May 5, 2013 at 8:28 PM

Male Circumcision Versus Female Genital Mutilation

Male Circumcision Versus Female Genital Mutilation

In the west we snip the tip of an infants’ penis, call it circumcision and deem it a normal practice. In parts of Africa the cultural trend, female genital mutilation, is to snip the clitoris of a young woman. Both of these practices remove a functioning and non-threatening portion of genitalia, yet they are often viewed very differently in the public eye—especially as great efforts are made to make FGM illegal, so what’s the real difference?

What is Female Genital Mutilation?

The World Health Organization classifies any removal of the external female genitals as female circumcision or FGM, female genital mutilation. It is estimated that at least 140 million women across the globe have experienced some form of FGM, 101 million of these women in Africa, where the procedure is most popular. It also is popular in Asia and the Middle East, according to the World Health Organization, in societies where ritualistic rites of passage are common for youth entering into adulthood.

There are many different types of FGM, depending on how much of the outer clitoris and surrounding vaginal tissues are actually removed. The procedure can take place anywhere from birth on through the onset of puberty and typically involves using non-sterile items—like an old sharp knife or a piece of fresh-cut glass to make the incisions.

The reason for removing the ‘feel good’ part of the female genitalia is based on a belief that women with a full clitoris are not to be trusted and must be controlled and kept pure. For the most part, FGM removes the ability for women to enjoy sex as much as men, if at all. In fact FGM can make sex a forever painful and dangerous activity. The cultural implications outweigh the many risks associated with female gentile mutilation, making the trend a continued aspect of certain African cultures. It should be noted that as of 2012, in Kenya the Maasai, one of the oldest cultures in Africa, have ended their use of FGM as a part of the ritualistic rite of passage for females entering adulthood. Additionally, FGM is illegal in Kenya as well as other parts of Africa.

Negative side effects include extreme pain for the young women during, and long after, the procedure. FGM is most often performed in unsanitary conditions, leaving some girls with terrible infections and life-long reproductive health issues. These problems can stretch to include chronic urinary complications in the case that the urination hole is blocked or distorted due to faulty incision. Keep in mind, doctors do not perform these procedures.

With so many negatives, it’s difficult to understand how the practice continues. However, in cultures dominated by men, FGM has been coined the only way to prove purity and be eligible to wed. Since the gender inequality in Africa makes it so a woman needs a husband, the procedure is practically impossible to avoid.

Western Male Circumcision

Many argue that there is no difference between FGM and the Western practice of male circumcision. Many against FGM are also against male circumcision for similar reasons. Circumcision is very common in the West; it is the process of removing the foreskin covering the head of the penis usually in infancy. In Judaism, this process is performed at a ceremony called a Brisk, where family and friends come watch and celebrate the circumcision.

Circumcision benefits include less risk for infection, better hygiene, and the idea that a circumcised penis looks better by western standards. In fact uncircumcised men often feel embarrassment and shame over their intact hood. Some even undergo a circumcision later in life, despite the extreme associated pain, just to feel accepted.

While it’s argued by the American Academy of Pediatrics that the health benefits of male circumcision outweigh the potential negatives, there are those that widely disagree. Arguments against male circumcision include, removing nearly half, 3-5 inches, of the total penis skin is far from necessary—especially since there are a lot of nerves and blood vessels in this part of skin, causing some to argue sexual pleasure is decreased after circumcision.

So What’s the Difference?

Both practices are socially constructed, created by humans to fulfill some sort of purpose. In both instances a part of the human body is removed. In either instance the child remains unable to voice their opinion over the matter, and in the end it’s the child that will be largely affected. While circumcision seems completely normal to Westerners, female genital mutilation can make our stomach turn inside out. Is that because the practice itself is so much more horrifying or because we are not familiar with it?


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  • “While circumcision seems completely normal to Westerners”

    I’m not so sure about that. In the US maybe but in the rest of the world, circumcision is considered as mutilation. In Europe you just can’t circumcise babies at hospitals.

  • Michael Butscher

    “While it’s argued by the American Academy of Pediatrics that the health benefits of male circumcision outweigh the potential negatives, there are those that widely disagree.”

    Yes, for instance many European physicians:

  • Circumcised as adult

    I think there are several reasons why the male procedure is more accepted. It is usually not as invasive and involves less risk than fgm. Also, fgm is carried out in order to control women and while it can be argued that the old methods of male circumcision was a means to control male sexuality, modern circumcision is about improving it. Modern surgery for men is concerned about improving aesthetics and performance and while it seems unattractive to do so for many men, I have no regrets. My wife loves it and says she’s not going back to an uncircumcised guys ever, and I last much longer. Our sex life has improved quite a lot.

