Remarkable silences around circumcision

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Remarkable Silences

"Is there any other point to which you would wish to draw my attention?"
"The curious incident of the dog in the nighttime."
"The dog did nothing in the nighttime."
"That was the curious incident," remarked Sherlock Holmes.

- Sir A. Conan Doyle, 1894

One way circumcision is perpetuated is by ignoring its existence. This is especially so in the sexual field, where to mention it would inevitably bring its disadvantages to light.

 

Silence about the existence of the foreskin

 

Medical textbooks ( ! )

The Complete [sic] Human Body by Dr Alice Roberts, DK Publishing (2010)

Bookcover: the Complete Human Body

"Making full use of new medical procedures and imaging techniques, The Complete Human Body is the definitive guide to the development, form, function, and disorders of the human body, illustrated with unprecedented clarity by new computer-generated artworks and the latest medical and microscopic imaging. Exploring the body s form and function in greater depth than any other popular reference..." - Amazon

"...it does not once describe/depict an intact penis. All mammals are born with a foreskin. 70 to 90 % of the world's men HAVE their foreskin. ... The book fails to provide any information at all about the penile foreskin, the functions, the highly specialized nerve endings like the [ridged] band and the Meissner's corpuscles, the special antibodies contained therein which actually help stave off infection, including protection from HIV/ AIDS, and so forth...." - a customer review

Medical Dictionary at The Free Dictionary, definition of penis.
Image from Dorland's Medical Dictionary for Health Consumers. © 2007 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc. The entry for "foreskin" is not illustrated.

Textbook of Medical Physiology
Guyton, AC, Hall, JE.
10th ed. Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company; 2000. p. 921.

Reproductive and Hormonal Functions of the Male

THE MALE SEXUAL ACT

Neuronal Stimulus for Performance of the Male Sexual Act

The most important source of sensory nerve signals for initiating the male sexual act is the glans penis. The glans contains an especially sensitive sensory end-organ system that transmits into the central nervous system that special modality of sensation called sexual sensation. The slippery massaging action of intercourse on the glans stimulates the sensory end-organs, and the sexual signals in turn pass through the pudendal nerve, then through the sacral plexus into the sacral portion of the spinal cord, and finally up the cord to undefined areas of the brain. Impulses may also enter the spinal cord from areas adjacent to the penis to aid in stimulating the sexual act. For instance, stimulation of the anal epithelium, the scrotum, and perineal structures in general can send signals into the cord that add to the sexual sensation.

Sexual sensations can even originate in internal structures, such as in areas of the urethra, bladder, prostate, seminal vesicles, testes, and vas deferens.

 

New Atlas of Human Anatomy
General Editor Thomas O. McCracken
The first 3D Anatomy based on the National Library of Medcine's Visual [sic] Human Project

MetroBooks 2001
ISBN 1486630970
$14.98

This book was given a half page in Barnes & Noble's 2002-3 holiday gift book catalogue, where the author's achievement is described as "Dazzlingly realistic imagery" "Years in the making" "Precise in every way." 

On the book's dust cover panels we are assured the contents "re-create visually the exact forms of the body and all its parts" and "All the images are anatomically correct... One only has to look at [the illustrations presented in this book] to see that there are minor discrepancies beween these images and the textbook examples - the missing tooth, the removed appendix. [but no mention anywhere of the missing foreskin]. The Virtual [sic] Human's enormous advantage over any other representation of antatomy that has come before is that it is real, based on an actual body, without generalisation. It is the way we are."

The Visible Human Project® is "the creation of complete, anatomically detailed, three-dimensional representations of the normal male and female human bodies." The corpse of an executed criminal was scanned and sliced at 1mm intervals.

On page 155, in the "The Male Reproductive System", two penises are depicted, without explanation, without a square millimeter of foreskin.

On page 149, in "The Urinary System", a standing male figure (frontal view) is also without foreskin, as is the figure on page 107 in "The Endocrine System".

All four illustrations imply that the reduced penis is the natural male human condition. Unsurprisingly, the words 'foreskin' and 'prepuce' are not in the index, and nor are they in the glossary of this Atlas of Human Anatomy.  So much for 'anatomically correct' and 'precise' -- they must have new definitions.

At http://www.visiblep.com/ the author Thomas O. McCracken, is described as a medical illustrator, former associate professor and director of biomedical illustration and communication in the Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology at Colorado State University, who has taught medical illustration and gross anatomy, co-authored three books, illustrated hundreds of journal articles and text books, and has masters degrees in Medical Illustration, Anatomy and Physiology from the University of Michigan. Strange, then, if he'd never seen an intact penis in his life.

Essentials of Human Anatomy & Physiology
Elaine Nicpon Marieb
Benjamin Cummings (2011), 656pp
"it only showed circumcised. " - a reader on Facebook
"I searched and found "proper diagram" in chapter 14 in the reproduction section ... It does label the foreskin, but unless you were looking for it, you wouldn't really know what they're labeling." - another reader

 

The University of California, San Diego,
Practical Guide to Clinical Medicine website has a photograph called "normal male genitalia" in which the penis is circumcised.

 

Pocket Anatomy: A complete guide to the Human Body for Artists and Students by Christopher Joseph, New Holland, 2006, "based on Gray's Anatomy". All penises are shown flayed. (Gray's Anatomy - of course - has a detailed description of the foreskin.)

 

Complete Book of Men's Health
senior editor Penelope Crean
Mitchell Beazley (Octopus), UK, 1999.

No mention of the foreskin or circumcision. The only illustration of a penis is erect, in cross-section, with no hint of a foreskin. The double page spread on the stages of sexual arousal is entirely based on Masters and Johnson, admitting they have been criticised for over-generalising, but says "Masters and Johnson's text remains the standard point of reference."

 

Sexual Behaviour in the Human Male
Alfred Kinsey, 1948.

No mention of the foreskin or circumcision. A significant but unknown proportion of men born in the USA before 1930 would have been circumcised.

 

Shands Health Care website

"Male reproductive anatomy":

The male reproductive structures include the penis, the scrotum, the seminal vesicles and the prostate.

A.D.A.M., Inc. is accredited by URAC, also known as the American Accreditation HealthCare Commission (www.urac.org). URAC's accreditation program is the first of its kind, requiring compliance with 53 standards of quality and accountability, verified by independent audit. A.D.A.M. is among the first to achieve this important distinction for online health information and services. Learn more about A.D.A.M.'s editorial reviewers . A.D.A.M. is also a founding member of Hi-Ethics (www.hiethics.com) and subscribes to the principles of the Health on the Net Foundation (www.hon.ch).

Other sequences begin with pictures of circumcised penises identified as "normal anatomy". When this lack was pointed out to http://www.adamimages.com, their Education Support departnment replied, "There are many images with and without foreskin as there are people with and without." There are amputees, but would an anatomical picture of a leg have a foot missing?

 

An anatomical model

Anatomical model of the male genitalia, with no skin of any kind
Other pictures of the same model.

 

Health Infection blogspot

Varicocoele image showing circumcised penisCircumcised penis of varicocoele image

(This seems to be a cut-and-pasted blog, with no information about the surgical procedure shown.)

Jones and Bartlett's online Paramedic A&P Anatomy Review of The Male Reproductive System illustrates the foreskin -

anatomy test
- but does not idenitfy or test for it, though it tests for and identifies the rectum, anus and pubic symphysis - not normally considered parts of the male reproductive system.

 

Sex advice

"His G-Spot (and 7 Other Hidden Moan Zones)", Cosmopolitan magazine, June 2008, p121, covers everything from prostate massage to the ear, the chest, nipples, scrotum, raphe, and frenulum:

"This band of tissue has more nerve fibers intersecting it than any other body part does..." [except the foreskin]. The word "foreskin does not appear in the article.

 

How to Drive Your Man Wild in Bed by Graham Masterton and Liz Coldwell, Black Lace (Virgin), London, 2004, chapter 5 The Perfect Penis:

The plum-like head of the penis or glans (sometimes, because of its shape, called "the helmet") is full of hypersensitive nerve endings. Probably the most sensitive part of the whole organ is the frenum [no, only the less-than-whole organ]...

 

Extended Massive Orgasm by Steve Bodansky and Vera Bodansky, Vermilion, London, 2000. The chapter "Know Your Body" explains and illustrates the clitoris, the clitoral hood and its retraction, and says

  • "More nerves fill the clitoris than fill the head of the penis: approximately eight thousand nerves, about twice as many as the penis has." (p 51)
  • "The apex, or the underside of the head of the penis, and the clitoris develop from he same embryologic tissue and are considered homologous. Homologous means "to be similar to" and it describes similar structures that share a common origin. ... It's been determined that only the uterus lacks a homologous organ in men." (p 57)
  • "It is also thought that the clitoris moves against its own hood as the penis thrusts in and out," (p 58)
  • In a section on "Masturbation for Pleasure - for men -" it says "We recommend you use Vaseline for this exercise." "...narrow your focal point to your apex (the underside of the head of the cock, which is the most sensitive area)."
No mention of the frenulum, let alone the penis's "own hood", its thousands of nerves, its exquisite sensitivity, or the way it moves against the glans as the penis thrusts in and out, making other lubricant unnecessary. The term "apex" is not in common use. (The book uses a number of words including "peak" "tumesce" "do" and "squirt" in non-standard ways.)

The chapter "How do you do?" has 3 1/2 pages (89-93) about "Touching a Man" with no reference to his foreskin.

 

The Complete Guide to the Penis, in Tiscali Health. A caption "Prepuce" on an illustration of a dissected penis points to the corona. There is no other reference.

Anatomical diagram from ''The [Inc]omplete Guide to the Penis''

 

"Sex for Life: The Lover's Guide to Male Sexuality" by David Saul, MD. Apple Publishing, Vancouver, 1998 - does not refer to the foreskin or circumcision in the text or the index, only in two of the jokes with which he ends each chapter. One has the punchline

"Don't worry," said the tailor excitedly. "When you rub the wallet a little it turns into a briefcase." - which admits that the foreskin is erogenous tissue. The penises shown in a few small drawings are all circumcised.

"Taoist Secrets of Love: Cultivating Male Sexual Energy" by Mantak Chia and Michael Winn, Aurora Press, Santa Fe, 1984, - other than ambiguous photos, shows circumcised penises as if normal.

"Male Sexuality" by Bernie Zilbergeld, PhD, "The first book that tells the truth about men, sex and pleasure" (Little, Brown 1978), in 11 pages about the penis, does not mention the foreskin or circumcision. Drawings of two intact flaccid penises in a group of six and one possibly intact erect penis in a group of five are not identified. The only anatomical cross-section diagram is of a circumcised penis (identifying only "erectile tissue" and "urethra").

"For many men the head is the most sensitive part of the penis, especially around the ridge that connects it to the shaft of the penis." That ridge is the remnant of the foreskin remaining after circumcision. That in itself should be indicative.

The Marriage Art by John E. Eichenlaub, M.D., Mayflower-Dell paperback © 1961, reprinted 1965, 1965, 1965, 1966, 1966, 1967 and 1967, nowhere mentions the foreskin or circumcision:

"Most nerve centers contributing to sexual excitement lie near the vaginal opening in the female and around the penile head in the male." (p24)

The final trigger of male sexual excitement is the frenulum, the thin fold of tissue just beneath the penile head. This fold and the small area of tissue adjoining are a man's keenest sexual triggers." (p58)

The blurb says:

A doctor speaks:
"Dr Eichenlaub's book is frank, complete and to the point ..." animated smile
-Richard R. Fliehr, M.D.

 

The Word, a site for New Zealand teenagers, mislabels a circumcised glans as "foreskin /kirimata":

Glans mislabeled as ''foreskin''

 

Movies and TV

These productions anomalously portray penises that would actually be intact as circumcised:

MoviesTV
  • A newborn baby in "Big Love"
  • A baby born in the street in "ER"
  • A penis grown from human DNA on the back of a mouse in "South Park"
The movie "Sex and Breakfast"(US, 2008) includes a scene of a sex education class including a chart on which a circumcised penis is shown as normal.

 

Others omitting the foreskin

Scientific American

The normally scrupulous Scientific American ran an article in August 2000 by Irwin Goldstein and the Working Group for the Study of Central Mechanisms in Sexual Dysfuntion on "Male Sexual Circuitry". The otherwise admirable article recognises the existence of the foreskin only in a picture of an ancient Greek herm.

