Male circumcision begun as a primitive form of genital modification, believed to have been introduced around 10,000 B.C. by Aboriginal tribes in Australia as a mark of “puberty rite“. Around 6,000 B.C. Aboriginal tribes in Africa begun performing both male and female circumcision for its ritualistic significance as its predecessor in Australia. It is also believed that Egyptians practiced circumcision by a finding from 2,300 B.C., but its significance and frequency are unclear.
Neonatal male circumcision didn’t become prominent until its association with Judaism. In the year 600 B.C. the first five books of the Hebrew bible were compiled (known as the “Torah”), including Genesis with a reference of Yaweh’s command to Abraham to circumcise himself, all men and boys in his household as a pact of his “covenant”. Jewish priests then enforced the practice among their people, carried on the 8th day after birth; even Jesus Christ was a subject to this fate.
Circumcision has never had more significance than among Jewish people who consider the ritual essential to their way of life. Brit milah is perhaps the most known ritual, carried on by a mohel (circumciser) in a ceremony that also serves as a naming ritual. And although Jews claim their ways are more “humane” than the rest, given that they use a double-edged knife instead of a foreskin-crushing metal clamp used at American hospitals, no method offers effective pain control in newborns who can’t have local anesthesia but numbing ointments that only work on the surface. There is also a questionable method still practiced today among the ultra-Orthodox community called metzitzah b’peh, where the mohel “cleanses” the circumcision wound by direct oral suction (as pictured) and which has led to nearly two dozen known cases of herpes infections and complications such brain injury and even deaths in the area of New York alone since 2004.
In 570 A.D. founder of Islam, Muhammad was born, and circumcision found a new ally for its mass practice. Although circumcision isn’t mentioned in the Quran (Islamic holy book), it is mentioned in the Hadith, a record of words and actions by Muhammad. Referred as a “prophet” by his followers, they have emulated his teachings since the time, including his “naturally” circumcised status – believed to be born without a foreskin (a rare congenital condition called Aposthia).
Circumcision among Muslims is considered to be a ritual of “purification”, enforced at different stages of life. Muslim men happen to account for 2/3 of the entire population of circumcised males in the world today.
Although the motives behind circumcision differ by religion and culture, there is a common denominator across all, and that is marking their males by genital modification. But none of these predecessors influenced the practice of circumcision among Americans; it was the British who introduced it, and for reasons far from religious or cultural customs.
Origin In America
The origin of routine circumcision in America is linked to “masturbation hysteria” led by the puritanism movement of the Victorian era. In the late 1800’s circumcision was introduced as means to curb masturbation – believed to be the cause of multiple physical and mental pathologies.
John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943) was an American doctor, and a leader of the anti-masturbation movement of his era. Kellogg promoted extreme measures to control and “cure” masturbation among boys, most notably with circumcision; which he performed on himself at age 37. Young men, adults, and even women were also targeted by Kellogg’s treatments against of what he called “self-abuse”. On the chapter “Treatment For Self-Abuse and Its Effects” from the book “Plain Facts for Old and Young” (1877), Kellog wrote:
A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases. The soreness which continues for several weeks interrupts the practice, and if it had not previously become too firmly fixed, it may be forgotten and not resumed.
In adults or youth a different plan must be pursued. We have become acquainted with a method of treatment of this disorder which is applicable in refractory cases, and we have employed it with entire satisfaction. It consists in the application of one or more silver sutures in such a way as to prevent erection. The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glans, and the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through from one side to the other. After drawing the wire through, the ends are twisted together, and cut off close. It is now impossible for an erection to occur, and the slight irritation thus produced acts as a most powerful means of overcoming the disposition to resort to the practice.
In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement, and preventing the recurrence of the practice in those whose will-power has become so weakened that the patient is unable to exercise entire self-control.
And to think this doctor became famous for his cereal brand – yes that’s the same guy who created the “Kellog’s corn flakes”, but his taste for sadistic anti-masturbation in the name of”mental wellness” has never been condemned by the American healthcare system.
Evolution: From Punishment To “Health Prevention”
After its barbaric phase, circumcision soon became a “therapeutic” practice. In February 1870, Lewis Sayre, an influential figure in American medicine, noticed that a 5-year-old boy with multiple tendon contracture of unknown etiology also suffered from phimosis and priapism (persistent erection) – which Sayre attributed to masturbation. Believing that masturbation was a source for the tendon pathology, he recommended circumcision, later claiming that the procedure caused the tendon contracture to disappear within a few weeks.
Sayre’s recommendation became an influential facfor for the integration of circumcision into American medicine. Given Sayre’s prominent position (first professor of orthopedic surgery in the United States, president of the American Medical Association and founder of JAMA), he encouraged doctors to examine the foreskin in boys when unfamiliar pathologies were found; while adding a number of illnesses to the list of indications for circumcision. This resulted in circumcision gradually evolving from a “therapeutic” procedure to a “preventive” measure in the healthcare system.
A few years later, Peter Charles Remondino (1846-1926), an Italian-born doctor, claimed that masturbation was the source of a number of disorders (epilepsy, asthma, kidney disease, hernia, cancer, syphilis, and many more), reinforcing the prophylactic “benefits” of circumcision while contributing greatly to the acceptance of its practice in the eyes of the public. Remondino also suggested that health insurance companies should treat the foreskin as a “risk factor”, a suggestion that only provided further impetus for circumcision.
References: John Harvey Kellogg “Plain Facts for Old and Young” (1877)
No one seems to take a step back and wonder why circumcision is only enforced on boys and not girls; why are only boys considered the “unhygienic”, the “unhealthy”?. Jews have gone as far as claiming that foreskin is a vestigial organ (functionless in the course of evolution), and by its removal they are perfecting Yaweh’s work – by that implication men are born imperfect, but women aren’t?.
It couldn’t be more obvious that circumcision is nothing more than antisexual practice. If it wasn’t, women would be equally subject to it, but they are not; not by religion, not by socio-cultural “standards” and certainly not by American medicine.