Ever hear about genital mutilation? Well it happens every day to babies and children around the world including the USA. According to the 2011 US bill, the Genital Mutilation Prohibition Act submitted to the US Senate and House of Representatives, “genital mutilation” is defined as circumcision, excision, cutting or mutilation of “the whole or any part of the labia majora, labia minora, clitoris, vulva, breasts, nipples, foreskin, glans, testicles, penis, ambiguous genitalia, hermaphroditic genitalia, or genital organs of another person who has not attained the age of 18 years or on any nonconsenting adult.” In line with the 2003 UK Female Genital Mutilation Act that protects girls only, this bill has been written so that all minors may likewise be protected.
Individual communities are also starting to recognize the fact that genital mutilation of children, regardless of sex, is wrong and should be stopped. The Huffington Post, Los Angeles reports that “A proposal to ban the circumcision of male children in San Francisco has been cleared to appear on the November ballot, setting the stage for the nation’s first public vote on what has long been considered a private family matter.” Even a comic book, Foreskin Man, has been created to raise awareness of this long accepted gross violation of the human rights of personal autonomy and self preservation. A pdf of the comic’s first issue can be found here or by clicking on the image above. Unfortunately, the second issue is considered by many to be anti-Semitic, which I do NOT endorse nor desire to be associated with, so I have not provided any other links.
Removing body parts without medical indication and without the consent of the person receiving it is tragic and should be criminalized. This is especially true of the sex organs given that at best, surgery permanently alters cosmetic appearance, sensitivity and sexual function. At worst, surgery can result in horrific disfiguration and/or death. Given these risks I strongly believe that non-medically indicated circumcision should be banned for all minors. Adults who choose to be circumcised for religious or other reasons, such as Jews and Muslims, can surgically alter their bodies after they have reached the age of consent.
David Reimer is one such infant victim whose penis was destroyed by circumcision in 1966. Following the medical advise of Dr John Money, a prominent psychologist and sexologist of the time, David’s parents elected for him to undergo sex reassignment surgery to raise him as a girl. Unfortunately, David never accepted his forced female gender role and began living as a male at the age of 15. He continued to suffer years of severe depression, financial instability, a dissolving marriage and eventually committed suicide in 2005. His tragic story is catalogued in the bestseller biography: “As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl” by John Colapinto.
Horrific medical complications of male circumcision are NOT a thing of the past. Review of peer reviewed medical journals reveals that present day complications continue to include poor cosmetic outcomes; excessive bleeding; necrosis of the penis and/or surrounding structures; lymphedema; keloid scar formation; skin bridges; buried penis; urethral stenosis, obstruction or fistula; penis shortening; decreased sensation; partial or complete destruction of the penis, amputation and death.
Doctors too should be wary of offering this “service”. Not only are surgical “mishaps” a legal liability but even culturally acceptable outcomes incur an ever increasing risk of malpractice accusation and lawsuit.
In conclusion, it is high time that we recognize infant male circumcision for what it is: a far-too-long accepted tradition of male genital mutilation. All infants and children deserve better than this. Click on one of the banners below to learn more and to find out how you too can help protect children and end genital mutilation now.
- 10/19/11 – Georganne Chapin – End the barbaric cutting of baby boys
- 9/3/11 – Newborn male infant circumcision declining in U.S. says CDC
- 6/24/11 – The professional imperative for obstetrician-gynecologists to discontinue newborn male circumcision.
- 11/26/10 – Doctor and hospital sued for circumcision
- 9/26/10 – Are you REALLY SURE you want your OB/GYN to cut your little boy?
- 3/24/10 – Say NO to infant male circumcision!
- 1/11/10 – Throwing wrenches at the gears
29 thoughts on “End genital mutilation now”
Just wanted you to know that I have written a new article about ballooning of the prepuce of intact boys. I’m the person who wrote the Phony Phimosis Diagnosis and thought you’d enjoy reading this latest one: http://www.drmomma.org/2011/06/ballooning-in-intact-child.html Thanks so much for speaking out against genital mutilation! I always enjoy your blogposts.
