Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain

Surgical Temptation: The Demonization of the Foreskin and the Rise of Circumcision in Britain

by Robert Darby
     
 

ISBN-10: 0226136450

ISBN-13: 9780226136455

Pub. Date: 07/16/2005

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

In the eighteenth century, the Western world viewed circumcision as an embarrassing disfigurement peculiar to Jews. A century later, British doctors urged parents to circumcise their sons as a routine precaution against every imaginable sexual dysfunction, from syphilis and phimosis to masturbation and bed-wetting. Thirty years later the procedure again came under

Overview

In the eighteenth century, the Western world viewed circumcision as an embarrassing disfigurement peculiar to Jews. A century later, British doctors urged parents to circumcise their sons as a routine precaution against every imaginable sexual dysfunction, from syphilis and phimosis to masturbation and bed-wetting. Thirty years later the procedure again came under hostile scrutiny, culminating in its disappearance during the 1960s.

Why Britain adopted a practice it had traditionally abhorred and then abandoned it after only two generations is the subject of A Surgical Temptation. Robert Darby reveals that circumcision has always been related to the question of how to control male sexuality. This study explores the process by which the male genitals, and the foreskin especially, were pathologized, while offering glimpses into the lives of such figures as James Boswell, John Maynard Keynes, and W. H. Auden. Examining the development of knowledge about genital anatomy, concepts of health, sexual morality, the rise of the medical profession, and the nature of disease, Darby shows how these factors transformed attitudes toward the male body and its management and played a vital role in the emergence of modern medicine.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780226136455
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
Publication date:
07/16/2005
Edition description:
1
Pages:
374
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Table of Contents

Contents Acknowledgments....................ix
Part I. The European Background 1 Introduction: The Willful Organ Meets Fantasy Surgery....................3
2 The Best of Your Property: What a Boy Once Knew about Sex....................22
3 Pathologizing Male Sexuality: The Masturbation Phobia and the Invention of Spermatorrhea....................44
Part II. Medico-Moral Politics in Victorian Britain 4 The Shadow of Parson Malthus: Sexual Morals from the Georgians to the Edwardians....................73
5 The Priests of the Body: Doctors and Disease in an Antisensual Age....................94
6 A Source of Serious Mischief: William Acton and the Case against the Foreskin....................118
7 A Compromising and Unpublishable Mutilation: Clitoridectomy and Circumcision in the 1860s....................142
Part III. The Demonization of the Foreskin 8 One of the Most Grievous Diseases of Humanity: Spermatorrhea in British Medical Practice....................167
9 The Besetting Trial of Our Boys: Finding a Cure for Masturbation....................189
10 This Unyielding Tube of Flesh: The Rise and Fall of Congenital Phimosis....................215
11 Prevention Is Better Than Cure: Sanitizing the Modern Body....................236
12 The Purity Movement and the Social Evil: Circumcision as a Preventive of Syphilis....................260
13 The Stigmata of a Gentleman: Circumcision and British Society....................285
14 Conclusion: The End of the Culture ofAbstinence....................311
Notes....................321
References....................341
Index....................365

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