How Has Our Nation Changed in Regard to Genital Mutilation?

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There’s a saying that in polite conversation you should avoid talk of politics, religion and money. But throw genital mutilation on the table and taboo has been taken to a whoooole new level.

I totally understand that genital mutilation is a bit of a heated and shall we say, awkward topic. But it’s one certainly worth discussing, since our country has a rather colorful history of practicing, encouraging and – in the case of female genital mutilation – eventually shaking off the procedure more commonly known as “circumcision”.

During the Victorian Era, both male and female circumcision on non-consenting minors was considered acceptable, ethical and even medically beneficial. While involuntary female circumcision never became a widespread routine procedure on infants like involuntary male circumcision has become, they were both promoted by the very same doctors, using the very same arguments we see today to promote the completely elective procedure.

Medical Reasoning for Circumcision of Both Males and Females

The following excerpt quotes are from actual American medical journals:

“…that the girl who becomes irritable, disagreeable and hysterical may become charming, interesting and possessed of all feminine graces when her prepuce [clitoral hood] is forcibly peeled away from the glans of the clitoris, and we have made a distinct step forward in civilization…” [Is Evolution Trying To Do Away With The Clitoris? Transactions of the American Association of Obstetricians and Gynecologists Vol. 5, 1892, pp. 288-302]

“I for one have circumcised as many girls as boys, and always with happy results.” [Circumcision of Girls. Journal of Orificial Surgery, Vol. 7, July 1898, pp. 31-33]

“Many neuroses and even psychoses have their origin in pathological conditions of the hood of the clitoris.” [Circumcision in the Female: Its Necessity and How to Perform It. American Journal of Clinical Medicine, Vol. 22, No. 6, June 1915, pp. 520-523]

“Circumcision will relieve one of the greatest causes of masturbation.” [Why not circumcise the girl as well as the boy? Texas State Journal of Medicine, Vol. 14, May 1918, pp. 17-19]

“The same reasons that apply for the circumcision of males are generally valid when considered for the female.” [Circumcision of the Female. General Practioner, Vol. 18 No. 3, September 1958, pp. 98-99]

“If the husband is unusually awkward or difficult to educate, one should at times make the clitoris easier to find [by amputating the clitoral hood].” [Female Circumcision: Indications and a New Technique General Practitioner, Vol. 20, No. 3, September 1959, pp. 115-120]

In short, circumcision of girls was pursued in the medical realm for the exact same reason it was instituted for boys: To deter masturbation, to treat obscure nervous disorders, and to promote perceptions of overall health. Other explanations for female circumcision (which is now echoed for male circumcision today) was an imagined protection against disease or parasites, and to prevent the accumulation of secretions and smegma. And, as with circumcision of boys, the medical case for female circumcision has always contained a strong element of cultural or aesthetic preference.

But the tides have turned for girls through feminist efforts demanding bodily autonomy for women of all ages. A Federal law went into effect in March 1997 in the United States making any non-medically necessary cutting upon the genitals of a minor girl, for any reason, religious or otherwise, a federal crime. Read the U.S. Female Genital Mutilation Law here.

While girls are currently federally protected from genital mutilation, boys in America are still subjected to the Victorian Era procedure of forced genital mutilation every single day. And it is justified using the same demeaning, degrading and dehumanizing language and reasoning as the 1800’s era quotes listed above.

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How Americans View Female vs. Male Circumcision Today

Despite the similarities between male and female genitals, the nature of the surgery and the justifications offered for its practice, it is surprising that male and female circumcision receive such strikingly different reputations in modern day America.

The responses are as stark as night and day. If you say you are for female circumcision, you are lauded as anti-woman devil spawn from the depths of hell. If you say you are for male circumcision, you are patted on the back by the “we’re all good parents” herd, and assured it’s a valid choice that is yours, and yours only, to decide. (Not, ya know, the one with the actual penis in question.) In short, although the two procedures are near identical in its implications and practice:

– Forced genital mutilation on a boy is generally seen as a mild and harmless adjustment which should be tolerated, if not actively promoted.

– Forced genital mutilation on a girl is universally seen as a cruel abomination which must be stopped by law, no matter how culturally significant the procedure it to its practitioners.

– If you call circumcision of boys “genital mutilation”, you are accused of emotionalism and extremism.

