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Circumcision Angst

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"Just like Abraham did it."
Dr. Gregory House, House

Want to make a Very Special Episode that no one has done before? Simple! Have a character angst about being uncircumcised. Naturally, this is Always Male, and is mostly restricted to Eagleland (but not exclusively). In Eagleland, characters who angst about this are typically (though not always) of backgrounds which are typically uncircumcised. Because circumcision is most common in African, Jewish and Muslim cultures and in the USA (and American cultural satellites such as South Korea and the Philippines), this trope is a prime cause of Values Dissonance.

In the typical circumcision angst story, a male character either sees his buddies in the locker room and wonders why he's different, or thinks that his difficulty in the bedroom is because of it. He may be circumcised by the end without any medical necessity, resulting in a Broken Aesop. Not that this hasn't been inverted.

This trope has been in decline in recent years, likely as American circumcision rates are also in decline. If anything, an inverse trope is starting to appear, where men from cultures that do circumcise suddenly find themselves in cultures that don't, and receive the requisite stares from their peers- or are themselves angsting and feeling like they were mutilated.

Subtrope of Appearance Angst. Sort of the Spear Counterpart to A-Cup Angst, though the much more common counterpart is penis size angst. Compare Animals Fear Neutering. Can be paired with Psychosexual Horror.


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    Anime and Manga 


  • Subverted in Y tu mamá también. Julio just responds to Tenoch's taunt the way some insecure men in Real Life do: He insults Tenoch's sexuality and tells him to blow up the balloon. In their case, their different status is one sign of their very different social backgrounds.
  • Rare British (Islamic) example: on East is East, when George finds out his 9 year old son was never circumcised (it's a big family and he's constantly overlooked) it's decided that he needs to get it done. His older brothers and sister show all the sympathy and understanding that you would expect in the circumstances. Contrary to how the trope usually works, he's understandably dead against it himself.
  • A variation occurred during the filming of Monty Python's Life of Brian when Graham Chapman opens the shutters nude in front of a crowd of Tunisians, who audibly gasped (and in many cases, ran away) when he came out. This prompted Terry Jones to pull him aside and tell him that they could tell he wasn't Jewish, which prompted Graham to nonchalantly call for props to... er, hide it.
  • Occurs as a throwaway gag in Robin Hood: Men in Tights: Rabbi Tuckman (Mel Brooks) offers the procedure to the Merry Men, claiming that it will make them more popular with the ladies. When they find out that his method takes away much more than just the foreskin (and employs a miniature guillotine) they quickly decline.
  • Inverted once more in the film Liberty Heights, where the boys at a predominately Jewish school are nervous about showering after gym class with the newly integrated Black kid because of a another embarrassing stereotype associated with Black men. One of the kids suggests that circumcision somehow affects size.

