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August 19, 2002
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The other other reparations movement: Penile reparations. "...even where the procedure is performed at the professional standard, a circumcision is litigious if the consent is not informed... An army of lawyers will be there with this precedent and many more in their arsenal." [more inside]
posted by Slithy_Tove (158 comments total)

 
This is still a single case, a cloud no bigger than a man's hand, but it has been cleared for trial; i.e., the judge decided it must be taken seriously. If it succeeds, expect thousands more, maybe millions. If it does not succeed, like the first dozen or two suits against the tobacco companies in the 70's and 80's, expect many more attempts until one suit succeeds and a precedent is set. I can't imagine class action litigation; no company is involved in this. Instead, there will be a torrent of lawsuits against physicians and hospitals, who were doing what the parents wanted and expected them to do. Physicians who do circumcisions are typically the obstetricians who deliver the child. Obstetricians are already under fire from runaway malpractice litigation, and are being driven out of several states. If suits like this succeed, the situation will worsen.

It's hard for me to imagine this case succeeding. This is not malpractice in the conventional sense, this is about circumcisions that were performed correctly. The issue is consent. But parents give consent for all types of medical procedures on their children, and societal norms and expectations change with glacial slowness. If parental consent is no longer valid, care of pediatric patients will become a dangerous and unpredictable minefield for physicians.

link from Overlawyered.com.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 10:12 AM on August 19, 2002


I'm not sure about the methods, but it's an idea whose time has come. There is absolutely no reason to circumcise a child, ever. (I'm leaving out religious reasons here, since that's a much, much bigger issue that I don't think we need to get into here.) Circumcisions are medically pointless, extremely painful (and if you think that "babies don't feel it" -- would you slap an infant in the face, punch them in the stomach, or slice open their skin after you got them home and claim "they don't feel it?"), cause desensitize the penis, and make sex more physically traumatic on the body.

If I were a circumsized man, I'd be pissed off -- after all, no one asked me! Suing doctors might not be the best way to go about rectifying the problem, but if it at least discourages this practice I'm all for it.
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:20 AM on August 19, 2002


One reason for circumsicion outside of medical or religious reasons, is socialization. I chose to have my son circumscised when he was born 6 months ago, and my reason was that I am circumscised and as my child grows and becomes aware of himself he will know he is "okay" since he is just like his dad. Still, you might say that is a minor reason to do unnecessary surgery, but I did research on the topic (it is a person's penis I was making a decision about dammit!!), and from my research I found that there is no difference sexually either way, and only a slight difference in hygiene where a circumcised penis was more hygenic. Anyways, I made the decision for my son, because I thought he would be better off with a neat cap, then a turtle neck, and I really don't care about the rest of the world and their penises. --but this is a rediculous lawsuit.
posted by Mushkelley at 10:28 AM on August 19, 2002


A preemptive strike: One should remember that many doctors suggest and push circumcision on parents, even though there's no medical basis for it -- they still often strongly suggest that infants be circumsized, and parents who aren't aware of the issues will go along with it. If this is the case in this man's defense, I'm all for suing the doctor. What if your doctor recommended to your parents that you have a finger removed needlessly, and they agreed out of ignorance? I'd sue.

Also, my own little low-tech traceback.
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:29 AM on August 19, 2002


"If I were a circumsized man, I'd be pissed off -- after all, no one asked me!"

No one asked me if I wanted vaccinations either, but my parents made that decision, too. They cut my hair, spanked me occasionally, made me eat broccoli, got me up for school, signed me up for piano lessons, etc., none of which I ever asked for. How dare they try to make parenting decisions? Who do they think they are?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:30 AM on August 19, 2002


Give me a break--next up, I'm suing because I wanted to keep my tonsils, dammit!
posted by RunsWithBandageScissors at 10:32 AM on August 19, 2002


Why not say to your child "We look different because doctors and parents were misinformed, uneducated and unlightened when I was circumcised - we chose not to do the same to you". Honesty is a much more valuable tool to children than hiding behind a veil of "socialization".

Call it what it is - "elective surgery".
posted by dhacker at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2002


Slithy_Tove: It's hard for me to imagine this case succeeding. This is not malpractice in the conventional sense, this is about circumcisions that were performed correctly. The issue is consent. But parents give consent for all types of medical procedures on their children, and societal norms and expectations change with glacial slowness. If parental consent is no longer valid, care of pediatric patients will become a dangerous and unpredictable minefield for physicians.

Of course it's malpractice in the conventional sense: in this particular case, the contention is that the physician failed to obtain consent before the circumcision. But, having worked in a NICU/PICU, I can *guarantee* that 99.9% of all "routine" circumcisions are performed without the physician obtaining informed consent.

