New Front in the Battle over Foreskin.
June 5, 2011 10:25 AM   Subscribe

A movement to ban circumcision appears to be gaining momentum in San Francisco.

Is the movement anti-Semitic at its roots? The Anti-Defamation League weighs in. You can check out the comic book yourself to decide (slow). (Keep your eyes peeled for the arch-villain "Monster Mohel.") Circumcision: Previously on Metafilter.
posted by HabeasCorpus (427 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
Dear god.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:29 AM on June 5, 2011


So body modifications are going to be illegal in California? Hard to believe.
posted by bongo_x at 10:31 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Getting your infant's body modified is a little different than getting your own done.
posted by pracowity at 10:32 AM on June 5, 2011 [70 favorites]


“I am just a mom trying to save the little babies,” Ms. Troutman said. “I’d rather be on the beach, but nobody is talking about this, so I have to.”

Honey, a day at the beach is exactly what you need.

Ms. Troutman, who has worked as a lactation educator and a doula, said she often approached women on the beach to warn them about the dangers of circumcising

...on second thought, maybe stay off the beach.
posted by oinopaponton at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2011 [46 favorites]


I find it interesting that Foreskin Man is denied superhero bulge on both of the covers shown on the slow-loading comic page. You'd think that this would be an excellent chance to trot some out.
posted by phunniemee at 10:33 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Well, I was going to say that the movement isn't "anti-Semitic at its roots" – and I still have a feeling that it's not – but that comic book is hideous. Seriously, adducing disgusting old racial stereotypes is not the way to debate an important issue. Whoever came up with that comic book should be ashamed of themselves.
posted by koeselitz at 10:34 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


So, um, Superman is Jewish. Just sayin', weird anti-circumsiscion comics dudes.
posted by Artw at 10:34 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I bought some powdered Hitler's foreskin last time I was in SF's Chinatown - it was a little pricey but definitely helped my sex drive.
posted by soma lkzx at 10:38 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, um, Superman is Jewish. Just sayin', weird anti-circumsiscion comics dudes.

But he wasn't circumcised -- invulnerable, and all that. A mohel's knife couldn't cut him!

(On second thought -- in the movies he was! Did someone use a kryptonite knife?)

/thread derail
posted by lewedswiver at 10:42 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


[don't pre-doom this thread please, thank you.]
posted by jessamyn at 10:43 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


"Keep your eyes peeled..." == genius phrasing in a post about circumcision.
posted by gene_machine at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Superman gets his powers from Earth's yellow sun. A Kryptonian rabbi would have been able to circumcize him just fine under Krypton's red sun.
posted by TheophileEscargot at 10:45 AM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


Mr. Hess also writes an online comic book, “Foreskin Man”

Hess? HESS?.

Up next: plucky activist Tyrone Goebbels wants to ban the consumption of matzoh.
posted by dubold at 10:46 AM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


I admit, I have some majorly conflicting feelings. as a nursing student, I've attended some circumcisions while working in newborn nursery .. and yeah, I found it kinda horrifying. Cutting on kids' junk doesn't make me feel great about humanity, and part of me wonders if it's the same attitude that facilitates people's willingness to alter intersex babies' genitalia before they're old enough to make their own decisions.

admittedly, it doesn't help when the resident is halfway through and is like "oh, crap .. wait .. uh .. no, no, yeah, that works ... yeah .. ". and it takes 4 times as long as it should and the nerve block is wearing off. ack!

after doing that I kinda have the personal feeling that people should have to watch a circumcision if they want their kid to have one. then it's also interesting to me the public health stuff I've heard about with reduced STI transmission associated with circumcision. and now I'm going to procrastinate to lookup information about that instead of hemodynamics.

anyway, long story short if someone approached me while I was chilling on the beach to tell me about the dangers of circumcision, I think I would feel about the same as some stranger approaching me to talk about my relationship with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
I have no idea how folks could seriously try to ban circumcisions that happen outside of a hospitalized setting. I guess if it got infected and a parent brought their kid in for evaluation/antibiotics you could charge them after the fact? how would you try to monitor that sort of thing? ban possession of the instruments mohels use?
posted by circle_b at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm sorry if this is mentioned in the articles but I'm supposed to be working, not reading Mefi:

anecdotal evidence from female friends and internet discussion suggests that circumcision is pretty common amongst non-Jewish men in the States, but virtually unheard of in the UK.

Does anyone know why this is? Equally, does anyone know why it started (because it's probably a different reason)?
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 10:48 AM on June 5, 2011


These guys need to cut this sillyness out.
posted by Old'n'Busted at 10:49 AM on June 5, 2011


This qualifies as "news of the weird" to say that 7,100 signatures is a movement "gaining momentum" in a state that has a population of over 36,961,664 is a bit of stretch. Hell, California probably has twice that number of people that claim to have been abducted by aliens, but they aren't going to pass any laws either.
posted by tomswift at 10:51 AM on June 5, 2011 [22 favorites]


We didn't have our son circumcised, and the AAP obviously no longer recommends it, but anti-circumcision "activists" give me the creeps ... they often seem to be fighting some twisted psychological proxy war with their parents.
posted by ryanshepard at 10:53 AM on June 5, 2011 [26 favorites]


anecdotal evidence from female friends and internet discussion suggests that circumcision is pretty common amongst non-Jewish men in the States, but virtually unheard of in the UK.

Does anyone know why this is?


In some countries, the predominant medical view is that it's not a necessary procedure. It's done on request.

By contrast, I've heard on the internets that in the USA, unless you specifically ask for it NOT to be done, a lot of hospitals do it by default.
posted by -harlequin- at 10:55 AM on June 5, 2011


Yes, circumcision isn't that common in the UK*. That's why we can have a protest group called "UK Uncut" and nobody starts clutching their sides with laughter.

*Although it is common enough in non-Jewish circles to divide men into Roundheads and Cavaliers.
posted by MuffinMan at 10:56 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sounds like you saved enough skin to make ten new boys.
posted by shakespeherian at 10:57 AM on June 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


SLTH: IIRC, non-religious US male infant circumcision was popularized by quack doctors as a cure for chronic masturbation. It was picked up by the US Army for soldiers going overseas and became something that was done to their children on returning so that the sons would look like the fathers.

I suspect that when applied to a 13 year old chronic masturbator, it would've been somewhat effective. Post-cosmetic surgery, the flesh would've been tender, but not in the good way.
posted by Mad_Carew at 10:57 AM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


“I am just a mom trying to save the little babies,” Ms. Troutman said.

Ms. McCarthy, you cannot hide behind a phony name. I see you, and I am afraid your portfolio just doesn't measure up to your potential. Your work with vaccines was infuriating, but this just doesn't have the same emotional resonance. Perhaps you could try something in, for example, WiFi sensitivity?
posted by Inspector.Gadget at 10:58 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


No problem with this. It was in the "Arrested Development" pilot. Until the movie comes out, they can keep lifting stuff from the TV show for real life.
posted by milkrate at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2011


circle_b: "part of me wonders if it's the same attitude that facilitates people's willingness to alter intersex babies' genitalia before they're old enough to make their own decisions."

Not to mention that for any apparent boy babies who actually turn out to be women later in life, whether through intersex or transsex conditions, circumcision as a child can make for a less successful post-operative outcome as an adult.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 10:59 AM on June 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


I was raised Jewish, currently atheist, and don't like the practice of circumcision. First child was a girl, so havent had to fight it out with my family yet, though I've let them know how I feel. I've seen circumcisions performed at the hospital and they really are quite hideous. All that being said, I'm not convinced that this is such an urgent issue right now. It especially isn't so urgent that we need antisemeic comics to make he point.
posted by brevator at 11:03 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Does anyone know why this is? Equally, does anyone know why it started (because it's probably a different reason)?

It's right there in the article. They do it just in case Hitler comes back.


BTW How come I can't access the article for the second time?
posted by c13 at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2011


anecdotal evidence from female friends and internet discussion suggests that circumcision is pretty common amongst non-Jewish men in the States, but virtually unheard of in the UK.

Does anyone know why this is?


THESE COLORS DON'T HIDE.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2011


circumcision as a child can make for a less successful post-operative outcome as an adult.

I have a hard time believing that's going to gain much traction as a factor in anyone's decision to circumcise or not. If the same "just in case" precautions were applied to things like (possible) HPV prevention, there would be no debate at all.
posted by ShutterBun at 11:09 AM on June 5, 2011


The movement isn't inherently anti-semetic, from what I know of it, and it frustrates me when people paint it as such.

That comic is horrendous, though, ugh. Could they have made the superhero more Aryan? Creepy.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankly, the state of someone else's dick is not your business unless you've been invited to comment upon it by them.
posted by klangklangston at 11:10 AM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


ryanshepard: "We didn't have our son circumcised, and the AAP obviously no longer recommends it, but anti-circumcision "activists" give me the creeps ... they often seem to fighting some twisted psychological proxy war with their parents."

Sorry that we're mad our parents genitally mutilated us!
posted by BuddhaInABucket at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2011 [25 favorites]


Among my sisters and friends, the general consensus seems to be that they've had their boys circumcised "to avoid the confusing conversation of why their penis doesn't look like daddy's".
posted by empatterson at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2011


Why isn't a woman dictating what we should or shouldn't do with boy's bodies just as wrong as a man dictating what a woman should or shouldn't do with her own body?

I don't have a penis, therefore I have no opinion in this matter.
posted by desjardins at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


"I've heard on the internets that in the USA, unless you specifically ask for it NOT to be done, a lot of hospitals do it by default."

It's certainly much more normative in the US than in the UK, but this simply isn't true.

In the USA, there is paperwork you must sign to have the procedure done (permission for the procedure, sometimes permission for the anesthesia used, permission to bill your insurer, etc.). Any time someone claims that in 2011 it was "done without their permission" they're either morons who don't read what they're signing when they're giving permission for medical procedures on their infants (and ignore the nice nurse trying to explain it to them) or else you're at a "hospital" that doesn't carry any kind of malpractice insurance and apparently is either not licensed by the state or is about to be shut down. You can't just go cutting on people without signatures these days. All the hospital systems around here default to "no" because you don't need permission to NOT do a procedure.

(Similarly, I had a woman claim she had a C-section done on her without her consent, at the same place I had mine done, and I said, "THERE WERE TWENTY-ONE PAGES OF FORMS! They literally stand there and explain every single form to you with a witness in the room to ensure you're getting it explained. It takes forever. You must have signed something!" "Oh, yes, I signed them all, but I didn't CONSENT." *facepalm*)

I don't know how people even think it's possible for US hospitals to "routinely" perform elective procedures without permission, given that the US is also widely known as the most litigious society in the world, particularly when it comes to medical malpractice.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


We didn't have our son circumcised, and the AAP obviously no longer recommends it, but anti-circumcision "activists" give me the creeps ... they often seem to fighting some twisted psychological proxy war with their parents.

This, exactly. I wish I could favorite this a million times. I find routine infant circumcision puzzling and kind of skeevy, but holy god, that comic is appalling.
posted by KathrynT at 11:12 AM on June 5, 2011


I think Superman was circumcised back on Krypton. The House of El was known to be pretty traditional.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Sure, but if that dick belongs to your son, does it become your business to the point where you can cut part of it off? That's the real question that fringe wackos like this guy and penis-beach lady distract from with their rudeness and idiocy.

For more rudeness and idiocy masking actual issues, please see obstetrics reform, midwifery, baby-friendly hospital policies, breastfeeding education and support.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:13 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I suppose I should add the third option of when "circumcision without permission" might happen: You're about to have a lucrative, lucrative lawsuit against the hospital.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2011


Among my sisters and friends, the general consensus seems to be that they've had their boys circumcised "to avoid the confusing conversation of why their penis doesn't look like daddy's".

My brother-in-law, when faced with this question in regard to why they didn't circumcise their son, says "well, I mean, I don't want to brag, but it's already pretty different!"
posted by KathrynT at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


In case you're playing Metafilter outrage bingo, please know that San Francisco outlawed declawing cats last year.
posted by Nelson at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


posted by phunniemee I find it interesting that Foreskin Man is denied superhero bulge on both of the covers shown on the slow-loading comic page.

I wish they'd named him ProTip.
posted by mattdidthat at 11:14 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


ShutterBun: "I have a hard time believing that's going to gain much traction as a factor in anyone's decision to circumcise or not."

Well yeah, it's just a data point. No-one expects their kid to be trans until it happens, and by then it's* too late. Fucking glad I was never circumcised though; I get to have sex!

*define your own "it"
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:16 AM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


In my mind this is all quite simple.
You shouldn't perform a procedure that can cause serious complications (even if it's only on a very small percentage) on lots of people without having good reason to. Social/traditional reasons don't...erm...cut it.
posted by abx1-se at 11:19 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


As a circumcised man, I have trouble working myself up into the lather that so many other circumcised people seemed to get into. My penis works. My girlfriend likes my penis. Sex is fun. I don't really see a problem with what I've got, despite being cut.

One thing we need to keep perspective of is that unlike female circumcision, male circumcision doesn't remove the male's ability to function sexually and enjoy sex. This is not a defense of the practice. I can't even say I'd get any hypothetical children circumcised. Probably not, actually. Still, in the realm of genital mutilation, there's far bigger fish to fry.

Also, I gotta wonder if this law makes any exceptions for circumcisions to correct Phimosis.
posted by SansPoint at 11:22 AM on June 5, 2011 [24 favorites]


Why isn't a woman dictating what we should or shouldn't do with boy's bodies just as wrong as a man dictating what a woman should or shouldn't do with her own body?

It's interesting, and I don't know why it is, but anecdotally I've noticed that women seem to be more anti-circumcision than men. Circumcision just seems totally horrifying to me, but most of the (presumably circumcised) guys I know don't think it's that big a deal. (I even had an uncircumcised ex once apologize to me for being uncircumcised, which was really weird.)
posted by phunniemee at 11:23 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Why isn't a woman dictating what we should or shouldn't do with boy's bodies just as wrong as a man dictating what a woman should or shouldn't do with her own body?

I don't understand how you can even have typed that question without figuring out the answer. In the latter situation, there's "man" and "woman": two parties, only one of whom owns the body in question and, we all agree, has therefore the right to dictate what happens to it. In the former, there's "woman", "we" and "boys": three parties, only one of whom owns the body in question and at least one other, separate, and distinct person whose right to dictate what happens to it is currently in dispute.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't think circumcision should be banned -- what the world needs now is not a wave of clandestine circumcisions -- but I do think hospitals should stop encouraging it. If you really really want it for religious reasons or otherwise, fine, but it shouldn't be discussed or listed as an option unless the parents bring it up, and then it ought to be gently discouraged. If it weren't presented as a normative thing, I think it would probably cease to be the norm within a couple generations.
posted by vorfeed at 11:25 AM on June 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


... but most of the (presumably circumcised) guys I know don't think it's that big a deal.

Probably 'cause there's noting to remember from it and the equipment seems to work fine.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:26 AM on June 5, 2011


Is the movement anti-semitic at its roots?

No, but it might be at its tip.

Personally I think circumcisions are gross and mostly unnecessary, though with value for religious and (apparently) anti-hiv reasons. But this campaign seems really icky to me, with all kinds of barely concealed biases and assumptions.
posted by Forktine at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


So, about that post. There are an awful lot of Jews in San Francisco -- something like 1.6 percent of the world population of Jews -- and a lot of them have to be pretty insulted to have the city threaten to ban one of their religious practices, so I don't see this law happening unless they make an exception for religious reasons. If it does happen, it would be interesting to see 200,000 or so local Jews move out of the city and tell San Francisco to go fuck itself.
posted by pracowity at 11:27 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


In case you're playing Metafilter outrage bingo, please know that San Francisco outlawed declawing cats last year.

Well... at least we'll always have butter eating.

*hugs butter, looks around suspiciously*
posted by fleetmouse at 11:28 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


If you read that AAP policy statement, they list quite a few medical and hygienic advantages of circumcision, which have varying degrees of scientific certainty. (Some are demonstrated by rigorous studies, some are suggested, many in between.) EG, decreased penile cancer rates, decreased urinary track infections, significantly reduced penile problems among older boys, such as balantitis and inflamed foreskin, and reduced transmission of HIV.

It's interesting that many cultures promoted circumcision without knowing all of this, at least not scientifically. (The prohibition on pork in Judaism predated understanding of trichinosis, too.) But that's not a good argument for throwing out circumcision as "supersitition." Cultures going back to the ancient Egyptians have seen this as medically hygienically better, and science is just now proving them right.
posted by msalt at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


What encouragement? When my son was born, 20+ years ago, we skipped it and no one said a word. Pediatrician didn't mention it, no MD over the years commented, at least to me and I don't ask adult son about reax to his penis.
posted by Ideefixe at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2011


I don't have a penis and I don't have children, so I really don't get much say on the issue.

However, I will note that with a comic book *that* anti-Semitic (OH GOD IT'S THE MENACING JEWS OF DOOOOOM... I think I've seen that mohel somewhere before), it doesn't matter whether the people pushing the issue are intending to be anti-Semitic or not. I mean, I may smell good, but if I'm walking around handing people steaming piles of shit, the smell they're going to notice is the shit.
posted by rmd1023 at 11:34 AM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Any movement to ban circumcision is a good one.
posted by blaneyphoto at 11:36 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Any movement to ban circumcision is a good one.

That's your entire argument? Touché!
posted by msalt at 11:39 AM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Among my sisters and friends, the general consensus seems to be that they've had their boys circumcised "to avoid the confusing conversation of why their penis doesn't look like daddy's".

I've never understood that rationale; aside from one time that I can't remember, I've never seen either of my parents' genitals. Do other families show their junk to each other on a regular basis?
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:43 AM on June 5, 2011 [10 favorites]


It's interesting that many cultures promoted circumcision without knowing all of this, at least not scientifically. (The prohibition on pork in Judaism predated understanding of trichinosis, too.) But that's not a good argument for throwing out circumcision as "supersitition." Cultures going back to the ancient Egyptians have seen this as medically hygienically better, and science is just now proving them right.

Do you have any cites for this? You do realize that pre-antibiotics or sanitary procedures it was quite likely that some percentage of circumcized infants got infections and died, right? But then infant mortality in general was so high that it probably didn't make all that much difference.

Lots of cultures did and do use body modification; it's a stretch to say they had some mystic knowledge or acquired revelation that such modifications had a health benefit. Much more logical to assume that the modification was considered central enough to their religion and non-lethal enough that they could keep doing it. Pork-eating cultures didn't all die out either.
posted by emjaybee at 11:44 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


decreased penile cancer rates, decreased urinary track infections, significantly reduced penile problems among older boys, such as balantitis and inflamed foreskin, and reduced transmission of HIV.

I totally support men's right to have themselves circumcised if they're that concerned about those risks - or for any reason at all, really. I just don't think it should be up to anyone else, even their parents, even god, to make that choice for them when they are only a few days old and incapable of thinking about and understanding it, let alone consenting to it.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 11:45 AM on June 5, 2011 [14 favorites]


Since circumcision is essential for a Jewish male (you can not be a Jewish man without being circumcised - period) this is a non-issue as it could not possibly pass a court review. Such a law not only could never be passed (for very long) but any politician passing it would know that it bring down the wrath of the entire Jewish community upon him so no politico in California is going to to that. You might as well try pass a law saying " your skin can be no darker than this in order to rent an apartment in San Francisco. It's ludicrous.

The anti-Semitic nature of the comic book speaks to the true nature of what this is about.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 11:46 AM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, tangentially, can we stop calling our genitals "junk"? I don't think sexuality needs any more pointless negativity.

Besides, I don't have junk. I have a precision, Swiss-engineered tool.
posted by msalt at 11:46 AM on June 5, 2011 [24 favorites]


msalt: "I have a precision, Swiss-engineered tool."

I have a receipt for mine.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 11:47 AM on June 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


Besides, I don't have junk. I have a precision, Swiss-engineered tool.

Do you still have the thing for getting stones out of boy scouts? I always lost that bit...
posted by sodium lights the horizon at 11:50 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have a receipt for mine.

Well don't lose it, it's the only way to prove you're under warranty.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 11:50 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I meant to add, if it becomes illegal to modify an infant's (or minor's) body for non-medical reasons, that would also outlaw the common practice in some communities of piercing a baby girl's ears.

Which again, you can make a pretty good case for that, but the weight of culture is going to make it highly unlikely to pass.

I kind of look at this the way I do smoking; don't make it illegal, just let it become more and more unpopular.
posted by emjaybee at 11:52 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"...it would be interesting to see 200,000 or so local Jews move out of the city and tell San Francisco to go fuck itself.'

Surely you mean the Bay Area, or the state. SF's population is less than 1 million, SF proper. I would be shocked to find out that a full 1/5 or 1/4 of the city identified as Jewish. Maybe this is not really vital to this thread maybe but this sort of thing drives me crazy. Or maybe that is an accurate count? If so I apologize.
posted by rainperimeter at 11:53 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The 200K figure is for the metro area, not the city proper.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 11:56 AM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Having seen them performed, they are not for the faint of heart. Nor are episiotomies or their natural alternative, the vaginal tear. There seems little doubt the queasiness factor looms large in anti circ sentiment.

Though circs are not a necessity, anti circ claims are wildly, sometimes insanely, overblown. I had (and still have) no particularly strong feelings for or against. When my son was born, my wife, the physician, preferred to have him circumcised, I think mostly because of seeing male patients getting circumcised, to much more discomfort and dismay, for a variety of pragmatic medical reasons at a much later time. Weighing the issues, I agreed. Though had I insisted for some reason to not have our son go through the procedure, she would not have pushed.

My wife tells me people are all kinds of crazy about the issue, both for and against, on the part of the general public. I guess the "look like Dad" argument was common enough, though I find that notion bizarre. It's not like I ever did any comparisons with my old man, and I don't think my son is interested in how my cock looks. Given the potential involved in the procedure, it's hard for me to figure the compelling case for a third party/government mandate on the issue.
posted by 2N2222 at 11:58 AM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I have mixed feelings about the anti-circumcision debate.

On the one hand, I didn't circumcise my baby. And I'm not really in favor of infant circumcision as a thing in general.

On the other hand, the anti-circ people can get awfully breathless about their cause, and present as their main arguments ideas like "Circumcised men are incapable of decent sexual experiences!" (something I think would come as a surprise to every American man I've ever slept with.) and "This is exactly the same as when crazy people cut off a small girl's labia and clitoris with a rusty razor and stitch her back up with thorns and then she dies in childbirth!"

Whereas if my kid comes to me at 16 and wants to get circumcised...okay! I disapprove of infant circumcision more because I don't want to make decisions like that for someone who can't talk it over, and because babies are really little and the idea of cutting off part of their body when they just got here strikes me as pretty sad. And, you know... why start fucking around with a body that's working fine? Why not wait and see if it needs to have parts removed before you jump in? But I don't have especially strong feelings about how circumcision in general is Literally The Worst Ever, and I don't really feel any alignment with the serious anti-circumcision activists. (Who always seem to feel that I am NOT ANGRY ENOUGH, like it's not enough that I just didn't circumcise my own baby, I should be encouraging my husband to write angry letters to his parents and the hospital he was born in.)

On the other hand, I am skeptical of the health claims made by pro-circumcision people.

On the fifth and final hand, I am REALLY skeptical of the idea that the anti-circumcision movement is driven by anti-Semitism. Maybe that one lame comic is or isn't, but... Dudes, I hang out in crunchy parent areas on the internet. Anti-circumcision is driven by a fairly specific kind of hippie who's a lot like Maggie Gyllenhaal's husband in Away We Go.

(I am skeptical of everything, apparently. Geez.)

Basically I agree with Emjaybee that this is a trend on its way out for non-Jewish, non-Muslim people worldwide. Americans are the last holdout for routine circumcision, but that's clearly changing with each new generation. I don't know if lecturing or legislating is going to have the desired effect, though.
posted by thehmsbeagle at 11:59 AM on June 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


Could I get a religious exception for female genetical mutilation?
posted by bottlebrushtree at 12:01 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Anything that provides a common bond between Judaism and Islam can not be all bad. I can only hope that the faithfully circumcised rise up in joint and holy protest against the oppressors. Nothing like a common enemy. Honest to god--given the magnitude of political, economic, environmental, health and scientific challenges this country, and world, faces this is a cause for a few people with time to spare and a lack of meaningful focus. I much prefer a Jehovah Witness knocking on my door. At least they are well dressed, kindly in manner and politely leave when disinterest is expressed.
posted by rmhsinc at 12:06 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Could I get a religious exception for female genetical mutilation?

Interesting idea. Just how do you plan to do this? Add a Y chromosome to some girl? With a priest's help? A religious geneticist's help?
posted by pracowity at 12:07 PM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


genetical mutilation

No gene splicing allowed!
posted by ShutterBun at 12:08 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I don't have a problem with anti-circ organisations educating and being activists in an effort to get people to choose not to circ their sons. That's fine, and by the way: rock on. I do seriously object to this comic, which is borderline hate speech. I would also oppose legislating against circumcision because I'm a fan of the constitution and religious freedom, to the point where I've realised from reading MeFi my liberal bretheren would probably view me as an extremist on this issue.
posted by DarlingBri at 12:10 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


As Nelson said above, San Francisco activists of one stripe or another are kind of in the business of tilting at windmills, and have been for at least the past 40 years. And SF has a Board of Supervisors right now that's fairly activist-friendly. And sometimes the activists have great causes, and they win, and they are touted in the media as a bellwether of what's to come nationwide.

But it doesn't help anyone's cause to be injecting anti-Semitic tropes into the debate or walking up to people on beaches (in freaking Santa Monica of all places) and doing the whole "I'm just trying to SAVE THE LITTLE CHILDREN can't you join up with me?!?!?" either.

Americans are the last holdout for routine circumcision, but that's clearly changing with each new generation.

Is it? I haven't heard of any huge wave of anti-circumcision sentiment among younger people, but maybe I'm just clueless.
posted by blucevalo at 12:12 PM on June 5, 2011


US circumcision rates in steep decline (nyt blog) according to the CDC.
posted by the young rope-rider at 12:17 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


What poet_lariat says. This wouldn't last in court for ten minutes.
posted by octothorpe at 12:20 PM on June 5, 2011


Elaine Benes is not gonna be happy about that.
posted by ShutterBun at 12:20 PM on June 5, 2011


That is one nasty comic.
posted by KokuRyu at 12:30 PM on June 5, 2011


Next will come a law saying that you cannot force your children to take a bath or shower. Think I am kidding? Just wait. Its the "Its not natural!" crowd again. As intelligence declines in the US, we can just expect more crap like this. The comic is seriously offensive. Seriously offensive.
posted by midnightscout at 12:31 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


US circumcision rates in steep decline (nyt blog) according to the CDC.

Yeah, I think a tipping point vis-a-vis snipping points has been reached, where now all the non-Jewish mothers and fathers who want their kids to be "normal" will not get them circumcised, and this isn't a pendulum that will swing back in favor of circumcision unless someone comes out with a hell of a lot more compelling evidence than what has been presented to date. Not counting those done for religious reasons, circumcision looks dead in the US.
posted by pracowity at 12:35 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have seen two circumcisions. Neither one was particularly dramatic.
posted by bq at 12:43 PM on June 5, 2011


SansPoint: "Also, I gotta wonder if this law makes any exceptions for circumcisions to correct Phimosis."

There are less destructive ways to combat phimosis (e.g. stretching the skin regularly over a period of weeks and/or steroid creams). These techniques have very high success rates, but doctors in the United States and Canada continue to treat phimosis with circumcision for some reason.

That said, I agree that there should be an exception for extreme cases.
posted by grammar corrections at 12:45 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do other families show their junk to each other on a regular basis?

I saw my dad's a bunch of times, just in the business of living together in not that huge a house for seventeen years. Dad's actually is circumcised where mine isn't (for medical reasons when he was in his twenties, an experience I remember him emphasising the horribleness of), which makes it weird to see the 'having to explain why they're different' argument - said explanation was over in pretty much two minutes, as I remember, and didn't really seem like it ever interfered with any wang-related life lessons or father-son bonding or anything.
posted by emmtee at 12:46 PM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


midnightscout: "Next will come a law saying that you cannot force your children to take a bath or shower. Think I am kidding?"

