Jack Craver's comment on another post got me thinking about the issue of circumcision in America. He pointed out that, for much of the 20th century, there was no real scientific evidence for the health benefits of circumcision, and yet the vast majority of American parents had their baby boys circumcised based on the popular perception that it was healthier.
I agree that there was a certain amount of group-think going on. However, I think there was another factor that contributed to the overwhelming popularity of circumcision in this country as opposed to Europe -- Americans' puritanical attitude about the human body. An intact foreskin requires more time and attention for personal hygiene. American parents are squeamish about touching their children's genitals or encouraging their children to touch themselves. Circumcision allows for quicker and less intimate washing.
Now that studies have shown a major health benefit to circumcision (significantly decreased risk of HIV transmission), American parents can once again feel justified in imposing their puritanical preferences on their baby boys.
A riveting look at the Gardner heist via podcast
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