And that's a big deal.

When most docs have parents sign the consent form (assuming they *do* have them sign one), they are receiving "actual" consent: "I authorize this procedure to be done." But most surgical procedures, of which circumcision is one, call for "informed" consent, in which the physician explains the procedure, the potential outcomes, all expected positive and negative outcomes, and any major potential negative outcomes. With one exception, I have *never* seen or heard of a physician obtaining informed consent prior to performing the surgical procedure of infant circumcision. So, when complications arise, as they do in a large number of "routine," "normal" circumcisions, parents are left feeling guilty and stupid because the physician never warned them of the possibility. They are led to believe it is "just a little snip" with no potential for complications, and that is simply not the case.

So, good for this (now-adult) kid! I only wish this had happened years ago, so I could've been a co-plaintiff (now being just a bit past "reaching the age of majority").
posted by wdpeck at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2002


There may be some medical basis for it. There is a hygiene thought that the penis is easier to clean when cut, as well as prevents some bacterial infections.
posted by benjh at 10:35 AM on August 19, 2002


This is just plain rediculous. It's like cutting off your nose to spite your face, or something like that. This country needs to be delawyerfied.
posted by mss at 10:37 AM on August 19, 2002


Removing parts of the body to make them easier to clean seems a bit drastic. On preview: Rediculous, even. (Do i sound like snagglepuss? I sure hope so.)
posted by robself at 10:39 AM on August 19, 2002


Call it what it is - "elective surgery".

How about "genital mutilation"?
posted by mr_roboto at 10:43 AM on August 19, 2002


mr_crash_davis: No one asked me if I wanted vaccinations either, but my parents made that decision, too. They cut my hair, spanked me occasionally, made me eat broccoli, got me up for school, signed me up for piano lessons, etc., none of which I ever asked for. How dare they try to make parenting decisions? Who do they think they are?

Ummm, none of those decisions involves lopping off healthy tissue with which you were born, and none of those decisions is irreversible.

If you hate playing the piano, you can always quit. Once part of your penis is cut off, it's gone forever, regardless of what you decide *you* want when you are old enough to make such decisions.

RunsWithBandageScissors: Give me a break--next up, I'm suing because I wanted to keep my tonsils, dammit!


Do you remember when tonsillectomy was also a "routine" procedure (30s, 40s, 50s)? Have you noticed it's no longer routine? Doesn't it make you wonder why physicians and parents could change their minds (and their behavior) based on medical evidence in that case, but not in the case of "routine" circumcision?
posted by wdpeck at 10:46 AM on August 19, 2002


In the mutilation stakes, compared to your everydayfgm, circumcision comes a lowly second, i reckon. And to go off at a bit of a tangent, is that thing about the top of your finger growing back if you cut it off when you're young true?
posted by robself at 10:49 AM on August 19, 2002


and make sex more physically traumatic on the body.

huh...? what sort of trauma are we talking about here...? i've never seen any sort of traumatization on the part of the circumcised men i've had sex with. i also know several men who've been circ-ed as adults because most women they run into have no intention of going down on a penis with a foreskin (let's face it, they can be seriously unattractive). consensus was they'd rather have had it done at birth instead of 25-30 years later when the pain is apparently more visceral.

There is a hygiene thought that the penis is easier to clean when cut, as well as prevents some bacterial infections

i have a friend who is as clean as any human being could be and his foreskin fused to his penis. repairing this was beyond painful, not to mention a horrible blow to his self esteem. again someone who sorely (literally!) wishes his parents had him snipped as a baby.
posted by t r a c y at 10:51 AM on August 19, 2002


they can be seriously unattractive

That's one argument i've never got. Circumcision must involve some kind of buffing, paint job and smoke and mirrors combination that i've never been privy to if it manages to make a boy's bits look anything other than quite stupid.

his foreskin fused to his penis

Now that's got my jaw nice and slack. How the fuck does that happen?
posted by robself at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2002


No one asked me if I wanted vaccinations either, but my parents made that decision, too. They cut my hair, spanked me occasionally, made me eat broccoli, got me up for school, signed me up for piano lessons, etc., none of which I ever asked for. How dare they try to make parenting decisions? Who do they think they are?

The differences:
a) Circumcision is unnecessary. I don't think I need to find sources here -- the article itself states, as I've read many, many times before, that the American Pediatric Association -- the most important pediatric body -- does not advise giving circumcisions, and has found no medical basis for it. NO group has found medical basis for it. Do a little more research, and you'll find that circumcision as an American trend began as a way to stop masturbation, which it obviously hasn't.

b) Circumcision is harmful. Here's just one article, and I'm sure you can find many others.

