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Why do women care so much about circumcision?

Recently I saw this comment on Tumblr (I’ll keep him anonymous, to avoid hate mail)

It seems as though women care a lot more about circumcision. If you don’t have a dick, why do you care? Most guys like their penises, even if its circumcised.  So women, shut up, because you have no idea.

Alright.  Rather than pick apart this *clearly ignorant* statement in all its fallacies, I’d rather just broach the issue of why I think women, especially those who have become mothers, care so damn much, and even more, why all adults should care.

For women who have become mothers, they have changed. They have completed a rite of passage from woman to mother, from child-free to child-full.  Mammals are hardwired to protect children.  It’s part of our evolutionary biology, and absolutely necessary for the preservation of the species.  If our brains didn’t release oxytocin (the love hormone) when we are around children, we wouldn’t have survived as a species.

That’s not to say men don’t care (or even to dichotomise gender in such a way), I’m merely talking about the BIOLOGICAL differences, in the pregnancy-birth-breastfeeding cycle of womanhood.  Our maternal instincts are fiercely driven to protect children, and circumcision directly violates maternal instincts.

So what about those mothers who cut the genitals of their children, does that mean they don’t have maternal instincts? Nope, it means they are a product of their culture and have allowed their culture to blind them from the inherent harm. As in, we placate our maternal instincts by giving ourselves reasons to cut the genitals of children.

  • Uncircumcised boys are dirty, and I don’t want him to be dirty, or to be made fun of for being dirty.

See the maternal instinct?  I’m protecting my son from being ridiculed for having his whole penis.  This then correlates with strong socialisation that penises are dirty, and only unlucky girls end up with uncircumcised men, whose parents don’t love them enough to cut their penises.

  • Circumcision has been proven to protect against *insert every medical justification ever given to cut a child’s genitals.*

There it is again, protecting our children from disease. It doesn’t matter how minor, if we can come up with a medical reason, we can keep cutting our sons, and we can let the mama lion in our hearts rest peacefully that we have never harmed our children.

  • Girls do not want to be with an uncircumcised boy, and I’m not going to keep him from happiness with a partner.

The maternal protection is especially strong here, because if we don’t cut our sons’ penises, he will never get laid. How traumatic if our sons’ first sexual experience was with an ignorant bimbo who is too naive to understand and appreciate the natural male genitals.

  • All the men in our family are circumcised, and they love it.  My son needs to look like all the men in our family.

Here again, the maternal instinct protects the boy from ‘otherness,’ which could potentially be quite traumatic when the family whips out their penises at Thanksgiving and he’s the only one with a foreskin.  Or worse, when he sees his father’s circumcised penis and wonders why on earth his loving parents wouldn’t cut his to match his dad’s.  After all, matching penises is most certainly integral to family relationships.

Now, fathers have just as much paternal instincts to protect their children, and we hear men argue these same points.  Which is why, no matter male, female, trans, or however a person identifies, we need to really understand how these fallacious arguments do not  protect children at all. Rather, they protect us, the adults, from having to face the very ugly truth about circumcision.

It is our responsibility as adults on this planet to protect children from harm, not place them directly in harm’s way.  If only one child has ever died from circumcision, we have failed to protect them.  If only one child has ever lost his penis, we have failed.  If only one child has ever been traumatised and negatively affected, we have failed.  If only one man has grown up to HATE his circumcision, we have failed.

So, adults, have you leveled up?  Have you found the courage to pull back the mask, to de-robe the wolf in sheep’s clothing? Have you discovered the amount of harm cutting the genitals of children has cost us as a society?

If we do not find the courage to expose this ugly beast, we are being complicit in the death, trauma, and harm of children.


  1. Ashley on said:

    I am a girl that was circumcised and I thank God for those men and women that speak out against male and female genital mutilation!

    • Wow, thank you for sharing Ashley! I am always very shocked when I hear of women in the U.S. (or western world, I’m assuming?) who are circumcised. I’d really love to hear your story, if you wouldn’t mind sharing.

