Cock and Bull Stories

(Previously published in the McTavish Opera blog 7 November 2013)
 
Exploding the myths behind male circumcision.

The circumcision of boys has been with us for thousands of years and carried out by various cultures. Nobody knows exactly why it started. Some have suggested that it was to prevent masturbation. Others claim that given most cultures carrying out circumcision live in near desert conditions, the practice started to prevent sand becoming trapped under the foreskin. This may explain the current prevailing belief that circumcision is more hygienic. There is one thing for sure however, the practice began as a bronze age religious ritual, most commonly associated with Judaism.

Circumcision of infants takes place generally two to eight days after birth. In the procedure the foreskin is pulled right back to expose the glans (head of the penis). The ‘excess’ foreskin is then clipped off. The wound is then cleaned surgically, although in some orthodox Jewish sects, the Mohel, who carries out the circumcision, will actually suck the penis to clean the wound. Infant circumcision takes about 10 minutes to complete, whereas an adult circumcision can take up to one hour. The wound heals in seven to ten days.

Whilst it is widely faith based around the world, in the United States of America circumcision of boys became a standard medical practice, with the result that even today around 75% of American males are circumcised. There have been a number of reasons given for the practice of male circumcision, which I hope here to roundly destroy.

1. Circumcision is more hygienic.

Not only is this a myth, quite the opposite in fact applies. Urine is sterile, and whenever an uncircumcised male urinates, the foreskin spreads it across the glans. This carries out a self-cleaning function, which is one of the main reasons we evolved with a foreskin in the first place. Certainly, children – of both sexes – need constant care to keep their genitals clean, but that does not require removing part of them. Consider that the folds of the vagina carry out the same self-cleaning function in females. Only a maniac however would consider cutting away part of the labia in baby girls.

2. Circumcision decreases risk of urinary tract infection (UTI).

UTI can be extremely painful and there is one school of thought that women, who are far more prone to it than men, have their sons circumcised due to misguided teachings on it’s prevalence.

In 1998 the UK medical journal, The Lancet, published that for every circumcision which prevented a UTI, 194 did not. One of the studies cited in circumcision reducing UTIs is that of boys born in US Army hospitals between 1980-1985 by Dr Simon Wiswell, who is something of a champion of circumcision;

“The records of 136,086 boys born in US Army hospitals from 1980 to 1985 were reviewed for indexed complications related to circumcision status during the first month of life. For 100,157 circumcised boys, there were 193 complications (0.19%). These included 62 local infections, eight cases of bacteremia, 83 incidences of hemorrhage (31 requiring ligature and three requiring transfusion), 25 instances of surgical trauma, and 20 urinary tract infections. There were no deaths or reported losses of the glans or entire penis. By contrast, the complications in the 35,929 uncircumcised infants were all related to urinary tract infections. Of the 88 boys with such infections (0.24%), 32 had concomitant bacteremia, three had meningitis, two had renal failure, and two died. The frequencies of urinary tract infection (P less than .0001) and bacteremia (P less than .0002) were significantly higher in the uncircumcised boys.” (Wiswell TE, Geschke DW, June 1989)

First of all, notice the discrepancy in numbers. He compares 100,157 circumcised boys to 35,929 uncircumcised. This is playing with figures. Yet if you look closer, you will find that if circumcising the 35,929 boys would have reduced the incidence from 0.244% to 0.02% (7 boys), then number need to treat is 35,929/(88-7) = 444 circumcisions – to prevent just one UTI. Or put it another way; 445 boys have to have their cocks cut to save the discomfort of just one – which can be easily treated with antibiotics.

Note also that according to Dr Wiswell’s own figures, local infections, haemorrhage and surgical trauma {how serious?} were infinitely higher in the circumcised boys.

Another statistic wheeled out is often that of Parkland Hospital in Texas in 1982, which stated that “95% of the (male) infants (with UTI) were uncircumcised.” Not at all really surprising when you consider the other fact that the proponents of circumcision miss out when quoting this; that at that time there were NO circumcised babies in Parkland Hospital.