Scientific American article

Its diagrams of penile anatomy show a flayed penis, the nerves emerging from under the glans:
Close-up

 

The New Zealand Listener, April 15 2006
An article about the funding of \/iagra for prostate cancer survivors, using an illustration attributed to "Getty". A search of Getty Images on "male genitourinary" finds several others portraying the normal penis as circumcised.

Transparent male pelvisTransparent glans
The glans appears to be turned three-quarters towards us. The veins encircling the shaft end at the glans without explanation.

 

Evolution and Human Behaviour

BBC
Last Updated: Thursday, 7 August, 2003, 00:44 GMT 01:44 UK

Penis is a competitive beast


Scientists believe the shape of the penis may have evolved to help men remove the semen of love rivals during sex.

Tests led a team of US researchers, headed by Professor Gordon Gallup, to conclude that the penis acts as a "semen displacement device" and its shape has evolved in part to displace another man's semen.

The team from the State University of New York believe the thrust of the penis during sex may help to clear a woman's reproductive system of a previous lover's semen.

They tested their theory in experiments using latex phalluses, an artificial vagina and a mixture of starch and water.

New Scientist magazine reports they found the coronal ridge of the penis, found where the glans, or head, meets the shaft, could scoop out more than 90% of the cornstarch mixture with just one thrust. A phallus with no coronal ridge only managed to remove 35%. They found the depth of thrusting was also important. A three-quarter thrust was found to clear out less than 40% of the viscous mixture.

[No mention of the contrary action of the foreskin in all this. Did the US scientists even remember that it was there for most of our evolutionary history?]

...

'Far fetched' theory

Mr Derek Machin, a urologist at University Hospital, Aintree, said the theory seemed "far fetched".

"The research might very well be accurate, but I'm not convinced that just because the penis does something like this it was necessarily designed to have that effect."

...

The research is published in the journal Evolution and Human Behaviour.

 

New Scientist
In the issue of 14 September 2002, in an article ("Frontiers" p 14) on the growing of penile tissue in vitro, a cross-section of a penis is shown, circumcised for no apparent reason.

 

"The Myth of Monogamy"
"The Myth of Monogamy: Fidelity and Infidelity in Animals and People" by David P Barash PhD and Judith Eve Lipton MD, Freeman, New York, 2001 has a page (167-8) about the size and shape of the human penis and the possible role of its corona glandis in removing previous partners' sperm from the vagina, but no mention of the foreskin.

 

"Body Bazaar"
"Body Bazaar: The Market for Human Tissue in the Biotechnology Age" by Lori B. Andrews and Dorothy Nelkin blows the whistle on the ethics of tissue research, patenting of DNA and genomes, and the harvesting of body parts, from the dead as well as the living (including their use in art).
Its index does not include the words "skin" "foreskin" "circumcision" "Apligraf (TM)" "Dermagraft (TM)" or "Organogenesis".

Chapter 2, "Biocommerce" (rather mysteriously subtitled "The People in the Body") focuses on the medical trade in body parts, including:

  • blood
  • eggs
  • sperm
  • pheromones (in sweat)
  • DNA
  • stem cells
  • bone
  • embryos
  • antibodies
  • ovarian tissue
  • placentas
  • the meninges of the brain and
  • muscle
- but not foreskins.

It is, nonetheless, an excellent resource for legal precedents for challenging this trade.

 

A sexual theme park!
A "sex theme park" called "Love Land," featuring a Phallus Garden, was opened in 2004, on Jeju Island, Korea. Apparently none of the many phalluses there are intact.

Phallic sculpture at Jeju Love Land theme part, South Korea
Contrast this with the Penis Day celebrations in Japan. Wikipedia entry

 

Silence about circumcision

FrontPage
reprinted at Nospank
The Sexual Rage Behind Islamic Terror
By Jamie Glazov
FrontPageMagazine.com, October 4, 2001

ALL SERIAL KILLERS, almost without exception, are severely sexually abused as children. The kind of people who hijack a plane with innocent people and drive it into a building with thousands of other innocent people are related to this phenomenon.

When sociopaths rape and kill, they do not see their victims as human beings, but only as objects. This is because the sociopaths were themselves, at one time, used as objects - as their bodily integrity was repeatedly violated. The rage that results from sexual abuse is one thing, but when combined with living in a dysfunctional culture of sexual repression and misogyny, where love is reduced to violent domination, it is quite another. ...

The sexual privileges that are allowed in Islamic cultures are permitted to men. ... A deep-seated fear of, and hostility to, individuality prevails, and its main expression exists in misogyny.

Socially segregated from women, Arab men succumb to homosexual behavior. ... The male who is penetrated is emasculated. The boy, however, is not, since it is rationalized that he is not yet a man.

...As the scholar Bruce Dunne has demonstrated, sex in Islamic societies is not about mutuality between partners, but about the adult male's achievement of pleasure through violent domination.

There is silence around this issue. It is the silence that legitimizes sexual violence against women, such as honor crimes and female circumcision. It is also the silence that forces victimized Arab boys into invisibility. Even though the society does not see their sexual exploitation as being humiliating, the psychological and emotional scars that result from their subordination, powerlessness and humiliation is a given. Traumatized by the violation of their dignity and manliness, they spend the rest of their lives trying to get it back. ...

[Unmarried males'] sexual outlet mostly includes victimizing younger males - just the way they were victimized. ...

It is ...no surprise that many of these males find their only avenue for gratification in the act of humiliating the foreign "enemy," whose masculinity must be violated at all costs - as theirs once was.

Violating the masculinity of the enemy necessitates the dishing out of severe violence against him. In the recent terrorist strikes, therefore, violence against Americans served as a much-needed release of the terrorists' bottled-up sexual rage. Moreover, it served as a desperate and pathological testament of the re-masculinization of their emasculated selves.

[There is silence in this article around the circumcision of virtually all Arab boys - at an age they can remember it. It is the same silence that legitimises the victimisation of boys by circumcision throughout the world - but especially the US.]

Jamie Glazov holds a Ph.D. in History with a specialty in Soviet Studies. He is the author of 15 Tips on How to be a Good Leftist.. ... He writes the Dr. Progressive advice column for angst-ridden leftists at EnterStageRight.com. E-mail him at jglazov@home.com.

