I was circumcised for, if I remember correctly, medical/hygienic reasons. I was fine with the way I looked "down there" until I read several Psychology Today articles saying that circumcision had several negative neurological and psychological effects, such as increasing sensitivity to future pain, causing bottling in of emotions, etc. (the articles can be found here: https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/myths-about-circumcision-you-likely-believe, https://cdn.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201501/circumcision-s-psychological-damage). Other than "bottling in emotions" and maybe something else*, my symptoms occurred after reading the articles describing them, as far as I can tell. Is there any way to know for sure if the symptoms are simply the result of being told "if you are circumcised, you have these symptoms" or not?
*I had to get surgery once. For some reason, I had to have an empty bladder prior to the operation, but I couldn't go while being in the same room as the doctor. Listening to running water didn't help, so I had to have a catheter. I cried from the pain of the insertion, and briefly entertained thoughts of torturing the doctor who'd put the catheter in as revenge (although I know that torture is unethical). I'm not sure if this is related to being circumcised or not.
Alec (age 20)
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An interesting topic, and thanks for bringing it up. The jury is still largely out on whether or not circumcision is a good idea for males (to distinguish it from circumcision of females, which is definitely not a good idea). Historically, circumcision goes back to ancient Jewish tradition. Genesis 17:10–14 states:
10 This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised.
11 And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you.
12 And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed.
13 He that is born in thy house, and he that is bought with thy money, must needs be circumcised: and my covenant shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.
14 And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant.
Among Jews, it is a religious rite called the brit milah. Christians do it, too, since they come from that tradition, although without the ceremony and in a doctor’s office, rather than at home performed by a rabbi (and, of course, not to say all Jews have a rabbi do it). As with some other commandments in the Bible, such as not eating ham with milk, the practice probably came into being for health reasons. Antibiotics had yet to be invented, and infections could easily be a death sentence. Today, being uncircumcised can still be problematic, and the Centers for Disease Control still recommend the procedure, saying that it can help prevent everything from urinary tract infections to cancer and HIV. This recommendation, made in 2014, reinforced a 1999 recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics.
There is also a growing movement, however, away from the practice. My own mother did not believe in it, saying that circumcision was unnecessary mutilation. As a young kid who had to shower with the other boys after gym class, I used to curse her because I was so embarrassed to be the only one in the shower with a foreskin (indeed, a huge reason many parents in the past circumcised boys was they were fearful their kids would be teased in the showers at school). Today, I am thankful she left my penis alone.... More on that below.
I have never heard of the author of the article in Psychology Today that you have here, so I looked up this Lilli Cannon on the Internet, finding her blog, www.moralogous.com, and the bio in it that states she is a “parent, wife, entrepreneur, thinker, armchair psychologist, amateur anthropologist.” None of these things makes her a physician or psychologist, so I would definitely take her advice with a big grain of salt. In fact, I’m surprised her article was published in Psychology Today. She’s an amateur, as am I, which is why my website clearly states I’m not a doctor or trained counselor. I also note that in her article she provides no links to scientific studies, only, bizarrely, links concerning animal welfare.
In recent years in the United States have seen a downward trend because there have also been studies saying there are really no benefits and that it is, really, mutilation. An entire organization—Intact America—has been established to educate people about what it feels are myths about circumcision.
Am I confusing you yet? Well, that’s because the medical community can often contradict itself. Here, briefly, is what I think about circumcision: 1) it is largely continued today because of religious and social reasons, not health reasons; 2) it is a simple way for a doctor to make a quick buck, charging $200 to $800 for the procedure in the United States; 3) yes, it is extremely painful to the infant and often done without anesthetic, doctors even once believing that newborns didn’t experience pain as much as adults do (that screaming didn’t indicate pain?); 4) while it is true that bacteria can grow under the foreskin, this is easily resolved with good hygiene practices. The reason you see higher rates of infections in places like rural Africa is because hygiene is more problematic there. Men with foreskins can greatly reduce their risk to be about the same as circumcised men by thoroughly cleaning the head of the penis daily, and also doing so immediately after sexual intercourse (if done without protection) or by simply wearing a condom (always a good idea, says my buddy Critter *tip o’ the hat*).
Even though I don’t respect Cannon much because that article in Psychology Today was poorly done, it actually might be true, according to research I found (hey, Cannon, why didn’t you support your claims? sheesh). According to this study http://www.cirp.org/library/pain/taddio2/ circumcision can, indeed, cause Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, leading to depression, anger, and even suicide in later years. On a less-significant, but still important, level, the removal of the foreskin lowers the sensitivity of the penis and, hence, makes sex less pleasurable (thanks, Mom).
Now, does Papabear believe that your circumcision led to your emotional issues? This is questionable for the reason that you state you didn’t have any problems until after you read the article by Cannon. It sounds like what hypochondriacs do, believing they have a disease only when they learn about it. If everyone who was circumcised became emotionally impaired, the world would be an utter disaster. Perhaps it increases such risks, but does not necessarily lead to them. As for your doctor visit, that could be attributed to anxiety—also, very odd that the doctor insisted on being in the same room because usually they hand you a cup and tell you to fill it in the bathroom.
To answer your question, then, no, it is not possible to state for an absolute certainty whether or not being circumcised has affected you in some way. My advice would be to stop obsessing about it, because that will just create a self-fulfilling prophecy: the more you worry, the more it will disturb you, the greater the risk of you actually becoming emotionally impaired. Don’t blame your “bottling in” of emotions on your surgery. Instead, look for ways to calm yourself, enjoy your current life as you are, and count your blessings. Look for the good in life and stop focusing on the bad, whether real or imaginary, and you’ll be much better off.
P.S. Circumcision can actually be reversed through surgery or, with the use of weights or elastic straps, nonsurgical procedures. Consult your physician if you wish to consider your options.
UPDATE April 23, 2015
Here is a GREAT article provided by my buddy Furisky about the foreskin and the U.S. medical community. A must-read: http://madsciencewriter.blogspot.in/2013/05/the-foreskin-why-is-it-such-secret-in.html?m=1
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