Anger, Betrayal and Shame

Involuntary circumcision impacts negatively on psychological well being such as anger, betrayal, low self esteem and sexual shame

In Gemmell and Boyle’s (2001) survey, involuntary circumcision impacted negatively on various psychological measures. They found that as compared with genitally intact men, circumcised men were often unhappy about being circumcised, experienced significant anger, sadness, feeling incomplete, cheated, hurt, concerned, frustrated, abnormal, and violated (cf. Hammond, 1999). They also found that circumcised men reported lower self-esteem than did genitally intact respondents.

Rhinehart (1999) stated that psychological problems were almost universally noted by his self-selected circumcised respondents. These included reports of a sense of personal powerlessness, fears of being overpowered and victimised, lack of trust, a sense of vulnerability to violent attack, guardedness in relationships, reluctance to have relationships with women, defensiveness, diminished sense of masculinity, feeling damaged, sense of reduced penile size or amputation, low self-esteem, shame about not “measuring up,” anger and violence towards women, irrational rage reactions, addictions and dependencies, difficulties in establishing intimate relationships, emotional numbing, a need for greater intensity in sexual experiences, decreased intimacy, decreased ability to communicate, as well as feelings of not being understood.

Hammond’s (1997) sample of circumcised men reported emotional harm (83%), physical harm (82%), general psychological harm (75%), and low self-esteem (74%). The circumcised men frequently reported feeling mutilated (62%), unwhole (61%), resentful (60%), abnormal/unnatural (60%), that one’s human rights had been infringed (60%), angry (54%), frustrated (53%), violated (50%), inferior to genitally intact males (47%), impeded sexually (43%), and betrayed by one’s parents (34%). Similar findings emerged from a larger sample of 546 circumcised men studied by Hammond (1999).

Journal of Health Psychology
An Interdisciplinary, International Journal

Volume 07 Issue 03 – Publication Date: 1 May 2002
Men’s Health
Male Circumcision:
Pain, Trauma and
Psychosexual Sequelae

Bond University, Australia

Circumcision Resource Center, Boston, USA

Attorneys for the Rights of the Child, Berkeley, USA

Southern Methodist University, Dallas, USA

GREGORY J. BOYLE, PhD (Melbourne & Delaware), is Professor of Psychology at Bond University. His research covers psychological, ethical and medico-legal issues pertaining to men’s health issues. URL:
RONALD GOLDMAN, PhD Psychologist, is Executive Director, Circumcision Resource Center, PO Box 232, Boston, Massachusetts 02133 USA. His research concerns the psychological aspect of circumcision. URL:
J. STEVEN SVOBODA, MA, JD, is Executive Director, Attorneys for the Rights of the Child. His research encompasses the legal, ethical, and human rights implications of harmful procedures performed on children for non-medical reasons. URL:
EPHREM FERNANDEZ, PhD, is Associate Professor of Psychology at Southern Methodist University and special faculty in clinical psychology at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. His research focuses on cognitive-behavioral approaches to the management of chronic pain with special emphasis on emotional aspects of pain. URL:

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS. The authors acknowledge the contribution of George Hill, Executive Honorary Secretary, Doctors Opposing Circumcision, and librarian, Circumcision Information Resource Pages URL:


ADDRESS: Correspondence should be directed to:
G. J. BOYLE, PhD, Department of Psychology, Bond University, Gold Coast, Queensland, 4229, Australia.