That's no ordinary slippery slope; that's the kind of ski slope they make you sign a waiver for.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 12:47 PM on June 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


So body modifications are going to be illegal in California? Hard to believe.
posted by bongo_x at 6:31 PM on June 5


This kind of thoughtless stupidity will ensure that some of us will continue to be extremely angry about abusing the bodies of infants. So, you know, thanks for that.
posted by Decani at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Alvy Ampersand writes "Do other families show their junk to each other on a regular basis?"

There are plenty of families who are either nudists in their own homes or just don't make a big deal about nudity. "Different than dad" would still seem to be a shitty reason to perform cosmetic elective surgery on an infant IMO.

Poet_Lariat writes "Since circumcision is essential for a Jewish male (you can not be a Jewish man without being circumcised - period) this is a non-issue as it could not possibly pass a court review. "

This is an interesting claim. Does the US allow Digambaras monks to walk around naked in public places? I know the courts regularly over rule the Jehovah Witness's belief that transfusion be withheld from their children. Does the US allow parents to force their kids to flagellate themselves with blades attached to chains
?
posted by Mitheral at 12:48 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]



I kind of look at this the way I do smoking; don't make it illegal, just let it become more and more unpopular.


And in the meantime, baby boys get their genitals mutilated.

Does female circumcision make outrage on the blue? Of course it does. Why not male circumcision? Because it's what our culture does, that's why. It is absolutely no better.

Circumcision creates as many problems, or more, than it claims to cure. It was intended to stop men from touching themselves. Obviously it doesn't work, but what it does do is create bends in the penis from one side being too tight than the other, sometimes so bad you could consider it a serious deformity, ball-to-shaft syndrome where the skin of the balls creeps up to the shaft to make up for lost skin and also pain during masturbation for many reasons, but one of them being that your balls are being jerked around like ping pongs.

It is an appalling practice that should be outlawed on those who do not choose for it to happen. The key word here is choice. If someone of age decides to get part of their penis chopped off, more power to them - although currently, we outlaw adult amputations on those who simply want them, rather than need them.

I'm disgusted to see all of the pro-circumcision in this conversation. I expected more from you guys.
posted by Malice at 12:50 PM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


Frankly, the state of someone else's dick is not your business unless you've been invited to comment upon it by them.
posted by klangklangston at 7:10 PM on June 5


Is the state of an infant's dick also not somebody's business unless the infant invites them to comment on it? How about if the infant hasn't invited them to mutilate it?
posted by Decani at 12:50 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


So the two main arguments for circumcision are that it's more convenient to cut part of your penis off than to wash it on a regular basis, and that God told you to do it? Hmmmmm...
posted by TheCoug at 12:53 PM on June 5, 2011 [15 favorites]


I'm disgusted to see all of the pro-circumcision in this conversation. I expected more from you guys.

That's a very high horse you rode in on. I hope you don't fall and hurt yourself.
posted by dflemingecon at 12:53 PM on June 5, 2011 [25 favorites]


On another note, my husband is restoring his foreskin. This is a very touchy subject for us. The idea that most people just get this done to their children without their consent is enraging. No one asked him if he wanted part of his penis, part of his sexual organ, chopped off. They just did it because that is what people do in the United States.

Men can restore, but you'll never get back all those nerves, the ridged band and the frenulum. There is no reason to do this.

Men deserve the right to choose what happens to their bodies just as much as women do!


"That's a very high horse you rode in on. I hope you don't fall and hurt yourself."

Is that all you have to say?
posted by Malice at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


The idea that *not* cutting infants penises up is anti-Semitic is about as ridiculous as the idea that *not* sending billions in aid to Israel is anti-Semitic.
posted by keithburgun at 12:54 PM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


If people want to mutilate their genitalia because their stupid little religious book tells them to, they should be able to do so. This is America, personal freedom, etc.

But if it's an infants' genitalia, key word being "infant", as in non-sentient being, then that's different and I absolutely hope my city succeeds in passing this ban. Sometimes you have to drag people kicking and screaming into the 21st century if they are unwilling to get with the times voluntarily.
posted by MattMangels at 1:02 PM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Oh, and Malice? I regret that I have but one favorite to give to your comment.
posted by MattMangels at 1:03 PM on June 5, 2011


This is an interesting claim. Does the US allow Digambaras monks to walk around naked in public places? I know the courts regularly over rule the Jehovah Witness's belief that transfusion be withheld from their children. Does the US allow parents to force their kids to flagellate themselves with blades attached to chains?

In fact, they do not! The existence of Rastafarianism also does not make anti-marijuana laws automatically unconstitutional. The standard is not and has never been whether a religiously-neutral law has a disparate effect on different religions. It is about whether the law is not actually religiously neutral.
posted by kafziel at 1:06 PM on June 5, 2011


I haven't had a chance to read many of the comments in this thread, but I just wanted to say that, as a circumcised male, I'm kind of pissed off that I never had a choice about anything. When I was old enough to ask my parents about it, my dad just said, "Hey, it means less infections!" and that was kind of the end of the discussion, and I have no idea if that's actually even true, it's just something he said and I kind of just went, "Oh, ok," and didn't give it much thought.

But, I mean, they cut off a part of my body. I don't care if it means I'm prone to more infections or if it feels better during sex or if it feels worse during sex or if WHATEVER - those are decisions I can never make because they just decided to lop off my foreskin. I mean, what the fuck?

If I'm old enough and I decide I don't want one or whatever, well, hey, I can do that. Although the idea of just not liking a body part and cutting it off is kind of odd to me. But, seriously, what the hell. I didn't have much to say about losing mine, and it makes me mad sometimes.

Even though there are obviously bigger problems in life.
posted by kbanas at 1:08 PM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm a pro-life kinda guy...but a definite pro-choice kind of voter because I don't think people with my point of view should be able to regulate other's life decisions.

Also, because banning the right to having an abortion will bring out the scummiest pseudo-medical practitioners around. Thats no good for anybody; in fact its a public health issue.

I don't really understand this. I was a proud Californian because of their pro-choice kinda views, but this is disappointing. Not as disappointing as Prop H8, but still...what the fuck?

Being liberal means letting people do their shit even if it doesn't jive with what you wanna do.

Liberal up, Cali.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


kafziel writes "In fact, they do not! The existence of Rastafarianism also does not make anti-marijuana laws automatically unconstitutional. The standard is not and has never been whether a religiously-neutral law has a disparate effect on different religions. It is about whether the law is not actually religiously neutral."

Can you elucidate as I'm not sure how a law prevents JW parents from withholding medical treatment can be religiously neutral and a law that would prevent circumcision isn't.
posted by Mitheral at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2011


posted by HabeasCorpus

More like HabeasCockus, amirite?
posted by Saxon Kane at 1:13 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Is that all you have to say?

My parents had me circumcised in the early 80s; at the time, the scientific presentation (or what laypeople understood) was that it prevented a variety of diseases, hence me getting the snip. It's caused me no trouble, and I've even discussed sex with uncut friends who say that certain moments during sex can be so stimulating they're painful, an experience I've never had to go through.

People have mixed emotions when it comes to circumcision, especially if they are circumcised and it was a positive experience (or it's all we've known) for them. You acting all disgusted because our experience doesn't jive with your belief system, plus calling my genitals mutilated and/or amputated (as you referred to "adult amputation"), isn't really a very effective way to get your point across because it's delving into all kinds of emotional territory for some of us.
posted by dflemingecon at 1:16 PM on June 5, 2011 [12 favorites]


And I understand it's not about liking a body part - it's part of a religious commitment for a lot of people - my parents are Catholic, so I guess for them it was just.. kind of for perceived health reasons at the time?

I just have a problem when religious commitment manifests itself in things that are done to children.
posted by kbanas at 1:17 PM on June 5, 2011


> I meant to add, if it becomes illegal to modify an infant's (or minor's) body for non-medical
> reasons, that would also outlaw the common practice in some communities of piercing a
> baby girl's ears.

You'll also have a massive number of very angry eleven- to fourteen-year-old girls.


> Whereas if my kid comes to me at 16 and wants to get circumcised...okay!

If you're Jewish, mohels circumscribe adults. For non-jews (warning, US-centric) you want this to be a medical procedure with asepsis and anaesthesia, right? You have insurance, right? And your insurance pays for elective cosmetic surgery for non-medical reasons? You're golden, then. For anyone else who doesn't have both A and B, however the decision went when they were born is what they live with--barring the rusty-scissors option. For them the notion of informed consent won't mean much more when they're adults than it did when they were infants; "Let them decide for themselves when they're grown" becomes another instance of "Let 'em eat cake."
posted by jfuller at 1:20 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


The idea of circumcising Jewish babies makes no sense because there are no Jewish babies. Just as there are no Catholic, Muslim or any other religious babies. Babies are atheists. They do not believe in God or anything else. Chopping their dicks is child abuse, plain and simple.
posted by charlesminus at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2011 [23 favorites]


Insurance doesn't cover infant circumcision, either. That might have as much to do with dropping circumcision rates as anything. I don't get the "let them eat cake" reference. Circumcision is not food. It's not basic hygiene. It's an elective surgical procedure.
posted by the young rope-rider at 1:27 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


In the USA, there is paperwork you must sign to have the procedure done (permission for the procedure, sometimes permission for the anesthesia used, permission to bill your insurer, etc.). Any time someone claims that in 2011 it was "done without their permission" they're either morons who don't read what they're signing when they're giving permission for medical procedures on their infants

Yeah, I have no experience, but that was how I interpreted it; Mom-to-be has a shitload of paperwork, and in some countries, the procedure would have to be requested, but in the USA the consent form would already be amidst the stack by default, on the assumption that it will be done. (I also imagine any time within 24 hours before, during, or after, childbirth is not a great time to be alertly doing paperwork. If you have no clear preference, you'll probably go with the flow, and be significantly less likely to have it done where it's a special request item)
posted by -harlequin- at 1:32 PM on June 5, 2011


I am generally against infant circumcision and wouldn't mind seeing it banned. It's a nonconsensual procedure, the medical benefits seem dubious and the potential harm seems plausible. (I'm a Jewish atheist, if it matters.) But I do have to admit it's not fantastically high on my political agenda. I mean, it's certainly above, say, "get rid of the penny," but well below "end U.S. military and financial support of brutal dictatorships" in terms of my emotional investment in the issue.
posted by kyrademon at 1:33 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


"Is it? I haven't heard of any huge wave of anti-circumcision sentiment among younger people, but maybe I'm just clueless."

I'm in HUUUUGE wave of arriving babies among my friends, and having small people myself I spend a lot of time around other parents. I wouldn't call it a wave of "anti-circumcision" sentiment; it's just that a lot of families no longer bother with it, but don't really care what other people do or don't do. They don't consider it a particularly political issue. I have plenty of friends with little boys where dad is circumcised and son isn't; dad isn't unhappy with his circumcision, they just didn't see much point to doing it for son. (The only time people get shirty is when someone tries to make it political and suddenly everyone's hot to defend their personal choice and everyone ends up upset.) The moms often have stronger opinions on it than the dads. (For some women, they prefer penises that look like their husband's, and I've heard some express concern that if their son is/isn't circumcised, women may find his penis unappealing. Personally I think by the time you're down to looking at someone's penis, it's probably not going to be a dealbreaker either way. But I've met some women who are ADAMANT about this.)

I will say that the rhetoric of overblown hysteria about it does tend to turn new parents (of my acquaintance) off and make them stop listening to whichever side is being overblownly hysterical, and once they've been exposed to someone claiming it's "child abuse" or that they're "chopping their dicks off" or whatever, they tend to close themselves off to that argument ever again and get very upset when it comes up. It's certainly an ineffective rhetorical tool that turns people more people off to the intactivist argument than it wins sympathizers ... at least among new parents, who have overblown hysteria coming at them from all sides. You're only reaching the already-converted with that kind of sermon.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:34 PM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


Babies are atheists.

Ooh, is there a term for mother being god?
posted by -harlequin- at 1:34 PM on June 5, 2011


MattMangels: If people want to mutilate their genitalia because their stupid little religious book tells them to, they should be able to do so. This is America, personal freedom, etc.

The delicious irony of your eponysterical user name aside, thank you so much for belittling my religion and my heritage. One would think that someone so concerned with "the children" would be far more sympathetic to others but apparently not.

But if it's an infants' genitalia, key word being "infant", as in non-sentient being, then that's different and I absolutely hope my city succeeds in passing this ban. Sometimes you have to drag people kicking and screaming into the 21st century

Of course you fully intend to make piercing a baby's ears illegal as well, right? Ans you are going to ban infant baptism as well because dunking a kid in water seems pretty Gitmo to me amirite?

How far are you going to go down your slippery anti-religious slope ? Fortunately not very far because something like this simply would never make it past the "freedom of religion test". Despite the fantastical horror stories of the "circumcision is mutilation!" crowd, there are quite a few million Jewish men around the world who will attest otherwise.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:39 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


*looks down pants*
So that's what mutilation looks like? heh, thanks internet for telling me my beautiful cock isn't beautiful anymore because my mommy and daddy did horrible bad mutilating to me.

Such vitriol that just comes across as someone saying I'm flawed and should be outraged when in fact things work pretty damn well for me. I harbor no resentment towards my parents. I love my penis. And you know? I don't have a strong feeling one way or the other towards circumcision of a potential son of mine.
posted by Phantomx at 1:41 PM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


"Mom-to-be has a shitload of paperwork, and in some countries, the procedure would have to be requested, but in the USA the consent form would already be amidst the stack by default, on the assumption that it will be done."

It's an entirely separate consultation; it is NOT done with other paperwork; and around here, if you find out the gender of the baby (usually at a 20-week ultrasound) they ask you about circumcision and give you the literature when you're around 28 weeks pregnant and you have the option of filling out the first set forms any time between 28 weeks and when you leave the hospital with the baby (40 weeks being full term). They will then reconfirm this at the hospital and you'll sign papers again immediately before the procedure. (Also because if there are complications or problems, you'll have to start all over on the consenting ... like if the kid has hypospadias that requires correction.)

Generally if you wait until you're at the hospital they'll ask you at some point during recovery if you WANT the child circumcised, and only if you say yes do they bother getting the paperwork to schedule it and clear it with insurance and all. They will, again, have you sign something immediately before the procedure. (They may require both parents to sign if both are named on the birth certificate, I can't recall.)

If mom is too drugged or out of it to make a decision, it is illegal to get consent from her at that time. She must be alert, clear-minded, and understand what she's singing.

The size of the lawsuits that results from occasional mistakes is ENORMOUS. Hospitals mostly don't fuck around with this kind of thing. They don't WANT to slip it in or have it ignored in a stack of paperwork because, as you can see in this thread, people's emotions about their sons' penises run high. It's not like hospitals exist in a universe insulated from that.

Ooh, is there a term for mother being god?

Momotheism?
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:42 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


So, um, Superman is Jewish.

Are you sure you're not thinking of Shaloman? I would love to see a Shaloman vs. Foreskin Man comic.
posted by contraption at 1:45 PM on June 5, 2011


The delicious irony of your eponysterical user name aside, thank you so much for belittling my religion and my heritage.

Just because it's your religion and your heritage and it's umpteen thousand years old doesn't make it right. Again, if Jewish male adults want to circumcise themselves they can do so 'till the cows come home. It doesn't change the fact that performing this irreversible process on infants who have no choice in the matter is wrong. It would be wrong if some guy on the street was preaching and it's still wrong if it's been practiced for millennia.
posted by MattMangels at 1:45 PM on June 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


Parents have got the right to have certain things done to their kid. I would say the line is drawn after circumcision but before female genital mutilation.

I think the movement to ban it is flawed, as in most countries where it is not standard practise it's not banned either. It would be more productive to just raise awareness so parents don't do it by default and can make a choice.

I'm not sure about the health benefits. A lot of dodgy statistics seem to float around things like this. Whereas a tangible benefit of having a foreskin which cut guys will never experience is being able to pretend that your penis is an elephant.
posted by Not Supplied at 1:46 PM on June 5, 2011


It's an entirely separate consultation

Very true. Back when I worked for a gynecologist named Dr. Gross, part of my job was to type up these forms for people to sing. There was a very separate discussion about this. It's very hard to imagine this sort of thing happening by accident.
posted by jessamyn at 1:47 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Forgot about this:

Of course you fully intend to make piercing a baby's ears illegal as well, right?

My understanding is that piercing holes are not permanent; they will close rather quickly once the piercing is removed. Contrast with circumcision, which is permanent. I really do have to wonder what kind of people would get their baby's ears pierced though, and why. I must be getting more conservative as I get older.
posted by MattMangels at 1:52 PM on June 5, 2011


Let's not make a mountain out of a mohel.
posted by dr_dank at 1:55 PM on June 5, 2011 [11 favorites]


I really do have to wonder what kind of people would get their baby's ears pierced though, and why. I must be getting more conservative as I get older.

You're 21 years old kid. Ten, maybe fifteen, more years from now you will look back on your strong written opinions condemning the practices of a several thousand year religion and smack yourself on the head and mutter something ungracious about yourself. Been there . Done that.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


My understanding is that piercing holes are not permanent; they will close rather quickly once the piercing is removed.

You have gotten bad information. Some holes close, some don't. I see fewer and fewer people getting their childrens' ears pierced as babies but it used to be fairly common in some cultures. My grandmother got her ears pierced as a baby to ward off the evil eye.
posted by jessamyn at 1:56 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


part of my job was to type up these forms for people to sing.

Like lyrics?

Father:
Dear doctor,
please lop
off the top
of my little boy's knob...


Mother:
And make it like hubby's
No newfangled
new angled
wiener for my little Bob...

posted by pracowity at 1:59 PM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


That comic was disturbingly antisemitic. Blond, nordic superhero battles bloodthirsty evil Jewish stereotype.

The people who perform circumcisions (be they a Mohel or a medical professional) only ever do their jobs after receiving parental consent. This portrayal of them as eager, bloody-scissor-wielding infant mutilators strikes me as similar to the way the pro-life movement vilifies abortion doctors as psychopathic murderers, and just as problematic.

Plus, as Eyebrows McGee said above, they're only going to be preaching to the converted by delving into such overblown rhetoric.
posted by zarq at 1:59 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


You're 21 years old kid. Ten, maybe fifteen, more years from now you will look back on your strong written opinions condemning the practices of a several thousand year religion

Well, I'm twice his age and totally agree with him. Circumcision should be a crime, period. I'd be on board with adding infant ear piercing to that as well.
posted by blaneyphoto at 2:01 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


My parents decided, without my consent, to remove my appendix when I was 15. Of course, I was screaming in pain and the appendix was filled with various bacteria, which were trying to eat through my intestines. But, I never consented to it. At the same time, I am **quite** glad they did tell the doctors to get rid of it, or else I would not be here now.

Yes, circumcision is not a medical emergency like appendicitis. Instead, I mention this to bring up the issue of how much control parents should have over their children's bodies, if children cannot understand the reasons for medical procedures.
posted by Peter Petridish at 2:05 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I would love for non-medically necessary circumcisions to stop tomorrow. I don't think there's a religious justification for it that can't be solved by the same sort of dogmatic realignment every major religion has had repeatedly to undergo in order to be compatible with modern values and knowledge.

But creepy, bigoted comics are not the way to go about it. In fact, I'm not really sure there is a way to go about it and I expect that any kind of campaign that goes any steps further than maybe a quiet information leaflet on the cons and pros of circumcision made available to first-time parents will be actively counter-productive.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:05 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


posted by -harlequin- Ooh, is there a term for mother being god?

1. In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.

2. Now the earth was unformed and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters.

2a. And Mom said, "That's fine, I'll just sit here in the dark."

3. And God said: 'Let there be light.' And there was light.
posted by mattdidthat at 2:09 PM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


I don't think anti circumcision people are definitionally antisemitic, but that comic sure is, and I'd very a few other arms of the movement draw on that kind of imagery as well.

The whole issue about the boy's penis not matching his father's is not a big deal. My parents were fairly frequent nudists (it was the 1970s, ok?) so I was fully aware of how the penises in the family varied, and it just wasn't an issue.
posted by Forktine at 2:12 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Plus, as Eyebrows McGee said above, they're only going to be preaching to the converted by delving into such overblown rhetoric.

This comic is clearly a false flag operation by the sinister prepuce purloiners.
posted by fleetmouse at 2:13 PM on June 5, 2011


Bartender at my local is Irish, thus uncircumcised. He encourages the regulars to bring is up because inevitably a slightly drunken young lady will ask to see it. So there is that argument against circumcision.
posted by Ad hominem at 2:14 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


If circumcision wasn't something we were already familiar with, its proposal would surely be met with horror. Like, serial killer of the worst possible kind sort of horror. (You want to do what, to babies?!) Just goes to show how twisted we are as a species, that we can discuss this so casually.

That said, yeah, how about we start a movement that provides free healthcare to all children up to the age of 15 instead? I wouldn't mind someone coming up to me on the beach to propose that idea.
posted by fartknocker at 2:14 PM on June 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


As far as false flags go, I'd buy that the comic is the work of people who sincerely hate comics and wish to discredit them, it being both hateful AND a peice of shit.
posted by Artw at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're 21 years old kid. Ten, maybe fifteen, more years from now you will look back on your strong written opinions condemning the practices of a several thousand year religion and smack yourself on the head and mutter something ungracious about yourself. Been there . Done that.

A mohel circumcised my son in a bris when he was 8 days old. I disagree with MattMangels. But physical age is not an accurate measure of a person's maturity. Nor of intelligence. And dismissing someone's argument because they're a "kid" strikes me as a shitty tactic.

Unexamined faith and ritual are worthless, imo. A religion that has been in existence for thousands of years can just as easily be wrong about perpetuating any tradition, ritual or practice as one that has existed for decades. Jewish tradition exemplifies this: our traditions have adapted to modernity again and again throughout the ages as our understanding of the world around us has changed.

Our religion isn't static, and we should welcome thoughtful inquiries into, and critiques of, its practices.
posted by zarq at 2:16 PM on June 5, 2011 [20 favorites]


keithburgun: “The idea that *not* cutting infants penises up is anti-Semitic is about as ridiculous as the idea that *not* sending billions in aid to Israel is anti-Semitic.”

That's a ridiculous straw man, and you know it. Nobody in this thread is calling anti-circumcision people "anti-Semitic." We are specifically and carefully calling the obnoxious linked comic book – which in no way represents the mainstream beliefs of anti-circumcision people (I hope and believe) – is shockingly anti-Semitic. As in, I haven't seen a new piece of literature this anti-Semitic in many, many years.

I wonder if you've looked at it. Really, it's shocking. Unfortunately it has very little to do with the debate – again, I'm hoping all of us can keep them separate – but it's hard to deny that that comic book is egregiously offensive, no matter where you come down on this debate.
posted by koeselitz at 2:17 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Ten, maybe fifteen, more years from now you will look back on your strong written opinions condemning the practices of a several thousand year religion ...

We could all get together, post- some sort of apocalypse that's knocked us back to a pre-industrial level, and agree to shit in a great big hole* for the next five thousand years. We could invent all kinds of punishments and censures for not shitting in the hole. We could develop a worldview based entirely around the necessity of shitting in this hole and nowhere else. Entire generations could live and die racked by the philosophical nuances of a universe whose balanced continuance rests solely on not shitting anywhere but the hole. At the end of those five thousand years, assuming the noble culture of the hole-shitters can lurch along for all that time? Time and human reverence are not magic, behaviour without reason is - well - tradition, and we will still just have a hole full of shit.

But I mean, I shouldn't be here. I should be making the most of the 3-8 years where age still doesn't mean value to me. Away!

*I mean, we are talking a really large hole here. I'm picturing that enormous sinkhole in - is it Russia? I think it is - and the prophecy pretty much being, when the high priest can walk from this side to the other across our holy leavings, we may ascend unto paradise. Thus spake the first of the hole-shitters. That which we do, we do by the grace and mercy of the poop-hole.
posted by emmtee at 2:22 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yeah, the comic book pretty much discredits this _particular_ movement (the one by Mr. Hess --- seriously how can that be his name? It's like someone is writing a parody of such a thing). There's no way he's not anti-Semitic.

That is somewhat orthogonal to the overall issue of circumcision, but not to this particular movement/drive. If anything I _hope_ it will undercut this particular movement, not because I have strong feelings either way but just because that really _should_ be the impact of such hateful rhetoric.

(I do find the comparisons to FGM a little overblown. Sure there's a superficial similarity, but most men who are circumcised have happy and enjoyable sex lives. Maybe I'm wrong, but my understanding is that is _not_ true of women who have had FGM).
posted by wildcrdj at 2:23 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


ts;dr
posted by sneebler at 2:26 PM on June 5, 2011


"I have plenty of friends with little boys where dad is circumcised and son isn't; dad isn't unhappy with his circumcision, they just didn't see much point to doing it for son."

Well, I was clipped - it hasn't bothered me much at all. The little (well, not so much, anymore) guy was born 13 years back - and my lovely bride left the decision of snip or not up to me.

I dug around, looking at for and against, and basically decided that it simply wasn't that big a thing. Health-wise, it all looked even. So, figuring he could decide for himself when he was older - we left him uncut.

I think a lot of the ire re circumcision or not is based on people going "Damn it - I'm offended because those (fill in the blanks) over there are doing something that I DO NOT AGREE WITH AND THEY MUST BE STOPPED."

Whether it's any of their business in the first place is an interesting question. WHY have they decided it's their business? (See the statement in the paragraph above. They don't like it, therefore that justifies their interest.)

Why should they have a say in it? I think this is a choice which should be left up to the parents. This is a really bad example of an attempt by an advocacy group (again - "Damn it - I'm offended because those (fill in the blanks) over there are doing something that I DO NOT AGREE WITH AND THEY MUST BE STOPPED.") to get government involved in something that shouldn't even be a government concern.

The COMIC, however, is an OUTSTANDING fucking piece of anti-semitic garbage. Imagine the same, only with an Islamic twist.

I haven't checked into it - but I wouldn't be surprised to find that there's an Islamic religious specialist that functions the same as a mohel. If so - would a comic that portrayed such in as twisted a fashion be considered anti-Islamic? Because I'd sure think so.

Huh. This is a twist... Swedish Muslims turn to Jewish Mohel for Circumcisions. Who'd have thought a bit of flesh could get the two religions together?
posted by JB71 at 2:30 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


In virtually all cases, FGM is done to prevent women from pleasure. So there is clearly a difference in intent.
posted by zarq at 2:33 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Heaven knows I'm not going to be the one to express concern about the sanctity of the almighty penis. I tend to simply view this from the perspective of a religiously intolerant law considering that there is no religious exemption to this proposed ban.

wildcrdj brings up the essential point in that circumcision does not interfere with one's sex life whereas female genital mutilation does. Now before all the penis worshipers give me the big push back on that statement I point out that all Jewish law for the past several thousand years has been interpreted by and/or written by men. (I'm not with that - it's just a fact). So I'm pretty darn certain that men being men, if circumcision was interfering with a man's sex life that somewhere in the past several thousand years the rabbis out there would have deduced that "maybe god didn't really mean that" Kind of like what we did regarding animal sacrifice a couple thousand years ago. So I don't think it's hurting these guys but that's just my take on it.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:34 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


What a stupid thing to try to write into law. I have all boys, when each was born I was presented with a form in the hospital to sign authorizing circumcision. I signed it. If I had not they would not have been circumcised. I did not give it a lot of thought, 30 0r 40 years ago it was standard practice in the USA, but another impetus was knowing my Dad had to have it done as an adult for medical reasons, and that was really painful. Now the fashion seems to be not to circumcise, that's fine with me too. I don't see it as a big deal either way, certainly not something to outlaw.
posted by mermayd at 2:34 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


JB71: "offended"

I'm not offended. I'm not remotely offended. I'm a bit anxious for the kids whose lives might be slightly worse as a result of their circumcision. I'm hopping mad for the kids whose lives will be completely ruined by their circumcision (kids who turn out to be trans or intersex being a subgroup of that). I'm a little contemptuous of non-medical justifications for circumcision. But I'm not offended.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:36 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You're 21 years old kid. Ten, maybe fifteen, more years from now you will look back on your strong written opinions condemning the practices of a several thousand year religion and smack yourself on the head and mutter something ungracious about yourself. Been there . Done that.