The adverse effects of circumcision on self-esteem and body image appear to increase with age, as circumcised men entering their forties and fifties are increasingly expressing dissatisfaction. Circumcised men report suffering from premature ejaculation, impotence, bleeding at the scar site during erections, desensitization of the glans, pubic hair on the shaft of the penis, painful intercourse, and decreased lubrication. While such evidence is largely anecdotal, the need for further research is clear.

I can't find where I originally read this, but the fact is that circumcision makes sex more physically traumatizing -- the foreskin acts as a natural lubricant, allowing the penis to slide along it rather than along the vagina. Just think about it, it's common sense. Uncircumcized sex is abrasive, and is more often associated with injury to the penis and STD transfer because of this.

c) Again, I assume that the doctor is being sued in this case because it wasn't really the parents' decision. Many are ill-informed.

Circumcision is NOT comparable to any of your examples.
posted by tweebiscuit at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2002


Thank you t r a c y, these are the exact thoughts I had when I consented to my boy getting snipped. Though, primarily cosmetic, and with only a slight increase in the risk of infection or other, I determined that a few moments of pain for a 2 day old would be a fair trade. And I was there for his post -op, and he cried, but then he stopped. He also cried when he was cold, and when he wasn't fed fast enough, and when they took blood, and when they, well you get the picture, babies cry.
posted by Mushkelley at 10:59 AM on August 19, 2002


There was a Kid's in the Hall skit that went, "Mom... Dad... Doctor... I want my foreskin back! This page verifies it exists, but there's no transcript.

I wish I had mine back. We did not circumcise our four-month old son, despite several people swearing that he'd be mentally traumatized when he noticed that his "didn't look like daddy's."

For me, evidence that sexual satification with is greater than without made it an easy decision.

"My boy's gonna have good lovin' dang it!"
posted by putzface_dickman at 11:18 AM on August 19, 2002


When a doctor performs a circumcision for the sake of making a boy look something like his dad (or for religious reasons), then this is tantamount to medical malpractice. There is nothing healthy in reducing sensitivity during sex or removing the natural lubrication provided by a foreskin. Most of the world's men are not circumcised, yet suffer no ill effects. So it seems that most of the justifications for circumcision come from Victorian efforts to curb masturbation. Ironically, circumcised boys and men tend to masturbate more frequently, and engage in more risky sexual activity, because of the diminished capacity of their penis.

Given the overwhelming evidence against circumcision, doctors continue to preform the procedure. Lawsuits will make a difference and are necessary.
posted by TskTsk at 11:19 AM on August 19, 2002


"Circumcision is NOT comparable to any of your examples."

I beg to differ. It's exactly comparable, because it's caused me exactly the same amount of trauma. Zero.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 11:27 AM on August 19, 2002


I've got to second that.

Additionally, to me, an uncircumcised man looks wrong, somehow. Not just different, but wrong. Abnormal, somehow.

I guess it's all about what you grow up with.
posted by Irontom at 11:36 AM on August 19, 2002


Also, on Valentine's Day last year the radio show Fresh Air did a whole day on circumcision. Extremely informative. In my favorite segment(Real Audio), someone told mohel jokes. A mohel performs the circumcision in the traditional Jewish bris.

Two men are in a restoom at the Waldorff Astoria standing at adjacent urinals. The first man says to the second,
"You're from Cleveland?"
"Yes"
'Jewish?"
"Yes, how did you know?"
"Temple Beth Shalom?"
"Yes, again, how did you know?"
"Well, I've known your Rabbi Schwartz there for many years. He' so near-sighted cuts on the bias. And, you're pissing on my shoe. "
posted by putzface_dickman at 11:38 AM on August 19, 2002


Mr_Crash_Davis, Irontom, I think I have to completely reverse my stance. In the face of this anti-cirucmscision evidence I have now realized that each of my sexual encounters has been accompanyed by searing pain, penile bleeding, and twice now my dong has been amputated due to complications. Plus I am a chronic masturbator. What have I done to my son in equipping him with a sleek snazzy penis. For shame on me.
posted by Mushkelley at 11:40 AM on August 19, 2002


but the fact is that circumcision makes sex more physically traumatizing

again, i've seen no trauma personally, i've heard of no trauma from my partners or male friends. the only trauma i've ever heard of was due to a lack of circumcision. on short poll from 5 males (2 relatives, 3 friends) over 50, they have not experienced any of the symptoms you list. it seems to me that the incidence of trauma may be in the minority of men, and not a "fact" for all.

at any rate, if people want to sue, they should sue their parents. if parental consent is given at birth the doctor shouldn't be held liable decades later unless he did it wrong.

robself, yah seriously unattractive. i've seen a few that look like they've got a big ugly wad of pastrami slapped on the end of them. very unfortunate. but before anyone gets their bits in a knot, let me disclaim that i am not prejudiced one way or the other.
posted by t r a c y at 11:40 AM on August 19, 2002


Westerners have a distorted view of what "looks right", since so many men here were circumcised. It's kind of a generational thing too, as fewer kids are being circumcised these days.

