Genital Mutilation American Style

How a father discovered, too late, that circumcision is not a good thing.

by Rio Cruz

Most Americans, when presented with the information that approximately 97% of the world’s infant male population is not circumcised, are rather astounded. “But I thought everybody was circumcised. I thought it was a medically necessary thing to do,” said a friend when I brought up the issue a few weeks ago.

“Nope,” I replied, “not even close. The foreskin is not a birth defect needing remedy by the A.M.A. Nobody in all of Europe, non-Muslim Asia, or Latin America is routinely circumcised. In fact, the only people who routinely cut off the most erogenous part of their boys’ penis are Jews, Muslims, certain tribal groups in far-flung parts of the world and… the United States. Everybody else leaves their sons intact as nature made them.” This is a fact. Indisputable. Most leave their girls intact, too.

Roughly one million baby boys a year in this country are rudely welcomed into the world by the amputation, without anesthesia, of an integral, sexually important part of their anatomy. By definition, the removal of a normal, healthy, functional body part is mutilation. Pure and simple. These one million babies represent around 60% of all male infants born in this country, a figure that is down from a high reached in the 1970’s and 1980’s of around 90%. And what is truly astounding is that, while we become incensed over the female genital mutilations going on in Africa and other third-world countries far, far away, we ignore the routine mutilations perpetrated here against our own sons.

The sexism of this perspective is stunning. In fact, in 1996 the U.S. Congress, eager to appease feminist groups and appear to be the Great White Protectors of American Girlhood, passed a law against female circumcision or any other form of genital modification of girls below the age of consent. This was pure political theater, baby kissing, butt patting. As a society, we simply do not cut the genitals of baby girls in this country… only the genitals of baby boys. Passing a law against female genital mutilation (FGM) was a slam dunk for the politicians. They could look big and strong and macho and foursquare in favor of protecting babies… as long as the babies were girls, that is. In our culture, unlike other more civilized societies, it is perfectly acceptable to amputate the male prepuce against the shrieking protests of the victims. Our national chauvinism has blinded us to our own human rights abuses, against our sons, and does not allow us to see anything wrong.

I never saw anything wrong with it either until I witnessed my own son being circumcised. The doctor assured me it was a simple little snip of extra skin that had no function and that really didn’t hurt the infant. “You want him to look like you, don’t you?” Well, since I really hadn’t thought much about it, and since I, too, had gone under the knife at birth, I said “Sure. I guess so. Why not?”

He didn’t answer the “Why not?” but it was soon apparent to me. My newborn son was taken from his mother’s warm, nourishing breast and placed naked on a cold, plastic board called a Circumstraint. His little legs were spread-eagled and strapped down with Velcro bands and his arms were strapped to his sides. He immediately protested and began to cry. The doctor draped a thin cloth with a hole in the center over his shivering body and drew his little penis through the hole.

The doctor washed my baby’s penis with an antiseptic solution. He took a pair of steel hemostats and, holding the penis in one hand, inserted the tip of the hemostat into the opening of the foreskin and began pushing it between the foreskin and the glans, ripping the two structures apart. The foreskin and glans were tightly fused together by the normal balanopreputial membrane called the synechia, similar to the membrane that attaches the fingernail to the finger. It’s the body’s way, in part, of protecting against harmful bacteria.

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