One damning report concludes that circumcision may actually cause UTI. Doubly damning as it comes from the Jewish state of Israel;

“162 neonates (108 males, 54 females) were hospitalized with UTI. Mean age at admission was significantly lower in males (27.5 vs 37.7 days, p=0.0002). The incidence of UTI in males peaked at 2-4 weeks of age, i.e. the period immediately following circumcision. In females, the incidence tended to rise with age. Accordingly, male predominance disappeared at 7 weeks and the male-to-female ratio reversed. In the second part of the study, 111 males (?T1 month old) were included: 48 post-UTI and 63 as a control group. While evaluating the impact of circumcision technique, we found that UTI occurred in 6 of the 24 infants circumcised by a physician (25%), and in 42 of the 87 infants (48%) circumcised by a religious authority; the calculated odds ratio for contracting UTI was 2.8 (95% CI: 1-9.4).

Conclusion; There was a higher preponderance of UTI among male neonates. Its incidence peaked during the early post-circumcision period, as opposed to the age-related rise in females. UTI seems to occur more frequently after traditional circumcision than after physician performed circumcision. We speculate that changes in the hemostasis technique or shortening the duration of the shaft wrapping might decrease the rate of infection after Jewish ritual circumcision.” (Dario Prais, Rachel Shoov-Furman and Jacob Amir, Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel, 2008)

3. Circumcision reduces the risk of Sexually Transmitted Infection (STI).

This myth is based upon a study by the English doctor Jonathan Hutchinson who in 1854 published a table showing the prevalence of VD among Jews and Non-Jews:

Hutchinson used this table to claim that circumcision was a contributory factor to preventing the spread of Gonorrhoea and Syphilis, which he claimed was due to circumcision renedered “the delicate mucous membrane of the glans hard and skin-like” His findings were however deeply flawed. They were for a start a backlash against promiscuity, which was actually highly prevalent in the 19th century, particularly in London where he carried out his studies. He was also a typical example of the sexually uptight and reserved English Victorian professional classes, who frowned upon the very idea of sex ever being pleasurable (except Queen Victoria, with her army of kids, obviously had no problem with it), and sought to decrease that pleasure wherever possible.

The report also does not take consideration of cultural differences. The fact was that Jewish men were far less likely to be promiscuous than gentiles, hence the apparent discrepancy in figures. To put this in a more modern light, consider the explosion of HIV/AIDS among the gay community in the early 1980s, many of whom were extremely promiscuous, compared to that of heterosexuals. The high incidence of HIV/AIDs among gays then led to it being considered a homosexual disease and labelled the “gay plague”. Exactly the same misguided preconceptions were used in the 1980s as Hutchinson published in 1854.

If anything else was needed to destroy Hutchinson’s claims, it came directly from the British Empire, at it’s height at the time. Wherever the British went in the world and interacted with tribal peoples, incidences of venereal diseases skyrocketed. This includes among African men, a great many of whom were in fact circumcised.

In Circumcision in the United States; Prevalence, Prophylactic Effects, and Sexual Practice (1997), Dr E O Laumann, et al, no significant differences in STD rates between circumcised and intact men, except for one STD: 25.1/1000 (26/1033) circumcised men reported having suffered from the commonest STD, chlamydia, while no intact men (out of 353) did so. He concluded, “…we have discovered that circumcision provides no discernible prophylactic benefit and may in fact increase the likelihood of STD contraction…”

Indeed, the high prevalence of chlamydia among circumcised men suggests that it may in fact contribute to the spread of STIs.

In “Risk factors for penile cancer: results of a population-based case-control study in Los Angeles County (United States)” (2001), H F Tsen, et al, similarly found, “We found no evidence that uncircumcised men are particularly susceptible to clinical infections with sexually transmitted diseases, such as HPV or herpes. Circumcised cases in our study were more likely than uncircumcised cases to report a history of genital warts (20.5% vs 8.2%); and among controls there was little difference in the history of warts by circumcision status (5.9% vs 6.3%). These findings are consistent with those of Aynaud et al who observed similar proportions of HPV-associated lesions in circumcised and uncircumcised men.”

There is also the claim that circumcision reduces the chances of contracting HIV. In fact, Michael Garrenne of the Pasteur Institute wrote in Male Circumcision and HIV Control in Africa (2006);