– If you fail to call circumcision of girls “genital mutilation”, you are accused of trivializing the offence and being anti-woman.

This, despite the fact that it is the same exact procedure performed for the same exact reasons. Both procedures are performed on non-consenting children, both procedures are permanent and irreversible, and both procedures carry the same immediate and long term risks.

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Every day, news articles and Facebook status updates reveal a startling amount of botched circumcisions – some severe enough to result in the loss of the entire penis and even death. And largely, society turns a blind eye or ignores the true cause of the 117+ deaths and the thousands of botched procedures that occur annually. As MotherWise Blog puts it:

A baby with a serious heart condition is circumcised, bleeds profusely, and dies. But we’re not supposed to blame it on circumcision, because the baby had a heart condition.

A toddler is put under general anesthesia to be circumcised, and he dies shortly after he wakes up. But we’re not supposed to blame it on the circumcision, because it was probably just the anesthesia.

A hemophiliac baby is circumcised, bleeds profusely from his circumcision wound, and dies. But we’re not supposed to blame circumcision, because the baby was hemophiliac.A healthy baby is circumcised, an artery is nicked, he bleeds out and dies. But we’re not supposed to blame circumcision, because it was the severing of the artery that caused the blood loss.

A healthy Jewish baby receives a “metzitzah b’peh” circumcision, contracts herpes due to the oral suction, and dies. But we’re not supposed to blame circumcision, because it’s tradition and not all mohels have oral herpes.

A healthy baby is circumcised, the Mogen clamp slips, and a large portion of his penis is amputated. But we’re not supposed to blame circumcision, because it’s the fault of the clamp, which has caused similar injury in the past.

A healthy baby is circumcised and the doctor takes “too much” skin off, causing buried penis. But we’re not supposed to blame circumcision, because it was probably just the fault of the doctor.

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Can you imagine the outrage from our society if these were news reports and status updates regarding infant daughters, not sons? Every botched circumcision procedure is nonchalantly shrugged off as a small price for boys to pay should reminds us of our moral and sexist decline in respect for young boys as a nation.

Changes in Modern Thought Concerning Male Genital Mutilation

The power of the strong to determine the fate of the weak – principally if the weak are male – has been inbred through laws and policies and discussions on circumcision for well over a decade. What would be repellent to some Americans if perpetuated on females simply seems normal, and even desirable if inflicted upon males.

But there is good news! Among both the young and the old, a backlash is taking place. People are sensing that something is desperately wrong when the strong dehumanize and mutilate the weak, citing personal and sexual preference or “parental choice” to justify it.

More and more doctors, nurses, and hospitals and refusing to perform the procedure on ethical and medicinal grounds. From groups such as Doctors Opposing Circumcision to Nurses for the Rights of the Child, more and more medical professionals are joining the rest of the world in rejecting routine neonatal circumcision. Because the fact is, no national medical organization in the world recommends routine circumcision of male infants. The United States in unique in its devotion to male genital mutilation.

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Because more medical professionals are refusing to perform the elective procedure, an increasing number of insurance companies are likewise refusing to foot the bill for circumcision, which often results in repeat visits to treat the numerous infections, hernias and problems circumcision frequently causes.

But perhaps most influential is the growing tide of “intactivists” – anti-circumcision activists – comprised of concerned parents, “regret” mothers, and circumcised males speaking out in protest of their rights being violated and their genitals mutilated as children. Information concerning the truth of routine male circumcision is being taken to the streets in visual and graphic outreach via rapidly growing groups like Bloodstained Men and their Friends and Intact America. The revival of moral discourse has encouraged mothers to actively educate and pursue conversation regarding the controversial issue of circumcision. It is becoming increasingly impossible to ignore and impossible to trivialize the horrors of routine male circumcision.

People are beginning to reject the status quo and are starting to think through the issue for themselves, and men and women from all walks of life, all religions and all political spectrums are coming together to confront the morality of irreversibly altering a child’s genitals against their will.

In the midst of ethics dominated by Darwinian thought, many are beginning to question why nature would evolve a foreskin that would require immediate and complete removal. And in the realms of Intelligent Design, many Christians are re-examining Scriptures, and questioning perpetuating an Old Testament covenant ritual that has been fulfilled in Christ who paid the ultimate price so that we no longer have to cut our sons or slaughter our livestock. (Click here to read my article, Should Christian Parents Circumcise Their Infant Sons?)