How old must one be before you would take seriously their comments mocking the silly superstitions of Judaism?
posted by andoatnp at 2:39 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I'm hopping mad for the kids whose lives will be completely ruined by their circumcision (kids who turn out to be trans or intersex being a subgroup of that).

Excuse me, that's simply not true. I can attest to that from personal experience. Being circumcised or not does not affect the outcome of surgical sex reassignment in any appreciable manner.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 2:49 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I have a penis. I have a scar on my penis from a cosmetic surgery my parents elected for me to get when I was a few days old. I hear that I'm missing a couple of nerve bundles, too. That's not okay.
posted by wayland at 2:54 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


If people want to mutilate their genitalia because their stupid little religious book tells them to...


How old must one be before you would take seriously their comments mocking the silly superstitions of Judaism?


Well, it there's one way to bring more people around to seeing the validity of the anti-circumcision side of this argument, making hateful, insulting comments about their religion and it's traditions should do it for sure.
posted by The Gooch at 2:54 PM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


Poet_Lariat: "Excuse me, that's simply not true. I can attest to that from personal experience. Being circumcised or not does not affect the outcome of surgical sex reassignment in any appreciable manner."

It's not guaranteed to. But it can cause problems, especially if there's a lack of donor material. I was in hospital with someone who'd had two years (and many, many hospital stays) of complications because of that.

But yeah, it's certainly not the case that all circumcised people who need SRS will have a poorer or negative outcome, it just can do in some cases.

Counting people in my head comes out to more people than I expected, actually.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 2:57 PM on June 5, 2011


Well, it there's one way to bring more people around to seeing the validity of the anti-circumcision side of this argument, making hateful, insulting comments about their religion and it's traditions should do it for sure.

I'm not advocating one way or the other on the circumcision debate. My comment about the silly superstitions of Judaism was a reaction to someone devaluing someone else's opinion because they are young, not because I'm trying to score points in the circumcision debate.

Also, I'll cop to insulting, but I think hateful is a little strong.
posted by andoatnp at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


As a circumcised American male, and a straight, white one at that, I feel this is among the very few movements I actually could have some standing in. But not only do I disagree with banning circumcision, I'm glad that my parents did it. Because it seems to be the done thing and expected, it made that awkward period of your life where you start to take off your pants for other people a little less awkward. That to me is a non-trivial benefit.

I find this an incredibly strange thing for people, and especially women, frankly, to take a holier-than-thou attitude about. I don't want a foreskin! Thanks anyway!
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:00 PM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


No one will notice your foreskin if you're fully erect when you take your pants off.
posted by fleetmouse at 3:06 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


No one will notice your foreskin if you're fully erect when you take your pants off.

Let's just say shit happens and leave it at that.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 3:09 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


fleetmouse: "No one will notice your foreskin if you're fully erect when you take your pants off."

Or if you have really surprising or distracting underwear.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:13 PM on June 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


zarq writes "The people who perform circumcisions (be they a Mohel or a medical professional) only ever do their jobs after receiving parental consent. "

This would make an interesting debate about whether Jewish parents actually have a viable choice to say "no". I wonder how many devote Jewish parents leave this decision up to their sons when they could decide for themselves.

zarq writes "In virtually all cases, FGM is done to prevent women from pleasure. So there is clearly a difference in intent."

Part of the popularization of circumcision during the begin of the last century was it's benefit as an impediment to masturbation.

Poet_Lariat writes "I point out that all Jewish law for the past several thousand years has been interpreted by and/or written by men. (I'm not with that - it's just a fact). So I'm pretty darn certain that men being men, if circumcision was interfering with a man's sex life that somewhere in the past several thousand years the rabbis out there would have deduced that 'maybe god didn't really mean that'"

History doesn't really bear that theory out. Plenty of men have been enslaved by there fellow men; sent off joyously to sacrifice on the altar of war (with your shield or on it) or married off to women they didn't even know. The need to rub blue mud in your belly button can be hard to break free from.
posted by Mitheral at 3:15 PM on June 5, 2011


As a non Jewish person who performs the occasional circumcision, who is frequently asked by my pregnant patients what they should do, whose wife is an HIV doctor, who recently wrestled with this question upon the birth of my son, and who disagreed with my wife on what to do, I have some really balanced, mixed thoughts on the subject I've always wanted to drop into one of these threads. And each and every time, the thread has gone so far down the rabbit hole so quickly I wouldn't touch it with a 10 foot foreskin. There are many issues where the debate is driven by people on the extremes but this is one where the rhetoric has a special toxicity; with circumcision, there's actual data to dive into and issues of real cultural, historical, and personal weight to consider, issues that actually allow for uncertainty, that for some people are worth considering carefully.

I'm only going to say one factual thing, because it always bugs me when I hear people debating this and I feel it needs clarification: "Letting the kid decide when he's older" -- circumcision on a newborn is a 20 minute office procedure that costs $150, there is very little that is objectively discernible as pain, bleeding is minimal, and complications are exceedingly rare. Circumcision on an older child or an adult is an hour of operating room time with a specialist, costs $5000-10000, is associated with significant pain for weeks afterward, significant intraoperative bleeding, and a much higher infection rate. To let the kid make his own decision later, is de facto choosing not to circumcise. The institution I used to work at took care of a lot of East African war time refugees for whom circumcision wasn't possible in the camps in Kenya at birth, yet remained hugely important culturally. So these kids would get referred for circumcision later. They did fine, but we rarely would see repeat business from the other siblings in the family.

I'm really not 100% pro or anti, I just support the family's decision and this is a nuanced enough debate that I am strongly suspicious of the education and motivation of people who think they can make that decision for other families.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 3:17 PM on June 5, 2011 [63 favorites]


IANAL, but isn't part of how the courts determine the constitutionality of a law based - in part - on an assessment of how the law was campaigned for and passed?

In other words, if the supporters of this law are making blatantly anti-semitic arguments in favor of its passage (as this comic does), and the law does, in fact, have a significant impact against a religious group (as this law does), doesn't that tend to make it a more clear decision as the courts evaluate the law?
posted by jenkinsEar at 3:23 PM on June 5, 2011


Re: consent for a procedure on an infant

Parents make medical decisions for their kids -- tonsillectomies, those questionable ear infection interventions, surgery to repair heart defects, etc.

You can argue either way about the relative merits of circumcision for health reasons -- that AAP policy paper lays out the pluses and minuses and concludes that it's generally a good procedure but parents need to weigh the risks and rewards for themselves.

But arguing that its wrong for parents to make medical decisions for their babies is ridiculous. Plus, on preview, note Slarty's points about the relative superiority of the procedure in infancy.
posted by msalt at 3:23 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Even though acceptance of gays has made some inroads in middle-America, being fully erect in the locker room is still generally ill-advised.

I wish that people here would stop using words like "mutilation". I think my cut penis looks nice and my wife agrees. My penis has brought me quite a bit of joy over the past few decades.

I have no resentment towards my parents for that particular decision and I don't feel like I've lost anything important.

Wouldn't our collective rage be better directed at more important things? There are still children being sold into slavery, even here in America. There are still starving people -- even babies -- all around the world.
posted by double block and bleed at 3:31 PM on June 5, 2011


I kind of look at this the way I do smoking; don't make it illegal, just let it become more and more unpopular.

And in the meantime, baby boys get their genitals mutilated.

Does female circumcision make outrage on the blue? Of course it does. Why not male circumcision? Because it's what our culture does, that's why. It is absolutely no better.


You do know I'm anti-circ, Malice? I have a boy. He's intact! I do think it's wrong to circumcize without a compelling medical reason and/or patient consent and lots of painkillers, honest.

But I also have spent enough time with people to realize, as you might have noticed in this thread, that change sticks the best when everyone involved feels persuaded, not coerced. In the long run, lowering the circ rate through education/change of custom will result in far more uncirc'd babies than making it illegal would, what with the resulting backlash, religious and otherwise. So that's the route I'm taking, because I think it will work.

People are complicated, their cultures no less so. Change can take many forms. All the stats indicate the change we want is already happening and that's a good thing. More flies with honey, etc. etc.
posted by emjaybee at 3:35 PM on June 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


To let the kid make his own decision later, is de facto choosing not to circumcise.

That's funny... I just heard something that sounded like a clue bat... whooshing past a skull...
posted by fleetmouse at 3:36 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of the popularization of circumcision during the begin of the last century was it's benefit as an impediment to masturbation.

Based on personal experience I'd have to say this is probably less effective than they intended.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:36 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I wish that people here would stop using words like "mutilation".
posted by double block and bleed


Its great that you're happy with how your body looks, however some of us feel our bodies have been mutilated, so yeah - I'll continue to use that term.
posted by blaneyphoto at 3:37 PM on June 5, 2011


Slarty Bartfast: I have some really balanced, mixed thoughts on the subject I've always wanted to drop...

Yes, well, come on then.

I'm only going to say one factual thing...

Really? Cost comparison? That's all you want to say? I hope you'll excuse my lack of social grace here when I ask: there you are, knife in one hand and someone's penis in the other. Your thoughts are, "Here's another thoughtfully researched surgical procedure with clear benefits for my patient." or "Wait, why am I doing this, again?" or...?

Excellent nick, BTW
posted by fartknocker at 3:38 PM on June 5, 2011


wildcrdj: "Based on personal experience I'd have to say this is probably less effective than they intended."

To be fair there's no way they could have predicted internet porn.

a forum I frequent has occasional contests where posters compete to see you can go without masturbating the longest. one is running now; about three days in and dozens of people have already thrown in the tissue.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:42 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


>>To let the kid make his own decision later, is de facto choosing not to circumcise.

>That's funny... I just heard something that sounded like a clue bat... whooshing past a skull...


I assume you think that the fact that a kid would likely not choose it later proves circumcision is wrong. You're missing the point. The coercion can work the other way too; holding off circumcision until it's much more painful, risky and expensive is not letting the kid make an uncoerced choice, it's changing the nature of the choice.

Similarly, my teeth are crooked. I did not have orthodontia as a kid. I would like them straightened, but as a grown man, the procedure is much more difficult, lengthy, and expensive -- and there is no guarantee it can work. Kids can handle some things better than adults.
posted by msalt at 3:43 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just agreeing with Slarty Barfast from my father's experience that circumcision performed on an adult or older boy is a much bigger, more painful, more dangerous, and more expensive deal than infant circumcision. And there are medical conditions of the urinary tract that can make it necessary at a later date, so that is not always a matter of choice really. I am glad I had my kids done as newborns. Parents make medical and other choices for their children all the time. It is part of being a parent. Parents should have the facts, not hysteria about circumcision and make their own choices based on their culture, preferences, and understanding of the medical risks. It should never be presented as something the boy can "choose" later. The greater risks on all levels of doing it later should be presented along with other facts to parents making the choice and their wishes to circumcise or not should be respected.
posted by mermayd at 3:46 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


double block and bleed: I wish that people here would stop using words like "mutilation".
Blaneyphoto: Its great that you're happy with how your body looks, however some of us feel our bodies have been mutilated, so yeah - I'll continue to use that term.


Feel free to say "I feel mutilated" or "to my eye, *I* have been mutilated." It's when you tell someone else that they have been mutilated that you are being an asshole.
posted by msalt at 3:46 PM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


you can't be a rasta without toking, you just can't.
posted by moorooka at 3:48 PM on June 5, 2011


This hysterical moral crusade is no different than the marches and signs and batshittery of the anti-abortion zealots.
posted by four panels at 3:48 PM on June 5, 2011


Frankly, the state of someone else's dick is not your business unless you've been invited to comment upon it by them.

I'm confused. Which side is this addressing?
posted by Sys Rq at 3:51 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


four panels: "This hysterical moral crusade is no different than the marches and signs and batshittery of the anti-abortion zealots."

In that one is about maintaining bodily autonomy and the other is about denying it?

I do not endorse this particular element of the hysterical moral crusade, but as strongly as I believe in the right to have an abortion I believe in the right to choose the fate of your own dangly bits
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:53 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Mitheral, there is a very small Reform rejectionist movement which chooses instead to perform a hatafat dam brit on their children, rather than removing their foreskins. This procedure is done on converts who were already circumcised prior to conversion. A single drop of blood is drawn, by pinprick. An even smaller group of Reform Jews refuse to perform circumcisions altogether.

Orthodox and Conservative Jews, to the best of my knowledge, require babies to be circumciseod to be considered Jewish. Leaving the decision up to their sons would not be considered an option.
posted by zarq at 3:53 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Really? Cost comparison? That's all you want to say?

So, you read "costs $5000-10000, is associated with significant pain for weeks afterward, significant intraoperative bleeding, and a much higher infection rate" and see only a cost comparison? How can you possibly read like that?
posted by dflemingecon at 3:55 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Feel free to say "I feel mutilated" or "to my eye, *I* have been mutilated." It's when you tell someone else that they have been mutilated that you are being an asshole.

What? Look, the word has a definition, and circumcision falls well within that definition.

If that basic fact can't be faced, there is some serious denial going on here.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:55 PM on June 5, 2011 [6 favorites]


Too many do-gooders who would better serve through their gainful employment.....
posted by caddis at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2011


How can you possibly read like that?

By considering 'costs' as applying to more than just money.
posted by fartknocker at 3:57 PM on June 5, 2011


Sys Rq: "What? Look, the word has a definition, and circumcision falls well within that definition.

If that basic fact can't be faced, there is some serious denial going on here.
"

I agree 100% with the anti-circ side, but that word is not a very persuasive word. I've had it levelled at me before (for different reasons) and it's unpleasant enough, even if you don't believe it applies to you, to derail any otherwise potentially productive conversation.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:01 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This hysterical moral crusade is no different than the marches and signs and batshittery of the anti-abortion zealots.

one opposes women's control over their own bodies, one supports boys' control over their own bodies.
posted by moorooka at 4:02 PM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


What? Look, the word has a definition, and circumcision falls well within that definition.

Then you also consider tattoos and earrings to be mutilation as well and refer to those who have such things self-mutilators??

Or is this "definition" that you speak of only one that is between your own ears? Words have nuances in addition to literal meanings.
posted by Poet_Lariat at 4:02 PM on June 5, 2011


If we can't call it male genital mutilation because we can't tell others that they have been mutilated, why do we call it female genital mutilation? Don't women with mutilated genitals feel similarly offended?
posted by grammar corrections at 4:03 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


mu·ti·late
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably.
3. To make imperfect by excising or altering parts.

earring holes close up but foreskins dont grow back

and yeah, any parent who would tattoo a baby is an unfit parent
posted by moorooka at 4:06 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Similarly, my teeth are crooked. I did not have orthodontia as a kid.

A better analogy would be surgically extracting your adult teeth just in case they came in crooked later.
posted by fleetmouse at 4:11 PM on June 5, 2011


derail any otherwise potentially productive conversation.

I think the Monster Mohel trading card did that already.
posted by fatbird at 4:12 PM on June 5, 2011


Slarty is so not coming back.
posted by fartknocker at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2011



mu·ti·late
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably.
3. To make imperfect by excising or altering parts.


Doesn't seem to me that circumcision clearly fits any of those. Essential part? Barring problems with the procedure itself, claiming foreskin as an "essential" part seems like a stretch. The penis can perform all of its normal functions without it.

Disfigure? Aesthetic and clearly debatable. People are strongly divided in thinking whether circumcised or uncircumcised is more attractive.

"Make imperfect" is a ridiculously vague phrase.

A clitoridectomy (one kind of FGM), on the other hand, clearly fits (1).
posted by wildcrdj at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Wow. This thread... wow! I thought I would just skip past it and instead I am left here reading the whole thing with my jaw doing its damdest to keep itself closed and failing miserably.

I can't really respond to the multitude of very passionate feelings here, and I want to thank y'all for sharing because there were some viewpoints here that I just could not.. well.. fathom a half hour ago being tossed around here. What a world indeed..!

For the record (checks pants) I was born into Jewish faith and a mohel did a snippity snip snip. I've hardly been the most active, let alone even practicing, member of the Judaic faith but when my son came around it was just a natural assumption he would get the snippity snip, too. Didn't do a Mohel this time, though, like I said -- not too much practicing. But just in case he'd like to settle down with a Nice Jewish Girl(tm) one day, you know, snip snip. And like several other people have already eloquently said -- huh, seems to work for me, my partner and previous partners have liked it, what's the big scratch?

Child mutilation? Really? "I want to make my own decision!" I'll admit to having cultural blinders on for this whole method of thinking because AFAIK I was snipped, my father was snipped, his father was snipped, etcetera etcetera. So the AAP has backed off on reccomending it, what, 7 years ago, but it still cites studies that say "Hey! Doesn't break anything! Has some benefits!" -- we're not amputating a leg here, we're talking about a centimeter or so of skin.

But I digress -- I've never known, and this could be a cultural bias although I swear it's been enforced in popular media and culture since forever, I've never known any common meme that an un-circumsized penis is more desirable. In fact, I've only heard repetitively exclamations to the opposite -- "Ewww! He's uncircumcised?! EEewww!" So to read these comments of teeth gnashing and clenched fists going "Why didn't they let me decide to cut my peepee!" are really just fascinating.

And yeah, the women in this fight? That's pretty gosh darned amazingly peculiar to me. Isn't this the other side of the gender looking glass?

"The child doesn't have a say in the matter!" -- goodness, is that the argument? Do any of the people stating that remember when they were under the age of 18, and anything they did had to have a parent or guardian's signature? Funny story there.. until you're an adult, your parent has total control over your health and well being! Especially at that age, they decide when you eat, when you sleep, what you wear, where you go... is there seriously an argument that people should have the (what I've read to be horrifying and lengthy and painful) choice of adult circumcision in lieu of when they are born (breaking the Torah if they have any Jewish faith issues) so that they can have an informed consent?!

Really? Is there any male in this thread voicing an opposition to having circumcision as a baby who is truly upset with his lot in life due to his member? I'm dying to hear from just one person exclaim "I HAD MY PEE PEE SNIPPED.. AND... AND... I'VE HAD NO WAY OF KNOWING IF ANYTHING IS DIFFERENT THAN ANYONE ELSE BECAUSE I'VE ALWAYS BEEN SNIPPED?!" I want to wrap my head around your thoughts. Bring them to me!

Maybe I'm just too liberal out there but if you're not harming anyone else, you're not harming the child in some way (for the love of god, again, please tell me a downside to circumcision that isn't "MY PARENTS DID IT WITHOUT ME TELLING THEM TO! AGGH! I HATE MY DAD!" the equipment works just fine..), then I have no right to tell you what to do with you and yours. If only we all felt something similar to that..

And that Hess HAS to be a pseudonym.. there's no way that's real... lolz
posted by cavalier at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


This hysterical moral crusade is no different than the marches and signs and batshittery of the anti-abortion zealots.

Really? Mohels have been shot to death? Synagogues picketed?

Jesus. (no pun intended)
posted by fleetmouse at 4:13 PM on June 5, 2011


Slarty is so not coming back.
posted by fartknocker at 7:13 PM on June 5 [+] [!]


Are you boasting or mourning?
posted by cavalier at 4:14 PM on June 5, 2011


If you want to compare circumcision to what is done to women in female genital mutilation, it would not just be cutting off the foreskin but the whole penis, then sewing the hole left to pee almost shut. There are plenty of sites on the internet that describe what is done to girls and it does not in any way compare to male circumcision. It involves cutting out the clitoris and sewing the vagina almost shut. It leads to difficult menstruation, urination, and huge risk of infection, as well as no sexual pleasure. It IS severe mutilation, not just something to be "offended" about. If you think being circumcised is equal to this, you have a problem and maybe should think less about your dick.
posted by mermayd at 4:17 PM on June 5, 2011 [9 favorites]


"The child doesn't have a say in the matter."

So clearly you're anti-vaccination as well, then.
posted by msalt at 4:19 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


So clearly you're anti-vaccination as well, then.

Oh, fercryingout-- No!

Vaccinations are done for a very good reason. Circumcision is...well, it's just done.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


mu·ti·late
1. To deprive of a limb or an essential part; cripple.
2. To disfigure by damaging irreparably.
3. To make imperfect by excising or altering parts.


For the record.... and as far as I am aware... Jews believe that a circumcision fits none of these definitions.

To Jews, the foreskin is neither essential nor a limb, and my understanding is that rabbis say it is a redundant, unnecessary structure. As a result, the removal of the foreskin is seen as bringing the male form "closer to perfection."

Feel free to agree or disagree, but the definition you've given here isn't going to win an argument with a traditional Jew since they make different assumptions than you do.

earring holes close up but foreskins dont grow back

Upthread, Jessamyn said that that's wrong about earring holes.
posted by zarq at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2011


"Disfigure? Aesthetic and clearly debatable. People are strongly divided in thinking whether circumcised or uncircumcised is more attractive."

I tend to think of circumcision as elective cosmetic surgery on the genitals of an infant boy. It's the male equivalent of labiaplasty only the patient doesn't participate in the decision making process.
posted by MikeMc at 4:22 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


To Jews, the foreskin is neither essential nor a limb, and my understanding is that rabbis say it is a redundant, unnecessary structure. As a result, the removal of the foreskin is seen as bringing the male form "closer to perfection."

The phrase "in His own image" comes to mind...
posted by Sys Rq at 4:23 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


"rabbis say it is a redundant, unnecessary structure."

Much like religion...,sorry, couldn't pass that one up.
posted by MikeMc at 4:26 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another good example of plastic surgery often performed on children is otoplasty. Or braces, of course, which will not surgery _do_ permanently alter your teeth. And normally are gotten while a child and often not by their own choice.

I do think it's reasonable for parents to make decisions like this for their children.
posted by wildcrdj at 4:26 PM on June 5, 2011


The phrase "in His own image" comes to mind...

I'm not entirely sure I understand what you're trying to say? Could you please clarify?
posted by zarq at 4:28 PM on June 5, 2011


Mike, when you put the strikeout through "sorry", it invalidates the sorry and in turn makes your remark aggressively passive aggressive. I just wanted to not be passive about telling you how it read.
posted by cavalier at 4:29 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


cavalier: "we're not amputating a leg here, we're talking about a centimeter or so of skin."

I know I keep banging on about this, but:
For an MTF SRS patient, skin from the penis is primarily used (penile inversion) usually combined with skin from the scrotum (testicle sack), although in some MTF cases where there is insufficient penile and scrotal skin to produce a satisfactory neo-vagina (perhaps where circumcision or an orchiectomy [castration] has previously been carried out), a skin-graft will also be taken. It should be noted that the donor sites from where grafts originate can be prone to scarring which can be unsightly and painful later, so care needs to be taken by the therapist, especially with regards post-operative care to ensure that this is minimised.
I know that trans women who have been circumcised and don't have a big enough wang for a satisfactory surgical outcome without additional skin grafts with their own lists of potential complications aren't exactly a large segment of the population, but they are out there and I've personally known several people have this problem. You can't, after all, magic tissue out of nowhere.

I know it's apparently a lot to ask to consider that a child might turn out to be transsexual, but we're all someone's son or daughter.

that was the only site I could find that didn't also have pictures of the surgery being carried out, which I doubt people particularly want to see
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:31 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


change sticks the best when everyone involved feels persuaded, not coerced

I'm a circumcised male, and despite that I don't really have an opinion on circumcision — I suspect it's one of those things that will slowly fade culturally, but isn't significant enough to be worth actively campaigning against. But I wanted to quote this line again because I think it should be stamped on the front of every MetaFilter debate thread. You get more flies with honey than with being an asshole.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:33 PM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


And yeah, the women in this fight? That's pretty gosh darned amazingly peculiar to me. Isn't this the other side of the gender looking glass?

Well, I'm currently making a baby boy who I will be taking care of for 18+ years. I imagine that's why many (but not all) women get involved--they have to make the decision for their child.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:37 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


But [Superman] wasn't circumcised -- invulnerable, and all that.

Post-Crisis (John Byrne reboot) Superman (i.e. Superman as portrayed in the comics for the last 25 years) didn't develop his powers until he was in his late teens, so plenty of time for the Kents to have had him circumcised.
posted by straight at 4:41 PM on June 5, 2011


"it invalidates the sorry and in turn makes your remark aggressively passive aggressive"

I originally put the "sorry" in as I didn't want to intentionally offend anyone of a religious bent then I thought "fuck it, I'll take it out" but the strikeout better reflects how I feel. It's like saying "I'm sorry but..." then two minutes later saying "Wait, no, I'm not sorry". I just saved myself a post. /derail
posted by MikeMc at 4:41 PM on June 5, 2011


Okay, right, totally excellent point and I am corrected. I should have included "calling for the ban/eradication of circumcision" in the women callout as certainly I would expect any boy's mother to be involved!! Thanks for making me clarify that!

Army, I totally dig the potential benefit for trans surgery that additional foreskin could provide - thank you for that. I need a little non mobile time to respond to that and I promise that will be soon!!
posted by cavalier at 4:43 PM on June 5, 2011


cavalier: "I need a little non mobile time to respond to that and I promise that will be soon!!"

No rush! I'm not running at you with arms flailing and in fact I'm about to go to bed, it's just a data point that most parents considering the options don't know about that I'm trying to get out there. It's by no means a universal problem for circumcised trans women, as pointed out up-thread, but it happens.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 4:50 PM on June 5, 2011


I encourage anyone who is interested in the culture of this kind of activism (at least from women) to head to the mothering.com boards, where you will find that anti-circumcision types tend to overlap with pro-breastfeeding, pro-natural birth (and often home birth or unassisted birth), pro-attachment parenting types, sometimes called "crunchy" parents.

There is a certain extreme subset of this kind of person who goes up to people on beaches and talks to them about circumcision, and I'm not surprised that someone who would do that is also a lactation educator and doula. I'm sure she has very strong and annoying opinions about breastfeeding and natural childbirth, too.

It's too bad because there is a lot of good cultural change that could come from this movement and yet so much effort is wasted on policing individual decisions.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:58 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just to clarify, the issue we are debating here is the morality and necessity of CHOPPING OFF PIECES OF BABIES WITH KNIVES?
Really?
This seems like a good idea?
Or no big deal?
Weird.
posted by TheCoug at 5:01 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sporting unmodified equipment, thank you very much, and find the whole circumcision thing rather wierd, but it's pretty low down on my outrage list. Maybe it's just because I'm culturally used to it, but calling it mutilation seems a little excessive. No, it really shouldn't be done (because it's completely unnecessary, that's why), but I'm not going to flip my shit over it.

As for whether or not it's more attractive - my nadger is one of the least attractive parts of my body. If a debate on my looks moves to the quality of my dingle-dangle then I think I've lost.
posted by It's Never Lurgi at 5:02 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


TheCoug: "Just to clarify, the issue we are debating here is the morality and necessity of CHOPPING OFF PIECES OF BABIES WITH KNIVES?"

Look, people, I am on the anti-circumcision side but one-sentence reductions of this complex issue are bound to be incorrect.
posted by grammar corrections at 5:04 PM on June 5, 2011


Among my sisters and friends, the general consensus seems to be that they've had their boys circumcised "to avoid the confusing conversation of why their penis doesn't look like daddy's".

My father was circumcised, I wasn't. As I recall, the conversation went something like:

"How come your penis looks different from mine?"

"Well, some parents have an operation performed on their baby after he's born where the doctor cuts off the little piece at the end."

"Oh."
posted by EarBucket at 5:08 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Maybe it's just because I'm culturally used to it, but calling it mutilation seems a little excessive.

Don't you think this is a little more than a "maybe"? If suddenly we started cutting the tips of babies' noses off instead, would you feel it excessive to call that mutilation?
posted by Justinian at 5:11 PM on June 5, 2011


Grammar Corrections:
Touche.
posted by TheCoug at 5:11 PM on June 5, 2011


And yeah, the women in this fight? That's pretty gosh darned amazingly peculiar to me. Isn't this the other side of the gender looking glass?

