"The Torture of Infant Male Circumcision" by Robert Clover Johnson

I am privileged to present health activist Robert Clover Johnson’s post below. According to trauma experts Drs. Louis Tinnin and Linda Gantt, authors of The Instinctual Trauma Response & Dual-Brain Dynamics, “examples of preverbal traumas include complicated birth, surgery (congenital heart malformations, pyloric stenosis), circumcision without anesthesia” (53), among others. I continue to be inspired by Robert’s bravery and dedication in putting his message out in no uncertain terms, and I am awed by his eloquence and clarity. Read on.

“The Torture of Infant Male Circumcision” by Robert Clover Johnson

In her book Reclaiming Your Life (1995), psychotherapist Jean Jenson challenges conventional thinking with the observation that people’s childhoods, including infancy, can and often do contain “horrors” comparable to those that haunt military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In February 2005 I learned firsthand that this is true. During a regressive therapy session, in which I expected other issues to emerge, I suddenly re-experienced the sharp cutting sensations and feelings of helplessness, abandonment, and betrayal I’d endured while being circumcised as an infant, sixty years earlier in Peoria, Illinois’ Methodist Hospital. My forty-year quest to understand why intimacy, for me, had always been associated with some degree of anxiety had finally been answered. How could any man be completely trusting and relaxed with a woman when his first sexual experience involved a stranger ripping his foreskin from the head of his penis, crushing it in a Gomco clamp, then severing it forever from his body?

After that session, in a state of amazement, I quickly did a computer search for “circumcision,” naively hoping to find some reassuring explanation as to why I, and millions of other American baby boys, had undergone such torture at the very beginning of our lives. I did find some medical websites claiming that circumcision had “health benefits,” but none of those struck me as even remotely convincing, particularly when weighed against the trauma involved. Luckily, I then found websites for organizations like Stop Infant Circumcision (SIC), the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM), Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC), and the National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC), all of which described routine infant male circumcision as a completely unnecessary, dangerous, and highly traumatic procedure that causes the lifelong, irremediable loss of half of a man’s penile skin, three-fourths of his penile sexual sensation, and all of the natural rolling action that makes sex friction-free for couples lucky enough to experience sex as nature intended it. I learned that American doctors copied the surgery from a Jewish rite in the Victorian age as a measure to prevent masturbation, which at that time, prior to full acceptance of the germ theory of disease, was believed to be the cause of an endless list of physical and mental illnesses (Glick 149-178; Fleiss). It also, tellingly, was believed to be a useful measure to reduce the temptations of sexual promiscuity, known to be a vehicle for the spread of venereal diseases, a problem that now is preventable by limiting oneself to safe sex, condom use, etc. (“The Use of Male Circumcision”).

How can it be, I wondered, that this horrendous surgery has been practiced routinely on millions of infants for so many decades in what American politicians like to call “the indispensable country,” home to the “shining city on a hill,” a nation that prides itself on its keen sensitivity to basic human rights and the “pursuit of happiness”? One answer would be that most male American doctors were circumcised as infants, just like most American men. They naturally want to believe that the surgery is beneficial. Unfortunately, they don’t know what they are missing by not having a foreskin and most American medical textbooks, astonishingly, provide little or no information on this subject. The resulting ignorance among doctors, as well as among the general public, combined with male egos in denial, enables obstetricians and pediatricians to continue torturing baby boys and making a handsome profit from their work.

Works Cited

Glick, Leonard (2005). Marked in Your Flesh: Circumcision from Ancient Judea to Modern America (Oxford University Press), especially Chapter 6, “Good Sanitarians: Circumcision Medicalized,” 149-178. Print.

 Fleiss, Dr. Paul M. “The Foreskin is Necessary.” The Case Against Circumcision. Web. 7 May 2013. <www.mothersagainstcirc.org/fleiss.html> (originally an article in Mothering: The Magazine of Natural Living, Winter 1997. 36-45. Print.)

“The Use of Male Circumcision to Prevent HIV Infection.” Doctors Opposing Circumcision HIV Statement. Jan. 2008. Web. 8 May 2013. <www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/info/HIVStatement.html>.