13.0 Introduction


In 2018 there was a bill introduced in Iceland to outlaw routine, parent-elected circumcision on infant boys. People who argued for this legislation argued that infants could not consent to this body alteration, that it lowers sensitivity of the penis, affecting sexual function, and that, in all but a few rare cases, the procedure is not medically necessary and presents risks to the child. Those arguing against the ballot proposal said that the procedure was minor, safe, and had both cultural and religious significance and some medical value. The measure was later dropped by Iceland’s parliament, but a similar prohibition was previously proposed in the state of California and the legality of the practice has been challenged in many other countries. Routine male circumcision is still hotly debated in some circles. In the United States male infant circumcision rates vary widely by region and race, with the highest rates in white infants in the Midwest and the overall rate at just under 60%. What is male circumcision? What part of the body does it affect? Is it a good idea? How does male circumcision compare to female circumcision/female genital cutting? Some of these questions can be answered with knowledge of reproductive anatomy. Some of these questions are not able to be answered by science, but opinions on the topic can be informed by science. At the end of this chapter we will revisit these questions with our knowledge of reproductive anatomy, and look at some data about circumcision and female genital cutting.



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The Evolution and Biology of Sex Copyright © 2020 by Sehoya Cotner and Deena Wassenberg is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.