Re: Male Virginity and Circumcision (was: Re: Origin of circumcision)

Gerold Firl (
9 Nov 1995 13:30:15 -0800

In article <47saas$> (Michael Nakis ) writes:

>In <> (Gerold Firl) writes:

>>Machismo is actually very culture-specific. Moreover, there does not
>>seem to be any correlation between an ethic of machismo and circumcision.
>>Over-generalizations of this sort are bad for your credibility.

>Well, ok, and what I am trying to suggest is that there may indeed be a
>correlation between the two. You say black, I say white, and we are not getting
>anywhere. The question is, am I making an over-generalization, which would
>undeniably be a mistake, or simply a generalization, which is a legitimate tool
>for finding the truth? The graph of [time] versus [woman's status in society]
>for MOST societies in the world from the time the agricultural revolution begun
>until the middle of our century is an irregular downwards curve, quite steep at
>times, and I would expect that the curve of [time] versus [male machismo] would
>probably be quite close, if not identical, to the reciprocal (upwards) curve.
>This may not be applicable to most societies, (since not all societies have evem
>gone through the argicultural revolution,) but probably to enough so that my
>hypothesis can be considered to be a generalization and not an

Stephanie Folse has suggested looking for correlations between attitudes
towards virginity and the presence of circumcision, and I believe she
suggested that you will probably find that they are divergant. I would add
that a survey of attitudes toward male machismo would also find little
correlation with the presence of circumcision.

For instance, among sudanic east african tribes female virginity is not a
requirement for marriage, yet male circumcision is practiced. Among their
bantu neighbors are found other tribes which also practice circumcision,
and for whom male machismo is not stressed.

The word "machismo" is spanish, yet neither in iberia nor in latin america
is circumcision widespread. It appears that other factors are at work.

>>And then there is the question of subincision; native australians would
>>slit the penis up through the urethra from base to glans (I'm not sure
>>whether or not the foreskin was removed in the process; I don't think it
>>was, though the membrane attaching the foreskin to the glans may have been
>>The aborigines were not particularly macho, by the way. Nor are they averse
>>to blood exposure; menstrual blood is viewed as having powerful magic (it
>>is rubbed on wounds to help them heal) and a subincised penis will often
>>bleed during sex.

>The Australian Aborigines are an exceptional case, which although very
>interesting, cannot say much about the rest of the world. They are the exception
>which confirms the rule more than anything else. (Did those guys ever reach the
>stage of the agricultural revolution before white man found them?)

Why are they exceptional? They appear to have invented subincision on their
own, rather than through diffusion from neighboring cultures, so they
provide a useful cross-check on the hypothesis that penile mutilation is
related to a desire to hide physiological evidence of male virginity. What
rule do they prove?

I believe the northern areas may have practiced some planting, but the
arid-land peoples were pretty strict hunter-gatherers, as far as I know.

>Now, we are getting into deep waters here, but this is interesting. Do the
>physical structures of the adults have to have the exact same origins from a
>common physical structure of the fetus? Why can they not simply be analogous in
>function rather than in origin? Do we know what the purpose of the female hymen
>is? If it was meant to serve more social than biological functions, then why
>should the corresponding male feature serving the same social function need to
>also be of the same biological nature?

you're right, it's theoretically possible for similar selection pressures
to produce analogous physical structures starting from different physical
antecedants. Such situations have been seen in different species; for
example, while vertebrate wings evolved from limbs, insect wings did not. I
don't know of any such occurance between the sexes in the same species,
however. It does seem far-fetched.

The hymen is not found in other species; it does appear to have evolved as
a result of sociobiological pressures, quite possibly within the last
million years (sagan and margolis, _mystery dance_). The connective tissue
between foreskin and glans could have no analogous function.

>Do you understand what a nuisance it
>would be for such cultures if it was indeed a known fact that there also exists
>physical evidence of man's virginity?

Actually, no. Why would it be a nuisance? It seems like all kinds of
charming rituals could be built around such evidence.

Earlier, you suggested that ritual defloration has been practiced in
various cultures. I can't think of any. Which cultures did you have in

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=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf