Female Intactivist vs a Circumcised Dad: Some very common pro-circumcision arguments and why they are wrong!

I wrote the following article the other day, and opted out of publishing it in favour of a less-debate-like, more diplomatic article. Hypocritically, I called it: Why Circumcision Debates Matter. I’ve been regretting that choice! So, in honour of of the debates I was encouraging yesterday, I’m firing off the version I wrote originally:

www.thewholenetwork.org

Looks like it’s time for another circumcision article. JUST when I’d developed a non-sexual crush on a dad-blogger on  who recently wrote a hilarious article called “I Challenge you to a Doula!”, he turns around and pumps out a circumcision-is-okay post that obeys all the laws of How to write convincingly about circumcision  (check it out!). Seems our blogger-relationship has hit a small hurdle. Sigh. We’re working on things though… trying to use thoughtful communication skills here as a means for discussing our differences.

I thought I’d take a moment to address some of the points he made in his article here on my own blog. I want to do this because he makes some really common arguments for circumcision that you might have heard before. This is a great opportunity for me to clear up some of these common misconceptions. 

Luckily, he previously gave me permission to excerpt from his posts as long as I link back to his original article.

Shall we begin? 

Birth Takes a Village responds to Making the Cut

*All quotes in italics are excerpts from “Making the Cut” from  www.daddyconfidential.com

“Oh man. People get so snippy on the topic of circumcision. I personally don’t understand why there’s such a big flap. It’s binary after all: your foreskin is either on or off, and it doesn’t particularly matter which.”*

Circumcision is an important issue, and deciding whether or not to circumcise your child DOES matter.  Quite a lot, in my opinion!

Here are some reasons deciding whether or not to circumcise matters:

  • Genital integrity is an International Human Rights issue
  • According to governing bodies such as Health Canada and the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia,  modern evidence does not support performing circumcision for prophylactic health reasons
  • There are medical risks outlined by Health Canada associated with circumcision
  • Even though babies are inarticulate, they are still conscious beings who have experiences and form memories, and it is important to consider the psychological impact a potentially painful or unnecessary surgery may have on a newborn child
  • Foreskin has a purpose, and removing it has functional repercussions

“The foreskin is highly receptive to viruses and infection – not an issue when good hygiene is practiced. But the operative word in that sentence is “when”… [Man Law dictates I not disclose how many of us don’t wash their hands in public restrooms. And half of us who do just flick their fingers under the faucet, like they were shaking loose a statically charged piece of styrofoam.]”*

Gosh, at this epidemic rate of poor male hygeine, it’s a miracle clinic waiting rooms aren’t swarming with men needing their intact penises rescued because of raging foreskin infections.

Here is a statement from the College of Physicians and Surgeons of British Columbia on the health impact of circumcision:

“Infant male circumcision was once considered a preventive health measure and was therefore adopted extensively in Western countries.  Current understanding of the benefits, risks and potential harm of this procedure, however, no longer supports this practice for prophylactic health benefit.  Routine infant male circumcision performed on a healthy infant is now considered a non‐therapeutic and medically unnecessary intervention.”

“On occasion, the decision to not circumcise can be perilous. I know of at least two boys who, because of “complications,” had to be circumcised around age 11. Not an auspicious start to puberty.”*

True. This happens. Just like surgery to remove one of those annoying extra kidneys or the barely-useful appendix. But we don’t send our newborns off to surgery to get those piddly organs removed right away, just in case they develop a medical problem later on. Generally speaking, we wait for the kidney or appendix to show signs of distress before surgically removing them. This is because, although we can go on mostly fine without them, we accept that it’s better to have most of your organs intact when possible.

I suppose one could make the argument that the removal of these internal organs is more invasive and therefor not as serious as circumcision. Less invasive, maybe. Although, based on what I know about men, if there is ONE of their organs they take seriously…

‘The latest studies show a modest health benefit from being circumcised. This benefit is exaggerated in Africa, where circumcision lowers HIV infection among hetero men by 60%. (International health organizations have a goal of circumcising 20 million African men by 2015.”*

The study that’s being quoted here is an extremely controversial one. There are methodological, ethical and legal factors that make its outcomes questionable. In fact, Another research paper, from the Journal of Public Health in Africa, actually shows that promoting circumcision as a tool for fighting HIV may actually increase HIV infections. For a detailed look at my opinion on this circumcision campaign, please see my first article on circumcision, Cutting Edge Science as an Excuse for Circumcision on World AIDs Day.

“Opponents of circumcision claim it is a barbaric, painful practice. Some even draw a comparison to female genital mutilation. This is a poor analogy, given that the latter is a) without medical benefit, b) performed on pubescent girls using rusty tools and c) do you really need a third reason?”*

a) define medical benefit. If the argument here is that cutting off foreskin has the prophylactic medical benefit of preventing disease, I encourage you to look at some more research before jumping to that conclusion. Again, I refer you to the governing body in my province, which states that “Current understanding of the benefits, risks and potential harm of this procedure, however, no longer supports this practice for prophylactic health benefit. ” So,the truth is, neither female nor male circumcision have a supported medical benefit.

b) if female circumcision were being performed with the finest stainless steel equipment money could buy, would the practice then be acceptable? And if prebuscent girls in third world countries deserve protection, why don’t newborn boys? Don’t all children have rights, regardless of which country they live in, or which tools are used to modify their genitals? The United Nations, in fact, lists several universal rights which routine infant circumcision is arguably in direct violation of.

c)Yes. I still would love a third reason, because I’m not convinced  “a” and “b” are sound arguments.

When I was born, the rate of circumcision in the U.S. was around 90%. Now it is roughly 50% and flagging. The medical establishment doesn’t officially endorse either decision, which means parents can be guided by their aesthetic preferences, for now.* With so little at stake, undecided parents may opt to poll the real experts: women. Specifically, slutty women.”*

I think I better work on getting laid more, or I will never be achieve expert status in this field! Damn. If only I were sluttier….

I’m sure our dad-blogger here  knew he was  going to ruffle some feathers with this statement! I hope I am misunderstanding something, but to me it sounds like he’s saying  that parents who choose not to circumcise their sons are doing so based on coffee-shop chats they have with women who are sipping java while recovering from their night of slutty activity and debating the sexual merits of foreskin.

I am quite confident that most mothers don’t become sold on genital integrity solely because the wild-girl in her friend group raves about how much easier it is to give a hand-job to an intact dude. (It is).

Parents who have chosen not to circumcise are generally people who took the time to learn about today’s accurate research and weigh the risks and benefits of circumcision. They may even have consulted, in my country, Health Canada’s position on circumcision before coming to their final conclusions:  Health Canada’s position  is that, “The overall evidence of the benefits and harms of circumcision is so evenly balanced that it does not support recommending circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns”.

Although I will admit I’ve never heard this slutty-woman expert argument anywhere else before, it is a common argument that parents who choose not to circumcise are ill-informed or not being responsible. I would argue that people who are choosing to do something outside of the status-quo in their social group are likely to try to arm themselves with good information before making a decision that goes against everything they previously were taught or is the norm in their circles.

“Puzzingly, many of the most vocal “intactivists,” as they style themselves, are women. I personally disapprove of women taking a hard stance on how a nation handles its penises; anyone that attached to the foreskin should really be a dude.”*

This is an interesting phenomenon indeed. I was talking about this with a fellow “intactivist” a few months ago.  I say “fellow” because he’s a dude.  Although it might seem that there are more women getting riled up about the issue, there are definitely fellas our there who think this is an extremely important issue and want circumcision to stop.

He reflected that perhaps more women seem to vocalize the problems with circumcision because women have such a protective instinct built in to care for the baby they’ve been growing inside of them for the last 40+ weeks. I think this is a good point.  Dad’s are important; my own dad is one of my favorite people in the whole world, and he definitely make a huge positive impact on my childhood and who I am today. However, let’s face it. In general, women are the nuturers, the caregivers and the ones who were responsible for baby’s health since the moment of conception! They have a mothering, natural, innate and vested interest in their son’s physical and mental health, including the impact of parental choices on his foreskin.

Should women have a say over what adult men do with their foreskin? Absolutely not. Should they have a say over what happens to the bodies of their newborn children? I think yes, of course they should!

Also, for circumcised guys to embrace the idea that cutting off foreskin is wrong, they might think it means accepting that something “wrong” happened to them, that their own genitals are somehow not-quite-right. It can be much easier to say “Well, this is just what we do. I seem fine. We might as well keep doing it.”  Like many things in life, often people are much more comfortable with status quo than really digging into an issue and forming an opinion based on facts, particularly when the issue involves their own personal experiences or their current belief system. This is not to say that circumcised men are inherently incapable of coming to intelligent conclusions that just happen to be contrary to my own. I’m just saying there is potential for emotional bias.

“The only room for heated debate is between expecting parents with opposing preferences for their son. But even there I’m hard pressed to imagine a scenario where the father’s wishes don’t prevail. If only because, one day both father and son will be alone outdoors when they both experience the urge to whiz. Like firemen, they might focus their streams on an agreed target. Or in keeping with ancient tradition, they may instead elect to “cross swords.” In that moment, the overriding principle is not one of religion or hygiene or misplaced compassion, but of heritage. Pass it on.”*

I definitely can embrace the romantic power of tradition as being something that’s valuable. But I find it difficult to believe that sons will have this ancient, manly practice of pee-competing with their fathers ripped away from their innocent lives because they still have their foreskin intact. Intact men can still pee standing up, I assure you. Like the “slut” comment, this explicit example is another argument which is not exactly common. But referring to tradition certainly is a common one. I think as a species, we’ve always been in a position to choose which traditions to pass on and which ones to let go of. My personal belief is that this is one that is better left behind.

“Worry about your son’s pecker and no one else’s.”*

Time for another sigh. I really wish our world was more into the greater good, looking out for one another, and learning from each other in an effort to create the best situations possible for ourselves, our communities and our planet. A none-of-your business attitude, to me, seems like a sad one.

If you are deciding whether or not to circumcise your son, I urge you to take the time to really learn about the process and its risks, impact, and the truth about its supposed benefits.  Take some time to start re-evaluating your opinion on the subject!  I encourage you to do some research. Talk about the subject with your doctors, your peers and other parents, including those who’s opinions differ from yours. If you don’t have a son, talk about it anyway! Watch a circumcision video, and really take it upon yourself to understand the psychological, immunological and sexual impact circumcision has.

It’s by discussing our opposing views with one another that our own beliefs get challenged and we have to really take some time to evaluate if we want to hang on to our current beliefs and traditions or make space for some new ideas.

*All above quotes in italics are from Making The Cut at daddyconfidential.com . Please visit the original article if you would like to read it in it’s full and original context… I don’t want to be misrepresentin’ anyone here! Also, his other posts on fatherhood, doulas and pregnancy are still worth a read, despite our circumcision differences!

If you would like more information on circumcision from Birth Takes a Village, Click here for our other articles!

 

Pin It

  8 comments for “Female Intactivist vs a Circumcised Dad: Some very common pro-circumcision arguments and why they are wrong!

  1. Miriam Seki Boswell
    July 15, 2015 at 3:37 pm

    Hmm… What are some good titles for anti-intactivists – maybe The Pro-Penis Cutting Cult? Why Oh why do some People enjoy cutting penises? Is it a body altering fetish fueled by sentimental emotional addiction to accept something done to or taken from you? Perhaps you were you once a fresh baby showing your new self to the world and had a group of adults stand over you to say, “He’s not perfect, take him away and return him to me perfect.”

  2. September 14, 2012 at 9:48 pm

    First, on this guy’s appreciation of FGM… FGM is not always performed the way he says. In Singapore, Malaysia, the “sunat” is performed in hospitals, on 3 months old babies, with sterile equipment, and it is supposed to be a honor for a woman, it is suposed to not affect her sexual desire (see http://aandes.blogspot.com/2010/04/circumcision.html or this: http://maurina.wordpress.com/2007/11/16/female-circumcision-explained/ ), it is said to be part of their religion (Islam) and it is not a clitoridectomy, it’s more akin to the “ritual nick” that the AAP proposed 2 years ago to reintroduce Female Genital Cutting to the U.S (http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/125/5/1088.full ). Just remember that the guy proposing this was also the Bioethicist behind the new Policy on Circumcision.

    Second, there are plenty of male circumcised intactivists. Just visit the foreskin restoration forums (i.e. http://www.foreskin-restoration.net/ ) and he will find us. We are many. We are pissed off that we were cut during our vulnerable childhood.