It's perfectly possible to believe in something enough to speak out for or against it, without having to rely on personal experience.
posted by zarq at 5:12 PM on June 5, 2011


zarq, you are being even more decent than usual about this issue. Thank you for being so fair, even though you disagree. It's inspiring. :)
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 5:17 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I guess it's because I'm not American and come from a place where it just isn't done. so I don't have the cultural blinders that prevent me from seeing it as the repulsive, barbaric act that it is. if I were American I might also think it's no big deal, as it is it seems just utterly insane
posted by moorooka at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I wonder if we should just let the children all go feral. It's cheaper than sending our uncircumcised, un-vaccinated, never-told-no children to the local Waldorf school.
posted by elwoodwiles at 5:24 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


jenkinsEar writes "but isn't part of how the courts determine the constitutionality of a law based - in part - on an assessment of how the law was campaigned for and passed?"

God I hope not or you could derail any law by getting the WBC or KKK on side.

wildcrdj writes "Based on personal experience I'd have to say this is probably less effective than they intended."

True. Though I admit that much of the masturbation jokes you see in popular culture feature a need for lube and I didn't grok those until I was in my 20s.

zarq writes "Orthodox and Conservative Jews, to the best of my knowledge, require babies to be circumciseod to be considered Jewish. Leaving the decision up to their sons would not be considered an option."

Ya that's what I'm saying. Consent is sort of forced by the parents religion.

cavalier writes "But I digress -- I've never known, and this could be a cultural bias although I swear it's been enforced in popular media and culture since forever, I've never known any common meme that an un-circumsized penis is more desirable. In fact, I've only heard repetitively exclamations to the opposite -- 'Ewww! He's uncircumcised?! EEewww!' So to read these comments of teeth gnashing and clenched fists going 'Why didn't they let me decide to cut my peepee!' are really just fascinating."

This is probably very American. Things are at worst much more balanced pro/con in my experience Canada where the rate is much lower but in general opinions are basically neutral without any real preference.

zarq writes "It's perfectly possible to believe in something enough to speak out for or against it, without having to rely on personal experience."

I feel this way too but it is very much not considered that way by many here when the gender roles are reversed.
posted by Mitheral at 5:26 PM on June 5, 2011


being unvaccinated puts you and others at serious risk of potentially lethal diseases. if you're making a comparison then you aren't a serious person
posted by moorooka at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2011


Having now read the comics - I'm outright horrified at the blatant anti-semitism. It's one thing to be anti-circumcision, but it's an entire other thing to suggest that people shouldn't be able to adhere to the laws of their faith or to attack them for it with disgusting

Does this law that they're proposing make exceptions for the observance of religious rituals?

Zarq: To Jews, the foreskin is neither essential nor a limb, and my understanding is that rabbis say it is a redundant, unnecessary structure. As a result, the removal of the foreskin is seen as bringing the male form "closer to perfection."

Circumcision is commanded in Genesis 17:10-14 as an outward sign of a man's participation in Israel's covenant with God, as well as a sign that the Jewish people will perpetuate through him. The commandment is incumbent upon both father and child - fathers must see that their sons are circumcised, and uncircumcised grown men are obligated to perform the rite.

Those who are not circumcised suffer the penalty of kareit, no matter how otherwise observant they may be. Perhaps in part for this reason, circumcision is the mitzvah most likely to be observed by otherwise non-observant Jews.   Source

Earbucket: I don't condone circumcision for non-religious reasons, I was just answering the question of why such a large percentage of American/Canadian men are circumcised.

posted by empatterson at 5:27 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


oops. ...for attacking them for it with disgusting propaganda materials.
posted by empatterson at 5:29 PM on June 5, 2011


If someone is mad at their parents because they don’t like their penis I can understand that. The idea that they then want to tell other people how to live their lives right down to following religious traditions, because they don’t like their own penis, is pretty weird.

I’m circumcised, and I don’t really understand zealots screaming about how I have a defective, embarrassing penis that can never know true pleasure. I’m actually pretty fond of it. I’m not even a little mad at my parents. I’ve rarely even thought about it. Since I only have the one, I’m not sure which way is better.

Comparing it to female genital mutilation is perverted and just plain mean.
posted by bongo_x at 5:30 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


.GM is also a cultural law in some parts of the world. that just isn't a good enough reason
posted by moorooka at 5:31 PM on June 5, 2011


I know it's apparently a lot to ask to consider that a child might turn out to be transsexual, but we're all someone's son or daughter.

I think it's a lot to ask that people who feel they have to circumcise their kids because God told them to would give a shit about transexuals. I could be proven wrong though. Anyone here who believes their religion requires circumcision, who also supports surgery to reassign gender? Really wondering what your god would think of that...
posted by Jimbob at 5:36 PM on June 5, 2011


no, the FGM comparison may be a stretch, but it's not perverted, the point is that just because cutting a babys genitals is s longstanding cultural practice doesn't make it okay
posted by moorooka at 5:37 PM on June 5, 2011


There's a very big distinction between FGM and Circumcision.

There's nothing in religious texts about FGM, and afaik it's only practiced for the purpose of denying women sexual pleasure. This is makes it an obvious human rights issue.

Also: in Canada, circumcision used to be covered by healthcare. We've made steps towards non-religious circumcision by making it an elective, paid procedure.
posted by empatterson at 5:38 PM on June 5, 2011


It's one thing to be anti-circumcision, but it's an entire other thing to suggest that people shouldn't be able to adhere to the laws of their faith or to attack them for it with disgusting

When the laws of someone's faith dictate that they mutilate their children, I am perfectly okay saying that the state should be standing in the way of faithful adherence. If we weren't talking specifically about Jewish male circumcision - say, if we were talking about fundamentalist Islam female circumcision - I suspect you wouldn't either.

Does this law that they're proposing make exceptions for the observance of religious rituals?

Do you consider it consistent with the first amendment that laws be inapplicable to religiously-motivated actions?
posted by kafziel at 5:39 PM on June 5, 2011


It's hard to accept the proposition that failing to have your son circumcised in infancy is a defacto decision against circumcision when there are cultures that routinely circumcise boys just before or just after the onset of puberty. And while not having you son circumcised just after birth may make it much harder for him to end up with a cut penis, compare that to the options available to a circumcised boy who decides he'd rather be uncut.
posted by layceepee at 5:45 PM on June 5, 2011


This anti-circumcision stuff just bugs me. Frankly, it's kind of offensive. I have a circumcised penis and I like it. I think it's great, in fact I'm glad it was done! My feeling is that people who call it "mutilation" can go fuck themselves.

Not that I like the idea of discussing my own dick on the internet, but these threads are always so lopsided, so I figured I would chime in.

I think a lot of the arguments from the anti-circumcision people are way overblown.
Do you have any cites for this? You do realize that pre-antibiotics or sanitary procedures it was quite likely that some percentage of circumcized infants got infections and died, right? But then infant mortality in general was so high that it probably didn't make all that much difference.
That might be true, but it's also true that people back then didn't have access to daily showers and soap and so it's probably the case that uncircumcised people had a higher chance of getting an infection, which could kill them, over their entire lifetimes.

With any medical procedure, there is going to be a risk of infection, but you do it because the benefits outweigh the risks.
Americans are the last holdout for routine circumcision, but that's clearly changing with each new generation.
Except for all of the middle east. And It's popular in Korea for some reason, apparently
posted by delmoi at 5:50 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


"There's a very big distinction between FGM and Circumcision."

That's why I compare it to labiaplasty, the intent behind, and results of, FGM and male circumcision are absolutely worlds apart. There may some common elements (genitals, children, cutting instruments) but they are not even remotely close to being the same thing.
posted by MikeMc at 5:55 PM on June 5, 2011


"This anti-circumcision stuff just bugs me. Frankly, it's kind of offensive. I have a circumcised penis and I like it. I think it's great, in fact I'm glad it was done!"

Some might say that you've been culturally indoctrinated to think that a penis in it's original uncut configuration is "bad" whereas a surgically modified penis is "good". We do this to women all the time but about almost every part of their bodies. Also, something about star-bellied Sneetches...
posted by MikeMc at 6:03 PM on June 5, 2011


MikeMc: "Some might say that you've been culturally indoctrinated to think that a penis in it's original uncut configuration is "bad" whereas a surgically modified penis is "good". "

I think it's what you're used to seeing. When I was in the US seeing a lot of cut penises, that is what a penis looked like to me. When I moved to the UK and started seeing a lot of uncut penises, that is what quickly became normal. Were I still in the market, I assume I could switch hit on this preference, but really, there is no good reason beside religious observation to cut bits of it off. Men in Ireland, Australia and the UK are not dying of cock rot or whatever everyone is so afraid of. They are using soap.
posted by DarlingBri at 6:20 PM on June 5, 2011 [13 favorites]


Are you boasting or mourning?
posted by cavalier at 4:14 PM on June 5 [+] [!]


I think Slarty's opinion would be among the most interesting in this thread. Vigorous defenses of circumcision puzzle me. So many people have so many good reasons to cut the penis! Hearing from one who has actually cut a few interests me more.

But the thread has gone a bit hyperbolic, don't you think?
posted by fartknocker at 6:21 PM on June 5, 2011


I don't condone circumcision for non-religious reasons, I was just answering the question of why such a large percentage of American/Canadian men are circumcised.

Right, I wasn't knocking you. I just think it's a weird argument. Maybe other uncircumcised kids feel differently, but it was never really been important to me that my penis look exactly like my father's.
posted by EarBucket at 6:36 PM on June 5, 2011


I think it's a lot to ask that people who feel they have to circumcise their kids because God told them to would give a shit about transexuals. I could be proven wrong though. Anyone here who believes their religion requires circumcision, who also supports surgery to reassign gender? Really wondering what your god would think of that...
The Union of Reform Judaism has produced a list of blessings to be said on the occasion of sex reassignment surgery. More surprisingly, sex reassignment surgery is legal in Iran. So no, Jews and Muslims are not universally hostile to transsexuals or SRS.
posted by craichead at 6:50 PM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


>>>"The child doesn't have a say in the matter."
>>So clearly you're anti-vaccination as well, then.
>Vaccinations are done for a very good reason. Circumcision is...well, it's just done.


Well, there are very good reasons, medically, which no one is refuting except by screaming "mutilation." But that's a different issue.

If the argument is that adults shouldn't make decisions for babies that can't be undone, please explain how vaccination passes that test. If it's a question of advantage vs. disadvantage -- which is what the American Association of Pediatricians says -- then the adult deciding issue doesn't matter. The baby is not weighing pros and cons.
posted by msalt at 6:52 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


I feel this way too but it is very much not considered that way by many here when the gender roles are reversed.

I sort of feel like this is a separate argument which could easily become a derail, and I must admit I'm a little uncomfortable going down that road.

But I don't feel you're making a fair comparison. Circumcision isn't a topic that needs a "safe" zone in our culture the way rape, sexual harassment, domestic violence and abortion have. Our overwhelmingly paternalistic society hasn't imposed their gender's beliefs about circumcision on generations of men while simultaneously abusing authority through silencing intimidation.

In our culture, when the gender roles are reversed, there's a strong power disparity. I think that makes a difference.
posted by zarq at 6:52 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


a friend of mine who has worked with elder care since college and has been working with hospice for several years recently had a baby boy. she got him circumcised.

while she had hesitation as a mother, as a professional, she has seen way too many old men who have been unable to take care of properly cleaning the foreskin (or did not have a caregiver who knew how to do it) and/or get an infection and then need a circumcision at 70 or 80 years old, when they might also be very sick from other diseases and then this is just one more painful, long recuperating phase medical thing that is just taking away from their quality of life at the end of their life when she and her staff are trying to make people as comfortable as possible.
posted by sio42 at 6:54 PM on June 5, 2011 [21 favorites]


I'll be damned. Somebody actually had something new, interesting, and relevant to say about this topic. Thanks, sio42, for your contribution.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 7:01 PM on June 5, 2011 [8 favorites]


two or three cars parked under the stars, thanks. But to be honest, I've sort of been avoiding giving my personal opinion on circumcision here. In part because I did that a while back in MeTa in a difficult thread and had a frustrating time of it. But also because my opinions about it are conflicted and not so easily expressed.

Speaking abstractly about this stuff, it's easier to remain calm. ;)
posted by zarq at 7:10 PM on June 5, 2011


Fucking great. Now there's evidence of me visiting a website called foreskinman.com in our corporate web usage logs. Thanks metafilter.
posted by the noob at 7:24 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fucking great. Now there's evidence of me visiting a website called foreskinman.com in our corporate web usage logs. Thanks metafilter.

It's okay, because if anyone checks they'll see that it's actually just antisemitic cartoons.
posted by Artw at 7:31 PM on June 5, 2011 [18 favorites]


Well, there are very good reasons, medically, which no one is refuting except by screaming "mutilation."

Good reasons maybe before the invention of soap. In this day and age the "good reasons" are pretty damn thin compared with the benefits of vaccination, which is, by the way, a simple needle injection. as much as a needle may hurt, you can't compare it to the slicing off of a piece of penis. the argument is not so much that an adult shouldn't make a decision for a child that can't be undone, but that they shouldn't cut off a piece of the child that can't grow back.
posted by moorooka at 7:33 PM on June 5, 2011


"This anti-circumcision stuff just bugs me. Frankly, it's kind of offensive. I have a circumcised penis and I like it. I think it's great, in fact I'm glad it was done!"

And I'm glad that my penis is the way that natural selection intended. But I'm also glad that I have the choice to be circumcised or uncircumcised, now that I'm an adult.

I guess you could say I'm pro-choice.
posted by moorooka at 7:38 PM on June 5, 2011


Metafilter: wang-related life lessons
posted by grubby at 7:41 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


This might be an AskMeFi but...could one "take" acid by placing the blotter beneath the foreskin? I have no idea where that came from but I'm mildly intrigued by the idea.
posted by MikeMc at 7:44 PM on June 5, 2011


In my world, the words "acid" and "foreskin" never belong in the same sentence. Ever. Never ever ever.
posted by Forktine at 8:11 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


That's a ridiculous straw man, and you know it. Nobody in this thread is calling anti-circumcision people "anti-Semitic." We are specifically and carefully calling the obnoxious linked comic book – which in no way represents the mainstream beliefs of anti-circumcision people (I hope and believe) – is shockingly anti-Semitic. As in, I haven't seen a new piece of literature this anti-Semitic in many, many years.

It is true that no one in this thread is calling anything or anyone anti-Semitic except for the maker of this comic book. However, outside of Metafilter, there are definitely accusations that the entire anti-circumcision movement is itself anti-Semitic. Having been trapped in an enclosed space with a television blaring Fox News in recent weeks, I can attest that this is the case.

As for the comparisons to FGM (and side note to grammar corrections, yes, some people do feel that the term is offensive/insulting and prefer to use "female genital cutting" instead)...first of all, let me say that I am deeply, deeply opposed to the practice, however, a few things worth noting about it: 1. There are four types (NSFW, obviously) of FGM/FGC, some much more severe than others in terms of their health risks and impact on women's lives. I don't support any of them, but I think it's important to know that not all of them involve the whole infibulation and excision procedure. Additionally, the way in which they are performed varies a lot (in terms of equipment used, level of medical care available, etc.) 2. I agree completely with the above assessments that the intent of these procedures is to control women's sexuality and sexual pleasure and that in many (most? maybe all? I don't know, although I assume that the type of procedure makes a difference) cases sexual pleasure is diminished. But there are women who have been through it who will tell you differently and insist that a) their sexual experiences are very pleasurable (I imagine these are rather less likely to be women who have experienced Type II FGM/C) and b) that the ritual has meaning to them beyond just controlling their sexuality. Do they just have no basis for comparison with regards to their sexual pleasure and so can't know what they're missing? Have they been brainwashed? I honestly don't know what the full answer is here, but a) I've heard the practice supported by women who have undergone it and b) I have raised the concerns about FGM's intents and impacts (in a class in which many students have worked very closely with those women) and been shouted down by a roomful of people who accused me of being a Eurocentric neo-imperialist or whatever. None of this changes my mind, it just makes me convinced that the way to push for change on this sort of thing is, like emjaybee said, not coercing people, but working with them in a way gives them full information, free choices, and the ability to participate in open conversations about such sensitive and emotional issues.

Apologies for hijacking a male circumcision thread with the female circumcision issue - I am well aware of what a no-no it is to do the reverse, and I hope that this is taken in the way it was intended, which was trying to at the analogies already being made in a more nuanced way.
posted by naoko at 8:14 PM on June 5, 2011 [3 favorites]


Type III, not Type II. Oh edit button, how I long for you.
posted by naoko at 8:15 PM on June 5, 2011


I couldn't get the comic to load, and TBH, I'm kind of relieved.

We didn't cut our son.

On a completely primal, hormonal, mammalian level, I would have done terrible things to anyone who cut either of my newborns without immediate medical necessity. I'm not saying all mothers feel that way, but I sure did.

But really, the decision was made when I was 19, twelve years before my son was born. I read "As Nature Made Him", the story of David Reimer, who was born an identical twin boy, but lost his penis in a botched circumcision that was being performed to combat phimosis.

Talk about persuasion. Not that many people have made a big deal out of our intact son- my mom made a last ditch effort to sell me on it, as did an aunt, and I told them simply, "Read the book. If you still think it's important after that, I'll hear you out."

I have a degree in public health, so I know the potential benefits of circumcision. Penile cancer, which is very rare and even more rarely lethal. We don't do preventative mastectomies, so I think the cancer thing is a bit of scare tactic. STIs, which are a much bigger risk. My hope is to scare my son- a little-, a tactic I learned at Planned Parenthood: "You are intact, you are at higher risk, so you realize that means that you MUST wear a condom every time, right?"

I am very much at peace with the decision we made. And if we made the wrong one for our son, as much as it would suck to be circumcised as an adult, at least he would have the opportunity to correct it.

Do I think we should make infant circumcision illegal? No, I don't think that would do much good. Do I think insurance should fund circumcision? HELL NO. No optional, medically unnecessary treatments should be, especially since so many of us don't get health coverage at all.
posted by Leta at 8:16 PM on June 5, 2011 [4 favorites]


Talk about persuasion. Not that many people have made a big deal out of our intact son- my mom made a last ditch effort to sell me on it, as did an aunt, and I told them simply, "Read the book. If you still think it's important after that, I'll hear you out."

Huh, I find the term "botched circumcision" to be scarier, in terms of imagining It Could Happen To Your Baby!, than actually reading the book and finding out what happened that morning at the hospital (that a doctor who'd never performed a circumcision took an electric cauterizer to the baby, rather than a scalpel, for no discernable reason, when the metal plate that is meant to protect the penis from a slip of the scalpel instead transmitted the electrical burn to the whole penis).

My approach to medical care for my family includes the insistence that no one touches my babies if they haven't performed a hundred of these before, so I instantly dismissed the relevance of that anecdote to my own anxieties for my children, though of course it's incredibly horrifying to know it happened to someone else's child.
posted by palliser at 8:40 PM on June 5, 2011 [2 favorites]


>>>To Jews, the foreskin is neither essential nor a limb, and my understanding is that rabbis say it is a redundant, unnecessary structure. As a result, the removal of the foreskin is seen as bringing the male form "closer to perfection."

>>The phrase "in His own image" comes to mind...

>I'm not entirely sure I understand what you're trying to say? Could you please clarify?


I'm saying the notion of circumcision as a means of "bringing the male form 'closer to perfection'" seems like pretty much the most blasphemous thing ever.

Well, there are very good reasons, medically, which no one is refuting except by screaming "mutilation." But that's a different issue.

If the argument is that adults shouldn't make decisions for babies that can't be undone, please explain how vaccination passes that test. If it's a question of advantage vs. disadvantage -- which is what the American Association of Pediatricians says -- then the adult deciding issue doesn't matter. The baby is not weighing pros and cons.


You understand that arguments can be nuanced and multifaceted, right?
posted by Sys Rq at 8:53 PM on June 5, 2011


However, outside of Metafilter, there are definitely accusations that the entire anti-circumcision movement is itself anti-Semitic. Having been trapped in an enclosed space with a television blaring Fox News in recent weeks, I can attest that this is the case.

Some folks on the right have been trying to create some outrage about the anti-circumcision movement amongst Jews. I don't know if it's working. But it's worth noting that the ADL's statement about the comic book was surprisingly (almost shockingly, uncharacteristically) well-nuanced.
"This is an advocacy campaign taken to a new low. This is a sensitive, serious issue where good people can disagree and which the Jewish community feels is an assault on its values and traditions going back thousands of years and centered in the Hebrew Bible. It is one thing to debate it, is another thing to degrade it. 'Foreskin Man,' with its grotesque anti-Semitic imagery and themes, reaches a new low and is disrespectful and deeply offensive.

"The comic book portrays mohels -- those specially trained to perform the traditional Jewish circumcision ceremony -- as rapacious, bloodthirsty and bent on harming children. Some of the imagery calls to mind age-old anti-Semitic canards such as the blood libel, the accusation that Jews ritually murder Christian children. Another comic in the series also calls up more subtle anti-Jewish themes, such as when a character complains that the 'pro-circumcision lobby' has 'all of the well-connected doctors and lawyers.'

"We would have hoped those backing the anti-circumcision effort in San Francisco would know better than to use this type anti-Semitic imagery to advance their cause. No matter what one's personal opinions of male circumcision, it is irresponsible to use stereotypical caricatures of religious Jews to promote the anti-circumcision agenda."
The movement isn't antisemitic. The comic is openly antisemitic. But I do think an initial knee-jerk defensive reaction by some Jews is to be expected. Legislation against Jews has historically been a common expression of antisemitism. The recent push in some countries (Holland, etc.,) to ban animal slaughter via kosher guidelines has been a point of concern for some.
posted by zarq at 8:59 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


So for those who are pro-no choice circumcision... to those who got circumcised, did not have a choice in it and do NOT like it, in fact hate it, or maybe it is a source of pain, depression, etc., or just did not like that choice taken from them... them you say what? Too bad, so sad? The rest of us accept this practice?

You either agree that humans have a right to decide what happens to their genitals, or you don't. It's that simple.
posted by Malice at 9:08 PM on June 5, 2011


I'm saying the notion of circumcision as a means of "bringing the male form 'closer to perfection'" seems like pretty much the most blasphemous thing ever.

My understanding of the phrase B'tzelem elohim is that it has been traditionally interpreted in Jewish (and I presume Christian) doctrine as a moral, philosophical and behavioural ideal which man should try to live up to, not a physical one. In traditional Judaism, it has a lot to do with describing Jewish identity in a way that has nothing to do with one's body.

I can probably dig up reference materials online if you're interested in learning more. But the way you're framing the concept doesn't seem accurate or appropriate to me.
posted by zarq at 9:14 PM on June 5, 2011


This was my first circumcision thread. If I only got halfway in, am I still a virgin?

(The intensity of feeling is astounding. I'll leave this argument to y'all, y'all.)
posted by Trochanter at 9:15 PM on June 5, 2011


This is great. When can we start on the initiative to prevent parents from bringing their children into other, less physically damaging religious traditions until they can consent?
posted by tehloki at 9:31 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


I seem to recall an earlier discussion about circumcision in which females (or gay males) weighed in on the relative enjoyment of blowing a cut vs. an uncut penis. Is there a difference? (I'm guessing that once you got to intercourse, there wouldn't be much of a difference.) This would be a significant factor in deciding whether or not to get my son circumcised or not.

Otherwise, I grew up in a locker room without a foreskin in evidence. (I was born in 1952, and about half my friends were Jewish, but, even in Protestant/Catholic circles - OK, atheist/agnostic circles, too: white people, if that makes a difference - circumcision was the norm.) Uncut cocks look a little weird to me; I guess that makes me a freak, because being cut was/is obviously an unusual procedure, looking at it from the long view of non-Judaic medical practice. The masturbation issue is just stupid. It's like the idea of sticking your bed 1/3 of the way out of your window to get fresh air...I've seen pictures...those health freaks from the turn of the century...the last one...were a seriously obsessive bunch.)

So: is performing oral sex on an uncut dick any different from doing it with a snipped dick? Just askin'. We had a girl child so I didn't have to dither about this.
posted by kozad at 9:41 PM on June 5, 2011


I did 3 circs last week. Two slept through it and one cried but not in any direct relationship to the clamping. Either way, I'd just as soon never do them. But its far less damaging than idiots who smoke in the house where there are kids, or who keep guns.

If this is what counts as Your Big Issue, you lead either a very charmed or very boring life.
posted by docpops at 9:49 PM on June 5, 2011 [7 favorites]


So: is performing oral sex on an uncut dick any different from doing it with a snipped dick? Just askin'. We had a girl child so I didn't have to dither about this.

Yes and no. No, because you can just retract everything and it's basically all the same. Yes, because you can not retract it (usually; some foreskins are shorter than others) and you can transfer over all your french-kissing skills, too.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:05 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


You either agree that humans have a right to decide what happens to their genitals, or you don't. It's that simple.

I don't think it's "that simple."

As parents, my wife and I make medical decisions for my children which they aren't old enough to make themselves. That's one of our responsibilities. So, my son currently takes two steroids for his asthma. We believe and are hopeful that they aren't damaging, but there are unavoidable side-effects -- which may manifest over the long-term. Still, I'd like to think they've kept him out of the ER more often than would otherwise have happened.

In all medical decisions, you as a parent must weigh potential risks and benefits and draw your own conclusions.

When my son reaches an age where he can decide for himself whether the medications are good for him, he will do so. (Unless he grows out of needing them.) Until then as his parent, that responsibility is on my shoulders.

You can oversimplify this and portray it as solely a matter of personal choice all you like, but that doesn't change the fact that some parents clearly feel that circumcision is the best choice for their child for a variety of reasons -- some of which may be aesthetic, health-related and/or religious.

So for those who are pro-no choice circumcision... to those who got circumcised, did not have a choice in it and do NOT like it, in fact hate it, or maybe it is a source of pain, depression, etc., or just did not like that choice taken from them... them you say what? Too bad, so sad? The rest of us accept this practice?

As a parent, I am accountable solely to my child for the decisions I make regarding their health. If once they become an independent adult, they object to what I've done, my responsibility is to them and them alone to either explain my reasoning and/or make amends. Until that time, I'm under no obligation to account to anyone else for decisions I make, nor am I responsible for anyone else's decisions about the children under their care.
posted by zarq at 10:07 PM on June 5, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm curious how people would feel if they found a culture in, say, the Amazon that had been cutting off babies' earlobes for thousands of years.
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:30 PM on June 5, 2011 [1 favorite]


David Reimer was born as a male identical twin in Winnipeg, Manitoba. His birth name was Bruce; his twin was named Brian. At the age of 6 months, after concern was raised about how they both urinated, the boys were diagnosed with phimosis. They were referred for circumcision at the age of 8 months. On April 27, 1966, a urologist performed the operation using the unconventional method of cauterization. The procedure did not go as doctors had planned, and Reimer's penis was burned beyond surgical repair.

I respect Leta's choice for her son. I haven't read As Nature Made Him. It's been on my "to-read" list for awhile. I really should get around to it soon.

But, although I haven't read the book, I think it's possible to know about his story and to conclude that if he had been circumcised at birth using conventional methods this would have never have happened. What I know of his story causes me to reach the exact opposite conclusion from Leta and say that David Reimer's story is a good argument in favor of male infant circumsion.

In addition to David Reimer's story, I think Slarty Bartfast, mermayd and sio42 also make excellent points.

The issue of possible future sexual reassignment surgery does give me pause. So far, that's the only serious obstacle to choosing infant circumcision that I can see. This is something I'd like to hear more about.
posted by marsha56 at 11:40 PM on June 5, 2011


I'm curious how people would feel if they found a culture in, say, the Amazon that had been cutting off babies' earlobes for thousands of years.
posted by DoctorFedora at 1:30 AM on June 6


In this thread, try replacing "circumcision" with "abortion" and see if your moral panic holds.

"I'm curious how people would feel if they found a culture in, say, the Amazon that had having abortions for thousands of years."

Oh, wait, that's totally different.
posted by four panels at 12:06 AM on June 6, 2011


If this is what counts as Your Big Issue, you lead either a very charmed or very boring life.

