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Men Have Their Own "Warrior Marks":
On Male Circumcision

Chester McQueary
The Metropolitan (Denver, CO), March 10, 1995

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Individual feminists and women’s groups are developing a spirited and welcome discussion of female genital mutilation, a practice which the World Health Organization estimates has been inflicted on 80 to 100 million women. The practice persists in a broad band of nations and peoples across north Africa, being prevalent in Egypt, Somalia, Sudan, and Nigeria. As the world’s peoples mix in the unprecedented migrations occurring today, this practice has begun to show up in Western Europe, Canada, Australia and the U.S. Medical personnel in these countries have sometimes been asked to perform genital surgery (mutilation) on young girls. Responding to this development, Congresswoman Patricia Schroeder has introduced legislation (HR 3247) to prohibit any practice of female circumcision here.

However, there is a certain irony to the discussion taking place in the U.S., for this is the last and only nation where the mass practice of routine circumcision of infant males continues and persists. Medical circumcision in the U.S. happens about 3,000 times daily and adds $200 million to the U.S. medical bill annually. Most Europeans view the U.S. practice of male circumcision as bizarre and amazing, since with the exception of the United Kingdom, the practice was never adopted there. When I was introduced to a recently-arrived professor visiting the University of Colorado from Finland two years ago, I asked him if he knew that most American men were circumcised. A look of total disbelief crossed his face and he said, "That couldn’t possibly be true! There is no earthly reason to do such a thing." I assured him that it indeed was true and that his first visit to a gymnasium shower would provide confirmation of the fact. "But why?" he asked, a look of disbelief still covering his face. I tried to relate the 100-year medical history of the U.S. practice and the endless list of justifications that the medical profession has used to pressure or convince parents.

A century ago male circumcision was promoted as a prophylactic measure to prevent excessive masturbation, which was believed to be a factor in many illnesses for which there was no clear etiology known back then. Epilepsy, polio, tuberculosis, many kinds of mental illness, syphilis and many others were thought to be the dire fate of those left with a foreskin. The diseases being avoided change with time and information, while the rest of the world’s medical community looks on with amazement.

John Harvey Kellogg, founder of the famous cereal company, is the subject of a recent book and film "The Road to Wellville." While both the book and film illustrate Kellogg’s obsession with the supposed evils of masturbation, both fail to also deal with Kellogg’s promotion of circumcision. Kellogg’s book "Plain Facts for Old and Young" could be found in most homes at the turn of the century, wherein he explained his views: "Tying the hands is also successful in some cases. Covering the organs with a cage has been practiced with entire success. In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying abnormal excitement. A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect on the mind."

Today, male circumcision is the nation’s most common surgery, performed about 1,300,000 times a year on newborns, with no anesthesia. From small beginnings a little over a century ago when most children were born at home, the rate has steadily increased with the medicalization of childbirth into a kind of illness. Rising steadily through the years, by the 1970s and ‘80s the rate reached 85 percent to 90 percent of U.S. males. Yet 85 percent of the world's males alive today are intact as they were born, and there is no evidence of massive medical problems in these men because they have a foreskin. Indeed, how is it that the U.S. human male is the only species born on the planet who requires corrective surgical alteration within a few days of birth? Where did millions of years of evolutionary development fail and thus require human intervention here? And why has the rest of the world’s medical community failed to recognize the wisdom of the U.S. medical practice?

Indeed, in Europe, Asia and elsewhere, the natural functions of the foreskin are well understood: protection of the urinary tract in infancy; protection of the sensitive glans, and lubrication and movement during sexual activity and erotic sensitivity and sensation. The foreskin is a functioning part of a man’s sexual and erotic anatomy. And its routine removal through circumcision robs the man in ways we are just starting to understand and document.

Today, a small but increasing number of adult men, circumcised as infants, are joining women, midwives, nurses, physicians, and social activists in an effort to question and eventually stop routine medical circumcision in the U.S. The effort has had some successes and the rate of male medical circumcision in the U.S. has declined since the mid-1980s to around 60% today. Finland’s is 0.001 percent and all other European and Asian nations have similarly low rates. Our aim is to get U.S. society and the medical profession here to join the rest of the world in rejecting this practice as cruel, mutilating and totally unnecessary.

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