Thu, August 28, 2008 | Lisa Barger
“This is really embarassing but did circumcision really start here as a way to stop masturbation?”
First of all, I want to thank you for having the courage to ask a question that I’m sure a lot of other people wonder about but find too uncomfortable to ask. Circumcision is an extremely sensitive and very controversial topic so it’s to be expected that mis-information from people pushing their own personal agendas would be more common than good scientific evidence.
Anti-circumcision advoctes usually cite one of two turn-of-the-century medical texts as proof that circumcision was once widely used to curb masturbation—L. E. Holt’s The Diseases of Infancy and Childhood and J. H. Kellog’s Plain Facts for Old and Young. But, when you read what those authors wrote in context, it’s clear that they were discussing circumcision as way to reduce abnormal levels of sensation caused by parasites, injury or disease. (It’s important to note, however, that later issues of Kellog’s book did, in fact, recommend circumcision as punishment for excessive masturbation. A big “Thank You” to the reader who pointed out the error in the original version of this article, which references the book’s first edition.)
Did Victorian-era doctors have views about masturbation that we would consider outdated today? Did some doctors gently hint that masturbation could be curbed by an already-widely used surgical procedure? The answer to both of these questions is probably a “Yes.” But does that make it right for anti-circumcision advocates with nothing better to do than sit around in internet chat rooms to spread these guilt-inducing lies?
Circumcision is a highly personal decision and whether you choose to do it or not, the only person qualified to give you medical advice is a licensed medical doctor. If you have any questions or concerns about your son’s health, or would like more information about circumcision, ask your physician to refer you to a couple of pediatricians in your area who will answer your questions honestly, openly and without the hysteria.
Holt, L. (1897). The Disease of Infancy and Childhood.
Kellog, Bishop, K. (1882). Plain Facts for Young and Old.
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