Utne Blogs > Politics

The Fight Over the Foreskin

by Danielle Magnuson

 


Tags: Lloyd Schofield, San Francisco, circumcision, health, culture, body, politics, The Bay Citizen, The Jewish Daily Forward, Danielle Magnuson,

Circumcision protesterDoctors cut off newborn boys’ foreskins less and less these days. Once upon a time, more parents than not chose to have their sons circumcised; today, the U.S. circumcision rate is just 30 percent. The practice is so out of favor that San Francisco has been discussing banning circumcision outright.

An activist group collected enough signatures to get a male genital mutilation bill listed on the city’s November ballot, although a judge recently ordered the bill off the ballot, citing the illegality of voters regulating medical procedures. The proposed ban would have turned snipping foreskins into a misdemeanor and subjected MDs who perform the act to a $1,000 fine and a year in jail.

All this talk of criminalizing circumcision dismisses its very real health benefits, argues pediatrician Edgar Schoen in The Bay Citizen. For many medical professionals, the infections and diseases that can plague those with intact foreskins make circumcision the most sound decision. Eliminating this tricky fold of skin results in “tenfold protection against severe infant kidney infections [and] lifetime prevention of foreskin infections [and] retraction problems,” Schoen explains. “Penile cancer is found almost exclusively in uncircumcised men and cervical cancer is more common in women with uncircumcised partners.” A foreskin also makes men more vulnerable to HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases.

On the other side of the blade stand activists such as Lloyd Schofield, who led the campaign to ban circumcision within San Francisco city limits, as well as ordinary parents who choose not the circumcise their kids for a variety of compelling reasons, such as: It’s natural to keep your child’s penis intact. The surgery itself can be botched. Sexual sensation is increased because penile nerves are preserved. Some argue that health problems can largely be kept at bay with adequate cleansing, which is accessible to most middle-class Americans.

Schofield is considering an appeal of the judge’s ruling. Ultimately, though, with good reasons for and against, circumcision belongs squarely in the “choice” category. As Dr. Emily Blake says to The Jewish Daily Forward:

It is anathema to me that a city as open as San Francisco would begin to discriminate and limit options for anybody. If the person who started the movement wanted to initiate discussion or a thoughtful engagement, that would be wonderful. But an outright ban is just an infringement on everybody’s rights.

Source: The Bay Citizen, The Jewish Daily Forward 

Image by Franco Folini, licensed under Creative Commons. 

ramon sender
8/24/2011 7:29:46 PM

Sex books insist no difference exists between the two varieties of penises, but they are misleading. When I insert my uncircumcised penis semi-soft and don’t move, I can feel every tiny movement caused by her breathing. I'm most sensitive at my softest. Circumcision makes the penis less sensitive to that first level of sensation because it changes the glans into regular skin. And there are little nodules along the ridge of the glans. They’re called ‘papillae’ -- nerve endings, and don’t exist on a circumcised man. When the foreskin is trimmed, the glans, in its original state halfway between mucus membrane and skin, hardens and desensitizes. The nodules wear or fall off, bye-bye first level of sensation, and the man becomes dependent on less subtle levels for his fun. No more tiny, tiny breath sensations. He has to use it like a weapon and there goes any possibility of his merging with labial-clitoral super-sensitivity. Circumcision was a patriarchal discovery to make wham-bammers out of sensitive ladies' men. Probably Moses needed warriors and all the young men were lying around soft inside their women, breathing in sync together. Chopping off their foreskins turned them into roughnecks. What should all the poor circumcised males do? For a simpler cure that foreskin grafts, keep your glans moist until you re-grow your papillae -- wear a small, damp cloth covered with Saran Wrap for a few weeks. Just leave yourself a hole to pee through at the tip.


hugh7
8/20/2011 12:10:48 AM

"... with good reasons for and against, circumcision belongs squarely in the “choice” category." Absolutely, and the only person who should ever get to choose (lacking pressing medical need) is the owner of the part in question, when he is of an age to do so. In mosst of the developed world he has that choice, but he almost invariably chooses to keep it, and would do violence to anyone who would take it from him. There is no urgency; the things circumcision is supposed to be good for are rare, of late onset and/or readily prevented or treated by other means. Watch a video of a circumcision and you won't call it "snipping". With a Gomco or Mogen Clamp it's sliced (and a Mogen may take than just the foreskin, which has led to successful claims worth millions and the Mogen company going out of business); with a Platibell it's crushed and allowed to die; with an Accu-circ it's chopped.