Male Genital Mutilation

Consider a prejudiced society. Do the prejudiced people go around saying, “Hey, I’m prejudiced. I know it’s wrong, but, well, I just like being nasty”. No, people in a prejudiced society generally believe their attitude to be justified. They believe it because everything they have ever heard, on TV, radio and in newspapers, from all their friends, colleagues and relations, has told them that their views are proper and decent and justified. They are convinced that they are nice people and would never condone anything nasty and unjust. So long as a state of affairs can be brought about in which everyone agrees, then virtually any practice can become normalised and condoned. You can even convince otherwise decent people that chopping body parts off babies for no medical reason is acceptable, even desirable. This is not some remote possibility: it is our society, right now.

So-called circumcision is male genital mutilation (MGM).

Whilst there is a law in the UK specifically making female genital mutilation (FGM) illegal, there is no such specific law against MGM. However, contrary to almost universal belief, MGM is illegal. Of course it is – it is assault and as such is illegal under the English assault laws. It is illegal to tattoo a child in the UK. How could it not be illegal to cut off a body part?

But the illegal practice of MGM is being tolerated despite being illegal. Parents mistakenly believe they have the right to ‘decide’ to have their son’s foreskin removed. But they do not. Parents do not have the right to mutilate their children. Parents have an obligation to protect their children. The criminal justice system also has an obligation to protect children. Both are failing in their duty.

Many of the issues surrounding MGM have been summarised here.

Claims that MGM is desirable for health or hygiene reasons are spurious. Any health benefits are miniscule and completely out of all proportion with chopping off body parts, even if there was no subsequent harm. But there is indeed harm done, even when the procedure is carried out in a relatively controlled ‘Western’ fashion. The following videos are essential viewing.

Gregory Boyle was the professor of psychology at Bond University in Australia from 1993 to 2013.

John Warren is a UK doctor and the founder of NORM-UK. He talks here about his intactivism

Morten Frisch, an MD, PhD, Doctor of Medicine, and professor of sexual health epidemiology at Statens Serum Institut in Copenhagen and at Aalborg University in Denmark discusses his 2011 study on sexual function difficulties in circumcised men and their female partners.

Ken McGrath describes the anatomy and histology of the foreskin, and provides comprehensive scientific evidence that the skin that is removed in circumcision is the most sensitive part of the penis – in fact of the whole body.

Finally, the excellent video summarising the results of the 2012 Circumcision Harm Survey.

Citing health and hygiene as justification for MGM is a post-hoc rationalisation, not the real reason for it being done. The real reasons for MGM are adherence to cultural norms, whether it be religious or secular, together with attempts to control male sexuality. In Anglophone countries the practice became popular in the Victorian era as a masturbation preventative, and thence became a cultural norm having assumed a ‘snob value’.

MGM persists because men who have been cut were almost always cut before maturity. They naturally do not want to be considered as mutilated, especially in respect of their male member about which they might be very sensitive. Hence such men will usually insist there is nothing wrong with being cut. But, how would they know? They have no point of reference. It is common for such men to believe that uncut men are unhygienic. Society has told them that their natural, unmutilated state, is unclean. It is an untruth, like so many that surround MGM, designed to perpetuate a practice which is unnecessary, harmful and barbaric.

Another reason for the perpetuation of MGM is that parents, especially mothers, who have had their sons cut, do not want to accept that they have done wrong. It is a case of denial. But the result of such denial is to expose further generations of boys to mutilation for no good reason.

Feminists react badly to any mention of MGM, being incensed that the spotlight of victimhood might be shifted from FGM. Feminist groups will actively oppose moves to outlaw MGM on the grounds that “it would have the effect of putting male and female circumcision on the same footing, when they were in no way comparable“. It is a completely spurious argument, of course, akin to claiming that assault should be tolerate because it is not as bad as murder. In any case, it is not necessarily the case that FGM is worse than MGM. Both exist in a variety of degrees of severity. A rational comparison is made in this video. One major difference between MGM and FGM is that it is MGM which is the big money spinner for doctors in Anglophone countries.

[Aside: Whilst this site is strictly about the UK, in the context of MGM the horror story that is traditional circumcision in Africa needs mentioning. From the South African Health News Service we learn that between 2008 and 2014 nearly half a million young men have been hospitalised in the Eastern Cape and Limpopo districts alone. The data comes from a report from the Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Cultural, Religious and Linguistic Communities (CRL). Based on community consultations, the report also highlighted that at least 419 boys had died in the two provinces during the same period. Over 900 boys have died in the Eastern cape alone over the last 20 years. Scale this up, if you will, to the whole of Africa. Many hundreds of boys are permanently maimed annually in the Eastern cape alone. Dr Dingeman Rijken’s site includes photographs showing just what “maiming” means. You will need a strong stomach.]

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