Your friend is 100% right in all of these carteogies.1. Circumcision is a cosmetic surgery. Ask any woman and she’ll tell you that it looks better circumcised. A lot of women including myself had my boys circumcised because it does look a lot better. A lot of insurance will not pay for the procedure now because it is considered a cosmetic surgery.2. A better looking penis is a sexier penis. The overwhelming majority of women think that a tightly circumcised penis is extremely sexy. A snugly tight circumcised penis provides more stimulation to the woman plus prolongs intercourse for the man.3. In the Victorian times, midwives did travel the countryside performing circumcisions on infants and boys in the belief that it would prevent masturbation which was believed to cause blindness, because there was no foreskin left to roll up and down the penis. It also dulled the sensation and sexual urge somewhat.4. Circumcisions are on the decline in certain areas of the U.S. but they will always be around because of all of the above. A mom may say she doesn’t think of her sons circumcision as a sex enhancement but she will her lovers.5. Medical reasons, There are many. Its neater, its cleaner, its sexier. Cosmetic surgery? What do you think?
What is the present position on the progress of this Bill? Boys in the UK need protection from the cutters.
Glad this was mentioned – I hope this story will eventually reach the UK and make people think – it’s about time we made a move towards banning this horrid practise.
Bravo Dr. Pate. Great post! Hopefully the day when all children are protected from forced genital cutting will be sooner rather than later. Please keep up the great work!
A doctor who circumcises may be a pervert. There are a lot of the same signs and symptoms. What they do to a male child is permanent mutilation, including psychological damage. Is this not worse than what a pedophile priest does?
It is difficult to stop because of the compulsion that goes along with perversion. The best method of stopping the massive human rights violations taking place every day in America is to pass a law. We are seeing a test of that in San Francisco.
, it’s hard for people to apecct they might have made a bad decision and hard for people to apecct the idea that cutting off a piece of a baby’s stuff could ever possibly be okay. Personally, I’m anti-circ. Mostly because it is so illogical (and I come from a culture where it’s not at all common except among the religious). But I wouldn’t call someone who did circ their kid a pedo! That’s pretty illogical, too!
Great to hear that an ob/gyn has had the epiphany about how unethical this “service” is. Too bad more of your colleagues have not followed suit, but keep speaking up about it. It takes courage to do so in a profession where kissing ass and covering up are major career skills. Bravo!
Wonderful post! I very recently blogged about a hypothetical situation of genital mutilation of a grown man in hopes of showing how infant circumcision is no different! If you want to read it, you can here: http://www.stayathomemomologues.com/2011/06/its-cleaner-now.html
Great blog, James.
Working as a doctor in the UK, I too campaign against this appalling practice.
Challenge to the status quo over here is met time and again with the same response: ‘it’s a religious right’. As if the words themselves provided a shield to absolve someone from the basic human courtesy of not surgically imposing/branding their own views on to or off somebody else’s body.
One of the unseen damages of infant circumcision: http://research.cirp.org/news1.html John Taylor, heart specialist and world’s penis researcher and expert says in his 2009 October Newsletter: (snip) Until we do know more, extreme care should be taken to avoid any insult to the neonatal body that might upset interlinked respiratory and cardiac rhythms. Circumcision for no obvious medical reason is somewhere near the top of a list of don`ts; after circumcision, babies are in a state of pain and shock; they become quiet and respiration often slows. Now with some knowledge of fetal physiology, you can figure out the rest of the story.
As with the heart, the development of the prepuce can be seen in the context of the wider development of a system of tissues. The preceding newsletter outlines one set of possibilities, reflexes triggered by movement of the prepuce and glans affecting events (reflex contractions) at the base of the penis. It is ridiculous to suggest, as many do, that the prepuce is an isolated tissue that developed in the absence of any other penile influence. So what is the final message? Simply that interference with one tissue or even a nutrient bloodflow might have knock-on effects, from sudden death to bedraggled sexual reflexes in later life, that are difficult to predict without a much-improved and more sophisticated knowledge of human anatomy and physiology.
Thank you for speaking out. Many people have become defensive now that the demand for men’s equality has reached a ‘noticeable’ level. They think that the movement is made up of just a random few nuts in California, and that all doctors support the practice. It’s so important that the “medical” excuses behind circumcision be challenged by physicians. If there is no diagnosis, a doctor should not be performing surgery.