    “I know of at least two boys who, because of “complications,” had to be circumcised around age 11.” We would need to know more to evaluate why they “had to”. Forceful foreskin retraction due to doctors ignorance of how the foreskin works is a common cause. Phony phimosis diagnosis is another reason – that was why I was circ’ed at 5 years of age.

    The 60% HIV reduction. The 60% RELATIVE risk reduction amounts to a real 1.31% reduction of risk considering that you are a person who regularly has unprotected sex with South African prostitutes. The 60% reduction means that the risk for this people, based on poorly executed experiments, went from 2.4% to 1.18 (60% relative reduction), as long as all the no-shows (who were more than the total number of infected males) don’t show up and sway the experiment either way. (http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/05/when-bad-science-kills-or-how-to-spread-aids/ )

    Risk vs. Potential Benefits is also an incomplete equation. You would also need to consider the benefits of not being circumcised, and the harms from circumcision (different from the risks, the harms are what every time happens, i.e. loss of the functions of the foreskin, keratinization of the glans).

    Slutty women…? Some pro-cutting women also try to make us ashamed by suggesting that the foreskin is only needed for the homosexual act of “docking”, which means that all of us seeking foreskin restoration want to “dock” with other males (http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/circumcision-what-does-science-say/ ). No, the foreskin is quite pleasurable for all sex acts. I was just a couple of nights ago talking with one of my best friends (all my best friends are intact), and he acknowledged that the rigged band (he didn’t even know what that expression meant until I explained it to him) was the most sensible part of his penis and he loves it when his girlfriend gives him oral stimulation there.

    Mothers are more empathetic. They understand pain and compassion by nature. Even if they are sold into circumcision, many women change their minds once they see how horrible the procedure is or once they experience the consequences to their children (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bkGTJ0B6K8o ). Women should help protect their children.

    What happens is that men circumcised at birth don’t have recollection of the procedure or awareness of what the part that they lost even looked like or felt like. All of us men want to think that our penis is the prettiest, largest, best penis ever, and that sex as we have experienced it is the best that sex can get, so realizing that we lost a good 80% of our sexual alternatives is a horrible blow to our ego and self esteem. That’s why so many men are in denial. If circ was good for them, it is good for their sons they think. I think I am different in this respect because I was 5 years old and for a moment I became aware of my body, I stated I did not want to be cut, and my voice was not heard: I was sedated and cut; so the whole idea for me is attached to a sense of loss.

    If you are deciding whether or not to circumcise your son… Please realize that you don’t own your son’s body. You can’t go to the doctor and tell him to amputate a finger, a toe, an ear or any other random part of the body. Yet if you tell them to amputate the foreskin, they will comply. What is it about the foreskin that makes it amputable even in lack of a medical condition? Nothing. Circumcision is not an immunization, it is an amputation, an excision, a removal of a part of the body, a part that is healthy and doesn’t represent an immediate threat to the child’s well-being.. 

    When you awake to this realization, you see that you don’t have any right to make this decision. You don’t own that body. There is nothing to decide. You have as much right to amputate the heart or the head as you have the right to amputate the foreskin, not when there is no medical necessity. As a parent, you were trusted with the care of your child’s body until the time comes when he can take care of it for himself. What will you tell him when you chose to cut pieces of it and throw them in the garbage ( http://www.drmomma.org/2012/07/realization-of-circumcision.html )?

    And if it was the garbage! But you signed a consent form (example: http://www.burlingtoncountyobgyn.com/pdf/physicians-only/CIRCUMCISION%20%20CONSENT%20FORM.pdf )  authorizing the hospital to “dispose of any severed tissue, organs or parts in accordance with their policy. I also consent to the 
    examination, disposal, retention or use of any tissue parts or organs which may be removed during the procedure”. They will sell it for manufacturing, make up testing (in cell cultures grown from neonate foreskins ), general research and other applications. They will validate it as a “donated” tissue (i.e. http://www.dermagraft.com/media/files/Dermagraft%20Directions%20for%20Use%20(DG-1001-04).pdf ). Dirty, isn’t it?

    If you are Christian, read Phillippians 3: 2-7. 

