We’ve Failed Men: Here’s How

Did you know that the foreskin is the same skin that forms the clitoral hood on a woman? Crazy right?!

When I became aware of this it made me want to explore the history of circumcision. Wow, seek and you shall find. And boy, did I find a boatload of history that didn’t match the modern day stories we tell and are led to believe.

Religious rituals, rites of passage, and sexual control, all sneakily squeezed into what we’ll call a procedure that has “health benefits.” God, even writing that makes me feel like a liar.  I’ve always found evolution to be rather efficient… One would have to be VERY naive not to believe Mother Nature would remove the foreskin if having it meant death and disease…. but we as humans probably know better, right? Seems to have worked in every other area we’ve tried to shortcut (sarcasm). Good…

Let me elaborate.

Recently I was reading a controversial post on Facebook about male circumcision and a man commented saying “there are many health benefits, that’s why it’s been part of Judaic law for thousands of years.” *cough cough. The cynic in me prayed for a “you’re delusional” button on FB. I’m not attacking Jewish law, but I am challenging a clearly historical religious and tribal ritual that has manipulated modern thoughts on a procedure that is about as grounded as the idea that women were created from a man’s rib…even though men have the same amount of ribs and people are born from vaginas. Not sure who was in charge of the math there.

Alas, I digress, and instead of attacking my naive FB friend, who only wanted to protect a choice he was never given about his own penis, let’s look at what it would require of him to accept the truth about this ritual.

First, if he chose to believe anything different about circumcision, what would that mean about his religion? Secondly, what would that mean about his trust of all of the religious leaders, and even more importantly, the people he loved (and loved him) most, who put him on the chopping block?

I’ll tell you what it would mean… a ton of cognitive dissonance because what he has been taught and led to believe, which helped found and form his identity (religions are a pillar of our beliefs and how we identify), are BS. He would have to understand and accept that the people who “love” him hurt him and didn’t ask questions, questions which could’ve prevented the desecration of his nether regions. (They were doing the best they could with what they knew, but it’s still a reality one must face to accept truth.)

So, in order to prevent inquiry and a backlash, we’ve shifted the most common surgery in the world to be rooted in….ummmm…science…sure, let’s go with that. 

In light of the story we’ve chosen to tell about circumcision, I decided to dive into the extensive history and medical evidence surrounding male circumcision. Which we’ll just start calling it what it is, Male Genital Mutilation (MGM).

So let’s  explore this topic and pull the proverbial wool from over our eyes in a not so dissimilar way as the foreskin retracts from the penis head.

I’ll just summarize all the stuff you can read here.

1. It’s not rooted in science. Duh.

It didn’t take long before I stumbled on this wonderful statement:

“While studies show there is a modest epidemiological benefit to circumcision, critics argue that the number of circumcisions that would have be performed would yield an overall negative public health outcome due to the resulting number of complications or other negative effects (such as pain).”

So basically, its loosely supported medical benefit is largely outweighed by the potential negative effects of the procedure. Wow. Mind-Blown (insert sarcasm font).

We are cutting the tip of a penis. Are you kidding me?! This needs science to prove the pain of the procedure has a significant impact on the child?! The logic here is so sound… we should circumcise all males to prevent the often treatable potential health risks that can happen with an uncircumcised penis? To which the final treatment of those health risks is potentially circumcision? Hmmm. So in order to save some tips from being amputated we should just remove them all? Seems practical to me.

I’m not a scientist but I want to apply the same logic: Did you know that having an arm means you can potentially break it as a child and an adult? We should remove people’s arms. It’s rooted in as practical scientific knowledge (more sarcasm).

Also, the most compelling evidence (still weak) to support circumcision is in the reduction of the transmission of Sexually Transmitted Infections… So, I say, keep amputating arms… Because having two arms increases one’s likelihood to be involved in light petting (grabbing a breast), which would in turn be correlated with more penetration. No arms, less foreplay, less sexual interaction, less STIs. Perfect.