The entire article may be seen on a separate page.

 

"Crossroads: The Quest for Contemporary Rites of Passage" edited by L.C. Mahdi, N. G. Christopher and Michael Meade, contains 49 articles about initiation. Circumcision is not mentioned once. Asked why, Mahdi replied, "we intended that "Crossroads" would focus mainly on rites of passage at adolescence." Historically, circumcision is by far the most common rite of passage for adolescent men.

"Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill" by Col. Dave Grossman. He writes about TV, movie and video game violence turning boys violent, and how military indoctrination is to turn a man into a killer but, challenged to consider circumcision, he scoffed, "Right, cutting off a boy's dick makes him violent."

"The Shrine of Jeffery Dahmer" by Brian Masters (Coronet/Hodder & Stoughton, 1993) discusses the infant Jeffrey's vaccinations, breastfeeding, an operation for inguinal hernia ("an invasion near his genitals") and their possible effects on his self-image - but not circumcision. (Whether he was circumcised or not we still do not know, still less what effect this might have had on his self-image and subsequent career as a serial killer; but a late, remembered circumcision does seem to have been influential in a similar case.)

"Why They Kill: The Discoveries of a Maverick Criminologist" by Richard Rhodes

"Angry Young Men" by Aaron Kipnis

 

Books and articles about unnecessary surgery

MSN.com Health

Do You Need This Surgery?

Millions of Americans are having operations on their knees, backs and sinuses. Should you?
By Dr. Ranit Mishori, PARADE Magazine
More on this in Health & Fitness
Courtesy of PARADE

More than 70 million Americans face surgical procedures every year. Are they all necessary? Probably not. Even the simplest operation is a serious undertaking. “No surgery is minor,” says Dr. Thomas Russell, executive director of the American College of Surgeons. There is always a possibility that something can go wrong when someone sticks a sharp blade in your body.

Sometimes surgery is the only available treatment. In other cases, however, less-invasive options should be tried first. Whether or not you go under the knife may even depend on where you live. “There’s evidence that in some parts of the country, certain procedures are overdone,” says Dr. Russell. [One procedure is overdone in all parts of the US.] “But other communities take a conservative approach and require you to go through hoops and hurdles before you have surgery.”

... Knee surgery ... Back surgery ... Sinus surgery ...

Ultimately, elective surgery is about making you feel better. And it’s you, the patient, who must decide the right course of action for your needs, carefully choosing the time, the place and the doctor. Educate yourself about any procedure and ask questions. You must be convinced that the benefits of what may be a short-term solution to your problem outweigh the risks.

Questions To Ask About the Surgery

  • What are the risks and benefits?
  • What are the latest techniques and surgical options?
  • Is there evidence that this surgery is effective?
  • How many people achieve full recovery?
  • How long is the recovery?
  • What can go wrong?

Questions To Ask About the Timing

  • Do I need the surgery right now?
  • Do I have other options?
  • What happens if I wait a while?
  • Can I wait too long?

Ms.

Oct-Nov 2000

Making
the 
Cut

BY MARTHA COVENTRY

On New Year's Eve, I sit with an acquaintance and talk. We are nearing the end of a long, pleasant evening. My friend, also a writer, leans towards me into the little circle of privacy we've created "So you mean what happens to African girls?" she asks, after I tell her what I am working on. "No," I say. "I mean what happens to children in the United States."

Or rather, what happens to girls...

As late as 1937, Holt's Diseases of Childhood. a respected medical-school text, stated that the author was "not averse to circumcision in girls..."

This is the only use of the c. word.

Over the past 50 years, medicine has established standards for female and male bodies. ... Girls should have vaginas fit for future intercourse, and boys should have urethral openings at the tip of the penis.

...so the true tip of the penis, the foreskin, is cut off. But this is not what she means, she's referring to operations to "correct" hypospadias, where the urethra does not emerge from the tip of the glans.

Approximately 2,000 children a year have genital surgery in the U.S.
The true figure is approximately 1,200,000 children a year...
Experts say the vast majority are girls who lose parts of their clitorises and, less commonly, little boys who are changed into girls in an attempt to give them what doctors believe will be a better life.
...almost all baby boys

Journalist John Colapinto recently wrote a book called As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl. It's about the boy John Money put forth as evidence that we can make a child any sex we want if we get to her or him early enough.

... but no mention that David Reimer's troubles stemmed from a botched, unnecessary circumcision.

After reading of [John Money's PhD thesis arguing against genital reassignment surgery] and knowing what followed - the long-unexamined practice of cutting into children's genitals to make them more acceptable - the practice seems like a sad, avoidable mistake.

... but the sad, avoidable, mistaken practice of cutting into healthy boys' genitals to make them more acceptable remains unexamined a bit longer.

...we're appalled by countries that routinely clitoridectomize their daughters. But we still treat a bigger than average clitoris on a child as fair game.

...or any penis at all.

 

With all its wilful blindness to male circumcision, this article does make the point that - even today - doctors will partially or wholly clitoridectomise baby girls at the drop of a hat if their clitorises are "too big", and all the familar "locker-room"-type arguments will be wheeled out.

The struggle against genital mutilation - whether of boys, girls or children of other gender - is one struggle.

Ms Coventry has written another article, below.

 

 

On The Issues
The Progressive Woman's Quarterly
Summer 1998

On The Issues cover

The Tyranny of the Esthetic
Surgery's Most Intimate Violation
by Martha Coventry

Sexual conformity at the point of a knife is being forced on women whose genitals are declared not "normal" [and on baby boys whose genitals are perfectly "normal"] -- with devastating results

... Clitoral surgery on children is brutal and illogical, and no matter what name you give it, it is a mutilation. When I use the word mutilation, I can hear doors slamming shut in the minds of doctors all over this country. John Gearhart, a pediatric urologist at Johns Hopkins, has said, "To compare genital mutilation of young girls in Africa to reconstructive surgery of a young baby is a giant, giant leap of misrepresentation." ... Gearhart's mistake is to judge surgery only by the surgeon's intent, and not by the effect on the child....

Of the notable feminist voices raised long and loud in outrage over traditional genital surgeries practiced in parts of Africa, which are now denounced as "female genital mutilation" (FGM), not a single woman has said a word about the equally mutilating practice of surgically destroying the healthy genitals of children in their own country. [And in her treatment of circumcision, Ms Coventry carries on that tradition.] ... Could their silence be because they don't know what is happening in American hospitals? It's possible, but this issue has received media coverage in the past year, and many of them have had the facts explained to them in person or in writing.

