The Pain of Circumcision
Robert Van Howe, M.D., a Michigan pediatrician who has authored numerous studies about circumcision, describes the infant’s response. “Circumcision results in not only severe pain but also an increased risk of choking and difficulty breathing. Medical studies show significant increases in heart rate and level of blood stress hormone. Some infants do not cry because they go into shock from the overwhelming pain of the surgery.” According to clinical definitions and researchers’ reports, circumcision is traumatic. Even when pain medication is used (local injection, the best option tested), it relieves only some of the pain, the effect is inconsistent, and it wanes before the post-operative pain does. General anesthesia is not considered safe for newborn infants.
Effects on the Mother-Infant Relationship
The trauma of circumcision raises questions about effects on mother-infant relationships. Based on more than twenty years of clinical observations using leading-edge techniques, psychiatrist Rima Laibow, M.D., reports,
When a child is subjected to intolerable, overwhelming pain, he conceptualizes mother as both participatory and responsible regardless of mother’s intent. . . . The consequences for impaired bonding are significant. . . . Circumcision is an enormous obstacle to the development of basic trust between mother and child.
Men’s Feelings about Circumcision
In a medical journal survey of 546 self-selected men between the ages of 20 and 60 who reported circumcision harm, the following effects and feelings were noted.
- anger, rage, sense of loss, shame, sense of having been victimized and mutilated
- low self-esteem, fear, distrust, and grief
- relationship difficulties, sexual anxieties, and depression
- reduced emotional expression, avoidance of intimacy
Statements about circumcision from dissatisfied men include the following:
“I have felt a deep rage for a long time about this.”
“Circumcision has given my life a much diminished and shameful flavor.”
“I feel violated and abused.”
Some of these circumcised men wish they had been given a choice at a later time rather than having it forced on them when they were too young to resist. Six medical societies in Australia and New Zealand and the British Medical Association recognize the long-term psychological risks of circumcision.
This survey does not suggest that all circumcised males have such feelings or how common the feelings are, only that they persist in some circumcised males, and more research is needed. There are various possible reasons why we don’t hear more from circumcised men about how they truly feel.
- lack of awareness and understanding that circumcision could be associated with their symptoms
- emotional repression to defend against uncomfortable feelings
- fear of disclosure because they may be dismissed or ridiculed
Male Abuses Toward Women
It is possible to compare circumcision rates by country to prevalence of male abuses toward women that include violence, repression, isolation, murder, rape, and forced marriage. The ten worst countries for women are Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Iraq, Nepal, Sudan, Guatemala, Mali, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and Somalia. Eight of these countries have a male circumcision rate that exceeds 80%. Two other countries have a rate between 20% and 80%.
In the United States, domestic violence is the single greatest cause of injury to women. Every fifteen seconds a man beats a women. Low self-esteem can contribute to this behavior. Men low in self-esteem are more prone to jealously in their relationships. Jealously is a precipitating factor in violence toward women. Predictably, low male self-esteem, a possible effect of circumcision, correlates with a high risk of domestic violence. It has also been documented that exposure to violence in childhood is linked to later spousal abuse. The child experiences circumcision as violent. Those who have been violated generally have a problem with anger and may direct it at others.
The association between circumcision rates and abuses toward women could be related to the long-term psychological effects of circumcision on men which, in addition to low self-esteem and anger, include disruption in the mother-male child relationship, post-traumatic stress disorder, weakened relationships with women, and low empathy. More research is needed.
The Purpose of the Foreskin for Men
Christopher Cold, M.D., Chairman of Anatomical Pathology at the Marshfield Clinic in Marshfield, Wisconsin, has studied and written about the foreskin. “It has important functions. The foreskin protects the head of the penis throughout life from contamination, friction, drying, and injury. It is an integral, natural part of the penis, not ‘extra.’ On the average adult male it is about twelve square inches [some circumcised men guess less than one square inch], and it consists of a movable, double-layered sleeve. The foreskin enhances sexual pleasure. Detailed study shows that it is made up of unique zones with several kinds of specialized nerves that are important to natural sexual function and experiencing the full range of sexual sensations.”
Loss of the foreskin results in thickening and progressive desensitization of the outer layer of the head of the penis, particularly in older men. Some men circumcised as adults report a significant loss of sensitivity and regret the change. Circumcision may be an unrecognized factor in the high rates of erectile dysfunction in American men, which would involve associated psychological effects. Of course, any sexual and associated psychological effects on men would affect women.
The Purpose of the Foreskin for Women
Women who have only had sex with circumcised men may not know what they are missing. According to surveys in the medical literature, women reported that they were significantly more likely to have vaginal dryness during intercourse with circumcised men than genitally intact men. A medical journal survey of women who had comparative sexual experience included 138 responses. Other things being equal, on a scale of ten, they rated genitally intact men 8.03 and circumcised men 1.81. With circumcised partners, women were less likely to have one or multiple vaginal orgasms, and their circumcised partners were more likely to have a premature ejaculation. Circumcision was also connected with vaginal discomfort. Women were less likely to “really get into it” and more likely to “want to get it over with” if their partner was circumcised.
The results can be explained. The foreskin, as previously mentioned, is a movable, double-layered sleeve. During intercourse, it glides up and down the penile shaft, reducing friction and retaining vaginal secretions. Without the foreskin, the skin on the penile shaft rubs against the vaginal wall, resulting in friction and increasing the need for artificial lubrication. The circumcised man has less sensitivity and requires deeper and harder thrusting to try to compensate, further increasing the friction.
With circumcised partners, surveyed women were more likely to feel unappreciated, distanced, disinterested, frustrated, and discontented. When their partners were not circumcised, women were more likely to feel intimate with their partners, relaxed, warmth, mutual satisfaction, and “complete as a woman,” and the greater sexual satisfaction benefited the relationship. To be clear, this does not mean that women cannot have a satisfying emotional and sexual relationship with a circumcised man. Other things being equal, it means that such a relationship may be likely to be even more satisfying if the man were not circumcised.
The above information are excerpts taken from the following article:
Circumcision is a feminist issue