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CRImes o~ GenItal mutIlatIon


- from Pain to Pleasure


In this issue of THE TRUTH SEEKER we are addressing the irrational forces of religion and social customs that support the torture of children (male and female) through the mutilation of their genitals; and which oppose sexual pleasure.

There could hardly be a better issue for FREETHINKER's support and involvement. As science supported the truth that Galileo discovered, so too does science support the truth of the incalculable injury, pain and suffering that is needlessly inflicted upon children through the dogma of irrational religious beliefs that dictate genital mutilations. No religion has the right to engage in torture, mutilation or human sacrifice, yet all of these have been justified through religious beliefs at one time or another. Tragically, the mutilation and torture of children continues today in "primitive" and so-called "civilized" countries through the rituals of circumcision and other forms of genital mutilation.

In order to bring an end to this torture and mutilation of children the First International Symposium On Circumcision was held on March 1-3, 1989 in Ana- heim, California. Leading authorities in these various medical, scientific, legal and religious disciplines summarized their state-of-the-art findings that unequivocally rejected and condemned the ritual mutilation of the genitals of children.

Of particular significance was the finding that the destruction of sexual passion and pleasure was a common motive for genital mutilation in both tribal and religious belief systems. The control of sexual passaion and pleasure in both males and females was considered essential for personal morality and social order.

Additional scientific evidence was summarized that established a strong causal relationship between deprivation of physical affectional relationships, including the sexual relationship, with violent and authoritarian behaviors and cultures. These deeply rooted moral value systems were recognized as a significant barrier to social change. A Metamorphosis from a pain/violent valued society to pleasure/peaceful valued society, where women are truly equal with men, was considered essential if the genital mutilation of children and other forms of human violence are to be eliminated.

TH E TR UTH SEEKER is privileged and honored to be the first to publish the core proceedings ofthis International Symposium that provides for the first time, in a single document, the leading medical, scientific, legal and religious thinking on the ritual genital mutilation of children. It is through the pioneering efforts of Marilyn Fayre Milos, R.N., Director, National Organization ofCircumicision Information Resource Centers (NOCIRC) that made this International Symposium possible and who has agreed to serve as a Guest Co-Editor for this issue of THE TR UTH


Because of the complexity of this subject matter some of the essays are more technical than usual, as is the length of this Special Edition of THE TRUTH SEEKER. It is the objective of this edition of THE TRUTH SEEKER to provide unequivocal scientific and moral evidence to health professionals and political/ reli- gious leaders of the world that would help bring an end to the genital mutilation of children worldwide. Your support in this quest is invited and how you can help is outlined in "A Call For Action" and on pages 53-54.

PUBLISHER The Truth Seeker Co., Inc.


Bonnie Lange

EDITOR James W. Prescott

GUEST CO-EDITOR Marilyn Fayre Milos

EDITORIAL BOARD Gareth Branwyn, Edd Doerr Robert T. Francoeur, Roger E. Greeley John Holmdahl, Barbara Honegger Lillian Starr, Gordon Stein

GRAPHIC ARTISTS David Mettey Debbie Mitchell



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Circumcision was practiced in Egypt as long ago as 4000 B. C. According to the inscription on this bas-relieffrom the Ankh-Mahor tomb at Sakkara, the youth balks and must be held by the doctor's aide.

Adopted from: Sixth Dynasty bas- relief from the tomb of Ankh-ma-hor at Saqqara.

Freethinker's Publication Since 1873

A Bimonthly Journal of Free Thought and Inquiry





Marilyn Fayre Milos



Gerald A. Larue







James W. Prescott

Social-Cultural Perspectives:



Fran P. Hosken



Mohamed Badawi

Medical Perspectives



George C. Denniston



James L. Snyder



Martin Altschul




Paul M. Fleiss; David S. Bate & John A. Erickson




Richard W. Morris



John W. Hardebeck












International Symposium On Circumcision






James Hervey Johnson

- A CAll FOR ACTioN -

The greatest crime against humanity is the torture and mutilation of children. Child abuse and neglect, particularly in its extreme forms, represents a form of torture and mutilation. Not commonly recognized as child abuse and neglect and a form of torture and mutilation is the ritual mutilation of genitals of children (male and female). One reason for the non-recognition of these crimes of genital mutilation and torture of children is their common occurrence and their support by religious and social traditions of various kinds. Another reason is the denial and/ or indifference to the pain that is being inflicted upon these children.

This edition of THE TR UTH SEEKER provides critical information on the truth of genital mutilations with dramatic illustrations of the horrors that children experience when their genitals are mutilated. The long-term devastat- ing consequences ofthis torture and mutilation upon the lives of these children are also reviewed.

It is the intent of this edition of THE TRUTH SEEKER in conjunction with the NATIONAL LEAGUE FOR SEPARATION OF CHURCH AND STATE; the NATIONAL ORGANIZATION OF CIRCUMCISION INFORMA T10N RESOURCE CENTERS (NOCIRC); and the WOMEN'S INTERNATIONAL NETWORK NEWS to inform the world of these at roci- ties and to bring an end to the genital mutilation of children worldwide.

Hence He Who Values His Body More Than Dominion Over the Empire Can Be Trusted With The Empire

He Who Loves His Body More Than Dominion Over The Empire Can Be Given Custody Of The Empire

Lao Tzu

Tao Te Ching

Book One, XIII:31

Our strategy is to petition the World Court, The Hague, through a national government, to have declared that all genital mutilations of children are violations of Article V, United Nations Declaration of Human Rights which states: i'NO ONE SHALL BE SUBJECTED TO TORTURE OR TO CRUEL INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISH-

53). All professional, health, scientific and freethought organi-

M ENT" (see p.

zations that are concerned with the well-being of children are requested to place this resolution on their agenda at their next annual meeting for endorsement. These completed endorsements will be submitted to the World Court in support of the petition to end the genital mutilation of children worldwide.

A second effort will be directed at the State Legislatures to inform them of the child abuse nature of genital mutilations and that such genital mutilations constitute an act of torture of children. Appropriate legislation will be sought to end these crimes against children. Readers of THE TRUTH SEEKER, pro- fessional, health, scientific and freethought organizations concerned with the well-being of children are urged to endorse the citizen's petition to State Legislatures to bring an end to the genital mutilation of children. (see p. 54).

Your individual and collective support of NOCIRC, The Womens Inter- national Network News and the National League For the Separation ofChurch and State to achieve these objectives is invited.

James W. Prescott

Be not ashamed, woman

- your privilege encloses the rest, and is the exit, of the rest; You are the gates of the body, and you are the gates of the soul.

Walt Whitman

I Sing the Body Electric

Infant Circumcision: "What I Wish I Had Known"

by Marilyn Fayre Milos

I didn't know what circumcision was when I consented to hllVe my three sons circumcised. My doctor had told me the surgery was a necessary health measure, that it didn't hurt,

like cutting the

umbilical cord, I thought. I certainly wasn't prepared when, in nursing school several years later, I saw the surgery for the first time.

We students filed into the newborn nursery to find a baby strapped spread-eagle to a plastic board on a counter top across the room. He was struggling against his restraints

- tugging, Whimpering, and then crying helplessly. No one

was tending the infant, but when I asked my instructor if I could comfort him she said "Wait till the doctor gets here." I wondered how a teacher of the healing arts could watch someone suffer and not offer assistance. I wondered about the doctor's power which could intimidate others from fol- lowing protective instincts. When he did arrive, I immediately asked the doctor it I could help the baby. He told me to put my finger into the baby's mouth; I did, and the baby sucked. I stroked his little head and spoke softly to him. He began to relax -and was momentarily quiet.

The silence was soon broken by a piercing scream - the baby's reaction to having his foreskin pinched and crushed as the doctor attached the clamp to his penis. The shriek intensi- fied when the doctor inserted an instrument between the foreskin and the glans (head of the penis), tearing the two structures apart. (They are normally attached to each other during infancy so the foreskin can protect the sensitive glans from urine and feces.) The baby started shaking his head back and forth - the only part of his body free to move - as the doctor used another clamp to crush the foreskin lengthwise, which he then cut. This made the opening of the foreskin large enough to insert a circumcision instrument, the device used to protect the glans from being severed during the surgery.

The baby began to gasp and choke, breathless from his shrill continuous screams. How could anyone say circumci- sion is painless when the suffering is so obvious? My bottom lip began to quiver, tears filled my eyes and spilled over. I found my own sobs difficult to contain. How much longer could this go on?

Duringthe next stage of the surgery, the doctor crushed the foreskin against the circumcision instrument and then, finally, amputated it. The baby was limp, exhausted, spent.

I had not been prepared, nothing could have prepared me, for this experience. To see a part of this baby's penis being cut off - without an anesthetic - was devastating. But eyen more shocking was the doctor's comment, barely audible several octaves below the piercing screams of the baby,

"There's no medical reason for doing this." I couldn't believe

my ears, my knees became weak, and I felt sick to my stomach. I couldn't believe that medical professionals, dedi- cated to helping and healing, could inflict such pain and anguish on innocent babies unnecessarily.

and that it only took a moment to perform

What had I allowed my own babies to endure? and why?

The course of my life was changed on that day in 1979. I have now dedicated my life to bringing an end to this horrendous practice.


Copyright 1988, Reprinted with permission of the author. Marilyn Milos is the mother of three circumcised boys, grandmother of one intact child and is the Director of the National Organization of Circumcision Information Re- source Centers. She has spoken widely and is frequently featured on radio and television shows across the United States, including the Phil Donahue Show. Her work has been covered by numerous newspapers and magazines, from the New York and London Times to small-town papers.

On April 9, 1988, the California Nurse's Association Region 9 presented Marilyn Milos, R.N. with its highest honor, the Maureen Ricke Award, "for her dedication and unwavering commitment to righting a wrong" and for her work on the behalf of children "to raise public consciousness about Amer- ica's most unnecessary surgery."












Walt Whitman


The Children of A dam





Religious Traditions and Circumcision

by Gerald A. Larue

Just when and why circumcision was first prac- ticed in the ancient Near East is not known, but it was widely attested in antiquity.

The practice of the painful mutilation of the foreskins of infant males in A merica rests upon biblical and religious traditions plus spurious medicalfiction (prevention ofpenile infection, penile cancer, cervical cancer in partners of uncir- cumcised males). It is my intention to examine the biblical background for the practice of circumcision.

Just when and why circumcision was first practiced in the ancient Near East is not known, but it was widely attested in antiquity. Bodies from 4000 Before the Common Era (B.C. E.) exhumed in Egypt disclose evidence of circumcision (Breasted. 353, p.IO). Ancient Egyptian art, on those occa- sions when the genitals of Egyptian males were depicted, provide pictorial evidence of male circumcision. For exam- ple, the carpenter portrayed in a Sixth Dynasty (2350-2000 B.C. E.) tomb at Saqqara with his loin cloth pulled to the rear clearly reveals his circumcised penis. (Figure I) A relief from the Sixth Dynasty tomb' of Ankh-ma-Hor at Saqqara portrays the circumcision of two puberty-aged youths. (Figure 2) A mortuary priest squats on his haunches before one standing youth whose hands are firmly held by an assistant. In the left hand, the priest holds the boy's penis and in the right is what appears to be a circular flint with which he is removing the prepuce. The priest says to his assistant, "Hold him and don't let him faint. "The assistant responds, "I will do as you request."

Figure 1: Circumcised carpenter

The second youth also stands before a squatting mortu- ary priest (Figure 3). H is left hand rests on the priest's head; the right hand is by his side. He says to the priest, "Tho- roughly rub off what is there." The priest who holds the penis in his left hand and is prepared to operate with the large flint knife (Figure 4) held in his right hand, responds, "( will cause it to heal." Two separate individuals seem to be represented, but it has been suggested that perhaps two stages of the rite of circumcision are being portrayed.

Figure 2: Circumcision ritual.

A stele from the 23rd century B.C.E. indicates that Uha, the author, was circumcised in a mass ritual. He wrote:

When 1was circumcised, together with one hundred and twenty men, there was none thereof who hit out, there was none thereof who was hit, and there was none thereof who scratched and there was none thereof who was scratched.

(Wilson, Circumcision)

However, not all Egyptians were circumcised.

The fact that one youth in the Sakkara relief is being held suggests that it was not uncommon for a youth to faint or perhaps to flail violently during the operation. Uha indicates that during the mass circumcision ceremony, the participants reacted without any untoward physical responses. Herodatus, who visited Egypt in the fifth century B.C.E., reported that "they practice circumcision for the sake of cleanliness, for they place cleanliness before comeliness" (II, 37). A mythological reference in Chapter 17 of the Egyptian Book of the Dead states that the sun-god Ra circumcised himself and that from the drops of blood two protective deities came into being, so that perhaps there was a pro- phylactic symbolism in the Egyptian practice. However, not all Egyptians were circumcised. X-rays of the mummy of the Eighteenth Dynasty Pharaoh Ahomse (16th century B.C.E.) prove that he was not circumcised. It is possible that his successor, Amenhotep I, also was uncircum-

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Traditions and Circumcision (Continued)

Circumcision was practiced by some Semitic groups.

cised (Harris, Weeks, 126-130). It has also been suggested that although circumcision was common among the upper classes and may be recognized as a puberty rite, it was not a requirement. The poorer, common folk did not necessarily undergo circumcision.

Assyrians and Babylonians were not circumcised. Nor were the Philistines who are derogatively defined in the Bible as "the uncircumcised"

Circumcision was practiced by some Semitic groups. Jeremiah, in the seventh century, included Edomites, Am- monites and Moabites as among the circumcised (9:25). Assyrians and Babylonians were not circumcised. Nor were the Philistines who are derogatively defined in the Bible as

"the uncircumcised"(Judg. 14:3; 15:18; I Sam. 14:6, etc.) An

Megiddo, portrays a

eleventh century B.C. E. ivory from

ruler, seated on his throne between cherubim (Figure 5). Among those in the approaching procession is a soldier leading two nude captives, presumably Semites, both of whom are circumcised. (Figure 6)

N or is it possible to know for certain just why or how circumcision originally came into being.

Figure 3: Circumcision rite

Herodatus suggested that other peoples, including the Jews, borrowed the custom from the Egyptians (II, 104), but there is no way to verify this statement. Nor is it possible to know for certain just why or how circumcision originally came into being.

Circumcision in the Jewish Scriptures

The earliest reference to circumcision in the Bible is in a

folk-tale (written prior to Genesis 17) associated with Moses:

Then it happened, at a stopping place along the way. that Yahweh met him (Moses) and tried to kill him. Then Zipporah (M oses' M idianite wife) took a piece of Oint and cut off her son's foreskin and touched his feet (genitals) with it, saying. "You are my blood-bridegroom." So he let him alone. At that time she said "blood-bridegroom" in reference to circumcision. (Exod. 4:24-26). This strange inser- tion into the fenth cen- furr B.C.£. temple fic- tion about Moses sug- gests that circumcision became Hebrewcustom through contact with the Midianites. Yah- weh's demonic inten- tion to kill Moses was magically thwarted by the rite of circumcision performed on the infant son (the beginning of in- fant circumcision')). Pcr- haps the reference to "blood-bridegroom" re- Oects the custom of cir- cumcision bcfore mar- riage. Just as t he vi rgi n bride would lose her hy- men. testified to by bloody wedding-night sheets (Deut. 22: 13-19), the removal of the pre- puce would be the groom's parallel loss. Just how the Hebrew word for father-in-law which means, literally, "the circumciser" may be related to pre-marital circumcision is not known. The reference to the use of a Oint blade in an age when copper, bronze and iron were known and used, sug- gests the antiquity of the ritual and may indi- cate a link to the Egypt- ian custom of using Oint tools for circumcision.

A seventh century

B.C. E. reference to cir- cumcision, which also refers to the use of a Oint cutting tool, appears in biblical conquest-of-Palestine fiction:

Yahweh's demonic intention to kill Moses was magically thwarted by the rite of circumcision performed on the infant son (the beginning of infant circumcision?).

Figure 4: Flint blade from about 3000 B.C.E.

(Conlinued on nex/I}{/Ke)


Traditions and Circumcision (Continued)

Certainly, there could be no significance to a massive pile of foreskins!