Rather than tick off every reason I despise this practice, I will point you here. Evolution would have gotten rid of the foreskin a long time ago if it was just a superfluous piece of flesh.

Neither of my boys is circumcised, and the oldest, who is 5, is not the least bit bothered that he doesn't look "just like daddy". Here's a weird one--when my first son was born, I stumbled across a guy actually videotaping his son's circumcision. What, he's gonna show it at family gatherings or something?! ew.
posted by whatnot at 11:41 AM on August 19, 2002


Here is a very informative article with stats. The long and the short of it :) is that yes there may be some benefits to having the procedure done, and that yes there may also be some benefits to not having it done.

Oh yeah, it also mentions something that I think we all know intuitively... It bloody well hurts like hell!
posted by canucklehead at 11:41 AM on August 19, 2002


Somewhere in Sierra Leone: "That girl with the clitoris sure looks wrong. Not just different, but wrong. Abnormal, somehow."
posted by TskTsk at 11:42 AM on August 19, 2002


yah... but let's bear in mind that the clitoris and the foreskin are not the same thing, do not have the same function and that one can live a normal full sexual life without a foreskin.
posted by t r a c y at 11:50 AM on August 19, 2002


I have a long list of characteristics I'd like for my penis: longer, thicker, not so veiny...MORE sensitive is not on that list. In fact, I'd like to have the power of deadening it, from time to time.

I'm just saying.
posted by ColdChef at 11:51 AM on August 19, 2002


canucklehead, I don't trust the American Academy of Pediatrics to do anything other than protect its member physicians and their profits.
posted by whatnot at 11:54 AM on August 19, 2002


Evolution would have gotten rid of the foreskin a long time ago if it was just a superfluous piece of flesh.

Just like the appendix, eh?
posted by John Smallberries at 11:57 AM on August 19, 2002


Yeah, John, I had an apendectomy at 13, and I keep wondering if we'll eventually realize that it does serve a purpose--like tonsils and foreskins do.
posted by whatnot at 12:02 PM on August 19, 2002


I'm not really a zealot about this issue, but the New England Journal recently reported that male circumcision may reduce incidence of cervical cancer in women. Apparently, foreskins are big targets for HPV. Rather garish link here.
posted by Skot at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2002


what not: Evolution would have gotten rid of the foreskin...

Um, there's this thing inside most of us called an appendix. Do you ever use yours?

And, being circumsized like a good Jew (even if I'm not so good at that any more) and over 40, I have to say I'm not seeing any discomfort, bleeding, or even slight annoyance when doing the deed. Or peeing on the bias either.

Still, I'm not claiming this is a good or bad thing, just that it's one of those decide for yourself (actually decide for your male children) things.

On the specifics of the lawsuit, this reeks of ex-post facto law to me (IANAL). Not to mention the linked 'article' is essentially a reprinted press release and not an actual piece of journalism. No quotes, for example, from the defendents or their lawyers. No mention of how old the plaintiff is or when/where the circ took place. Are the parents named as defendents, btw? Googling "Flatt v. Kantak" turns up zero documents.
posted by billsaysthis at 12:03 PM on August 19, 2002


One can lose a finger or two and lead a normal working life, but wouldn't it be so much better having all of your fingers intact? Also, a clitoris is fairly sensitive and contributes substantially during sex; a foreskin is analogous, though it does double duty as a lubricator.
posted by TskTsk at 12:04 PM on August 19, 2002


Evolution would have gotten rid of the foreskin a long time ago if it was just a superfluous piece of flesh.

Slightly off topic, but this is something that I have to address as a common misconception about evolution. There is no selective pressure to eliminate superfluous organs. A feature of an organism is only eliminated through evolution if that feature somehow puts the organism at a disadvantage--if the feature is neutral survival-wise, it might undergo random mutations, but it won't be eliminated by natural selection. So what you've heard about the little toe going away over time is a canard, I'm afraid.