  • Inverted in 3001: The Final Odyssey, as circumcision is illegal. Subverted by the circumcised 21st-century Human Popsicle Frank Poole, who is a bit peeved when he has to ask a bemused doctor why his one-night stand ran out on him, but declines restorative surgery and later dates more favorably inclined women.
  • Parodied by humour columnist Dave Barry.
  • In Bryce Courtenay's The Power of One, main character Peekay is bullied for, as well as being English, being circumcised. Apparently the Dutch kids hadn't seen a "hatless snake" before.
  • Played for Laughs in the Bloodsucking Fiends series, where becoming a vampire undoes all damage and alterations to the body. Cue screams from the shower when the freshly-turned Tommy finds a foreskin he wasn't expecting. He and his girlfriend get over it just as quickly — and vigorously.
  • The short story "Brokeback Mountain" Inverts this with Jake, who is circumcised although his father was not. Having discovered the "anatomical disconformity" during an especially nasty one of his father's violent episodes, he came to see it as another one of the abuses he'd suffered at his father's hands.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Nip/Tuck: Resident psychopath Matt tries to get his dad to cut him in the first episode, and when his dad says no, tries to do it himself with wine and cuticle scissors. It goes exactly how you think it does.
  • On the other hand, Northern Exposure had Joel, a Jewish doctor who would be performing the circumcision and always complains about being underpaid, talk Holling out of it.
  • A patient on House circumcised himself...poorly.
  • An episode of Sex and the City had this happen to one of Miranda's boyfriends because she was was squicked by the idea of having sex with a man who is not circumcised. The bizarre outcome was that after getting circumcised, he broke up with Miranda because he felt that he had so much to give now sexually that it would be wasteful to limit himself by a steady relationship.
  • Seinfeld: An entire episode revolves around Jerry, George, and Elaine discussing their experiences with uncut penises. The two male leads are (at least partly) Jewish so they know about this. However, it hasn't happened to either of them. Kramer, though, is a anti-circ activist, and tries to scare recent parents with horror stories of what will happen if they do the procedure. He later tries to steal the baby to protect him, and he is later assigned as the baby's new godfather due to his stark display of concern for the baby.
  • Occurred in ER, where Benton had an argument with the mother of his son whether he should be circumcised.
  • On Married... with Children, Al Bundy had a quite legitimately angsty incident relating to his circumcision: He was in the hospital for an accident, and his chart called for a "circular incision." As Al Bundy's luck would have it, though, the doctors misread the chart and gave him a circumcision. Naturally, an adult man who gets a circumcision he doesn't want or need (and presumably, he hadn't been circumcised as a baby) will not only be pissed off, but suffer many side effects that give him an objective reason for feeling this way.
    • Averted on the Israeli adaptation: Shuki, the Israeli Al, like 97% of the Jewish male population, is circumcised, and has this exchange with Mali, the Israeli Peg:
    Shuki: (Smugly) The bris doesn't hinder my performance.
    Mali: Then what does?
  • On Scrubs a couple can't decide whether to have their baby circumcised. They ask Carla for her opinion, and she tells them that there's no medical reason for it one way or the other. This only sparks more argument between them.
  • An episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! criticizes infant circumcision as a painful surgery with no medical necessity. The duo also suggest that circumcision causes sexual damage. As Penn was born in 1955 and Teller in 1948, it can safely be assumed that both men were circumcised as infants. In a later episode, they admit this.
  • An inverse example on Friends. Joey auditions for the role of an Italian immigrant in a movie that involves a tasteful nude scene with a Jewish girl. The character specifically points out that it's the first time she's ever been with a man who isn't circumcised, so naturally the actor who portrays him can't be either. However, Joey is, but he stupidly says he isn't just to get a callback. Monica helps him fashion a substitute out of luncheon meat, and it all goes great until he gets to the callback...
    Joey: That's... never happened before.
  • In an episode of The King of Queens where Arthur is in the hospital, he tells Carrie to make sure that the doctors don't circumcise him (Arthur is played by Jerry Stiller, who's himself Jewish).
    Carrie: They're not gonna circumcise you.
    Arthur: Excuse me, what is the name of this hospital?
    Carrie: ... Forest Hills Jewish.
    Arthur: 'Nuff said.
  • In an episode of Cheers, Frasier Crane tries to prevent his newborn son, Frederick, from being circumcised.
  • In an episode of Crank Yankers, one of the characters calls a Rabbi saying he is planning to convert to Judaism, and asks him questions about circumcision, the character proceeds to vomit after hearing what the Rabbi tells him.
  • In this bit from the Israeli comedy series The Parliament, Shauli (the man with the jewfro) has his son Luther, whom he fathered with a woman abroad a long time ago and who managed to find him years later, come over to visit, and when it turns out he needs urgent medical care for his appendicitis, Shauli seizes the opportunity and arranges for him to get his bris without letting him or his mother know, to avoid Luther going through this. He points out that he wasn't asked either, and that a bris is not something you ask consent for, you just go ahead and do it. (The skit is in Hebrew, but the context is fairly obvious, and there's plenty of English spoken, even if it's somewhat broken.)
  • On Adam Ruins Everything, Adam explains the origins of the practice (for non-medical and non-religious reasons) in the US note ... and goes on to explain the multitude of reasons that it's unnecessary and impractical, and that being ashamed of either being cut or uncut is also unnecessary.
  • On Shameless (US), Carl's girlfriend Dominique won't give him a blowjob because he isn't circumcised. He goes to get the procedure done, but hijinks ensue due to Cold Turkeys Are Everywhere. And then it turns out Dominique is a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing who's been cheating on Carl.
  • An episode of Bones features a dead Men's Right's Activist who, among other issues, was leading a class action suit against (female) doctors who circumcised infants, since it's a procedure performed without the patient's consent. None of the male characters weigh in on the issue, but Angela mentions that she and Hodgins had their son "snipped."
  • In the episode "Goy Story" of Series/18ToLife it's revealed that Ben panicked at the thought of getting circumcised when converting to Judaism, so he lied to his wife Judith and said he went through with it. After she finds out she demands that he get the procedure done and he does at the end of the episode - and faints because of it.

    Religion and Mythology 
  • Maccabees insisted on a more radical circumcision to prevent Hellenized Jews from regrowing their foreskins.
  • Played with in The Bible. At first, all Jews were required to be circumcised, possibly causing some of the first real life (albeit short) cases of this trope in non-Hebrew converts. But once Christianity comes around, it averts the trope by saying that circumcision isn't required anymore to resolve disputes between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians.
    • At least once it was exploited. When two of Jacob's sons Simeon and Levi were angry that a Stalker with a Crush prince had raped their sister and demanded her as his bride, they agreed to it only if all the men in the city agreed to be circumcised. They did, and for the next three days all the men were helpless, making them easy to defeat. This abuse of circumsision got Simeon and Levi a serious What the Hell, Hero? dressing-down from their father.
    • And of course, Saul's infamous challenge to David. What was he even going to use them for?
    • Paul the apostle's suggestion to those teaching the Galatians that they need circumcision to be saved? That those people should go all the way and castrate their own selves.

