Medical history and medical practice: persistent myths about the foreskin

Robert J L Darby
Med J Aust 2003; 178 (4): . || doi: 10.5694/j.1326-5377.2003.tb05137.x
Published online: 17 February 2003

Although many 19th-century misconceptions about the foreskin have been dispelled since it was shown that infantile phimosis was not an abnormality, the ideas that ritual or religious circumcision arose as a hygiene measure, and that circumcision makes no difference to sexual response, have persisted. The first idea should be dismissed as a myth and the second has been seriously questioned by modern research.

Owsei Temkin, renowned medical historian, has written: ". . . we are all apt to accept a historical myth where we cannot rely on historical knowledge. Where history is lacking, mythology takes its place, and those who disdain history are among the foremost victims of mythology."1 This is most certainly true when we consider male circumcision.

  • Curtin, ACT.


Competing interests:

None identified.

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