A better way to phrase an evolutionary argument against circumcision might be "mammalian evolution seems to have favored the foreskin, so it must function to impart a significant reproductive advantage". Of course, I don't know exactly what fraction of mammalian species come with foreskins, but I can say that the presence of a feature across a range of species is pretty strong evidence that the feature imparts an advantage.
posted by mr_roboto at 12:05 PM on August 19, 2002


The fused foreskin gave me the jitters, but the idea of pastrami-wads hanging in the trolleys of my fellow man has got my stomach a-turning. Is circumcision the international norm, then? I like the idea of peeing on a bias. Stunt urinating sounds like my kind of sport.
posted by robself at 12:08 PM on August 19, 2002


a clitoris is fairly sensitive

candidate for Understatement of the Year?
posted by GeekAnimator at 12:12 PM on August 19, 2002


GeekAnimator, LMAO.
mr_roboto, thank you.
billysaythis, you will note above that I used my appendix so much they had to remove it when I was 13. But it was a medically sound procedure with full parental consent, unlike some circumcisions, dig?
posted by whatnot at 12:20 PM on August 19, 2002


>a clitoris is fairly sensitive

>>candidate for Understatement of the Year?


LOL, seriously...! good lord.
posted by t r a c y at 12:22 PM on August 19, 2002


t r a c y , the foreskin and the clitoris are not the samething. True. However, the foreskin and the skin over the clitoris are the same thing. Would you want your clitoris to go without protection? I wouldn't.

Irontom, the uncircumcised penis looks abnormal to you because you've probably mostly seen circumcised ones. If the penis you look at every day is circumcised, then anything different may be "wrong" to you. I have to admit that the first time I saw an uncircumcised penis flacid was a bit different. Erect, they don't look much different. As for hygiene, it's super easy to keep clean.

I guess, my brother could sue because my parents weren't given a choice on the matter. Both would have chosen for him to be left intact.

My son is uncircumcised. My husband and I saw no need for the surgery.
posted by onhazier at 12:26 PM on August 19, 2002


yes, yes, but too many people tend to argue that removal of the foreskin is the same as removal of the clitoris. and the comment made was in that direction. there was no comment regarding the clitoral "hood".

it's fine that your son hasn't been snipped, but that's your choice. just as it's the choice of parents that do snip. either way your respective sons could resent either choice. there just isn't an answer to any of this because on both sides it's something that's done without consent of the person it's being done to, with the results unknown til many years later - with what seems like negligible complaints on both sides...

...it seems to me that the vast majority of men, snipped or otherwise, are going thru' life happily getting their rocks off without too much trouble.
posted by t r a c y at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2002


Well, comments here seem to bear out that the true reason boys are mutilated is because girls (consenting moms) think it looks nicer.
Can you imagine if anyone said that about female mutilation? Shame on those shallow women.
posted by HTuttle at 12:55 PM on August 19, 2002


...there just isn't an answer to any of this because on both sides it's something that's done without consent of the person it's being done to, with the results unknown til many years later...

Except that men who are unhappy with their foreskin can choose to be circumcised in later life. Therefore, the results of the "don't circumcise your infant" choice, when known many years later, can be corrected, with full consent of the patient. This seems to be the major disadvantage of the "circumcise your infant" choice.
posted by mr_roboto at 1:08 PM on August 19, 2002


but the fact is that circumcision makes sex more physically traumatizing

I think there are vasts amounts of empirical evidence to the contrary. *cough*

No, I'm not going to link to any of it, thank you.

Also, it's ridiculous, not rediculous, people. The spell checker is there for a reason.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:13 PM on August 19, 2002


I wanted to get my son a classy prince albert piercing but my wife refused. Damn what a cold witch she can be.
posted by Mushkelley at 1:14 PM on August 19, 2002


On a related note, I understand that if you have your lips, cheeks and tongue removed you will experience far fewer canker sores.
posted by canucklehead at 1:15 PM on August 19, 2002


Interestingly, no men posting here have yet said they'd want the alternate configuration for their equipment. (I'm among them, uncut and happy.) It makes you wonder if, should this go to trial, they'd have to balance the jury between the snipped and the unsnipped in order to maintain impartiality.

I have a child forthcoming, and if it's a boy, we won't be circumsizing him. I've found all of the pro-circumcision arguments here very noncompelling, but maybe it's the same point I just made: Isn't it strange how protective we each are of our particular penile status?
posted by blueshammer at 1:17 PM on August 19, 2002


Maybe, just maybe, a circumcised man can get his foreskin back.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 1:18 PM on August 19, 2002


Except that men who are unhappy with their foreskin can choose to be circumcised in later life

And adults who are unhappy with their immune systems can choose to receive vaccinations in later life.