Thank you Dr. Pate for standing against genital mutilation!! As a birth doula, you and I are in the same arena, and in a wonderful position to inform and educate expectant parents about the truth of genital mutilation. Hopefully, our efforts, and those of others will put an end to this horrific practice. Also, thank you for helping those with gender differences and anomolies.
Dr. Pane, and Dr. Denniston too, thank you for being so frank. Should most physicians start to share your convictions, it would not even be necessary to pass legislation forbidding circumcision. In the mean time, why does not Medicaid completely stop paying for infant circumcision, as it is already happening in several states? Such a waste of federal funds.
Your article will be welcome at this afternoon’s NORM meeting.
Thank you again fro speaking the truth.
. Being respectful of otehrs is so important and I’ve learned over the years that the quickest way to get people to shut their ears completely is to open your mouth harshly.There’s a difference between sharing an opinion and being disrespectful to people’s emotions. As I always say, I have a lot of opinions, but they are for me to live by. Sure I’ll let you know them if you ask, but I’d never think myself so self-important to get offended if you chose to live your life differently and I wish otehrs wouldn’t either.Cheers,Just Like June
I’m afraid, dear Doctor, that calling a mutilation a mutilation before 18 and elective surgery afterwards is simply absurd and totally unethical.
Furtheremore, it is very likely that Abraham’s mutilation was just as forced as that of Moses’s son:
“Abraham against circumcision, a formidable Biblical breakthrough”
* * * * * “Thou shalt not circumcise.”, the abolition of circumcision by the Second Commandment”
“A new Biblical breakthrough: Moses’s son forcibly circumcised against his father’s will”
//”I’m afraid, dear Doctor, that calling a mutilation a mutilation before 18 and elective surgery afterwards is simply absurd and totally unethical.”//
Actually, this is exactly what happens all the time with cosmetic surgery.
Take a non-consenting woman and cut off parts of her labia, and that’s mutilation. Take a consenting woman and do the same, and it’s a “designer vagina”.
Break and re-set a non-consenting woman’s nose, it’s assault. A doctor does it to a consenting woman and you have rhinoplasty.
Doctors perform many activities which, if undertaken under other circumstances, would be mutilation. In order to be exempted from GBH laws, doctors must perform surgery in one of two circumstances – immediate medical need, or consentual non-necessary surgery on an informed adult. If one of these conditions is met, then it is not mutilation. What makes circumcision of children mutilation is the fact that neither of these conditions are met.
I have been deeply disappointed at how almost no American pediatric urologists and obgyns have taken a public stand against American routine infant circumcision (RIC). Dr Pate, thank you for being an exception. In my view, American RIC persists because the clinical training in USA medical schools continues to include how to perform RIC. In the other English speaking countries, RIC is either gone (UK, New Zealand) or in major decline (Australia, Canada) because more and more doctors refused to perform it. American insists on sitting on the fence. While it agrees that there is no compelling medical reason for circumcising neonates, it also says that if parents want it done, doctors should do it. This is a pathetic abdication of the moral duty of doctors to lead and educate the rest of us. Very very few parents have the urological and sexual sophistication required to make an informed decision to circumcise an infant son. Hence the stance of AAP borders on the delusionally naive.
That RIC was, last century, always performed without anesthesia, and is still often done without any pain reduction, is blatantly unconscionable, and should be criminalized forthwith. It is also unethical to perform surgery of any kind, without careful studies of whether the surgery achieves its intended purpose, and a careful count of long term complications. I know of no credible evidence, gathered from nations whose development level is comparable to that of the USA (so that a daily shower is the norm and condom access can be taken for granted), that routine circumcision extinguishes more urological problems than it creates, or reduces the frequency of STDs or of any forms of cancer.
I am quite confident that there never has been a careful sexual and genital study of a stratified random sample of adult American men. Such studies should include a clinical examination of the subjects, and an interview of their live in sex partners, if any. Studies of this nature are required to determine whether RIC has adverse implications for adult sexual pleasure and functionality. In the absence of such studies, RIC is unethical.
