Why Does America Still Allow Its Babies to be Circumcised?

While circumcision has been going on for thousands of years, for diverse reasons (religious sacrifice/rite of passage, enhancing/decreasing sexual pleasure, increased/decreased social status, to name a few), it gained popularity in America during the late 1800’s to hinder masturbation. For the next century physicians created numerous insupportable claims as to what circumcision cured or prevented. As of 2012, the American Academy of Pediatrics state that the benefits of circumcision outweigh the risks, but acknowledge that “the benefits are not great enough to recommend universal newborn circumcision”, leaving the ultimate decision to the parents.

Studies show that circumcision reduces the risk of UTIs, genital herpes, and HIV in both hetero- and homosexual sex. The same can be said about proper hygiene and condom use. But how many Americans actually circumcise for health benefits? A study based in Denver, Colorado found that 90% of circumcised and 23% of uncircumcised men cited conformity as the main determinate for snipping their sons’ foreskins.

Sure, complication rates are low and usually minor. Should we continue medical use of leeches just because they don’t cause any real harm to patients? In 2007, the National Hospital Discharge Survey found that 55% of American male infants were circumcised. This number has decreased 10% over the past three decades, though the percentages in the rest of the world (with the exception of Africa) remain under 20%.

I’ve had difficult finding unbiased articles on the psychological effects of infant circumcision, though speculations of lifelong effects include increased brain sensitivity to pain, symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder, uncomfortable erections due to insufficient skin, and decreased sexual pleasure.

Some like to compare male circumcision to female genital mutilation. While both are invasive procedures performed for cultural and traditional reasons, it is insensitive to make a direct comparison between them. FGM involves partial or complete removal of the clitoris, and in some cases the stitching of the labia. These procedures have no known or speculated health benefits; in fact, they often lead to extensive and lifelong health complications, even to the point of death. The act is misogynistic and unambiguously linked to impairing or destroying a woman’s sexual desire. For these reasons, FGM is more appropriately compared to complete castration.

I was surprised to learn that child labor laws weren’t imposed in America until the late 1930’s, and child abuse laws didn’t come about until the 1970’s. No wonder we’ve made it to the 21st century mindlessly mutilating our sons without their consent. The United States still hasn’t defined its stance on children’s rights; while children technically have the same constitutional rights as adults, their lack of maturity passes the decisions on to their parents. Furthermore, the United States is one of two United Nations countries to have not ratified the original Convention on the Rights of the Child, created in 1989. The Convention originated to promote basic (constitutional) rights for children, but America opposed it, “primarily based on fears of U.N. interference in U.S. laws and families…[and] undermine parental rights”.


As a woman, I can’t understand the full impact nonconsensual circumcision has on men. I’ve talked to circumcised men who both were outraged and apathetic about it, though I’ve never met an uncircumcised man who wishes he were circumcised. I’m curious to know your thoughts and experiences, especially if you’re a biological male. Is infant circumcision unethical? Should American laws protect our sons in this area?

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