By Laura Strom
November 24, 2003
"It may well be that society's greatest madness seems normal to itself." Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind
Circumcision practiced here in America is a terrible form of torture and mutilation, and should be outlawed. Originally circumcision was cutting a small piece of the tip of the foreskin on Jewish babies, not a complete removal of the foreskin organ. The notion that babies don't feel pain during circumcision, is false. It is a serious surgical procedure, routinely performed without anesthesia, and has serious consequences for the baby. The foreskin is the sexual equivalent in a man, to the clitoris in a woman. We condemn female circumcision, and refer to it as Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). Circumcision, as practiced by our medical community, evolved out of erroneous thinking. The medical community now denounces circumcision as a completely unnecessary surgery in infants. Most other countries do not practice this form of torture. Even Muslim countries, where circumcision is widely practiced, remove only the tip of the foreskin, and not the entire thing. When a society has common practices that are wrong, it is up to individuals to speak out against these wrongs. Circumcision in America is a terrible and cruel form of male genital mutilation, and it should be stopped at once.
It was not until around 200 C.E. that the Jewish circumcision ritual changed to involve the total removal of the foreskin. During the period of the Greek domination by Alexander the Great, it was common for young men to participate in athletic events in the nude. The young Greek men would tie a small string around the foreskin to keep the head of the penis from showing, which was considered rude. The Jewish men would also follow this practice as well, which hid the evidence of their circumcision under the string.1 This angered the patriarchal rabbis, and around the 2nd century C.E. they began a new type of circumcision which included totally removing the entire foreskin.
A typical berit milah or bris (circumcision ritual) occurred on the eighth day of the baby's life. The mohel (person performing the circumcision) would cut away the tip of the foreskin with a blade. Then with only his long, sharply filed, lancet shaped thumb nail, he slid it under the foreskin to split it open. He would then take the foreskin and tear it away from the infant's penis and hold it up for all to see, sometimes giving it to a family member. After this, he sucked the penis with his mouth to stem the bleeding, and would alternately take sips of wine, and spit it on the baby's wounds.2
The notion that a baby does not feel pain is erroneous, as is the notion that circumcision is "just a little snip". We now know that newborn infants can feel, locate and respond to painful stimuli, and that their pain receptors are similar to or greater than those of an adult.3 Any new mother knows this the first time she accidentally scratches her baby with her fingernail. Newborns who are circumcised exhibit an abnormal high pitched cry, that does not occur under normal circumstances;. newborns who do not cry, have frequently slipped into a semi-coma.4
Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a condition that arises when a person is exposed to an extreme traumatic stressor that is beyond usual human experience, and provokes feelings of intense fear, helplessness, or horror. Examples of events which cause PTSD in humans include physical or sexual assault, and torture. "An assault is a physical attack. Torture is severe pain or anguish. From the perspective of the infant all the ...traumatic events apply to circumcision of a male infant."5 PTSD can occur at any age, and trauma of children at young ages seems to have a permanent effect on them. Some of the symptoms men with PTSD may experience include a sense of personal powerlessness, fears of being overpowered and victimized by others, lack...