When Russell Crowe apologized for tweeting that “circumcision is barbaric and stupid,” a lot of us were left wondering not only why his opinion on this issue constituted news, but also why he felt the need to apologize. Certainly, he expressed himself without tact, but that’s just Crowe, right?
The plain fact is that circumcision is an elective procedure that offers a handful of possible benefits, while causing newborn boys proven pain and exposing them to a host of unnecessary risks. Part of Jewish and Muslim tradition, circumcision was uncommon in the United States until health care practitioners of the Victorian era, infected with the anti-sexual fervor of their time, began to advocate male and female circumcision as a way to cure both boys and girls of the evil and dangerous habit of “onanism,” i.e., masturbation.
Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, whose brother Will found lasting fame in sugary breakfast cereals, campaigned relentlessly for aggressive action against masturbation in both sexes, basing his views on the Bible and on the works of other sexually uptight physicians, such as Dr. Adam Clarke, whom he quoted as saying, “Neither the plague, nor war, nor smallpox, nor similar diseases, have produced results so disastrous to humanity as the pernicious habit of onanism.”
That’s right.The horrors of bubonic plague, smallpox epidemics and war are nothing compared to the hell unleashed when someone gets himself off.
Kellogg recommended circumcising boys without anesthesia. For him, pain was part of the procedure’s curative effect.