Times and attitudes are most certainly changing. The circumcision rate in the United States is now below 40% (and much lower in some parts of the country), down from 81% in 1981. More than 60% of all baby boys in the U.S. leave the hospital intact, as more and more parents realize that circumcision is unnecessary and wrong.

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And although laws vary from state to state, there is a rising tide of teenagers pursuing legal action against their physicians for being involuntarily circumcised as infants, and an increase in lawsuits from grown men suing physicians for physical, sexual or psychological harm suffered from infant circumcision. Without a doubt, circumcision is becoming less lucrative for doctors, insurance agencies and hospitals. It’s becoming less favorable among parents and families. And it’s becoming loathed and deeply resented amongst men victimized by the procedure.

Without a doubt, society is catching on to the moral schizophrenia reflected in demonizing female genital mutilation, but allowing and applauding male genital mutilation.

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So how do YOU think our nation has changed in regard to genital mutilation? Do you agree that the tides are turning against routine male circumcision? Share your thoughts below!

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Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls.

Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

Gingi Freeman

Gingi is a photographer, cosplayer, amateur chef, crazy cat lady, anime otaku, bookworm, generic geek, world traveler, conservative Christian, homeschooler, devoted military wife and stay at home new mother of two little girls. Gingi blogs about anything and everything that is relevant to being a supermom, stay at home wife, homeschooler and geek girl! You can contact her at gingifreeman@gmail.com or via the contact form on her website at www.domesticgeekgirl.com

19 thoughts on “How Has Our Nation Changed in Regard to Genital Mutilation?

  • 23 October, 2014 at 10:21 pm
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    When my husband and I were born in the 50s, parents were not even asked if baby boys were to be circumcised; the doctors just did it. Of course, mothers were not asked if they wanted to birth their babies with minimal interference, either. They were knocked out with scopolamine, only to wake up hours later with no idea of what had transpired. In the 60s and early 70s, when a became of age, things began to change, as women began to question the authoritarianism of the medical industry. Women began to take back childbirth. However, forced genital cutting of baby boys has hung on, because mothers don’t bother to research foreskin. Many women have never seen an intact penis, and the only thing they have heard about it are harmful myths, such as that every intact elderly man will become infected, and so on. Things are changing, though, and I hope that in the near future that forced genital cutting of all children, regardless of sex, will become illegal.

    Reply
    • 23 October, 2014 at 10:41 pm
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      Whenever I question the medical industry, I am generally met with incredulity from fellow moms. However, I don’t see how we can’t NOT question an industry that has in it’s recent history recommended cigarettes for asthma, cocaine drops for colic and whiskey for teething for CHILDREN.. thank you for sharing your thoughts!

      Reply
  • 23 October, 2014 at 11:26 pm
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    If circumcision had happened to American girls rather than American boys, our nation’s women would be protesting in the street. THAT’S WHAT MEN ARE DOING RIGHT NOW, AND WOMEN ARE HELPING US.

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    • 23 October, 2014 at 11:29 pm
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      Thank you for all of the courageous work you guys are doing… I am a big fan, and I’m honored to have you stop by my page! *hugs*

      Reply
  • 24 October, 2014 at 3:14 am
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    I had no idea that female circumcision was a thing here in the US! I’ve been watching the new Cinemax show “The Knick”, about the Knickerbocker Hospital in New York in 1900…reading those excerpts of medical journals reminds me of some of the scary stuff they did back then! But I’d honestly never heard of them carrying on w/ such barbaric practices into the 1950s? What’s really crazy though, is the horror I’m feeling thinking of them cutting girls that would be old ladies today, should be the same horror for what happens to little boys everyday. So scary. I guess if we want to get some notice on this issue, it’s would be better if the children who die from this ‘acceptable medical practice’ had instead contracted Ebola! Wake up America.

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    • 24 October, 2014 at 3:22 am
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      Yeah, not too many people know that it was a regularly practiced thing in America at one time… Scary stuff! I hope this puts male genital mutilation into some perspective for those who never really stopped to think about it before!