      • consa on said:

        The perverted Victorian doctors who, starting around 1880-90, urged middle class moms to circumcise their boys, also recommended removing the clitoris. There was definitely a belief in those days that sexual desire grounded many social and moral problems, so that anything that mitigated that desire was to the good. Not many parents accepted this advice, and the practice declined in the 1920s.

        But it did not disappear. The link describes the memoir of an American woman who had her clitoris removed in 1950s Kansas.

  2. Circumcision in any form is barbaric and cruel. I was circumcised as a child. However, I made sure that my three sons were not circumcised.

    • Not entirely true. I’m 23 and awaiting a circumcision, it is for a medical purpose and it is the last resort after failed treatments. It would be cruel and barbaric to force me to live with my problem and deny me the circumcision, although I agree that cultural practices of circumcision of infants is very wrong. It comes in many forms, not all are bad, many are necessary. If something is faulty, fix it or get rid.

  3. Excellent post. You speak of women as mothers, but they are also nurses who have to comfort shrieking babies and are then told to lie to the mother that “he slept right through it”, and lovers who have experienced both and prefer the unique rolling action and the enhanced interaction between them a foreskin gives.

    • Thanks Hugh, you are right, women have many roles, and our unique biology to protect children is what makes the female voice in this movement so resounding.

  4. [An anonymous female reader wrote in2007]

    You can make your circumcision a Rite of Passage for pewparing for marriage, leaving home, or whatever. By undergoing it you are sharing in a great and time honoured custom which, deep down, isrespected by most women as well as by many men. Following the jewish form, the most painful part is the second stage of periah when the redundant inner skin is torn down to its coronal roots and then stripped away. But there should, apparently, be a little pain in experiencing one’s circumcision. So the Talmud says. Good luck.

    • Ritual circumcision has most certainly been a rite of passage, historically, for the boy & his family. However, in 2012 it shouldn’t matter how ingrained, entrenched or psychological valuable a ritual is, if it harms children & violates their human right to bodily autonomy, it cannot be considered an ethical surgery. A grown man may choose circumcision, but it is something a person chooses for himself. Circumcision is not something anyone can choose FOR another person.

      • Very well said & very thoughtful comment Maria!! Parents should leave it up to the child to make that choice consciously..The comment above a little ways where it says that nurses hold the baby boy while he is shrieking & crying from pain & then told to say he slept right through it..That there just completely changed my mind on leave the little baby boys penis alone!!For gosh sakes,that’s how boys are born..Otherwise boys would be born circumcised..That’s just my thoughts…

  5. consa on said:

    It is a raw fact that many women are fierce intactivists, and in fact women dominate intactivism. Why this is the case is a difficult question in the sociology of sex and parenting. That circumcision violates the maternal instinct is an important part of the story, but does not explain why young single women and lesbians (yes!) can be intactivists.

    Let me propose a theory. A very powerful current in our time is something I call “sex positive feminism” (SPF). It is not new; read Chaucer’s “Wife of Bath’s Tale” with its hymn of praise to the vulva. The Great Mother of SPF is Betty Dodson. A fair chunk of SPF can be summarised by the slogan “Viva La Vulva”. And the following imaginary quote:

    “I am a woman, and have a woman’s normal anatomy. I will not let the fashion industry and show business dictate to me what it means to be a woman. I am very proud of my woman parts, and will not let the lechery and immaturity of men dictate how I feel and think about those parts. I embrace the way my curves incite male desire. I celebrate with every fibre in my being my body’s capacity to experience and give sexual pleasure. I will not give an inch to those who are ashamed of that capacity or wish to repress it in any way. I orgasm, therefore I am.”

    By the end of this century, quite a few women will enjoy the beach and indoor pools naked, as is already the case in Germany. This will not be controversial for women are over, say, 30.

