Circumcision of Infants and Children: Short-Term Trauma and Long-Term Psychosexual Harm
Abstract: Non-therapeutic infant male circumcision is a permanent surgical alteration to the penis that may cause significant physical, sexual and psychological harm. Physical harms include unintended adverse effects of the surgery itself (e.g., complications such as bleeding, infection, excessive re- moval of foreskin leaving insufficient shaft skin to accommodate erections, etc.), as well as the inherent loss of healthy, functional tissue. Sexual harms that necessarily follow from circumcision include the loss of all sensation in the foreskin itself, and the loss of all sexual functions that involve the physical manipulation of the foreskin. Additional sexual harms that may follow cir- cumcision include reduced sexual sensation in the remaining penile structures, difficulty with masturbation, increased chafing in both the circumcised man and his sexual partner, as well as reduced overall psychosexual/psychological tension relief and subjective satisfaction. Psycho- logical harms include short-term trauma as well as the potential for long-term emotional distur- bances, including sadness, frustration, distress, and anger―akin to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). In this paper, the extent and severity of these various harms are considered and it is argued that they are more serious and more widespread than is commonly believed.