  • Anonymous

    The AAP concerned themselves with the scientific research. Those who argue otherwise are obtuse to it. Medical experts confirm the benefits.

    The opponents argue that it severely reduces sexual pleasure but just like their disagreement with the AAP regarding benefits their claim is problematic.
    "92.3 per cent said they experienced more sexual pleasure".

  • Foreskin feels REALLY good. Seriously, it's the best part.

    Agree or don't. The only opinion that matters is that of the owner of each penis. Informed adults can decide for themselves.

  • Debby Brown

    So I guess it's safe to assume you didn't snip your little guy? :)

  • Carolannsue Ford

    Debby Brown nope I think it is a horrible practice, I am an intactivist spreading the word and speaking the truth trying to help my friends and family understand all the lies. I consider it equal to female genital mutilation that has become somehow acceptable in the western society.

  • Eric Yanco

    Caving in an infants skull in the woman mere inches from the outside is ok but a quick snip of a penis skin means sheer horror to them.

  • Richard Gindes

    Comparing circumcision to female genital mutilation is ridiculous. One is a well known medical procedure which has shown results in disease prevention while the other is for " for non-medical reasons"…Female genital mutilation (FGM), also known as female genital cutting (FGC) and female circumcision (FC), is defined by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "all procedures that involve partial or total removal of the external female genitalia, or other injury to the female genital organs for non-medical reasons."

  • Richard Gindes

    "The American Academy of Pediatrics has shifted its stance on infant male circumcision, announcing on Monday that new research, including studies in Africa suggesting that the procedure may protect heterosexual men against H.I.V., indicated that the health benefits outweighed the risks."

  • Eric Yanco

    Agree, Richard. I pointed this out to guys on the anti feminist site earlier

  • Richard Gindes So since the foreskin on a male is the clitoral hood on a female, would you argue it would be ok for baby girls to have their clitoral hoods snipped off like baby boys foreskin? People in western culture do it because of tradition, tradition based off religious beliefs. I highly doubt when it first occurred in the early years of Judaism that they did it for "hygienic" reasons. The whole hygiene argument is a way of excusing what we do in a modern context. Its still the same practice no matter how people try to sugar coat it. Enculturation is very real, we all went through it, but it's important to make distinctions between what your culture maybe doing and what is actually the right thing to do, because many times they are not both, and that goes for any culture

  • How do you feel about female genital mutilation? How do you feel about the clitoris being amputated from a baby girl? How do you feel about male circumcision? How do you feel about the foreskin being amputated from a baby boy?

    The clitoris has 8,000 nerve endings. The male foreskin has over 20,000 nerve endings.

    Many doctors argue that "the child feels almost no pain or irritation, and is a very quick procedure." I BEG YOU to watch this video and make up your own minds as to whether or not this child is feeling pain (video of an infant boy undergoing a full neonatal amputation of his foreskin) : When a baby boy has his foreskin sliced, crushed, and amputated, he is left with an incredibly sensitive wound – when he urinates, the folic acid produced from his urine begins to burn his exposed wound – causing horrible pain and discomfort. Ever heard the expression that "baby boys cry more than girls"? Ever wonder why your Facebook friends complain at 2AM because their newborn infant son "won't stop crying" when they change his diaper?

    Circumcised men are 4.5 times likely to suffer from Erectile Dysfunction (ED) than men who are not. (source: One has to wonder, how profitable is the U.S. erectile dysfunction industry?

    If you are someone who defends circumcision or advocates it as a practice to reduce HIV, consider the following: the USA has both the highest number of circumcised males and the most HIV infections of any industrialized nation (source:, also – what if your son grows up to be celibate, or disinterested in sex? Does that still give you the right to mutilate him without his consent?

    The cells from baby boy foreskins are used by bioengineering companies to make products such as collagen and beauty creams (i.e. the skin cream that Oprah Winfrey called her "Fountain of Youth", SkinMedica, is a compound made from cells harvested from infant foreskins. Odd that a woman who has campaigned against female genital mutilation in other countries owes her young looks to a product that profits from the same sadistic mutilation against baby boys in her own country.) Companies who profit from male circumcisions in the US are collectively worth well over $450 million – an incredibly lucrative business; this makes sense seeing as how the foreskin of your son was cut and sold without his consent for thousands of dollars. Did you think they were just going to throw away something that you gave them for free?

    The reason for slicing, crushing, and amputating a male's foreskin is the same reason it has always been: to rob men of 50% of their erogenous zones – to strip them of their sexuality, to mutilate them of their natural, untouched anatomy and to complicate their sexual lives. (This is not to say that men who are circumcised cannot grow up to be lifelong sexual partners) – but women from around the world and in the U.S.A. have consistently stated that sexual intercourse with uncircumcised men is more pleasurable and mutually beneficial to both partners – studies have been reported as high as 5 out of 6 women prefer natural penises to circumcised ones (source: There are countless forums online about this subject and, while there are women who say that both cut and uncut men are pleasing, the majority of women surveyed state that sex with uncircumcised men is more pleasurable, intimate, and more sexually stimulating – not to mention men who are cut have a higher chance of experiencing Erectile Dysfunction than men who are not.

    So, I ask you again – How do you feel about female genital mutilation? How do you feel about the clitoris being amputated from a baby girl? How do you feel about male circumcision? How do you feel about the foreskin being amputated from a baby boy?

    Many men who are circumcised themselves as boys align themselves with the medical system or their "tradition" and grow up to do it to their own sons – the same way that women who have been mutilated in other countries grow up to mutilate their own daughters and defend the mutilation practice as "tradition", unaware of the horrific pain they are causing their children. The abuse of circumcision is cyclic, and is passed down from generation to generation.

    There is no such thing as female circumcision. It is female genital mutilation – equally, there is no such thing as male circumcision. It is male genital mutilation. What have we done to our sons? I look down at myself and I no longer see a healthy, normal penis – I see the evidence of a scar from a horrific practice that was done to my body without my consent. And I feel like no one cares but me. I cannot wear condoms of any kind of material – I've tried everything, but I can't, I can't use them and I have always felt ashamed that I couldn't – and now I know why: it is because for 26 years the head of my penis has experienced constant unprotected exposure to dry cloth, bedding, etc – a direct result caused by the removal of my foreskin as a infant child, and I will never get it back.

    Everyone has a right to know what was done to their body without their consent.

  • No argument. Today we have soap. Save the skin

  • Victoria Stoner

    Carolann Ford Your activism is bullshit. Your smug self righteousness doesn;t do anything for children that are actually mutilated. Get off your high horse.

  • Carolann Ford

    Victoria Stoner I am not self righteous I am speaking for people who cant speak for themselves, I have a cause that I feel is important in life, your rude comment just makes you look ignorant.

    People need to read about the procedures that they are putting their children through instead of just assuming that because their parents did it it must be safe. Babies die from circumcision they don't create blood clots like grown-ups just because a lot of babies live doesn't make it safe or good for your baby.

    Their are nerve receptors that are cut off making sex less pleasurable that's the ONLY REASON WHY people have brought the practice into religious society and the only reason why we are doing it today. It was meant to be a sacrifice for god giving up that pleasure. The reason why Jews are so recognized for it is because Jesus died for our Sin and replaced the cutting of the foreskin but Jews don't believe he was the son of god so he didn't die for their sin.

    I don't hold it against my friends for not doing it, but I do think people need to be educated on this topic as an Intactivist I am just hoping to spread education and let that help educate people about this.

  • 7 Facts for you-

    1. Medical research has found that a high percentage of women who have had genital surgery “have rich sexual lives, including desire, arousal, orgasm, and satisfaction, and their frequency of sexual activity is not reduced.”
    2. Reproductive health and medical complications linked to female genital surgery happen infrequently.
    3. Those who value female genital surgery view it as aesthetic enhancement, not mutilation.
    4. In almost all societies where female genital surgery is performed, male genital surgery also takes place. Broadly speaking, then, such societies “are not singling out females as targets of punishment, sexual deprivation, or humiliation.”
    5. The link between patriarchy and female genital surgery is unfounded. Almost no patriarchal societies adhere to the practice and, at the same time, the practice is not customary in the world’s most sexually restrictive societies.
    6. Women manage and control female genital surgery in Africa and the practice “should not be blamed on men or on patriarchy.” Ironically, the authors contend, groups that fight against female genital surgery weaken the power of women.
    7. An influential WHO study about the “deadly consequences” of female genital surgery is the subject of criticism that has not been adequately publicized. The reported evidence does not support sensational media claims about female genital surgery as a cause of perinatal and maternal mortality during birth.

    So why is female circumcision so frowned upon by feminists, yet male circumcision is ok?

  • So…Much….Win.
    I'm going to be directing any clueless feminist (who argues that male circumcision isn't "that bad" and that females should get special privileges -which is one of the most openly sexist things imaginable) to your post because I, nor anybody else could have laid it out in such a perfect, clear way.

  • Naomi Smith

    it's BRIS not BRISK.

  • Naomi Smith

    Carolann Ford A recent meta-analysis of 16 prospective studies from diverse settings worldwide that evaluated complications following neonatal, infant, and child male circumcision found that median frequency of severe adverse events was 0%, this includes deaths. In the three African trials of adult circumcision, complication rates for adult male circumcision ranged from 2% to 8%. The most commonly reported complications were pain, bleeding, infection, and unsatisfactory appearance. There were no reported deaths or long-term sequelae documented. Well-designed studies of sexual sensation and function in relation to male circumcision are few, and the results present a mixed picture. Taken as a whole, the studies suggest that some decrease in sensitivity of the glans to fine touch can occur following circumcision. However, several studies conducted among men after adult circumcision suggest that few men report their sexual functioning is worse after circumcision; most report either improvement or no change.
    Compared with the dry external skin surface of the glans penis and penile shaft, the inner mucosa of the foreskin has less keratinization (deposition of fibrous protein) and a higher density of target cells for HIV infection. Some laboratory studies have shown the foreskin is more susceptible to HIV infection than other penile tissue. The foreskin may also have greater susceptibility to traumatic epithelial disruptions (tears) during intercourse, providing a portal of entry for pathogens, including HIV. In addition, the microenvironment in the preputial sac between the unretracted foreskin and the glans penis may be conducive to viral survival. Finally, the presence of other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), which independently may be more common in uncircumcised men, increase the risk for HIV acquisition. A systematic review and meta-analysis that focused on male circumcision and heterosexual transmission of HIV in Africa was published in 2000. A substantial protective effect of male circumcision on risk for HIV infection was noted, along with a reduced risk for genital ulcer disease. After adjustment for confounding factors in the population-based studies, the relative risk for HIV infection was 44% lower in circumcised men. The strongest association was seen in men at high risk, such as patients at STD clinics, for whom the adjusted relative risk was 71% lower for circumcised men. Another review that included stringent assessment of 10 potential confounding factors and that was stratified by study type or study population was published in 2003. The one large prospective cohort study in this group showed a significant protective effect: The odds of infection were 42% lower for circumcised men. These studies found a consistent, substantial protective effect, which increased with adjustment for confounding. Each of the four cohort studies included in the review demonstrated a protective effect, and two were statistically significant.
    A large, retrospective study of circumcision in nearly 15,000 infants found neonatal circumcision to be highly cost-effective, considering the estimated number of averted cases of infant urinary tract infection and lifetime incidence of HIV infection, penile cancer, balanoposthitis (inflammation of the foreskin and glans), and phimosis (a condition where the male foreskin cannot be fully retracted from the head of the penis).

    Now that I've covered the science of circumcision, let me delve in to the Jewish aspect. First, let me be quite thorough: You have no understanding of the sacred covenant of circumcision. Circumcision is not a punishment. Circumcision is a sacred covenant with God. Since a lot of people don't understand what the word 'covenant' means, the definition is as follows: a usually formal, solemn, and binding agreement. Abraham made a formal, solemn, and binding agreement
    with God to circumcise, and in return God promised to make his progeny "a nation more numerous than the stars". It is not a sacrifice to give up pleasure, and it is not a punishment. Because it is not a punishment, Jesus dying on the cross has nothing to do with circumcision. Aside from the fact that Jews do not believe that Jesus is God, nor the fact that Jews do not believe that anyone can take responsibility for their "sins" but themselves. You can not "replace" the sacred agreement between Abraham's progeny and God with the death of Jesus.

    I hope my lesson has been received, but I am quite sure it has fallen on deaf ears. Honestly, I'm not even posting this for YOUR education, but rather to correct your biased and erroneous "facts" for others who may come across them.

    So, next time- leave my people out of your intactivist arguments. You do not have even the most basic understanding of the religion your "messiah" came from, so I suggest you feign intelligence by avoiding the subject altogether.

  • Naomi Smith As a survivor of the CULT driven GENITAL MUTILATION called circumcision, I can TELL YOU that having my sex organ CUT has had a very negative impact on my life. I find the rationalizing of such a disgusting practice quite disturbing.

  • Naomi Smith

    Matthew Carter I am so sorry that you've ended up such a bitter bitter man.