    “2 Watch out for the “dogs.” Watch out for people who do evil things. Watch out for those who insist on circumcision, which is really mutilation. 
    3 We are the circumcision. We are the ones who serve by God’s Spirit and who boast in Christ Jesus. We don’t put our confidence in rituals performed on the body, 
    4 though I have good reason to have this kind of confidence. If anyone else has reason to put their confidence in physical advantages, I have even more:
    5 I was circumcised on the eighth day.
    I am from the people of Israel and the tribe of Benjamin.
    I am a Hebrew of the Hebrews.
    With respect to observing the Law, I’m a Pharisee.
    6 With respect to devotion to the faith, I harassed the church.
    With respect to righteousness under the Law, I’m blameless.
    7 These things were my assets, but I wrote them off as a loss for the sake of Christ.” http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Philippians%203&version=CEB

    I only linked 3 intactivist sites when needed to represent the personalities and demographics of intactivists, i.e. the foreskin restoration forum, the mom who regrets a circumcision of her baby and the teenager who became horrified when he learned what had been done to him.  Other than that, the sites linked are either pro-cutters or somehow benefit from the cutting process.

  3. nepps
    April 16, 2012 at 11:45 am

    Oh, And one more thing, if we should be “dudes” if we are a woman and  talk about foreskins, does that mean you should have been a pussy if you talk about specific areas of womens genitals ?  I mean lets talk about double standards if babies very lives are concerned,  DUDE.

  4. nepps
    April 16, 2012 at 11:37 am

    Imagine the kind of person who said this ”
    .
    “Puzzingly, many of the most vocal “intactivists,” as they style themselves, are women. I personally disapprove of women taking a hard stance on how a nation handles its penises; anyone that attached to the foreskin should really be a dude.”*”.
    ____My answer to the above comment:
     
    I  presume you came out of a woman? Did a woman somewhere give you life?.    I don’t hear anybody telling men they have no right to talk about FGM just because they are not women. Anyone who doesn’t want women in the conversation doesn’t want to help end the injury to children on a routine basis.
    The protection of  babies and their very basic human right to no injury BY ANYONE for any money  is  everybodys concern and had women intervened sooner fewer babies would have been injured at birth by people who don’t place priority on a newborns health over public opinion, public disease spread,  hygeine or other groups  that cross the line of child abuse cutting on healthy children. You can’;t argue cutting a healthy baby injures it. And how can you argue it is Ok to injure an infant at birth? When a newborn arrives into the world, his health and well being  is paramount over other concerns to a parent who places priority on their baby.
    Attacking a certain gender on this issue is wrong and only done because a woman can put a little more fire in the subject with solid facts and wording possibly better than a man in some ways because when you get womens maternal bristles up, you better run for cover unless there are a lot of you ganging up, and its hard to do when your ideas want to do injury to a baby.. 
    It may be  “dudes” penises getting snipped, but women are VERY often the brunt of male violence, so yes, buddy, or dude, or whatever you prefer to call yourself, women can and should weigh in here because babies health and happiness and his  human rights are trampled every time a knife is taken to his healthy body part.  The skin is an organ and if you cut some of it off, you damage a baby.  That is all I need to hear to say ABSOLUTELY NO.
    We, as women don’t care if its male or female, cutting healthy babies is a crime.   I guess american forefathers should have enacted laws specific enough early on saying   “Don’t cut healthy babys  fingers, lips toes (TOENAILS)  eyelids (don’t pull out his fingernails that can get dirt under them please) Don’t cut off his tongue because it can get cancer,or his ears to make the canal easier to wash or an ear infection, he can get anal cancer, (but lets leave it intact anyway) and why should  his penis foreskin be an EXCEPTION?  It is an important baby part,    or any other part of  a newborn that he needs to enjoy his life as intended.    I guess the forfathers just did not think they had to tell people something so DAMNED OBVIOUS,
    Dude- do you thinks you know more than a woman because you have a little of your  penis left?  What really makes you think you should be the only one talking about baby cutting?

  5. March 22, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Jessica, I am so disappointed in your presentation. When I first skimmed your post, your gift for rhetoric made me believe that you’d approached this topic with equal parts passion and reason. I truly thought you were different from the other intactivists! But saying a person is wrong is not the same as demonstrating it.