    If a woman has gone this far, and learned to use and celebrate her clitoris and inner lips, it is but a small step to explore and cherish that important feminine bit called the male foreskin. A SP woman can see that contempt for the foreskin is cut from the same cloth as fear and shame surrounding the breasts and vulva.

    • consa on said:

      This long essay was written by George Wald, a Nobel Prize laureate in Medicine, and one of the great biologists of the last century. He was also a keen social scientist and a splendid writer. He submitted this essay to the New Yorker, which refused to publish it in 1975. Had it been published, American intactivism would have begun with a very powerful manifesto by a Jewish intellectual. Intactivism is handicapped by the fact that most intactivists are mothers without college degrees, instead of people with long resumes. Journalists and medical schools find it very easy to ignore intactivism as a scientifically illiterate grass roots’ movement.

      Thanks to the writings of Van Lewis, the existence of this essay has long been known. But it was published only this year, with the permission of Wald’s widow and in part thanks to the efforts of a very rare medical school professor opposed to RIC, George Denniston.


    • Routine infant circumcision in the USA is a major outstanding problem in the social psychology of human sexuality.

      Male circumcision in the English speaking world began in a culture that quietly believed that many, perhaps most, social and moral problems were ultimately grounded in excessive male sexual desire. Problems such as infidelity and prostitution. Poverty was blamed on husbands demanding frequent intercourse with their spouses, resulting in families having more children than they could responsibly afford, and not on a lack of information about birth control.

      Circumcised men were believed to find it harder to enjoy masturbation, and hence to masturbate less often. Hence sexual desire and its fulfillment were assumed to be less important to them. The upshot was that circumcised men were assumed to be less horny, and this was assumed to be a very good outcome.

      The medical and sanitation discoveries of the latter 19th century put proper middle class mothers in an awkward position: they had to monitor the foreskin hygiene of their sons. They had to talk to their sons about foreskin and its retraction. Victorian mothers and governesss felt daunted by this, because Victorian culture put nearly all women who did not do sex work on a purity pedestal. This was a culture where the Madonna-Whore syndrome ran amok. The circumcised penis was silently believed to be a penis that a mother never needed to inspect, never needed to talk about, whose progress to retractability did not require monitoring. This is the sense in which the circumcised penis is a “maintenance free” penis.

      This Victorian-Edwardian prudishness is almost completely absent from women of childbearing age today. But circumcision continues, because for millions of American parents, the circumcised penis looks weird and is assuming sexually distasteful. Mom grew up with circumcised brothers. Every baby she helped take care as teen was circumcised. Most of all, she has never been intimate with an intact man. Dad is circumcised, and every man of his social class he has seen in the locker room was circumcised. There are white middle class American men born in the 1960s and 70s who have never seen an intact penis in the flesh. In light of these circumstances, Mom and Dad do not want to be reminded of foreskin every time they change a nappy or give a bath.
      Doing so might give rise to inappropriate thoughts. Also, an intact boy is seen as at risk of ridicule and outright bullying in middle and high school. An intact man is seen as at risk of sexual rejection when he starts dating. Keep in mind that American boys grow up in a culture where hundreds of thousands of women with prominent labia minora burn with shame rather than celebrate their difference.

      I have seen a lot of fighting about this issue in comment threads on feminist pages. Feminists tend to see reminders that boys are cut here and there around the world, and especially in the seemingly sophisticated USA, as mission drift at best, and as trolling at worst. The fact that all cultures that cut girls also cut boys, and the rise of labiaplasty in western nations over the past 20 years, make it evident that the obsessive desire to alter the genitalia is a psycho-sexual problem that encompasses both genders.

      I know of one African woman, prominent in the anti-FGM cause, who is also on record as deploring male circumcision: Hirsan Ali.

  6. Ryan Ward on said:

    As an infant I too was circumcised, and I believed throughout my childhood and early adulthood that your penis was supposed to get chapped, bleed and scar over.

    I was 23 when I discovered that a penis is supposed to be protected from the environment, and by extension undergarments to prevent the very sensitive area from becoming irritated.