“If all men are circumcised, then prevalence among women will be lower, and men will have lower risk of being exposed and infected. However, several natural experiments do not confirm this argument. For instance, Tanzania has some 110 ethnic groups, some groups using universal male circumcision, others not circumcising. After controlling for urbanization, there was no difference in male HIV prevalence between the two groups: in urban areas, HIV seroprevalence was 9.5% in circumcised groups and 9.7% in uncircumcised groups, and conversely, 4.6% and 5.2%, respectively, in rural areas—none of the differences being significant. In South Africa, the KwaZulu-Natal province, where few are circumcised, has a higher HIV seroprevalence than other provinces, reaching 37% among antenatal clinic attendants in 2003. But, in the Eastern Cape, where circumcision is the rule, the dynamics of the epidemic are almost the same, simply lagging a few years behind, increasing from 4.5% in 1994 to 27% in 2003. Finally, it was argued that the large epidemic in Abidjan, Côte d’Ivoire, and surrounding areas in the late 1980s was largely due to the lack of male circumcision of the local ethnic groups. This, however, did not impede the rapid increase in HIV infection among migrant workers from Burkina Faso and Mali living in Abidjan, who were circumcised.

For highly exposed men, such as men living in southern Africa, the choice is either using condoms consistently, with extremely low risk of becoming infected, or being circumcised, with relatively high risk of becoming infected. This is quite similar to women’s choice to either use a highly efficacious contraceptive method or use a folk method. Some women make the second choice for religious reasons, with the obvious consequences. Is there a rationale for promoting the idea of circumcision when better choices are available? Regular condom use was found to be protective at the individual level and also effective for stopping HIV epidemics, as in Thailand.

Concluding that “male circumcision should be regarded as an important public health intervention for preventing the spread of HIV” appears overstated. Even though large-scale male circumcision could avert a number of HIV infections, theoretical calculations and empirical evidence show that it is unlikely to have a major public health impact, apart from the fact that achieving universal male circumcision is likely to be more difficult than universal vaccination coverage or universal contraceptive use.”

Even the UK AIDS charity, The Terence Higgins Trust, takes a skeptical view of the alleged benefits of circumcision in preventing HIV infection;

“Research suggesting circumcision protects against HIV transmission has not been carried out over a particularly long time. It may be that circumcision only delays infection and cannot prevent it. Also, very many ‘cut’ men become HIV positive and some nations that routinely circumcise such as the USA and Ethiopia have high rates of HIV infection. Mathematical modelling has shown that if circumcised men increase their number of partners any protective effect disappears and HIV incidence rises. There is also the question of the effect on sexual behaviour and condom use if circumcised men believe they cannot get or pass on HIV.

One study showed that circumcision has much less protective value with higher viral load and showed circumcision after puberty failed to protect (this may have indicated that Muslims in the study, circumcised very young, exhibited other factors that explained their lower infection rate). In addition, the practice has been shown to have no or only limited effect in protecting against STIs, a major co-factor in the spread of HIV, especially in the developing world. (Richard Scholey, Programme Development Officer, The Terence Higgins Trust)

4. Circumcision reduces risk of penile cancer and incidence of cervical cancer in women.

Penile cancer:

One of the rarest incidence of cancer in the world, but terrifying nonetheless. There is however absolutely no evidence to suggest that circumcision is in any way effective in preventing penile cancer. It should also be stressed that penile cancer most commonly occurs in extremely elderly men. Male breast cancer actually has a higher incidence than penile cancer. Should we then carry out mastectomies upon men, just in case. For that matter in 1999 there were 7400 cases of testicular cancer in the USA, resulting in 300 deaths, compared to 1400 cases of penile and other genital cancers, resulting in 200 deaths. Yet nobody would seriously suggest that we castrate all men and boys to prevent the much more prevalent testicular cancer.

And contrary to the claim, circumcision may actually cause penile cancer. R M Seyam of the Department of Urology, King Faisal Specialist Hospital and Research Center Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, reported in 2006;

“Of 22 patients 18 underwent ritual circumcision with extensive scar development. Median age at diagnosis was 62.4 years. The penile lesion was dorsal and proximally located in 15 patients. Median delay before diagnosis was 12 months. Clinically 14 patients had stage T1-T2 disease, with 13 having no lymph node involvement and none with distant metastasis, 8 patients had stage T3-T4 disease. A total of 15 patients were treated surgically with total penectomy or conservative local excision, inguinal lymph node dissection and subsequent penile reconstruction. Pathological staging in 15 patients revealed 10 patients with stage T1 and in 8 patients with lymph node dissection none had nodal metastasis. Histopathological classification was 20 squamous cell carcinoma, 1 sarcoma and 1 verrucous carcinoma. Six patients refused surgery and 1 was referred for palliation. Median followup was 14.5 months and median survival was 14.5 months. The 3-year survival was 42% for stage T1-T2 and 13% for T3-T4 (p = 0.0052). Median survival for the surgical group was 34 months whereas for nonsurgical group was 3 months (p = 0.0016). Recurrence-free survival in the surgical group was 50%.

