There is an ongoing thread on this post, “When bad science kills, or how to spread AIDS”, by Brian Earp at the University of Oxford’s Practical Ethics. The post is worth considering, but within the nearly 600 comments (so far), a great debate developed that illuminated many points on the science and ethics of non-therapeutic circumcision, as well as some necessary lessons in etiquette. I’d like to excerpt a comment I left today. Within a larger comment, I addressed the belief that the foreskin’s function was an evolutionary response we no longer need, a position pushed¹ by Brian Morris and Edgar Schoen. Here it is:
5) Circumcised penises are not fully functional. The foreskin is a normal part of the penis. Removing it eliminates at least one aspect of a fully functional penis (i.e. gliding motion). Even if we accept the strange thesis argued here by Jake (and shared by circumcision advocates Brian Morris and Edgar Schoen) that the foreskin’s role was solely to protect the penis from “twigs and long grasses before humans wore clothing”, modern clothing still poses a danger to the penis. Better to have the foreskin caught in a zipper than a “useful” part of the penis caught, right?
If protection was a function, protection is a function. That doesn’t disappear because we’ve developed clothes. Shall we also deny the existence of nudists?
Whether or not that loss of function is good or bad is subjective to the individual to decide for himself. That is the issue of self-ownership. The simple truth of “it’s mine” is enough reason for someone to keep a normal, healthy part of his/her body that he/she hasn’t agreed to give up. That is the ethical issue involved.
The “twigs and long grasses was its function” idea has always struck me as stupid, transparent propaganda.
¹ For Morris’ version of this, search his site.