MJA
MJA InSight
MJA Careers
Viewpoint

Medical history and medical practice: persistent myths about the foreskin

Robert J L Darby
Med J Aust 2003; 178 (4): 178-179.

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.

Robert J L Darby, PhD, Independent Scholar
Curtin, ACT.
Article References: 
Reference Text: 
Temkin O. The double face of Janus, and other essays in the history of medicine. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977: 69.
Reference Order: 
1
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Gollaher DL. Circumcision: a history of the world's most controversial surgery. New York: Basic Books, 2000: 53-72.
Reference Order: 
2
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Aldeeb Abu-Sahlieh SA. Male and female circumcision among Jews, Christians and Muslims: Religious, medical, social and legal debate. Pennsylvania: Shangri La Publications, 2001.
Reference Order: 
3
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Remondino PC. History of circumcision from the earliest times to the present: moral and physical reasons for its performance. Philadelphia: FA Davis, 1891.
Reference Order: 
4
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Van Howe RS. Circumcision and infectious diseases revisited. Pediatr Infect Dis J, 1998; 17: 1-6.
Reference Order: 
5
PubMed ID: 
9469386
Reference Text: 
Royal Australian College of Physicians. Policy statement on circumcision. Sydney, September 2002.
Reference Order: 
6
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Hodges F. The ideal prepuce in Ancient Greece and Rome: male genital aesthetics and their relation to lipodermos, circumcision, foreskin restoration and the kinodesme. Bull Hist Med 2001; 75: 375-405.
Reference Order: 
7
PubMed ID: 
11568485
Reference Text: 
Laqueur T. Making sex: body and gender from the Greeks to Freud. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1991.
Reference Order: 
8
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Hunter J. A treatise on the venereal disease. London: 1786, 221.
Reference Order: 
9
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Acton W. The functions and disorders of the reproductive organs in childhood, youth, adult age and advanced life. 3rd London ed. Philadelphia: Lindsay and Blakiston, 1865: 22.
Reference Order: 
10
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Parsons GP. Equal treatment for all: American medical remedies for male sexual problems, 1850–1900. J Hist Med 1977; 32: 55-71.
Reference Order: 
11
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Hammond WA. Sexual impotence in the male and female. Detroit, 1887, facsimile reprint. New York: Arno, 1974: 272-273.
Reference Order: 
12
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Hutchinson J. The advantages of circumcision. Med Rev 1900; 3: 641-642.
Reference Order: 
13
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Darby R. Circumcision as a preventive of masturbation: a review of the historiography. J Soc Hist, Spring 2003. In press.
Reference Order: 
14
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Valentine RJ. Adult circumcision: a personal report. Med Aspects Human Sexuality, 1974; 8: 31-42.
Reference Order: 
15
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Taylor JR, Lockwood AP, Taylor AJ. The prepuce: specialised mucosa of the penis and its loss to circumcision. Br J Urol 1996; 77: 291-295.
Reference Order: 
16
PubMed ID: 
8800902
Reference Text: 
Cold CJ, Taylor JR. The prepuce. BJU Int 1999; 83 Suppl 1: 34-44.
Reference Order: 
17
PubMed ID: 
Reference Text: 
Wolper RS. Circumcision as polemic in the Jew Bill of 1753: the cutter cut? Eighteenth Century Life 1982; 7: 24-36.
Reference Order: 
18
PubMed ID: 

The full contents of this page are only available to subscribers.