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

Gerold Firl (
14 Nov 1995 12:37:09 -0800

In article <47rvpv$> (Stephanie G. Folse) writes:

>Perhaps because these cultures don't place such a big emphasis on the
>states of virginity and non-virginity that Western cultures do.

I was wondering about this statement, on a couple of counts. First, your
use of "western"; don't many non-western cultures, such as chinese,
also value virginity? And in some patrilocal tribes, brides move even
before menarche, which seems suspiciously akin to an attempt to ensure
virginity. It appears to me that virginity (for females!) is important
in a wide range of cultures, though I'm not sure if any of the
hunter-gatherers place much importance on it. The pygmies certainly

If, however, we accept the hypothesis that the hymen evolved
specifically and uniquely in the human lineage (it is not found in
other primates) then that seems like strong evidence that virginity was
important in our hunter-gatherer past.

>Frankly, I think this is a major reason why circumcision is common in
>Western society today. If I was sitting in one of my anthro classes
>right now, I'd say somthing about it also serving to socialize the child
>and re-socialize his parents into the Western scientific/technological
>culture. But I'm not, so I won't.

Hmm. Probably just as well ... a psychoanalytic treatment of infant
circumcision, in my opinion, would argue less for a scientific/
technological inculcation than for a work-oriented anti-pleasure
training. Cutting an infants foreskin (note the lack of anesthetic)
seems like an introduction to a culture where enjoyment is subordinated
to achievement, and where successful individuals become inured to

>Remain uninterested in sex? Try telling that one to the Masaai women who
>remain quite interested in sex after their clitoridectomies. As Cecil
>Adams puts it, clitoridectomy affects your ability to have an orgasm in
>the same way that chopping off your feet affects your ability to polka,
>but it doesn't destroy your pleasure and delight in all other aspects of
>sex. Caresses and kisses feel just as good after as before. This is
>another example of Western ethnocentrism, I think -- the belief that
>orgasm is the only thing that is attractive about sex.

Caresses and kisses may actually feel *better* after clitoridectomies
and infibulation, especially in comparison to intercourse, which can be
very painful and injurious. I don't call it a "western bias" to believe
that genital mutilation causes a decrease in sexual pleasure; that's
pretty basic physiology.

Are masaai women interested in sex because they enjoy the physical
sensations, or because of other connotations, such as pregnancy and
childbirth? If the latter, then we see a straighforward material
"benefit" to genital mutilation: it increases the degree of confidance
which men have in the paternity of their children. This has all kinds
of repercussions on the social structure of the society and the family,
which could, in some sense, "justify" the suffering of the individuals.

Disclaimer claims dat de claims claimed in dis are de claims of meself,
me, and me alone, so sue us god. I won't tell Bill & Dave if you won't.
=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=-=---- Gerold Firl @ ..hplabs!hp-sdd!geroldf