A Surgical Temptation

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

4.5 (10 ratings by Goodreads)
By (author) 

Free delivery worldwide

Available. Expected delivery to the United States in 8-11 business days.


Not ordering to the United States? Click here.

Description

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 as a source of physical and moral decay. But A Surgical Temptation is not merely of historical interest. Why does circumcision usually mean circumcision of infants? Why does the pressure for "health" circumcision continue? These questions cannot be answered without reference to its nineteenth century origins as a mechanism for sexual discipline.
A Surgical Temptation provides essential background to current debates about the medical, ethical, and social aspects of circumcision, and the ongoing demonization of the foreskin in our own time.
show more

Product details

  • Paperback | 368 pages
  • 155 x 229 x 23mm | 586g
  • University of Chicago Press
  • United States
  • English
  • 022610110X
  • 9780226101101
  • 1,217,176

Back cover copy

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. An erudite, lively, and sometimes combative investigation of a formative period in medical history, A Surgical Temptation will inform and engage any reader with an interest in the history of medicine, gender, sexuality, the practice of circumcision in the world today, and the ways in which culture fashions the human body.
show more

Review quote

Circumcision has a truly fascinating history, involving medicine and sexuality with some masculinity thrown in. Robert Darby's book provides exceptional detail and sound judgment about the modern evolution of the practice in Britain, in turn one of the most interesting national cases available. A very interesting study.--Peter N. Stearns (3/15/2005 12:00:00 AM)
show more

About Robert Darby

Robert Darby is an independent medical historian and freelance writer. His most recent book is an abridged edition of George Drysdale's classic polemic against Victorian morality, Elements of Social Science. He lives in Canberra, Australia.
show more

Rating details

10 ratings
4.5 out of 5 stars
5 60% (6)
4 30% (3)
3 10% (1)
2 0% (0)
1 0% (0)
Book ratings by Goodreads
Goodreads is the world's largest site for readers with over 50 million reviews. We're featuring millions of their reader ratings on our book pages to help you find your new favourite book. Close X