Circumcision and the socially imagined sexual body

Richters, Juliet
August 2006
Health Sociology Review;Aug2006, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p248
Academic Journal
In a generation, Australia has changed from a country where most boys are circumcised in infancy to one where circumcision is the minority experience. Proponents argue that routine circumcision is desirable because it protects against a number of conditions. Yet circumcision can be seen rather as a sociocultural intervention with post hoc medical justification. As a form of body modification, it serves to exaggerate the visual difference between male and female. Reducing the ambiguity and untidiness of the penis turns it into a neat phallus more specifically fitted for what is seen as its purpose in a gendered sexual culture focused on coitus. Does circumcision reduce penile sensitivity? Applying the methods of evidence-based medicine to this question has problems, centrally that of how 'sensitivity' is to be measured. The nature of the loss is in a sense 'unspeakable' and for many people unimaginable, because the reception of delicate sensation is not part of their notion of masculine sexuality.


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