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Circumcision, The Hidden Trauma : How an American Cultural Practice Affects Infants and Ultimately Us All Paperback – February 1, 1997
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"A penetrating landmark study that raises disturbing questions and yet offers a real message of hope for a more peaceful future." -- LLOYD DEMAUSE, PH.D., author, Director of the Institute for Psychohistory
"A revealing explanation of the misunderstanding in the medical community about this practice." -- LEONARD MARINO, M.D., pediatrician
"Essential reading for men who seek to explore their sexuality and deepen self-awareness." -- John Lee, author of The Flying Boy, founder of the Austin Men's Center
"Goldman casts a wide, fine mesh net and hauls in all the fishy arguments and speculations that disqualify circumcision as a health care procedure." -- JOHN MONEY, PH.D., Professor Emeritus of Pediatrics and Medical Psychology, Johns Hopkins School of Medicine
"Goldman's book, though long-overdue, is timely." -- PENELOPE LEACH, PH.D., child development educator, author of Your Baby & Child
"I always knew that circumcision was a procedure with roots at a level much deeper than that of a mere 'medical' procedure. Finally, Ronald Goldman has written a courageous book that makes the strongest possible case for abandoning circumcision once and for all-for the health of all of us, men and women alike." -- CHRISTIANE NORTHRUP, M.D., obstetrician, author of Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom
"I am very impressed with the depth of Goldman's research and his willingness to deal so thoroughly with the most important question of the possible effect of circumcision on boys." -- WARREN FARRELL, PH.D., author of Why Men Are the Way They Are
"I hope Circumcision: The Hidden Trauma will be read by men and women because it will force us to confront the unrecognized personal and social harm that results from this practice." -- SAM KEEN, PH.D., author of Fire in the Belly
"Impressive and moving." -- SHEILA KITZINGER, social anthropologist and childbirth educator, author of The Complete Book of Pregnancy and Childbirth
"This provocative analysis of circumcision's potential impact on men and gender relations merits serious attention." -- PATRICIA YANCEY MARTIN, PH.D., Professor of Sociology, Florida State University
From the Publisher
As an anthropologist, I have been interested for many years in the rituals, practices, and myths adopted by different societies. One of the most enduring of these practices is circumcision, which has been practiced by various cultures for thousands of years. It is typically a rite of passage marking a transition from one status to another. Such rites of passage, celebrated at birth, puberty, mar-riage, and death, are frequently associated with certain procedures entailing bodily mutilation. This removal of a part of the body, however, is not regarded in most societies as a mutilation. More often than not, it is seen as a religious consecration that makes the individual holy and invested with a special status.
In the United States we have invented "reasons" to replace religion in justifying circumcision. Myths associated with circumcision have become an accepted part of our society. Thus far the power of precedent and social custom has resisted the force of knowledge, reason, and logic.
The perpetuation of myths about circumcision in this country is not unlike the persistence of myths in other, divergent societies. Those in so-called civilized societies may believe that they are too "advanced" to believe in myths, but that, too, is a cultural myth. We are all subject to believing in myths. At this juncture in our history we should remember that civilization is not a gift, but an achievement, and that civilization is a race between education and catastrophe.
One outstanding characteristic that marks us as human beings is our educability. We have had to learn almost everything we know and do from other human beings, beginning with our prin-cipal caregivers, our parents, and then our teachers and others. Consequently, to be human is to be in danger, for we are capable of being taught unsound things as well as sound ones. Therefore, we need good teachers who will challenge entrenched beliefs and practices by setting out the facts that need to be considered in arriving at a just decision.
This is why I welcome, as I am sure the reader will, Ronald Goldman's beautiful and powerful book on circumcision. It is the most enlightening and dependable examination of a most important aspect of human life. It is a book that is designed to be helpful to both the curious and the perplexed. In this Ronald Goldman succeeds admirably, for he writes clearly and simply from a wide background of knowledge, and is a sympathetic guide through the labyrinth of controversy to the truths that he so ably makes avail-able. It is an illuminating book, and I hope it will be widely read.
Ashley Montagu, Ph.D.
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Perhaps the most commonly held belief about circumcision is that the foreskin has no purpose. But Dr. Goldman notes that the foreskin has important sexual functions, and cites recent medical evidence showing that the foreskin is much more than just a simple "fold of skin." The foreskin accounts for at least one-third of the penile skin system, and protects the head of the penis throughout life.
Why do parents and physicians choose to circumcise infants? Dr. Goldman identifies eight different factors, including lack of knowledge, social pressure, and dehumanization of infants. Because of false beliefs about pain, children aged 15 months were undergoing major surgery without anesthetic as recently as 1986.
Parents cannot give true informed consent if they are not aware of important information. As Dr. Goldman points out, American parents don't know what they don't know about circumcision. Few bother to examine what circumcision really is because they want to avoid confronting underlying fears and anxieties.
The book draws interesting parallels between male circumcision and the practice now commonly referred to as "female genital mutilation," or FGM. For example, both practices are propped up with claims of cleanliness, health, tradition, aesthetics; both have their origins in controlling sexual pleasure; both are supported by those who have been subjected to it; and both can give rise to serious complications, including death.
Dr. Goldman devotes a chapter to the effects circumcision has on the mother-child relationship. There is evidence that because of its traumatic nature, circumcision can disrupt this very important bond. The long-term effects of impaired bonding have not received the attention they deserve.
Every chapter in the book leads off with a quotation from a famous person. The quotation that always been ready to discuss matters in inverse ratio to their importance, so that the more closely a question is felt to touch the heart of all of us, the more incumbent it is considered upon prudent people to profess that it does not exist." This reference explains why circumcision is surrounded by taboos, and why a more open discussion is needed.
Dr. Goldman's work is a must-read for all people who seek a better knowledge of their society and a deeper understanding of themselves.
Psychologist Goldman's thesis is that all infants become "anti-circumcision fanatics" at the point of occurrence; its severe pain, sensory deprivation (thousands of erogenous nerves are summarily destroyed) and interruption of the maternal bond can have profound if unrecognized effects on a boy's personality through adulthood. Such assertions do run the risk of evincing a victim mindset, but Goldman largely avoids this by scrupulously linking circumcision's sequelae with its reenactment on succeeding generations. While invoking an overall context of cultural violence concomitant with genital cutting, he appears less interested in blaming circumcision for societal ills than in promoting understanding of its symptomatic reflection of them. Hardly a pretender to objectivity, Goldman nevertheless backs up his points with soundly accessible research. And as a Jew, he comes to his convictions the hard way-- an issue reserved for his equally cogent "Questioning Circumcision: A Jewish Perspective."
A compelling brief on a fiercely pitched debate over human rights and medical ethics, and one with which partisans of both sides will reckon.