Friday, January 12, 2007

Circumcision Revisited

Okay, one of my friends brought up some interesting points about circumcision, so I thought I would revisit this topic and look at the history and some of the statistics. Sorry this is such a long posting. Okay, I probably use Wikipedia way more than I should, but I actually found one of the most neutral articles on the History of the Male Circumcision there. The article begins with this statement:

"It has been variously proposed that male circumcision began as a religious sacrifice, as a rite of passage marking a boy's entrance into adulthood, as a form of sympathetic magic to ensure virility, as a means of suppressing sexual pleasure, as an aid to hygiene where regular bathing was impractical, as a means of marking those of lower (or higher) social status, as a means of differentiating a circumcising group from their non-circumcising neighbors, as a means of discouraging masturbation or other socially proscribed sexual behaviors, to increase a man's attractiveness to women, as a symbolic castration, as a demonstration of one's ability to endure pain, or as a male counterpart to menstruation or the breaking of the hymen."

The first evidence of male circumcision is found in artwork in an Egyptian Tomb dating back to 2345 - 2181 BC. The examination of Egyptian mummies has found both circumcised and uncircumcised men. So humans have been performing this practice for a while, but I discovered that each civilization performed male circumcisions for different reasons. The Jews adopted circumcision as a religious ritual and preserved the prehistoric practice to present day. The Greeks and the Romans valued the foreskin, and passed laws prohibiting the practice. Christians also rejected the practice in the first century. Jesus may have been born a Jew and been circumcised because of it (I had no idea that there was a search for the Holy Foreskin), but how did Jesus feel about it?

From the section Male circumcision in the Greco-Roman world

According to the Gospel of Thomas saying 53, Jesus says:
"His disciples said to him, "is circumcision useful or not?" He said to them, "If it were useful, their father would produce children already circumcised from their mother. Rather, the true circumcision in spirit has become profitable in every respect."" Parallels to Thomas 53 are found in Paul's Romans 2:29, Philippians 3:3, 1 Corinthians 7:19, Galatians 6:15, Colossians 2:11-12.

While looking for more info on whether or not Jesus was circumcised, I came across this Yahoo Question: If Jesus was a circumcised Jew, why don't the Christians circumcise their men folks? The answer, "The vast majority of American-born men are, in fact, circumcised...I've actually heard Christian parents say, 'If it was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for my son.'" Seriously? I sort of chuckled when I saw this. I guess they can just nail their baby to a cross too...but I guess those boards they strap the baby down to when they are performing the procedure could be a modern day equivalent. I guess I am just grossed out by the whole procedure, from what I've read it doesn't seem all that pleasant.

Anyway, it wasn't until the 19th century that the practice of male circumcision was performed in the U.S. for "medical reasons". I guess it was first performed to prevent "self-abuse" and they found medical justification later. From Male circumcision to prevent masturbation:

Non-religious circumcision in English-speaking countries arose in a climate of negative attitudes towards sex, especially concerning masturbation. In her 1978 article The Ritual of Circumcision, Karen Erickson Paige writes: "In the United States, the current medical rationale for circumcision developed after the operation was in wide practice. The original reason for the surgical removal of the foreskin, or prepuce, was to control 'masturbatory insanity' - the range of mental disorders that people believed were caused by the 'polluting' practice of 'self-abuse.'" Self-abuse was a term commonly used to describe masturbation in the 19th century.

These online histories, although biased, support this statement. Both have heavy citations.

A Short History of Circumcision in the U.S. In Physicians' Own Words
History of Circumcision

Circumcision to me is shaping up to be more of a barbaric ritual rather than a procedure performed for medical reasons. I understand that there is research that supports a decrease in incidence of urinary tract infections, transmission of STDs, and a decreased chance of development of penile cancer in men that are circumcised. Obviously proper hygiene can limit the incidence of UTIs...the STD thing is matter of education, use condoms because everyone is at risk when unprotected sex is involved. The penile cancer is probably due to the fact that there are more cells....bottom line if the medical benefits were really proven it wouldn't be an elective procedure.

Some Statistics...Cuz I Like Numbers
Male circumcision is on the decline.....maybe this is related to the fact insurance companies won't cover the procedure anymore. From the Circumcision Reference Library, in 1979 popularity of circumcision reached a record high in the United States at 85%. Since then the rate has been decreasing.

U.S. Inpatient Circumcision Rate by state in 2004

It is interesting to see all the green states out west with all the red states in the middle of the U.S. Image from the article, Clean-cut All-American Boys


At 10:24 AM, Anonymous shauna said...

Way more info than I ever needed to know about circumcision :)

At 12:28 PM, Blogger Kelly said...

Yeah, but for some reason it doesn't seem to help me very much :(

I'm way too stressed out over this!

At 7:20 PM, Anonymous Renie said...

I'm very surprised to hear that the insurance wouldn't cover it. Ours was. As far as pain, a local anesthetic is put on the baby and according to the doctor, they cry more to being strapped then the procedure itself. As a matter of fact, Justin came back after the procedure asleep. I cried because I felt that I was hurting him and then laughed about him being asleep literally five minutes after they took him for the procedure!!

Not trying to tell you what to do just giving my 2 cents.


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