At that time Yahweh said to Joshua, "Make yourself flint knives and squat down and circumcise the people of Israel for a second time." So Joshua made flint knives and circumcised the people of Israel on the hill of fore- skins. (Josh. 5:2-3) Subsequent verses form an apologia explaining that the reason the Hebrews had not been circumcised was that for forty years they had been wandering in the desert wilderness. Now, in an ethnic ritual, they would affirm their cultural

unity as a circumcised people. The reference to the squatting or sitting position (based on the Greek Septuagint rather than the Hebrew Mascretic text), the use ofa flint tool and the fact ofa mass circumcision, once again ties the custom to ancient Egypt. The site of the rite at Gilgal may indicate a hillock where mass circumcision rituals were enacted. Certainly, there could be no significance to a massive pile of foreskins! Although it is not specified, it may be assumed that all males were circumcised at this time

- both adult and infant.

The Abrahamic covenant, invented by priests, transformed circumcision from an ethnic cus- tom into a theological divinely ordained legal requirement.

their inclusion in the divine promises. Failure to circumcise or be circumcised marks a breach of the covenant. The story concludes with the 99-year-old Abraham cir- cumcising himself, his son Ismael, who was 13 years old, and all male members of his extended household. A year later, when 90-year-old Sarah bore Isaac, Abraham had the boy circumcised on the eighth day (Gen. 21 :4). During the last quarter of the fourth century S.C E., Alex- ander the Great conquered the ancient Near East and he and his successors introduced Greek customs and culture into the expanded empire. One of the innovations was the gymna- sium. The Greeks did not circumcise and when young Jews, enamoured by Greek culture, entered the gymnasium where exercises were performed in the nude, they were embarrassed when their physical deformity became apparant. To con- form, they underwent an uncircumcision process. The Mac- cabean report, which was written about 100 B.C E., reads:

They constructed a Gentile-style gymnasium in Jerusa-

Figure 5: Megiddo Ivory

A still later tradition (post-sixth centurl' S.C.E.) traced

Hebrew circumcision back to Abraham. According to this fiction, the deity made a religious-legal covenant with Abra- ham, the father of the Jewish people, by which Yahweh would be the unique god oftheJews and they would worship him alone. In ancient times, covenants were sealed with marks and symbols; the seal of this covenant was the mark of CircumCISion:

for your part, you must keep my covenant, you and

every male among you must be

circumcised. You shall cut off the flesh of your foreskin,

and that will be the symbol of the covenant between us. Throughout all your generations every male shall be

(Gen. 17: 10-12).

The regulation included slaves whether Jewish or foreign. Failure to be circumcised resulted in excommunication (17: 14). The Abrahamic covenant, invented by priests, trans- formed circumcision from an ethnic custom into a theological divinely ordained legal requirement. It is not a puberty rite nor a pre-marital ritual, it is a covenantal sign to be inflicted on infant males on the eighth day after birth to signify

your descendants

circumcised at the age of eight days

lem. They also pulled forward their prepuces thereby repudiating the holy covenant (I Macc. I: 15).

they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be Greeks.

The Jewish historian Josephus, who wrote during the late first century of the Common Era (C E.), commented:

they also hid the circumcision of their genitals, that even when they were naked they might appear to be


(Antiquities, X II, v.I).

Dependant upon how completely the foreskin had been re- moved, it was possible to cut and pull forward the loose skin of the penis (epispasm) to form a partial foreskin. However. such an act, as the author of Maccabees noted, constituted a denial and rejection of both their circumcision heritage and their Jewish heritage thereby placing such persons outside of the covenanted community. As we shall see, much later, when Christianity developed, the reversal of circumcision, while perhaps no longer common, was apparantly still practiced.

(Conlinued ol1nex' page)


Traditions and Circumcision (Continued)

The first Christians were Jews and were therefore circumcised.

Anti-Judaism became a major issue under one of Alexand- er's successors named Antiochus IV, who ruled Judea from Syria. He forbade circumcision and his agents killed those whose infants were circumcised together with the circumcised baby (I Macc. 1:48, 60f). After a bitter struggle, the Jews experienced a brief time of freedom, before they came under Roman domination. Interestingly enough, towards the close of the second cen- tury RC.E., when the Jewish prince Hyrcanus invaded and conquered Idumia, he offered the Idumenas a choice: to be exiled or to become Jews. They chose the latter, were circum- cised, and thus became instant Jews. They were not truly accepted by traditional Jews, and when Herod the Great

- the strongest Jewish ruler - assumed the throne, his

Idumean background earned him the label of "half-Jew." Circumcision was not enough. Other reasons for circumcision that were advanced by Jewish Philosophers were to curb sexual desire. Philo, an Alexandrian Jewish Philosopher, born in the last quarter of the 1st Century, B.C., justified circumcision to reduce sexual desire since engaging in intercourse for pleasure was being "like pigs and goats;" and Moses Maimonides in The Guide ofthe Perplexedtaught that circumcision would "bring about

a decrease in sex ual intercourse and a weakening of the organ

and that "The bodily pain caused to that

mem ber is the real purpose of circumcision (Part III, Chapter


in question"

Figure 6: Artist's enlargement of figures.

Circumcision in the Christian Scriptures

The first Christians were Jews and were therefore circum- sised. The Gospel of Luke reported that Jesus was circum- cised on the eighth day (2:21). The apostle Paul was also circumcised on the eighth day (Phil. 3:5). As the Christian church began to move out into the Mediterranean world and attract non-Jews, circumcision became a problem for con- verts. The issue came to a head (no pun intended!) in the Galatian controversy.



Paul argued that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything"

Paul established new Christian groups in the Greek world. His pattern seems to have been as follows: he would speak in a Jewish synagogue concerning the end of the age and Jesus as the Christ and means of salvation. Some Jews would listen; others rejected him. Among those attending the synagogue were non-Jewish Greeks, attracted perhaps by the monothe- istic faith and ethical ideals. Some were drawn to Christianity but, when they wished to join the new group, they were informed by the conservative elements in the church that before they became Christians they had to become Jews and be circumcised. Paul saw this demand as a stumbling block inasmuch as adult male Greeks had no intention of being circumcised. Therefore he wrote to the Christian church he had founded in Galatia. In this letter he challenged the validity of circumcision as a criterion for membership in a Christian church. He castigated the leaders in Jerusalem. He pointed out that Cephas (Peter) had been two-faced in the matter by swaying to the conserva- tive side when confronted by the circumcision party after agreeing that Paul's mission was to the circumcised (Gal. 2). Paul argued that "in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision count for anything" (5:6), and expresses the wish that for members of the circumcision party the circumci- sion blade might slip and more than the foreskin be removed so that they might "mutilate themselves"{5: 12). The same issue appears to have surfaced among the Chris- tians in the city of Corinth. Paul wrote a letter to this group in which he stated:

Was anyone already circumcised when he was called (to be a Christian)? Let him not seek to remove the marks of circumcision. Was anyone uncircumcised when he was called? Let him not seek circumcision. (I Cor. 7: 18).

Obviously, there were some who sought to disavow their Jewish heritage by removing the mark of circumcision, just as their ancestors had done during the time of the Maccabees.

For Paul neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counted for anything. Ultimately the matter was referred to the Jerus- alem council where, after serious debate, it was decided that circumcision was not a requirement for membership in the Christian community (Acts: 15).

For present day Jews, circumcision is both a covenant rite and a naming ceremony.


For present day Jews, circumcision is both a covenant rite and a naming ceremony. Orthodox Jews follow ancient prac- tices. On the eighth day, the infant son is taken to the Mohel (the circumciser) for a rite performed according to a primitive ritual. The blood flow is stopped by wine, held in the Mohel's mouth - a custom which some Jews find revolting. These believers are fulfilling Torah requirements. Non-orthodox Jews may have their sons "done" in a hospital setting. Even Jews who have moved away from Judaism toward a secular or humanistic way of life, continue to have their sons circum-

(Continued on next page)



Traditions and Circumcision (Continued)

cised. Christians, too, have their male offspring circumcised in some cases because Jesus was circumcised but far more often in an unthinking, uncritical way as something that is

done fo newborn malesAs better information regarding cir- cumcision is circulated, outmoded beliefs concerning medical or health benefits will be discarded. Only ancient beliefs will remain as a stimulus for the continuation of this barbaric custom.

Dr. Gerald Larue is professor emeritus of biblical history and archeology at the University of Southern California and chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion. A prolific author, Larue's books include Ancient

M.I'th amI Modern Man, Sex and the Bihle, Euthanasia and Religion, and, most recently, Ancient M.I'th and Modern

Lili'. He is the recipient of the American Humanist Associa- tion's 1989 Humanist of the Year Award.


Breasted, James

H, (1933):

ENCE, N.Y., Scribner.


Bullough, V. (1976): Sexual Variance In Societl' and History.

Wiley: Interscience. New York.

Harris, James E. and Weeks, Kent R. (1973): X-RA YING


Scribners, N.Y.

Maimonides, Moses (1963): The Guide 0/ The Perplexed. (Shlomo Pines, Trans). Vols. I & II. University of Chi- cago Press. Chicago.

Wilson, John (1950): Circumcision in Egypt, in James E.


University Press, p. 326.


"The delusion of blood pol-

lution in the Hebrew religion

was carried over into Christian-

ity and accounts for the lew

Testament edict: 'Indeed.

according /0 the Lall', it might almas/ be said e\'eIT/hing is cleansed hI' h/ood and lI'i/hoUi the shedding o/h/ood there is no forgi\'eness. '(Hebl'l'\\'s 9:22)"

The !\'hole scheme 0/ Chris/ian sall'a/ion is based upon the belie/ tha//he crucifi'xion a/Jesus was a blood a/onell1el7l for the re- demp/ion 0/ man for ha\'ing been born in sin: "In iniquitl' I lI'as brough/ /0 birth and 111.1' 1II0ther concei\'ed me in sin"

(Psalms 51:5).

Joseph Lewis

In The Name 0/ Hwnani/.I'

Photo Credit: Albrecht Durer

From: Passion 0/ Christ

ft The Geography of Genital Mutilations ~

by James DeMeo

Genital mutilations elicit severe pain and ter- ror in infants and children and are often very dangerous to health.

This paper summarizes portions of a prior study of the geographical aspects of human behavior among subsistence- level aboriginal peoples (De Meo, 1986, 1988). Thefocus here will specifically be on the phenomenon of male genital muti- lations. Genital mutilations are often classified as a "cultural practice," but there is growing evidence that this benign- sounding label merely serves to dismiss or evade the painful and contractive effects the mutilations have upon the psyche and soma of the child. Genital mutilations elicit severe pain and terror in infants and children and are often very danger- ous to health, which raises important questions how they could have gotten started in the first instance. People who do not engage in such practices view them almost always with horror and disbelief, while people who do them often have difficulty imagining life without the practice. Oftentimes, the presence or the absence of the rites are seen as important requirements for the selection of a marriageable partner, and very powerful emotions focus upon them. Genital mutila- tions are among the most strongly defended, or defended against, of all cultural practices. Among the various theories developed to account for the mutilations, their geographical distribution has only rarely been discussed (DeMeo 1986).

Genital mutilations are among the most strongly defended, or defended against, of all cultural practices.

The global distributions of the male and female genital mutilations among native, non-Western peoples, along with history and archaeology, suggest their genesis in the deserts of

Northeast Africa and the Near East, with a subsequent diffu- sion outward into sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania and possibly even into parts of the New World. They have generally been transmitted from one region to another by virtue of reloca- tion diffusion, accompanied by phases of military conquest of cultures which do not mutilate by invading cultures which do, or by voluntary adoption in association with other cultural changes of an antisexual and antichild nature. One must keep in mind the premarital, pubertal character of the mutilations as originally practiced by most cultures, performed at a time of otherwise great sexual interests and passion. I have dem-

onstrated elsewhere that the global distributions of genital mutilations are similar to that of other patrist antichild, antifemale, and antisexual cultural factors, such as infant cranial deformation, swaddling, the virginity taboo, vaginal blood taboo, male domination of kinship and inheritance, and so on (DeMeo 1986).

Figures 1 and 2 show the overlapping distributions of various types of male and female genital mutilations, respec- tively, as they existed among aboriginal, subsistence-level peoples within the last several hundred years. As such, the maps greatly minimize or eliminate the influences of the diffusion of European peoples within the last several hundred years. For example, the maps do not reflect the existence of male circumcision as adopted in the USA over the last 100 years; North and South American data is composed from aboriginal peoples only. The various forms of the mutila- tions, and the source for the mapped data, are discussed below. A detailed discussion offemale genital mutilation will be given later by Fran Hosken, whose work (1979) provided the basis for the map of female mutilations.

Circumcision only gained the status of being a "hygienic operation" in relatively recent times.

(Continued on next pal?e)

Figure 1: Male Genital Mutilations



























'°1'--+---t,°,;;--"'90,-----,'!;;2°,-----;7lS""°- ,11Ob:---:f,SO.------:',f;;20:---.::0'-----,

~ ~li~~~n~Clsion,



The Geography of Genital Mutilations (Continued)

Male Genital Mutilations

Incision, the least harsh of the male genital mutilations, consists of either a simple cut on the foreskin to draw blood, or a complete cutting through of the foreskin i.n a singl.e place so as to partly expose the glans. Incision eXisted pnmanly among peoples of the East African coast, in Island Asia a~d Oceania, and among a few peoples of the New World. Cir- cumcision, a harsher mutilation where the foreskIn of the penis is cut or torn away, was and is practiced across much of the Old World desert belt, and in a number of Sub-Saharan, Central Asian and Pacific Ocean groups. When performed during pUbert~,circumcision was largely a premarital rite of pain endurance. Circumcision only gained the status of beIng a "hygienic operation" in relatively recent times, although the most recent and best medical evidence has in fact shown that routIne circumcision has neither short nor long-term hygienic benef- its; indeed, it has mild to severe negative psychological and physiological effects. Particularly in the bush,. under less than sanitary conditions, the circumcised boy mfant or chIld would have been at greater risk than the uncircumcised boy. The most severe male genital mutilation, a form of skin- stripping, was practiced along the Red Sea coast in Arabia and Yemen at least into the 1800s. Here, In an endurance ritual perfo;med on a potential marriage candidate, skin was flayed from the entire penile shaft as well as from a regIOn of the pubis. The community blessing would only be bestowed upon the young man who could refrain from expreSSIng

emotion during the event (DeMeo

Another harsh ritual, subincision, was practiced pnmanly among Australian aborigines and on a few Pacific Islands. It

consisted of a cutting open of the urethra on the unde.fSld~of

the penis down to as far as near the

ritual was generally preceded by a CircumCISion ntual. The practice did not confer any contraceptive adv~ntage,an? no claims as such were made for it by the Austrahan abongmes. The geographical aspects of the Australian genit~l mutila- tions has been studied previously, and two competIng theor-





s~rotum? the subIncIsIOn

Figure 2: Female Genital Mutilations

ies were developed: Northwest Australia, specifically the Kimberly region, was identified as a location where genital skin stripping was performed, and some beheved that cir- cumcision and subincision spread into Australia from that region, diffusing to the east and south. C?n .the other hand, independent development of the traits WithIn Austraha has been argued, based upon the observation that the most intense forms of subincision occurred in the desert center of the continent, being absent in a few border regions where only circumcision was practiced (DeMeo 1986). The Ethnographic AtlasofG.P. Murdock (1967) provided most of the data for Figure l. Murdock's A tlas also contains raw data on the age at which the mutilations were customar- ily done among a globally-balanced sa~pleof 350 cultures: A map of that data which I constructed Indicated that genital mutilations possessed a widespread distribution, centered on Northeast Africa and Arabia. Furthermore, the greater the distance from those central regions, the older was the male at the time of the mutilation (DeMeo 1986, p. 159). As one moves farther and farther east from Africa and the Near East,

genital mutilations possessed a widespr~ad dis- tribution, centered on Northeast Africa and Arabia.

the males are progressively older at the time of the mutilation. Furthermore, the practices occur less frequently and undergo a gradual dilution of harshness as distance from those cen~ral regions increases. Genital skin stripping, t~eharshest mutIla- tion was centered on the Red Sea region, and was sur- rou~dedby a region practicing only male circumcision. Cir- cumcision, in turn, gives way to the less harsh practice of incision as one moves eastward across the Pacific. Genital mutilations were not practiced at all among most of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas or Eastern Oceania. It was precisely in these regions of mutilation absence where the decorative "penis tops" were most frequently found aJ?ong native peoples, indicating a similar interest in the genltaha,

(Continued on nexl page)

(After Hosken 1979 and Montagu 1945)






D Present, but type unclear






--.c'0i-•• t-0--/70




The Geography of Genital Mutilations (Continued)

but only in a decorative and pleasurable sense.