  • Subverted in Something*Positive: Branwen is the one upset about her boyfriend Davan's circumcision, as she worries it means he gets less enjoyment from sex. Davan himself is dismissive. "Just because I don't have an extra flap of skin on my dick doesn't mean I don't like sex."

    Western Animation 
  • On The Venture Bros., they've dealt with this twice. In fact, the boys die frequently and are replaced by clones, so Hank has been circumcised at least twice.
    • One episode had Dean rejected by English twins when they learned he wasn't snipped, since they'd spent most of their lives in the jungle, with a bunch of mostly-naked savages running around for whom the procedure was part of the passage into manhood. Their reaction is as much "Oh god he's just a boy!" as it is "eeewwww."
  • On South Park, Kyle angsts about Ike's upcoming circumcision. Due to some miscommunication between the kids and adults, they get the impression that it means they'll chop off his penis. When told that he had the procedure, Kyle denies it fiercely before it's explained that they're not going to cut it off, they're just going to cut off the foreskin "so that it looks bigger".
  • On Futurama: Bender's antenna has to be snipped so they can get satellite. The entire apartment complex can't get satellite. By the end of the episode, Bender's antenna was reattached, and they moved back in to good old Robot Arms, with Fry still in the closet.
  • A Cutaway Gag from Family Guy's "Papa Has a Rollin' Son":
    Stewie: (Having just been told he would grow up to be 5'1") This is terrible! I can't be short! I'll be an outcast, like Rudolph the Uncircumcised Reindeer.
    Santa: Look, Rudolph, it's not me, all right? It's Dasher, he's been complaining, and he is the one who has to look at it all night.
    Rudolph: I don't know. Mrs. Claus says it'll decrease my sensitivity.
    Santa: (Quickly turning from apologetic to irked) I-I'm sorry, why are you talking to my wife about this?

    Real Life 
  • Freud's entire castration anxiety theory is based on Jewish men angsting about being circumcised.
  • There's some controversy about the long term effects of circumcision. Medical studies have proven and disproven all sorts of drawbacks and benefits (which you can probably find elsewhere on the internet — this is not the place to discuss them), and it doesn't look like there's ever going to be a consensus either way. Needless to say, given we're talking about surgery often performed on babies and closely tied to religion, both sides have some very... passionate supporters.
  • The Greeks, and later Romans, were horrified at the custom, as they saw the human body as a work of art and cherished its integrity, and thought that long foreskins were pretty. The Greeks would not allow circumcised men into the Gymnasium, which meant that they could not become Greek citizens, and several Roman emperors outlawed the practice. Naturally, they are remembered in Jewish historical narratives as horrible persecutors of Jews, even if the Romans themselves saw them as pinnacles of leadership.
  • It's interesting to note that the reason circumcision became so popular in America, despite its lack of religious reqirements, due to the efforts of a very vocal and dedicated cabal of well-meaning anti-sexual moral crusaders, who advocated circumcision of both men and women in an effort to prevent them from involving in masturbation. Through dedicated campaigning and aggressive marketing, it caught on like wildfire, and integrated itself into the secular American culture, with people just accepting it as "the way things are". This may be why the tendency to circumcise eventually began declining in America as well.
    • On the topic of female circumcision, females who have had circumcision definitely have something to angst about. It is also known as female genital mutilation, because the parts that are cut off are a lot more important than foreskin and it often is done very sloppily. It is far more harmful than male circumcision, as it can cause serious health problems, emotional trauma, pain, and difficulty with sex and childbirth.
      • There are multiple forms of circumcision for boys and girls that remove various parts of their genitalia. It is in fact called MGM (male genital mutilation) or FGM (female genital mutilation). It is harmful for both sexes. Many male infants die from it per year, and many are let permanently damaged mentally and physically. It is because of this that it is becoming a heated topic of discussion in more countries.
  • The infamous Silent Hill circumcision meltdown on the series's wiki, wherein an editor devoted large parts of Walter Sullivan's page to wildly speculating about how his issues are derived from him being circumcised (they aren't) and railing against circumcision as a whole, as well as the U.S. government. As documented on the episode of Tales From the Internet about the whole debacle, most people agreed with the editor's stance, but disagreed with his use of the Silent Hill Wiki as a platform to post his Author Tract about such a subject.