Perspective is not a common characteristic of people on a one-issue mission to save the world for/from something.
posted by pracowity at 12:17 AM on June 6, 2011


Oh, wait, that's totally different.

Of course it is.

Zarq mentions 3 reasons; aesthetic, medical and religious.

The aesthetic and religious reasons are not actually reasons at all, from a rational point of view. A tribe where everybody had their earlobes cut off would probably think that this was aesthetically better. And religious reasons are, in fact, non-reasons; religion cannot justify something that would not otherwise be justified.

The only thing that could possibly justify the decision to circumcise a child is the medical benefit. And by medical benefit, we must only consider the medical benefit that would theoretically exist up to the point at which the child was old enough to make the decision themselves. And there simply isn't any evidence of any benefit great enough to objectively justify something as drastic a violation as slicing off a piece of a child's penis with a knife as a "preventative" measure.

The comparison of circumcision to steroid medications is absurd. When your son reaches the age to decide whether to continue taking the steroids, he will have a choice in the matter. When your son reaches the age to decide whether or not he wants a foreskin, he won't have any choice in the matter; the choice has been taken away from him. You can say "I am accountable to my child", but you're actually not, because if your child has a problem with it, you can't do anything about it. For something that is both irreversible and totally medically unnecessary, this is not good enough.

So you cant fall back on the medical reasons. What you have left are the aesthetic and religious reasons, which I'm sure make perfect sense from within that culture, but from outside that culture, viewed from the perspective of somebody from a place where baby's genitals aren't regularly taken to with a sharp knife but are instead left the way nature intended, these reasons appear simply demented and sick.
posted by moorooka at 12:34 AM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I used to work with a woman who was vehemently anti-circ, yet she'd had her infant daughter's ears pierced when she was a month old. I mentioned to her that that's a form of body modification, too, and she certainly didn't get her daughter's consent. (Yeah, I know the kid can remove the earrings when she's older and let the holes close, but the point is it's still a painful, unnecessary body mod on a person who has no say in the matter.)
posted by Oriole Adams at 12:49 AM on June 6, 2011


What the fuck is up with parents who do that anyway? Are they all 1 step away from putting their kid in some creepy baby pageant of something?
posted by Artw at 12:53 AM on June 6, 2011


Perspective is not a common characteristic of people on a one-issue mission to save the world for/from something.

Nor in some people exposed to the idea that the penis of their firstborn son might not look like his dad's.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 1:07 AM on June 6, 2011


marsha56: "The issue of possible future sexual reassignment surgery does give me pause. So far, that's the only serious obstacle to choosing infant circumcision that I can see. This is something I'd like to hear more about."

It's pretty simple, really. The operation on trans women to create a vagina involves using tissue from elsewhere on the body to create the vaginal walls. It's easiest and safest if all that tissue comes from the penis and balls, since they're obviously going to be surplus to requirements (and other bits of the penis, such as the glans and the soft areas around it, go towards making other essential bits like the clit) and they're already in the right area, connected up to blood vessels, etc. You end up with a couple of scars that are covered by pubic hair.

If the "donor tissue" is too small, then tissue must be sought from elsewhere on the body -- the leg or the arm or the colon, even -- and grafted, with the usual additional risks and downsides of grafts. You end up with a large graft scar wherever the tissue was sourced from. I don't want to tell other people's stories, but I've known people have to have multiple hospital visits from years of complications, and a lot of pain. It's horrible. I've known of very, very few people who had the more straightforward operation (like mine) who had to go back in for more than an inspection and maybe a quick day surgery job on something that hasn't quite healed.

Sometimes the donor tissue is too small because the woman in question has a very small penis, sometimes it's because she has a larger penis but was circumcised. There are other considerations as well -- glans sensitivity is important because it becomes the clitoris, and I know exactly where what used to be my foreskin is right now and it's all rather lovely down there -- but the main consideration is that you can't just make more tissue; once it's gone, it's gone.

To reiterate: not every trans woman who was circumcised as a child has problems with SRS. Some do; it's dependent on other factors too.

I may be over-clarifying but I was too brief upthread and made myself misunderstood; so.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 1:47 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


Some might say that you've been culturally indoctrinated to think that a penis in it's original uncut configuration is "bad" whereas a surgically modified penis is "good".
So what? The fact that people are whipping themselves into a froth trying to indoctrinate people the other way doesn't mean they're somehow more correct.
posted by delmoi at 2:03 AM on June 6, 2011


In light of sio42's comment, I'd like to share something less superficial than my previous comment.

As I've mentioned before, all three of my boys are autistic. My oldest son is almost 17 and is severely mentally disabled as well. He is not bowel-trained, so he wears an adult diaper. I clean him, often several times a day, using our shower as a bidet. His general attitude towards this activity is: DO NOT WANT.

He usually poops in his sleep, so by morning, he often has feces covering his penis. He HATES having his penis touched by anyone, including himself. Since he now weighs 155 pounds, it is a struggle to clean him properly. If he were uncircumcised, the task would be nearly impossible.

I don't want to dismiss the argument that circumcision complicates possible future SRS, but I'm pretty sure that boys are more likely to be autistic than have sexual identity issues. Sensory issues are a huge part of autism.

Our case might be unusual, but I doubt that we're the only ones who have ever faced it.
posted by double block and bleed at 2:26 AM on June 6, 2011 [5 favorites]


So, um, Superman is Jewish.

As Michael Chabon pointed out, only a Jew would have called himself "Clark Kent".
posted by acb at 2:42 AM on June 6, 2011


anecdotal evidence from female friends and internet discussion suggests that circumcision is pretty common amongst non-Jewish men in the States, but virtually unheard of in the UK.
Does anyone know why this is? Equally, does anyone know why it started (because it's probably a different reason)?


Apparently it has to do with the"moral hygiene" crusades of the late 19th century, in which the likes of Mr. Kellogg (of corn flakes fame) advocated mass circumcision to save the race from the dangers of masturbation and the resultant feeble-mindedness. A circumcised penis, they argued, would be less sensitive and less tempting for self-abuse. (They had other solutions for discouraging girls from pleasuring themselves; one involved the application of carbolic acid.)

The initial hysteria is mostly forgotten, though what remained is the vague, faith-based notion that circumcision is somehow essential to good hygiene and general health.
posted by acb at 2:56 AM on June 6, 2011


double block and bleed: "I don't want to dismiss the argument that circumcision complicates possible future SRS, but I'm pretty sure that boys are more likely to be autistic than have sexual identity issues. Sensory issues are a huge part of autism."

Assuming wikipedia's numbers are correct (and, y'know... wikipedia...) then the numbers aren't that different. It's notoriously difficult to track down accurate, credible figures for trans people, but a given XY child is perhaps twice as likely to have autism (rather than an autism spectrum disorder like aspergers) than get SRS. The numbers for SRS are from about ten years ago now, so I'd expect them to have increased as more people are getting it done these days.
posted by ArmyOfKittens at 3:07 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most certainly unconstitutional.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:22 AM on June 6, 2011


The idea that *not* cutting infants penises up is anti-Semitic is about as ridiculous as the idea that *not* sending billions in aid to Israel is anti-Semitic.

Except that there's no part of the Bible saying that the goyim must send many, many shekels to Israel.

To say that the Supreme Court would strike such a law down is like saying Humans breathe air--this is precisely the type of thing the Founders had in mind when they drafted the First Amendment.
posted by Ironmouth at 5:33 AM on June 6, 2011


re: Sys Rq, and "in His image"

"In His image" is not taken to mean the PHYSICAL image by Jews. In fact, to assume man was made in the physical image of God would be very blasphemous in Jewish milieus, as established in a lengthy discourse by Maimonides--a rabbi so great that his 13 Principles of Faith are still the easiest crash-course in Jewish belief--spent an amazing amount of time in his Guide to the Perplexed establishing the absolute incorporality of God (the 3rd of the 13 principles). (The reason it is so profoundly important is that Judaism has a very deep antipathy for anything that might lead to idol worship, and imagining God as a man or being shaped like a man facilitates idol worship and reduces God to something less than supreme).

In fact, it is typical of (religious) Jewish thought that
1) men are imperfect, and on a fundamental level that's ok. The yetzer hara, or "evil inclination," is seen as something both necessary for life--without it, no one would have children or do the things needed to survive--and something to be balanced by the "good inclination."
2) That said, you should strive for perfection even though perfection itself is unreachable because everyone is imperfect, and striving for perfection usually involves--especially in Maimonides--increasing your knowledge of God and following in His ways. The word for Jewish religious law is "halacha," derived from the work to walk, i.e. everything you do, down to how you walk, should strive to bring you closer to god. A reminder of your covenant with God (circumcision) is one such act. Hell, it gets even more complicated once you toss Adam into the mix. (I won't even summarize that article here because to do so would be to lead to massivo misunderstandings as people refuse to RTFA)

re: arguments for a religious exemption for FGM/FGC:

It would seriously never happen. Never. Even before we got to the problem of whether circumcision is equivalent to FGM/FGC. Why?

There is a long history of precedent in the US that tends to prioritize textually-based, "core" religious traditions instead of culturally-based, "peripheral" religious traditions. e.g. just using the case study found in Winnifred Sullivan's "The Impossibility of Religious Freedom," in his testimony during a case in Florida about grave decorations (city of Boca Raton: against; multi-faith coalition: for), one of the witnesses for the city of Boca Raton famously defined religion as having "high traditions"--textual, legal sides--and "little traditions," the accumulated stuff that is seen as "coming with" religious traditions. While this textual & legal/extra-textual and cultural dichotomy is profoundly problematic for non-Abrahamic faiths (and even some Abrahamic faiths gets super shafted on this, too), because FGM/FGC is a cultural practice that tends to be practiced by every religion where it is found, there is no hope in hellllll that it would ever manage to pass a legal test for religious exemptions, even ignoring the whole "tends to be much worse for the woman than circumcision is for a man" thing.

Compare this to circumcision, which is explicitly and textually mandated for Judaism, and present in the more authoritative hadith. FGM does not even come close, and is even banned by the religious authorities in Egypt.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 5:49 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


flibbertigibbet, thank you.
posted by zarq at 7:03 AM on June 6, 2011


Add me to the list of guys who is perfectly happy with his circumsized penis, and bears no ill will towards his parents for choosing to do it.
posted by antifuse at 8:04 AM on June 6, 2011


moorooka: "Zarq mentions 3 reasons; aesthetic, medical and religious.

The aesthetic and religious reasons are not actually reasons at all, from a rational point of view.


Rational in what sense? If aesthetic reasons are invalid then by your metric parents should also be barred from treating their children with orthodontics when bite and speech functions are not impaired. This was mentioned upthread.

If religious, then I suppose on some level I disagree with your opinion here. But I honestly have no desire to debate the merits of the religious tradition. My beliefs are mine, not yours. And as I have noted above, I'm not exactly comfortable with circumcision anyway. I've tried to explain my understanding of Jewish belief with regard to brisim -- circumcision rituals -- in this thread. My comments were not intended to be a ringing endorsement of the practice.

On principle, I generally oppose efforts to restrict Jewish religious belief when it is not being imposed on non-Jews. Or from forcing everyone through legislation to follow a particular religious tradition. If people don't want to give their children circumcisions for religious reasons, then they shouldn't. But legally barring me from giving my son a bris seems to set a problematic precedent. One which might be a very slippery slope. This is one of the reasons why I'm pro-choice, rather than anti-abortion. Pro-life laws try to bludgeon everyone into observing a specific religious belief which they may not agree with. It's dominionism at its worst.

A tribe where everybody had their earlobes cut off would probably think that this was aesthetically better.

The "fish have no word for water" argument. Always fun. :)

Here's the problem: sociologically-speaking, aesthetics (and taboos) have always been subjective to local conditions. Our value or rejection for either is universally dependent on the morés and value judgments of a given time. So being immersed in a society's traditions doesn't necessarily automatically invalidate them. They work, relative to that specific society. And may change over time.

And religious reasons are, in fact, non-reasons; religion cannot justify something that would not otherwise be justified.

This seems to be sort of a non-sequitur when applied to Judaism, since it has traditionally been used to manage a community within a codified system of laws.

The only thing that could possibly justify the decision to circumcise a child is the medical benefit.

Perhaps. I'm not sure I agree.

And by medical benefit, we must only consider the medical benefit that would theoretically exist up to the point at which the child was old enough to make the decision themselves.

Why? As a parent, one necessarily makes health decisions that will affect their child when they become an adult, but not necessarily grant them an immediate benefit.

And there simply isn't any evidence of any benefit great enough to objectively justify something as drastic a violation as slicing off a piece of a child's penis with a knife as a "preventative" measure.

This is a rabbit hole of an argument. For every study that exists indicating that the procedure isn't particularly drastic, doesn't seem to reduce sensitivity and does not in any way impair penile function, I'm sure you could come up with others that disagree. I have little interest in arguing in circles with you about it, especially since I'm not particularly interested in convincing you of anything.

The comparison of circumcision to steroid medications is absurd. When your son reaches the age to decide whether to continue taking the steroids, he will have a choice in the matter. When your son reaches the age to decide whether or not he wants a foreskin, he won't have any choice in the matter; the choice has been taken away from him. You can say "I am accountable to my child", but you're actually not, because if your child has a problem with it, you can't do anything about it. For something that is both irreversible and totally medically unnecessary, this is not good enough.

The steroid medication example wasn't "absurd." The medications I'm giving my son at the dosages he's currently receiving are not strictly medically required. When I was his age, I did not receive them and while I still have asthma, it's not severe. However, they may indeed cause some long-term damage. Studies on one of them have shown that they could slow a child's growth rate and affect his final height, for example. This is one of several potential long-term, permanent side effects. But we give them to him in the hope that they might ease his asthma attacks now, and diminish their frequency in the future.

This and other comparisons that have been offered in this thread, such as orthodontics and vaccination, are permanent changes which are typically imposed on a child before they can make a personal choice. They are neither absurd examples, nor unreasonable avenues of discussion.

So you cant fall back on the medical reasons. What you have left are the aesthetic and religious reasons, which I'm sure make perfect sense from within that culture, but from outside that culture, viewed from the perspective of somebody from a place where baby's genitals aren't regularly taken to with a sharp knife but are instead left the way nature intended, these reasons appear simply demented and sick."

Well, it's good to see you're capable of discussing this reasonably, without dipping into rhetoric that could be considered offensive or insulting.
posted by zarq at 8:24 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Mitheral: " Part of the popularization of circumcision during the begin of the last century was it's benefit as an impediment to masturbation."

Yeah, but it was performed for centuries prior to that under different justifications.

My point was that FGM is usually (perhaps always?) done to control women. In the societies/cultures in which it is performed, it's as much a psychological control as a physical one. Women are told that they won't be considered attractive to a man unless they are cut. It makes sex painful for them to such a degree that they will not consider losing their virginity prior to marriage.

Whatever the justifications were a hundred years ago for performing them, circumcision isn't done to control men or to limit their sexuality today. Today, circumcisions are primarily considered for health, religious or aesthetic reasons.
posted by zarq at 8:33 AM on June 6, 2011


Yeah, but it was performed for centuries prior to that under different justifications.

No, it wasn't. Not like this. Circumcision prior to that was far, far less severe than the high-n-tight method used to cure the evils of onanism, which is still the most common method used in America today.

The traditional method simply removed the end of the foreskin, not the whole thing.
posted by Sys Rq at 8:42 AM on June 6, 2011


So you cant fall back on the medical reasons. What you have left are the aesthetic and religious reasons, which I'm sure make perfect sense from within that culture, but from outside that culture, viewed from the perspective of somebody from a place where baby's genitals aren't regularly taken to with a sharp knife but are instead left the way nature intended, these reasons appear simply demented and sick."

I clicked post instead of preview.

There's a decent wikipedia page on the worldwide prevalence of circumcision.
The World Health Organisation estimates that as of 2006, 30% to 33% of males aged 15 or older (or approximately 661.5 million men or boys) are circumcised worldwide. Estimates of the proportion of all males that are circumcised worldwide include one sixth, one third, and between 30 and 40%. Canada and the United Kingdom have seen a decline in male circumcision while there are indications of increasing demand in Southern Africa. The Centers For Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that circumcision rates were stable in the United States between 1979 and 1999,[6] and Australia has reported a 5% increase in circumcisions in its most populous state, New South Wales, over the past ten years.


Your judgment of circumcision as "demented" and "sick" is not universal, nor would it seem to apply to all cultures.
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: " The traditional method simply removed the end of the foreskin, not the whole thing."

Interesting. I've never heard this. Do you have a cite on it?
posted by zarq at 8:54 AM on June 6, 2011


Er...no. And it turns out I misremembered. I was off by almost 2000 years. Uh, whoops. Well, what do you expect; I learned it in Art History class.

Still, I think you'll find that that's well after Abraham's time.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:28 AM on June 6, 2011


It was when I got old enough to change in the locker room that I first got taunted for having a "Rain-sleeve". Such is the routine cruelty of junior high. If only there were an intarwebz back in 80s Brooklyn then maybe I could have come back with "Fuck you, Tony Danza's uncut".

Personally, I love being uncut, and think nature evolved the most sensitive, nerve-laden pleasure zone on my body with a retractable-as-necessary protective sheath for a reason. The idea of needing lubrication to jerk off never occurred to me till I encountered it in raunchy teen sex comedies being one of them.

Never had a hygiene problem since the first shower after I was old enough to comprehend what a blowjob was and that I might want one some day. But I also wash my belly-button and armpits and butt-crack, for basically the same reason.

I have had chicks take a moment and stare at the first uncuct cock they'd ever gone down on. But I guarantee you, none of them were ever presented with a dirty unit.

While I'm firmly in the au naturale crowd personally, I don't think the attempt to ban circumcision in 'Frisco is much of a good idea, or a nobly motivated one. Haven't clicked through, but I'll take it as fact that the comic as Storm Saxon as the thread describes it. That has to say something about the people behind the campaign. Somebody call The Hebrew Hammer.

So yeah, no. Bad comic, bad proposed law. More than willing to discuss why being all-natural rocks with those who're interested, definitely interested in shifting the cultural consensus in that direction, not gonna go up to people on the beach and harangue strangers.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 9:54 AM on June 6, 2011 [3 favorites]


If aesthetic reasons are invalid then by your metric parents should also be barred from treating their children with orthodontics when bite and speech functions are not impaired.

I actually think they should be, if the child doesn't agree. In practice, I don't know how you would go about implementing a law like that, since my impression is that children's consent doesn't mean much legally. But I certainly think it's very wrong to force a cosmetic procedure on a child who doesn't want it. (My parents agreed; I didn't have braces until I asked for them at 15, even though I "needed" them at 8. I can't imagine a world in which any of us would have thought it was OK to install rows of painful, care-requiring, diet-restricting metal in someone's mouth for years against their will.)
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 10:18 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sys Rq: "Er...no. And it turns out I misremembered. I was off by almost 2000 years. Uh, whoops. Well, what do you expect; I learned it in Art History class.

Still, I think you'll find that that's well after Abraham's time.
"

It is, and it's fascinating. I didn't know this. Thanks.

I'm unfamiliar with CIRP. Do you happen to know if they're neutral, or take a particular side in the pro/anti circumcision debate?
posted by zarq at 10:23 AM on June 6, 2011


How is this not mutilation? I was circumcised and everything seems to work fine. OTOH I don't really know what I'm missing do I. When my wife(she's jewish) and I have children we will have to decide. I'm leaning towards not doing it and having a rabbi prick the prick later if his jewishness is really important to him. Not something I'd crusade against, but it does seem pretty unnecessary in this day and age.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:26 AM on June 6, 2011


"Ewww! He's uncircumcised?! EEewww!"

Your natural body is disgusting to me. The way you were born is wrong. That's what I hear. I couldn't even finish reading this thread.
posted by fuq at 10:31 AM on June 6, 2011


What about neck rings? Is it ok for parents to elongate the neck of their daughters simply because they think it is esthetically pleasing?
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:42 AM on June 6, 2011


Just to be clear I'm leaning towards anti circumcision but honestly it's something my wife and I are actively discussing. This thread for the most part has not really contributed to that debate which is kind of sad given that I usually look to metafilter for a good discussion about any given subject. Some mefites who are normally pretty reasonable are decidedly not in this thread.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 10:45 AM on June 6, 2011


I knew when I read the book, and know now, that botched circumcisions are vanishingly rare. But the risk:benefit ratio didn't make sense to me then, and it doesn't now.

And, as a straight women, long before I read the book, I had developed a preference for intact men. As a teenager, I wasn't thinking about how this might affect my future parenting choices, but on some level it may have.

Kinda squicks me out to think of me subliminally putting my sexual preferences onto my son, however.
posted by Leta at 10:55 AM on June 6, 2011


The idea of needing lubrication to jerk off never occurred to me till I encountered it in raunchy teen sex comedies being one of them.

I see this argument trotted out sometimes in favour of not circumsizing. I've never needed lube to enjoy my "alone time," either. It was many years before I discovered that some men seem to routinely need it. I think you guys are doing it wrong.
posted by antifuse at 10:57 AM on June 6, 2011


AElfwine Evenstar: "Just to be clear I'm leaning towards anti circumcision but honestly it's something my wife and I are actively discussing. This thread for the most part has not really contributed to that debate which is kind of sad given that I usually look to metafilter for a good discussion about any given subject. Some mefites who are normally pretty reasonable are decidedly not in this thread."

The topic has been debated time and time again on MeFi.

Perhaps some of them have weighed in there.
posted by zarq at 10:58 AM on June 6, 2011


Thanks zarq. I never caught any of those threads. I guess I didn't click because it was never something that really interested me, but now I'm faced with having to form an opinion on the topic.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 11:02 AM on June 6, 2011


double block and bleed, thank you for sharing that.

I do have trouble with the last little bit, though. It sounds to me like your son is on the pretty far end of the autism spectrum. Most people on the spectrum do not have that level of disability, so while, on it's face, it may seem like "1 out of 100 children will be diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum" would be a much more likely outcome than being transgendered, I think it probably is not really the case. Your son's level of disability is more on the order of 1 in 100 people within the ASD population, or one in ten thousand out of the general population.
And even though hard numbers are tough to come by, I think it's safe to say that there is more than an 1 in 10,000 chance that a person is trans (though trans does not always equal surgical reassignment).

Off topic, you have my eternal respect and gratitude. Without caregivers, this world would grind to a halt. Thank you.
posted by Leta at 11:05 AM on June 6, 2011


Yeah, circumcision is one of those hot button topics that Metafilter generally doesn't do well. It's hard to have a rational discussion when one side believes that you're mutilating infant genitals, and the other doesn't.
posted by antifuse at 11:07 AM on June 6, 2011


AElfwine Evenstar: "Thanks zarq. I never caught any of those threads. I guess I didn't click because it was never something that really interested me, but now I'm faced with having to form an opinion on the topic."

No problem.

I've been there. Was not an easy decision.

antifuse: "Yeah, circumcision is one of those hot button topics that Metafilter generally doesn't do well.

Yep. And I would be willing to bet a few threads about it have been deleted over the years.

It's hard to have a rational discussion when one side believes that you're mutilating infant genitals, and the other doesn't."

Honestly, we're rather lucky that threads about abortion go as smoothly as they do, all things considered.
posted by zarq at 11:16 AM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Nearly three hundred comments and no mention yet of Moh-El, the one responsible for Superman's circumcision?
posted by ooga_booga at 11:47 AM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Leta:

Thanks for your kind words. Any parent would do the same and I do more than my fair share of whining about it sometimes (though never where he can hear me. It's not his fault.)

Maybe my son is a rare case, though I know other parents of kids at his school of 150 special-needs students who have similar experiences. I would think that boys with severe physical disabilities may have similar issues. I have no hard data to to support my hunch.

I'm not fanatically pro-circumcision. Your boy will probably be neither severely mentally disabled nor trans-gendered, so follow your conscience. It just happened to work out well for us in our case and I offer it as a counterexample for those who strongly feel that it is wrong in all cases.

It could be said that we could or should have waited until his foreskin became a problem before removing it. In that case, it would have been much more complicated and he would have been just as incapable of taking part in the decision then as he was when he was an infant (or right now, for that matter.)

As a side note: he has poor body awareness and shows little reaction to pain (which has been a bad thing for him at times.) He slept well through his circumcision.

Speaking of the thread in meta terms, I think it has gone better than the stereotypical cat de-clawing/circumcision/I-P train-wrecks of the past. I don't know if that is because people are behaving better or if Jessamatex have blisters on the fingers they use to delete comments. Maybe pb developed a killer regex to auto-delete bad comments. I don't know.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:34 PM on June 6, 2011


Apparently, based on the objections I read every time this issue comes up, circumcision causes some men to be so insecure that they feel they and their penises have been gravely insulted any time some stranger on the internet suggests that performing elective cosmetic surgery on infants might not be such a good idea.
posted by shponglespore at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2011


Okay, I couldn't resist and clicked through. That comic is Nazier than both Ross Kemp's Orange County and Moscow episodes combined.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:26 PM on June 6, 2011


Late to the bris here, but I'm cut, my dad's uncut and my son's uncut. I'm the monkey in the middle. When my son was born my dad expressed his opinion that we should get him circumcised, because "Kids will tease him in the shower." My son's maternal grandmother, a pediatrician, was adamantly against it. I thought it was a stupid cosmetic procedure, his mom was ambivalent, since, apparently, my wedding tackle's so aesthetically pleasing, or something. In the event, we elected not to. I walked in to the room as he was getting prepped and said "Hey, didn't we agree not to do that?" I only said anything because it was going to cost me $50 and we were paying for the whole adventure out of pocket. The pediatrician tickled his toes and said "Lucky boy! You have no idea how close you came!"
The one time the difference came up I told him that I had a big piece of mine cut off, and his was as nature intended. He internalized that and, as a result, teasing was never a problem. He met and married a fine woman, and, at 30, they're expecting my first grandchild. If it's a boy, I'm curious if it will even be an issue.
posted by Floydd at 5:03 PM on June 6, 2011


circumcision causes some men to be so insecure that they feel they and their penises have been gravely insulted any time some stranger on the internet suggests that performing elective cosmetic surgery on infants might not be such a good idea.

And some uncircumcised men are so insecure that they feel the need to label any man who has been circumcised 'mutilated' and his parents 'child abusers'.

See how that argument goes both ways?

I think that those on either side of the issue need to accept that it can be very difficult to find statistics from non-biased agencies on circumcision. You may even, yourself, be judging your own opinions on biased information from people who are trying to sell you their own agenda. You really have to be discriminating with the sources you trust.

For instance, I found this information quite compelling: Circumcision and lower UTI rates. Lots of research suggesting significant health benefits for circumcised men when it comes to UTIs.

But this data from the UK perspective, where circumcisions are rarer, indicates that although there are health benefits, they aren't significant enough to argue in favor of de facto circumcision of males.

But then again, "In 2007, the World Health Organization and UNAIDS proved that circumcised men reduce their risk of HIV Infection by approximately 60% in high risk areas such as Sub-Saharan Africa." (via) So clearly, in high-risk populations, banning circumcision isn't the way to go, either. (Interestingly, a non-surgical method for circumcising adult men may become available. NOT FOR THE SQUEAMISH, NSFW.)

So should circumcision be banned for every male when clearly it is helpful in high-risk populations? Or should it be routine for every male when many won't experience that health benefit? I don't really think either way is the way to go. I don't believe this issue is as simple as yes/no.

My son had what is known as "failure to thrive," when he was a baby and almost died. Even though most babies benefit from breast milk, he was in the minority who needed formula. When he was very sick at 3 1/2 years old and the doctor dismissed his symptoms, I did my own research and made the decision to take him to the ER. As it turned out, he had pneumonia. Again, without intervention he would have died. So I started making life and death decisions for him very early in his life. And I have done the same for his brother. I'm aware of the weight of that responsibility, believe me.

