fair bit in this class, especially since talking about intersex surgeries, and it’s interesting to me that it hasn’t really come up at all. It’s an operation usually performed near birth, it’s definitely cultural, and it’s definitely to do with sex and gender.
I’ll admit to a personal bias: I’m against it. I generally don’t like the idea of lopping off any part of a person’s body against his or her will. I’ve heard a few arguments about reasons TO get a circumcision, some better than others:
1: I want to circumcize my child for religious reasons.
Not enough by itself, to me. People do all kinds of crazy things for religious reasons, including female genital mutilation (which, I want to stress, I’m NOT trying to compare to circumcision; FGM is FAR worse). If you’re going to cut into someone’s body without their consent, I think you need a better reason.
2: Medical complications can occur, including infection.
Again, not enough. Infections can be prevented through proper hygene. Sometimes complications or infections DO occur, and you have to circumcize an older person and (as a friend of mine who has experienced it told me) it hurts like hell. But that won’t necessarily happen, and doesn’t usually happen. Still need a better reason.
3: Circumcized men have a lower risk of catching AIDS during vaginal intercourse.
Cutting off the penis entirely would probably further reduce that risk. There are many other good ways to prevent AIDS transmission, including not sleeping around, using a condom, being informed on your partner’s health, and so forth.
There are reasons that I think children should NOT be circumcised. One reason is reduced sexual pleasure. While many nerves are contained in the glans (head of the penis), there are a lot of nerves that are also present in the foreskin. As this article claims, the penis is really kind of like the vagina, vulva, and clitoris: even though parts of it are certainly more sensitive than others, all of them together contribute to the sexual experience.
I don’t like it also because it hurts the child. I can say that I for one would not want to have any part of my person, PARTICULARLY in the genital region, lopped off at present. Wikipedia suggests that doctors (as of late 20th, early 21st century) didn’t always use anesthesia. I don’t know if it’s a general argument that it’s no big deal because the child won’t remember it when he gets older. But I’ve heard it as an argument, and it’s frankly total bullshit. You don’t arbitrarily cause a child pain just because he won’t remember it. If you did that for any reason other than circumcision, you’d be rightly arrested and dragged away.
And past that, basically, I think it’s kind of lousy to remove working, healthy human tissue because it MIGHT prevent an infection, and particularly to remove it from someone who’s had no say in the matter. Ask someone who’s uncircumcised if he wishes he’d had it done as a child; I suspect there aren’t many.
So that’s my two cents. Granted, I came into this biased, and the only sources I used were mostly biased also. Basically, I wanted to start a discussion on this and offer my own thoughts on it. If anyone has other experiences or wants to tell me why I’m a total moron (preferably with regards to the content of this post), consider this your invitaiton.
Oh, and have one more biased article I consulted while writing this. It’s pretty good.