So, here’s the lay of the land… I currently have glandular fever, mono to our American cousins, and I’m going a little stir crazy.
I’ve been thinking about circumcision a lot recently. Don’t ask me why… well, you can ask, but you won’t get an answer.
I should probably make a couple of things clear before I rant away. Medically required circumcision is a procedure that I have no problem with whatsoever. It’s best avoided, and the last possible action as clinically indicated, but there are times when it is required. Not fun for the man involved, but better than the alternatives.
Colour me prejudiced, but I really do consider female circumcision as in a slightly different league. Female genital mutilation (FGM) is a handy abbreviation that covers a whole world of inhumane and unnecessary mutilations of the entire genital area of women. I’m going to concentrate mainly on male circumcision of the foreskin for now and will tackle the can of worms that is FGM some other time. For now, I’ll just say it’s a bad, terrible thing and I really REALLY have a massively major issue with it. The work that the Orchid Project do is brilliant and the first part of the battle is talking about it. Anyway, more on that another time.
Male circumcision is something that I also have a problem with. The waters have been muddied in recent years with claims that HIV and other STD transmission can be reduced significantly by the removal of the foreskin. The jury is still out on this one For many, this possibility supports the cultural and religious traditions of circumcision. I would argue that, if effective, whilst this constitutes an excellent supporting case for the systemic use of male circumcision as a health promotion technique in geographical areas with high rates of HIV infection, it doesn’t support the widespread removal of foreskins. It’s one thing to potentially save lives in sub-Saharan Africa with a programme of education, barrier contraception provision and circumcision. It’s quite another to argue that as a standard, the circumcised penis is the ideal. More attractive, cleaner, healthier. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder after all.
As with all matters of personal opinion, there are some crazy claims floating around out there. Like the ever so resilient myth that smegma is carcinogenic (here’s a protip… it’s not) and removal of the foreskin will therefore, hallelujah, reduce your risk of cancer.
Appropriately enough, this is all bollocks.
There is another issue at work here and it’s to do with male self-image. It doesn’t take a genius to know that men are insecure about their genitals. In fact 61,000,000ness insecure. It must be difficult to feel like a complete man when you’re not a complete man. Increasingly, men are talking openly about the emotional after-effects of circumcision and the loss of control over your own body that comes with being permanently, surgically altered before you’re old enough to make that choice. It’s about consent and choice and identity, all crucial elements of a civilised and ethically robust society. No-one should have that sort of a decision made for them for purely cultural reasons, it should be a protected human right. I consider anything less unethical.
So there it is. My opinion, my 10 cents, my soapbox moment. To summarise, Circumcision = bad, not good, tut tut, stop that, no!
The human body is a marvellous thing, and as adults we have the choice to do whatever we want to it… whether that be ill-advised or not but please, please let’s stop doing these things to babies… is that too much to ask?