The Trauma of Circumcision

The most common operation in the US is circumcision. This is done without an anesthetic to newborn babies usually in the first seven days of their life.

First off, studies show that babies feel pain and process pain even when in the womb. For many years doctors have assumed otherwise and have routinely operated (open heart surgery, corrective eye surgery etc etc.)  on under one year olds without any anesthetic. (In 1988 the AMA finally changed their policy). Talk about trauma!

Second, if we take the action of circumcision outside of religious context, it seems awfully barbaric. Try explaining to someone from another planet why we chop off a very sensitive part of a new born baby’s anatomy. Many in the US claim the “tradition” argument. But circumcision became a trend in the mid-eighteenth century due to a campaign to stop boys masturbating. It failed in that.

I would argue that circumcision is pure child abuse that causes stress, anxiety, encoded trauma (remember traumatic stress comes from being in a state of helplessness) and should be banned immediately. If a fully grown adult man or woman wants to mutilate their body then that’s up to them. The only way babies communicate is to cry and that is what they do when you mutilate them.

Here is a funny  clip about circumcision with serious points.

This entry was posted in Childhood Trauma, Cultural Trauma, Helplessness. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to The Trauma of Circumcision

  1. Rebecca Wald says:

    The concept of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is familiar to most, yet I have always seen it associated with adult trauma. Certainly the youngest among us–infants–can be, and are, also victims of PTSD. Circumcision is ONE of the many traumas that infants endure. I would also add restrictive swaddling, being left alone for long periods to “cry it out,” being placed on rigid feeding and sleeping schedules, and lack of meaningful parental contact to the list. Great project, looking forward to learning more. Thanks!

    • Scot Andeson says:

      I think it is important to understand that circumcision of infants ALSO causes adult trauma. The DSM IV-TR states clearly that the stressor can be the real threat of bodily harm or integrity to ANOTHER. What can be more traumatic than the ritual mutilation of an infant by a doctor? Weather the trauma is encoded in the child is only one aspect. The trauma is almost certainly encoded in the adult doctors, parents and society in general. This is the very hidden aspect of the trauma. One hidden by denial, deception and rationalization to try to cope with the true nature of the event. As a freind of mine says “Circumcision, no matter where it occurs, is about identity, gender and power. It is not about health, beauty or the benefit of the child. I guess we now have the answer to my mothers old question: If everyone else jumped off a cliff would you jump too…

  2. Scot Andeson says:

    In the April 23rd Economist, there is an article in the science section called “The Good God Guide”. In this article researchers studying 74 culture in 87 countries cataloged 645 ritual activities and found that there are two tall poles under the tent of culture and religion. Plotted on a chart with frequency vs unpleasantness we find that more cultures practice ritual with low unpleasantness very frequently and things with high unpleasantness only once in a lifetime. However, the two most common corners as practiced by the most cultures are daily-low unpleasantness AND once in a lifetime maximum unpleasantness. They then use the ritual among the Aranda tribe of aboriginals in Australia where the child is tied down, circumcised, the adults then bite him all over his body and then his urethra is slit. We find this practice to be appalling but then we participate in 1/3 of this unpleasantness with similar trauma to our culture. We in the US have little room to talk here.

    The findings of the researchers are that such harsh treatment is the sort of thing you will not forget, you will feel a strong affinity for those who have gone thru it with you and disdain for those who have not. Other tribes and women in this case. These are things that come from PTSD with war veterans feeling that only other vets can understand and all others are posers. Similarly with marine boot camp and fraternity hazing. I think my friend is correct, identity, gender and power.

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