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  Home  > Circumcision  > Cultural Pressures to Circumcise

Cultural Pressures to Circumcise

The "I'm circumcised and I'm fine" syndrome continues to be prevalent throughout US culture, and completely ignores the fact that most circumcised males have no means of comparing their experience with what may have been. All of his sexual experience has been with his circumcised penis. The average American male is woefully lacking in any knowledge of the functions of foreskin, penile sensitivity, and the pleasure dynamics of the normal intact penis. To admit that a penis is not all it could be takes a great deal of soul-searching, courage, and honesty.

The danger in knowing about circumcision is that one is then vulnerable to feeling the associated emotional pain of what has been done. The greater danger is that without this knowledge we will continue to circumcise and cause more pain. —Ronald Goldman, PhD

We live in a society shaped by Puritan ethics and views on sexuality. Sexual pleasures are seen by many as immoral or dangerous, while celibacy and virginity are seen as virtues. Most people are uncomfortable talking seriously about sex. The subject—which includes, of course, anything to with the penis, and hence circumcision—is avoided or joked about.

It is hardly surprising that denial persists, despite the data about its harm, as a common defense mechanism. Few people want accurate information: dealing with the facts is too confronting. Circumcision is gruesome and upsetting. And so, on an individual, familial, and social level, we silently collude by agreeing not to talk about circumcision. However, the facts remain, and with our silence, we perpetuate the pain.

Our materialistic view of the body gives rise to medical materialism and reflects our cultural materialism. The foreskin, we tell ourselves, is "just a little piece of skin." But we are more than our material body, and the impact of circumcision is not just material. It is also psychological and social. When the bond between child and mother is disrupted, the bond between child and humanity is disrupted. Consequently, it is not only the child who is wounded during circumcision. We are all wounded: the parents, the physicians, the community, and the society. —Ronald Goldman, PhD

Awareness, inquiry, and disclosure are vital to a healthy society. Healing involves taking responsibility for our actions.

... to hold the medical community (or any other group) solely responsible for the practice of circumcision would be a serious mistake. A person, group, or institution has only as much power as other people give it. Circumcision is a social problem in which the whole society is complicit. —Ronald Goldman, PhD

Most of the world rejects circumcision: Over 80 percent of the world's males are intact. Most circumcised men are Muslim, Jewish, or from the United States. The US and South Korea (because of American influence) are the only countries in the world that circumcise the majority of their males for nonreligious reasons. It was only after World War II that most American hospitals instituted neonatal circumcision as a routine procedure.

Meanwhile, since the 1950s and 1960s male circumcision has been in decline in the English-speaking world. Medical associations in the UK, Canada, and Australia have taken strong stands against routine circumcision. The introduction of the National Health Service in the UK brought about a precipitous reduction in the circumcision rate there, so that by the 1970s fewer than 1 percent of baby boys were being circumcised. By about the same time, the circumcision rate in Canada and Australia had fallen below 50 percent, and it continued to fall so that, in the 1990s, only about 10 percent of baby boys were circumcised, except in Australia, where that number has risen recently due to an aggressive (and misleading) advertising campaign by a handful of doctors.




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