Genital mutilations were not practiced at all among most of the aboriginal peoples of the Americas or Eastern Oceania.

From the standpoint of the pain involved in circumcision as a puberty or premarital rite, the easterly decline in mutila- tion frequency and dilution of the rite towards less painful methods, and to older ages, makes perfect sense if we also assume that the emotional attitudes, beliefs, and cultural institutions which originally mandated the painful ritual were likewise diluted as they were carried eastward from a North- east African or Arabian point of origin (DeMeo 1986). With the social and emotional root reasons for the rituals becom- ing diluted with time and distance, less painful methods such as incision were substituted, or it was put off as long as possible, certainly well past the period just before marriage, preferably into the period of old age. Or it was relinquished altogether. In the Near Eastern desert regions where the social institutions and emotional roots for the ritual re- mained, but where the pain of the mutilation was feared as a puberty / premarital rite, it was occasionally shifted into infancy, or adopted as such from the start. There have been several phases of diffusion of the mutila- tions. Egyptian bas-reliefs give the earliest known unambigu-

it seems probable that genital mutilations, were introduced before 2300 BC, when the Nile Valley was invaded by militant pastoral nomads, and culturally transformed around 3100 Be.

ous evidence of male genital mutilations, performed as a puberty rite during the early Dynastic era, about 2300 BC (Paige 1978, Montagu 1946). However, it seems probable that genital mutilations, were introduced before 2300 BC when the Nile Valley was invaded by militant pastoral no~

Figure 3:

mads, and culturally transformed around 3100 BC These invaders, who possessed Asian and Semitic characteristics, ushered in an era of divine kings, ritual widow murder, a military and priestly caste, massive graves and fabulous grave wealth, temple architecture, and other trappings of extreme patriarchal authoritarian culture (De Meo 1986, p.218-294). As discussed below, cultural tendencies of a similar direction, but of lesser intensity, are positively correlated with genital mutilating cultures of more recent times.

According to biblical scripture, the Hebrews institutionalized the mutilations after the Exo- dus from Egypt, and it thereafter became a spe- cial mark of the tribe.

According to biblical scripture, the Hebrews institutional- ized the mutilations after the Exodus from Egypt, and it thereafter became a special mark of the tribe. The mutilations appeared widely across the Near East prior to the eruptions of Moslem armies in the 600s AD, but were subesquently spread wherever Moslem armies ventured. While neither male nor female genital mutilations have any specific Koranic man- date, Mohammed thought them to be "desirable," and they predominate in Moslem areas. Still, there are regions of non-Moslem Africa and Oceania which possess the mutila- tions as a probable diffusion from ancient, pre-Moslem times. Diffusion from these earliest periods may also yet account for isolated, rare examples of the traits in the ew World (DeMeo 1986, p. 358-426).

Male genital mutilations were never adopted widely in Europe, European Australia, Canada, Latin America, in the Orient, or by Hindus, Southeast Asians, or Native Americans.

widely in

Europe, European Australia, Canada, Latin 'America, in the

(("omint/I'd on nl'.n page)

Male genital mutilations were never adopted



Areas Influenced or Occupied by Arab Armies Since 632 AD (after Pitcher 1972). The Islamic empire spread genital mutilations into many new areas of the globe, and reinforced it in others. However, genital mutilations had spread into sub-Saharan Africa, Oceania, and the New World, prior to the Islamic period, notably among caste, high god, and warrior-emphasizing peoples.




The Geograpl7l' of Genital Mutilations (Continued)

Orient. or by Hindus, Southeast Asians, or 'ative Ameri- cans. The spread of the rite of infant circumcision to the United States during the late 1800s and early 1900s is a most recent phenomcnon not reOected on the maps. Circumcision

gained in importance in the USA only after allopathic medi- cal doctors, playing upon prevailing sexual anxieties, urged it as a "cure" for a long list of childhood diseases and "dis-

bedwetting, and a new

syndrome which appeared widely in the medical literature known as "masturbatory insanity, " Circumcision was then

advocated along with a host of exceedingly harsh, pain- inducing devices and practices designed to thwart any vestige of genital pleasure in children (Paige 1978).

orders, "to include polio, tuberculosis,

Reich saw the real purpose of circumcision, and other assaults upon the child's sexuality, to be the reduction of the child's emotional fluidity and energy level, and their ability to experience maximal pleasurable genital excitation later in life

Freud and other psychoanalysts have discussed male geni- tal multilations as inducing a form of "castration anxiety" in the child by which the taboo against incest and parricide is pathologically strengthened (DeMeo 1986). Montagu (1946) and Bettleheim (1962) have discussed their connections to the male fear of vaginal blood, where menstruation is imitated (subincision), or where the male must be ritually absolved of contact with poisonous childbirth blood (infant circumci- sion), or hymenal blood (pubertal circumcision). Reich iden- tified genital mutilations as but one, albeit a major one, of a series of brutal and cruel acts directed toward infants and children which possess hidden motives designed to cause a painful, permanent contraction of the child's physical and emotional self. Reich saw the real purpose of circumcision, and other assaults upon the child's sexuality, to be the reduc- tion of the child's emotional Ouidity and energy level, and their ability to experience maximal pleasurable genital excita- tion later in life, a major step in, as he put it, transmuting Homo sapiens into armored Homo normalis. Reich argued

that parents and doctors blindly advocated or performed the genital mutilations, and other painful shamanistic medical procedures, in proportion to their own emotional armoring and pelasure-anxiety, in order to make children more like themselves: obedient, docile, andreducedin sexual vigor and emotional vitality (Reich 1967,1973). These ideas, as disturbing as they may be, find support in cross-cultural comparisons of cultures which mutilate the genitals of their males, Textor's Cross-Cultural Summary

(1967) demonstrates positive correlations between male geni- tal mutilations and the following other cultural characteris- tics (also see Prescott 1975, DeMeo 1986):

Male genital mutilations are found present in a cultural complex where children, females, and weaker social ethnic groups are subordinated to elder, dominant males in rigid social hierarchies of one form or another.

High narcissism index Slavery and Castes are present Class stratification is high Land inheritance favors male line Cognatic kin groups are absent Patrilineal descent is present Female barrenness penalty is high Bride price is present Father has family authority Polygamy is present Marital residence near male kin Painful female initiation rites are present Segregation of adolescent boys is high Oral anxiety potential is high Average satisfaction potential is low Speed of attention to infant needs is low High God present, active, supportive of human morality

One cannot extract a list of correlated prochild, profe- male, or sex-positive traits from Textor's work as cultures which mutilate the male genitalia do not generally possess such characteristics. Male genital mutilations are found present in a cultural complex where children, females, and weaker social ethnic groups are subordinated to elder, dominant males in rigid social hierarchies of one form or another. While the cross-cultural analysis contrasted only aboriginal, subsistence-level cultures, many of the factors identified in the above list are or once were applicable to the USA, where male circumcision predominates. It must be noted, however, that many or most of those patristic characteristics may be present in cultures where genital mutilations are absent, but which can be accountedfor by deprivation ofphysical affection in the maternalinfant and adolescent sexual relationships (Prescott, 1975, 1979,


The underlying psychology of genital mutila- tions is anxiety regarding sexual pleasure, main- ly heterosexual genital intercourse,


The underlying psychology of genital mutilations is anx- iety regarding sexual pleasure, mainly heterosex ual genital intercourse, as indicated by the associated virginity taboos and ritual absolutions against vaginal blood. In the final analysis, these mutilations say more about predominant attitudes regarding sexual pleasure than anything else.

female infibulations and other forms of female genital mutilation persist in accordance with the arranged marriage system, and other vestiges of a powerful and hysterical virginity taboo.

Given their similar distributions, similar cross-cultural aspects, and similar psychological motifs, the time and location of origins of male and female genital mutilations are probably identical, the use of each being mandated and' widely expanded by groups where dominance of the sexual lives of children by adults, and of females by males, was most extreme. The use of eunuchs has died out over the last

(Continued on ney( fJa~e)

The Geography of Genital Mutilations (Continued)

100 years with the decline of the harem system, but female infibulations and other forms of female genital mutilation persist in accordance with the arranged marriage system, and other vestiges of a powerful and hysterical virginity taboo.

The urge to mutilate the genitals of children stems from deeply ingrained cultural anxieties regarding sexual pleasure and happiness.

The genital mutilations of young males and females are major examples of cultural "traits" or "practices" which, on deeper analysis, reveal roots in severe pleasure-anxiety, with sadistic overtones. The parent or tribal elder who cuts the genitals of young children, was subject to the rite himself as a child, and is made very anxious or angry when confronted with a child whose genitals are not mutilated. This incapacity to tolerate pleasurable movement or feeling in others (plea- sure anxiety) was first identified for Homo sapiens by Reich, who also identified the role that social insititutions play in demanding a systematic recreation of trauma and damage in each new generation; primatologists have identified similar processes of abuse transmission at work in monkeys deprived of maternal love in infancy (DeMeo 1986). Prescott (1975) previously confirmed many of these relationships in a cross- cultural manner. The materials summarized here in geograph- ical form further confirm these processes which possess his- torically identifiable roots in specific regions. The urge to mutilate the genitals of children stems from deeply ingrained cultural anxieties regarding sexual pleasure and happiness.

Genital mutilations always exist within a complex of other social institutions that provide for the socially sanctioned expression of adult sadism and destructive aggression to- wards the infant and child, with unconscious motivations aimed at destroying or damaging the capacityfor pleasurable emotional/sexual bonding between mothers and babies, and between young males and females. In the absence of such

deeper motivations, genital mutilations would not be wel- comed or championed by parents or birth attendants.

James DeMeo, Ph.D., earned his doctorate at the University of Kansas and has served on the Faculty of Geography at Illinois State University and the University of Miami. He is currently the Director of the Orgone Biophysical Research Laboratory, P.O. Box 1395, EI Cerrito, CA 94530, Editor ofthe environmental journal, Pulse oJthe Planet. and author of The Orgone Accumulator Handbook.


Bettleheim, B. (1962): Symbolic Wounds. Collier Books, NY. DeMeo, J. (1986): "On The Origins and Diffusion of Patrism: The Saharasian Connection," Dissertation, U. of Kansas, Geo- graphy Department. University Microfilms, Ann Arbor; see

section on "Male and Female Genital Mutilations," p. 153-178. DeMeo, J. (1987, 1988); "Desertification and the Origins of Armor-

ing: The Saharasian Connection," 1.

Orgonomy, 21(2): 185-213,

22(1): 101-122,22(2):268-289. Hosken, F. (1979): The Hosken Report on Genital and Sexual Mutilation oj Females. 2nd Edition, Women's International Network News, Lexington, Mass.

Montagu, A. (1945): "Infibulation and Defibulation in the Old and New Worlds," Am. Anthropologist. 47:464-7. Montagu, A. (1946): "Ritual Mutilation Among Primitive Peoples," Ciba Symposium, October, p.424. Murdock, G.P. (1967): Ethnographic Atlas. Pittsburgh, HRAF Press. Paige, K. (1978): "The Ritual of Circumcision," Human Nature. May.

Pitcher. D. (1972): An Historical Geography oj the Ottoman Empire, E.J. Brill, Leiden, Map V. Prescott, J. W. (1975): "Body Pleasure and The Origins of Violence, " The Futurist. April, p.64-74. Prescott, J. W. (1979): Deprivation of Physical Affection As A Prim- ary Process In The Development Of Physical Violence. In:

Child Abuse and Violence. (David G. Gil, Ed). AMS Press New York pp 66-137. Prescott, J.W. (1989): "Affectional Bonding for the Prevention of Violent Behaviors: Neurobiological, Psychological and Reli- gious/Spiritual Determinants. In: Violent Behavior Vol. I:

Assessment and Intervention. (Hertzberg, L.J., et aI., eds) PMA Publishing Corp. New York 1989, p.109-142. Reich, W. (1967): Reich Speaks oj Freud. Farrar, Straus & Giroux,


Reich, W. (1973): Ether. God & Devil. Farrar, Straus & Giroux,


Textor, R. (1967): A Cross-Cultural Summary. HRAF Press, New Haven.

The village women splash water on seven year old Adizetu's wound after the exisor has performed the clitoridectomy.

Infibulated girl, external genitalia and normal vaginal orifice have

been obliterated.

Photos from: James DeMeo

Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure:

Why The One and Not The Other?

by James W. Prescott

Male circumcisions is not primarily a medical issue but rather has its roots in deeply held religious beliefs and social customs that defy rational and humane understanding.

Genital mutilations of both males and females have been a common practice in many cultures and have existed from the earliest days of recorded history. These excruciating painful procedures have been inflicted upon newborns and adoles- cents for a variety of reasons. Religious beliefs and social- cultural customs, particulary "rites of passage ceremonies" have been historically the primary reasons for both male and female genital mutilations. Only recently has one form of genital mutilation, male circumcision, come under a different rubric of justification, i.e. modern medicine. It is a major thesis of this presentation that male circumci- sion is not primarily a medical issue but rather has its roots in deeply held religious beliefs and social customs that defy rational and humane understanding. The devastating practi- ces and consequences of female genital mutilation that have been so well documented by Fran Hoskin (see page 22 in this conference report) provides a context for understanding the religious forces of toleration and support for male genital mutilations, i.e. circumcision. Why is it that certain elements of the medical profession can offer support for male genital mutilation (circumcision) but not female genital mutilation that is so widespread in other cultures of the world? And why have the medical professions, until very recently, ignored and denied the extraordinary and excruciating pain that the newborn experiences when part of its skin (the foreskin) is shredded and cut from the rest of its body?

This indifference to human pain and suffering of the cir- cumcised newborn is not confined to the medical profession

but is widespread throughout many cultures, particularly where other forms of male and female genital mutilations are

practiced. In this psychologist's opinion, all forms of genital mutilation that are inflicted upon unconsenting children are de facto acts of torture and mutilation which are in violation

of Article 5 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of

Human Rights which states that "NO ONE SHALL BE SUBJECTED TO TORTURE OR TO CRUEL, INHUMAN OR DEGRADING TREATMENT OR PUNISHMENT." This position statement has been unanimously approved as

a resolution by the General Assembly of this Conference

(see page 53). It is my conviction that the acts of newborn and adolescent torture and mutilation which occurs in ritual male and female genital mutilations must be understood within the broader context of human torture, mutilation and violence against the human body which is pandemic throughout the world. The key to understanding this pain and violence is to be found in understanding its converse, i.e. pleasure and peace where physical pleasures of the body, particularly sexual pleasures, are considered inherently dangerous by many fundamental- ist/ orthodox religious traditions which they believe threatens

The key to understanding this pain and violence is to be found in understanding its converse, i.e. pleasure and peace

the salvation of the soul and society. This understanding of the reciprocal relationship between pain and pleasure; our tolerance and support for the torture and mutilation of the human body and intolerance for the physical pleasures of the body involves profound issues of moral philosophy of good and evil, of the moral theology of pain and pleasure; and how these morClI value systems become encoded in the developing human brain and thus, behaviors which includes the social-moral values and ideolo- gies of human culture. In brief, it is my contention that the ultimate resolution of the circumcision issue and other forms of male/female genital mutilations will involve primarily the ethical, moral and neuropsychological issues involved in tor- ture and mutilation and less in the presumptive medical and social benefits of genital mutilations. Before proceeding with a summary of the religious, philo- sophical and scientific data in support of this thesis, I would like, to comment very briefly on two medical studies that purport to provide statistical medical evidence for the prac- tice of circumcision and which raises serious ethical/ moral issues when findings from presumptive pathological groups are generalized to healthy groups to justify surgical proce- dures on healthy groups in the guise of "preventive medicine." First, is the study of Dr. William Cameron of the Univer- sity of Manitoba where it was reported in a sample of292 men who had patronized prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya that 20% of uncircumcised men became infected with AIDS virus, whereas, only 3% of circumcised men became infected with the AIDS virus. It was also reported that 85% of the prosti- tutes were infected with the AIDS virus. Some have sug- gested that circumcision may offer a degree of prevention against the AIDS virus. Assuming that circumcision vs. non-circumcision, and not other variables, can account for this difference, how can the

grossly negligent and irresponsible sexual behaviors andpoor personalhygienepractices ofOTHERS be used to justify the genital and sexual mutilation of the INNOCENT? Another

example of the the misuse of statistical inference from medi- cal data is provided by the studies of Dr. Thomas Wiswell. In one of Dr. Wiswell's studies where he evaluated the incidence of Urinary Tract Infections (UTIs) in 422,238 boys

born to Army families he found a ten-fold increase in UTls in uncircumcised vs. circumcised boys. The incidence was 1.1 %


loped serious medical complications. This finding of 1.1 % and/ or the .034% serious medical complications in uncir- cumcised newborns is now being used to justify the routine genital mutilation of 99% of healthy male newborns who do not develop UTIs. Since female infants were found to have a 0.57% incidence of UTls which is 50% of the uncircumcised males (1.1 %) it is clear that there are other variables unrelated

(Continued on next page)

11 % respectively, where one third of the 1.1 % later deve-

Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure (Continued)

to circumcision that contribute to UTIs. I will leave to other investigators the exploration of these other uncontrolled var- iables that contribute to UTIs.