I could speculate that these women don't want to take on a foe as formidable and familiar as the medical profession, and that it is simpler to point fingers at more barbaric countries. They may not want to dilute their cause with the sticky subjects of sex and gender that surround the issue of ambiguous genitalia [and "normal" male genitalia]. ...

Each woman has her own reasons for turning away from this issue. But I challenge them to pay attention to the fact that in hospitals just down the street in any big American city, five [no, 3,300] children a day are losing healthy, erotic parts of their bodies to satisfy a social demand for "normalcy." There is no Federal ban to save them. The surgery is left out of the law against FGM because it is deemed "necessary to the health of the child on whom it is performed." [Boys do not even have that much protection. Circumcision may be legally performed for any reason or none.] But as social psychologist Suzanne Kessler at the State University of New York at Purchase points out, "Genital ambiguity is corrected not because it is threatening to the infant's life, but because it is threatening to the infant's culture." [or rather, to the parents' culture]

Doctors and parents believe society will reject a child with atypical genitals, and the child is made to pay with her or his body for this shortcoming of our culture. What is happening in American hospitals to healthy children is just as mutilating to the bodies -- no matter how exquisite the surgical craftsmanship -- and violating to the souls of these children as FGM. And frequently, the surgical craftsmanship falls far short of exquisite.

The strict sexual agenda for bodies in America extends to little boys as well. [Yes! - and then, more silence:] To grow up to be a real man, a boy will have to be able to do two things -- pee standing up and penetrate a vagina with his penis. If a little boy has to sit like a girl to urinate because his urethra exits somewhere along the shaft of his penis rather than the tip (a condition that can occur in as many as 8 out of 1,000), he may be subjected to many disheartening surgeries over the course of his childhood to correct this "defect," and be left with a lifetime of chronic infections and emotional trauma. And if the baby is born with a "too-small" penis that doctors decide will never be big enough to "successfully" penetrate a woman, physicians will probably make him into a "girl" through surgery and hormone treatments, because, in the words of one surgeon, "It's easier to poke a hole than to build a pole." [And if a baby is born with any penis at all, US physicians will probably remove his foreskin.]

In the 40 years since surgical intervention to "correct" genitals that are viewed as abnormal was first prescribed [and in the 120 years since circumcision was first prescribed for "moral hygiene", i.e. to hinder masturbation], treatment protocols have rarely been questioned. After all, it is much more comfortable for doctors to assume all is well than to start digging around to find out if it's really true. Until recently, all discussions of what is done to people's sexual bodies have been hidden safely away in the pages of medical texts, where real lives are only "interesting cases," and pictures of genitals are disembodied curiosities or teaching tools. Many doctors would like to keep things that way. For example. Dr. Kenneth Glassberg, a pediatric urologist associated with the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), insists that people who speak up and tell their stories are doing a disservice by "scaring patients away."

... Cosmetic genital surgery on children is out of control. As the practice has careened along unexamined for decades, illustrious careers and reputations have been made, consciences have been swallowed, and terrific damage has been done. For a doctor even to hesitate before operating takes tremendous effort and self-reflection. The need for babies to have genitals that look typical has been perceived as so unquestionable that surgeons travel all over the world to perform surgery on children free of charge as a "humanitarian gesture."

Dr. Justine Schober challenges her fellow surgeons to realize that "when you do [this kind of] surgery on someone, you are responsible for them for the rest of their lives." ... No one is naive enough to say that a life in a body seen as abnormal is a ticket to bliss. But it is not the bodies of these children that are wrong, it is the way people see them. And if these children grow up and want to change their bodies one day, that will be their right. Nobody, but nobody, no matter how loving, no matter how well-intentioned, should have the power to steal precious parts of a body from a child before she or he even gets started in life.


Martha Coventry is currently writing a book about childhood genital surgery in America. [We wait with bated breath to see what it will say about circumcision - if anything.] She lives and works in Minneapolis.

On The Issues. Summer '98, Vol. 7, No. 3 / Web page: 6-26-98.
They can not argue that circumcision is omitted because they confine themselves to women's issues, since an earlier article asks Do feminists need to liberate animals, too?

Gender-conformity surgery is a violation of the human right to genital integrity. To grant the validity of part of that right is not to deny the validity of another part.

Review of “Civilizing Women: British Crusades in Colonial Sudan”
The Independent Institute
September 24, 2007
Wendy McElroy
iFeminists.com

...I start with an argument for personal choice, for the right of every person to make peaceful choices with her or his own body; this human right transcends gender and culture. For me, opposing FGM is not about saving African or Arab women from making a non-Western choice; adult women should make their own choices with their own bodies. What I oppose is the imposition of FGM upon unconsenting women or upon girls who have not reached the age of consent. When someone imposes FGM upon another, then the procedure becomes an act of violence against an innocent person. Intervening in the act is as valid as rescuing a woman who is being raped. I dismiss the protestations of those who wish to impose FGM on four-year-girls in the same manner as I dismiss the rapist who complains that I’m interfering with his cultural view of women. I similarly disregard complaints from cannibals, slave owners, foot-binders and those who conduct human sacrifice [...and...?]. The common denominator: these people use violence to impose their cultural beliefs despite the great harms inflicted. They claim a ‘right’ denied to their victims, the right to choose a cultural practice. To me, infibulating a four-year-old is the very definition of cultural imperialism, not to mention mutilation.

[Wendy McElroy did, however mention Male Genital Mutilation in a 2002 essay for Fox News.]

 

Grand Rapids & Detroit News

Friday, October 19, 2001

By KATHLEEN LONGCORE
Booth News Service

"Is it a girl or a boy?"

...
In a book published last year, "As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised as a Girl," author John Colapinto wrote about his own [no, David Reimer's] failed surgical transformation. Born a boy and re-made into a girl [after a more than usually botched circumcision destroyed his penis], he still felt like a boy despite large doses of female hormones.