When it came to circumcision, I looked at all the data, which as I said can be used to argue either side of the issue. Their Dad, beng circumcised, knew more about it personally than I did (obviously). He made the final decision, at my request (health benefits were his number one reason, not aesthetics, btw), and I spoke with the doctor about how many times he had performed the procedure, whether anesthesia would be used (I was adamant that it would be), etc. because I think we owe it to our kids to make informed decisions. My husband was with both our boys when they were circumcised. I was either throwing up from a spinal or out cold at the time of their procedures, I think. My oldest was frank breech, so I had a scheduled C-section. And then my youngest, who was fine for most of the pregnancy, flipped into footling breech and I had to have an emergency C-section. I didn't want that second one, but the doctor said the cord might choke my son if I tried to deliver him. You try to advocate for the ones you love and make the best health decisions you can when they can't do it themselves.

So my own stance, based on my own experience, is that parents have the right to make health decisions for their children until those children have reached the age of consent.

For those would would call me a "child abuser" or insist that I "mutilated" our sons, the ones that have to live with that decision are my children, my husband and I.

So the last time this issue came up on Mefi? I asked them about it.

I said, "You know, when you were born, we had you circumcised. How do you feel about us doing that?"

And they both said, almost in unison, that no way would they want to be uncircumcised. And my oldest said if we hadn't, he would have had to do it as an adult, and that would suck. And I said, well, no, he could just be uncircumcised. Lots of people are, we didn't have a religious reason why he'd need to be or anything. And he just said he'd rather be circumcised, end of story.

I also have a friend whose son was not circumcised as a baby. They were in the Peace Corps and lived in a place where it was not offered. He had health issues and had to have a circumcision as an older child, but his insurance wouldn't cover it, despite his issues. It was a much more serious procedure with a longer recovery time than my boys, who were covered under my insurance.

I understand that he is very much in the minority for having had to go through that later in life, as most men don't have those problems. But if circumcision were banned, what would his choice have been?

So I don't support any law that bans circumcision, just as I wouldn't support a law banning abortion. Being pro-choice means allowing people to choose, not taking choices away from them.
posted by misha at 5:39 PM on June 6, 2011 [4 favorites]


I understand that he is very much in the minority for having had to go through that later in life, as most men don't have those problems. But if circumcision were banned, what would his choice have been?

His choice would have been to get circumcised. Despite your strawmanning, the proposed ban is in fact on the cosmetic circumcision of minors, not the medically-necessary circumcision of consenting adults.
posted by kafziel at 5:55 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Several years ago, I attended my best friend's son's bris; it made me think that if I ever had a son, and decided to circumcise (I'm not Jewish), I'd want to see if I could procure the services of a mohel... it seemed like such a quick and easy procedure. A few years later, I became the adoptive mother of a four-day-old boy, whose birth parents had already chosen to have him circumcised. Honestly, I was a little relieved that I'm not the one who had to make the decision.
posted by candyland at 6:31 PM on June 6, 2011


And some uncircumcised men are so insecure that they feel the need to label any man who has been circumcised 'mutilated' and his parents 'child abusers'.

...as do many, many circumcised men.

The anti-circ folks aren't just busybodies nosing in on an issue that's alien to them. A lot of the time, it's personal.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:48 PM on June 6, 2011


...which is to say that a lot of the time, when people are shouting about a particular form of victimization, it's because they were victimized in that way.

And then people just shrug it off like it's nothing.

How would you feel?
posted by Sys Rq at 6:57 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


...which is to say that a lot of the time, when people are shouting about a particular form of victimization, it's because they were victimized in that way.

And then people just shrug it off like it's nothing. How would you feel?


Since it doesn't actually strike me as victimization and you haven't actually demonstrated how you are actually worse off, indifferent. Not Jewish or American, but I consider the health benefits of circumcision to be well worth it. You want to talk genital mutilation? Ask me about my testicular torsion surgery. I have photos!

As for this comic being put out by the bill supporters - and I'd point out that it advertises itself as a publication of 'MGMBill comics' - I am, sad, to say, not surprised. San Francisco has a small but extremely dedicated coterie of hardcore fascists.
posted by anigbrowl at 7:42 PM on June 6, 2011


Despite your strawmanning, the proposed ban is in fact on the cosmetic circumcision of minors, not the medically-necessary circumcision of consenting adults.

The link says, specifically, "to get a measure on the fall ballot that would make it illegal to snip the foreskin of a minor within city limits."

The boy in question was a minor. That's why I wrote: He had health issues and had to have a circumcision as an older child.

I want to say he was 12. Might have been 11.

READ MOAR.
posted by misha at 8:10 PM on June 6, 2011


Since it doesn't actually strike me as victimization and you haven't actually demonstrated how you are actually worse off, indifferent. Not Jewish or American, but I consider the health benefits of circumcision to be well worth it. You want to talk genital mutilation? Ask me about my testicular torsion surgery. I have photos!

Did you have your redundant left nut removed as a preventative measure against the remote possibility that you may someday experience testicular torsion?

No?

Then it's hardly relevant.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:29 PM on June 6, 2011 [1 favorite]


Rather, did your parents have it done to you?
posted by Sys Rq at 9:38 PM on June 6, 2011


I didn't mean to cause offense by calling it demented and sick. just making the point that if you had never heard of circumcision before, and then somebody told you that they planned to do it to a kid, you'd probably think they were fucked in the head. just a thought experiment.
posted by moorooka at 11:00 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since it doesn't actually strike me as victimization and you haven't actually demonstrated how you are actually worse off...

Silly point. The greatest victimization anyone must suffer is being born: you have no control over it and it's done to you by complete strangers. I'll concede the "no worse off" part (since I can't complain from personal experience), but I doubt you actually have data to back it up.

Circumcision is just something we do. We've done it for so long that not doing it seems weird. The actual, factual reasons for doing it are scant (with all respect to the comments by double block and bleed and others). But the reasons for not doing it include not cutting someone's penis with a knife. And I think not cutting someone's penis with a knife is a pretty sound decision (in most cases).
posted by fartknocker at 11:01 PM on June 6, 2011 [2 favorites]


if you had never heard of circumcision before, and then somebody told you that they planned to do it to a kid, you'd probably think they were fucked in the head.

If you'd never heard of sexual reproduction before, and then somebody told you that they planned to grow a baby inside a woman until she was ready to burst and then HOLY FUCKING SHIT! she squeezes SCREAMING! BLOOD! another human being out of her body, well, you'd probably think they were fucked in the head. Lots of stuff sounds insane the first time you hear about it.

On paper, circumcision ought to go away. It does little or no good, introduces a tiny but unnecessary risk to the health of the child, and exists mainly as an ancient tribal practice that has no logical place in the modern world.

Personally, I would not choose it for a child of my own. It makes me squeamish to look at pictures of the various ways it is done.

But out in the world at large, it appears to do very, very little harm, certainly not nearly enough to warrant the vehement protests and accusations made by a lot of people who have decided to make it their pet cause of late. I grew up among millions of circumcised men who seemed no worse off than the men of largely uncircumcised nations. It is practiced by Muslims and Jews in large parts of Africa and the Middle East. Two-thirds of the world's circumcised men are Muslim. If you outlaw circumcision, you stigmatize them and, to a certain extent, you outlaw them.

If you are looking for a good cause to actively align yourself with and you have chosen to devote your time and energy to the anti-circumcision trend, I can guide you to more effective ways of reducing the world's suffering. If you are only looking for another way to quickly and easily differentiate yourself publicly from the unrighteous, well, have at it; there will be badges and stars and certificates for you all.
posted by pracowity at 12:17 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


Not sure where the idea is coming from that a meaningful number of people, let alone anyone here, is obsessed with being against circumcision to the point of needing to be scolded out of neglecting all the misery the world has to offer. I actually sort of regret that my general feelings about removing bits of people without asking them first should be in conflict with the traditional practices of people I respect so much, and I think I can promise you that most everyone here who's bothered to talk about their objection to those practices has done so because talking is what we do on Metafilter, and not for the sheer pleasure of being smug - as sheerly pleasurable as you make it look.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 1:38 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


well nobody would be around to think anything about anything without sexual reproduction, an essential biological function can't really be compared with circumcision.

ban or not, I think people should stop doing it to kids (they can do it to themselves all they want) and I think it's perfectly worthy of opprobium. I don't care if it's a traditional practice, lots of traditional practices are fucked.
posted by moorooka at 2:06 AM on June 7, 2011


oh and I dont get the argument that people shouldn't be talking about a problem as long as bigger problems exist. the amount of time I have devoted in my life to anti circumcision activism is zero, but I'm still allowed to give my opinion in a metafilter thread without being told to shut up and talk about world hunger instead
posted by moorooka at 2:11 AM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


...as do many, many circumcised men.

The anti-circ folks aren't just busybodies nosing in on an issue that's alien to them. A lot of the time, it's personal.

...which is to say that a lot of the time, when people are shouting about a particular form of victimization, it's because they were victimized in that way.

And then people just shrug it off like it's nothing.

How would you feel?


Well, I guess a lot of the problem is that many, many circumsised men actually don't feel that way - we're perfectly happy with our penises, and can't understand the trauma that seems to have stricken these other circumsised men.
posted by antifuse at 4:38 AM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


moorooka: "I didn't mean to cause offense by calling it demented and sick.

OK. Thank you for clarifying.

just making the point that if you had never heard of circumcision before, and then somebody told you that they planned to do it to a kid, you'd probably think they were fucked in the head. just a thought experiment."

Maybe? Not definitely. If it were explained to me that there was a clear benefit to the procedure, (any procedure) I'd probably be perfectly okay with it.

There are lots of treatments and therapies in modern medicine that might make no sense to someone unfamiliar with them until they're explained in context.
posted by zarq at 7:16 AM on June 7, 2011


Did you have your redundant left nut removed as a preventative measure against the remote possibility that you may someday experience testicular torsion? No? Then it's hardly relevant.

Why, because anything short of having one of my organs removed doesn't count as mutilation? Seems like you're making my point for me, Sys Rq. I see you tried to move the goalposts in the next post 10 minutes later by switching to a consent question, but you've shown that circumcision doesn't even come close to your idea of mutilation. Incidentally, the surgical correction for a testicular torsion (at least in the most common case arising from a bell-clapper deformity, as mine was) involves permanently stitching the testicles to the inside of the scrotal sac to stop them moving around.

I didn't mean to cause offense by calling it demented and sick. just making the point that if you had never heard of circumcision before, and then somebody told you that they planned to do it to a kid, you'd probably think they were fucked in the head. just a thought experiment.

Well no, not really. I'm open-minded that way - when I come across some startling practice I tend to think it over and try to understand the reasons for doing it before making up my mind about it. In the case of circumcision the health and hygiene benefits seem pretty obvious. I can see arguments for leaving it au naturel too, but since humans are not about to stop wearing clothes none of them seem terribly compelling. I'm not Jewish or Muslim or even American, incidentally.
posted by anigbrowl at 11:03 AM on June 7, 2011


I'd be interested in hearing a discussion about the comparison between FGM/FGC and cosmetic vaginal procedures vis-a-vis infant circumcision compared to adult circumcision. There's a common thread there, but I'm not sure I can (or would) put my finger on it.
posted by norm at 12:21 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I just thought of something. I wonder if I have a "phantom" foreskin...
posted by Trochanter at 1:15 PM on June 7, 2011


Why, because anything short of having one of my organs removed doesn't count as mutilation? Seems like you're making my point for me, Sys Rq. I see you tried to move the goalposts in the next post 10 minutes later by switching to a consent question, but you've shown that circumcision doesn't even come close to your idea of mutilation.

If you're under the impression you have the power to read minds, I'm sorry to have to break it to you, but you don't. You're quite terrible at it, in fact.

Chopping chunks off of babies's genitals, leaving them permanently scarred, permanently incomplete. If that's not mutilation, what in the hell is it? There are far more loaded descriptors that could be used. Physical and sexual assault of an infant, for example. A permanent assertion of parental dominance, say.

I admit, it's not the most tactful angle to attack the issue, but to me, that is the issue. The word "mutilation" is already watering it down plenty.
posted by Sys Rq at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2011


I suppose in a pre-soap bronze age culture, there may have been hygienic benefits, although it's still a very drastic thing to think up. but as it is today, there simply aren't "clear" medical benefits. there are unclear and quite ambiguous medical benefits.
posted by moorooka at 1:48 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Okay... maybe I wouldn't object to circumcising "babies's"...
posted by Sys Rq at 1:50 PM on June 7, 2011


""Monster Mohel was drawn based on a real photograph," Hess said. "There's a little bit of real people in all of them."

Hess said he sees a little bit of himself in Foreskin Man, noting that they both are of German ancestry and have light-colored hair.

"I think (critics) are certainly reading too much into it if you think I am anti-Semitic," he added."
posted by rtha at 2:00 PM on June 7, 2011


If you're under the impression you have the power to read minds, I'm sorry to have to break it to you, but you don't. You're quite terrible at it, in fact.

I'm just going by what you said - that you don't consider anything short of organ removal relevant to a discussion of mutilation.

Chopping chunks off of babies's genitals, leaving them permanently scarred, permanently incomplete. If that's not mutilation, what in the hell is it?

Prophylaxis. There's a pretty obvious qualitative difference between a chunk of flesh and a flap of skin, I'm not seeing any scar tissue down there, and personally speaking I don't feel any more incomplete from that than I do in regard to a missing wart. I'm kind of happy about the 60% reduction in my probability of contracting AIDS though.

There are far more loaded descriptors that could be used. Physical and sexual assault of an infant, for example. A permanent assertion of parental dominance, say.

Or the mark of the beast, or...well, anything. People could and indeed do say all sorts of things, but that doesn't meant there's any reason to take them seriously absent any other evidence.
posted by anigbrowl at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


rtha: """Monster Mohel was drawn based on a real photograph," Hess said. "There's a little bit of real people in all of them."

Hess said he sees a little bit of himself in Foreskin Man, noting that they both are of German ancestry and have light-colored hair.

"I think (critics) are certainly reading too much into it if you think I am anti-Semitic," he added."
"

That probably sounded better in the original German.
posted by zarq at 3:07 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


anigbrowl writes "I'm kind of happy about the 60% reduction in my probability of contracting AIDS though."

Didn't know you were living in Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia or Zimbabwe anigbrowl.
posted by Mitheral at 3:54 PM on June 7, 2011


I wouldn't be that bothered by a tribe that cut off infant's earlobes. Am I the only one?
posted by bq at 4:08 PM on June 7, 2011


Didn't know you were living in Kenya, Namibia, Rwanda, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia or Zimbabwe anigbrowl.

Completely irrelevant, for reasons I would have thought were obvious. While any random person in that part of the world is more likely to be HIV+, one benefit of circumcision in this context is to lower the probability of infection following contact, not the probability that you will meet someone who is infected, which remains exactly the same as before. Between education, a general preference for safe sex practices, and a number of other factors, my risk of contracting HIV was relatively low to start with. But I am just fine with that' probability being half as low again, along with somewhat lower risk reduction for other STDs.
posted by anigbrowl at 4:24 PM on June 7, 2011


Chopping chunks off of babies's genitals

Sys_Req, this is obviously an issue you feel strongly about. I respect that, and I do not in any way intend to disparage your very obvious trauma and your beliefs. I don't think you need to resort to hyperbole to make it clear that you are against the procedure.

I am also very, very glad that my children don't feel the same way that you do.

I know I would be devastated if my children had lasting negative effects, mental or physical, as a result of a decision I made, and distraught if either of them came to resent me or my husband later in life. I have sincerely tried to act in their best interests.

Fortunately, they, like the majority of circumcised men, seem happy with themselves the way they are.
posted by misha at 4:27 PM on June 7, 2011


anigbrowl writes "Completely irrelevant, for reasons I would have thought were obvious"

It's not irrelevant, the risk factors aren't the same. Circumcision only makes a significant difference if you are having non-barrier sex with risky partners.
posted by Mitheral at 4:29 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Yes, and?
posted by anigbrowl at 4:50 PM on June 7, 2011


Circumcision only makes a significant difference if you are having non-barrier sex with risky partners.

Good thing no one does that here, isn't it?
posted by Forktine at 5:01 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't be that bothered by a tribe that cut off infant's earlobes. Am I the only one?
What's weird about that is that there are cultures in the Amazon that practice some (to me) pretty weird body modifications on children. I can't figure out if the argument is a pro-outlawing-circumcision (because we'd all be in favor of forcing the Zo’é to stop piercing kids' lips) or anti-outlawing-circumcision (because we would all be in favor of respecting the Zo’é's right to cultural autonomy.)
posted by craichead at 5:04 PM on June 7, 2011


anigbrowl writes "Yes, and?"

Your typical American, even in SF, isn't having unprotected sex with partners of whom 25% are HIV positive. I'd recommend condoms over circumcision but hey, it's mostly a free country.
posted by Mitheral at 5:21 PM on June 7, 2011


That said, has circumcision as hiv prevention been studied in the US? I could imagine differences in the epidemics here and there (such as co-infections or sexual behaviors, or different strains of the virus) that might partially negate the impact of circumcision.
posted by Forktine at 5:22 PM on June 7, 2011


ArmyOfKittens, ifyouarestilloutthere, I just wanted to stop by the thread and say thank you again for your links and for your perspective. I'm greater off now with the knowledge that any amount of private parts-skin is a bonus when doing a trans surgery and I respect that if the parent's faith didn't prescribe it so vigorously that this would be another factor to help lean the weight towards "maybe no snippy snippy."

I think this thread has pretty bogged down now but I appreciate everyone who took the time to honestly participate and share their views. First circ thread in a long time where I learned stuff and that's a good thing!
posted by cavalier at 5:29 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Your typical American, even in SF, isn't having unprotected sex with partners of whom 25% are HIV positive. I'd recommend condoms over circumcision but hey, it's mostly a free country.

Either you don't understand statistics or you're being obtuse. I don't think any of the people I've had sex with were actually HIV+ or that I was putting myself at a high risk of contracting AIDS compared to that faced by people in Africa. But I don't know that, and on some occasions I've had sex with people without using any kind of STD barrier. A few times in my life I've been uncertain enough after doing so that I thought it was safer to get an STD/HIV test just to be sure. If your baseline risk is 2% and being circumcised reduces that to 1%, it's not that big of a deal but it's still a benefit.

This exchange is a case in point. I live in San Francisco now, but I've lived in 5 different countries and visited 12, some of which have a much higher incidence of HIV infection than the US. Really, you have no idea what my actual risk probability is, and my knowledge about this has only ever been as accurate as my knowledge about any partner(s) since the last time I had a test. The risk of an infectious contact and the risk of an infection are two different things.
posted by anigbrowl at 5:51 PM on June 7, 2011


Sys_Req, this is obviously an issue you feel strongly about. I respect that, and I do not in any way intend to disparage your very obvious trauma and your beliefs. I don't think you need to resort to hyperbole to make it clear that you are against the procedure.

Thing is, I really don't care about it all that much. What's done is done. Meh. It's just frustrating that something that is so ridiculously abhorrent has become this sacrosanct thing that must not be questioned.

I mean, some nutter goes on a spree with the hedge clippers five thousand years ago because a voice in the sky told him to... I mean, what!? That it became tradition is bizarre enough; that the tradition continues, and has become customary in the secular world...

It's just completely freaking bananas, is all, and I really don't understand how anyone can be adamantly for it.
posted by Sys Rq at 6:59 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another aspect to this that I find fascinating is how important the phallus tends to be symbolically, and yet circumcision is essentially an attack on the penis. It sort of flies in the face of tradition. Where normally we find phallus worship going on (for instance Hōnen Matsuri, an extreme example), with circumcision we see decidedly little love for the penis. Just from this thread alone you can find all sorts of folks opining in favor of cutting. Granted, those folks tend to want to downplay the act as much as possible, avoiding descriptors that would emphasize what's actually happening in favor of ambiguous or even playful terms, like prophylaxis or snippity-snip.

Why is that?
posted by fartknocker at 7:07 PM on June 7, 2011


Well, if it helps, I am not adamantly for circumcision. I just support the parents' right to choose what they feel is best for their child.
posted by misha at 7:07 PM on June 7, 2011


anigbrowl, the baseline risk of contracting HIV does matter because it has to be weighed against the very real risks of circumcision. It is a medical procedure that does carry risk. It can be done poorly. It can get infected. The baby could have a clotting disorder. It could result in lifelong sexual dysfunction. It can result in scarring (which I've personally seen). To properly weigh those risks, you need to know the prevalence of those risks and the prevalence of HIV (or whatever else you're trying to prevent).

For example, I'm not going to go get vaccinated for yellow fever because living in NYC, the risks outweigh the benefits. That might not be the case if I lived somewhere where yellow fever was a problem.

So yes, the rate of HIV matters and just because something makes sense on a public health level in Country X doesn't mean it makes sense in Country Y.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:07 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


anigbrowl writes "Either you don't understand statistics or you're being obtuse."

My only obtuseness is I'm surprised enough people in the US would be having sex with random strangers without protection to consider circumcision a public health good. Which apparently is a serious problem in the parts of Africa where this study was done. I won't be surprised by that anymore.
posted by Mitheral at 7:15 PM on June 7, 2011


Well, if it helps, I am not adamantly for circumcision. I just support the parents' right to choose what they feel is best for their child.

Even if it's facial scarring, or arranged marriage at age 8, or snakehandling, or keeping quiet about what that priest did?

Where's the line?
posted by Sys Rq at 7:35 PM on June 7, 2011


if someone kidnapped me, chopped off my foreskin with a knife, and then tried to tell me that I had been done a big favor because my risk of getting aids from protected sex was now only 1% instead of 2%, I wouldn't be thanking them, even if they were my parents. Quite the opposite, in fact.

But I'm not a defenseless baby, so I guess it's different.
posted by moorooka at 7:44 PM on June 7, 2011


*unprotected sex (!)
posted by moorooka at 7:45 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm surprised enough people in the US would be having sex with random strangers without protection to consider circumcision a public health good

People in the US are having plenty of unprotected sex. Whether or not circumcision would make a difference in HIV rates here is a different question, though. Partly because of the possibility that something fundamental is different here (such as a strain of the virus with different transmissibility), and largely that heterosexual sex is not the main transmission route for HIV in the US. The articles I find in a fast and ultra-non-scientific google search suggest that circumcision doesn't help for MSM sex (example, another), so increasing those rates probably won't make the difference to the epidemic here that it might in parts of Africa where the disease appears to be more centered on heterosexual contact.

But again, to the first point -- many, many people here and in other rich, industrialized countries with comparatively robust HIV and STD education efforts are having unprotected sex, both hetero and homo. Last year I made an FPP about the disparity between youth and boomer condom usage in casual sexual encounters, for example. And here is a random news article about the low rates of condoms by Swedish teens. The very high herpes and syphilis rates in the US are also an indication of the high rates of unprotected sex people are engaging in.
posted by Forktine at 7:51 PM on June 7, 2011


Granted, those folks tend to want to downplay the act as much as possible, avoiding descriptors that would emphasize what's actually happening in favor of ambiguous or even playful terms, like prophylaxis or snippity-snip.

Well, I picked that word to describe what I think is a valid purpose in performing circumcision, a preventive medical one. I have no problem with saying it involves slicing of the top of the foreskin. I don't consider it mutilation because it doesn't seem gratuitous to me; having seen the different results, I'm glad to have had it done. If I have male children in the future, I'd probably have them circumcised. I'd go through another round of thinking about it first, but the last 5 times I can recall sitting down to think about this I eventually decided I was fine with it.

On the other hand, I am most certainly not saying that people who don't want to should be made to do it. Obviously, for people who've had it done and are not happy with the results, that's unsatisfying, but that's ultimately something they have to take up with their own family members or community. This seems like the sort of decision each set of parents ought to get to make for themselves, because the arguable positives and negatives are finely balanced. I see a net positive, but it's not as obvious as, say, vaccination. I can see the potential negatives too, but the number of botched cases seems infinitesimal compared to the number of procedures performed, and the majority of the asserted injuries seem to be psychic rather than physical. There doesn't seem to be a compelling moral argument for state involvement here, and for now at least, the legal argument is DOA. If you don't approve of it, then don't do it, but I'm not persuaded that your personal feelings justify inserting yourself into others' family relationships.

anigbrowl, the baseline risk of contracting HIV does matter because it has to be weighed against the very real risks of circumcision. [...] you need to know the prevalence of those risks and the prevalence of HIV (or whatever else you're trying to prevent).

Quite so. But data on the procedure suggests the risks are very low (I'm quite willing to be educated otherwise, although things like clotting disorders are going to be screened for anyway as a matter of course in any modern hospital). The risk of HIV is a moving target, though happily less so than in the past. Right now my risk is close to zero; I'm married, neither of us have had any other partners for a long time, and there are no plans. But I know that might change, because it's changed a lot in the past. I've traveled a lot, and though I'm not very promiscuous or given to risky sex, I've gotten it on with a fair number of people who have also traveled a good bit and seemed to have extensive sex lives of their own. I haven't planned out what I consider an acceptable level of risk based on being circumcized, but neither have I ignored it completely on occasions where I was trying to decide how urgent it was to go get a test.

I'm surprised enough people in the US would be having sex with random strangers without protection to consider circumcision a public health good

Er...that's one sort of high-risk behavior, but you could get an STD from quite specific people you know if they turn out not to be as honest or self-aware as you thought, or even as they believed themselves to be. The marginal benefit is likely quite small in my case, but that's fine by me because so is the marginal cost. Maybe you missed the bit above where I mentioned 'generally practicing safe sex.' If you've never made a single unwise decision about sex in your whole life, then you've got better judgment about these things than I do.

if someone kidnapped me, chopped off my foreskin with a knife

Right. It's totally like that.
posted by anigbrowl at 8:06 PM on June 7, 2011


No, it's not "totally like that", because I'm not a defenseless baby, as I pointed out.
posted by moorooka at 8:39 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm not sure how it isn't just like being kidnapped and having your foreskin cut off. Babies can't consent.
posted by Justinian at 8:46 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm not persuaded that your personal feelings justify inserting yourself into others' family relationships.

Agreed. Frankly, one thing that always occurs to me about the "think of the children" types is that they are such underachievers. Oh sure they'll try to ban comic books or music or whatever, but schools and public services always receive the first and most vicious cuts in any budget crisis and health care continues to be available mainly to those who can afford it. If you really want to help children (and of course the big irony in this is that it's not just children, it's the future welfare of the nation) why not fix some of that?
posted by fartknocker at 8:56 PM on June 7, 2011


the number of botched cases seems infinitesimal compared to the number of procedures performed, and the majority of the asserted injuries seem to be psychic rather than physical.

The complication rate is in question depending on the source. The skill level of the people doing the circumcision varies and it's hard to know how skilled an individual doctor is at preforming circumcisions. Multiple medical associations have deemed the risk/benefit ratio either neutral, or negative (meaning they don't think it should be preformed unless there is a medical reason) including the AAP.

Medical associations/researchers who discuss complications aren't talking about "psychic" injuries, although that's possibly because infants can't talk. Anesthesia is not universally used and what is used isn't necessarily what has been shown to be the best at relieving pain either during the procedure or during the healing process afterwards. The long-term implications of causing an infant significant pain are currently unknown.

So much is unknowable that it's not a risk I would personally take for a primarily cosmetic procedure. I don't think it should be illegal, primarily because I don't want people driven to preform the procedure without medical assistance and I find it more misguided than purposefully abusive.
posted by the young rope-rider at 9:31 PM on June 7, 2011 [1 favorite]


Frankly, one thing that always occurs to me about the "think of the children" types is that they are such underachievers. Oh sure they'll try to ban comic books or music or whatever, but schools and public services always receive the first and most vicious cuts in any budget crisis and health care continues to be available mainly to those who can afford it. If you really want to help children (and of course the big irony in this is that it's not just children, it's the future welfare of the nation) why not fix some of that?

Huh? That's completely nonsensical.

What you seem to be saying is, "Won't somebody please think of the children," no? Your argument is arguing against itself.
posted by Sys Rq at 9:33 PM on June 7, 2011


Well, usually in a kidnap case the family is frantic and doesn't know where the kidnappee is, who has carried out the kidnapping, or whether they will ever see the kidnappee alive again. And the kidnapper is holding the kidnappee hostage in exchange for money or some other benefit. This is a significant difference, which I find it hard to believe requires pointing out.