Conclusion: Penile carcinoma in circumcised men is a distinct disease commonly following nonclassic vigorous circumcision. Delayed diagnosis and deferring surgical treatment are associated with increased mortality.”

Cervical cancer:

There is a claim that one of the main causes of cervical cancer is sexual contact with men with dirty penises. Whilst we must keep an open mind to this, let me say right here that there is no proven causal link between the two.

The claim has widely been based on the 1954 claims of Ernest Wynder, that cervical cancer was caused by a build up of smegma around the base of the glans of the penis. However, he later found that the women he’d asked had no idea whether their husbands were circumcised or not, suggesting that his claims were in fact completely baseless. A subsequent study of Jewish women compared with Gentile women found that when gentile women with circumcised husbands were compared to gentile women with intact husbands, the supposed correlation vanished.

Elizabeth Stern MD, in Journal of the American Medical Women’s Association stated in 1962,

“Since the recommendation had been made that circumcision should be used as a preventative measure against cancer of the cervix, we sought further confirmation of this hypothesis. An almost ideal population was that of the well women attending a cancer detection facility, where the population was split almost equally between women whose husbands were circumcised and those whose husbands were not. The discovery rate for cancer of the cervix among non-Jewish women whose marital partners were circumcised was no different from the rate among non-Jewish women with noncircumcised husbands. Further, the use of a sheath contraceptive by the marital partner, which has an effect equivalent to circumcision in that the cervix is protected from contact with the smegma, was found not to be associated with rate differences for cancer of the cervix.”

More recently Joseph Menczer MD, writing in none other than The Israeli Medical Association Journal (2008), stated,

“…the higher rate of intercourse with uncircumcised males in the cases may be a reflection of the liberal sexual habits in this group and not of the circumcision status of their partners. It should also be mentioned that the incidence of cervical cancer among Israeli Jewish female immigrants from the former Soviet Union, some of whom are married to uncircumcised men, is not different to that in the general population. Although the dispute over the association of circumcision and cervical cancer in various populations is still ongoing, there seems to be no hard evidence that circumcision prevents its occurrence in Jewish women, and it is no longer considered to play a protective role.”

Again, therefore, just as with venereal disease, the low prevalence of cervical cancer among Jewish women may be down to religious and cultural factors, rather than circumcision.

But just a word here guys, no woman wants or deserves to have a dirty penis inside her. If you are going to have sex, be decent and wash your smelly, cheesy dick.

5. Circumcision prevents balanitis (inflammation of the glans) and balanoposthitis (inflammation of the glans and foreskin).

I’ve had balanitis, and it is bloody sore. My dick swelled to three times it’s normal size. I asked my doctor if he had anything to take away the pain but leave the swelling.

Want to know what the commonest causes of balanitis and balanoposthitis are? Continued exposure of the glans and reaction to washing with too much soap (see my point above about the glans being self-cleaning). Therefore, far from circumcision preventing balanitis, it is far more likely to cause it. Plus both balanitis and balanoposthitis are as easily treated with modern antibiotics as any other infection.

Of course there are those who claim that circumcision is a preventative measure to completely avoid balanoposthitis altogether. The best argument I ever had about this is consider a man who cuts his arm off after it is crushed under a rock; did he need to remove his arm before the accident to prevent that happening? Similarly we can receive injuries or infections to our ears, noses, eyelids, and other portruding parts of the body, but we do not remove them purely to prevent what might happen.

6. Circumcision prevents phimosis (the inability to retract the foreskin) and paraphimosis (the inability to return the foreskin to its original location).

This one beggars belief and has me lost for words. If a child has phimosis, then the last thing you want to do is pull the foreskin right back. My own foreskin did not fully retract until I was six years old and even then it was painful in the extreme when I did pull it back the first time. This suggests that I personally had phimosis, which was never diagnosed nor treated, yet I have suffered no ill effects in later life.

There are of cases of phimosis where the foreskin will not retract at all, and this can cause pain, particularly when urinating. However, in these cases the condition can be easily treated by non-surgical means ranging from simply bathing the penis to a course of manipulating the penis (in other words, masturbation) coupled with a course of antibiotics.

The ancient Greeks referred to phimosis as lipodermus; insufficient foreskin. It seems to me that if there is insufficient foreskin then circumcision of what is there can only be harmful, and indeed it has been found to cause phimosis in 2.9% of babies.

