Circumcision and the Socially Imagined Sexual Body
National Centre in HIV Social Research, University of New South Wales, NSW
PP: 248 - 257
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.
circumcision, sexuality, masculinity, sexual dimorphism, social constructionism, sociology
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