Early Sensory Influences Upon Brain Development and Behavior

There is a well established body of scientific data that documents the role of sensory stimulation and deprivation upon brain development and emotional-social, psychological and mental development. From the perspective of the devel- opmental neuropsychological sciences there can be little question that the extraordinary pain experienced by new- borns, children and adolescents who are subjected to ritual genital mutilations has a profound influence upon the brain and later behaviors. It is this writer's conviction that the extraordinary pain and trauma experienced through genital mutilations - an organ and brain system that is designed for the experience of sexual pleasure and the expression of sexual love - has permanently altered normative brain develop- ment for the normal expression of sexual pleasure and love. It

is proposed that this genital pain has long-term developmen- tal consequences for the ability of such individuals to differ- entiate pain from pleasure in love relationships and to develop intimate sexual relationships.

It is not without psychobiological consequence that the brain system which is designed for the experience of pleasure and the expression of sexual love is first encoded with extraordinary and excruciating pain. In such individuals, all subsequent acts or experiences of genital pleasure are expe- rienced upon a background of genital pain that is now deeply buried in the subconscious/ unconscsious brain.

It is this developmental neuropsychologist's conviction that these early experiences of genital pain contribute to the encoding of the brain for sado-masochistic behaviors. The

brain system that has been designed for pleasure has first and foremost become saturated or encoded with pain that now limits and qualifies all subsequent experiences of pleasure. When these early experiences of genital pain are followed by a developmental deprivation of physical affectional pleasure in the maternal-infant relationship and in the adolescent sexual relationship, then violent destructive behaviors are the inevit- able outcome. Equally significant is the prediction that the cumulative

consequences of these developmental experiences of genital pain and affectional deprivation precludes the possibility of realizing the spiritual dimensions of human sexuality. These

relationships have been discussed elsewhere and need not be repeated here. Suffice it to note that it has been possible to predict with 100% accuracy the torture, mutilation and kil- ling of enemy captured in warfare in 49 primitive cultures from the two variables of deprivation of physical affection in the maternal-infant relationship and in the adolescent sexual relationship; and that brain dysfunction underlies this SAD (Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation) induced violent behaviors. (Prescott, 1975, 1979, 1989; Heath, 1975). (See March/ April issue of The Truth Seeker) Tables I and II summarize the social-behavioral character- istics of primitive cultures that engage in male and female genital mutilations. Tables III and IV provide a similar sum- mary for those cultures that punish pre-marital sex and extra- marital sex. Similarily, for Table V which characterizes cul-

tures that have High Gods. In general, these cultures are patrilineal, subordinate women to men, have low nurturance of children, are sexually repressive, punish abortion, are violent and have a high god that supports human morality.

In summary, the confounding of pain and pleasure in the developing brain provides the neuropsychological founda- tionfor individuals who must experience pain to experience pleasure, or who derive pleasurefrom the experience ofpain.

One of the most recent studies that is particularly germane to this thesis was reported by Jacobson, et. al in Acta pSI'chi- atr. scand. (2987:76-364-371), entitled Perinata! Origin o{

Adult Self Destructive Behavior. The summary of this study

is provided by the abstract which reads as follows:

The studl' was undertaken to test ,\'hether obstetric proce- dures are o{ importance for eventua! adult hehavior u{the newborn, as eculogical data from the United States seem to indicate. Birth record data were gathered fur 412 forensic victims comprising suicides, alcoholics and drug addicts hum in Stockholm afier 1940, and who died there in 1978-1984. The births o{the victims were uneven!\' distributed among six hospitals. Comparison with 2,901 contro!s, and mutual com- parison o{categuries, shu wed that suicides invu!ving asphl'x- iation were closely associated H'ith asphl'xia at hirth. suicides b\' viulent mechanical means were associated \\'ith mechani- c~1 birth trauma and drug addiction was associated with opiate and/ or barbiturate administration to mothers during lahar. Irrespective o{the mechanism trans{erring the hirth trauma to adulthood - which might he analoguus to imprinting - the results show that ohstetric procedures should be careful/\' evaluated and possihl\' modified to pre- vent eventual selfdestructive behavior.

Specifically, the authors reported that a perinatal event of Asphyxia (a lack of oxygen) carried a risk factor for suicides from hanging, strangulation, drowning and gas poisoning

that was five times greater than for controls; for perinatal

mechanical trauma, e.g. breech presentations, forceps deliv- ery and multiple nuchal loops, the risk factor for suicides from hanging and other mechanical injuries was twice as great as controls; for perinatal events of opiate/ barbiturate use the risk factor for drug addiction was approximately

three times greater than the controls.

In an earlier study of 52 adolescent suicides, Salk, et. aI., (1985) reported three prenatal/ perinatal risk factors that sig- nificantly discriminated the suicide group from the two matched non-suicide control groups. These were: I) respira- tory distress for more than one hour at birth; 2) no antenatal care before 20 weeks of pregnancy; and 3) chronic disease of the mother during pregnancy which were found in 81 % of the suicide cases. These authors were quite uncertain as to the mechanisms by which prenatal/ perinatal birth trauma were linked to suicidal behaviors. David Levy in a 1945 study on the "Psychic Trauma of Operations in Children" reported on three cases of male circumcision at ages 12 months (2 cases) and 6 % years. Psy- chological trauma included the development of night terrors, temper tantrums and rage. In the 6% year old, suicidal impulses developed. Levy reports:

" a circumcision at the age 0{6 years 7 months. was

preceded by a struggle o{ the patient with his father and the

anesthetist before they overpowered him. Immediatelvafter the anesthesia wure off, he said over and over, 'They cut my

penis. I wish I were dead.

left his mother's side. Thereafter his previous temper tantrums

(Continued on page 17)

.The rest a/the day the patient never




Var. Social-Behavioral Characteristics





Castes Are Present





Weaving By Males





Games of Strategy





Metal Working Is Present





Exclusively Patrilineal 69




Slavery Is Present





High Bride






Husbandry Is Present





High God Supports Human Morality





High God is Present





Class Stratification Is Present





Leather Working By Males





Polygamous Rather Than Monogamous





High Exhibitionistic Dancing





Totemism Is Present





Early Infant/ Child Satisfaction Is Low





Longer Post-Partum Sex Taboo





High Oral Socialization Anxiety





Exclusive Mother-Son Sleeping- I year





High Incidence of Theft





Patrilineal Cultures










23 High God Active




24 Wife Lending and Exchange




25 Infanticide Is Present




TIME OF CIRCUMCISION: A) 1st & 2nd months: 4 eullures;

B) 2 months to 2 years: 4 ('ullures;

to 10 years; 23 ('ullures; E) II years; 7 ('ullures.


C) 2 to 5 years: 7 ('ullures; D) 6 15 years: 2/ ('ullures; F) 16-25






Var. Social-Behavioral Characteristics




01 Male Genital Mutilation Present 83



02 High Bride Price




03 Cultures Are Exclusively Patrilineal




04 Segregation of Adolescent Boys 75



05 Youth Sex Expression Restricted 80



06 High

Mother-Child Households




07 High Child Anxiety Over Nurturant Behavior




08 Torture, Mutilation & Killing of Enemy




09 Incidence of Theft Is High




10 Low Infant Protection From Environment




NOTE: Initiation Rites Mandatory

20th Years, Does Not Include

From: R.B. Textor. A

PRESS: New Haven.

For All Girls Between 8th &

Betrothal Or Marriage Customs.

Cross-Cullural Summarr. (1967) HRAF



Var. Social-Behavioral Characteristics



Community size is larger



Societal complexity is high



Class stratification present



Slavery is present



Low female income



Personal crime is high (392) 71


Incidence of theft is high (392) 68


Kin group exclusively patrilineal



Kin groups patrilineal or double

descent rather than matrilineal



Small extended family 70


Wives are "purchased"



Women have property rights



Longer post-partum sex taboo 62


Extramarital sex is punished



Sex disability is present



Castration anxiety is high 65


Bellicosity is extreme



Killing, torturing, mutilating is high



High God in human morality



Narcissism is high



Exhibitionistic dancing
















































Var. Social-Behavioral




Slavery is Present



Personal Crime is




Theft is High



Abortion is Highly Punished



Premarital Sex Strongly Punished 71


Castration Anxiety is High



Military Glory Emphasized



Bellicosity is Extreme



High Killing,

Torture, Mutilation



Aggressive Supernaturals


























Var.Social-Behavioral Characteristics





Caste System Present 52




Slavery is Present





Patrilineal Rather Than Matrilineal





Wives Purchased





High Aggression Socialization






High Infant Pain By Caretaker





Early Independence Training





Male Genital Mutilation Present





Premarital Sex Strongly Punished




The % column reflects the percentage of cultures that share in common the behaviors listed; the P column states the probability level of statistical significance, e.g. a value of .003 means that the probability that the behavioral relationships being compared could occur by chance is 3 times out of a thousand; and the N column indicates the number of primitive cultures involved in the comparison of the paired behaviors.

Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure (Continued)

developed into destructive rages. During the treatment he played numerous killing games. in which his/ather was the principal victim. The operation represented a castration by his/ather. "(p.IO).

Questions must be raised as to the extent to which rage and suicidal behaviors are engendered by the assaults of circum- cision whether conducted during the newborn or child/ pre- pubertal periods. (There are approximately a third more suicides than homicides in the U.S.). Is there a link between circumcision and the willingness to kill oneself or others for one's religious/ national beliefs, particularly when circumci- sion occurs at the age of puberty, as it does in the Muslim cultures? The willingness of many Muslim men to die or kill for their religious beliefs is well known, e.g. the cases of Salman Rushdie and Sirhan Sirhan may be representative here. Jacobsen, et. al (1987) noted in their study that hypoxia during birth might cause minimal brain damage that could result in destructive behaviors. However, these authors ques- tioned whether neurological injuries due to hypoxia could be the main factor, "since altogether rather few victims suffered from asphyxia during birth. None of the 86 suicides from poisoning by solid or liquid substance and none of the 53 alcoholics were reported to have been asphyxial."

There is a delayed "time bomb" of brain damage that occurs long after the initial injury or insult.

There are several points to be made concerning these two studies. First, Faro and Windle (1969) in their experimen- tal asphixal studies in monkeys documented both imme- diate and delayed brain damage by as much as 10 years in these monkeys. In short, there is a delayed "time bomb" of brain damage that occurs long after the initial injury or insult. It would appear that later stages of brain develop- ment are dependent upon earlier stages of brain develop- ment which must be normal if later stages of development are to be normal. Secondly, there are a variety of traumas/ injuries that can simulate or mimic asphyxial effects. For example, sensory deprivation (like asphyxia) can damage the sensory receptors and sensory pathways of the

brain. This neuronal damage from sensory deprivation prevents normal sensory stimulation of the brain which is essentialfor normalbrain development andfunction. This is why the experiencing of sensory pleasure - physical affection and sexual pleasure - is essentialfor normative brain development, function and behavior.

The effects of sensory deprivation or altered and abnor- mal sensory environments upon brain development and behavior are well documented. This is the mechanism which I will now focus upon since it is my conviction that a variety of early traumatic events of pain, deprivation and stress, including asphyxia, damage the affectional neuro- nal systems of the brain. It is this damage that compro- mises or prevents the development of affectional bonds of pleasure since these brain systems for pleasure have been damaged by these early insults and injuries. This thesis constitutes the neuropsychological foundation of my SAD (Somatosensory Affectional Deprivation) theory of alie- nation, depression, addictive and violent behaviors. It is for these reasons that SAD is proposed to be the

process or mechanism which can acount for the linkage between prenatal/ perinatal trauma and suicides that have been reported by Salk, et aI., and by Jacobson, et. al. Specifically, Somatosenory Affectional Deprivation (SAD) theory is based on the nature of brain processes where it has been well established that activation of the pleasure circuits of the brain inhibit the activity of the violence circuits of the brain. This normative reciprocal relationship ceases to func- tion when the neuronal circuits of the brain that mediate pleasure are insufficiently developed - a form of brain dys- function/ damage - due to sensory deprivation of physical affectional pleasure, specifically, somesthetic (touch) and ves- tibular (movement) sensory stimulation. Gentle touch and rocking of the infant are powerful sensory stimuli for plea- sure, comfort and a sense of"basic trust"for the infant/ child. When these sensory stimuli are absent and, in addition, are replaced by painful sensory stimulation, then the neurobio- logical foundations for depressive, addictive and violent behaviors are established. In brief, the emotional pain of affectional deprivation (the failure of love in the maternal-infant and parent-child rela- tionships, and in our sexual relationships) seeks relief through drugs, alcohol and violence - in the rage of our physical assaults against others; beatings, rape, homicide and assaults against our own bodies where the final solution is suicide - one of the leading mental health problems of our

children and youth. Why should our children and youth be

a 112% increase

from 1980 to 1985 for children aged 10 to' 14 years? Does

genital mutilation and sexual abuse in combination with SAD facilitate suicidal and assaultive behaviors?

committing suicide in such great numbers -

It is for these reasons that the pain of genital mutilation is tolerated and supported and why the pleasure of genital stimulation is forbidden

- with all the developmental neuropsychologi-

cal and moral consequences that such events have upon the individual and culture.

A further correlate to the above relationships and why certain postnatal traumas are tolerated (e.g. genital mutila- tions) is to be found in our cultural mores that places a high moral value on pain, suffering, deprivation; and immorality upon the physical pleasures of the body, particularly the sexual pleasures of the body. It is for these reasons that the pain of genital mutilation is tolerated and supported and why the pleasure of genital stimulation is forbidden - with all the developmental neuropsychological and moral consequences that such events have upon the individual and culture. I will now review the real reasons for circumcision as given by certain moral traditions and the anti-pleasure ethic that is endemic to many religious traditions that supports the pain- pleasure reciprocity principle and provides the linkage to violent behaviors.


It is well recognized that circumcision in the Jewish reli- gious tradition represents a covenant with God (see Gerald Larue's article in this issue). It is less well recognized that the

(Continued on next page)

1Befo1re (9i1rcumcision

Peaceful, Blissful and Trusting -

Credit: Marilyn F. Milos, R.N., NOCIRC

Afre1r (9i1rcumcision



The charge that circumcision is either unnecessary or harmful must confront contemporary evidence. While the 1971 report ofthe American Academy of Pediatrics ruled circum- cision unnecessary, it is important to note that the Academy is reviewing its earlier decision because of new evi- dence. Of fifty thousand known cases of penile cancer in North A merica only nine have occurred in circumcised males. Urinary tract infections occur less frequently when the foreskin is removed. And ninety-five times as many uncircumcised males contract AIDS as do the circumcised. If all these assertions are true, then the pain and trauma, if they indeed exist, may be worth enduring Quite frankly, the fury of many anticircumcision militants is out of proportion to the provocation. Given the horrendous proportions of child abuse, a little foreskin removal (which may, in the end, turn out to be benefi- cial) hardly deserves the hostility it receives.

