The Circumcision Dilemma; Men: The Scientific Truth; Scientific American Presents; by Laumann, sidebar by Schmiedeskamp; 5 Page(s)
The circumcision of newborn boys in the U.S. has been routine practice for more than 60 years, leaving an estimated 100 million of today's males without a foreskin. At the height of the practice in the 1950s and 1960s, the surgery became an automatic extension of hospital birth, especially for the sons of white, middle-class families.
In the past three decades, however, the debate surrounding routine circumcision has ignited. Proponents in the medical community contend that it is valid prophylaxis against certain forms of cancer and infection, much like vaccination; the detractors-both physicians and activist groups-argue that cutting healthy, sexually responsive tissue from a nonconsenting child is medically unnecessary and may be unethical. The most outspoken of these opponents maintain that circumcision amounts to nothing less than assault and battery. In this atmosphere of controversy, parents must decide whether or not to circumcise-a decision that recent results show may affect the sexuality of their sons throughout adult life.