  • Naomi Smith What? So are the women who suffered from genital mutilation just bitter? All of the people who are out raged by its practice just have their panties in a bunch and should just get over it? Your lack of empathy and understanding is frightening.

  • Naomi Smith

    Matthew Carter Oh, I have empathy for victims of FGM, but I have no sympathy for circumcision. There's nothing to provide sympathy for.
    You, on the other hand, have serious mental issues. See a Doctor.

  • Naomi Smith You are the kind of person that triggers such hate and bitterness towards feminists and activists in general. Perhaps you should consider getting off that high horse and think about it from a different perspective. Then again, it seems that you are incapable of doing so.

  • Naomi Smith

    Alex Wu LOL which proves you only know of me what I choose to show you. I'm no feminist. I don't even own a horse, and I see things from other perspectives easily. Just because I don't agree, doesn't mean I don't see it.
    Why don't YOU take your OWN advice, and look in to just why circumcision is so important to Jews that they would die for it, and kill to defend it, and have for thousands of years.

  • Brian, thank you for taking the time to write such an informative post. I admit I had no idea that circumcision, or rather MGM, was so horrible. I have known and denounced the practice of FGM but the idea of MGM as a normal and even healthy practice has been so deeply embedded in our Western culture that I had never stopped to question it. If however, my feminism studies have taught me anything, it's that men's issues are just as valid as women's and the pursuit of a truly equal society needs us to support one another so that things like MGM and FGM become more than just male or female issues but human issues. Thanks again for your post, I rarely learn something of value on facebook but this was definitely a learning moment.

  • Victoria Stoner Tell that to these boys (GRAPHIC)

  • What disgusting propaganda. You DO know theres a lot of money in foreskin removal, right? There are plenty of faux studies produced, all of which get debunked, then they're simply repeated later. It's an industry, not a medical necessity or anything like it.

  • Naomi Smith

    Whatever suits your agenda, Al.

  • Hey Naomi Smith have you ever had your clitoral hood snipped off? If not then your words mean nothing. Male circumcision and removal of the clitoral hood are EXACTLY the same thing.

  • No wonder Africa never listens to us, we're sending them mixed messages. "Do as I say, not as I do". Pshh western culture is a joke when it comes to stuff like this.

  • Naomi Smith

    Dean Kaufman Actually, I have had it pierced, and it didn't hurt at all. In fact, 10 years later I don't remember any pain.
    So, now what?
    Oh, by the way, since you missed that day in Health Class: a penis is not a vagina. A clitoral hood and a foreskin may be HOMOLOGOUS, but they aren't EQUIVALENT.
    Buy an A&P text and a dictionary.

  • Naomi Smith you're correct, the clitoral hood is nothing like the foreskin, as the semester are opposites. On a woman the hood is dull, covering a sensitive glans, on the male the hood is sensitive, covering a dull glans.

  • Semester? Frigging spell check..

  • Jared Petersen

    Naomi Smith You are literally cutting off an extremely sensitive part of the sex organ for dubious medical benefits. You don't chop off your arm to avoid getting an occasional rash. You treat it. Because we're a fucking civilized society. There are zero medical benefits from circumcision that can't be easily treated, just like a female genital infections. Without amputation. Jews want to protect circumcision for the same reason African tribes want to protect both male AND female circumcision: they are religious, cultural traditions that are symbolic representations of becoming a man.

    For those of us who don't believe in superstitious nonsense – like body mutilation being a sacred covenant with an invisible, all-powerful being – this doesn't have those redeeming qualities… it's just barbaric. You're just chopping up the most sensitive area of the male sex organ so… you don't get an infection from not taking a damn bath? How does that make any sense, at all? Not only that, but after losing all the nerve endings in the foreskin itself, the head of the penis, now unprotected and constantly rubbing against clothing, becomes keratinized and desensitized. I don't think I need to explain to you what effect it has on male and female sexual health when you remove the second most sensitive part of the sex organ, and dull the most sensitive part. You know why some African tribes suggest it gives "staying power" in bed? Because it does: They literally don't feel as much pleasure, and can last longer.

    And seriously, let's chop up people's dicks because HIV? You do realize condoms have been around for awhile now, right?

    History will not look kindly on your position.

    Also, you want science? Here's some actual citations:

  • Naomi Smith Any adult male is free to be circumcised if he wishes to do so. Since infants are not sexually active, your STD argument is completely invalid.

    Perpetrating such mutilation upon a defenseless chile of either gender is abhorrent. What would you say to the young man who was circumcised, and he would prefer that he NOT be? Kinda difficult to "uncut", isn't it?

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