Nevermind that it is more painful, and potentially deadly. It's just more important to have the full consent of the patient.

Sheesh. Despite the fact that God said do it, which we aren't getting into, I took the time to read everything I could find. The studies showing problems with circumcision are, as far as I've found, all small samples or case studies. There has been almost no attempt to produce a reasonable study on the end effects of circumcision, and the few with any strong samples indicate that it matters not at all, or there is a potential benefit to the procedure. Odd, that.

The foreskin is sensitive, like the clitoral hood is. But, the clitoris is the key, as is the node of flesh on the underside of the penis where the foreskin attaches (or doesn't, as the case may be). Some bohemian types here in Atlanta have had their hoods removed to INCREASE sensitivity. I've wondered if I get increased or decreased sensitivity myself, but since I've never known otherwise, it's hard to say. I know only one person of adult age circumsized after they gained maturity, and they said it's better for them, but that the procedure hurt like hell.

My new son cried for about 1 minute. He cried longer at his last vaccination. I just don't know if the pain thing is all it is touted to be. I do know this, though -- I got a trained mohel/obgyn to do the procedure. Some things are better left to the professionals, and not goyim.
posted by dwivian at 1:19 PM on August 19, 2002


I have mixed feelings about some of the things I've read here. On the one hand, it has always made me uneasy that boys are not given the choice of whether or not to be circumcised. That being said...


- I don't believe the stats above saying that most baby boys are immediately circumcised without parental consent. If they are Jewish, the circumcision is usually put off for a few days after birth, and done by a mohel (pronounced moyle) in a briss ceremony (incidentally, that's probably what was going on in the incident described above by whatnot).

- Being circumcised myself, I don't pretend to have a basis for first-person comparison, and I don't see how anyone else can either, except men who have been cut as adults and had an active sex life both before and after. Are there any such among us that will share their notes?

- I have to echo ColdChef's statement above. It's difficult for me to imagine more sensitivity in that area...I have quite enough already, thanks. And protection? What is it that we're vulnerable to without this protection?

- tweebiscuit: "Bleeding at the scar site?" Honestly, I'll go ahead and admit my ignorance...on mine, I can't even tell for sure where the scar site is. And isn't it a bit strange that you're posting a paragraph-long quote and then saying you can't remember the source? Have you been keeping it on your clipboard all this time?

- I'd like to hear a bit more from the circumcised men here about exactly what it is about their foreskin that they can't imagine living without. What does it do for you, exactly? In what way does it make sex better? How does it provide additional lubrication?

By the way, here's a link discussing benefits of circumcision. I haven't read it all and I'm not saying it's correct. Just putting it out there.

Honestly, if I ever have children, I may not have the boys circumcised, just to give them the choice. Maybe.
posted by bingo at 1:28 PM on August 19, 2002


Except that men who are unhappy with their foreskin can choose to be circumcised in later life.

yes, but that doesn't change the fact that their parents made the wrong choice for them, without their consent. i'm only saying that either choice can be wrong, but for the majority of men there seems to be no prob one way or the other.

lord. penises are only so interesting. for me, this thread has shot it's wad.
posted by t r a c y at 1:33 PM on August 19, 2002


I have a friend who is uncircumcised. He says he doesn't care, but we tease him about it anyway, it's funny. Nobody really cares, he just doesn't want us talking about his penis around girls.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:38 PM on August 19, 2002


From a purely asthetic point of view:
Which of the two choices do those of you with a pecker preference prefer?
posted by ColdChef at 1:46 PM on August 19, 2002


And adults who are unhappy with their immune systems can choose to receive vaccinations in later life.

Nevermind that it is more painful, and potentially deadly.


Huh? How do you know that circumcision as an adult is more painful? An infant can't accurately communicate the extent of his pain: does that make it acceptable to subject the infant to pain? If it's a painful procedure, I say all the more reason to make it the patient's choice. Maybe we should pierce and tattoo infants as well, since they might prefer those body modifications as an adult, and they won't remember the associated pain.

And deadly? Where did you get that? Even botched infant circumcisions don't result in death; just severe deformity and sexual dysfunction. If anything, I'd think that adult circumcision is safer, since the surgeon has more *ahem* room to work in. Also, an adult circumcision is going to be performed by a surgeon, in an operating room, with a full surgical team. Much safer, more controlled circumstances than an Ob-Gyn with a scalpel, don't you think?