    It’s tempting to do a line-by-line refutation of your rebuttal, but it would fill a textbook. So I’ll just touch on a few things from which you and any readers can extrapolate.

    First off, you hurt my feelings by implying your crush no longer holds, on account of my views on circumcision. Please clarify :-J

    Next, I’ll ignore your dig about my obeying some rules of writing about circumcision.  Wait, no I won’t. Of all people, you should know better (and be more respectful) than to allege I’ve read some blogging guide. Given that you cite blatantly fraudulent sources, how could you then go and fabricate my resources? (For what it’s worth, I wrote “Making The Cut” off the top of my head. I honestly had no idea what a hot-button topic this is for some. I did not consult the magpie’s nest of misinformation that awaits any naive Googler.)

    I checked out the first two links in your definitive looking bullet points. Your first citation of this “International Human Rights issue” leads to some group called Doctors Opposing Circumcision. Sounds impressive. Except it’s not made up of doctors. Anyone can join for $30. (Not only that, but it’s $10 more if you’re an actual doctor. Ha!) There is of course no available list of members. I’m guessing they’re either nonexistent, or else really shy.

    The executive director is a “doctor” of law from I-have-no-idea-where. But it’s probably nowhere reputable because he also lists his LL.M. degree, which is just resume padding. This guy is desperate for credibility. Judging from his shoddy website, he should start with a proofreader.

    The D.O.C. site is decorated with two conspicuous cadeusei (the intertwined serpents and staff representing the medical field). They are clearly meant to insinuate some important medical affiliation. And I love how under the organization’s title is the backup name: Physicians for Genital Integrity. I’ll be generous and assume they advocate only screwing hotties. Their list of “publications” is composed of “leaflets, statements, and press releases.” And I don’t know how active they are… the membership form is now collecting dues for 2009. You can see for yourself if you’re in the mood for a laugh.

    Jessica!… I love you but this is amateur hour.  Were you really taken in by this? If so, it discredits every other source you cite. I simply can’t waste my time chasing down every delusional head-case with an internet connection. Next.

    You cite Health Canada, which linked to the Canadian Paediatric Society’s analysis of available data. The paper was a 2009 “revision in progress” of a 1996 paper, and it shows. They cite so many contradictory studies and conclusions that you can tweeze out anything to support any opinion. In fact, reading through I was a little surprised that they don’t make a recommendation in favor of circumcision. But they do in fact reiterate the point I made on my blog: that circumcision appears to bring a slight health benefit – though nothing that should sway you one way or the other.

    Did you by any chance read the whole paper? It is all over the map. Some highlights:

    1. From the abstract, “Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”
    2. From the section Sexually transmitted diseases, they report “a significantly greater incidence of STDs — including genital herpes, candidiasis, gonorrhea and syphilis — among men who were not circumcised than among those who were circumcised.”
    3. In Cancer of the Penis they cite the statistic that in the United States, the rate of penile cancer for uncircumcised men is more than twice that for circumcised men!
    4. From the Conclusions section, “The overall evidence of the benefits and harms of circumcision is so evenly balanced that it does not support recommending circumcision as a routine procedure for newborns.”

    Apparently prevention of STDs aren’t a valid reason for Health Canada to recommend circumcision. Ditto for penile cancer. Or more likely, this paper had to satisfy such a broad committee that it’s got something for everyone. Your cherry-picking a quote from an unfinished paper does a great disservice the CPS, your readers, and your cause.

    From here I’m disinclined to spend much more time on this. We could quibble about whether you’d favor piercing a newborn’s ear if it meant a statistically significant reduction in STDs and cancer. We could argue about how much more traumatizing genital surgery is after infancy, when fear, stigma, increased pain and lasting psychological effects are factored in. But none of it really matters.

    In the weeks since my blog post, I’ve seen one glaringly common thread: the people who are “agnostic” about circumcision come across as eminently reasonable. They essentially trust parents to make their own decision. The intactivists, by contrast, come across as rabid.  They link to scare videos and official looking (though fraudulent) academic papers. They recycle the same slippery arguments. And they shamefully try to influence the impressionable among us with dramatic terms like “mutilation” and “human rights.” It’s the same fight that gets waged over abortion, or Darwinism, global warming, etc., with one side quoting science, and the other side “debunking” science.

