What mother hasn't, in the halcyon days after the birth of a son, felt her ferocious she-wolf instincts kick in when it comes time for her boy to be circumcised? Having perhaps suffered violence to her genitals during the birth, the physical ache to all that is vulnerable in her world can seem unbearable. And then it is done, and life goes on.
Anti-circumcision activists would have us believe that life does not in fact go on, that boys grow into men whose sexual pleasure (and that of the women they love) is compromised by this act of "genital mutilation." While increasing numbers are swayed by both argument and sentiment, I'm stupefied by the controversy.
Male sexual pleasure is not my highest priority, having rarely witnessed a lack thereof. Nor is my own, if in fact I'm speaking out of my ignorance of the delight foreskin can deliver. What I am concerned about is sky-rocketing rates of sexually transmitted diseases, and the gender inequality evident in these rates.
A 2008 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study estimates that 25 percent of American women ages 14-19 are infected with at least one of the four most common STDs. Eighteen percent of them have human papilloma virus (HPV), which can cause genital warts and cervical cancer. Four percent have chlamydia, which, if left untreated, can lead to Pelvic inflammatory disease and sterility. Chlamydia can also be passed from mother to baby during vaginal birth, and is reported to occur in women at three times the rate it occurs in men. Furthermore, nearly half (48 percent) of African American women in this age group were infected with an STD, compared with 20 percent of white women.
Based on multiple studies suggesting that male circumcision reduces the risk of STDs, ...1
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