Experts have been unable to understand the origin of the practice of routine male circumcision. Most of the literature shows no awareness of phimosis - its frequency - or the sexual and erectile problems which can be cured by circumcision. If routine circumcision had been introduced for this most obvious reason of eliminating difficult foreskins; then the importance of an alternative modern method, suitable to our culture's attitudes in this day and age, would be clear.


3) Why did the practice continue?

How any practice becomes anchored in a culture is that firstly it must become socially acceptable and normal. During the first stages of the development, some people may well have looked upon the idea as a ridiculous or frivolous mutilation, while among others it would become socially acceptable, desirable and normal. and it is where this sense of acceptability and "normality" existed that the practice became established.

Previous to the measure becoming established in a fixed cultural form, it could easily have been discontinued, forgotten, reintroduced, etc..

Distinct reasons for the continuation of this tradition are related in the existing literature. Sometimes the operation combined with, for example: initiation rites, religious ideas and celebrations, ritual sacrifice, national identity, sexual identity; specific to some peoples were associations such as reincarnation or high priestly distinction; or often simply to continue the respected traditions because 'our fathers did it before us', and when any of these associations occurred, the practice became anchored as part of the culture's traditions.

Special note should be made of Bryk`s ideas on the natural inclination to "denudation" of the glans which offers a basis for all other developments.

Other factors which may have contributed to the continuation cover such diversity as climate, sparseness or density of the population, probably even local inter marriage customs, method of gathering food (e.g. segregated male hunting parties). On the other hand: Bettelheim's (5) menstruation envy; and the modern psychologists "regression" may all have played a part in why this custom became established among some cultures.

In fact probably the only theme which has nothing to do with the continuation of the practice are foreskin conditions: then once the foreskin was routinely removed, it no longer caused problems, and could no longer have been a motivating factor.

Once it had become established, if there was no reason to stop using a tried and tested method, then it would be continued, in the same way as other customs, then survival and stability depended on such traditions.

Open to discussion - (as always)
Robin Stuart

The Origins of Routine Male Circumcision - 5 of 5