Circumcision is a big deal after all
‘I don’t want your wife coming to me complaining about an elephant trunk,’ a dear friend warned her son who wondered if he really had to get circumcised.
While hilariously false, the statement did make me realise how much young people relate circumcision to adulthood.
One in three
When I was once snooping around the house as a child, I came across a letter written by my cousin asking his father if he could get circumcised. It was my first taste of what a big deal circumcision is in our society. But it’s also universal: according to WHO, it’s estimated that 30 per cent of the globe’s male population is circumcised, and the ritual is most prevalent in Muslim, Jewish, and African communities.
By age 12, boys would start asking each other whether they would get ‘it sorted’, according to a male friend who spent his school days in Nairobi City. And any boy who didn’t get circumcised was a pariah – even to the girls. And this peer pressure is not limited to ethnicity. Even before Voluntary Medical Male Circumcision (VMMC) became the new sexy HIV prevalence check measure, the Luo community – who are often perceived as not practising circumcision – were already having their male babies snipped in the 1980s and 90s.
Not man enough
Later, I heard about another boy who hadn’t been circumcised during the ‘cherry popping period‘ of adolescence. The price he paid was that his cherry did not get popped. A girl even told him that without circumcision, he wasn’t man enough to handle his business. And so, this young man got himself trimmed in the name of getting some panty action.
Such stories make me realise just how much pride is associated with circumcision. When a friend’s teenage brother got circumcised, she recalled that he returned home with a new spring in his step. She even thought that he came across as slightly more mature. For him, the act had obvious meaning: he was now a man and had to fend for himself. And even his sister shared this certain understanding of manhood.
So does circumcision just come down to peer pressure? A male friend told me: no. He had very much looked forward to becoming a man. For him, it wasn’t pressure but graduation.
My nephew is about to undergo Confirmation, the Christian rite of passage, and even during his classes they often discuss circumcision. So I guess as long as we are in a society that places so much significance on circumcision, manhood will always be considered just a snip away.
But it’s my hope that these young chaps realise manhood is more than minor surgery and that it encompasses more than what happens to your genitalia.
How important is circumcision to you? Leave a comment below or join the discussion on Love Matters Naija and Kenya.