    Just this month there was yet another study showing that circumcised men have a 15% lower incidence of prostate cancer. Intactivists will no doubt try and find fault (“they didn’t prove causality!”). But railing against every favorable peer-reviewed study makes intactivists sound like the nutjobs who think the moon landing was faked. You can ignore science at your own peril. But encouraging others to ignore it – while simultaneously citing fraudulent sources – is irresponsible.

    Not including my own, I’ve attended three Jewish circumcisions. Up close. Each one had an audience of loving family members, friends, and colleagues from varying cultures. It makes you wince, no doubt. But if it were as grotesque as you imagine, the practice would never have survived thousands of years. I’m not arguing (as you allege) that any tradition should be blindly upheld. Simply that society would not abide it if reality reflected the fantasies of intactivists.

    You write from the heart, Jessica, so I refuse to associate you with the uglier side of intactivism. I think you even have some interesting points to make (like about a mother’s input). And to your credit, you don’t see any vast financial conspiracies or ulterior motives behind those who advocate circumcision. But spreading ignorance – either by design or neglect – makes any reasoned dialogue impossible.

    Oh and one more note… you were the only one to take umbrage at my line about “sluts” having the most evolved preferences. All of the women I’ve heard from got a kick out of that one. Further, they all took for granted that (American) women prefer a clean cut. To quote one, “I don’t care about the health reasons. But if you want to put it in my mouth, it had better be circumcised.” And as for your field work observation about how the foreskin facilitates an easier handjob, well, why do you think they call it a job?

    xoxo Jonathan

    • March 22, 2012 at 8:07 pm

      Why the scare quotes around “human rights”? Are newborns not human? Do they not have rights? (Isn’t there an International Convention on the Rights of the Child?) The US consititutions grants all citizens freedom of religion (which ought to include the freedom not to have anyone else’s religion permanently marked in your flesh), security of person, the freedom from unreasonable seizures (which logically must include the seizure of healthy body parts) and equality.

      And when a girl’s genitals are cut – no matter how minimally, sterilely and surgically,  so not the horrors of Africa, but not therapeutically – it is generally agreed that her human rights have been violated. (In 2010 the AAP had to withdraw a proposal to allow a token minimal nick to girls “much less extensive than neonatal male genital cutting” for that reason.) We also have a human right to equality of the sexes. So why is it a matter of sarcasm to refer to the human right of a baby boy not to have a normal, healthy, functional, integral, non-renewable part of his genitals cut off?

      I avoid the m-word, but if you look at the definition, it fits. It’s only a word, anyway, the act is the same whatever you call it.

      I know several doctors who are members of Doctors Opposing Circumcision. The lawyer got involved because he had so many cases involving botched circumcisions, intact babies injured by meddling doctors and nurses – premature forcible retraction, which commonly causes the infections that make circumcision “necessary” – and most notably, the case of “Mischa” a 9-year old due for spite-circumcision by his control-freak custodial father. The case lasted until he was 14 and could tell a judge loud and clear he did not want to be circumcised (and did not want to live with his father). To their shame, Jewish organisations weighed in on the side of the father. The question arises, if a 14 year old has the right not to be circumcised, one that is implicitly retroactive till he was nine, why can an adult man not have that same right, extending back to birth? So DOC doesn’t keep its website up to date? Looks like they have more important things to do.

      some blogging guide“. Read it. You’ll find your whole argument there, and more. “Making the cut” has a Coefficient of Objectivity and Circumcision Knowledge of 9 – a record, lacking only a picture of a banana (maybe 9.5, for the samurai).

      “Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed” The ambiguity of “routinely” makes a lot of trouble. In the past it was so routine (sense 1) many parents were startled to have their baby returned to them, bloody and screaming from an operation that had never been mentioned. (And that’s part of the way it became customary, so that Daddy C can have all his fun about the need to match when crossing swords.) Now “routine” can mean “non-therapeutic” (without medical indication, sense 2) but you can never tell for sure which is meant.

