Presentation given to the Intaktiv – Genital Autonomy conference. Frankfurt 9th May 2015.
Sadly about once a year MDC is contacted by a man who has gone to his doctor with a tight foreskin and has been told there is only one option; circumcision. The individual gives his consent, the operation takes place, after the healing process is completed the man resumes his sex life and discovers he has lost an important body part.
The lack of sex education for men has lead to a situation where it is difficult for a man to give informed consent if he has not been fully informed about his own anatomy and the possible alternatives to circumcision and conservative management of a tight foreskin often referred to as phimosis.
In a link to an article analysing the judgement given by Sir James Munby on a recent case involving female genital mutilation we posted a graphic and upsetting image of the aftermath of a circumcision ceremony. The photo showed the male victims lying clutching their ceremonial gifts, semi naked with their wounds visible. Facebook told MDC that the photo did not comply with their policy on nudity. There is a need for people to understand the obscene reality of male genital mutilation and MDC recommends that everyone should read the article in Researching Reform where the photo came from.
The mainstream media sadly keeps disseminating the steady output of pro circumcision writing that comes from a very few authors who swamp publications with promotional material. One such example is below from The New York Times
Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks, Study Reports.
By NICHOLAS BAKALAR
A review of studies has found that the health benefits of infant male circumcision vastly outweigh the risks involved in the procedure.
But the study, published online in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, also found that while the prevalence of circumcision among American men ages 14 to 59 increased to 81 percent from 79 percent over the past decade, the rate of newborn circumcision has declined by 6 percentage points, to 77 percent, since the 1960s.
The authors conclude that the benefits — among them reduced risks of urinary tract infection, prostate cancer, sexually transmitted diseases and, in female partners, cervical cancer — outweigh the risks of local infection or bleeding. Several studies, including two randomized clinical trials, found no long-term adverse effects of circumcision on sexual performance or pleasure.
One cost-benefit analysis that considered infant urinary tract infections and sexually transmitted diseases found that if circumcision rates were decreased to the 10 percent typical in European countries, the additional direct medical costs over 10 years of births would be more than $4.4 billion.
“Male circumcision is in principle equivalent to childhood vaccination,” said the lead author, Brian J. Morris, emeritus professor of medical sciences at the University of Sydney. “Just as there are opponents of vaccination, there are opponents of circumcision. But their arguments are emotional and unscientific, and should be disregarded.”
An excellent letter in response has been written by Steven Svoboda (left), Attorneys for the Rights of the Child.
We were disappointed to see the New York Times publish an article (“Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks, Study Reports,” by Nicholas Bakalar; April 8, 2014) so strongly at odds with the Times’ generally high standards. A team of mostly European physicians recently concluded that the only arguable medical benefit of male circumcision is a slight reduction in urinary tract infections, but these can more cheaply and less painfully be treated with antibiotics.
Claims regarding prostate cancer and cervical cancer were disproven decades ago. Studies have suggested that female circumcision may help prevent HIV but everyone correctly avoids proposing this on grounds of medical ethics and physical integrity. The same principles bar male circumcision, as has been recently concluded by the Council of Europe and the Royal Dutch Medical Association.
No objective person could seriously question what the vast majority of studies have documented, that removal of half the surface skin of the penis seriously impacts sexuality. The vaccination analogy is incoherent as unlike circumcision, vaccination doesn’t remove functional tissue.
The New York Times should know better.
The fact that there are differences between male and female genital mutilation is usually used as a trump card by those arguing for the different treatment of males and females. The argument used is “you cannot compare apples and pears” and that is supposed to be the end of the matter.
Let us leave aside the fact that certain types of FGM have a damaging effect on the birth process, which is the essence of the trump card. No one is arguing that as long as you do not adversely affect the birth process all other forms of FGM are permissible.
Everyone would, hopefully, agree that the female genitals should be protected. If we look at the functions of the external female genitals that are protected we might come up with a list like this; the mechanical comfort of loose skin to aid intercourse, the mucosal function of lubrication and protection from infection, also the function in the case of the clitoris to initiate a deeper level of sexual arousal.
Some of the functions of the male foreskin that have been identified can easily be seen as parallels to the functions found in the external female genitalia.
The mechanical comfort of loose skin to aid intercourse, the mucosal function of lubrication and protection from infection, also the function in the case of the ridged band to initiate a deeper level of sexual arousal.
Anatomical studies have shown that the foreskin is not spare skin and is in fact a specialised structure richly supplied with nerves that provide sensation during sexual intercourse and masturbation. The Sorrells study  from 2006 showed that the foreskin has the most sensitive locations on the penis. Those areas are removed by the act of circumcision. Cold and Taylor in their anatomical study “The Prepuce”  analyse the foreskin at a cellular level revealing a complex structure of nerves and blood vessels. They say in the discussion section at the end of their paper that “Excision of normal, erogenous genital tissue from healthy male or female children cannot be condoned, as the histology confirms that the external genitalia are specialized sensory tissues.”
To excise tissue that will develop into 15 square inches, or 90 square centimeters, of healthy erogenous tissue is bound to have consequences. The nerves and blood vessels severed during genital cutting do not join up across the scar line. The lifelong after effects of circumcision are poorly studied, it seems that no one wants to know what happens to the large number of men and intersex children whose sex lives are probably impaired by genital modification. It is the proponents of the practice of cutting children’s genitals who have to prove that their activities are as harmless as they claim. The fact that men who have been cut as children for the most part think they are normal is just not valid evidence. This organisation is contacted from time to time by men who have known what sex with a foreskin was like before being circumcised for a minor problem. Their correspondence is often graphic leaving little doubt that their is a major difference between the normal state and the circumcised state.