Consent plays a role, too.

This article on adult circumcision was the companion piece to the recent Los Angeles Times article on infant circumcision. It would’ve been easy and proper to focus on consent, here and in the article on infants, but instead it’s mostly fluff seemingly intended to prove that men really, really like circumcision. The facts don’t support the article’s implications, although you have to know the facts because they weren’t provided in the article. I suspect this is mostly because the reporter lazily relied on urologists, who will inevitably see only men with an issue. Healthy, happy intact men don’t generally visit a doctor to say everything’s fine.

Still, I found one useful nugget (emphasis added):

Dr. David Cornell, a urologist who runs the Circumcision Center in Atlanta, sees men who want a circumcision because they prefer the appearance and because they want to feel more comfortable socially.

“I hear a thousand times a year from men who don’t feel that they look like most other men in the locker room. In our society, there’s an overriding preference for circumcision,” says Cornell, who performs 250 procedures a year on men who, for cosmetic reasons, want a circumcision or a revision to one they don’t think looks right.

Even where the male eventually agrees with his parents and/or society’s subjective judgment that circumcision is more aesthetically appealing, what is specifically appealing is also subjective. Dr. Cornell surgically alters (consenting¹) circumcised men toward the body they want. This part of his practice demonstrates that even when parents guess correctly, there is no guarantee that this will be sufficient.

Of course, men could also choose this if left intact, with a better chance of getting exactly what they want² because they have everything to work with, rather than the remnants of the original circumcision.

¹ Also from the article:

Though frequently attacked by anti-circumcision activists, [Dr. Cornell] says, “I’m doing a cosmetic operation on a consenting adult. Why he’s doing it is his business.”

He’s correct. Those activists damage the legitimacy in this debate. Circumcision is only the expression of the real issue, the lack of consent from healthy minors whose genitals are surgically altered.

² Or what they think they want. I know at least one man whose parents did not circumcise him. He chose it for himself as an adult to conform to societal expectations. He hates the results and regrets his action.

One thought on “Consent plays a role, too.”

  1. I’d be willing to bet that the unwillingness to see themselves as somehow damaged in such a personal way is a large part of men’s acceptance of circumcision. To be against it involves facing that something was done to them that made them somehow less – and that’s understandably difficult. Much easier to see circumcision as a Good Thing (and therefore push it on their sons)
    I’d like to see numbers of how many intact men choose circumcision later in an predominantly non-circumcising nation compared to the US. Men choose it because of the cultural bias rather than it actually being better.

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