I was nineteen or twenty years old when a male friend of mine, we’ll call him Bill, let me in on a most shocking fact: He was missing part of his penis, and so were almost all boys and men that I had ever seen in my entire life, as well as all the anatomical diagrams that I had ever seen. Ever.
Sure, I had heard of circumcision as a Jewish religious practice, but thought myself unlikely to ever see its results. Little did I know, all the male genitalia I had seen both in real life and as depicted in American anatomy books, had been edited in exactly the same way.
` The shock from this revelation overwhelmed me for weeks, especially since I considered myself to be fairly knowledgeable about anatomy. (My interests included biology and drawing biological structures.)
Why would anyone selectively remove foreskins, not just from real people but from scientific anatomical texts, which I had thought were meant to represent the natural human form?
` And why did no one ever tell me about this? It was as though a basic feature that males (of all mammals) are normally born with was not to be understood or even acknowledged.
I spent the next few weeks at the local library, immersing myself in primary and secondary source materials on the relevant anatomy, medicine and history, before I was satisfied that I had an accurate understanding of what was going on. To summarize what I had found:
` The foreskin (or prepuce) is a man’s most sensitive erogenous zone, more well-developed in humans than in other species of mammal. It has unique sexual functions (more on that later), which circumcision effectively destroys — and this is intentional:
` Although foreskin-chopping was once a purely religious or cultural practice, it was introduced to American medicine in the late 1800s, as a ‘cure-all’, thanks to the trend of pathologizing (treating as illness) normal human sexuality and healthy genitalia. …