Male Circumcision

Student’s name here Male Circumcision Although the origins of circumcisions are unknown, it is commonly believed that the practice began about 12,000 years ago whereby a stone knife was used to chop off the extraneous skin at the tip of a male’s penis. The primary reason given in ancient societies for this practice was that they believed difficulties in retracting the foreskin were detrimental to the fertilization process (Morse, 2004). In another instance, the act of circumcision was widely practiced in Egyptian culture as a right of passage into puberty, although it was not a cultural standard.

The Muslims, on the other hand, considered it to be an act of good hygiene. A second theory as to the spread of this cultural ritual is that in ancient times when certain cultures moved away from the act of sacrificing humans to the gods, they sought a replacement vessel such as self-mutilation (i. e. circumcision). This was due to the fact that the spillage of blood was an important part of these sacrificial offerings and would have been common with their primitive circumcision practices (Morse, 2004). The most well known origin of circumcision, however, is the Hebrew Bible or Old Testament.

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It was said that Abraham performed the first circumcision over 3,800 years ago on himself at God’s decree so that he would be fit to father the Hebrew nation. Current Judeo beliefs state that the boy should be circumcised on his 8th day of life following the Shabbat, which is their holiest day. It is believed that now the body and soul are completely united (Morse, 2004). Contemporary American views on the subject of circumcision are shifting more and more in opposition of such a custom (GVU’s 8th WWW user survey, n. d. . In 1971 90% of American men were circumcised, however, that same year the Committee on the Fetus and Newborn of the American Academy of Pediatrics decided they would no longer recommend the procedure (Afifi & Metts, 1998). There has been a steady decline in circumcisions since then. In 1999 the same committee reported that although low, the risk for getting a UTI, penile cancer, syphilis, and AIDS is actually higher with uncircumcised males. Currently, 65% of males in the U. S. are opting in favor of circumcision.

Despite experiencing a slow rate of decline, it seems that some minor benefits and the long standing tradition of male circumcision have a strong influence on many Americans’ decision to put their child under the knife (Morse, 2004). On the other end of the spectrum is the much more controversial topic of female circumcision or female genital mutilation, as it is more appropriately referred to at times. It consists of the removal of the prepuce and partial or whole removal of the clitoris itself. It is often performed without anesthesia or proper instruments while the young girl, anywhere from age 0 to 16, is held down.

The incidence of this barbaric treatment is highest in many African nations with other cases reported in several Asian and Arab countries as well. It is thought to have originated in Africa around the 5th century B. C. as a way of establishing male dominance, and even as late as the 1930s was being performed by renowned doctors in the United States as a cure for psychological disorders. The consequences of such a procedure are immense, both physically and psychologically. A female may experience anything from hemorrhaging to death depending on the complications.

Ironically, due to cultural influences, many of these girls willingly participate because it is seen as necessary to remain desirable for marriage or even feminine and beautiful (Little, 1988). In recent years the World Health Organization (WHO) has taken great strides to make this act an illegal one. As is stated in Little’s article, the position of the WHO is that “culture is no longer acceptable as a justification for violating the bodily integrity of a child. ” I, for one, strongly agree that this form of torture is not legitimized by the fact that these women were socialized to believe it is something to hold in high regard.

Both of these instances of male and female circumcision bring about the issue of a caregiver making a potentially important, physically-altering decision for a child who is too young to do so. In the case of male circumcision, it is my personal view that such a decision would have no major repercussions in the long run and is therefore a decision based on the personal preference of the parent/s. In my own case, even though there are no significant benefits and I have no religious background urging me in one way or the other, I would want my son to be circumcised because I believe it to be more aesthetically pleasing.

Female circumcision, on the other hand, as I’ve already stated is not acceptable in any fashion, let alone by another party. This brings to light a third option or scenario rather. The parents of intersexual babies have the particularly daunting task of deciding what sex their child s hould become. Science has shown us that much of our sexuality comes from an innate, genetic sense of who we are that can be very difficult or impossible to alter in some cases (Carroll, 2004). If this is indeed true then how could any parent make the decision for their infant who that child is supposed to be from this day forward?

It’s a task that I certainly don’t envy, but given the alternative it is a necessary evil. I think it is better to make this sort of life-altering decision for your child now than to risk raising a transgendered child in a society that is not very accepting of mixed gender roles and identities. The emotional and psychological torment that a transgendered child would have to face would scar them long before they reached a point where they could make a thoughtful and sound decision as to their future sex. Either way you’re taking a giant leap of faith.

Now whether that faith belongs to science or society remains to be seen. In 1999 the same committee reported that although low, the risk for getting a UTI, penile cancer, syphilis, and AIDS is actually higher with uncircumcised males. Currently, 65% of males in the U. S. are opting in favor of circumcision. Despite experiencing a slow rate of decline, it seems that some minor benefits and the long standing tradition of male circumcision have a strong influence on many Americans’ decision to put their child under the knife (Morse, 2004).

On the other end of the spectrum is the much more controversial topic of female circumcision or female genital mutilation, as it is more appropriately referred to at times. It consists of the removal of the prepuce and partial or whole removal of the clitoris itself. It is often performed without anesthesia or proper instruments while the young girl, anywhere from age 0 to 16, is held down. The incidence of this barbaric treatment is highest in many African nations with other cases reported in several Asian and Arab countries as well. It is thought to have originated in Africa around the 5th century B.

C. as a way of establishing male dominance, and even as late as the 1930s was being performed by renowned doctors in the United States as a cure for psychological disorders. The consequences of such a procedure are immense, both physically and psychologically. A female may experience anything from hemorrhaging to death depending on the complications. Ironically, due to cultural influences, many of these girls willingly participate because it is seen as necessary to remain desirable for marriage or even feminine and beautiful (Little, 1988). References Afifi, W. A. Metts, S. (1998). Characteristics and consequences of male circumcision on infants and their families. Journal of American Pediatric Association, 15, 365-392. Carroll, J. (2004). Sexuality Now: Embracing diversity. Belmont, CA:Wadsworth Thomson. GVU’s 8th WWW user survey. (n. d. ). Retrieved August 8, 2000, from http://www. cc. gatech. edu/gvu/usersurveys/survey1997-10/ Little, A. G. (1988, May 30). Male circumcision explored. U. S. News & World Report, 104(21), 66-68. Morse, S. (2004). Male circumcision: A necessary practice? American Psychologist, 55, 180- 186.

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