- Sherwin T. Wine

Rabbi, First Humanistic Jewish Congregation, Birmingham Temple. Farmington Hills, MI

From: Circumcision. Humanistic



Number III



Pain, Fear and Betrayal- Credit: Marilyn F. Milos, R.N., NOCIRC

"As TIiE body is pRioR iN oRdER of GENERATioN TO TIiE soul, so TIiE iRRATiONAl is pRioR TO TIiE RATioNAl. TIiE pRoof is TIiAT ANGER ANd wisliiNG ANd dESiRE ARE iMplANTEd iN cliildREN fROM TIiEiR VERy biRTIi, bUT REASON A~d UNdERSTANd- iNG ARE dEVElopEd AS TIiEy GROW oldER. WIiEREfoRE, TIiE CARE of TIiE body oUGIiT TO PRECEdE TIiAT of TIiE soul, ANd TIiE TRAiNiNG of TIiE AppETiTiVE pART sliould follow; NONE TIiE lESS OUR CARE of iT MUST bE fOR TIiE sAkE of TIiE REASON, ANd OUR CARE of TIiE body fOR TIiE SAkE of TIiE soul." ARiSTOTlE, 1Jolitca

It is almost impossible to believe that parents who love their children could stand by and see them so unmer- cifully tortured for a religious purpose. Can religion so stultify the brain that it even makes us callous to the cries of our loved ones when being so outrage- ously assaulted?

- Joseph Lewis

From: In

The Name Of Humanity.

1949, p. 120.

Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure (Continued)

diminution of sexual pleasure is another major reason for circumcision in the Jewish religious tradition. This reason is clearly stated by Moses Maimonides in the Guide G!f The Perplexed (1190) which merits its full reproduction:


"As regards circumcision, I think that one ofits objects is to limit sexual intercourse, and to weaken the organ ofgenera- tion asfar as possible, and thus cause man to be moderate. Some people believe that circumcision is to remove a defect in man's!ormation; but everyone can easily reply: How can products of nature be deficient so as to require external completion, especially as the use oftheforeskin to that organ

is evident. This commandment has not been enjoined as a complement to a deficient physical creation, but as a means for perfecting man's moral shortcomings. The bodily injury caused to that organ is exactly that which is desired; it does

not interrupt any vitalfunction. nor does it destroy the power

counteracts excessive

lust; for there is no doubt that circumcision weakens the power of sexual excitement, and sometimes lessens the natu-

ral enjoyment; the organ necessarily becomes weak when it loses blood and is deprived ofits coveringfrom the beginning. Our Sages say distinctly: It is hardfor a woman, with whom an uncircumcised had sexual intercourse, to separate from him. This is, as I believe, the best reason for the command- ment concerning circumcision. "

of generation.

Circumcision simply

(Part III, Chapter 49)

Elswhere in the Jewish religious tradition clear warnings are given concerning the dangers of sexual pleasure. The following quotations are taken from the Code ofJewish Law:

Chapter 150 The Sin of Discharging Semen in Vain

I: It isforhidden to discharge semen in vain. This is a graver sin than an)' other mentioned in the Torah. Those who practice masturbation and cause the issue of semen in vain, not onll'do they commit a grave sin, but they are under a ban, concerning whom it is said (Issiah 1:15):" Your hands arefull 0/ blood, " and it is equivalent to killing a person. See what Rashi wrote concerning Er and Onan in the Sidrah of Vaye- shev (Genesis 37), that both Er and Onan diedfor the com-

mission ofthis sin. Occasiona/~l', as a punishmentfor this sin,

young, God forbid, or grow up to be

delinquent. while the sinner himself is reduced to poverty.

Chapter 151

children die I" hen

Laws of Chastity

17. Semen is the vitality G!fman's body and the light of his

e\'es. and when it issues in abundance, the bod\' weakens and life is shortened. He who indulges in having iniercourse, ages

quickly, his strength ebbs, his eyes grow dim, his breath becomesfoul, the hair of his head, eyelashes and brows fall

out, the hair G!fhis beard, armpits andfeet increase, his teeth fall out. and many other aches besides these be/all him. Great

physicians said that one out of a thousand dies from


diseases, while nine hundred and ninety-nine die from sexual indulgence. Therefore, a man should exercise self-restraint.

The Roman Catholic Church is equally affirmative on the moral dangers of masturbation whose only purpose is sexual pleasure. In the Vatican's "Declaration on Sexual Ethics," published by the Sacred Congregation For The Doctrine Of The Faith (December 29, 1975), formerly the Holy Office of The Inquisition, the following is stated:

On Masturbation

9. The traditional Catholic doctrine that masturbation con-

stitutes a grave moral disorder is often called into doubt or expresslv denied today. It is said that ps\'cholog.l' and sociol- ogy show that it is a normal phenomenon oj"sexual develop-

ment, especialll' among the

dictory to the teaching and pastoral practice of the Catholic Church. Whatever theforce oj"certain arguments oj"a biolog- ical and philosophical nature, which have sometimes heen used by theologians, in fact both the Magisterium oj" the Church - in the course o/a constant tradition - and the moral sense of thefaithful have declared without hesitation that masturbation is an intrinsicalll' and seriousll' disordered


Elsewhere, the Roman Catholic church affirms the moral

value of pain and suffering in The Spiritual Exercises of St.

Ignatius of Loyola (the founder of the Society of Jesus):

This opinion is contra-

"The third kind ofpenance is to chastise the bodl', that is to inflict sensible pain on it. 771is is done by wearing hair shirts. cords, or iron chains on the bod\', or h\' scourging or wound- ing oneself, and by other kinds G!fausterities" (1541).

Many other examples could be cited, the most significant of which is the Crucifixion itself. God the Father's Divine Plan of Incarnation for his Son: "So the Word was made flesh;" (J ohn I: 14); and "I did not come of my own will; it was He who sent me" (John 8:42) was a plan for the mutilation, torture and murder of His only-begotten Son on the cross (euphemisti- cally called "sacrificed") - for the ulterior motive of human salvation! The ultimate psychopathology of this event is equat- ing this mutilation, torture and murder with LOVE! Clearly, Christian Love is as much an expression of pain and suffering as pleasure. It is this fusion of pain and suffering with love that forms one of the roots of sado-masochism which is so preval- ent in monotheistic and patristic cultures. Given the violence that this Father inflicted upon the Son He loved (and others), is it so surprising to find so much violence of other Fathers inflicted upon their sons (and daughters)? If "Man" is made "Unto the Image and Likeness of God," then the violence of "Man," becomes more under- standable. Remember, it is this same God the Father that demanded the torture of helpless male newborns through the ritual mutilation of their genitals, called circumcision - a practice that continues today in many monotheistic cultures. Why was pain and violence and not pleasure and peace selected as the primary path for establishing the "bond" between God and Man and for human salvation? In all His Wisdom, Power and "Love" could He not have found a different solution to the enigma of human "salvation"? The answers to these questions lie elsewhere. It should be recognized that the roots of the morality of pain and suffering and the immorality of physical sensual/- sexual pleasure antedate the Crucifixion and the rise of monotheism. These basic concepts existed in parallel civiliza- tions where, for example, the ancient Greek philosophers provided a clear metaphysical theory of good and evil that was directly related to a moral theology of pain and pleasure. Greek Metaphysical Dualism provided the following equations:

MATTER=Bo~\',Evil, Wickedness, Darkness, Chaos=FEMALE; FORM=Soul, Goodness, Godlike. Lightness. Order=MALE;

(Continued on next page)

Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure (Continued)

MATTER = Body, Evil, Wickedness, Darkness, Chaos = FEMALE; ~ FORM = Soul, Goodness, Godlike, Lightness, Order =MALE;

It was Pythagoras (c.582-c.507 B.C.) who provided the sex gender equivalents of maleness with goodness; and female- ness with evil:

"There is a Kood principle which has created order. light and man; and a bad principle which has created chaos, darkness and woman."

Given this formulation is it so surprising to find thefollow-

ing in Ecclesiasticus (25:33): "From the woman came the beginning of sin, and by her we all die." And in Paul, I

Corinthians (7: I); "Now concerninK the thinKS whereofyou


other examples could be mentioned that are too numerous to cite which reflect this absurd and most erroneous dualistic moral theory of human nature, gender and behavior. Moses Maimonides has perhaps provided the clearest exposition of these metaphysical/ moral/ gender relationships

wrote me: It is Kood/or a man not to touch a woman

in The Guide Of The Perplexed (When the word "matter"

occurs think "female," when the word "form" occurs think "male"):

"All bodies subject to generation and corruption are auained by corruption anI\' because o.ftheir maUer; with reKard to/ann and with respect to the lauer's essence, they are not auained by corruption. but are permanent Similarll' every living being dies and becomes ill solely hecause ofits maUer and not because a/its/arm. All man's acts of disohedience and sin are consequent upon his maue~ and not upon his/arm. whereas all his virtues are

consequent upon his/arm

consequent~vit was neces-

sary that man's very noble form, which as we have explained, is the image of God and His likeness, should be

bound to earthy, turbid and dark matter, which calls

Pain and "Salvation"

"The third kind of penance is to chastise the hodI'. Ihat is 10 inf7ict sensihle pain on il. This is done hy H'earinK hair shirts. cords. or iron chains on the hodI'. or hy scourKinK or woundinK oneself, and hy other kinds of austerities. "

On "Good" Friday the Crucifixion and scourging/flagellation of the body are com- monly re-enacted in many primitive Catholic cultures throughout the world. This moral theology of pain and suffering is a major root cause of supporting and tolerating violence against the human body.


Photo Credit:

St. Ignatius of Loyola

The Spiritual Exercises

Ingmar Bergman

The Seventh Seal

down upon man every impelfection and corruplion; He granted it -I mean the human/arm - power, dominion. rule, and control over maUer, in order that it subjugate it, quell its impulses, and bring it back to the best and mosl harmonious slate Ihat is possible (111.'8, pp. 430-432).

(Part lll, Chapter 8)

Ecclesiasticus (25:33): "From the woman came the

in Paul. I

Corinthians (7:1); "Now concerning the things whe- reofyou wrote me: It is goodfor a man not to touch a woman."

Perhaps it is now more clear how philosophical and theologi- cal moral dualism has conspired against the human body, particularly the female body and the sensual/ sexual pleasures that they represent. This moral dualism of Western Civiliza- tion is one of the great roots of violence against the human body and the female body in particular. And these moral traditions are not confined to the cultures of Western Civili- zation which subordinate female to male; assures the continu- ing inequality of woman to man and supports the violence of man against woman and her children. (Reich, 1971). This fundamentalist/ orthodox morality of Western Civili- zation requires that the sensual/ sexual pleasures of the body must be extremely limited if not destroyed to achieve "salva- tion of the soul" (re, the "virtues" of celibacy, virginity and chastity). What better place to begin than with the mutilation and destruction of the genitals which are designed to exper-

beginning of sin, and by her we all die. "

(Conlinued on nexi page)

Genital Pain vs. Genital Pleasure (Continued)

ience sensual pleasure and share sexual love?

It is not without reason that the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) have carried the/r religions on the edge of the sword - the same sword that cuts the genitals of children (male and female); and which mutilates their souls.

It is clear to this writer that before genital mutilations of our children can cease; before male violence against women can end; and before human violence can be eliminated that a moral revolution must take place. Pain rT1USt be declared immoral and pleasure must be declared morally necessary if we are to become moral persons. In the words of Walt Whitman:


In summary, the dualistic/theistic moral foundations of

Wester~Civilization must be transformedif human equality,

compassion, justice and love human species is to survive.

are to be realized; and if the



K.J.S. and


P.R. (1987) Pain and


Effects in the

. Human Neonate and Fetus. The Nell' England Journal of Medi-

cine (Nov. 19). V 317



Interscience, New York. Bullough, V. and Bullough, B. (1987) Women and ProstitUlion. Prome- theus Books, Buffalo. Faro, M.D. and Windle, W.V. (1969): Transneuronal degeneration in brains of monkeys asphyxiated at birth. Experimel1lal Neurologl'. 24, 38-53.


Bullough, V. (1976) Sexual Variance in Socien' and Histor.!'.

Ganzfried, S. (1963). Code 0/ Jell'ish Lall' (Holdin, H.E

Hebrew Publishing Company Brooklyn. Heath, R.G. (1975): Maternal-social deprivation and abnormal brain

development: Disorders of emotional and social behavior. In Brain

Function and MalnUlrition; Neurops.!'chological Methods ofAsses-

Eds.) John

sment. (Prescott, J. W., Read, M.S Wiley New York.

& Coursin, D.B

Genital Pain As Punishment For Genital Pleasure
















"sexual sin" of fornication.

From: A 17th Century Woodcut. Dr. Prescott's personal col- lection.

Hosken. FP. (1979): Female Sexual MWilatio/ls: The FaclS and Prop-

osals For Action. Women's International Network News. Lexing- ton, MA.

Ignatius of Loyola (1556): The Spiritual Exerci.\l's oj SI. Ig/latius or LOl'ola.

Jacobson. B

Eklund, G

Hamberger. L. Linnarsson. D

Sedvall. G

and Valverius, M. (1987): Perinatal origin of adult sclf-destructive

behavior. AC/ll PSl'chiatrica Scatlllil/{I\·ia. 76.364-371.

Levy, D.M. (1945). Psychic Trauma Of Operations in Children.

American Journal Of Diseases Of Children (January) 69, (I). 7-25.

Lewis, J. (1949). In The Name Or Humanit.". Freethought Press. San Diego. Maimonides. Moses (1963): The Guide or The Perplexed. (Shiomo Pines. Trans.) Vols I & II. University of Chicago Press. Chicago.

Porter. F.L

Cries: Effect of Circumcision on Acoustic Features and Perceived

Miller. R.H. and Marshall. R.E. (1986) Neonatal Pain

Urgency. Child Del'elopmel1l 57,790-802.

Prescott, J.W. (1975): Body Pleasure and The Origins of Violence. The

Fwurisl. April 1975. Prescott, J. W. (1979): Deprivation of physical affection as a primary process in the development of physical violence. In (,hild A huse

and Violence (Gil. D.G

Ed). AMS Press New York pp 66-137.

Reich. W. (1971): The Mass PITcholog.!' ol'Fascism Farrar Straus Gi- roux New York.

Salk. L, Lipsitt. LP

Reilly. B.M. & Leva!. R.H. (1985):

Relationship of maternal and perinatal conditions to eventual

Sturner. W.Q

adolescent suicide. The Lancet March 15. 1985.

Textor. R.

Files (H RAF) Press: New Haven. Vatican. The. (1975): Declaration on Sexual !:'thics. Sacred Congrega- tion For The Doctrine of The Faith. (December 29. 1975). United States Catholic Conference. Washington. D.C Wiswell, T E. and Roscelli. J. D. (1986): Corroborative evidence for the decreased incidence of urinary tract infections in circumcised male infants. Pediatrics. V. 78, No. I. July 1986.

B. (1967): A ('ros.I·-('ultural SUII II 1101'.1' Human Relations Area

Female Genital Mutilation -

Strategies For Eradication

by Fran P. Hosken

According to a conservative estimate, at least 84 million womenanrl girls are mutilated today in Continental Africa and similar operations are practiced along the Persian Gulf and the south- ern part of the Arab Peninsula.

Female Genital Mutilation - the descriptive terms for the different types of operations are "Excision" and "Infibula- tion" - continues to be practiced in large regions of Africa from the Red Sea Coast to the shores of the Atlantic. Accord- ing to a conservative estimate, at least 84 million women and girls are mutilated today in Continental Africa and similar operations are practiced along the Persian Gulf and the southern part of the Arab Peninsula. In Indonesia and Malaysia, less drastic forms of "female circumcision" are practiced by some of the Moslem populations of this region and sporadic occurrences have been registered among other mainly Moslem groups.