    Since that time, I have approached my dad about it, and he said that I should be thankful so nobody would make fun of me. It took every fiber in my being not to punch out his teeth.

    If removing our foreskin makes us more hygienic, we should also remove our teeth and tongue, as our mouths are home to some of the most horrific bacteria in our body; staph, strep and E. coli.

    • I’m so sorry you were met with such a cavalier attitude when you confronted your dad. That sort of reaction is so heartbreaking, and I can’t imagine any parent rationalising a human rights violation w/ trying to protect a child from bullying. It’s incredibly short-sighted logic. Cut a baby so that the few years he’s among peers who tease each other for everything, he will have a matching penis? What about the remaining 40-60 years of a man’s life?

      • Women too have sensitive and movable pink bits. They are called the clitoral hood and labia minora. Sex positive feminism invites women to discover and celebrate those bits. The single fact that sex positive feminism most celebrates is female masturbation. For many women, masturbation consists of fondling the clitoral hood. A woman who has come this far can easily see the sexual advantages of the moving foreskin, which is not only the most sexual part of the male body, but is also a male part that partakes of the Feminine. George Wald (Nobel in Medicine, 1967) conjectured that the foreskin is cut off in many cultures and religions, because it is seen as “shamefully” feminine .

        Male circumcision does not give Mother Nature the benefit of the doubt. It is not sex positive.

        The Fate of the American Foreskin rests in the hands of the next generation of mothers, who are now in high school and college. This generation has a huge advantage over preceding ones: the internet as an uncensored source of information.

        The Great Mother of sex positive feminism is Betty Dodson, whose writings I discovered in the 1980s. My intactivist thinking is in fair part grounded in her celebration of the vulva.

      • So we cut a baby boy so he won’t be scoffed at in the middle and high school locker room. So that his date won’t refuse him a blowjob when they are parked on a lover’s lane on a Friday night. American parents and doctors don’t stop to think that those bits which are an alleged social disability at 18, might make for a happier marriage, and a marital sex life that continues into the 50s and 60s.

        If the price paid for a longer and happier marital sex life is some snarky stares by boys (never men) in the locker room, and some cockblocking by under-21 bimbos I happen to date, then I’m buying!

        This intact baby boomer was deathly afraid of being ridiculed by other boys in the locker room. But I never was. I was so ashamed of my foreskin that I seldom dated. I did not begin to understand how the foreskin makes sex better until my 40s.

  7. I really wish this would stop being an issue. I am circumcised, and still(age 43) I have TOO much sexual pleasure. I often find myself slowing down because it is too damn pleasurable so please for the love of god stop using this as some kind of excuse for staying intact.

    If you parents(if you can even call yourself that) want to put your son through the ridicule and insecurity of having an intact penis while going through the already difficult times during puberty and college just so you can put some kind of purpose on your life, you are pathetic.

    We make decisions for our children ALL the time. One of the most important things you can do for your child is make sure he gets a great childhood, and I assure you, having a penis that looks deformed(in the US) is not going to win him any points in high school.

    I only have one word for you that all girls will be thinking whenever they are about to embark on a sexual journey with your “intact” son, SMEGMA!!

    This group of intactivists are pathetic, martyring your own child so you can feel your life has purpose. Get over yourselves.

    • Thanks for your comment, Farley, but you are preaching to the wrong crowd here. As a woman who grew up during a time when circumcision rates were extremely high, I have still had the pleasure of having intact lovers. At nineteen, very naive, and sexually inexperienced, I encountered my first natural penis, and you know what my response was? “So this is how it works?” Intact penises are neither gross or ‘deformed.’

      It’s clear you are very angry about the idea of people working to protect children from unnecessary genital cutting, to the extent that you troll websites like mine, telling me to get a life? The irony isn’t lost on me.

      Thank you for your concern, but a few years of childhood bullying isn’t reason enough to strap a child down and cut off part of his most intimate body part permanently and irreversibly, and to suggest that I am a negligent parent for respecting my son’s healthy body is preposterous. Further, most of his friends are intact, so I’m sure he would’ve been the ‘cut one out’ had his father and I not had the good sense to honour his healthy body.