I know this analogy is ridiculous but that’s how ridiculous the circumcision argument is. Because we all know circumcision is not rooted in science. The main historical foundations of male circumcision, mostly based on rites of passage and religion, were never originally founded on being a necessary medical procedure in order to prevent health outcomes. Ironically, these are the very same foundational pillars of Female Genital Mutilation. Which leads me to my next point…

2. It’s no different than Female Genital Mutilation. 

When I first started reading about this subject I was fired up (can you tell I still am?!?). With my new found knowledge and my desire to wake up the world to the common practice of MGM, I entered a discussion with a good friend of mine who is by her own definition a feminist, and she told me to “be careful comparing the two. They are not the same and it will get a huge backlash from those who oppose female genital mutilation (FGM)”.

Wow. Faced with this feedback, I was afraid. I didn’t want to ruffle feathers or take away from the clearly destructive and appalling practice of FGM. But then it struck me:

Why are the people fighting for the ending of FGM not also super supportive of fighting for the ending of male genital mutilation?!?

I’ll say  it again, the foreskin and the clitoral hood are the same skin. Knowing this, how different we would react if when our beautiful new baby daughter is born we’re told by the doctor, “Just give me a second while I remove her clitoral hood.”

There would be OUTRAGE.

FGM and MGM are the same cause. We’re fighting for the same thing as they both share the same ridiculous nonsense. They are rooted in tribal rites of passage, sexual control, religion and, oddly enough, scientific myth (male circumcision needed this to continue happening).

3. We are violating human rights.

We are taking away a man’s ability to choose. We decide for him that he gets to lose a part of himself for no reason other than we’re afraid to challenge the status quo.

We reduce the sensitivity of the penis. We inflict trauma on a child. We cause potentially deeply traumatic emotional wounds to a boy as he is first being welcomed into the world. On a psychological note, I would love to see a medical researcher look at the attachment styles (how we connect with our mother) of circumcised vs. non-circumcised males. I bet we would find some interesting stuff there. I would also love for us to admit and acknowledge how devastating it would be to a child who was just welcomed into this world that they now will experience a severely traumatic event… all within days of breaching the safe space of the uterus.

circumcision, debate, mark groves, createthelove, positive psychology

I’m still in such awe about this subject. I feel like as a society we’ve decided to turn a blind eye to the harming of children. If we’re not standing up against it, are we not passively promoting violence against young male babies? It sounds so dramatic and controversial to say this, but based on the available literature and science, how can we not say this?!?  I was reading that “the physician is bound under the ethical principles of beneficence (promoting well-being) and non-maleficence (“first, do no harm”).” And I thought to myself, how is this not a violation of non-maleficence?! Cutting the tip of a penis off in the name of nothing, is harm. 

All of what I’ve said will likely cause a lot of resistance from people who have chosen to circumcise their child and/or are circumcised themselves. And to you all I say, sorry. To the parents who chose circumcision and didn’t know all of this, I’m sorry that you weren’t better informed. I’m sorry that you were mislead. To the poor men who didn’t have a choice in what would happen to your foreskin, let me apologize on behalf of our world. Your son’s penis doesn’t need to look like yours. He’ll understand. He’ll get it. You have the language and skills to explain it.

Neither the parents who chose circumcision nor the men who experienced it can change what happened and you also can’t get a foreskin installed, but you can stand for change.

We need to start being curiously critical of why we believe certain things. We need to challenge traditional thinking. We need to be mindful of why we do the things we do. We must question those who don’t want to be questioned. We need to have the important conversations because not having them is passively saying “yes” to a world living in fear and tradition. This is the type of world where we’re afraid to speak our minds for fear of disrupting the status quo.

For too long we have allowed people to do as they wish for whatever reason in the name of tradition, religion, science…and profit. We’ve allowed these people to destroy our food, our environment and, in the end, us.

We’re quicker to abolish peanuts from schools than we are to abolish a deeply traumatic and invasive procedure. What. The. Eff.

I guess this is something I should expect since we’ve made the Kardashians more important than global health.

I’m not ok with that, and neither should you be.

Playing “Just the tip” is a completely different game when you keep it.