 

"The Undergrowth of Science: delustion, self-deception and human frailty" by Walter Gratzer (Oxford University Press, 2000). Specifically about "the way false theories and imagined phenomena sometimes spread through the scientific community" (as distinct from deliberate fraud and "scientific lunacy"). Chapter 7, What the Doctor Ordered, is about

  • how treatment by bleeding (phlebotomy) overstayed its welcome, lasting well into the 19th century
  • a now-forgotten "ailment" called "ptosis" or "dropped organs" which was treated by surgery to hold them up, at least until the 1920s
  • tonsillectomy
  • colonic irrigation and its monstrous sibling,
  • excision of the colon
  • implanting of testicular extracts ("monkey glands")
  • drinking salts of radium (causing an unknown number of deaths)
  • oöphorectomy - removal of the ovaries - for undiagnosed conditions
  • prefrontal lobotomy and leucotomy
- but not circumcision. Notwithstanding, the book is a good one, with several passages applicable to circumcision.

 

Birth and babycare books

"Misconceptions: Truth, Lies, and the Unexpected on the Journey to Motherhood" by Naomi Wolf (Doubleday, 2001). Most of the book is about the birth of her daughter and the horrors of episotomy, caesarian section and unfeeling doctors, but the epilogue is about the birth of her son, with more of the same. Circumcision is not mentioned. Perhaps, given the bad reviews this book has had for its self-pity, it's just as well.

"A Guy's Guide to Pregnancy: preparing for parenthood together" by Frank Mungeam. Beyond Words Publishing Inc, Hilsboro, Oregon, 1998. It includes sections on vasectomy and sex after birth, but not circumcision.

"Everything Your Baby Would Ask...if only he or she could talk" by Kyra Karmiloff and Annette Karmiloff-Smith. Golden Books, New York, 1999 - No mention of circumcision, let alone "Hey Mom, why would you even think about cutting off part of my peepee?"

"The Father Book: Pregnancy and beyond" by Rae Grad, D Bash, R Guyer, Z Acevedo, M A Trause and D Reukauf. Acropolis Books, Washington DC, 1981.

 

And the winner is...

The Everything Get Ready for Baby Book
From buying the right gear to preparing a room
by Katina Z Jones

Adams Media Corp.
Holbrook MA
1998 (290pp)

It includes

64 pages of babies' names
eight pages about astrology, Chinese astrology and numerology for baby
a passage headed "Hey, where are they going with my baby?"
(about him/her being taken for tests) and -

not one word about circumcision.


 

Dishonourable Mention: "vigorous forms of stimulation"

"The World of the Newborn" by Daphne & Charles Maurer, Basic Books, New York, 1988, p. 213:
"He feels discomfort from intense lights and sounds, bitter flavors and smells, cold, pinpricks, circumcision, and other vigorous forms of stimulation.
[Endnote: The baby's reaction to circumcision is described in Gunnar et al. in Child Development, 1985.]"
(Gunnar et al. actually describe disturbances in sleep and elevated cortisol levels after circumcision.)
There is no other mention of circumcision in the 240 pages of text.

 

Books and TV about maleness and manhood

"Iron John: a book about men" by Robert Bly, Addison-Wesley, 1990
This book, much-hyped in its day, about the "mythopoetic" construction of maleness, has a 30-page chapter called "The Wound by the King's Men" including a one-page section called "A wound to the genitals" - and no mention of circumision.

"Heroes, Rogues, and Lovers: Testosterone and Behaviour" by James McBride Dabbs with Mary Godwin Dabbs, McGraw-Hill, 2000.

"This difference between the sexes is reflected in the initiation ceremonies of men and women ... there are more initiations for males than for females ... the Sabiny tribe in eastern Uganda celebrates a girl's passage into womanhood with a brutal ceremony that ends her ability to feel sexual pleasure. A "traditional surgeon" cuts away her clitoris and labia minor with a razor blade as the girl's friends and family watch. She endures the pain in silence, because if she cries out she becomes an embarassment to her family. ...

A boy's entry into the club of men is biologically less dramatic ... Initiations do exist in the modern world, but they get less attention than they did in primitive society. Modern initiations today are pale remnants of old traditions. They exist in ceremonies like joiing a fraternity, entering a new job, taking first communion, or having one's shirt bloodied after a deer hunt."

pp 199-200

 

"The War Against Boys: How Misguided Feminism Is Harming Our Young Men" by Christina Hoff Sommers, Simon and Schuster, 2000.

Amazon.com: "The author of the provocative bestseller Who Stole Feminism? returns with an equally eye-opening follow-up. 'It's a bad time to be a boy in America,' writes Christina Hoff Sommers. Boys are less likely than girls to go to college or do their homework. They're more likely to cheat on tests, wind up in detention, or drop out of school. This book tells the story of how it has become fashionable to attribute pathology to millions of healthy male children."

Yet The War on Boys nowhere mentions that they're almost infinitely more likely to have part of their genitals cut off. It nowhere tells the story of how it has become fashionable to attribute pathology to millions of healthy male penises.

"In Christina Hoff Sommers's splendid new book . . . she shows the damage that is being done to our sons by adults determined to stop them from being, well, boys."--Danielle Crittenden, New York Post

But not all the damage.

 

"Stiffed: The Betrayal of the American Man" by Susan Faludi

"The Stormy Search For The Self: A Guide to Personal Growth Through Transformational Crisis" by Christina Grof and Stanislav Grof, M.D.Tarcher/PutnamNew York 1990 - lists post-natal events that can cause long-term damage: "... anesthesia, the pressures of the forceps, and the sensations associated with various obstetric maneuvers or postnatal interventions."

"HomeComing: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child" by John Bradshaw, Bantam Books, New York, 1990, New York

"Bradshaw On: Healing the Shame That Binds You" by John Bradshaw, Deerfield Beach, Florida Health Communications, 1988.

"From The Hearts Of Men" by Yevrah Ornstein, Harmonia Press, Woodacre, CA, 1991.

"Within the hearts of men lie secret yearnings, needs and fears that have long been held captive by the taboos of society. The authentic voices in this book, and the magnificent spirit that ennobles them, cry out to be heard."

"The Hazards of Being Male: Surviving the Myth of Masculine Privilege" by Herb Goldberg, Greenburger Associates, New York, 1976 - doesn't mention the first hazard of being male in the US.