      Given how much you love your circumcised penis, I’m sure you would’ve chosen circumcision for yourself, had you been given the choice, so I am still unclear why you are so against leaving that choice to the individual. I will also honour my son’s choices if he decides he might prefer a bald penis. However, removing healthy body parts from our children for the reasons you given here is fallacious.

    • Let me explain why Farley’s views are regrettably mistaken.

      “I am circumcised, and still(age 43) I have TOO much sexual pleasure. I often find myself slowing down because it is too damn pleasurable so please for the love of god stop using this as some kind of excuse for staying intact.”
      Avoiding circumcision is about the quality of the pleasure, as much as the quantity. And about her pleasure as well as yours. (Our hostess Maria is far from the only USA woman who has used the internet to share that she has been intimate with both kinds of men and prefers intact). I am 64 and can assure you that everything I feel when I pay my respects to my spouse of 24 years, I feel thanks to tender bits I would lack if I had gone under the knife like nearly all white middle class men of my generation.

      “If you parents (if you can even call yourself that) want to put your son through the ridicule and insecurity of having an intact penis while going through the already difficult times during puberty and college…, you are pathetic.”
      Why let adolescent insecurities decide what kind of penis a man is to have over his entire lifetime? Doing so is silly, simply because youthful insecurities should never call the shots. Also, straight men never comment on another man’s penis after high school. And why should the sexual opinions of provincial and uninformed women decide the fate of a man’s foreskin?

      I don’t challenge your claim that in your day, it was daunting to go through an American high school with a Dick Made Weird by Foreskin. But why do you assume that this will be true 15 years in the future for boys born now? The foreskin and its absence are fashion statements, and the only sure thing about fashion is that it changes. YouTube and Facebook reveal that there is a growing acceptance of the male foreskin among American women under 30. Also keep in mind that the internet has made it possible for women to view explicit imagery in the privacy of their home offices. Even though women are less erotically visual than us men, it is still the case that some American find the natural more exciting.

      If 8 years of snarky comments in the locker room and some cockblocking in college are the price I pay for 50 years of better marital sex, then I’ll have mine with foreskin, thank you.

      “We make decisions for our children ALL the time.”
      I do not believe that parents have the right to decide how a son and his partners will experience sex lifelong.

      “One of the most important things you can do for your child is make sure he gets a great childhood, and I assure you, having a penis that looks deformed(in the US) is not going to win him any points in high school.”
      What is “deformed” here is not the natural penis, but the American popular culture of human sexuality! When anatomy and human opinions clash, I say reexamine the attitudes.

      To focus on childhood being “great” creates a grave risk that a child will be spoiled. Given the seductions of our commercial culture, and the lack of emphasis in youth culture, on virtue and making hard choices, no responsibly raised child can have a “great” childhood. Good parents are parents who can say No even when doing so makes their children very angry. This is inevitable, given the divergence between what is right and what is fashionable.

      If conformity to the smug and petty prejudices of others are the price to be paid for a happy childhood, then I’m not buying.

      I went through high school in the 1960s with a penis that was “deformed” as you put it. I was very ashamed of the fact, because my parents and my doctor were silent about my condition. They were silent because of the incredible genital prudishness of that era. The tip of the penis simply could not be talked about. Also, in those days nothing was known in the USA about why the foreskin is not unhealthy, and enhances foreplay and penetrative sex. Intactivist writing in the 1980s and 90s retroactively justified my mother’s decision to leave me intact in 1949.

      “I only have one word for you that all girls will be thinking whenever they are about to embark on a sexual journey with your “intact” son, SMEGMA!!”
      The main justification for routine circumcision given in books on sex and parenting written before, say, 1990, was that it prevented smegma. I am pleased to report that this phantom problem is seldom mentioned in recent years. A gay man in his 60s has revealed to me that he has never encountered smegma in any of the about 1500 intact men he has played with over his lifetime.