It's true that babies can't consent. In fact, they can't do much of anything besides making noise and drinking milk. That's why decisions about legal and medical matters are delegated to adults, usually the parents, and this arrangement seems to work out for the best over the long run.

You know, you folks on the anti-circumcision side of this argument might want to rethink your approach to this issue. It's a sufficiently widespread default that something like 1/6 of humanity, or ~1 billion people, are circumcised men. And since it is a significant religious marker for a lot of people, and religious people tend to be rather traditional, changing minds on the subject is inevitably going to be a rather slow process with some rather predictable roadblocks. The most successful legislative activist for this cause, so far, is publishing comics in which a blond musclebound smashes an evil conspiracy of professional elites and wicked jews who are sworn to destroy mankind's natural inheritance. And the response to this is sure, that's pretty offensive, but the movement is more important and anyone who is not completely on board with banning circumcision is essentially supporting organized kidnapping, mutilations, and ritual child abuse.

I appreciate that you find it impossible to endorse this practice and would much prefer that everyone stop doing it, even though I don't agree with your point of view. Fair enough. But have you considered a strategy of pursuing smaller, intermediate goals instead of sweeping blanket bans and wholesale demonization of your enemies? I ask because I think the reason you have not being getting any traction up to now is that most people find angry ideological purists too hard to deal with. Instead of demanding a total ban on the practice with no exceptions for anybody, maybe you could start by asking for a study grant or an education program or something.

You know, the sort of thing that you could get some consensus about. Because right now, you should should probably be working very hard to communicate how mellow and reasonable and compromise-inclined you are and how that ballot initiative that seems to be the brainchild of a not-so-closet Nazi is absolutely not where you are coming from and you wouldn't even dream of asking anyone to vote for such an obviously deranged concept because it would set your whole cause back by ten years.
posted by anigbrowl at 10:12 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


Sys Req: Chopping chunks off of babies's genitals, leaving them permanently scarred, permanently incomplete. If that's not mutilation, what in the hell is it? There are far more loaded descriptors that could be used. Physical and sexual assault of an infant, ...

Thing is, I really don't care about it all that much. What's done is done. Meh.


WTF? Are you admitting you're a troll? Insane? Or in total denial of your own feelings?
posted by msalt at 10:28 PM on June 7, 2011


I'm not demanding a total ban. All I'm doing is pointing out that circumcision involves forcibly holding a person down and slicing their foreskin off with a knife, an irreversible and painful violation of their body made without consent, and all for a medical benefit that is totally negligible if it exists at all. This probably seems like a good argument for a ban, and in a rational world it would be a good argument for a ban, but I recognize that this isn't a rational world, it's a world where cosmetic factors and/or the pure inertia of senseless tradition are considered perfectly respectable reasons for depriving a person of the choice to have an intact penis, and questioning this practice makes one a loony (and a potential Nazi) who just needs to mellow out and respect the foreskin chopping decisions of parents
posted by moorooka at 10:33 PM on June 7, 2011 [3 favorites]


completely nonsensical

I always aim for concision, but sometimes my vernacular misses the mark. So, to elaborate, the "think of the children types" in this case are the ones that want to ban circumcision because they think in this way they will make a better life for those that come after us. While I think that this penis cutting thing is weird, to say the least, and probably more a result of something akin to path dependence lock in than anything else, I do not think banning it is a particularly thoughtful or effective way to "help the children." Providing free healthcare and schooling to children, on the other hand, would be very helpful, indeed. Don't you agree?
posted by fartknocker at 10:39 PM on June 7, 2011


Moorooka, I don't think questioning the practice is loony at all. You might not favor a blanket ban but that's what's on the ballot in SF this November, a fact which will be mentioned in every news story on the subject for the next 6 months. So will the fact that the author of the ballot initiative is an astonishingly toxic individual. That is not the fault of people who share the same opinion about the circumcision issue, but everyone who opposes the practice is going to have to deal with that anyway. So do you want that guy to be the defining face of this issue for the next several years, or do you want to try meeting people half way and salvaging some credibility for a cause you care about?
posted by anigbrowl at 11:24 PM on June 7, 2011


You know, the sort of thing that you could get some consensus about. Because right now, you should should probably be working very hard to communicate how mellow and reasonable and compromise-inclined you are and how that ballot initiative that seems to be the brainchild of a not-so-closet Nazi is absolutely not where you are coming from and you wouldn't even dream of asking anyone to vote for such an obviously deranged concept because it would set your whole cause back by ten years.

As I said above, I don't favor a ban because it would most likely lead to botched circumcisions, but I also think this sort of rhetoric is misplaced. If A is tradition (especially religious tradition) and you are anti-A, going on about how mellow and reasonable and compromise-inclined you are with regards to A doesn't help your cause. All this does is further entrench A as a perfectly reasonable option, even though you wouldn't be against it if it were reasonable... and that essentially sets the whole cause back forever.

If anti-circumcision activists had been mellow and reasonable and compromise-inclined from the beginning, we wouldn't even be discussing this. No one would be, just as no one was during the decades in which nearly every American boy was circumcised as a matter of routine. On the other hand, comparing infant circumcision to "organized kidnapping, mutilations, and ritual child abuse" has gone a long way toward framing this issue as one of consent and bodily autonomy, not just compromise and tradition. That's an idea which has convinced many people to leave their own children intact... and that is the goal of most anti-circ folks I've met, not some straw-man total ban.
posted by vorfeed at 11:26 PM on June 7, 2011 [2 favorites]


So do you want that guy to be the defining face of this issue for the next several years, or do you want to try meeting people half way and salvaging some credibility for a cause you care about?

The phrase "no publicity is bad publicity" comes to mind. Seems to me that much more political hay can be made from "we don't want to ban circumcision like That Guy, but we do believe it is a terrible and abusive practice for reasons X, Y, and Z" than "we don't want to ban circumcision like That Guy, and we're not going to say it's terrible or abusive because we have to be mellow and reasonable and compromise-inclined. Please, allow us to argue against ourselves! We love to alienate our most strongly-decided allies in favor of maybe possibly kind of sort of winning a tepid compromise with some of our most weakly-decided opponents!"
posted by vorfeed at 11:43 PM on June 7, 2011


The credibility of the cause rests on the credibility of the arguments against circumcision, which are based not on a comic but on medical evidence and what should be the obvious right of a human being to have a say over whether or not they get their foreskin removed.
posted by moorooka at 11:50 PM on June 7, 2011


So will the fact that the author of the ballot initiative is an astonishingly toxic individual. That is not the fault of people who share the same opinion about the circumcision issue, but everyone who opposes the practice is going to have to deal with that anyway. So do you want that guy to be the defining face of this issue for the next several years, or do you want to try meeting people half way and salvaging some credibility for a cause you care about?

I think we can do without tone arguments.
posted by kafziel at 12:14 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


not some straw-man total ban.

Straw man? This is an actual piece of legislation that will be on next November's ballot for people to vote on in San Francisco. It has already qualified, so unless the sponsor withdraws it (which I'm not certain is possible) it's going to be mentioned in every single story between now and then.

We have a mayoral election this November so turnout is going to be high, and this ballot initiative is going to keep getting news coverage because well, it's wacky San Francisco. So this Foreskin Man author, who is also the author of the ballot measure (text here) is the public face of your issue for the next 5 months.

The phrase "no publicity is bad publicity" comes to mind.

OK...I'm just going to leave you to your own devices.
posted by anigbrowl at 1:01 AM on June 8, 2011


Your concern is duly noted, anigbrowl.

However I perfectly understand why an anti-cutting person would rather spend their time talking about the actual issue, circumcision, than this one individual. 5 months really isn't such a long time when we're talking about a 5000 year old tradition.

Similarly I understand why a pro-cutting person would rather that anti-cutting people talk about something other than the relative merits of circumcision.

Hence the tone arguments, and "what about all those other problems in the world, don't you care about them, huh?"
posted by moorooka at 2:44 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Because right now, you should should probably be working very hard to communicate how mellow and reasonable and compromise-inclined you are and how that ballot initiative that seems to be the brainchild of a not-so-closet Nazi is absolutely not where you are coming from and you wouldn't even dream of asking anyone to vote for such an obviously deranged concept because it would set your whole cause back by ten years.

My comments here have been pretty mellow and reasonable. I can't control that random guy in San Fransisco. And I'm not about to police the tone of people who dislike circumcision, especially if they are men who have been circumcised.

If you think that banning circumcision is "obviously deranged"--not just misguided, but actively crazy--then you might think about being a bit more mellow and reasonable.
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:16 AM on June 8, 2011


Ok, I just want to be clear on this. Vorfeed thinks that a viciously, toxically antisemitic cartoon is sort of helpful to his cause, because "no publicity is bad publiclty" and it validates other anti-circ activists and makes them look reasonable? And moorooka is saying that if you point out that the author of the bill to ban circumcision is a vicious anti-Semite, it's a "tone argument?"

Is everyone clear on the fact that the guy who made this cartoon isn't just some random supporter of the bill, but is in fact the person who wrote the bill and one of the chief organizers of the effort to get it passed? And I think there's evidence that vile anti-semitism is bad for your movement, given that the other chief organizer in Santa Monica has just said that she's withdrawing the bill because it's impossible to have a reasonable debate now that the discussion is all about "religion."

I actually do think it's possible to change attitudes about circumcision without resorting to overwrought language or hateful imagery. I don't think that the overwrought language or bigotry are actually very helpful to you, for two reasons. First of all, it makes the movement seem bigoted, and most Americans don't want to think they're bigots. And second of all, the movement has to appeal to a lot of people who are circumcised, and the overwrought language doesn't usually jibe with their experience. You risk alienating a lot of men if you premise the movement on the idea that they're mutilated and that they aren't fully functional sexually.

I think it's entirely possible that in the next twenty years, Americans will stop practicing routine circumcision. I don't think that there's going to be a blanket ban anywhere in the US anytime soon, except maybe in some small places that see driving out their entire Muslim and Jewish populations as a feature, not a bug. And I don't think you're going to change attitudes about circumcision by associating anti-circ attitudes with anti-Semites and fanatical mommy warriors.

(Because seriously, if Jena Troutman wants to send you to jail for a year for circumcising your kid, what do you think she'd do to parents who bottle-feed or let their babies cry it out? Any day now, the Mommy Wars are going to heat up and there will be actual shooting!)
posted by craichead at 5:14 AM on June 8, 2011 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure how it isn't just like being kidnapped and having your foreskin cut off. Babies can't consent.

We made the decision to have an ENT perform a myringotomy on our infant. If someone had kidnapped you off the street and done it to you, it would have been criminal assault, even if, like her, you had had 5 ear infections in the last five months, and had ears so thoroughly blocked with fluid that you'd essentially been deafened. That's because you're a fully capable adult, and can make your own decision whether you'd like that surgery or not. She, on the other hand, "can't consent," because she's a baby, which is why we, as her parents, are tasked with making medical decisions for her.

We could have waited until she was old enough to decide whether she wanted to be able to hear, of course. It wasn't of immediate, life-saving necessity. But we decided it was important for her language learning to get the surgery done now, not to mention that she was on a constant round of systemic antibiotics, which have their own risks.

Of course, myringotomy under certain conditions has more of a medical consensus in its favor than routine circumcision (though her GP was in favor of waiting a bit, tbh, but we agreed with the specialist that her situation wasn't going anywhere positive). But that's why, if you're being intellectually honest, you should be talking about relative benefits and risks (including the relative difficulty of having the procedure done later in life), and not making comparisons to forcing procedures on adults. "Babies can't consent," which means they also can't choose life-saving or life-improving measures that their parents have to choose for them.
posted by palliser at 6:06 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


Sys Rq: " Even if it's facial scarring, or arranged marriage at age 8, or snakehandling, or keeping quiet about what that priest did?"

You're seriously comparing circumcision to Catholic Priest child molestation? I get that this is an emotional issue for you, Sys Rq. I really do. I empathize. But comments like that poison conversation and speaking personally, they make me think you're so zealously convinced of the righteousness of your cause that trying to discuss it with you in good faith is a futile exercise.

If the anti-circumcision movement legitimately wants to raise awareness about their concerns and try to change the status quo, then it behooves them not to use antisemitic or vilifying imagery in their arguments. Doing so is a manipulative tactic: it shifts the focus of debate away from what matters, to the caricatures and stereotypes being presented. When one puts people on the defense, they are less likely to be open to changing their minds. Fear and anger tend to make folks intractable.

The "tone" argument most certainly applies here. There are good and reasonable arguments for campaigning against the practice -- although I'd personally stop short at trying to pass legislation against it. But the movement's self-appointed hero and bill sponsor has a Nazi problem and inflammatory, hyperbolic rhetoric isn't going to help foster a healthy dialogue.
posted by zarq at 7:27 AM on June 8, 2011


vorfeed: "The phrase "no publicity is bad publicity" comes to mind. "

Speaking as someone who works in that field, there's most certainly such a thing as bad publicity. It can be quite destructive.
posted by zarq at 7:30 AM on June 8, 2011


On the other hand, comparing infant circumcision to "organized kidnapping, mutilations, and ritual child abuse" has gone a long way toward framing this issue as one of consent and bodily autonomy

It has also gone a long way towards framing this issue as being one supported by people who can't have a rational argument. When you start resorting to histrionics such as this, you're going to lose the ear of a lot of the (many) circumsised men who are perfectly happy with how they've turned out.
posted by antifuse at 8:07 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


Foreskin Man could have been such an awesome superhero, too, if it hadn't been appropriated by these tools. Dick jokes and penis references are comedy gold; combine those with a comedic hero and an ironic sidekick: cannot fail.

Must keep an eye on that domain.
posted by fartknocker at 8:14 AM on June 8, 2011


WTF? Are you admitting you're a troll? Insane? Or in total denial of your own feelings?

Opinions are different from feelings.
posted by Sys Rq at 10:14 AM on June 8, 2011


It has also gone a long way towards framing this issue as being one supported by people who can't have a rational argument.

People who argue against tradition are always going to be smeared as unreasonable people who can't have a rational argument (as if "it's tradition so it has to be OK and we should keep doing it forever" is rational!) This will happen no matter how mild the opposition, and much of this thread is a great example. Playing into that by agreeing that you shouldn't ever express the basic tenets of your own argument in straightforward terms won't make the argument look any better. Arguments made from a position of shame are inherently weak.

As mooroka pointed out, those who want to argue against tradition have two choices: help the other side to muddy the issue and divide your own allies with "tone", or stick to your guns and point out how and why the practice is wrong. I'm not saying Nazi Comic Guy helps the movement, in and of himself... but reacting to him with self-hatred is a mistake. Moments like these are made for rejecting this guy's particular problem (anti-semitism) while reiterating the core message, not for rejecting your own message in the hopes that people will somehow stop associating you with somebody else's problem.
posted by vorfeed at 10:18 AM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


You're seriously comparing circumcision to Catholic Priest child molestation? I get that this is an emotional issue for you, Sys Rq. I really do. I empathize. But comments like that poison conversation and speaking personally, they make me think you're so zealously convinced of the righteousness of your cause that trying to discuss it with you in good faith is a futile exercise.

Yet another terrible mind reader! I've already said it's no big deal to me, but since we are having a discussion limited to this subject, I feel it's entirely appropriate to air my opinion on the matter.

In the bit you quoted, I was just saying that "the right of parents to make decisions for their own child" is something our society puts limitations on all the time. Why should infant circumcision be an exception?
posted by Sys Rq at 10:20 AM on June 8, 2011


Steep Drop Seen in Circumcisions in U.S.:
Despite a worldwide campaign for circumcision to slow the spread of AIDS, the rate of circumcision among American baby boys appears to be declining.

A little-noted presentation by a federal health researcher last month at the International AIDS Conference in Vienna suggested that the rate had fallen precipitously — to fewer than half of all boys born in conventional hospitals from 2006 to 2009, from about two-thirds through the 1980s and ’90s...

Several state Medicaid programs stopped covering circumcision after the academy issued its current policy in 1999, and Dr. Brady said that may be one reason fewer parents opt for the procedure. Other possible reasons include a growing Hispanic population that has traditionally been disinclined to circumcision, as well the anti-circumcision movement and a broader trend among parents to spurn medical interventions like vaccination.

Some 80 percent of American men are circumcised, one of the highest rates in the developed world. Yet even advocates of circumcision acknowledge that an aggressive circumcision drive in the United States would be unlikely to have a drastic impact on H.I.V. rates here, since the procedure does not seem to protect those at greatest risk, men who have sex with men.

And while studies in Africa found that circumcision reduced the risk of a man’s becoming infected by an H.I.V.-positive female partner, it is not clear that a circumcised man with H.I.V. would be less likely to infect a woman.
Shifting that cultural consensus away from routine, non-medically/-religiously indicated mutilation.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 10:21 AM on June 8, 2011


Sys Rq: " Yet another terrible mind reader! I've already said it's no big deal to me,

Here's the problem. It doesn't sound like it's a big deal to you, primarily because....

but since we are having a discussion limited to this subject, I feel it's entirely appropriate to air my opinion on the matter.

...your opinion seems to be filled with inflammatory hyperbole:
"Chopping chunks off of babies's genitals, leaving them permanently scarred, permanently incomplete. If that's not mutilation, what in the hell is it? There are far more loaded descriptors that could be used. Physical and sexual assault of an infant, for example. A permanent assertion of parental dominance, say.

I admit, it's not the most tactful angle to attack the issue, but to me, that is the issue. The word "mutilation" is already watering it down plenty."
Not to mention the whole Catholic Priest molestation thing you mentioned in a subsequent comment.

In the bit you quoted, I was just saying that "the right of parents to make decisions for their own child" is something our society puts limitations on all the time. Why should infant circumcision be an exception?"

I'm not convinced it's at all necessary to legislate against it, primarily because no one has given a reason that I've found particularly compelling or that counters my own personal experience living with a circumcised penis. Raising awareness and discussing the issues reasonably like rational adults seems the best course of action as far as I'm concerned. Attacking people who circumcise as bloodthirsty baby molesting mutilators seems a deeply nasty, vicious and alienating way to try and make one's point.

Also, I'm somewhat concerned that any such legislation might be a form of religious persecution. Which bothers me on principle. If I were convinced that circumcision really was mutilation, then that wouldn't matter.
posted by zarq at 10:54 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


vorfeed: "
People who argue against tradition are always going to be smeared as unreasonable people who can't have a rational argument (as if "it's tradition so it has to be OK and we should keep doing it forever" is rational!) This will happen no matter how mild the opposition, and much of this thread is a great example.
"

I suggest you re-read this thread. Much of this thread is actually not an example of that. Most of the people who seem to be pro-circumcision in this thread (or at the very least against the bill,) seem to have said that they don't think it's a big deal, because they know their own circumcised penis functions properly, and they don't view themselves as having been mutilated.

In fact, let's be crystal clear about this: very, very few people here have brought up protecting religious tradition forever (or anything similar) as a reason why the practice should be continued.
posted by zarq at 10:59 AM on June 8, 2011 [1 favorite]


In fact, let's be crystal clear about this: very, very few people here have brought up protecting religious tradition forever (or anything similar) as a reason why the practice should be continued.

Of course not. Why bother when you can use the tone argument to conflate "histrionic" anti-circ activism of a general, secular-ethics sort with anti-semitism and bigotry, as a reason why everyone should stop making general, secular-ethics arguments?
posted by vorfeed at 11:47 AM on June 8, 2011


vorfeed: " Of course not. Why bother when you can use the tone argument to conflate "histrionic" anti-circ activism of a general, secular-ethics sort with anti-semitism and bigotry, as a reason why everyone should stop making general, secular-ethics arguments?"

I'm sorry, I must have missed the moment in the thread when equating a parent giving a circumcision to their child with being a Catholic clergy child molester became a reasonable, non-hyperbolic and non-inflammatory argument.

I have said that hyperbolic rhetoric such as the comic and Sys Rq's comparisons poison healthy discussion. I have also called the Foreskin Man comic disturbing, and (to paraphrase myself) a barrier to productive dialogue. I believe this to be true.

With the exception of this comment, I haven't used the word "bigotry" anywhere in this thread. Nor "histrionic." I have not in any way conflated antisemitic rhetoric with the goals of the anticircumcision movement. I quite clearly condemned the comic as antisemitic while also stating that the proposed bill (and by implication the anticircumcision movement) was not antisemitic. In a response to Poet_Lariat, I said that, "Our religion [meaning Judaism] isn't static, and we should welcome thoughtful inquiries into, and critiques of, its practices."

You're accusing me of something I haven't done. Which is why I asked you to re-read my comments.
posted by zarq at 12:26 PM on June 8, 2011 [2 favorites]


>>WTF? Are you admitting you're a troll? Insane? Or in total denial of your own feelings?
>Opinions are different from feelings.


Emotional arguments and personal attacks indicate feelings -- unless you're toying with people (which is trolling.)

You are alternating between extreme rhetoric and attacks on people who disagree with you, on the one hand, and suddenly cool-minded insistence that you couldn't give a whit. What would you call that, if not trolling or lack of connection with your own feelings?
posted by msalt at 12:56 PM on June 8, 2011


People who argue against tradition are always going to be smeared as unreasonable people who can't have a rational argument (as if "it's tradition so it has to be OK and we should keep doing it forever" is rational!)

Except I'm not arguing that we keep circumcision going because of tradition. I'm arguing that I have no problem with it, because I have no problem with my own circumcised penis. I don't feel that I was abused, or mutilated, or that my sexual function has been forever ruined.so yes, when people equate circumcision with molestation and assault, I'm going to have a hard time believing that said people are trying to have a rational discussion.
posted by antifuse at 2:11 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


You're accusing me of something I haven't done. Which is why I asked you to re-read my comments.

Sorry, I didn't mean to accuse you of anything! I should have been clear about that, and I apologize for using the general "you" instead of "one". I think you have been great about this, but others in the thread have not.

This comment is a good example: it suggests that "overwrought language or hateful imagery" -- note how the two are conflated -- "makes the movement seem bigoted." The "overwrought language or hateful imagery" in question is simply the belief that circumcision is harmful, abusive, or an act of mutilation ("the idea that they're mutilated and that they aren't fully functional sexually"), yet it's being equated with bigotry.

Here's the bottom line: the fact that one does not personally agree that circumcision is [abusive|mutilation|coercive] does not make it unreasonable and irrational (much less bigoted) for someone else to suggest so. This is exactly what I meant when I said that those who argue against circumcision are always "smeared as unreasonable people who can't have a rational argument" -- when the basic idea behind the movement is itself labeled "irrational" simply because others are fine with circumcision, there's a problem. How, exactly, can one be against circumcision in a rational way if believing that circumcision is negative is itself irrational? If one must avoid alienating people with one's "tone", then how can one suggest that circumcision is harmful, given that some already-circumcised men will be alienated by the very idea?

The answer is: you can't. In this case, the tone argument is a Catch-22. And as moorooka points out, it mainly serves to redefine the argument as one of "reasonableness" rather than relative merit... and is it any surprise that the status quo is "reasonable"? Of course not!
posted by vorfeed at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2011 [3 favorites]


I'm sorry, I must have missed the moment in the thread when equating a parent giving a circumcision to their child with being a Catholic clergy child molester became a reasonable, non-hyperbolic and non-inflammatory argument.

Yes. That's what I was saying, precisely. Indeed.

That's some A+ reading comprehension there.
posted by Sys Rq at 3:18 PM on June 8, 2011


It's inflammatory and hyperbolic, but it's not unreasonable.
posted by tehloki at 4:45 PM on June 8, 2011


and some folks think Michelle Bachmann and her ilk are crazy.....
posted by caddis at 4:49 PM on June 8, 2011


I realized why the anti-circ rhetoric here is bugging me. And it has nothing to do with penii or vituperation.

It's that most of the arguments reflect an early 20th century modernist view -- that cultural traditions and medicines are outdated superstitions, that should be swept away by SCIENCE!

Which of course led to abuses small (wonder bread, transit malls), medium (urban renewal, missionaries, electro-shock treatment) and horrible (Canadian native kids removed from parents, the Cultural Revolution). Of course much of the SCIENCE proved to be misguided, incomplete or flat out wrong.

It's been at least 45 years now since people, in the course of rediscovering a couple of ancient herbs, grew to appreciate traditional cultures and many of their medicines and treatments (yoga, for example, or meditation) as being sources of wisdom worth preserving, or at least thinking very hard about before tossing them all out.
posted by msalt at 1:01 AM on June 9, 2011


Routine infant circumcision is more SCIENCE! than not circumcising. The whole idea that babies don't need anesthetic is also SCIENCE! After all, doctors are primarily the people doing these circumcisions and for quite a while the medical establishment believed firmly that babies were totally cool with no pain relief at all. Anesthetic--even tylenol!--is still not routinely used in hospital circumcisions.

The more "natural" way is to not circumcise unless you have a strong religious or cultural tradition behind it, which is why anti-circ movements tend to appeal to the same people who are trying to bring back herbal medicine and the like.

The idea that natural/old = better is also questionable, but that's a longer and much more complicated discussion.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:40 AM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just to clarify, by not routinely used--most circumcisions done today are done with anesthetic but it's still not 100%, which I think is severely fucked up. Best practices should be widely disseminated and enforced, and they should include the pain relief measures that have been shown to be the most effective. If those pain relief measure are unsafe for the baby, then so is elective surgery.
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:44 AM on June 9, 2011


There have been a number of studies done that have shown that giving anesthetic to infants may lead to learning disabilities in later life. This is one of the reasons why surgery requiring it is not routinely performed on infants unless a condition is either life-threatening or surgery is deemed medically necessary by a pediatric surgeon. The surgical assessment process is more in-depth with babies because it has to be.

Topical anesthetics like EMLA are not typically used prior to circumcision because of the skin's high absorption rate in that area. There is a risk of pediatric methaemoglobinemia.

Acetaminophen is not typically recommended for very young infants unless there's a specific need. Some of that may be Johnson & Johnson and other acetaminophen manufacturers hedging their bets with regard to possible short and long-term side-effects. (Pharmaceutical companies don't always test their medications on pregnant women or infants and may instead opt to put a "don't use while pregnant or on small children/infants" disclaimer on medication instead, as a CYA measure.) But studies have indicated that administering tylenol to infants may cause them to develop asthma problems as they develop. I don't know the details, but I am unsure if that potential side-effect has yet been thoroughly researched.

However, the results of several studies seem to conflict as to whether acetaminophen actually even helps alleviate pain during or immediately following a circumcision. It does seem to help during the extended post-operative period.
posted by zarq at 10:33 AM on June 9, 2011


Sys Rq: " That's some A+ reading comprehension there."

If you have a clarification to make, please do so.
posted by zarq at 10:34 AM on June 9, 2011


Routine infant circumcision is more SCIENCE! than not circumcising.

Circumcision dates back to the ancient Egyptians, not to mention Jewish culture. Only in the last few decades has science (real, effective science) caught up with the wisdom of these cultural traditions.

In contrast, a lot of the rhetoric here is about circumcision being "just because of some ancient dumb superstition," coupled with a manic drive to wipe away that tradition ("any ban on circumcision is a good ban"). This is precisely what went so wrong, so many times in the 20th century. An arrogant certainty that one's trendy contemporary view is more wise than 5,000 years of accumulated culture.
posted by msalt at 10:38 AM on June 9, 2011


The more I look up studies on EMLA, the more interesting it gets.

Multiple studies suggest its use for circumcision, such as this one and this one. But there's also a concern raised about methemoglobinaemia. And I spotted a website that said the packaging for EMLA was changed to contraindicate its use in circumcision.

To clarify my earlier comment, methemoglobinaemia is a complication that can arise when a person is given prilocaine therapy. (EMLA contains prilocaine.) Infants don't have a fully developed methemoglobin reductase pathway, so anything that supresses it, like prilocaine, can result in methemoglobinaemia -- which can cause a reduction in uptake of oxygen into the body's tissues -- tissue hypoxia.

To correct what I said earlier, it does appear that some hospitals in the US and Canada are still using it prior to circumcision.
posted by zarq at 10:52 AM on June 9, 2011


So zarq, what you're saying is that infants aren't healthy enough to get significant pain relief? Or that the pain relief we use is dangerous?