      Reply
  • 30 October, 2014 at 4:34 am
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    Honestly, I never thought about this until I started reading your blog. I am compelled to do more research into this. Because of recent events in my own life, I too have been questioning the authority of the medical community. I’m thankful to God for allowing us to have the advances that we do today in regards to medicine and science, but I also know we can and have become overly dependent on certain practices and physician knowledge/opinion. Also, it truly doesn’t make sense for female genital cutting to be outlawed, but not male. Thanks for this!

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    • 30 October, 2014 at 1:06 pm
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      I’m so glad you are approaching it with an open mind.. too many people refuse to even consider the facts behind circumcision, because they are so ingrained that it is acceptable or beneficial. I know far too many men.. my husband included.. who wish they had been left intact. And it is simply too late, you cannot undo something as permanent as an organ amputation. It grieves my heart, and I thank God that I was not subjected to the same treatment as an infant. If you have ANY questions, please do let me know! I’d be happy to answer any questions you have!

      Reply
  • 12 November, 2014 at 5:37 pm
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    Ok, so I am not the typical guy; but I am near tears after reading this. I have 2 boys right now, 1 is circumcised and the other is not. In both cases, I had no say in the matter. All I really knew about it was that I got it moments after being born; and the same went for one of my sons; at his mother’s behest. I found this article rather uncomfortable to read, but that is a good thing. It got the point across.

    With my 2nd wife expecting and no clue as to what we are having this really hits a nerve. Her son (my 2nd one) wasn’t circumcised; but that was the tradition in Croatia. We have had problems with our son’s penis and the foreskin because of his acts of not giving a flying #@#@ until it has become inflamed and medical treatment is needed. That’s a problem that I apparently didn’t have, and is quite unlikely that my son will have.

    I honestly don’t know what to do or make of it. It was something I was raised believing had to happen for x/y/z reasons, but this post has really made me question this. I have to believe in the small chances, the smaller the chance the more likely it is that I will see it happen. Thanks for scaring me and making me wonder. All I want for any of my children is to have a happy and healthy life; if it’s cut short because of a circumcision… then I have seriously failed my child; and that is unacceptable to me.

    Reply
    • 13 November, 2014 at 2:20 pm
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      Thank you for such an honest and heartfelt response! It’s amazing how, when you are raised with something being the norm, looking at it in a new light can be so shocking. I really do encourage you to do some more research in this area. There is a popular bumper sticker going around that says, “Circumcision: The More You Know, The More You Are Against It”. And it’s so true!

      My husband was circumcised and deeply regrets it. It can never be undone. As a woman who did not undergo a forced body modification in my most intimate organ, I can only imagine how that must feel, not having a say when it comes to bodily and genital autonomy. If it’s morally wrong to circumcise girls to prevent UTI’s (ironically, intact girls suffer FAR more UTI’s than intact boys) then it should be wrong for boys as well, in my opinion.

      Anyhoo, thank you for reading with such an open mind! If you have ANY questions on this issue, please don’t hesitate to ask me! <3

      Reply
  • 22 February, 2015 at 2:21 pm
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    As a circumcised male I don’t understand this push to end circumcision. Sex is still mind blowing for me, I don’t understand why people act like we cant feel during sex, it still feals amazing. I can still masturbate or be manually stimulated FINE without lubrication, the only times ive been chaffed were during sessions where i was manually stimulated more than 2 times or for a durration longer than 60 min. I’m glad I was circumcised, I’ve been able to satisfy partners that had yeast infections without harming them or being afraid that I would get one. Sex has only once ever hurt a female partner of mine and that was purely because of the size. Also I think that it’s really fucked up that theres this whole ban circumcision push. If it does occur imagine the social stigma people that DO have circumcisions for medical reasons will obtain. people will think that they were circumcised for being unhygienic. you’re whole push also makes individuals like me feel like there is something wrong with my body even though I function just as well as an uncircumcised individual. Just because I don’t cum in 30 seconds of head contact doesn’t mean I’m broken. the scar of my penis is still very sensitive and to be honest I love my scar. I get to use it as a measuring line and I have these groves in mine that feel ungodly wonderful due to a bunching up FROM the circumcision, it honestly feels BETTER because i can feel the layers so tightly folded on eachother, it doesnt destroy sensitivity, it displaces it. my body wasn’t mutilated. Female circumcision is in no way relatable to male circumcision. female circumcision causes health issues, male circumcision prevent them. female circumcision causes pain durring sex, male circumcision does not noticably effect sexual gratification. a female circumcision removes the clitoris, the clitoris, as I’m sure you know, since you’re a female is an INSANELY sensitive organ, however the foreskin is nowhere near as sensitive as the clitoris, a guys legs don’t start shaking after 5 second stimulation of the foreskin like a woman does. honestly the whole campaign is ridiculous. if you want your kids to have a circumcision, circumcise them, if you don’t? don’t. quit fucking acting like perfectly healthy men are broken or mutilated.