      All those “disease prevention” reasons are so much hot air without some figures about how many circumcisions are needed to prevent one occurrence. Turns out it would be thousands for one penile cancer, hundreds for one UTI, and scores for one prostate cancer – if the studies are actually correct. (“Statistically significant” has a mathematical meaning that does not correspond to “significant” as the world sees significance. In any case, the usual treatment for prostate cancer is watchful waiting, because it usually strikes so late in life that more men die with it than of it, and the life expectancy of men who die of prostate cancer is greater than that of those who don’t!)

      “…the people who are “agnostic” about circumcision come across as eminently reasonable. They essentially trust parents to make their own decision.”

      The issue arises before then. There is no need for any decision. In most of the developed world, non-therapeutic medical circumcision is not offered and not asked for. Many men go through their lives without ever having heard of it, and people in Europe are quite often shocked to learn how customary it is in the USA. The rest of the English-speaking world flirted with it in the mid-20th century, found it did no good and gave it up. In Australia and New Zealand it was as near-universal as in the USA in the 1950s. Now the rate is around 12% in Australia, under 5% in New Zealand and you know, there have been no outbreaks of any of the ailments it was supposed to be good for. (New Zealand’s HIV rate is one of the lowest in the world.)

      In the USA it is a decision that is pushed on parents, often after birth and apparently requiring an immediate answer, with little or no information, or misinformation, and they are sometimes shocked to learn afterwards just what they have agreed to. It is so “routine” (sense 1) that when parents say “no” that is taken as “not having decided yet” and they are asked again and again. That’s the reality of “trusting parents to decide for themselves” which makes circumcision customary, and “looking like dad” seem like a legitimate reason to cut (the best) part off a baby’s penis.

      Oh yes, the best part; you’ve completely ignored the sexual value of the foreskin to its owner. If such a highly innervated, uniquely mobile part was not placed where it is with the function of enhancing sexual pleasure, what was God/evolution thinking? As for women who don’t like them, well they say a foreskin is a good airhead repellent.

      • March 27, 2012 at 5:42 pm

        Scare quotes? What are you talking abo– oh!… you mean quotation marks! That’s standard punctuation when referencing another person’s words. Sorry if they scared you. Please indicate a less threatening alternative, and I will try and incorporate it. $Dollar signs$, perhaps?

        Hey but speaking of scare tactics, nice story about the Jews advocating for the $spite circumcision!$ I am SO telling that story at Passover this year!

        On to more serious matters. In regards to human rights, you wrote “Are newborns not human?” I have totally failed as a writer if even one reader [you] inferred that babies are not human. Allow me to clarify: circumcision is not a human rights issue. Ditto for piercing a baby’s ears, even if, like me, you’re personally against it.

        What else? Oh right. You wrote that my blog post “has a Coefficient of Objectivity and Circumcision Knowledge of 9 – a record!!!”[Exclamation points mine.] Listen Hugh, I am extremely proud of my record-breaking C.O.C.K. You act as though having a C.O.C.K. of 9 is a bad thing. Perhaps the confusion arise from New Zealand being on the metric system, whereas in America any C.O.C.K. of 9 or more is considered a massive blessing.

        I’ll get around to reading your blogging guide one day, I swear. (If it’s anything like your other comments, it’ll prove invaluable during my next bout of insomnia.) In the meantime, try and remember that people making informed, reasoned points will often converge on the most logical arguments. I’m sure if you read multiple writings on the case for evolution – or against God’s existence – you’ll encounter repetition. Again, sorry for having such a big C.O.C.K.

        Lastly, you note Australia’s and New Zealand’s low circumcision rates, and claim no negative health consequences as a result. But those two countries have the highest rate of prostate cancer of any population in the world, according to the World Health Organization. I would think you’d welcome any statistical advantage on that front. But it’s really none of my business.

        I’m sure you’ll have to get in the last word, even if it’s on Jessica’s blog. In fact I expect nothing less. You responded to my above comment on the same day, which is flattering. But forgive me if I let it go here, as I have other fish to fry. Not all of us can make a full time job out of spreading “circumstitions” (as I believe your web site is called).

  6. Denise
    March 20, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Boys and girls in the US (and the world) should be protective from attacks on their genitals at birth.
    I don’t know how this can be argued because common sense dictates CUTTING A HEALTHY INFANTS GENITALS is not a preventative MEASURE BUT  a harmful  way to  address problems

Leave a Reply