"Violent Attachment" by J. Reid Meloy

"Real Boys: Rescuing Our Sons from the Myths of Boyhood," by William Pollack

"Gods in Everyman" by Jean Shinoda Bolen

"The Life of Brian: Masculinities, Sexualites and Health in New Zealand", edited by Heather Worth, Anna Paris and Louisa Allen:


  six  

The Man with Two Brains:
The Discursive Construction of the
Unreasonable Penis-Self

ANNIE POTTS

The centralisation of the penis in normative notions of heterosex may be interpreted as an effect of phallocentrism - that is, of the dominance of the phallus in Western cultural symbolism. In Lacanian theory the 'phallus' represents the Transcendental signified in the symbolic order (that is, the order of language and power). Power, authority, and control over desire are predicated on the subject's relation to the phallus. The penis and the phallus are involved in a metonymical [one thing standing for another] relationship, whereby the penis comes to represent the phallus, and thereby is invested with the power attributed to the phallus. By having a penis, men may seem closer to possessing the phallus and the power attributed to it. While much has been written on the metonymical association between the penis and the phallus,2 this chapter focuses instead on the synecdochical [part standing for the whole] relationship between the penis and the man. In particular, this relationship is explored with reference to the inside/outside dichotomy and the 'spatialisation' of sexed bodies.

Spatial tropes are pervasive in Western society. Indeed, Derrida argues that the inside/outside dichotomy is the 'matrix of all possible opposition'. The modern human(ist) subject is constituted in terms of the spatial division, mind/ body; this binary operates by crediting the mind with 'interiority': it resides 'inside', possesses the quality of 'depth', and is intimately aligned with the all-important 'self. In contrast, the body occupies an inferior position on the 'outside' of 'personality', as a superficial, albeit necessary, shell or casing for the interior psyche. Furthermore, the spatialisation of subjectivity is gendered: mind-the 'superior' term in the hierarchical pairing - is associated with man, and body with woman. The differential spatialisation of subjectivity also produces specifically gendered 'experiences' of corporeality, depending on whether one's body is classified as female or male. However, in relation to sexed bodies, the inside/outside dichotomy is deployed in reverse: in this context, men are associated with exteriority (an effect of the visibility of the penis in a culture privileging visual over other sensory modalities) and women with interiority (due to their inner, invisible, reproductive organs).

[There is no mention anywhere in the 204-page book that about half of the men born in New Zealand in the 20th century had their foreskins cut off, making their achetypically phallic, but interior, glandes penis, exterior. ]

 

"A Man's Country: The Image of the Pakeha [non-Maori] Male - a History" by Jock Phillips, Penguin, Auckland 1987, revised 1996, does not mention circumcision, which became nearly universal in New Zealand in the 1950s and fell to residual levels by 1996.

Teen Species: British TV documentary about the development of teenagers. Part 2, about boys, shows five penises to demonstrate growth, the third circumcised (with a small skin bridge) without comment, the fourth and fifth with short foreskins. Boys and teenagers with inadequate information have not infrequently imagined they would either gain or lose a foreskin on adolescence. This would not reduce their confusion.

 

Other omissions of circumcision

The Moral Landscape: How science can determine human values by Sam Harris

 

Many social scientists incorrectly believe that all long-standing human practices must be evolutionarily adaptive: for how else could they persist? Thus, even the most bizarre and unproductive behaviors­ - female genital excision, blood feuds, infanticide, the torture of animals, scarification, foot binding, cannibalism, ceremonial rape, human sac­rifice, dangerous male initiations, restricting the diet of pregnant and lactating mothers, slavery, potlatch, the killing of the elderly, sati, irra­tional dietary and agricultural taboos attended by chronic hunger and malnourishment, the use of heavy metals to treat illness, etc. - have been rationalized, or even idealized, in the fire-lit scribblings of one or another dazzled ethnographer. But the mere endurance of a belief sys­tem or custom does not suggest that it is adaptive, much less wise. It merely suggests that it hasn't led directly to a society's collapse or killed its practitioners outright.

p20

Thus - instead of simply saying "genital cutting" - Harris apparently skirts around male genital excision because it is not (or so he supposes) "dangerous".

I don't think one has fully enjoyed the life of the mind until one has seen a celebrated scholar defed the "contextual" legitimacy of the burqa, or female genital mutilation, a mere thirty seconds after announcing that moral relativism does nothing to diminish a person's commitment to making the world a better place

p27

Moral Blindness in the Name of "Tolerance"

There are very practical concerns that follow from the glib idea that anyone is free to value anything - the most consequential being that it is precisely what allows highly educated, secular, and otherwise well-in­tentioned people to pause thoughtfully, and often interminably, before condemning practices like compulsory veiling, genital excision, bride burning, forced marriage, and the other cheerful products of alterna­tive "morality" found elsewhere in the world.

p42

From the context, Harris clearly means only female genital excision, ignoring a cheerful product of indigenous "morality" found closer to home.

In his wonderful book The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker includes a quotation from the anthropologist Donald Symons that captures the problem of multiculturalism especially well:

If only one person in the world held down a terrified, struggling, screaming little girl, cut off her genitals with a septic blade, and sewed her back up, leaving only a tiny hole for urine and men­strual flow, the only question would be how severely that per­son should be punished, and whether the death penalty would be a sufficiently severe sanction. But when millions of people do this, instead of the enormity being magnified millions-fold, sud­denly it becomes "culture," and thereby magically becomes less, rather than more, horrible, and is even defended by some West­ern "moral thinkers," including feminists." It is precisely such instances of learned confusion (one is tempted to say "learned psychopathy") that lend credence to the claim that a univer­sal morality requires the support of faith-based religion.

p46

 

The Story of God: a personal journey into the world of science and religion by Robert Winston, BBC/Bantam 2005.
Discusses Abraham's relationship with God at length, with no mention of the most dramatic requirement God is said to have made of Abraham and his descendents.

 

The Road to Wellville

Slapstick comedy movie (1994, screenplay by Alan Parker from the novel by T. Coraghessan Boyle) starring Anthony Hopkins as Dr John Harvey Kellogg and centred on his Battle Creek Sanitarium. Kellogg is portrayed, probably accurately, as a crank obsessed with bowel movements and suppressing sexuality. "Any use of the sexual act other than procreation is a waste of vital energy! Wasted seeds are wasted lives!" "An erection is a flagpole on your grave!" (Much of the comedy involves his clients evading his bans. One woman speaks glowingly of a rival who "wrote an excellent piece on the clitoris.") He performs an operation on "William Lightbody" (Matthew Broderick) to remove a "kink" from his colon, and one sequence involves Kellogg finding out that Lightbody uses an electric belt for genital stimulation, but there is no mention of Kellogg's predeliction for circumcision to treat masturbation.

