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Losses from Circumcision?

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Published on Aug 20, 2011

Isn't circumcision just a little snip?

In a typical infant boy, the foreskin is a double-sided sleeve of skin and soft mucosal tissue that completely encloses the glans (the head of the penis). It is actually physically bonded to the infant's glans. This skin contains thousands of blood vessels and specialized nerves. In an adult, it would grow to cover 12-15 square inches. Circumcision removes this part of the penis. The operator forces a metal clamp inside the foreskin, and tears the skin away from the glans. The operator then slices the foreskin down past the glans and cuts the foreskin off. The entire procedure is excruciatingly painful. Infant circumcision is performed without adequate anesthesia, since anesthetizing such a young infant can be very dangerous. Partial or complete amputation of the penis sometimes occurs. Some children even die from the trauma, hemorrhage, or other complications.

Isn't female circumcision worse than male circumcision?

Female circumcision is typically viewed as more horrific than male circumcision because it is usually done under unhygienic conditions rather than in a hospital, and because one form of female circumcision, infibulation, is particularly severe. However, both male and female circumcisions are classed as genital mutilation by the International Coalition for Genital Integrity. Both forms of circumcision remove functional, normal tissue, cause extreme pain, permanently disfigure the genitals, and permanently damage the sexual response. And in most cultures where female circumcision is performed, male circumcision is also performed with equally unhygienic instruments. Regardless of the child's gender, when done to infants or children, unnecessary genital surgeries violate human rights because they are amputations performed without medical need and without the individual's consent.

The World Health Organization recognizes three types of female circumcision. Type I removes the clitoral hood and/or the clitoral tip. Type II removes the clitoral hood, clitoris, and part or all of the labia. Type III, also known as infibulation or pharaonic circumcision, involves removal of all external female genitalia and suturing of the vaginal opening.

Male circumcision can be compared to type I or II female circumcision. Although the glans is not harmed at the time of circumcision, the loss of protective structures causes it to dry out and lose sensitivity over time. It is also important to note that most of the nerves and pleasure receptors present in the clitoris are, in the male, present in the foreskin and its associated structure, the frenulum. Removal of these nerves constitutes a loss that can be most adequately compared to a partial clitoridectomy.

If parents decide not to have their son circumcised, won't he be teased?

Circumcised children are also teased. The body of a non-circumcised boy is normal, healthy, and whole. A proper understanding of his own anatomy and the reasons he was allowed to remain intact, will enable a boy to feel self-confident about his body. Furthermore, circumcision is already uncommon internationally and is becoming less common in the U.S.

If circumcision doesn't provide any health benefits, then why do doctors still do it?

The primary reason in the United States is cosmetic. The image of the circumcised penis has become so much a part of our cultural consciousness that most people do not know what a non-circumcised penis looks like. They may feel that the natural look is ugly or may think it is unhygienic. Discomfort with the natural appearance of the penis is a learned response.

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