    Reply
    • 22 February, 2015 at 2:41 pm
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      Technically, your body WAS mutilated, (you are not born with a surgically severed sexual organ) and the push to end INFANT circumcision is to protect men like my HUSBAND, who wishes his body had been left intact. It is his body and therefore should be his choice. If a man decides as an ADULT to alter his body, he should have the right to do so. No one wants to ban all circumcision.. Only forced circumcision on unconsenting human beings. Are you also for forced circumcisions on baby girls?? Or do you think only boys should be have their genitals violated against their will?

      Reply
      • 22 February, 2015 at 9:37 pm
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        did you not read my whole comment? I already explained why they are not the same thing. My genitals werent mutilated, it really is healthier this way, no it doesnt protect from HIV but it does prevent alot of other issues like phimosis and smegma. also I explained the difference in removing the entire clitoris from removing the foreskin. read my whole comment.

        Reply
        • 22 February, 2015 at 9:53 pm
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          If you think smegma reduction is a valid concern for removing healthy genital tissue (and smegma is NOT unhealthy btw), then you should be all for female genital mutilation! Girls produce FAR MORE smegma than boys, and female circumcision reduces smegma. And forcefully cutting off healthy genital tissue from an unconcensing human being is wrong regardless of gender.. So from a human rights perspective, it is the same thing. Had I had my genitals altered against my will, it would be wrong for the same reason it was wrong that my husbands were altered against his will. As his wife, I would never want his intact penis violated against his will. As the owner of the penis, he did not want to be cut. That is a human rights and bodily autonomy issue. If he wanted to be cut, he should have been able to make that choice of his own free will. And again, regarding the definition of mutilation, yes. Your genitals were mutilated from their healthy and intact birth form. You have a scar, no? I suppose your scar is “normal” and “healthy”?

          Reply
          • 22 February, 2015 at 10:03 pm
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            I already explained that removing a clitoris and removing a foreskin are not the same. in order for them to be comparable male circumcision would have to involve removing the entire glans penis. So I suppose that if you are against infant circumcision you’re also pro-life, am I right? because it wouldnt make much sense to say that its alright to end the life of a child but not alright to perform a surgery on a child.

          • 22 February, 2015 at 11:31 pm
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            Removing a child’s breasts is different from removing her pinky toe.. However, both involve removing healthy functioning tissue from a human being without their consent. At the heart of the matter, it is about bodily autonomy and NOT treating a person like property to be altered at will and without consent. And of course I am pro-life. Are you? And if so, how can you justify advocating human rights for children, but then advocate treating them like property to be surgically altered against their consent. What was done to my husband can NEVER be undone. He deeply regrets that he was altered against his will and he was not given a choice in such an intimate decision. His penis belongs to him, his wife far more than it EVER belonged to his mother or doctor. Treating any child – male or female – like property to be permanently altered at will is so barbaric and archaic it’s mind numbing. There is something wrong with the mindset of a person who views another as property and “doesn’t get” why they should enjoy personal rights – like the right to life and bodily autonomy.

        • 22 February, 2015 at 10:52 pm
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          I don’t consider you “mutilated” dude, I am circumcised myself. I’m certainly not “broken”.This isn’t an attack on you or anyone else either. I just think that this choice, to be left intact or to be circumcised, should be left to the owner of the penis. Most of the purported health benefits only apply to the man later in life. I have yet to see a good reason why an infant should be circumcised, absent immediate medical necessity.

          Reply
  • 22 February, 2015 at 11:10 pm
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    (Publish this comment please lol). Amputation should only be used as a very last resort for a child. This goes for almost any other body part-fingers, toes etc. It should go for parts of the penis as well. A man who is unhappily intact (uncircumcised) can always rectify the situation. A man who is unhappily circumcised cannot. Most of the purported health benefits only effect the man later in life- this decision should be left to the man himself.

    Reply

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