      “This group of intactivists are pathetic, martyring your own child so you can feel your life has purpose. Get over yourselves.”
      To leave a child as nature made him is a form of “martyrdom”?? The problem with you is a problem that affllcted a great many of the boys and girls I grew up with. Popularity was everything, and social rejection was seen as the ultimate disgrace. If those values had ruled the roost over the past 10,000 years, we would still be hunter-gatherers. Sorry, but human advancement requires nonconformists and tall poppies.

      • I can appreciate what you are saying but I have to point out that my sole experience with same uncut guy, he wasn’t really sensitive to stimulation of any kind. He was less sensitive and I didn’t think the fact that he was uncut or not had anything to do with it. I’m guessing some men are more sensitive than others. Uncut or not. Just saying.

    • I saw an intact penis once. It was weird. A turn off. Maybe times are changing. For now, not fast eenough for those who choose not to circumsize their boys.

      • factually untrue. The global rate of circumcised men is 30% according to the latest WHO records, the vast majority of those men being Muslim. In the western world, it’s an even smaller minority as most of the Western world does not cut their babies. In the USA, with the highest circumcision rates, the stats show an even split of 50/50 from the latest data. None of this matters, actually, since strapping down children to alter their perfectly healthy sex organs is a violation of their human rights to bodily autonomy and violates medical ethics. It appears you may not know much about this topic, outside your limited ethnocentric view of the practice, but I encourage you to do your research. The more you know, the more horrifying it becomes.

  8. @farley

    Sir with all due respect you have know idea what it is like to A. Have a foreskin B. To leave your kids intact (based on your comments if you had sons you had them cut) so you have no qualification or justification to say anything expect your views on your own genitlia and its mechanics.

    I’m 21, heterosexual and thankfully my parents thought I should decide if circumcision was an option at a later age since my birth was quite difficult and almost fatal. I stumbled on this posting because I wanted to see a women’s perspective on being “cut” and thought I would share my experience being uncut.

    First I think good hygiene is always important to teach kids while young, especially with an intact penis. Second it is important that the glands can be exposed with the “pulling back” of the foreskin so that you can clean regularly. Third, the foreskin can also be stimulated during sexual activity, which I find quite nice. When erect, my glands are fully exposed just as if I was cut and there really is no “extra skin or lose skin” because its retraced during an erection. Lastly I have never been horrifically ridiculed for my gentila, of course I get the funny jab like “ant eater or snuffaluffagus or wooly mammoth” but nothing I’m fretting over.

    Honestly I’m happy with me and if anyone tells you that your body does not meet there standards then you deserve better. Love and sexuality is beautiful in all forms, nobody has the right to say otherwise. So leave the descision to circumcise to the PERSON WHO’S BODY IT IS because they are the ones living with it.

  9. This is a subject that annoys me to no end, mostly because my wife agreed to circumcision before I could say no. There’s times where I wish I knew what having an uncircumcised penis would be like, even though I find both coitus and being on the receiving end of fellatio quite stimulating.

    I believe that it shouldn’t be a parental choice when it comes to circumcision. It’s his penis, he gets to decide what he does with it.

    Also, while it’s not truly restoration of the foreskin, there are ways to stretch out what’s left over so it looks as if you have the elephant trunk instead of the spear.

  10. what’s with the ignorance in society with uncircumcised men being unclean does this mean that the circumcised penis doesn’t have to be washed people get it together when women start cutting of the clitoris hood and losing half of there sensation because of. Exposed clitoral drrttyness and chafing ,then we can speak on even terms.by the way women produce more smegma than men, smegma only occurs when the person doesnt keep themselves clean

  11. I never had to expose myself to another boy in the locker room what kind of gym is that I always shower when I got home sounds like Prison to me

  12. I’ve never had a problem with the circumcision usually women say it’s so shiny its so pink its so red like a cherry

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