Circumcision is dying

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By Eva Salinas

Circumcision is getting the cut.

The once-common practice is now performed on a minority of babies in Canada. Only 19.6 per cent of baby boys are sporting a V-neck instead of the hoodie, according to Ontario Ministry of Health and Statistics Canada 2001.

Unfortunately, today’s uncircumcised male comes with a couple of things attached –foreskin and social stigma. But some Ryerson students say the jokes they heard in high school could also be a thing of the past.

In the seventies, the majority of boys in Canada were circumcised. The surgery comes from a long line of cultural traditions. Jewish and Muslim males were originally circumcised as a sign of their belief in God.

Non-religious reasons brought circumcision to North America with the wave of moral reform in the late 1800s. It was thought that circumcision would stop boys from the “deadly sin” of masturbation.

But today, masturbation is widely accepted and boys are circumcised for various other reasons: medical benefits and “like father, like son,” ideas.

Dr. Jerald Bain is a professor at the University Of Toronto Department Of Medicine, and a doctor at Mount Sinai Hospital’s division of endocrinology. He said circumcision has very few medical benefits, and called it a “personal undertaking.”

Some people think removing the foreskin prevents health problems, and makes cleaning the penis easier. In Bain’s 2002 review on the subject, “Circumcision: A Medical Perspective,” he wrote that health problems linked to uncircumcised men, like urinary tract infections or penile cancer, are reduced with proper foreskin hygiene.

Risks for women who have sex with uncircumcised men have been called into question as well.

There have been claims of higher rates of cervical cancer but Bain said it is unclear whether or not the link for high rate of cancer is due to “the lack of uncircumcision or the lack of adequate hygiene,” and added that the rate for these cancers is higher in developing countries.

Medical reasons for the surgery are just “old wives tales” according to Rich Mills, a graduate from Fanshawe College in London, Ont. Mills comes to Ryerson to visit his girlfriend, a second-year fashion student at Ryerson. He is not circumcised and thought he was very different while growing up.

“I felt like everyone else was (circumcised), I thought it was about 95 per cent.” Mills said it was never much of an issue but he was always a little self-conscious. But, “sex wise,” he said, “it’s a lot better not to be circumcised.” Better sex is on the pro list, as the foreskin adds sensation for the guy, but the feeling of being an outsider is definitely a con.

In North America, bias comes from entertainment and the media. The stigma for the intact man may remain in popular culture, where the only positive spokespeople for intact males are the quirky Kramers from Seinfeld, and the slutty Samanthas from Sex and the City.

Mark Longpre, a first-year graphic communications management student, said most penis jokes start in the hockey change room. He think guys are now more self-conscious about their size and not the skin. Even so, Longpre, being circumcised, said about his potential son: “oh year, ill slice him.”

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