The Foreskin Man comic is politically and educationally worthless. It invokes the crassest of antisemitic stereotypes. That the author of Foreskin Man is also the mover and shaker behind the San Francisco and Santa Monica ballot initiatives is a political disaster of the first order for the intactivist cause. Those ballot initiatives are also pointless grandstanding. SF parents who wish to circumcise an infant son will simply have it done in Oakland or San Mateo. Likewise, Santa Monica parents will have it done in west LA.
RIC should not be banned, because a ban will create martyrs on the altar of religious freedom. It will die when health insurers decline to pay for it. When the fee for doing it become 4 figures, because of malpractice insurance to cover the occasional disasters. If doing RIC without anesthesia were to become illegal, many doctors not accustomed to injecting lidocaine will stop doing RIC because they believe that lidocaine interferes with surgical precision.
Women are the arbiters of fashion, and I submit that the tip of the penis falls under the tyranny of fashion. RIC will die as a growing number of women come to suspect that the circumcised penis is less satisfying sexually and visually weird. Circumcision became fashionable in the English speaking world in the late 19th century, when the prim upper middle class mothers of the day decided that extirpating the preputial sack would result in boys keeping clean down there, without the mother having an excruciatingly embarrassing conversation with her sons about hygiene under the foreskin. At that time, it was also often believed that the circumcised adult male was less horny, and that male sexual desire was a major source of social problems and moral failings. For a boy to be told to wash under his foreskin was seen as putting him at risk of discovering masturbation, then seen as morally disgusting because all sexual pleasure outside the marital bed was deemed beyond the pale.
The attitudes of most young mothers have since considerably evolved, and a consequence of that evolution is that RIC is going out of fashion. RIC cannot endure in a world where a growing number of young women have premarital sexual experiences with both cut and intact partners, and feel free to compare and contrast the two in blog posts and comments made behind a veil of internet anonymity. It cannot endure in a world where a fair number of married women are sexually dissatisfied. It cannot endure in a world where any woman over 18 can view penis closeups in the privacy of her home office, and thus discover what intact looks like even though she has never seen intact in the flesh and the timid sex ed she underwent skirted the issue. I suspect that intactivism is an unintended consequence of the invention of the digicam, internet, and broadband access, and of the rising sexual boldness of women.
Thank you for your strong support of genital integrity for all children.
Thank you so much for writing this! My husband and I may, if we are having a boy, have to have the circumcision argument. I appreciate having a doctor’s intactivist viewpoint to reference if / when I need it.
It is refreshing to see an article by an ob/gyn who recognizes the harm and human rights violations inherent in non-therapeutic genital cutting of non-consenting minors. It’s all the more refreshing to have two more MDs write in support of that stance! Times are changing and what a relief it is. Thank you, dear doctors, you give us hope for the medical profession.
Thanks so much for your article full of facts. It is good doctors like you, and informed parents, that will put an end to this abuse of children.
thank you for speaking out, would you be willing to do a video for youtube?
I once attended an ACOG convention to distribute a flier “10 great reasons for doctors to quit circumcising babies” I had the opportunity to discuss this with many doctors, and many of them feel the same way you do Dr. Pate. Sadly many others, although opposed, shrugged off their ethical responsibility and bemoaned the fact they they were forced to comply with the parent’s wishes. They said the parents demand it. There were two exchanges with circumcisers that were very sobering. One very tall and handsome doctor became enraged when he saw the headline of the flier, he backed me up against a wall and snarled at me “You don’t know what you are talking about!” and then “Have you ever SEEN one!!??” Obviously this arrogant man had an extreme prejudice against the form of the natural male body. There is no way that a male child born under his egotistical care could escape the knife. Another doctor balled up my flier and threw it on the ground- she defiantly gloated, “I have circumcised over 5000 babies- and the only ones I felt bad about were the Jews because I was taking the money away from the mohel.”
Some people think that legislation is an extreme measure when parents are perfectly able to protect their sons from circumcision if they wish- but circumcision is such a complicated issue, and when you factor in the mixed motives of the people doing circumcisions – as well as the collective ignorance and prejudice about the natural male body in our culture if becomes clear that baby boys do need to be legally protected from the adults unable or unwilling to consider the entire penis as a part of a “whole and embodied person”.