Male circumcision has been practiced for thousands of years and is a spiritual ritual found in cultures around the world that was once considered beneficial to health. In 1989, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) concluded that neonatal circumcision offered potential medical benefits and advantages as well as harms and risks. In 1999, the AAP updated its policy statement, which emphasized that the procedure should be performed under local anesthesia, meaning that for 10 years it was common practice to perform neonatal circumcisions without any pain management . Today, the application of local anesthesia is common, but not a medical standard. In 2012, the AAP redacted its previous statement that circumcision has significant health benefits – reduced risk of sexually transmitted diseases and urinary tract infections and instead stated that the potential benefits of circumcision were ” sufficient to justify access to this procedure for the families who choose it”. but did not argue that it was common practice for all newborn boys. Today, 1 in 3 people who are assigned male at birth are circumcised worldwide.
Circumcision is recommended during the first six weeks of life, as this is when the procedure, which involves the partial or complete removal of the foreskin, has proven to be the least complicated. Complications include (but are not limited to) infection, irritation causing painful urination, cysts, urinary retention, skin bridges, penile necrosis, and death. It should be noted that the complication rate of neonatal circumcision (during and after the procedure) is 2 to 6 in 1000, which includes mild side effects such as bleeding, as well as severe complications.
Today, more and more parents are choosing to avoid circumcision – today the neonatal circumcision rate is 50% in the United States, up from 60-90% (depending on region) 30 years ago . Activist groups like the Bloodstained Men and Intact America are concerned about the ethics of performing medically unnecessary procedures on unconsenting babies. Aside from medical ethics, opponents of circumcision also point out that in other industrialized countries circumcision is far less common and that medical agencies do not advocate it as they do in the United States. This often raises the question of whether circumcision is purely medical or not. for many parents; in 1988, 90% of women surveyed said that circumcised penises look better, and over the past 15 years numerous studies have supported the idea that North American women prefer circumcised penises. This has led to a social stigma associated with uncircumcised men, usually residing around the presumed aesthetics or hygiene of uncircumcised penises, which doctors say is why young adults seek circumcision at alarming rates.
It’s heartbreaking to realize that we live in a society where someone can be judged so harshly based on the appearance of the most private part of their body that they feel the need to undergo painful surgery to s ‘to integrate. What is more upsetting is that, as adults, we can influence the appearance of other people’s bodies and manipulate them in such invasive and irreversible ways. Cutting is now known as female genital mutilation and is recognized as a violation of human rights by the World Health Organization and the United Nations, among others. Don’t get me wrong, I understand that the procedure for FGM is extremely different, has no medical benefits, and is an extremely barbaric form of violence. Women do not have the luxury of being circumcised in sterile hospitals under the care of medical professionals, and many are well into childhood when performed. But just because male circumcision is widely accepted and routinely practiced does not negate the ethical considerations and social implications that flow from it. —Haley Berger