Please cover routine infant circumcision (RIC) in your main Last Week Tonight segment
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As a regular viewer of Last Week Tonight, I've noticed that you make some jokes about circumcision. Though it's funny to joke about circumcision since it's in the mainstream, what's not funny is why and how routine infant circumcision (RIC) is done in America.
There are various accounts as to the start of circumcision in America. One is that after the medicalization of childbirth, obstetricians and gynecologists began circumcising to prevent "self-abuse", otherwise known as masturbatory insanity.
The account I like best is that of John Harvey Kellogg, yes, the co-founder of Kellogg's, promoted circumcision not only to prevent male masturbation, but phenol, or carbolic acid, applied to the clitoris to prevent girls from masturbating. Forget piercings girls! Phenol is the new hip body modification!
This continued into World War I, when soldiers were required to undergo circumcision as a means of preventing syphilis (from the French prostitutes who would visit the trenches). I guess they never learned how to put on a condom.
Though circumcision saw a surge in the Anglosphere in the early 20th century, it had died out in most of these countries by the end of World War II, most notably in the United Kingdom where the study, "The fate of the foreskin" confirmed that an average of 16 children per year had died as a result of circumcision in the years 1942-1947 (though in the modern era, both the Netherlands and Germany have medical views strongly against circumcision).
If circumcising a boy to prevent him from masturbating, or applying carbolic acid to a girl's clitoris seems wrong to you, then why do we still circumcise our boys? To circumcise a newborn, the surgeon must separate the foreskin from the glans, tearing the preputial epithelium. As the foreskin would remain attached to the glans until around puberty, this is like tearing a fingernail off.
There are then two ways to remove the foreskin:
- Gomco clamp and Mogen clamp: A device clamps down on the foreskin at an arbitrary location to leave enough skin behind, cutting off blood flow, and the foreskin is cut off
- Circumplast or Plastibell: The newborn's foreskin is tightly wound to this device, the foreskin is cut off, and the newborn must wear this device for days until the wound heals.
Not only is the child experiencing pain during the genital cutting, but constant pain while the wound heals. The parents must also deal with changing the bandage and bloody diapers.
It isn't just the dubious past or method of circumcision that makes the practice questionable, it's the risks and complications involved, such as:
- A tight circumcision due to a poor estimate by the doctor, which will cause painful erections during arousal.
- Meatal stenosis, which is the narrowing of the urethra, something Jimmy Kimmel had to have fixed with two surgeries. Meatal stenosis is very rare without the prerequisite of circumcision.
- A skin bridge between the circumcision scar and the glans penis, which can tear and be incredibly painful.
- Missing patches of the glans from preputial epithelium separation, which can cause pain during intercourse.
- Castration/destruction of the penis, such as the case of David Reimer, a man whose penis was destroying during a neonatal circumcision.
- Death. An infant only needs to lose 2.3 ounces of blood to bleed to death, as evidenced by Ryan Heydari in October 2015 who only lived for 22 days before dying from circumcision.
So what happens to the foreskin after circumcision? The hospital sells it to bioengineering or cosmetic companies. Shouldn't boys, or at least their parents, be paid for the amputated foreskin?
Yes, you'll hear people saying that circumcision must be done for hygienic purposes, because studies show that American men do not know how to wash themselves. And if you have parents who would not have taught their intact (uncircumcised) children how to clean their genitals, that means we have entire generations of parents who were unwilling to teach their circumcised children how to clean themselves.
But intact boys contract urinary tract infections (UTIs) more often than circumcised boys! Yes, and girls contract UTIs at a higher frequency than intact boys, but we don't allow female circumcision on newborns in this country. And if a circumcised man contracts a UTI, do we prescribe him a second circumcision?
And as good as it is to protect LGBT individuals from discrimination, what about LGBTIQ individuals? Intersex children also have their genitals maimed to conform to one sex or another, and are not given the freedom to decide their own gender identity.
Protecting girls with federal law, but not boys and intersex children, is hypocrisy. I deeply regret that we were not able to get routine infant circumcision abolished in the doctrine of Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption, but that time is past.
Circumcision has also recently been in the news, after Heather Hironimus went to great lengths to protect her son Chase Hironimus from being circumcised at the age of 5. Arguments that he will not feel pain, or that he will not remember it fly completely out the window.
I am not speaking against the time-honored traditions of brit milah in Judaism, or khitan in Islam. America has a long history of respecting religious freedom and America will not take away their right to religious freedom. I am also not speaking against adult circumcision. At the age of 18, you can modify your body however you want.
However, routine infant circumcision (RIC) is still prevalent in our society today, and it's something we need to reflect on, especially when men are waking up in the morning like me, feeling damaged and incomplete, that something was stolen from us and we can never get it back.
What it comes down to is that I did not consent to my circumcision, a non-therapeutic (not medically necessary) surgery. My parents would not have been allowed to cut off my ear, tattoo me, or simply pierce my foreskin, so why were they allowed to circumcise me?
Another argument is that because I cannot remember my circumcision, it did not harm me (actually yes, it did both physically and mentally). Going by the same logic, if Bill Cosby's victims cannot remember what happened, Bill Cosby did nothing wrong.
So yes, the era of circumcising to prevent masturbatory insanity is over, and with the widespread prevalence of internet pornography, every man while masturbating can yell, "In your face John Kellogg!"
Alright, maybe they wouldn't.
But it is my sincere hope that you consider covering circumcision on Last Week Tonight, for the men like myself who were not lucky enough to be spared the surgeon's knife, because #ThisIsNotNormal.
Patrick Seiter /zaɪ tɛr/
* Read italicized text in John Oliver's voice for comedic value.
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