Changing Views of Circumcision in the Western World - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 3 Old 08-26-2008, 04:49 AM - Thread Starter
 
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The changing views on circumcision can be seen its changing definitions in the Encyclopedia Britannica. The following is from a book explaining the first major rise of circumcision in the western world. (Which was fairly recently, and occurred in the UK) :

Until the Victorian physicians discovered its moral efficacies, circumcision was scarcely known in the Western world. Revering the male body, the Greeks and Romans admired the foreskin and tried to ban the operation among the few of their Eastern subjects who performed it.

Well might Sir Richard Burton comment that “Christendom practically holds circumcision in horror.”

From the Encyclopedia Britannica:

1797:
“The sudden transformation of this attitude is reflected in successive editions of the Encyclopedia Britannica. In the third edition (1797) circumcision is described as “the act of cutting off the prepuce; a ceremony in the Jewish and Mahometan religions.” The entry makes reference to remarks by Herodotus on the strange customs of Middle Eastern tribes; expresses uncertainty as to whether circumcision was practiced among the ancient Egyptians; and considers female circumcision to be no different from male: “Circumcision is practiced on women by cutting off the foreskin of the clitoris, which bears a near resemblance and analogy to the praeputium of the male penis.”

1876:
The ninth edition (1876) maintains this perspective: it makes no mention of circumcision as a medical procedure and rejects sanitary/hygienic explanations of its emergence in favor of religious ones: “Like other bodily mutilations…[it is] of the nature of a representative sacrifice…The principle of substitution was familiar to all ancient nations, and not least to the Israelites…On this principle circumcision was an economical recognition of the divine ownership of human life, a part of the body being sacrificed to preserve the remainder.”

1910:
By the eleventh edition (1910) the entry has been turned on its head: “This surgical operation, which is commonly prescribed for purely medical reasons, is also an initiation or religious ceremony among Jews and Mahommedans.” Suddenly circumcision is primarily a medical procedure and only after that a religious rite. The entry explains that “in recent years the medical profession has responsible for its considerable extension among other than Jewish children…for reasons of health.”

1929:
By 1929 the entry is much reduced in size and consists merely of a brief description of the operation, which is “done as a preventive measure in the infant” and “performed chiefly for purposes of cleanliness”; readers are then referred to the entries for “Mutilation” and “Deformation” for a discussion of circumcision in its religious context.

/End of quote/

By the 1950’s in the UK, circumcision had fallen out of popularity again, with its legacy being nothing more then a brief fad brought on by the Victorian Era’s fear of sex and the natural body.

From reading this its clear circumcision was something that was not needed, it is simply a cultural practice that some how became confused as a medical procedure. It was not needed before 1910, and was not needed after 1950. Yet in between, for some reason people were confused that it was.

It allows us to step back from our own culture and get to see the bigger picture of what this whole circumcision thing, really is.

Link to book:

http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&...result#PPA7,M1
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#2 of 3 Old 08-26-2008, 12:30 PM
 
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The book referred to is A Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain by Robert Darcy is EXCELLENT. It is a history of (as it says) circumcision in Britain, but also a history of attitudes toward masturbation and male sexuality, as well as a history of medical ideas of the causes of disease and of urology. It is superbly detailed in its documentation, more academic than casual reading, but to me absolutely fascinating. Of course, I have always loved learning about the history of medicine, but even if you don't fall in that category, but care about ending circumcision, please read this book. It is very enlightening and puts a lot of what is going on today in perspective.

Gillian
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#3 of 3 Old 08-26-2008, 02:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by glongley View Post
The book referred to is A Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain by Robert Darcy is EXCELLENT. It is a history of (as it says) circumcision in Britain, but also a history of attitudes toward masturbation and male sexuality, as well as a history of medical ideas of the causes of disease and of urology. It is superbly detailed in its documentation, more academic than casual reading, but to me absolutely fascinating. Of course, I have always loved learning about the history of medicine, but even if you don't fall in that category, but care about ending circumcision, please read this book. It is very enlightening and puts a lot of what is going on today in perspective.

Gillian
I think I am, its actually quite a interesting read. (I don't know, maybe its because I am still in school, and I am use to "academic writing".)
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