Roundheads and Cavaliers

Roundheads and Cavaliers

Male circumcision controversy

There is trouble brewing in the genital regions. The city of San Francisco is holding a vote on whether to outlaw male circumcision. If you did not grow up in England, the terms Roundheads and Cavaliers may have only a historical allusion for you with reference to the English Civil War,  which lasted from 1642 to 1651. The Roundheads, parliamentarians, led by Oliver Cromwell, fought and eventually overcame the Cavaliers, monarchists loyal to Charles I. The Roundheads were so called because of their round helmets and short haircuts, in contrast to the flowing locks of the Cavaliers .Centuries later, while a schoolboy in England, the historical terms resurfaced in the boys’ shower room, where prepubescent boys would divide each other into the two historical factions based on the existence or lack of their foreskins. Roundhead, Cavalier—you understand.

History of circumcision

Male circumcision has been practiced for thousands of years by practitioners of the Jewish faith and later by Muslims. Its acceptance and emergence into Christian western Europe did not occur until the late 19th century, when it was popularized by the Victorians in an attempt at forging a “healthy and clean body.”  In the United States, circumcision became a norm for newborn males during the 1960s. Since then, the numbers have decreased, so only 50% of males are circumcised now. In some parts of the world it is still not very prevalent. 30% of the world’s males are circumcised, with the majority being Muslims.Female circumcision is a totally different subject. None of the arguments that can be made in support of male circumcision can be applied to female circumcision other than those based on historical and cultural precedents—precedents of robbing women of sexual pleasure and having a male-dominated society that controls its female members. This is a horrific mutilation and is illegal in the United States and most civilized nations.

Advantages of male circumcision

There are a number of medical reasons that may benefit circumcised males:
  1. Decreased risk of HIV/aids
  2. Possible decreased rate of penile cancer
  3. Lower rate of HPV (genital warts) infections

Disadvantages of male circumcision

  1. Decreased sensitivity
  2. Risk of infection
  3. Overrides the child’s rights over their body
The city of San Francisco, California, however, has a proposition before its people to outlaw circumcision. The population will decide whether males may be circumcised or not. I’m sorry, I am not a religious person, but this affront to personal, cultural, familial and medical freedom is, in my opinion, ridiculous!  See this article in the New York Times: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/06/05/us/05circumcision.html?_r=1
This follows and enlarges on similar attitudes in some countries such as Canada and the Netherlands where the child’s rights are being brought to the forefront of the debate pitted against cultural norms,  a sense of identity and “having sons look like their fathers.”
The debate about individual rights, child or not, cultural norms and societal expectations will continue to be argued in many different arenas. Male circumcision is one such debate. The right or wrong of it, even if it exists, will continue to change with history. Parents have forever been making decisions that they consider to be in the best interests of their children. Others are today making life or death decisions about their loved ones when the individual cannot make that decision on their own. Is the state to decide on every aspect of our lives? Will the length of our hair be next, and are we to be divided into Roundheads and Cavaliers while not even unzipped?Do not allow the state to impose a law on any of the sociocultural aspects of our lives, where the state is not harmed by our individual actions, practices and preferences. There does not need to be a right or wrong in everything. Some things can be hidden behind a veil and emerge or retract with the changing times.