Circumcision has become a controversial topic in America. When evaluating this controversy, many wonder how the practice got started in the US. To fully understand how it all got started here, we need to look back into the history of circumcision. We will also look into how circumcision made the leap from the ancient world to modern day America.
In the 5th century BC, the Greek historian Herodotus recorded this practice in ancient Egypt. In the Semitic tradition, male circumcision is related to the covenant with the God who ascended to Abraham. Anthropologists believe circumcision started amongst the many East African tribes and in ancient Mesopotamia as the mark of the slave, with the ancient Hebrews subsequently adopting it. Ceremonial circumcision is a common practice among Jews and Muslims all over the world.
Modern use of Jewish circumcision as a medical practice dates back to 1865 in England and around 1870 in the United States. Circumcision began to be adopted during the Victorian era and a way to improve morals and to discourage masturbation. No scientific studies have been conducted to determine the efficacy and safety of circumcision prior to its introduction into medical practice. No thought was given on determining the social consequences of surgery to change the genital organs for a significant part of the population. One notorious promoter of circumcision was John Harvey Kellogg, the inventor of corn flakes. Kellogg, as many of his era, believed that masturbation was physically and psychologically destructive. Dr. Lewis A. Sayre of NYC’s Bellevue Hospital claimed to cure a boy’s paralyzed legs with circumcision. He also claimed to cure epilepsy, mental disorders, hip-joint pain, & hernias with circumcision. He was later elected president of the American Medical Association.
In the post WWII era, health insurance became widely available to Americans. More babies were born in hospitals than at home, and doctors took over the birth process. Doctors began aggressively promoting circumcision, often without parental consent. Since 1971, the American Academy of Pediatrics has established and then periodically reaffirmed that routine infant circumcision is not medically necessary. Although the Academy has flip flopped on the issue several times, which indicates their lack of certainly over any potential benefits. Medical ambivalence has held back the practice of non-religious circumcision in several Western countries, including Canada, New Zealand, and Australia, over the past half century. In the UK, national health insurance after World War II decided not to cover it, and the number of circumcisions fell sharply.
Today, male circumcision continues to be the cultural norm in the Middle Eastern and North Africa, where it appears to have historically originated; but in Western countries the number of procedures is rapidly decreasing, having overcome exaggerated fears of disease. The United States has slowly declining rates, but still more than half of the male population is circumcised, and Israel, of course, became the circumcision capital of the world, with an almost 100% circumcision rate. But even there, circumcision is being questioned new parents access online research on the purported benefits of circumcision and question the need for conformity.
Most Americans still believe that this procedure is medically beneficial and necessary, such as a vaccination. Traditionally, American medical institutions have advocated male circumcision as a preventive measure for many diseases, including reducing the risk of sexual partners suffering from penile cancer, urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted diseases and even cervical cancer. But the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) working group report in the 1970s indicated that conventional infant circumcision had no medical indications; AAP revised its position in 1989, stating that neonatal circumcision has Potential medical benefits; then, in 1999, the AAP policy statement stated that despite the potential medical benefits of neonatal male circumcision, there was insufficient evidence to recommend selective neonatal circumcision.
Although historical rates of circumcision are difficult to determine, an estimate of rates of infant circumcision in the United States states that 30 percent of American babies were circumcised in 1900, 55 percent in 1925, and 72 percent in 1950. Male circumcision in the United States peaked in 1971 and began a slow decline that continues to this day.
In 1949, a lack of consensus in the UK medical community about the significant health benefits of circumcision prompted the newly created UK National Health Service to remove infant circumcision from its list of covered services. However, since the late nineteenth century, male circumcision has also entered the public health realm. Since purity was the highest status and desirable attribute, the practice of circumcision, which was originally prescribed for ancient Egyptian priests, was eventually adopted by all men. In Judaism, male circumcision was traditionally practiced on the eighth day after birth (after the era of the First Temple).
Circumcision has ancient roots among several ethnic groups in subequatorial Africa and is still practiced on teenage boys today to symbolize their transition to warrior status or adulthood. Part of the population still practices this in the traditional way. In other contexts, male circumcision has a religious connotation, practiced widely among Jews and Muslims, although to a lesser extent among Christians and rarely among other religions. It is equally difficult to deny that the Jews may have borrowed the practice of male circumcision from their Egyptian masters.
American medical schools ingrained the practice in the printing of medical anatomy textbooks so that the penis was illustrated in a circumcised state, with no depiction of the foreskin. Because male circumcision is so common in the United States, few Americans realize how rare it is everywhere else. More than 1.2 million newborns undergo surgery each year, making the United States one of the world’s leading promoters of male circumcision.
Since most American doctors have undergone circumcision and work in a wide-ranging environment, they are more likely to seek reasons to support this practice rather than question it. More than just medical evidence, it is these unquantifiable feelings about circumcision that shape the doctor’s view of circumcision, at least male doctors. Because when it comes to medical advice about circumcision, the condition of the proponent’s foreskin is very important. Furthermore, hospital systems use the procedure to enhance insurance reimbursements, and they are dependent on this income stream.
We can see how the practice of circumcision has a bizarre history that has transcended the ancient era to modern times, affecting men’s lives for our entire recorded history. America took the practice, medicalized it and turned it into a revenue earner for healthcare systems. However the reasoning used today is as bizarre as that used in the past.Throughout history promoters used scare tactics and fake claims to influence Americans to become a circumcising culture