Book Cover

Circumcision is a Fraud

Author: Peter W. Adler

Circumcision is a Fraud: And the Coming Legal Reckoning.
By Peter W. Adler, MA, JD. Independently Published, 2022.

Review by Andrew Little.


I comment on Circumcision Is A Fraud as individual with some practical experience and knowledge about the medical and legal landscapes of male genital mutilation litigation in North America—neither as a legal scholar nor lawyer. For transparency, my case is referenced in chapter 25 as an example of retaliation observed from perpetrators of genital cutting. My case is referenced, yet I have nothing to gain from the extent of success of this book apart from my shared desire to increase awareness about genital autonomy.


Circumcision Is A Fraud is an informative exposé on the subject of non-therapeutic infant male genital cutting and its illegality and is suitable for a wide range of audiences. Adler demonstrates that the emperor of ritualistic male genital cutting has no clothes with regard to many aspects of law, medicine, reason, and systems of social values.

Adler delivers a tour de force as he covers a wide range of aspects of genital cutting. The book has an extremely wide scope: starting with a personal experience from the perspective of an uninformed parent, Adler moves forward with a brief history of the genital autonomy movement followed by a history of the practice, an examination of religious and cultural absurdities, a crash course in genital anatomy, an analysis of flawed medical justifications, the physical damages incurred by genital cutting, and the gravity of the bodily intervention. The focus moves on to convey the thesis—to expose the flimsy legal defense for non-therapeutic male genital cutting. The book closes with a concise summary of places where future effort could provide some breakthrough and potential relief in the fight against infant genital cutting. The end product appears almost as a compendium of the subject.

It is an ambitious scope for a single book, not to mention the variability among the three broad target audiences and the compact format. Does Adler accomplish clear communication and convincing argumentation over the course of the book? Circumcision Is A Fraud indeed demonstrates these strengths. Adler pulls in the reader’s attention by setting the stage with a true to life story that reflects the experience of many parents at the time of ‘the question’ (from their doctor whether to circumcise their newborn son). Adler then crystallizes the debate with a streamlined portrayal of the core arguments presented by opponents and proponents of infant genital cutting and outlines the burdens of proof. What follows throughout the body of the book is a rapid yet logically-structured flow from subtopic to subtopic. By structuring the book in this manner, Adler effectively primes the audience in knowing what to expect before systematically deconstructing the medically-, legally-, and socially-based ideas and arguments in subsequent chapters.

Adler’s book is accessible for audiences as the packaging of information and arguments is digestible even for those who have limited prior knowledge. For naïve audiences being introduced to the subject, provided that serious thought is given to the material presented within the book, it is difficult to conceive readers putting it down with an unchangèd view. At countless points, Alder prompts the reader to think seriously about the disturbing truths of genital cutting by confronting them with numerous examples of irrational thinking and inexcusable breaches of duty, presented in a coherent manner with an abundance of sources to justify points. The book gives a relatively comprehensive overview of both legal and medical themes along with an extensive bibliography of case law and journal articles.

The tone alternates between an informal aspect, one that perhaps reads smoothly and resonates effectively with target audiences, and a formal, authoritative tone when the subject shifts to legal theory. Adler narrates in a relatable style—one that engages lay parents, legal and medical scholars, and the broader community of those affected by genital cutting. The first-person narration offers a different experience from drier theory-heavy books.

As a criticism of Circumcision Is A Fraud, the tone comes across as somewhat fervent at points. This impression may stem from instances of overly-decorative adverbs or places where ideas are spelled out that the readers can most likely conclude independently. The book may be perceived as slightly sensational from the perspective of audiences, although it is hard for this to not be the case—in any case, non-consensual genital cutting is an emotionally-charged topic to begin with and it is prone to awaken passion. Concededly, it is difficult to not come across with some degree of zeal considering examples of flagrant wrongdoing and negligence rampant in the world of infant genital mutilation. This criticism lies solely within the effectiveness of delivery and is aside from the gravity and accuracy of what Adler lays out. In any event, the tone sacrifices some of the advantages featured by a detached impersonal style. A more minor point of critique is that the book could benefit from implementing images in a more thought-out manner. Where images occur, they are often redundant as they do not add value to the book while appearing graphically awkward.

Overall, Circumcision Is a Fraud stands on its own as a cohesive, unified piece—a worthwhile read altogether. Adler is articulate and convincing when it comes to getting the main points across to a varied audience. The book gives a basic introduction to the topic and details the ideas behind the major issues at hand in a clear and accessible yet relatively detailed manner. It is jam-packed yet surprisingly thorough in view of the short format, and so Circumcision Is a Fraud gives more than the reader bargained for.