I don't even begin to see the parallel with vaccination. The benefits of vaccination are great and generally accepted. Also, no adult has ever regretted a successfully performed vaccination procedure (though complications from vaccination can be even more tragic than those from circumcision).
posted by mr_roboto at 1:46 PM on August 19, 2002


"I chose to have my son circumscised when he was born 6 months ago, and my reason was that I am circumscised and as my child grows and becomes aware of himself he will know he is "okay" since he is just like his dad."

Dear God, this is the most brainless statement! What if your infant son had inherited his mother's nose, would you have broken it? And your BS about researching the topic, you can't even spell "circumcised".
posted by Catch at 1:57 PM on August 19, 2002


I look at it using the chicken metaphor. What tastes better: skin-on chicken or skinless chicken? Why, skin-on chicken, naturally. It's juicier, richer, and gives that extra little bit to chew on. Puritans who say it's unhealthy, be damned! They can have their dried-out, low fat chicken then. But don't pull the skin off mine without asking!

Gee, how far can you stretch a metaphor before it breaks? A boy-friend of mine that I occasionally become intimate with is from South America, where most boys are left intact. His 'cowled' pleasure stick is beautiful and natural, and I cringe at the thought of all the other boys, made with nature's perfection, getting sliced against their not-yet-formed will. The argument that a circumcised penis 'looks better' is the most specious twaddle I've heard in a long time.

my reason was that I am circumcised and as my child grows and becomes aware of himself he will know he is "okay" since he is just like his dad.

Um, every time I hear this, I ask: How many times does Junior see Daddy's junk? Where I come from, a cradle of Germanic Lutheran modesty, I thankfully never set sight on the genitalia of either of my parents. What kind of argument is this? Does the dark-haired child of a blonde father get his hair shaved off because the disparity of hair colour between him and daddy will give him the vapours? Does a black child adopted by white parents get Michael Jackson type bleaching treatments because of the trauma he would feel being of a different colour than mater and pater?

The twisted aesthetics of some American women and the speculative psychoanalytical prophylaxis of circumcision for conformity, as well as the ridiculous argument about hygiene (is this medieval England? Do you bathe more than thrice a year?) are all weak reasons for genital mutilation.

Here's hoping that the increasing questioning and abstention from the barbarous practice continues.
posted by evanizer at 2:18 PM on August 19, 2002


Here's hoping that the increasing questioning and abstention from the barbarous practice continues

Can we also add the practice of lovingly describing one's intimates' "pleasure stick"s in public fora to that list?
posted by daveadams at 2:33 PM on August 19, 2002


If an adult man is circumcised, and it hurts badly, he can have morphine or vicodin or some other such seriously powerful pain relief.

Such things are not an option for babies - maybe a shot of novocaine if they're lucky, a little bit of baby tylenol (incidentally messing up their gut flora, which shouldn't be exposed to anything but breast milk if you want them to be normal), and nursing / cuddling to ease the pain, and that's about it.

Oh yeah, and when they urinate (into their diaper), guess how that feels against their open wound? At least grown men can pee into a toilet and delicately wipe away any lingering drops of urine. Baby boys don't have that option.

As a woman who's had unnaturally frictionful sex at times with circumcised men, I frankly would have been grateful for the extra lubrication provided by a happy, healthy foreskin. Alas.

Consider this: removal of foreskin being an unnatural thing, we do not know to what degree the body compensates by creating extra nerve endings or neurotransmitters or whatnot to provide extra sensation. (And if this happens, it's far more likely to happen a lot in an infant and growing boy than in an adult man). Comparisons between pre-and-postoperative sensitivities are muddied by this issue.

And as for parents who consider circumcising their baby boys: do you even know what the true rates for complication are for circumcision and for an intact foreskin? Guess how few parents bother to even consider that...

I'm so glad I had a girl.

I hope these people win and scare the crap out of the doctors so that _all_ surgical procedures have truly informed consent. Patients deserve nothing less.

"First, do no harm" isn't supposed to just be lip service.
posted by beth at 2:38 PM on August 19, 2002


As the proud owner of my foreskin, lemme share a few things from my personal experience:

1. t r a c y said "most women they run into have no intention of going down on a penis with a foreskin." - this has never happened to me, I have never met a woman who thinks that foreskin is ugly or a reason not to have oral sex. If a woman perfers the look of a penis without foreskin, she can simply pull it back and expose the glans, making the penis look just like a circumcised penis.

2. It took me the longest time to understand why so many masturbation jokes referred to Vaseline. If you have foreskin, you need no lube other than your own skin.

3. sensitivity. I got into this debate about this with a girl I knew in college (now that I'm married I don't talk to girls much about my penis, other than my wife). She said that it was her experience that cut men tend to take longer to experience orgasm from oral sex than their uncut counterparts. I'm not sure if this was a sensitivity issue, but I can say that the glans on my one-eyed jedi is very sensitive.

