The History

What almost no one knows about circumcision is that it became widespread as a measure to curb masturbation, which, considered a vice in its own right, was also thought to be responsible for an array of crippling conditions, from epilepsy to digestive dysfunction to muscle atrophy. Below are a list of quotes from esteemed physicians of their day, which speak to, in no uncertain terms, their intent to make circumcision a painful, traumatic procedure, and to ensure that the result be a permanent loss in sensitivity.

“In cases of masturbation we must, I believe, break the habit by inducing such a condition of the parts as will cause too much local suffering to allow of the practice to be continued. For this purpose, if the prepuce is long, we may circumcise the male patient with present and probably with future advantages; the operation, too, should not be performed under chloroform, so that the pain experienced may be associated with the habit we wish to eradicate.”

On An Injurious Habit Occasionally Met with in Infancy and Early Childhood, Athol A. W. Johnson. The Lancet, vol. 1 (7 April 1860): pp. 344-345.

“A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision. The operation should be performed without administering anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially, if it is connected with the idea of punishment, as it may well be in some cases.”

John Harvey Kellogg, creator of the Corn Flake, Treatment for Self-Abuse and Its Effects, Plain Facts for Old and Young,” Burlington, Iowa: P. Segner & Co. 1888, p. 295.

“Measures more radical than circumcision would, if public opinion permitted their adoption, be a true kindness to many patients of both sexes.”

Jonathan Hutchinson, On Circumcision as Preventative of Masturbation, Archives of Surgery, Vol. 2 (1891): pp. 267-268.

“Another advantage of circumcision… is the lessened liability to masturbation. A long foreskin is irritating per se, as it necessitates more manipulation of the parts in bathing… This leads the child to handle the parts, and as a rule, pleasurable sensations are elicited from the extremely sensitive mucous membrane, with resultant manipulation and masturbation. The exposure of the glans penis following circumcision … lessens the sensitiveness of the organ… It therefore lies with the physician, the family adviser in affairs of hygiene and medical, to urge its acceptance.”

Ernest G. Mark, Circumcision, American Practitioner and News, vol. 31 (1901): p. 231.

“Frequent micturition [urination], loss of flesh, convulsions, phosphatic calculus, hernia, nervous exhaustion, dyspepsia, diarrhea, prolapse of rectum, balanitis, acute phimosis and masturbation are all conditions induced by the constricted long prepuce, and all to be rapidly remedied by the simple operation of circumcision.”

H. G. H. Naylor, A Plea for Early Circumcision, Pediatrics, vol. 12 (1901): p. 231

“It is generally accepted that irritation derived from a tight prepuce may be followed by nervous phenomena, among these being convulsions and outbreaks resembling epilepsy. It is therefore not at all improbable that in many infants who die in convulsions, the real cause of death is a long or tight prepuce.”

A.L. Wolbarst, MD. “Universal Circumcision as a Sanitary Measure.” Journal of the American Medical Association, (1914) Vol.62. pp.92-97.

“The prepuce is one of the great factors in causing masturbation in boys. Here is the dilemma we are in: If we do not teach the growing boy to pull the prepuce back and cleanse the glans there is danger of smegma collecting and of adhesions and ulcerations forming, which in their turn will cause irritation likely to lead to masturbation. If we do teach the boy to pull the prepuce back and cleans his glans, that handling alone is sufficient gradually and almost without the boy’s knowledge to initiate him into the habit of masturbation… Therefore, off with the prepuce!”

William J. Robinson, Circumcision and Masturbation, Medical World, vol.33 (1915): p.390.

“I suggest that all male children should be circumcised. This is “against nature”, but that is exactly the reason why it should be done. Nature intends that the adolescent male shall copulate as often and as promiscuously as possible, and to that end covers the sensitive glans so that it shall be ever ready to receive stimuli. Civilization, on the contrary, requires chastity, and the glans of the circumcised rapidly assumes a leathery texture less sensitive than skin. Thus the adolescent has his attention drawn to his penis much less often. I am convinced that masturbation is much less common in the circumcised. With these considerations in view it does not seem apt to argue that ‘God knows best how to make little boys.'”

R.W. Cockshut. Circumcision. British Medical Journal, Vol.2 (1935): p.764.