Myth-busting Monday: RIC is common practice and medically necessary.
Nope and nope.
But let’s back step a bit. What’s RIC? – Routine infant circumcision, or the removal of the foreskin from infants with penises (this is in contrast to “female” circumcision or cutting of the clitoris or vulva).
The foreskin of the penis is functional tissue – it keeps the glans protected and moist (it is a mucosa tissue), it has immune function, it has thousands of nerve endings of various types to provide sensory function (it is the most sensitive part of the penis), and it offers pleasure not just for the penis-owner (from all of that sensory tissue) but their partner/s as well. (see https://coloradonocirc.org/foreskin/ , https://foreskinfunction.org/ , https://circumcision.org/functions-of-the-foreskin/ , and http://www.circumstitions.com/Sexuality.html#sorrells ). Foreskins add length and girth to the penis (often an obsession of penis owners – size) – they are approximately 15 sq inches in adults (http://www.noharmm.org/snip.htm ), not the quite the “little snip” that colloquially referenced.
Around 80% of the world’s men are intact (aka not circumsized), so this surgery is not common either. However, there are regions of the world where the practice is more common, such as the Middle East, areas of Africa, and the United States (http://www.cirp.org/library/general/wallerstein/ ). Where it is practiced, it is often for religious reasons (Judaism and Islam), though religious traditions are changing (see brit shalom ex https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brit_shalom_(naming_ceremony) ).
For the majority of individuals, circumcision is not medically necessary and is a cultural or religious surgery. Medical reasoning for circumcision has changed throughout the years, from circumcision as a masturbation prevention modality to current recommendations to prevent STIs (specifically HIV) and penile cancer. Some suggest that the incentives of surgery (ie making money) will produce reasons for recommending the surgery, so these will adapt to the research (new reasons if old ones are rejected) and the culture (ex. cultural reasoning that boys are tough and can handle having their genitals cut, verses “female” circumcision which is illegal in the US). However, it is important to be aware of the limited evidence of using circumcision (penile circumcision) as an HIV prevention strategy: the results are mixed, individuals still have to wear condoms for full protection, and some studies show increased transmission of HIV from circumcised penis-owners to their partners (read more here: https://www.yourwholebaby.org/hiv ). Activists against circumcision (intactivists) draw parallels between circumcision as a cancer management tool to mastectomies of babies for breast cancer prevention – it doesn’t make sense.
A significant concern of circumcision is body autonomy of the penis-owner. Even if circumcision was medically necessary, the majority of the supposed benefits would be for individuals that have made their sexual debut. Instead of waiting until penis owners are of consenting age (ie 18 years old), we circumcise infants that cannot consent to the surgical alterations of their most intimate body part. Circumcised individuals are speaking out as adults to share their stories in hopes that future infants are protected from surgery ( see https://www.yourwholebaby.org/men-speak-out https://intaction.org/circumcision-consent-project-page/ and https://www.bloodstainedmen.com/ ). Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it ethical (for more information on the ethics of RIC, see https://www.academia.edu/3430963/The_ethics_of_infant_male_circumcision ).
For more information (besides the links in the above text as well as the links within those links – it is a rabbit hole), please consider:
- https://youtu.be/Ceht-3xu84I Lecture by Prof Ryan McAllister (http://notjustskin.org/ )
- Doctors Opposing Circumcision https://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/
- Also consider the parallels of genital surgery on intersex infants, which is considered a human rights violation: https://humanrights.gov.au/our-work/lgbti/surgery-intersex-infants-and-human-rights-2009#:~:text=The%20human%20rights%20of%20children%20in%20particular%2C%20as,without%20discrimination%20of%20any%20kind%20%28article%202%2C%20CRC%29 and https://www.hrw.org/report/2017/07/25/i-want-be-nature-made-me/medically-unnecessary-surgeries-intersex-children-us
Thanks for reading, community. Happy myth-busting Monday. Keep on dismantling!
The above content is written by Dr. Allison Mitch, PT (DPT), RYT500, sexuality counselor and educator (in supervision); copyright protected, please cite accordingly. The picture is from Pexels.
From the author: Perhaps prescient of my future work as a sexuality counselor, I have been an intactivist since 1998, when I did a project in high school examining female genital mutilation (FGM) and recommitted to this work in 2009 when I was pregnant with my first child and adamant that I would avoid RIC. #BoysAreBornPerfectToo
Note that I utilize the language ‘penis-owner’ in place of what would typically be male, men or some other common terminology. N all men have penises and not all penises belong to men (intersex, non-binary/trans individuals). My phrasing might not be perfect, for which I apologize in advance, though I am attempting to be inclusive and gender-neutral.
For more offerings that support sexual well-being, please see: For more information, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Please consider supporting me and my work via Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/ignitewellbeing
*Please note that none of the above information is specific medical advice, but is meant as educational information only. If you have concerns about your health, please contact a trusted healthcare professional*