Cornflakes and Masturbation

As I sit here sitting here, sifting through my morning bowl of cereal, trying to decide what to write about in this weeks blog, I realize the answer is staring my right in the face. Cereal. But not just any old cereal. Kellogg’s cornflakes. Now you may think, “cornflakes! What could be more boring than that?” Well it’s not really cornflakes that’s interesting, it’s the man behind them, Dr. John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943). Kellogg’s popularization of breakfast cereals over the standard “ham and eggs heart attack special” may have improved America’s health, but he has a much darker and longer lasting contribution to North American society.

Harvey was a insane health nut. He was ahead of his time, advocating exercise, vegetarianism and anti-smoking. However, Harvey also believed that all forms of sex and especially masturbation was just about the most evil, destructive, sinful thing human beings could engage in and called it “self abuse.” Despite the fact that he was a medical doctor, he and his contemporaries believed that masturbation was the cause of all sorts of physical and psychological diseases. Harvey had a plan. His an excerpt from his book:

A remedy for masturbation which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment. In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement.

What a sadistic old bastard! The only thing crazier that Old Harvey was the general public, who listened to him. Until 1870 circumcisions were preformed exclusively for medical reasons, to treat abonormalities such as phimosis (an unretractible forskin). However, that year a very prominant doctor named Sayre “cured” a boy of paralisis of they knees by circumcision. Hard to believe but this, along with the then dominant, and sometimes paranoid, “germ” theory of infection lead to a huge increase of circumcisions. Before long it was a standard procedure. Since parents jumped right on the circumcision wagon, they must have been eager to prevent their children from mastrubating, or too embaressed to teach little boys to wash themselves regularly. Circumcision in the U.S. increased dramatically form 30% in 1900, to 55% in 1925, to 72% in 1950. Things have cooled of a little since then. Here’s what things looked like in recent survey.

U.S. 55.9%
Canada 11.5%
Australia 12.7%

There’s a lot more to this story, but let’s cut it short for now (sorry, no excuse for that pun).

So what do you think about circumcision?

Would you circumcise your child? If so why?

Is circumcision for cultural (as opposed to religious) reasons dying a well deserved death?

Does this issue have anything in common with the horrific practice of female circumcision practiced in some African and Middle Eastern countries which the so called “civilized world” unanimously abhors?

*See for information and souces (keywords: Kellogg, circumcision).