With increasing mobility of African and Middle Eastern immigrants to Europe, the U.S. and also to Australia, these mutilations are being export- ed all over the world.

With increasing mobility of African and Middle Eastern immigrants to Europe, the U.S. and also to Australia, these mutilations are being exported all over the world. Indeed, Britain had to pass special legislation recently to prohibit the operations (which were carried out by obliging physicians for a high fee). In France, the Criminal Courts had to finally

initiate proceedings against African fathers and families after three little girls died as a result of the operations performed in France. One father brought to court had "operated" on his baby daughter with a pocket knife - the child bled to death.

In most European countries and also in Australia, health

services have been alerted to warn people and especially immigrants. In the U.S.,immigrants from affected African countries have not been warned by immigration services that these mutilations are categorized as gross child abuse and would result in having children removed from parents by the Social Services. There is no doubt, and anecdotal evidence exists, that immigrants from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, or certain ethnic groups of Kenya, Nigeria, etc., are having their small daughters mutilated in the U.S.

A systematic survey has yet to be done to document the

facts on how many children are involved or are at risk - and this is long overdue. (See below.) But first, the medical and health facts need to be established.

The medical literature describes Circumcision or Sunna- circumcision as the removal of the clitoral prepuce and the tip of the clitoris. "Sunna" means tradition in Arabic. But to remove the prepuce of the clitoris, which is a very delicate operation especially if done on a child would require great skill, good light, surgical tools, an anesthetized, motionless body, quite aside from a thorough knowledge of anatomy.

There is no doubt, and anecdotal evidence exists, that immigrants from Somalia, Sudan, Ethiopia, or certain ethnic groups of Kenya, Nigeria, etc., are having their small daughters mutilated in the U.S.

None of these conditions exist where these operations are

done in Africa and the Middle East on struggling, screaming children held down byforce on the ground, in dark huts, with

crude knives or any other cutting tools.

What is done in

reality is cutting away whatever the operator can get hold of, part or all of the clitoris and often part of the labia minora (small lips). Excision or clitoridectomy, the operation most frequently done throughout Africa, consists of the removal of the entire clitoris, usually together with the adjacent parts of the labia minora (small lips) and sometimes all of the external genita- lia, except parts of the labia majora (large lips). Some opera- tors make additional cuts to enlarge the opening of the vagina as this is believed to make childbirth easier. (The opposite is true.) Infibulation or pharaonic circumcision (excision with infibulation) means that the entire clitoris and the labia minora are cut away and the two sides of the labia majora are partially sliced off or scraped raw and then sewn together, often with catgut. In Sudan and Somalia, thorns are used to hold the two bleeding sides of the vulva together, or a paste of gum arabic, sugar and egg is used. The introitus or entrance to the vagina is thus obliterated which is the purpose of the operation, except for a tiny opening in the back to allow urine, and later menstrual blood, to drain. The legs of the girl are tied together immediately after the operation, and she is immobilized for several weeks until the wound of the vulva has closed, except for a small opening that is created by inserting a splinter of wood or bamboo.

The objective of infibulation is to make sexual intercourse impossible. At present, infibulation is practiced mostly by Moslems, according to all available sources, because ofthe importance and value they attach to virginity.

The mortality of girls and women due to all these opera- tions no doubt is high; but no records are kept anywhere. Primary fatalities are not recorded and death in childbirth, due to obstructed labor, is never related to genital operations anywhere. But the terrible psychological trauma that is life- long has never been investigated from a woman's view. The objective of infibulation is to make sexual intercourse impossible. At present, infibulation is practiced mostly by Moslems, according to all available sources, because of the importance and value they attach to virginity. Infibulation is

performed to guarantee that a bride is intact - the smaller her opening, the higher the bride price. A girl is often

(Continued on next page)

Female Genital Mutilation -

Strategies For Eradication (Continued)

Women who are infibulated have to be cut open to allow sexual intercourse and more cuts are needed for delivery of a child.

inspected by the female relatives of the husband-to-be before the bride price is paid. The bride price, whereby the husband or his father pays the father of the girl a considerable sum in cash or kind, is still a marriage requirement almost every- where in Africa and the Middle East. Infibulation may also occur spontaneously by adherence of the wounded sides of the labia, especially where extensive excision operations are performed. For instance, in parts of Mali and Burkina Faso as well as other areas of West Africa. Women who are infibulated have to be cut open to allow sexual intercourse and more cuts are needed for delivery of a child. Wives, traditionally, are re-infibulated, for instance in the Sudan, after the baby is born; and when the child is weaned, they are opened again for intercourse. During her reproductive life, a woman used to go through this process with each child; and in some areas it still continues today. In West Africa infibulation is usually not done by sewing or other fastening devices but by tying the legs of the girl together (after the operation) in a crossed position, the same results are achieved. On a visit to Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso in 1977 while I was at the maternity hospital, a woman in labor with her first child was brought in; she could not deliver; she was almost completely closed. There was nothing at all left of her external genitalia. She had evidently con- ceived through a tiny opening. All the operations are performed on the ground, under septic conditions, with the same knife or tool used on all the girls of a group operation, which is still the custom among many ethnic groups in rural areas. In cases of fatalities,



operator nor





Figure 1: Tribal Genital Mutilation. The nude girls legs are forcibly held apart at the thighs as her external genitalia are being cut away by a sharp instrument. No anestheitc or antiseptic is used. From a "freeze-frame" of a 16 mm. file documentary.

blamed. Rather, it is claimed that an evil spirit is responsi- ble or the ritual was not performed properly according to the wishes of the ancestors - or the girl herself is at fault because she had sex before she was operated on.

Infibulation or pharaonic circumcision is practiced in the Sudan and adjoining areas throughout Somalia, parts

All girls, without exception, must undergo this mutilation as it is a requirement for marriage.

of Ethiopia, Southern Egypt and Northern Kenya and in some areas of West Africa for instance, Mali. Infibulation or

pharaonic circumcision is the most drastic and damaging operation. It is called "Pharaonic. as the operation according to historic documents was already recorded in ancient Egypt more than 2000 years ago in pharaonic times.

The term infibulation is derived from fibula which means clasp or pin in Latin and goes back to the old Romans: a fi bula was used to hold toget her the folds of t he toga - the loose garment all Roman men wore. The Romans also fas- tened together the large lips of slave girls to prevent them from having sexual intercourse as becoming pregnant would hamper their work. Here is an eyewitness description of an operation In Somalia:

"With the Somalis, the circumcision olgirls takes place in the home among lI'omen relati\'e,\ and neigh- bors. The grandmother or an older lI'Ollwn officiates. A t each occasion. usual/I' onll' one little girl. or att illles tll'O sisters are operated; hUl aI/ girls, lI'ithoUl excep- tion. must undergo this mUlilation as it is a requirement for marriage. . The operation itself is not accompanied hI" an.r ceremonr or ritual The child. completell' naked. is made 10 sit on a lOll' stoo!. Several lI'oman take hold 0/ her and open her legs lI'ide. A/tel' separating her outer and inner lips. the operator, usual/I' a woman experienced in this proce- dure, sits dOl\'l1/acing the child. With her kitchen kl1l/e the operatorjirst pierces and slices open the hood a/the clitoris. Then she hegins to CUI it OUI. While another lI'oman lI'ipes on' the Mood with a rag, the operalOr digs II'ith her sharpjingernail a hole the length a/the clilOris to detach and pul/ oUlthe organ. The lillIe girl. held dOH'n bI' the II'omen helpers, screams in extreme pain; but no one pays the slightest al/ention. The operatorjinishes thisjob bl' entirelr pulling OUI the clitoris, cUl/ing it to the bone lI'ith her kl1l/e. Her helpers again I,ripe all the spurting blood with a rag. The operator then removes the remaining flesh. dig- ging with her ./i"nger to remove ani' remnant a/the clitoris among the/lowing blood. The neighbor lI'omen are then invited to plunge their.fingers into the bloodl' hole to verifl' that even' piece o./the clitoris is removed. BUI this is not the end. The most important part 0./ the operation begins onl.r now. A/tel' a short moment. the 1I'0man takes the kni/e again and cuts off the inner lips (labia minora) a/the victim. The helpers again wipe the blood with their rags. Then the operator, with a

(Cominued onnex' page)

Female Genital Mutilation -

Strategies For Eradication (Continued)

Most often, men refuse to marry girls who are not excised. Since marriage is still the only career for a woman in most of Africa and the Middle East, the operations continue.

mOlion 0/ her knife, begins 10 scrape Ihe skin from Ihe inside ollhe large lips. Wilh Ihe abrasion o/Ihe skin compleled, according 10 Ihe rules. Ihe operalOr closes Ihe bleeding large lips and fixes Ihem one againsllhe olher wilh long acacia Ihorns. Allhis slage oflhe operalion Ihe child is so exhausled Ihal she slaps crying. bUI often has convulsions. The women Ihen/orce down her Ihroal a concoclion olplams. The operalor's chiel concern is 10 leave an opening no larKer Ihan a kernel ol corn or jusl big enoughl 10 allow urine. and laler Ihe menslrualflow. 10 pass. Thefamilv honor depends on making Ihe opening as small as possible because wilh Ihe Somalis, Ihe smaller Ihe arlifical passage is, Ihe grealer Ihe value ollhe girl and Ihe higher Ihe bride price. When Ihe operalion isJinished, Ihe woman pours waler over Ihe genilal area 0/ Ihe girl. and wipes her wilh a rag. Then Ihe child. II'ho was held down all Ihis lime. is made 10 sland up. The u'omen Ihen immobilize her Ihighs by lying Ihem IOgelher lI'ilh ropes 0/ goal skin. This bandage is applied/rom Ihe knees 10 Ihe waisl oflhe girl. and is left in placelor abOUilwo weeks. The girl muSI remain Iving on a matfor Ihe enlire lime, while all Ihe excremem evidem/l' remains wilh her in Ihe bandage. Afier Ihal lime. Ihe girl is released and Ihe bandage is cleaned. Her vagina is now closed. and remains so umif her marriage. Comrary 10 whal one would assume, nol many girls die from Ihis IOriure. There are, of course, various complicalions which frequemlr leave Ihe girl crippled and disabled/or Ihe reSI a/her life. "

Many colorful myths are related all over Africa as reasons for the operations. Though all the myths are still believed by the ethnic groups involved in the rural areas, many of the reasons are contradictory, and none of them are compatible with biological facts. Most Africans who practice these operations believe that excision is a custom decreed by the ancestors; therefore, it must be complied with. Most often, men refuse to marry girls who are not excised. Since marriage is still the only career for a woman in most of Africa and the Middle East, the opera-

tions continue. "No proper Kiku.l'u would dream ofmarrying a girl who has nol been circumcised. "slaled lama Kenyalla, Ihe revered leader ol Kenya in his book. "Facing Mount Kenya," which was wrillen in Ihe 1930s and cominues 10 be published and is also sold in lOurisl shops in Nairobi.

As President of Kenya for life, Kenyatta had great influ- ence on Africans well beyond the borders of Kenya, and his much quoted statement is responsible for the mutilation of many thousands of helpless little girls and untold suffering and deaths.

The successor of Kenyatta, President Arap Moi categorically prohibited female genital mutila- tion operations in 1982.

The successor of Kenyatta, President Arap Moi categori- cally prohibited female genital mutilation operations in 1982. He also alerted the Health Services that no more operations may be done in hospitals, which shows that the Kenyan Health Services were involved in the mutilations. Unfortu- nately, there has been no follow-up, teaching or educating the people against the mutilations. As a result, they have gone underground.

Excision, by cutting out the most sensitive tissues of a woman's body, extinguishes sexual sensitivity, pleasure and response to touch. The elimination of female sexual pleasure is the rea- son most frequently given for the genital mutila- tions, which is to keep "moral behavior of women in society" and "to assure the faithfulness of women to their husbands" - who usually have several wives.

Excision, by cutting out the most sensitive tissues of a woman's body, extinguishes sexual sensitivity, pleasure and response to touch. The elimination of female sexual pleasure is the reason most frequently given for the genital mutilations, which is to keep "moral behavior of women in society" and "to assure the faithfulness of women to their husbands" - who usually have several wives. In many ethnic groups, for instance in Mali and Francophone West Africa, the opera- tion traditionally is performed just before marriage, as a puberty rite; it is claimed that a woman can be accepted into adult society and get married only after she is operated upon.

Women who do not have their genitals mutilated are considered to be prostitutes.

In the Sudan and the Middle East, and in Moslem socie- ties, for instance in Somalia, it is said that a woman is incapable of controlling her sexuality - hence she must be excised or infibulated or she will disgrace her family. Women who do not have their genitals mutilated are considered to be prostitutes.

It is said that women's external genitalia are ugly and must be removed to make her acceptable to a man.

Excision is also perceived as a way to increase/ertility; and the wish 0/ most women is to have as many children as possible, especially sons, on which their status in society

depends. The biological facts about reproduction are un- known or ignored. It is widely believed, for instance, in Mali and Burkina Faso, and all over West Africa, that the clitoris connotes maleness, and the prepuce of the penis, femaleness. Hence, both have to be removed before a person can be accepted as an adult in his/ her sex and society. It is also believed that a girl who is not operated on will run wild and disgrace her family. In Egypt, aesthetic reasons are some- times cited for the operation, and this is occasionally said in other areas of Africa as well. It is said that women's external

(Conlinued on next page)


9{g:turaf 115. Infi6ufation




Cutting away the exterior genital organs and infibulating a girl can start bleeding that cannot be stopped and may kill your child. Dangerous infections may also result that may make your daughter very ill. Later, it may prevent her from having children of her own. The damaging operations cause much needless suffering.




Infibulation - cutting a way the external genital organs and then closing the opening to the vagina by scarification - is a very dangerous operation that causes many life-long health problems. It interferes with a woman's natural sexuality. In the top row, you see the natural genitals of a girl and a woman. In the pictures below, you see a girl bleeding after the operation and a woman who is infibulated: only a tiny opening is left.

From: The Universal Childbirth Picture Book; by Fran P. Hosken; pictures by Marcia L. Williams, published by Women's International Network News.

Female Genital Mutilation -

Strategies For Eradication (Continued)

The Catholic Church has sanctioned the genital mutilation of all female children of its converts on those grounds since the 17th century when the Pope sent a medical mission to Ethiopia.

genitalia are ugly and must be removed to make her accepta- ble to a man. Hypertrophy of the clitoris - by which is meant an unus- ual enlargement of that organ - is cited as reason for exci- sion in Ethiopia and also in parts of igeria. The Catholic Church has sanctioned the genital mutilation of all female children of its converts on those grounds since the 17th century when the Pope sent a medical mission to Ethiopia. Health reasons are often cited, especially in urban areas where the traditional myths are forgotten. Cleanliness is the reason given also by middle class women in areas as far apart as Cairo and Bamako.

A Iso, in Sudan, genital mutilations are connected with cleanliness and is called "Tahur" which in Arabic means purity. A woman is considered dirty andpolluted unless she is mutilated The same is often said in Somalia.

Obviously, all of the myths are designed to justify and continue the female genital mutila- tions, from which men derive power and con- trol over women as a group.

Many of the reasons given by local populations are quite similar, though they have been arrived at quite independ- ently, as no connection or communication exists between the population groups involved. Most of these myths are pro- moted by men, which once more documents the amazing world-wide similarity of male attitudes concerning female sexuality. Obviously, all of the myths are designed to justify and continue the female genital mutilations, from which men derive power and control over women as a group. This is, of course, the real reason why these operations continue today, and why they are being rapidly introduced into the modern sector throughout the African continent with the collusion of Western men, and especially the male-domi- nated health system. Though the social rites and ceremo- nies are minimized or forgotten, the surgery continues: and a lot of money can be made from this. The genital mutilations are now performed on much younger children especially in the towns, as it is feared by men that the girls will resist once they go to school. Even in areas where traditionally the operations were a coming-of- age custom, they are now done on very young children, sometimes a few years old, or even shortly after birth. The stated purpose of the operation - introduction to adult life - has disappeared. Nevertheless, the mutilations con- tinue to be practiced even in families of government officials

The genital mutilations are now performed on much younger children especially in the towns, as it is feared by' men that the girls will resist once they go to school.

Figure 2: Tribal Genital Mutilation. A later scene from Figure 1 showing the raw bloody flesh of the excised genital area.

and political leaders where many of the men have been to European or Western universities. The reasons given by these men are "tradition" - yet the men have rejected all African traditions for their own Westernized personal lives.

The patriarchal family structure and ideology of male supremacy supported by religion provides the under-pinning for genital mutilations both past and present.

The patriarchal family structure and ideology of male supremacy supported by religion provides the under-pinning for genital mutilations both past and present. It is well recog-

nized that religious beliefs are invariably cited to support the "necessity" for having the genitals of daughters excised

and/or infibulated. The operations are practiced by animists

- those who believe in ancestor worship - stating that "the

ancestors decreed these operations and their wishes must be followed." They are practiced by Moslems - indeed in the Sudan and also in West Africa the local sheiks and mara- bouts claim that excision or infibulation is a required or "preferable" Moslem rite. But Egyptian Moslem religious authorities at the recognized El Azhar University state there is no requirement for female genital mutilation in the Koran. Male circumcision, however, is an absolute command. Excision and infibulation are practiced by Christians of all denominations. As stated earlier the Papacy of the Roman Catholic Church has officially supported the genital mutila- tions ever since a medical mission was sent from Rome to Ethiopia in the 18th Century which declared that genital mutilations are "necessary."

(Continued on next page)

But Egyptian Moslem religious authorities at the recognized EI Azhar University state there is no requirement, for female genital mutilation in the Koran. Male circumcision, however, is an absolute command.

Female Genital Mutilation -

Strategies For Eradication (Continued)


Figure 3: Tribal Genital Mutilation. The pain and shock of a young girl as she stands up after her external genitalia have been cut away.

Thefollowers of the Ethiopian Christian Church and the Copts in Egypt (more than 7 million adherents) have always mutilated the genitals of their female children.

Indeed, all religions (with the exception of the Scottish Protestant Church in Kenya in the 1920s) have actively supported or tolerated the mutilation of girls to make them pliable subjects of the dominant patriarchal community that vests all rights in the males. There is no doubt that genital mutilation does permanent life-long physical and psychological damage to women. The full impact of the often terrible psychological consequences have never been systematically investigated though it is known that numer-

ous young women commit suicide, as for instance reported in Burkina Faso.

Patriarchal Religions - there are no others in Africa/The Middle East - provide the intellec- tual basis for men to keep their power and privi- leges in society. Who is going to question "the hol~ religious beliefs expressed by men?

Patriarchal Religions - there are no others in Afri- ca/The Middle East - provide the intellectual basis for men to keep their power and privileges in society. Who is going to question "the holy religious beliefs expressed by men? Certainly not women - the vast majority in Africa and the Middle East are still illiterate (in some countries up to 90%). And men from Western countries especially those concerned with development, have been warned by the militant male politicians to keep hands off their "culture" which in Africa and the Middle East sanctions polygamy, wife beating (the diameter of the stick is specified in some countries), the bride price (selling of young girls into mar- riage by their fathers), unilateral divorce, child marriage and female genital mutilations. Over the centuries and due to their isolation, women have come to believe that the mutilation of their genitals are "necessary." Indeed, many women think that they are

Over the centuries and due to their isolation, women have come to believe that the mutilation of their genitals are "necessary."

done all over the world. Thus, they are accepted as "natural." Some African women even now cannot believe that the operations are not done in other parts of the world.

The wholesale support ofcultural traditions by anthropol- ogists without critical evaluations of the often terrible dam- age done to the most vulnerable members ofeach community


children, especially female children and women -


completely irresponsible. There is hardly a major develop- ment program in Africa by the U.S. Agency for International Development - especially in health -that does not consult an anthropologist. I have frequently run into those "devel- opment advisers" who impose their ethnocentric views on multi-million dollar health programs in Africa. As a result, the terrible health damage done to girls and women by tradi- tional practices is ignored because it is the "culture." I testified repeatedly before Congressional Committees - especially those concerned with appropriations for Foreign Aid to attract attention to the health needs of women, especially in Africa, about the modernization of female genital mutila- tions which are a violation of human rights. I stated in my Congressional testimony, "My research in Africa shows that genital mutilations are increasingly per- formed in the modern sector in Africa, including hospitals, often on small babies, stripped of all traditional rites. This is a gross abuse of modern medicine. As Editor of WIN NEWS, I must advise this Committee that frequently health equip- ment, tools and training contributed by the U.S. and other Western donors is used to mutilate female children. Speaking for American women and taxpayers, I strenuously object to the use of U.S. monies and contributions to carry out sexual castrations - that is clitoridectomies and infi bulations - on non-consenting children in Africa and the Middle East."

African women have now started to organize to fight against these terrible genital mutilations in a systematic way.

The desire for modernization and especially all kinds of imported equipment and tools, especially by men, provides a unique opportunityfor men to teach their African broth- ers that these genital mutilations are not acceptable. Only

men can reach their African counterparts on this subject

- especially since sexuality is involved, to teach them the

biological facts in a persuasive way and from their own experience. Unfortunately, no one has ever really tried to reach African men who make all the decisions in each family about the truth regarding female genital mutila- tions. Men also have been left out where family planning

programs are concerned - which are all imported by Development and Population experts. As a result, family planning in Africa has and is failing. It is up to the male development and health advisers and all those who have contact with African men - for instance, the way many students from Africa at Western

(Continued on next page)

Female Genital Mutilation -

Strategies For Eradication (Continued)

Universities - to talk to them about excision and infibula- tion and to explain to them why these genital mutilations are unacceptable. But unfortunately, such educational programs have not been tried. African women have now started to organize to fight against these terrible genital mutilations in a systematic way. The Inter-African Committee was created in 1984, five years after the ground breaking seminar, organized by WHO, on the "Traditional Practices Affecting the Health of Women and Children" held in Khartoum, Sudan. As a temporary adviser to WHO - the sponsor of the meeting - I provided an overview of female child genital mutilations around the globe. This meeting opened up the international discussion on female genital mutilations which had been a tabu subject until then. That was in 1979. The seminar attracted world-wide attention with delegations and observers from the health departments of nine African and Middle Eastern countries, as well as many Sudanese physi- cians and health officials. Unfortunately, limited action fol- lowed this seminar.

Figure 4: Tribal Genital Mutilation. A pre-pubertal male has his foreskin stretched far over the glans where the tip of the foreskin is cut away. This form of circumci- sion is one of the more benign procedures which pro- duced little blood flow (as could be detected from the film) and is substantially less painful and traumatic than the genital mutilation of the pre-pubertal girls.

Four recommendations were unanimously voted by the delegates at the end of this fateful meeting:

• Adoption of clear national policies for the abolishment of female circumcision;

• Establishment of national commissions to coordinate and follow up the activities of other bodies involved including, where appropriate, the enactment oflegisla- tion prohibiting female circumcision;

• Intensification of general education of the public, including health education at all levels, with special emphasis on the dangers and the undesirability of female circumcision;

• Intensification of education programs for traditional birth attendants, midwives, healers and other practi-

tioners of traditional medicine, to demonstrate the harmful effects of female circumcision, with a view to enlisting their support along with general efforts to abolish this practice. The Inter-African Committee, formed in 1984 at an inter- national meeting and headed by Berhane Ras-Work, by now has affiliated National Committees in 14 African countries and has offices in Addis Ababa (at the ECA - Economics Commission of Africa) and Geneva. They held several over- flow meetings at the 1985 UN Decade Conference for Women in Nairobi and have published an "Action Plan"that provides an excellent set of guidelines for the National Com- mittees to follow - who have held meetings in many African countries. A ground breaking International Seminar on "Strategies to Bring About Change" was held in June 1988, in Mogadishu, to draw world attention to the Somalian 01mpaigne to Erad- icate Infibulation - which was started two years ago. The SWDO (Somali Women's Democratic Organization), jointly with AIDoS (The Italian Association for Women in Development) has organized a national campaign, fully sup- ported by the Somalian Government, to eradicate these dam- aging traditional practices. Indeed, every department of the Somalian Government is involved in this national initiative led by the outspoken president of the SW DO, Muraio Garad Ahmed, who wields considerable political power. AIDoS, led by Daniela Colombo and with the assistance of the Italian Government, has worked jointly with the SWDO in Somalia to develop viable strategies and extensive teaching aids for all different kinds of programs addressed to different sectors of the population. The secrecy surrounding infibulation has only recently begun to be lifted in Somalia. It took considerable courage for the SWDO to take up this issue. Thanks to the persever- ance of its leadership, it now has become a national campaign supported not only by the health ministry, but also by all other ministries, especially education. The campaign to erad- icate female child genital mutilation is going on in all the schools; it is discussed on the radio and TV. Indeed, no occasion is missed to create awareness among the population about the damage done by infibulation. All families are urged to stop having their daughters "done." This international seminar had been preceded by a national meeting which had developed a program of action for the joint SWDO-AIDoS Information Campaign. At the interna- tional seminar in Mogadishu, many influential national and international leaders gave speeches at the opening and closing sessions in the great hall of the Parliament. The speakers included a representative of the President of Somalia, the Minister of Health, the SWDO President, the Italian Ambas- sador, representatives of UNICEF, WHO, AIDoS and others. Delegates from several African countries, including Egypt, Sudan, The Gambia and igeria presented outlines about the successful campaigns and strategies to eradicate female child genital mutilations in their countries. Egypt, with a program sponsored by the Cairo Family Planning Association, led by Aziza Kamel, has the most extensive experience in conduct- ing a multitude of successful grassroots initiatives. From

(Continued on next page)

Circumcision: The Legal and Constitutional Issues

by Charles A. Bonner and Michael J. Kinane


Circumcision has origins dating back 4,000-5,000 years, to a time before Abraham and his covenant with God to circum- cise his people. Through the ages, civilization has witnessed numerousforms of child abuse enjoying significant popular- ity, including sterilizations, female circumcision, infanticide, ritual sacrifice, binding of the feet, and ritual piercing and

mutilations. While almost 80% of the world's populations have ceased or avoided the ritual of circumcision, nearly 60% of American infant males and the majority of Moslems and

Jews still suffer this mutilation.

With the exception ofJews, for whom circumci- sion has long been a tribal sign, widespread cir- cumcision in the United States appears to be largely a late nineteenth-century development.

Anthropologists, psychologists, and psychiatrists have offered a variety of explanations for the practice: enhanced

sexual performance, decreased sexual pleasure to prevent moral degeneration, social prestige, sacrifice to fertility gods, tribal signs, tests for endurance, reincarnation, and hygienic reasons. However, with the exception of Jews, for whom circumcision has long been a tribal sign, widespread circum- cision in the Unit.ed States appears to be largely a late nineteenth-century development. For non-Jews, it serves neither as a~means of tribal integration, or separa.tion and identification, nor as an initiation rite to establish male iden- tity. The customary justificationfor male genital mutilation is hygienic, but it seems to have been primarily grounded in anti-masturbation hysteria of the late 1800s andjlourished following mass military circumcisions during WWlI. (23

FAML 337).


Circumcision, as an unnecessary medical treatment, raises four major legal issues, beyond the traditonal malpractice

cause of action for a negligent


1. Do parents have the authority, constitutional or statu- tory, to consent to unnecessary medicalsurgeryfor theil infant son?

2. What is the extent of the State's interest in protecting children from unnecessary surgery?

3. What is the standardfor third party consent to intrusive surgery?

4. What civil or criminalremedies are available to victims of circumcision?


Decisions regarding child rearing, care and education have been recognized as being entitled to protection as a funda- mental right of personal liberty under the Constitution. [Walen v. Roe (1977) 429 U.S. 589,599-600; Peoplev. Privit- era (1979) 23 Cal. 3d 697, 702; In re Roger S. (1977) 19 Cal. 3d

921,928.] However, this parental duty and right is subject to limitations "if it appears that parental decisions will jeopard- ize the health or safety of the child, or have a potential for significant social burdens." [Wisconsin v. Yoder (1972) 406 U.S. 205, 234; Peoplev. Privitera, supra, 703; In re Roger S., supra, 928.] If these conditions are present the state may assert important interests in safeguarding health and safety

and in maintaining medical standards. [Roe v

Wade (1973)

410 U.S. 113, 153-154; People v. Privitera, supra, 703.] In Privitera, the Supreme Court recently held that when impor- tant interests of health and safety are involved the State's

regulations shall be tested under the rational basis test. [Peo- ple v. Privitera, supra, 702, fn. 2, 703.]

A parents' right to consent to medical treatment is not

statutory in California, butl rather derives from the common law. In Kate's School v. Department of Health (1979) 155 Cal. Rptr. 529, - a case regarding a parents' right to pres- cribe their treatment of choice for their mentally disordered children, the court held that "the regulation of intrusive and possibly hazardous forms of treatment of mentally disor- dered children, such as involved in behavior modification therapy through corporal punishment, is a proper exercise of the states' police power and bears a rational relation to the

state's interest in the protection of the health and safety ofthe


consent to treatment are not unlimited. Surgical removal of an infant'sforeskin, without medicaljustification, presents a more serious threat to the health and safety of the child than corporalpunishment, thereby justifying exercise ofthe state's police power.

" This decision establishes that parents' rights to

In an unpublished 1987 decision of the Court of Appeal,

1st District, No. A032040, London v. Glassner et aI., petition

for review denied, parental consent to "any

treatment" is found to be without apparent limitation, regard- less of purpose. Civil Code §25.8 cited as authority for this decision provides: "Either parent if both parents have legal custody, or the parent or person having legal custody or the legal guardian, of a minor may authorize in writing any adult person into whose care the minor has been entrusted to consent to ANY X-ray examination, anesthetic, MEDICAL OR SURGICAL diagnosis or TREATMENT and hospital care to be rendered to the minor under the general or special supervision and UPON THE ADVICE OF A PHYSICIAN AND SURGEON licensed under the provisions of the Medi- cal Practice Act or to consent to an X-ray examination, anesthetic, dental or surgical diagnosis or treatment and hospital care to be rendered to the minor by a dentist licensed under the provisions of the Dental Practice Act." (emphasis added.) This court then held "(a) circumcision is a medical, surgical treatment," rejecting plaintiffs public policy argu- ment that children should be protected from suffering unjus- tifiable pain or risk - based on the premise that parents cannot consent to surgical procedures which have no medical purpose." While this section does not specifically grant any direct authority for parental consent, the trial court found the legislative history was to extend the common law/authority of parents.

(Continued on next page)





Circumcision: The Legal and ConstitutionaHssues (Continued)

Infants, legally mentally incompetent, are there- fore protected from nonrequired medical treat- ment under the Probate Code.

The London decision is unsupported and contradicted by the California Supreme Court's decision in Conservatorship

of Valerie N. v. Valerie N. (1985) 219 Cal. Rptr. 387). The case deals with the rights of parents of a mentally incompetent adult to consent to sterilization, a recognized medical treat- ment. The court found that the parents as "conservators, were not entitled to have conservatee, who was unable to consent to sterilization, sterilized inasmuch as there was neither evi-

dence of necessity

means were not presently

available to conservatee." This ~ourt further holds "

those medical procedures permitted after court authorization the Legislature has required ajudicial determination that the condition of the conservatee 'require the recommended course of medical treatment'" as provided in Cal. Probate Code section 2357, subd. (h)(I). Infants, legally mentally incompetent, are therefore protected from nonrequired med- ical treatments under the Probate Code.

nor sufficient evidence that less intrusive

as to

The State's interest in an infant's First Amend- ment constitutional rights of Safety, Liberty, Privacy, and Happiness exceed the State's inter- est in protecting parents' constitutional rights.