 

These ones, um, mention it...

 

Discovering the Human Body: How pioneers of medicine solved the mysteries of the body's structure and function by Bernard Knight, MD. Bloomsbury Books, London,1980. 192pp, 6 about "The Male Generative Organs".

"The fold of skin which is removed at circumcision is the prepuce and this is anchored underneath the shaft by a narrow band of skin called the fraenum, meaning bridle." (p137)

Not even a comma to slow his hurrying past! Let alone any mention of the functions of the foreskin, which have been well described for centuries (Less well more recently, as this page shows). Earlier, Knight is critical of "the poor draughtsmanship and worse observational powers of the medieval anatomists" yet his own diagram of the end of the penis looks like this:

Knight's diagram of the male anatomy

The prepuce is shown almost invisibly pale. The line from "prepuce" and "corona" ends on the corpora cavernosa, that from "glans" on the meatus, and that from the fr[a]en[ul]um on the shaft/foreskin border. The white ring encircling the penis is mysterious.

Knight's only illustration of the intact anatomy is by Vesalius (1543) of which this is an enlarged detail:

Readers who have never seen an intact penis can be forgiven for imagining they are looking at a circumcised one (with a rather small glans). In fact, Vesalius - who may have never seen a circumcised penis - was portraying a short penis with a large glans covered by a foreskin that extends forward in an acroposthion, and the folds of the preputial sphincter.

Knight also shows two diagrams of flayed penises - which of course lack foreskins - calling them "accurate".

 

"Becoming Satisfied: A Man's Guide to Sexual Fulfilment" by Joseph Nowinski, Spectrum/Prentice-Hall, New Jersey, 1980. 356pp.

   "Touch your penis next, noting the texture of its skin and the way it feels when it is stroked. Look at the glans of your penis (pulling back the foreskin if you are not circumsized [sic] [The only reference in the entire book to the existence of the foreskin.]) and the shaft. Stroke the glans lightly with your fingertips and notice the sensitivity. See if there are places on your glans that are more sensitive than others."
   "Your body contains many erogenous zones.... The one erogenous zone men tend to focus on is the glans, or head, of the penis. ... However, it would be a mistake to think that this is the only erogenous zone on a man's body. He can, and will, get turned on by having many other parts of his body caressed, for example, his lips, nipples, ears, and thighs.
    "Each of the above sources of erotic stimulation contributes something to your total sexual arousal. The more you are able to use each of these channels of stimulation, the more turned on you will be.... the man who is able to utilize, say, four separate channels of stimulation is in a position to get more highly aroused than a man who can use only one. It also makes it more likely that his arousal will get high enough for him reach orgasm. How many he uses depends, of course, on both him and his partner."

 

"Wisdom of the Body" by Sherwin Nuland (Knopf, New York 1997) describes the glans as "exquisitely sensitive". It says the value of the foreskin is controversial, and then proceeds to witter on about the "value" of the foreskins harvested by David as a bride-price.

 

"The Ultimate Guide to Fellatio" by Violet Blue (Cleis Press 2002) has only circumcised penises in its illustrations, refers only in passing to the foreskin.

 

"The Ins and Outs of Gay Sex: a Medical Handbook for Men" by Stephen E Goldstone (Dell, New York, 1999) has four pages headed "Circumcision". He claims medical benefits for infant circumcision, but counsels adults against it. He refers to the foreskin's rolling action. He warns that "stretching" the foreskin may desensitise it - his only reference to it having any sensitivity to lose. Of docking he says with no evidence (nor, one may guess, experience), "any pleasure may be more psychological than physical" (whatever that may mean - and it would be no less true pleasure for that).

 

"Tackle Happy: 2 men, 2 dicks, 2 much spare time" a 74-minute documentary about two Australians who tour Australia with their show, "Puppetry of the Penis" (a sort of adults-only version of making hand-shadows on the wall). Both men are circumcised, but a talkback host who rings them while they're performing at a wildlife reserve comments about "fauna, flora and foreskins". They do not contradict him.

 

"Secret Men's Business - Manhood: the Big Gig" by John Marsden, Pan, 1998
has two pages about the penis, 16 pages about puberty, 16 about sex and only brief definitions of the foreskin and circumcision in the glossary.

 

Oral Sex He'll Never Forget by Sonia Borg, Quiver 2009

This has one short paragraph about the foreskin. "...[the foreskin is skin that covers the glans ... and is removed by circumcision]". Earlier it says the glans is the most sensitive part of the penis. There is of course nothing about how to use the tongue, teeth and lips on the foreskin.

 

"Manhood: The Rise and Fall of the Penis" by Mels Van Driel, Reaktion, 2010

''Manhood'' bookcover
(short-changes the man-hood)
Mentions the foreskin only as it pertains to possible illness and its treatment - the accumulation of smegma, the development of phimosis. Does discuss the history of the medicalization of circumcision from the Victorian Era to today, but does not challenge medical claims for it. All pictures and diagrams portray the penis without the foreskin (Van Driel claims that Michelangelo's David on the front cover is also circumcised). [From a review by Joe Cortez]

 

"The Human Body: a Visual Guide to Human Anatomy" by Dr Sarah Brewer, Quercus (London) 2010

Male Reproductive System ...
Penis ...
It is covered in a loose sleeve of thick hairless skin containing muscle fibres that folds over itself to form the prepuce (foreskin). The prepuce is tethered to the glans penis on the underside to form a bridge of skin, the frenulum, which contains a small artery. The foreskin helps to keep the glans penis moist and sensitive. In circumcised males, the forekin is surgically removed (usually soon after birth for religious reasons. After circumcision the skin of the glans penis loses its soft moist texture, more fibrous protein (keratin) is laid down and the glans become more like normal skin. Some sexual sensitivity may be lost.

Penis in ''The Human Body'' by Sarah Brewer

- Penis
forms a shaft topped by the glans penis - the most sensitive part.

 

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