The Mancunion

Britain's biggest student newspaper

Debate 2: Ban non-therapeutic infant male circumcision

In Britain it is accepted wisdom that female circumcision on minors (now widely referred to as female genital mutilation) is in effect child abuse. How…

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In Britain it is accepted wisdom that female circumcision on minors (now widely referred to as female genital mutilation) is in effect child abuse. How else could you describe carrying out an unnecessary, risky, painful surgery to remove parts of a child’s genitalia? But why do our infant males’ genitals not receive the same protection from cutting?

Despite the laws safeguarding female genitals, parents of infant males in the UK are allowed to decide on behalf of their offspring whether that child’s genitals are left intact or not. This means that male juveniles are not protected from non-therapeutic infant male circumcision. Non- therapeutic infant male circumcision is the practice of amputating healthy parts of the genitals (in this case the foreskin) of a child’s penis for non-medical reasons.

But, female genital mutilation is nothing like male circumcision, right? A circumcised male penis is cleaner and circumcision isn’t dangerous like it is for females.

Wrong. The acceptance of male infant genital cutting relies on two common beliefs; one, that the foreskin is superfluous, and two, that the practice of cutting it off is trivial. Nether is true.

The foreskin is in fact a key functioning part of the penis. It is a mucous membrane (like an eyelid) and serves the purpose of keeping the glans (penis head) moist, guarding the urethral opening, and keeping it sensitive and protected in the same way as the clitoral hood protects the clitoris. On the erect penis the foreskin serves an even more important function; namely the giving of erotic pleasure. The foreskin contains thousands of ultra-sensitive nerve endings, making it a highly erogenous zone, and its ability to move during sexual intercourse increases the pleasure for both parties by increasing moistness and reducing discomfort through a gliding action.

Indeed, scientist have mapped the regions of the intact penis with the use of “fine-touch pressure threshold tests”. Their findings show that the most sensitive regions on an intact penis are exactly those removed by circumcision. On the circumcised penis the most sensitive location is the circumcision scar –  however, this is still less sensitive than five other areas on the intact adult penis. The result is significantly less pleasurable sex and masturbation for the circumcised male compared to the intact male.

The procedure itself is also very significant. Firstly, the psychological impact of the pain experienced from circumcision has been recognised as causing problems in infants and children, including post-traumatic stress disorder, maternal bonding failures after breached trust, and a lowered pain threshold recorded in babies more than 6 months after the operation.

These points, however, are trivial in comparison to the risks entailed in the procedure despite the rigorous rules on practice. Circumcised infants are not only more likely to have genital illnesses than uncircumcised children, but when complications occur they are much more likely to be serious complications such as permanent mutilation, infection or haemorrhage. Less frequent risks also include gangrene and whole or partial amputation of the penis. However, this price is still far less than that paid by some 200 babies per year in the USA, who pay with their lives.

With such a lot at stake, how can we legitimately uphold that becoming circumcised is for a parent to decide, not for the individual when he is at full consenting age and able to make an informed choice? The laws of this country rightly state that religious observance should be a personal choice. This is why I cannot accept that it is a parent’s right to force their religious beliefs on their non-consenting offspring, whereas I can accept, and in fact defend, an individual’s right to show his religious commitment in adulthood by making an informed decision to become circumcised.

See the other side of this debate.

What’s your opinion? @Mancuniondebate

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  • Matthew Taylor

    Well said! As a man who was victimized by the horrific practice of circumcision when I was three days old, I agree that it should have been my choice to say no as an adult, and should not have been a choice left up to my parents. Outlaw the practice and throw anyone in jail who participates in it – that’s what we do to those who mutilate females, why should makes be legally targeted for genital mutilation?

    • Richard Angell

      Mutilated and rendered a sexual cripple for life, and I concur. Jail, if not death, for baby cutters!

  • Scott Seelig

    Beautiful said and completely agree

  • GIRTHnyc

    Thank you for this article, it’s full of that very dangerous thing that so many people are afraid of—the TRUTH

  • Dan Bollinger

    …and circumcised men are four times as likely to acquire erectile dysfunction.

  • Right on! It is wrong that women and girls are guaranteed the right to all of their genitalia from Day 1 but men and boys aren’t.

  • Circumcision is a euphemism for genital mutilation. It is unacceptable that cutting the genitals of minors is legal.

  • cosmopolite

    Banning ritual circumcision will lead to an orgy of self-pity and defiance by observant Jews and Muslims, who will claim that the ban is an existential threat. I prefer requiring that ritual circumcision be performed by an licenced surgeon, under anesthesia. Then let the popular culture of human sexuality gradually erode the respectability of the circumcised penis. The taboo nature of the human genitalia is under massive assault in the first world. The pressure on Jewish, Islamic and African parents to leave their children alone so that they won’t look odd and be ridiculed in school, can only grow over time. A growing number of women have come forward and used social media to reveal their preference for the natural penis. There is growing talk among women of high school and college age that intact is more enjoyable. If the present-day extent of sexual frankness persists or increases, the respectability of infant circumcision is doomed.

  • Greg Hartley

    All children, regardless of gender, culture or parental religion, have a fundamental right to keep all their healthy, functional body parts. Since an infant is incapable of religious beliefs, imposing an irreversible body alteration on him violates the freedom to choose his own religion as an adult. It differs from religious education, which can be changed. My body belongs to me!

  • Pieter Visser

    It should not be a choice when becoming an adult either. Many will feel stoll pressured to do so or have false religious information. Circumcision is harmfull, mutilating and just a plain sick thing.

  • ac05jn

    how do you ban something that’s already illegal? child circumcision has been illegal for as long as child abuse has been illegal. circumcision is child abuse.