Circumcision has endured because of tradition, not because of rationale nor medical benefit. Nor has it ever been successful as an anti-masturbatory measure, which is why it gained prominence in the West 150 years ago.
When a custom remains after its original intent has vanished, it has morphed into a ritual. And ritual is one of the kinder words to describe removing highly-innervated tissue from the most vulnerable members of our species, without any benefit in return. The relic rests in the same vein as coming-of-age rituals and other practices that involve cutting, slicing, burning, and flogging.
Furthermore, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, one in 500 boys experience acute complications from circumcision. Even a .2 percent risk is an acceptable amount when there is no chance of reward.
Still it endures because, to most Westerners, that’s the way it’s always been. But the appeal to tradition is a logical fallacy that, were it rigidly adhered to, would have us still with slavery and without women’s suffrage.
Imagine if circumcision had never been practiced and someone proposed we begin fondling and mutilating the infant genitals. The collective response would be revulsion. Yet the practice continues today because, well, just because.
Reasons include ensuring the infant conform to religious norms or so that they will look like their father. But faith should be a personal choice and if a father was missing three fingers, no one would suggest lopping off the digits to ensure familial uniformity. A third reason proponents give is because they think it looks unappealing. But that’s only because they are used to seeing circumcised penises. Were every male intact, proponents would see circumcised members as the freaky outcasts.
Parents deciding to circumcise their sons is distinct from having them vaccinated or given Vitamin K boosters, as these have identifiable benefits.
Chopping off someone else’s body part would mean prison time under any other circumstance, but exception made for the most vulnerable victim. In a depressing display of bipartisanship, the practice remains prevalent among persons of all political leanings.
Conservatives still go for the religion and tradition angles, which is to be expected. Harder to comprehend is the tepid response from liberals, who should be demanding bodily autonomy over the most defenseless of our species. It has been pointed out that we should never make Junior hug an aunt just because she’s visiting for Christmas if the child doesn’t wish too. Yet, somehow this mindset does not extend to control over the most private part.
With no medical benefit, circumcision is a solution in need of a problem. Proponents sometimes cite hygiene, but this is no more logical that lopping off our ears to prevent dirt from accumulating within.
One seemingly more valid reason is the chance of reducing HIV infection. But this is an untruth and based on studies that make such basic mistakes as assuming all transmission was due to heterosexual sex. Also, if the studies were correct, and the practice provided STD protection, there would be a wide difference in infection rates between the circumcised and intact.