Similarly paraphimosis is the extremely rare condition where the foreskin becomes trapped behind the glans and will not return to the normal position. It can happen in boys and men with a short foreskin and a broad glans. This can result in a build-up of fluid in the bunched up foreskin. The usual treatment for this is to manipulate the glans and pull the glans forward, in much the same way that one would work a tight ring off a finger. Another trick is to simply put granulated sugar on the glans, which will draw the fluid out by osmosis, thereby allowing the foreskin to release. In extreme cases medical attention may need to be sought, where a doctor may draw off the fluid with a needle, cut the foreskin, or use the “Dundee Technique” of pricking the prepuce about 20 times to allow the fluid to reduce slowly. After any of these techniques, a doctor may try to scare the patient into seeking a circumcision, including scare stories that their penis may drop off. However, if the foreskin has been cut to reduce fluid, that may be enough to prevent it happening again.

Incidentally, paraphimosis is most commonly caused by surgical procedure, such as having a catheter fitted and the foreskin not brought forward again.

7. Other factors to consider.

The glans and the foreskin are the most sensitive parts of male genitalia. They perform, to a lesser extent, the same function as the clitoris and it’s hood in women; to give pleasure during sex. When a man is circumcised, not only has he lost the sensitivity of the foreskin, the glans will harden and become like outward skin, thereby further reducing sensitivity.

Circumcisions can and do go wrong. There have been a great many deaths through botched circumcisions, complications and infections, as many as 100 per annum in the USA. Meanwhile South Africa has encountered a particular problem with haemophilia killing children who are circumcised. Since 2000, thirteen infants in New York City alone, undergoing the orthodox Jewish rite of metzitzah b’peh, in which the Mohel sucks the blood from the wound, have contracted herpes simplex virus type 1, of which two have died. This is not an anti-Semitic urban myth, it is a well documented fact.

Even in surgical circumcision, there is no guarantee of safety. Infants undergoing the procedure have died under anesthetic, while others have been left brain damaged.

Circumcision can lead to many medical complications in later life which may need constant attention. They can also lead to psychological problems which can range from resentment of the parents to suicide.

There are some parents who circumcise their son “because it looks better”. That is a matter of personal taste, and it is a procedure these parents carry out on their sons without their consent. They are not to know if his future partners prefer a circumcised penis or not, which let’s face it, is an extremely shallow attitude. A word to such parents – stop trying to live your lives through your children, and stop enforcing your small-mindedness upon them.

A transwoman friend of mine makes another point I was previously unaware of:

“A much lesser known down side of circumcision, is it significantly reduces the amount of skin available to line the vagina in Transsexual Surgery. So parents making this decision for a child are also making that child’s life harder than necessary (and being transsexual is hard enough!) should they turn out to have GID/GDS and need vaginoplasty to alleviate that condition.”

Conclusions:

Male circumcision is a wholly unnecessary surgical procedure with absolutely no proven medical benefits. Many leading paediatricians and other child experts already take this view and their numbers are swelling daily, with even Israeli medical experts maintaining that it has no benefits.

It is a procedure carried out on children which they are incapable of consenting to. A group of children’s ombudsmen from Denmark, Sweden, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and Greenland met recently in Norway an concluded that male circumcision conflicts with the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child, which states, “Children should have the right to express their own views and be protected from traditional rituals which may be harmful to their health.”

Male Homo Sapiens evolved with the foreskin, because it fulfills many functions. By carrying out circumcision, parents and surgeons remove that functionality without the consent of the child, possibly leading to future physcial and mental health problems.

It is a dangerous procedure which can cause complications, infections, and ultimately death. Even when successful, it leaves the circumcised male open to the dangers of infection and other urinal/genital complaints.

In the final instance it is a superstitious religious rite from antiquity which is no more than the pointless and unnecessary mutilation of a necessary part of the male human body.

And it is no good Jews, Muslims, and other faiths who practice male circumcision trying to claim special pleading for their faith. There are a great many religious rituals we know longer tolerate upon humane grounds. Chief among those is female genital mutilation which is no more than barbarity. Whilst by no means attempting to compare the two, whilst we as educated and compassionate human beings in the 21st century do not accept the mutilation of little girls on religious grounds, neither should we tolerate it for little boys.

It is time to consign this barbaric bronze age ritual to the historic dustbin where it belongs, once and for all.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: