A viewer recently wrote to me with questions about male circumcision and why it is a widely practiced procedure and female circumcision is looked down upon as mutilation. I had contemplated doing an AMC video on You Tube about this, but the more I got into the questions, the more they were personal views. I would not want my personal views being taken as fact when they are merely opinions. So, that is when I decided to do a little mini editorial on the practices and post it on my website.
The medical practice of “circumcision” is defined as the act of circumcising; surgical removal of the foreskin of males. It is pretty straightforward; however, it does have its religious roots. In fact, in the very first book of the Bible, circumcision was established as a national ordinance. For a man to be in compliance with this ordinance, he would need to be circumcised. In fact, Abraham was 99 years of age when he was circumsized at the same time Ishmael was, who was 13 at that time. Currently, circumcision is practiced as a religious rite of passage for the Jewish and the Muslim generally occuring at 8 days after birth. Circumcision went through a time where the medical knowledgebase thought that a circumcised penis was “cleaner” and therefore caused less problems for the male as he aged.
Male circumcision is a very controversial topic now as far as elective circumcision, meaning circumcision that is performed that is non-religious, non-ritualistic and not medically necessary. A lot of people will liken male circumcision as genital mutilation, the same as female circumcision or female genital cutting.
Now, what I think is important to remember when one starts to compare male and female circumcision, is most of the time anaesthesia is used for male circumcision, of course higher instances with pediatricians than other types of doctors. Its also important to note that a male, with a standard circumcision barring no outside issues happening with the procedure, is able to maintain a normal sex life and orgasm normally. His ability to perform sexually is not affected by the loss of the foreskin. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics did a study in 1999 that actually stated that circumcised males tend to have a more varied sex life and are less likely to suffer from some form of sexual dysfunction.
Now, all of this brings us to Female Genital Cutting, also called Female Circumcision and Female Genital Mutilation. The term used depends on who is using it. Obviously, a term like “mutilation” would be best used by an individual who is against the practice while “female circumcision” sounds a lot nicer and would be used by an individual for the procedure.
Now, there are three types of female genital cutting which pretty much are named in degree of how much tissue was removed. In all instances, however, the clitoris is either cut or removed completely thus severing the females ability to orgasm normally. The mildest form is where the clitoral hood (equal to the male foreskin) is removed and the clitoris is is either split or completely removed. The most severe is called a Type III and in this case, the entire labia regions as well as clitoral are removed from the female. The Type III, sadly, was the most widely practiced and was viewed as a social custom rather than religious.
The Type III ends in the female’s legs being tied together so she can heal, leaving them nothing more than a sheet of skin with a hole large enough to urinate or menstrate through. The scarier aspect of this is that her future husband has a right to perform a reverse infibulation on her by using a knife on her to open her body back up to allow intercourse. If a woman delivers a baby, she is then cut open again and afterwards, must live through having her legs tied together again in order to allow the wound to heal.
There are Type IV FGCs; however these tend to be practiced for more ritualistic ceremonies and burning/scaring of the genitals is involved or pricking the clitoris with needles. There is also the practice of ripping the vagina open. Type IV is not widely practice and is generally isolated to very specific ethnic groups.
So, we know the US is known for male circumcision for non-medical, non-religious reasons. Who practices female circumcision (I don’t even like calling it that since so much more goes on than in male circumcision). Right now, Female Genital Cutting is primarily practiced in African countries. The most prevelant country being Somalia.
One of the major concerns is that female genital cutting is a very severe practice as far as exposing the female to outside contaminants; however, it is often practiced without anesthetic and under less than adequate conditions and often by individuals such as midwives rather than a physician. Egypt has actually recently outlawed female circumcision after a 12 year old girl died from the procedure, which was being carried out by a female physician in a private clinic.
So – I guess this brings me to my opinions on the matter, not that they really “matter.”
While I view male circumcision as “normal” I have to view it as a procedure the male has no control over. Perhaps in 20 years that male will want to have a fully, in tact penis with foreskin. I don’t know. I do not think it is the parental right to decide that. However, I have children, one being a boy and yes, he is circumcised. I twas the decision of his dad to do it. I was against the circumcision but I left the final decision to his father.
My son, as he has grown up now to the age of “almost 8″ has never complained of pain or problems and even as a baby he would get erections, so I know he is capable. I am sure that barring any unforeseen circumstances, his circumcision will not hinder his sex life in any way.
For a girl who has undergone any of the type’s of female circumcision, her sex life will never be the same. Her genitals are modified in a way where she will be lucky to have feeling at all let alone the ability to have a clitoral orgasm, and that is only in type I cases where the clitoris may only be split, although in most cases, it is completely removed.
There is a difference. The reasons behind them are all driven by cultural and ethnic opinions and practices. I personally would vote that neither be practiced but individuals be educated about hygiene and anatomy. But if I were told tomorrow I had the power to make 1 go away completely from the Earth, I would vote for female circumcision to end completely as it is beyond a slight modification for cleanliness – these girls can die more often than not from this procedure.