Argument: The circumcised perpetuate the practice in a form of denial

Issue Report: Infant male circumcision


“Circumcision of Boys Alters Human Behavior”. Doctors Opposing Circumcision. Opposing Views – Male circumcision is (1) a traumatic operation and (2) the loss of a functional body part. Persons who have lost body parts must grieve their loss of function. Failure to grieve the loss of the foreskin function results in a cohort of men who are in denial about their loss and who need to maintain their denial. Traumatized persons tend to reenact and repeat their trauma. The compulsion to repeat the trauma and the emotional need to deny the loss results in a large cohort of circumcised men who seek to perpetuate the practice of non-therapeutic circumcision. Such men become the ‘adamant fathers’ who insist on circumcising their sons despite medical evidence that the operation is injurious. Circumcised doctors tend to be biased in favor of circumcision. A baby is more likely to be circumcised if the father and/or attending physician is circumcised.

Australia currenly is experiencing a backlash against genital integrity. The Australian Paediatric Association recommended non-circumcision—genital integrity—in 1971; thereafter, the incidence of circumcision among Australia’s newborn plummeted. At the present time, in regard to genital integrity status, Australia is, in effect, two nations, one of which has mostly circumcised men and the other that has mostly intact men. The dividing point is the year 1978, because the incidence of genital integrity among newborn boys rose above 50 percent in that year. The ever-increasing percentage of genitally intact younger men in the population is causing increasing anxiety and distress among some older circumcised males. There now is a peculiar phenomenon happening in Australia, where one sees middle-aged men from the circumcised generation trying to turn Australia’s medical practice back to that which prevailed before 1971. This is, of course, an attempt to defend the culture-of-origin and is carried out for the emotional reasons described here, although, as Goldman reports, pseudo-scientific reasons are advanced.

The medical literature on circumcision is voluminous and contentious. Circumcised doctors create papers that overstate benefits and minimize harms and risks. When these doctors publish such claims, other doctors come forward to refute them. The result is an unending debate driven by the emotional compulsion of circumcised men. The best way to end the debate is to stop the emotional injury to men that results from medically-unnecessary non-therapeutic child circumcision. To stop behavior change, boys should not be circumcised.

Bessel A. van der Kolk, MD. “The Compulsion to Repeat the Trauma”. Psychiatric Clinics of North America. June 1989. – During the formative years of contemporary psychiatry much attention was paid to the continuing role of past traumatic experiences on the current lives of people. Charcot, Janet, and Freud all noted that fragmented memories of traumatic events dominated the mental life of many of their patient and built their theories about the nature and treatment of psychopathology on this recognition. Janet75 thought that traumatic memories of traumatic events persist as unassimilated fixed ideas that act as foci for the development of alternate states of consciousness, including dissociative phenomena, such as fugue states, amnesias, and chronic states of helplessness and depression. Unbidden memories of the trauma may return as physical sensations, horrific images or nightmares, behavioral reenactments, or a combination of these. Janet showed how traumatized individuals become fixated on the trauma: difficulties in assimilating subsequent experiences as well. It is “as if their personality development has stopped at a certain point and cannot expand anymore by the addition or assimilation of new elements.”76 Freud independently came to similar conclusions.43,45 Initially, he thought all hysterical symptoms were caused by childhood sexual “seduction” of which unconscious memories were activated, when during adolescence, a person was exposed to situations reminiscent of the original trauma. The trauma permanently disturbed the capacity to deal with other challenges, and the victim who did not integrate the trauma was doomed to “repeat the repressed material as a contemporary experience in instead or . . . remembering it as something belonging to the past.”44 In this article, I will show how the trauma is repeated on behavioral, emotional, physiologic, and neuroendocrinologic levels, whose confluence explains the diversity of repetition phenomena.

Many traumatized people expose themselves, seemingly compulsively, to situations reminiscent of the original trauma. These behavioral reenactments are rarely consciously understood to be related to earlier life experiences. This “repetition compulsion” has received surprisingly little systematic exploration during the 70 years since its discovery, though it is regularly described in the clinical literature.12,17,21,29,61,64,65,69,88,112,137 Freud thought that the aim of repetition was to gain mastery, but clinical experience has shown that this rarely happens; instead, repetition causes further suffering for the victims or for people in their surroundings.

Children seem more vulnerable than adults to compulsive behavioral repetition and loss of conscious memory of the trauma.70,136. However, responses to projective tests show that adults, too, are liable to experience a large range of stimuli vaguely reminiscent of the trauma as a return of the trauma itself, and to react accordingly.39,42

Re-enactment, Revictimization, and Masochism