The State's interest in circumcision, beyond financial con- siderations of Medi-Cal coverage and the maintenance of ethical medical standards and procedures, involve the protec- tion of an infant's constitutional rights to Liberty, Privacy, Safety, and Happiness under the California Constitution Article I, the Federal protection against arbitrary deprivation of Due Process and Equal Protection under the Fourteenth Amendment, and the violation of criminal statutes against child and sexual abuse. The State's interest in an infant's First Amendment consti- tutional rights to Safety, Liberty, Privacy, and Happiness exceed the State's interest in protecting parents' constitu- tional rights. Parental rights to the custody and control of their minor children are as old as civilization itself. Modern judges refer to parents' custodial rights as "sacred," as a matter of "natural law" and as "inherent natural rights, for the protection of which, just as much as for the protection of the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, our government is formed." 23 ]FAML 337. The generalized claims of parental constitutional rights have not been without challenge; courts aLall levels of the judicial hierarchy have occasionally intruded into the family relationship to protect children. Ibid. The most important Supreme Court cases reflecting state and judicial intervention are Prince v. Massa- chusetts, 321 U.S. 158 (1944), and the cases involving the rights ofteenage females to have abortions, Bellotti v. Baird,

443 U.S. 622 (1979); Carey v. Population Service Interna- tional, 431 U.S. 678 (1977). Ibid. The essence of the Prince decision is captured in the statement that "parents may befree to become martyrs themselves. But it does notJoUow they are

to make martyrs oj their children beJore they have

reached the age oj full and legal discretion when they can

make that choiceJor themselves. " Prince, supra, 170. Under Yoder, supra, 234, parental authority and discretion may be

challenged "if it appears that parental decisions will jeopard-

ize the health or safety ofthe child

" This demonstrates that

the child's right to safety overcomes parental constitutional rights.

"The preservation of one's bodily reproductive functions is a fundamental right, and the termi- nation thereof constitutes a serious invasion of the sanctity of the person."


In California, Valerie N., supra, the court held that "The

recognized individual Liberty in things of the

body as a touchstone," (Note, Due Process Privacy and the path of progress (1979) U.III. L. Forum 469, 504-505, 515; see Union Pacific R. Co. v. Botsford (1981) 141 U.S. 250,251- 252 (common law right of personal injury plaintiff to be free of compulsory physical examination), cited in Roe v. Wade (1973) 410 U.S. IB, 152; Schmerberv. California (1966) 384 U.S. 757, 778-779 (dis. opn. of Douglas); Breithaupt v. Abram (1957) 352 U.S. 432, 441-442 (dis. opn. of. Warren, C.] .); Id., at 443-443 (dis. opn. of Douglas,].). "The preserva- tion of one's bodily reproductive functions is a fundamental

right, and the termination thereof constitutes a serious inva- sion of the sanctity of the person." Guardianship of Tulley (1978) 83 Cal. App. 3d 698, 705. "Liberty means more than freedom from servitude, and the constitutional guarantee is an assurance that the citizen shall be protected in the right to use his powers of mind and bpdy in any lawful calling." Smith v. Texas (1914) 233 U.S. 630, 636. "Although the Court has not assumed to define 'liberty' with any great precision, that term is not confined to mere freedom from bodily restraint. Liberty under the law extends to the full range of conduct which the individual is free to pursue, and it cannot be restricted except for a proper governmental objective." (BoI- ling v. Sharpe (1954) 347 U.S. 497, 499-500. There is no proper government objective which justifies restricting the infant's right to keep his bodily parts intact and enjoy a full range of use of his sexual organs.

There is no proper government objective which justifies restricting the infant's right to keep his bodily parts intact and enjoy a full range of use of his sexual organs.

courts have

In the California discussion of sterilization of mental incompetents, Valerie N., supra, it cites with approval In Matter of Guardianship of Hayes (198) 93 Wash. 2d 228 where the Washington court concluded: "In the rare case

sterilization may be indeed in the best interest of the retarded

However, the court must exercise care to protect

the individual's right ofPRIVACY, and thereby not unneces-

(Continued on next page)





Circumcision: The Legal and Constitutional Issues (Continued)

sarily invade that right. Substantial medical evidence must be

adduced, and the burden on the proponent

by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that such a proced- ure is in the best interest of the retarded person." Valerie N.,

will be shown

supra, goes on to find that it is necessary to "preserve the right "

to be free of intrusive medical and surgical procedures The State's interest in protecting an infant's rights to due

process and equal protection is derived from the incompe- tency of his age and the accident of birth, his sex. To deprive a baby boy of his constitutional rights of Liberty, Safety, Pri- vacy and Happiness must serve a "compelling state interest."

While ensuring the constitutionalrights ofparents in care and child rearing is an important state interest, that interest is subordinated to the child's when the parental discretion may

jeopardize the health or safety of that child A reasonable method to protect a child's due process rights, would be to provide for ajudicial hearing, with the child represented by a disinterested guardian ad litem, to insure the necessity of a

medical procedure risking the health and safety of the incom- petent minor. See Hayes, supra. In order to justify routine circumcisions for male infants which are not required or allowed for femakinfants, requires a "compelling state inter- est" to meet established equal protection analysis require-

ments. No state interest of any kind is served by the policy of sexually discriminatory routine circumcisions, and it there- fore violtiLes both the State and Federal Equal Protection clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment.



Hayes, supra, cited with approval in Valerie N., supra, provides a reasonable framework establishing a standard for third party consent to intrusive medical and surgical proced-

ures. While H ayes and Valerie concern cases of sterilization is medically indicated as the last and best resort for the individ- ual. Can it be shown by clear, cogent and convincing evi- dence, for example that other methods of birth control are

"The decision can only be

made in a superior court proceeding in which (I) the incom- petent individual is represented by a disinterested guardian ad litem, (2) the court has received independent advice based upon a comprehensive medical, psychological, and socia'

evaluation of the individual, and (3) to the greatest extent possible, the court has elicted and taken into account the view of the incompetent individual." "Within this framework, the judge must first find by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the individual is (I) incapable of making his or her own

, and (2) unlikely to develop sufficiently to make

in theforseeablefuture." "Next, it

must be proved by clear, cogent and convincing evidence that

inapplicable or unworkable?"


an informed judgement

there is a need

The judge must find clear, cogent and convincing evidence (I)

have been proved unworkable

or inapplicable, and (2) the proposed method

least invasion ofthe body of the individual. Valerie N., supra,


all less drastic

entails the

" "Finally, there must be no alternative


Neonatal circumcision shares sufficient characteristics with sterilization of mental incompetents to justify utilizing the same standards to approve third party consent. Both practices remove a natural, healthy part of the anatomy without therapeutic necessity, in an irreversible procedure. Both restrict the full and complete enjoyment of the repro- ductive organs. Both have a tradition of government sup- ported abuse. Both force the acceptance of an involuntary risk of surgical complications and death. Both restrict the patient's individual constitutional rights to Privacy, Liberty, Safety, Happiness, Due Process, and Equal Protection. The primary difference between thirdparty ~onsentin the cases of neonatal circumcision and involuntary sterilizations of incompetents is that infants will one day be competent to make their own choices.

This justification for granting third party consent for circumcision can not survive review.

The court in Valerie, supra, 448, justifies the necessity of granting a third party consent for mental incompetents to protect their constitutional right to procreative choice. "We do not pretend that the choice of the (incompetent's) parents, her guardian ad litem, or a court is her own choice. But it is one designed to further the same interests she might pursue had she the ability to decide herseIf." In re Grady, supra, 426 A.2d at 481. This justification for granting third party consent for circumcision can not survive review.

An operation or medical procedure without valid consent constitutes battery and false imprisonment.


Critical to the issue of civil liability, absent medical neg- ligence, is the lack of actual or "informed consent." The well recognized legal incompetence of an infant precludes direct or personal consent. An operation or medical proced- ure without valid consent constitutes battery .and false im- prisonment. (See Rainer v. Community Memorial Hospital. (1971) 18 Cal. App. 3d 240, 255; City of Newport Beach v. Sasse (1970) 9 Cal. App. 3d 803, 810.) Third party consent to a surgical procedure can be granted with validity, conditional upon the circumstances, by a parent, guardian ad litem, or the courts. (See Valerie N., 219 Cal. Rptr. 387) The substituted consent doctrine is often invoked to permit consent by parents or guardians for surgery on an incompetent conserva- tee or minor. (See Probate Code §2353, 2355,2357) However, "even as to those intrusive medical procedures permitted after court authorization, the Legislature has required a judicial determination that the condition of the conservatee 'RE- QUIRES THE RECOMMENDED COURSE OF MEDI- CAL TREATMENT.'''(emphasis added) (Valerie N., Supra, 452.) Civil Code §25.8 which generally provides a right for parents to extend consent for any medical treatment ren- dered, UPON THE ADVICE OF A PHYSICIAN AND SURGEON must meet the same standard as specified under the Probate Code, that is the child "requires the recom- mended course of medical treatment."

(Continued on the next page)




Circumcision: The Legal and Constitutional Issues (Continued)

The Code of Medical Ethics prohibits a physician from advising unnecessary medical or surgical treatment.

The Code of Medical Ethics prohibits a physician from advising unnecessary medical or surgical treatment. The

AA P has declared there is "no absolute medical indication for routine circumcision." Certainly, ifthere is a recognized med- ical indication for an individual neonatal circumcision, the attending physician would have no difficulty advising that the procedure is required. This medical determination and advice would allow the parents, guardians, or court to make a valid "informed consent" on the part of the minor, for the surgical procedure of circumcision. Absent a recognized medical indi- cation and physician advice, no third party would be in a position to make a valid "informed consent." Absent a valid "informed consent" the physician and those assisting (par- ents, staff, hospital) in the non-consensua~intentional con- finement and operation on a minor can be held liable for

battery and false imprisonment.

The civil law presently offers more fruitful avenues of approach to prevent genital mutilations.

Suits for damages against surgeons, hospitals, and con- ceiva bly parents, are possible because malice in the sense of iii will or a desire to cause injury is not essential to sustain a recovery for intentional wrong doing. It is enough for the plaintiff to show that the defendant knowingly and intention- ally did the act which caused the damage and that damage was substantially certain to follow. The limitation posed by suits for negligence in this area is grounded in societally determined assumptions and expectations. which are slowly changing to recognize circumcision as mutilations. (See 23 JFAML 337)

Once it is shown that a childhas been subject to an injury to his sexual organ, without valid "informed consent" or medi- calnecessity, a case may be madefor enforcement ofexisting state laws prohibiting assault and battery, conspiracy to

assault and batter, child abuse, and sexual abuse. However it will be extremely difficult to get a conviction, since circumci- sion is not culturally acknowledged as child abuse at the present time. Additionally, in some jurisdictions it may be difficult to establish the requisite criminal intent. For this reason, the civil law presently offers more fruitful avenues of approach to prevent genital mutilations.

Perhaps a promising approach would be a civil rights classdaction against hospitals designed to prevent routine

neonatal circumcisions, that is, in cases where circumcision is not medically warranted. A class action suit wouldfocus on the individuals most culpable since competent surgeons are aware that routine neonatal circumcision is not good medical

practice. It would also avoid the constitutional issues of parental rights, as well as religious issues, since the Orthodox Jewish circumcision ceremony is not normally performed in medical centers by medical personnel. (23 JF AML 337)



Charles A. Bonner, J.D. is in private practice in San Fran- cisco, California, with a -speciality in personal injury and medical malpractice.

Michael J. Kinane is a law student at the Hastings School of Law, San Francisco, California.

The Politics of Reproductive Ritual

Karen Ericksen Paige and Jeffery M. Paige

"The single most important work on the subject to date."

- Morris Zelditch, Jr.

"A welcome addition. They argue that rituals of reproduction in preindustrial societies are essentially political. In these societies, they say, men need to control the reproductive power of women in order to establish political power; where there is no law or central government, ritual is used as a way of gaining control. The type of ritual will vary, they conclude, accord~

ing to the economic base of the society

those who are interested in the subject, this book is indispensable. Its thesis is challenging and the documentation is excellent. Paige and Paige have made an essential contribution to a long debate, and their theory is sure to stir new

and lively controversy." _ Science Digest


University of California Press

Berkeley -

Los Angeles -


Berkeley, CA 94720





by John Duffy

It was not until the second half of the 19th century that masturbation became one of general concern.

I In the early 19th century perceptive physicians were becoming increasingly dubious of the traditional medical
I theories and began turning to clinical experience. Unfortu- nately, lacking an understanding of physiology and with no knowledge of bacteriology, they were frustrated in their attempts to prevent or cure disease. In desperation physicians intensified their use of the traditional therapeutics - bleed- ing, blistering, vomiting, purging and sweating, heroic ther- apy which only served to increase public suspicion of the profession. Seeking to compensate for their inability to deal with disease, physicians increasingly began assuming the role of moral leaders. In the process they seized upon issues such as abortion and masturbation. The prudishness of Victorians and veil of silence they cast over sexuality is well known, but what is not so well known is their preoccupation with masturbation. Little attention had been given to masturbation until late in the 18th century, and it was not until the second half of the 19th century that masturbation became one of general concern. It first came to public attegtion through the efforts of a few moralists, but it was not until the medical profession, seeking to bolster its status in society, transformed the moral question of mastur- bation into a medical condition that it became a significant issue. In the case of males, the apprehensions about masturba- tion were engendered by a widespread assumption that the loss of semen endangered the brain and nervous system. In America the superintendent of the Massachusetts Lunatic Asylum gave credence to this belief when in his 1848 annual report he asserted that 32 per cent of admissions were for "self-pollution," one of several euphemisms for masturba- tion. Reflecting in part the Victorian preoccupation with sexuality, by the late 19th century medicaljournals in Europe and America were attributing almost every conceivable med- ical condition to this "secret vice."



Loss of semen was considered a real danger to males

Since loss of semen was considered a real danger to males, J then it followed that nocturnal emissions were equally hazardous. To solve both ofthese problems, a whole array of mechanical devices were constructed. They included such items as strait jackets, genital cages, and penis rings with sharp points on the inside. Most of these objects were devised by laymen, but the medical profession, which has generally reflected prevailing beliefs, was not to be outdone. Young men driven by guilt who sought a physician's help, or who confessed to masturbation under close questioning by their physician, were treated with blistering agents, mild acid solu- tions, or leeches applied to the genitals. Bloodletting and cutting the foreskin were also used in serious cases. 1 In at

least one extreme case, at the request of a desperate patient who feared for his sanity, his physician castrated him. The physician in his report of the case declared that the patient was gaining weight, somewhat lethargic, but morally sound. Reprehensible as was masturbation among males, it was an even graver problem among Victorian females, who were viewed as delicate, sensitive, frail, and emotional creatures. In response to an article in a local paper urging the medical regulation of prostitutes, the editor of the New Orleans Medi- cal and Surgical Journal began by pointing out that the morality of American women was much higher than that of women in other countries. Most prostitutes in New Orleans, he observed, were foreigners. Having settled this point, he turned to "onanism" or masturbation, a practice "very injudi- cious to the health of both males and females." Men, he wrote, occasionally admitted to it, but the case with women was far different.

"In my opinion, neither theplague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor a crowd of similar evils have resulted more disastrously for humanity, than the habit of masturbation: it is the destroying element of civilized society. "

To ask for or expect information from adult females about this practice, he wrote, "is altogether useless and vain, although many of their diseases, as leucorrhoea, uterine hae- morrhage, falling of the womb, cancer, functional disorders of the heart, spinal irritation, palpitation, hysteria, convul- sions, haggard features, emaciation, debility, mania - many symptons called nervous - un triste tableau. have been referred to masturbation as the cause." Even ifthese disorders did not originate in masturbation, he continued, "its practice would certainly aggravate them." The editorial concluded with a quote from a French physician: "In my opinion, neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor a crowd of similar evils have resulted more disastrously for humanity, than the habit of masturbation: it is the destroying element of civilized society." 2

Dr. Isaac Brown Baker, who claimed success in treating epilepsy and other nervous disorders in female patients by excising the clitoris.

In 1866 an American medical journal discussed the work of a British physician, Dr. Isaac Brown Baker, who claimed success in treating epilepsy and other nervous disorders in female patients by excising the clitoris. After noting that the great mass of English medical opinion was strongly opposed to Baker's ideas and had "unqualifiedly condemned" his operation, the American editor concurred with the English medical profession, declaring that to remove the clitoris "to allay sexual irritability is about as unphilosophical as to remove the analogous organ of the male." 4

(Continued on next page)