Somehow, the myth took hold that a surgically altered penis is “cleaner” than a natural penis. Here are some of the things I say when somebody tries that “hygiene” argument on me.
- Girls’ genitals have lots of folds, and—by the way—girls have smegma, too! We don’t talk about what to cut off girls to make them cleaner (though cultures that practice female genital mutilation use exactly the same “hygiene” arguments that Americans use for male circumcision).
- There’s nothing clean about creating an open wound and then covering it with a diaper that will be filled with urine and feces.
- If you can teach your children to brush their teeth, you can teach them to wash their genitals.
- We don’t cut off any other body part in the name of hygiene! We don’t amputate toes to keep the cheese from building up. We don’t remove healthy teeth to keep them from getting cavities. We don’t pull out fingernails to keep the dirt from accumulating under them. Leave that poor baby’s penis alone!
Here is something I NEVER say: “Back in the old days, when we didn’t have running water, it was necessary to cut off the foreskin to keep the penis clean.”
This is WRONG!! Circumcision has been practiced in some traditional cultures and rejected by others for thousands of years. Non-religious circumcision in the United States became popular not before the advent of soap and running water, but at roughly the same time. With the rise of television and “soap opera” advertising, Americans became increasingly obsessed with cleanliness, and started using perfumed cleansers to scrub their bodies and mask their natural smells. Cutting off the foreskin became a way to create the “perfect” penis—nice and dry—and to give doctors something lucrative to do with their time. Little did people know that circumcision alters a boy’s body chemistry and sexual function. Forever.
As for the “sand in the desert” theory… Oh, please!! Nature didn’t put foreskins only on men in desert climates. It put foreskins on all men — and all mammals, for that matter. I’ve never heard from an intact man (or a dog or a cat, for that matter) who was tortured by a grain of sand (or anything else) trapped under his foreskin. Anyway, if a pebble gets trapped in your shoe, do you throw away your shoes to protect your feet?