I don't necessarily agree based on my admittedly shallow research, but let's just run with it. Why not wait until they are old enough to be circumcised humanely? Or at least given tylenol? Why not reduce the risk as much as possible?

Again, it goes back to the theory that infants are somehow incapable of feeling pain or distress, and I don't think that's true at all even though it was conventional medical wisdom for quite a while.

An arrogant certainty that one's trendy contemporary view is more wise than 5,000 years of accumulated culture.

It's not my culture. My culture(s) don't circumcise and while my uncles are probably all circumcised, none of my grandparents are. Jewish culture certainly doesn't hold that non-Jewish babies need to be circumcised.
posted by the young rope-rider at 10:59 AM on June 9, 2011


Also... (and I'm sorry to be derailing the thread in this way, but I want to make sure I get all my thoughts down....)

In case anyone is wondering, Jewish tradition does allow for a boy to be given pain medication or anesthetic before, during and after circumcision. Tradition is to give the baby some wine, but at least some mohels don't have a problem with a parent administering real pain relief. It was one of the first things I asked about when we first met with the mohel who circumcised my son. If he'd had a problem with it, we would have found another mohel.

Our pediatrician recommended we give our son some infant tylenol and we made sure he was properly dosed beforehand, during and for days afterward. I had asked about a 2% lidocaine cream, but she warned us away from using it.
posted by zarq at 11:02 AM on June 9, 2011


It's that most of the arguments reflect an early 20th century modernist view -- that cultural traditions and medicines are outdated superstitions, that should be swept away by SCIENCE!

Widespread routine circumcision is not a cultural tradition, at least not in America. It's a sterling example of science as practiced by early modernists: it started in the 1880s as a fad "cure" supported by scant evidence.

If you ask me, the fetishization and appropriation of "traditional cultures and many of their medicines and treatments" reflects an early 21st century post-modernist view, one which is deeply uncomfortable with admitting that traditions are a continuous practice which belongs to a people rooted in a place and time. The idea that we can gain "wisdom" by distilling the essence of "traditional culture" (but only the parts which strike us as "wise", of course) and then sprinkling it onto our lives via consumerism has also led to abuses small, medium, and horrible. I see little reason to reach for it to justify circumcision in cultures without a tradition of such.

For the vast majority of human beings living on this planet, circumcision is not a 5000 year old tradition -- it is a product of early SCIENCE! and 19th century ideas about hygiene. It should be judged as such, not as what it was for the ancient Egyptians and not what it is today among people who do hold it as an ancient tradition.
posted by vorfeed at 11:04 AM on June 9, 2011


the young rope-rider : "So zarq, what you're saying is that infants aren't healthy enough to get significant pain relief? Or that the pain relief we use is dangerous?

Neither! :)

The thing with human babies is they're born with a lot of development left to do. Drugs can have side-effects that won't show up in the same doses in an adult. So pediatricians and hospitals tend to be kinda cautious about what they will authorize. You run into this over and over again as a parent of a newborn if they're ever hospitalized. You get a lot of explanations about drug risks.

What I'm saying is that the pain relief we use on infants may have side-effects -- some mild and some serious -- and I suspect they haven't yet been well researched enough to form a proper baseline standard for drug treatment wrt circumcision. I think that's one of the biggest reasons why medical science is so conflicted about what an infant should or shouldn't be given for a circumcision.

The standard in the 80's was (as you mentioned) that infants can't feel pain. Which is completely idiotic. But I don't think that's an opinion that's held by most doctors today. (I could be wrong, but I doubt it.) The current party line seems to be that they don't remember the pain, which is something entirely different.

Why not wait until they are old enough to be circumcised humanely? Or at least given tylenol? Why not reduce the risk as much as possible?

I'd be in favor of that. I'm all for reducing risk. Of course, I also gave my kid the tylenol, and we stuck with the 8 day time frame as much for Jewish tradition as the hope that he'd be too young to remember it. In that, I sort of went with my own experience: I don't remember my own circumcision.
posted by zarq at 11:16 AM on June 9, 2011


the fetishization and appropriation of "traditional cultures and many of their medicines and treatments" reflects an early 21st century post-modernist view, one which is deeply uncomfortable with admitting that traditions are a continuous practice which belongs to a people rooted in a place and time. The idea that we can gain "wisdom" by distilling the essence of "traditional culture" (but only the parts which strike us as "wise", of course) and then sprinkling it onto our lives via consumerism has also led to abuses small, medium, and horrible.

I think this is a really interesting tangent. Are you saying that we can not find value for modern lives in traditional aspects of other cultures? Is it wrong to practice yoga or meditate or eat yogurt? To be treated with acupuncture or traditional herbs?

What is "appropriation?" (or, I should say, what is NOT appropriation?) "Appropriation" and "consumerism have such a nasty sound when you say them like that, but all you mean is "doing something that comes from a different culture, and charging money for your work" right?
posted by msalt at 12:48 PM on June 9, 2011


Is it wrong to practice yoga or meditate or eat yogurt??

It is not wrong to practice yoga as a form of non-aerobic exercise, or meditate to calm yourself, or eat yogurt for its health benefits. Practicing yoga or meditating because you believe it aligns your chakras and taps into a tradition, or eating yogurt because you think it's a sacrament to eat yogurt, is the idiocy of unscience and, yes, is wrong.

To be treated with acupuncture or traditional herbs?

See previous comment re: unscience and idiocy. Because these are no better than homeopathy or voodoo.
posted by kafziel at 2:21 PM on June 9, 2011


The people who prescribe/advise with herbs are really dangerous sometimes. My "favorite" is when people suggest known abortifacients to pregnant women because they read somewhere that they're good for pregnancy. Well, yeah, they're good if you want to abort a pregnancy and you have no other options. Guess that got lost in translation.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:42 PM on June 9, 2011


Also, zarq, thanks for your thoughtful responses. The history of pain relief (and the way we conceive of pain/suffering in infants and small children, both medically and otherwise) is really interesting to me.

There seems to be a push to get doctors to use pain relief in circumcision more consistently; I'll try to link the information that I have on it when I get to my home computer (I'm travelling). Of course, introducing more procedures means more opportunities to screw up. I read something like OB/GYNs use pain relief the least frequently, and pediatricians the most frequently.
posted by the young rope-rider at 2:46 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Are you saying that we can not find value for modern lives in traditional aspects of other cultures? Is it wrong to practice yoga or meditate or eat yogurt? To be treated with acupuncture or traditional herbs?

I'm saying that the reflexive value we place on these things because they are traditional aspects of other cultures is just as short-sighted as the reflexive value we once placed on new ideas because they were modern. Many of these things are probably highly valuable in our modern lives, and some of them are probably not... but again, they should be judged by what they do in our modern lives, not in some idealized "traditional" world we don't live in.

We also need to be up-front about the fact that individual practices which have been cherry-picked from other cultures, significantly altered, and integrated into our "modern lives" are modern, not traditional. For instance, there is little or nothing which is "traditional" about most yoga done in the West, as was discussed here not too long ago. The same goes for the vast majority of circumcisions performed in America.

What is "appropriation?" (or, I should say, what is NOT appropriation?)

Borrowing practices or signifiers from a culture one does not participate in is appropriation. Of course, that opens a can of worms regarding what does and does not count as "participation", but I think it's a pretty good rule of thumb.

I don't think appropriation is necessarily bad -- things like fusion, remix, and the melting pot have created plenty of amazing art and even some new (sub)cultures, and I enjoy many things which take their influences from everywhere, magpie-style -- but appropriated arts and practices are what they are and should be examined as such, not as an example of tradition.
posted by vorfeed at 3:12 PM on June 9, 2011


vorfeed: "Sorry, I didn't mean to accuse you of anything! I should have been clear about that, and I apologize for using the general "you" instead of "one". I think you have been great about this, but others in the thread have not.

Oh man. I'm really sorry for being so defensive. I misread what you were saying.

This comment is a good example: it suggests that "overwrought language or hateful imagery" -- note how the two are conflated -- "makes the movement seem bigoted." The "overwrought language or hateful imagery" in question is simply the belief that circumcision is harmful, abusive, or an act of mutilation ("the idea that they're mutilated and that they aren't fully functional sexually"), yet it's being equated with bigotry.

Here's the bottom line: the fact that one does not personally agree that circumcision is [abusive|mutilation|coercive] does not make it unreasonable and irrational (much less bigoted) for someone else to suggest so. This is exactly what I meant when I said that those who argue against circumcision are always "smeared as unreasonable people who can't have a rational argument" -- when the basic idea behind the movement is itself labeled "irrational" simply because others are fine with circumcision, there's a problem. How, exactly, can one be against circumcision in a rational way if believing that circumcision is negative is itself irrational? If one must avoid alienating people with one's "tone", then how can one suggest that circumcision is harmful, given that some already-circumcised men will be alienated by the very idea?

The answer is: you can't. In this case, the tone argument is a Catch-22. And as moorooka points out, it mainly serves to redefine the argument as one of "reasonableness" rather than relative merit... and is it any surprise that the status quo is "reasonable"? Of course not!
"

This makes sense to me and I pretty much agree with you. Would like to add some thoughts.

Let's address the antisemitic comic first. I think we agree that no Jew in their right mind is going to look at it and think, "Well, sure, he's calling us baby mutilating, bloodthirsty monsters, he'd other than that he's making a well-reasoned argument!" They're (understandably) going to react defensively. I assume we also agree that comic is not representative of the way most (if not all) anti-circumcision advocates feel about the issue, and that Mr. Hess is the wrong standard-bearer for the movement.

The comic's not designed to stimulate healthy discussion. Its toxicity hijacks conversations with bigotry, which in turn sparks outraged reactions. So to discuss this properly and try to see eye to eye, we must separate the comic from the topic and focus on the more rational, majority-held arguments of the anti-circ movement. But doing so is further complicated because the guy who created the comic is also sponsoring the bill. Once the comic was introduced, it was inevitable that the comic and the rest of the movement become conflated in the public eye. And here in this thread.

My initial interpretation of craichead's comment was that he was trying to say the movement needs to separate itself from the comic. I didn't realize he was also talking about some of the comments in this thread, which I think have for the most part been decent. This is a really emotional topic for some folks, and of course, we always want to be protective when it comes to babies.

But I sort of agree with him that some comments seem (just like the comic) to put people on the defensive. That's why I reacted the way I did to Sys Rq's comparison upthread.

Regarding the "does the procedure have merit" argument, I don't think it can be won to anyone's satisfaction. But I completely agree that we should be focusing on that. We should be talking about circumcision, and being against it shouldn't be considered unreasonable. (I'd like the same courtesy in the other direction, though -- being for it, or indifferent towards it shouldn't be considered evil, either.)

I wish a discussion could happen in the public sphere without folks insulting and verbally attacking each other.
posted by zarq at 3:30 PM on June 9, 2011


Practicing yoga or meditating because you believe it aligns your chakras and taps into a tradition, or eating yogurt because you think it's a sacrament to eat yogurt, is the idiocy of unscience and, yes, is wrong.

It's wrong? How? Does it hurt anyone? No. So let's hear your scientific proof that it's wrong. If you can't provide one, then maybe your comment was the real idiocy of unscience. And you wouldn't know a chakra if one bit you in the ass.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:58 PM on June 9, 2011


the young rope-rider: “There seems to be a push to get doctors to use pain relief in circumcision more consistently; I'll try to link the information that I have on it when I get to my home computer (I'm travelling). Of course, introducing more procedures means more opportunities to screw up. I read something like OB/GYNs use pain relief the least frequently, and pediatricians the most frequently.”

I've been sort of following this thread.

As an aside, my girlfriend graduates from medical school this week, and purely coincidentally she performed her first circumcisions yesterday. She said it was very interesting; yes, they apparently routinely give babies nerve blockers which numb the pain, apparently quite effectively. She said they also sometimes give babies a bit of sugar-water in the mouth as a small distraction from what's going on down there. Her biggest shock in watching and finally performing the procedure is just how little babies seem to notice at all; she observed several where the children weren't even given the sugar-water (though they had the nerve blockers) and the children just lolled and stared at the ceiling or giggled and smiled. That's quite odd, but somewhat relieving, I imagine; it's much better than the alternative.
posted by koeselitz at 7:31 PM on June 9, 2011


kafziel: “Practicing yoga or meditating because you believe it aligns your chakras and taps into a tradition, or eating yogurt because you think it's a sacrament to eat yogurt, is the idiocy of unscience and, yes, is wrong.”

Hrm. I'm trying to figure out how those things are contrary to science. I can see "chakras" being an unscientific notion perhaps – I'd have to know what that means first, and people seem to use the word in many ways, some of which could be expressions of scientifically-indicated facts – but the rest doesn't seem unscientific to me at all.

Maybe you can explain this to me. What does science have to say about sacraments or traditions? For the notion of yoga as sacrament or tradition to be "unscientific," science would have to have an established teaching that sacraments and traditions are not yoga but something else. On the contrary, my impression is that science doesn't really waste its time with sacraments or traditions. Am I wrong about that?
posted by koeselitz at 7:34 PM on June 9, 2011


The reason I brought up 20th century modernist thought is that it has what I consider an arrogance of knowledge; the assumption that everything is knowable, and furthermore that we have a pretty solid grasp on all of that, even if some details escape us.

The history of the last two centuries teaches me that it is very easy to overvalue our current models of reality and to overestimate our understanding of the universe; that modesty about our understanding is the only reasonable response. There are many, many examples where modern, "scientific" thought proved incorrect, arrogant and in retrospect foolish in its dismissal of traditional cultures, medicines and practices.

Circumcision seems like a good example of this. In the height of the white, enriched bread era it had no benefits that modern science had documented, and seemed a good example of "ignorant superstitious religious rules," but since them a large number of controlled, double blind studies have demonstrated advantages that we were not previously aware of. Given that it's a 5,000 year old practice among widely disparate cultures, it seems to me that some caution is dismissing it as valueless is wise.
posted by msalt at 11:00 PM on June 9, 2011 [1 favorite]


Circumcision seems like a good example of this. In the height of the white, enriched bread era it had no benefits that modern science had documented, and seemed a good example of "ignorant superstitious religious rules," but since them a large number of controlled, double blind studies have demonstrated advantages that we were not previously aware of. Given that it's a 5,000 year old practice among widely disparate cultures, it seems to me that some caution is dismissing it as valueless is wise.

As I said before, the fact that it's "a 5,000 year old practice among widely disparate cultures" does not, in and of itself, have much bearing on whether or not circumcision has value in our culture. The very basis of "modesty about our understanding" involves acknowledging that understanding (and value itself!) is local to a certain place, time, and culture, and is not universal or eternal. The idea that every 5,000 year old tradition from every culture must be embraced lest we make a mistake is a great example of arrogance of knowledge -- in this case, the idea that traditions are necessarily and inherently wise, even outside of their native contexts.

Did people 5,000 years ago live that way, adopting every tradition they encountered regardless of whether it fit the culture in question? No? Well then, why don't we follow their "traditional wisdom"?

Besides, there are also examples of traditional cultures, medicines and practices which have proved to be incorrect, arrogant and in retrospect foolish in their dismissal of modern, "scientific" thought. Since when does tradition make it any less "easy to overvalue our current models of reality and to overestimate our understanding of the universe", and since when was the pre-scientific world free of people who were sure they knew best?

This is all just circular logic: tradition-is-wiser-than-everything-else-because-it's-traditional-and-therefore-wise.
posted by vorfeed at 1:27 AM on June 10, 2011


vorfeed: WADR, you're twisting my words by making them absolute. I'm never said EVERY old tradition from every culture MUST be embraced regardless of whether it fits. That's absurd.

I'm saying -- and I am curious if you really disagree -- that cultural traditions are one of many ways in which humans store knowledge and wisdom -- sometimes even when they don't understand it. (Languages are another. Books are a third.)

Not every change or modernization is progress. We have rediscovered some very valuable ideas, practices, medicines and techniques by taking a fresh look at old traditions.

Sure, some traditions are just stupid or purely hateful (honor killings, for example.) But humility suggests that we not dismiss an old and widely adopted tradition out of hand, because there may well be a good reason (or a partially good reason, e.g. pork/trichinosis) for it.
posted by msalt at 8:24 AM on June 10, 2011


msalt, that all seems very much beside the point to me. I don't dismiss the possibility that there is value in circumcision, and neither has science as a discipline. That's how come scientists have bothered to carry out all those studies we've been talking about in this thread. Your implication that people who are against infant circumcision are motivated by some soulless modernist mania for progress, progress, progress -- rather than a belief that it's wrong for healthy flesh to be cut off without the consent of the person it belongs to, and a concern for the men who feel they have been damaged by the procedure -- is completely unfounded, not to mention offensive, once you get into comparing us to child-stealing perpetrators of cultural genocide.

And now that you've acknowledged that a tradition's traditionalness is not in itself justification for keeping it around, I'm even less sure what your point is supposed to be. If it's OK for you to evaluate the tradition of honor killings and determine that it's "stupid" and "purely hateful", why isn't it OK for other people to evaluate the tradition of infant circumcision and determine that it violates important principles of bodily autonomy? On what grounds do you classify the objection to this particular practice as a dismissal out of hand rather than a considered ethical opinion?
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 9:22 AM on June 10, 2011 [2 favorites]


And now that you've acknowledged that a tradition's traditionalness is not in itself justification for keeping it around, I'm even less sure what your point is supposed to be. If it's OK for you to evaluate the tradition of honor killings and determine that it's "stupid" and "purely hateful", why isn't it OK for other people to evaluate the tradition of infant circumcision and determine that it violates important principles of bodily autonomy?

Bingo. We love to cherry-pick "wise" traditions from other cultures, yet we're terrified to admit that the culture in the mirror -- the one that judges "wisdom" in the first place -- is always ours. We are the ones who are routinely circumcising infants in modern hospitals. It's our own wisdom that we need to establish, not somebody else's.

Our obsession with everybody else's "cultural traditions" (but only the nice ones!) is too-often just another whisper of self-denial, a nervous tic we make because that little voice inside us won't stop pointing out that we can't stand to look ourselves in the eye.
posted by vorfeed at 11:58 AM on June 10, 2011


Your implication that people who are against infant circumcision are motivated by some soulless modernist mania for progress, progress, progress ... is completely unfounded,

Aside from the constant goal post moving -- no medical benefit! OK, there is, but there are other ways to get hygience/fight phimosis/etc. OK, it reduces HIV, but that isn't so important in the US -- these are the kinds of comments that I'm referring to: (none are by you)

--So the two main arguments for circumcision are that it's more convenient to cut part of your penis off than to wash it on a regular basis, and that God told you to do it? Hmmmmm...
--If people want to mutilate their genitalia because their stupid little religious book tells them to, they should be able to do so.
--Just because it's your religion and your heritage and it's umpteen thousand years old doesn't make it right.
--We could all get together, post- some sort of apocalypse that's knocked us back to a pre-industrial level, and agree to shit in a great big hole* for the next five thousand years. We could invent all kinds of punishments and censures for not shitting in the hole. We could develop a worldview based entirely around the necessity of shitting in this hole and nowhere else. Entire generations could live and die racked by the philosophical nuances of a universe whose balanced continuance rests solely on not shitting anywhere but the hole. At the end of those five thousand years, assuming the noble culture of the hole-shitters can lurch along for all that time? Time and human reverence are not magic, behaviour without reason is - well - tradition, and we will still just have a hole full of shit.
--How old must one be before you would take seriously their comments mocking the silly superstitions of Judaism?
--History doesn't really bear that theory out. Plenty of men have been enslaved by there fellow men; sent off joyously to sacrifice on the altar of war (with your shield or on it) or married off to women they didn't even know. The need to rub blue mud in your belly button can be hard to break free from.
--I guess it's because I'm not American and come from a place where it just isn't done. so I don't have the cultural blinders that prevent me from seeing it as the repulsive, barbaric act that it is.
--I'm curious how people would feel if they found a culture in, say, the Amazon that had been cutting off babies' earlobes for thousands of years.

posted by msalt at 5:13 PM on June 10, 2011


Most of those comments are saying more-or-less what I'm saying: the fact that something is an old tradition is not enough, in and of itself, to establish its wisdom or value to society. That idea has very little to do with "some soulless modernist mania for progress, progress, progress", and everything to do with common sense.
posted by vorfeed at 7:21 PM on June 10, 2011


And yet you have a lot of strong opinions on how our "obsession" with other cultural traditions constitutes some sort of denial (of what? the unseen and undocumented horrors of circumcision?) Those opinions have nothing to do with common sense.

Common sense tells me that long standing traditions across many cultures deserve some extra consideration, to see if they have value we may have missed. And hey, even the anti-circs here concede that science has recently proven a number of medical advantages to circumcision. So that extra consideration was justified; the tradition was not some "silly superstition" equivalent to "shitting in a big hole in the ground" or "rubbing blue mud in your navel."

All you're arguing now is that those advantages don't offset some vaguely-alluded-to "trauma" of circumcision - which is not felt by the vast majority of circumcised men -- or that they violate some vague and unworkable ethical principle that parents shouldn't make medical decisions for babies.
posted by msalt at 8:22 PM on June 10, 2011


msalt writes "or that they violate some vague and unworkable ethical principle that parents shouldn't make medical decisions for babies."

The ethical principle isn't vague. To sum up: Is it ethical to perform elective surgery on babies for mostly aesthetic reasons. I'm not really sure what is unworkable about it either.
posted by Mitheral at 8:50 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you're going to look at it as a medical procedure with medical benefits, then you have to look at the multiple medical associations that consider it as either neutral or not recommended unless medically indicated.

There aren't any obvious advantages, even though you're acting as though there are and we're ignoring them because we hate tradition and love science, despite the fact that many cultures retain the foreskin (tradition) and the medical science for circumcision isn't conclusive. So it seems like you fall on the side of "science" when it contradicts tradition, as long as you agree with it.

Routine infant circumcision for "medical reasons" is one of the best examples of a new procedure that was pushed as "modern" and useful and turned out to be not that great after all. It didn't start becoming common in the US until the 20th century at the earliest and the medical "science" behind it was largely invented bullshit.

If anything is Wonder Bread in this argument, it's routine infant circumcision!
posted by the young rope-rider at 8:55 PM on June 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


And yet you have a lot of strong opinions on how our "obsession" with other cultural traditions constitutes some sort of denial (of what? the unseen and undocumented horrors of circumcision?) Those opinions have nothing to do with common sense.

Like I said, what we're denying is that we are the ones who determine what is and is not wise. "Wisdom" and "value" do not exist as independent variables nestled within traditional practice, waiting for us to find them ("to see if they have value we may have missed"). Whether we perceive a practice as being wise or valuable depends on our own culture's modern values.

You said it yourself: "sure, some traditions are just stupid or purely hateful (honor killings, for example.)" It goes without saying that people who practice honor killings think of them as a wise and important tradition, not a stupid or hateful one... so at this point we need to admit that we're the ones who judge "wisdom", and that tradition in-and-of-itself has little to do with how we do it.

Common sense tells me that long standing traditions across many cultures deserve some extra consideration, to see if they have value we may have missed.

Right. Which is why the 250,000+ year human tradition of not cutting off foreskins should be abandoned in favor of aping something a handful of cultures have been doing for a handful of centuries.
posted by vorfeed at 9:28 PM on June 10, 2011


Mithereal: You're not being intellectually honest to say "mostly aesthetic reasons." Very few are motivated by that. Probably the majority are motivated by religion (or religious tradition). That tradition was informed by advantages in hygiene and medical advantage, which modern science has extensively documented, and which motivate many also.

Cosmetic? That would be orthodontia. Would you ban it in youth? Like circumcision, it is much more difficult, painful, dangerous and expensive for adults than children. It involves removing teeth, binding the jaw to grow in unnatural ways, real ongoing pain, oh the mutilation!

What about hair lip correction? Removing extra fingers? Removing large birth marks on the face?
posted by msalt at 9:36 AM on June 11, 2011


Young rope-rider: There are extensive medical advantages, amply documented by controlled, scientific studies. Reduced HIV, reduced HPV, reduced phimosis, reduced balantitis and balanoposthitis, reduced UTIs and reduced penile cancer. Fact.

Medical association recommendations? They all say it's up to the parents and should not be routinely done on all boys, which is fair. No one is saying it should be routinely done to all boys the way vaccination is.
posted by msalt at 10:27 AM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


vorfeed: You seem to be arguing in whichever direction opposes circumcision, which is a shame because the appropriation/wisdom found in traditions argument is an interesting one in its own right.

Right. Which is why the 250,000+ year human tradition of not cutting off foreskins should be abandoned in favor of aping something a handful of cultures have been doing for a handful of centuries.

This is a joke, right? You're belitting a practice documented since ancient Egypt and found on cave paintings for being too modern, and ignoring the previous tradition?
posted by msalt at 10:34 AM on June 11, 2011


No, he's belittling the argument that because the practice was documented in ancient Egypt, it must be a good practice. After all, if it weren't good, people wouldn't have been doing it for all this time, right? Like slavery! And women being property!
posted by kafziel at 10:50 AM on June 11, 2011


This is a joke, right? You're belitting a practice documented since ancient Egypt and found on cave paintings for being too modern, and ignoring the previous tradition?

No. As previously discussed, I don't think that "tradition" is inherently valuable. I'm pointing out that your argument is a highly selective one. You have never once explained why, if tradition is valuable in and of itself, this particular tradition must be "wise" while even more ancient opposing traditions (not to mention all the traditions you don't personally like) must not be.

You support circumcision on the grounds that "long standing traditions across many cultures deserve some extra consideration", yet you think it's "a joke" to mention the fact that the foreskin has hundreds of thousands of years of human tradition (and millions of years of mammalian evolution) in its favor. Well, which is it -- does time and tradition necessarily confer advantage and benefit, or not? And if not, why is it so important that circumcision was in ancient Egypt?
posted by vorfeed at 11:23 AM on June 11, 2011


vorfeed & kafziel, you keep distorting my position so consistently that it's hard to believe your arguing in good faith. I've never said tradition is inherently valuable, or valuable in and of itself; that anything dating to ancient Egypt "must be a good practice," that "every 5,000 tradition from every culture must be be embraced," etc. etc. I haven't even advocated circumcision.

I seem to be the only person not among your small circle of true believers still willing to engage you. You realize that you haven't convinced anyone, right? They're just written you off as unable to listen or converse constructively.
posted by msalt at 11:07 PM on June 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


You've gone on and on about tradition. You've said that "long standing traditions across many cultures deserve some extra consideration, to see if they have value we may have missed" and "given that it's a 5,000 year old practice among widely disparate cultures, it seems to me that some caution is dismissing it as valueless is wise". You've even suggested that "most of the arguments reflect an early 20th century modernist view -- that cultural traditions and medicines are outdated superstitions, that should be swept away by SCIENCE!"

If you did not mean to suggest that tradition carries special value or wisdom, that's fine, but then you need to explain why it's important in this particular case.

As I said above: "does time and tradition necessarily confer advantage and benefit, or not? And if not, why is it so important that circumcision was in ancient Egypt?"
posted by vorfeed at 10:11 AM on June 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Way, WAY late to this one, but I just had one anecdote to add.

The decision whether or not to circumcise our son was a no-brainer. We had no reason to circumcise him, so we just didn't. Simple as that.

In the hospital post-delivery I was asked at least six times by various nurses/hospital staff/etc. if we planned on circumcising - a simple "No" sufficed and that was the end of it. (Though I still wonder why there wasn't just...oh... my son's CHART on which it could have been written and maybe consulted and maybe saved everyone some time rather than asking over and over again.)

The weirdest one though was when the midwife (not the one I had seen throughout pregnancy, who simply noted the non-circumcision in *my* chart without comment) who came to inspect me 24hrs post-partum asked about circumcision and I answered and her response took me aback. "That's what we like to hear!"

Um.

I'm glad? I guess? That my midwife's office is supportive of my decision? But man, had my answer been "Yes, we're circumcising" I totally would not have wanted someone giving me shit about it while inspecting my stitches. It was a totally weird thing to have someone weigh in with their personal opinion on. And yeah, weird timing as well.
posted by sonika at 6:22 PM on June 15, 2011 [1 favorite]


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