Researching, early childhood trauma, i typed in C-I-R-C-U-M-C-I-S-I-O-N into my Internet browser, and found so much information, I could have read for hours, and days, and months — and eventually I did read for years.
I found there were many theories about how and why genital mutilation began but nobody knew for sure if any of them were true. Primitive people all over the globe have been practiced body modifications of every description, including genital cutting, for thousands of years.
As part of my inquiry, before I went to sleep one night I asked to know how circumcision began. In the middle of the night I saw a vivid vignette unfold, as if a television was sitting at the foot of my bed.
Two people appeared in the dream: an old man and a baby. The old man was crazy drunk and wanted to play with the baby’s penis. Since a foreskin will retract and pull the penis into the body when it is cold and also when its owner is afraid, the old man could not access the baby’s penis. This enraged him. He pulled out his knife and cut the baby’s foreskin off.
From “The Rape of the Phallus” by Dr. William Keith C. Morgan in the Journal of the American Medical Association, July 1965:
“Why is the operation of circumcision practiced? One might as well attempt to explain the rites of voodoo!… it is part of an ancient rite practiced by many primitive tribes whereby the young male and less frequently the young female, gives proof of his or her ability to endure pain. If they pass the test with fortitude, they are then accepted into the tribe as fully developed adults with attendant privileges. Thus in this respect the operation is similar to many of the tattoos and scars produced by burning, piercing or incising that are accepted as routine cosmetic procedures by these peoples.
“Second, in many primitive African tribes circumcision is performed to reduce libido. This mutilating practice is generally performed on women to keep them faithful to their husbands. Male infant circumcision is practiced by all Semitic races, Jew and Arab alike, and has been exported by them to all parts of the world and to most races. It will perhaps be a cause of surprise to those of Semitic origin to find that the Australian aborigine has practiced circumcision for as long, if not longer, and for the same basic reason as his more civilized brethren.”
Well, so much for modern and medical and upscale, logical and rational. Cutting off genitals is primal, primitive, base, emotional stuff.
The age chosen for circumcision varies according to the culture. The western, English-speaking world, which has followed the Judaic model, cuts the child at birth or a few days after. Other cultures wait until the boy is somewhat more grounded, around age five or twelve.
Some “coming of age” rituals during teen years involve not only genital mutilation but also haircutting, knocking out teeth, finger amputation, tattooing, scarring, and a variety of other quaint tribal markings. Some think the “coming of age” ritual is a message to the younger men in the family or tribe: “Our women are beginning to like you! Stay away from them! The women belong to us!”
You can read circumcision facts and myths from around the world and through the ages in Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery by David Gollaher.
But why, given that neither the New Testament, the Book of Mormon nor any national medical organization in the world encourages the practice does circumcision have such a strong foothold in the supposedly civilized, modern, predominately NewsroomsChristian, United States of America?
Dear reader, make sure you are sitting down, because this is something many people find difficult to believe – but it’s true! – circumcision began in the USA as a way to keep children from – egads! – touching themselves! – masturbating! Read these stirring words from the New Orleans Medical Journal in 1855…
Neither the plague, nor war, nor small pox, not a crowd of similar evils have resulted more disastrously for humanity, than the habit of masturbation: it is the destroying element of civilized society.
The last witch had been burned in the late 1700s as the evil spirit theory of disease was actively being discredited. But the evil spirit theory was soon replaced by the masturbation theory. Masturbation, doctors proclaimed, could make you crazy or physically ill – it could even kill you. You had to be saved from your evil ways – for your own good.
The witch hunt turned to an obsession for uncovering and punishing private sexual behavior, self-pleasuring.
“Over this period there was truly a remarkable upsurge in what can only be termed comic-book sadism. The advocacy of these bizarre [anti-masturbation] therapies was not confined to eccentrics. By about 1880 the individual who might wish for unconscious reasons to tie, chain, or infibulate sexually active children… to adorn them with grotesque appliances, encase them in plaster of Paris, leather or rubber, to frighten or even castrate them, could find humane and respectable medical authority for doing so in good conscience. Masturbational insanity was now real enough… it was affecting the medical profession.” – Alex Comfort