4. Looking different from Dad. My dad just told me that doctors didn't know what they were doing when he was born.

5. size/malformations - I read a report in one of my wife's 'So you're having a baby' books that said that a poorly done circumcision could lead to the child having a hook or bend in their penis when it gets erect later in life. The book also said that European doctors believe that circumcision stunts the growth of the penis.

6. In the long run, we men need to understand that women are more impressed by the size of your income than the look or size of your unit. See Anna Nicole Smith as proof.
posted by DragonBoy at 2:52 PM on August 19, 2002


Regarding DragonBoy's point 5: Fwiw, I know a guy with a profoundly bent penis. He's Jewish, so it was a mohel's work, I believe.

Didn't cause him problems, but at least one girl he slept with was in serious pain because it was aimed right at her cervix.

I'm just saying...
posted by beth at 2:57 PM on August 19, 2002


I was born in a Jewish hospital, and I can attest to the "bend." No problems so far, though, and I haven't noticed any loss of sensitivity as compared to my pre-cut days. ;) Personally, I'm happy enough that at least one cleaning chore is out of the way.
posted by brownpau at 3:12 PM on August 19, 2002


As a female and with no medical expertise, I can only go by laymen's (no pun intended) terms: abrasion is a bitch. Having gone three-day eat-sleep-sex stints with and without, I noticed the difference immediately. Considering two partners, the one sans foreskin not only chafed after periods of extended sexual activity, but the circumcision scar would break open and begin bleeding (meaning, to mutual annoyance, no sex until it healed in it's entirety, otherwise it simply wouldn't).

I do realize that this may not be the case for all circumcised men, but I can't see the logic (outside of religious reasons) in taking that chance with such an important part of the body. I feel the same about breast implants, of which this seems to closely resemble. Outside of the bit about parents doing it to infants.

As for cleanliness, I've always been a proponent of letting nature handle it when possible. Douches are, by and large, the scourge of womankind, but I'll refrain from digression. Instead, I'll ask, if your body provides a mechanism for keeping sensitive areas clean, why use something else if it isn't necessary? For that matter, when weighing a minor grooming task against the potential problems, I'd opt for the former.

Personal preferences, as per Cold Chef request: hooded, all the way. The cosmetic difference of an uncut versus what was the more socially acceptable "permanent mushroom" doesn't detract in the least from a skilled performance, and (as mentioned above) has been in my experience more beneficial. Uncut and cut both look the same during the times I have the most interest in the matter anyhow, so I think I'll stick with the one that's proven in past experience to show less mutual wear and tear for the mileage.

(Yeah, and what evanizer, dragonboy and beth posted while I was writing this.)
posted by precocious at 3:14 PM on August 19, 2002


My dad just told me that doctors didn't know what they were doing when he was born.

Yeah, we used the "doctor didn't know any better" explanation, too. Worked like a charm.

These plaintiffs will have to prove that the procedure was contraindicated at the time it was performed, right? So, since the AMA and the AAP are still trying to cover their asse(t)s by not condemning the procedure, the plaintiffs may be hard up for evidence.

sorry.
posted by whatnot at 3:23 PM on August 19, 2002


I think all they have to prove is that the consent was not properly informed. That is, that the parents were not given true information about what was then known about risks of problems.

This is a common problem even today with consent forms for all sorts of procedures, especially those surrounding birth (epidurals, episiotomies, forceps, c-sections). They typically shove a huge form in your face while you're in labor and have you sign it between contractions (that's what happened to me, and I was at a good hospital).

It basically says "I agree that whatever the doctor decides to do is okay with me" and there is no time to read it much less discuss alternatives and risks. This serves the doctor's interest and not the patient's, and is quite against the spirit of truly informed consent.
posted by beth at 3:33 PM on August 19, 2002


My god, a whole lot of you sure are overly concerned about what kinda tool other men have.

Get over it already! The hysterics going on here are just asinine. Circumcision isn't causing an epidemic of penis problems. Not circumcising isn't causing an epidemic of penis problems. Some men of either persuasion have problems, but not enough to reflect on the entire male population.

Circumcised men are not having better sex than you uncircumised men. Relax. You're not missing out on anything.

Uncircumcised men are not having better sex than you circumcised men. Relax. You're not missing out on anything.

The entire hullabaloo is silly beyond belief. Of all the problems there are to fret about, circumcision should be among the last!
posted by five fresh fish at 3:42 PM on August 19, 2002


Oh - and as for this "circumcision scar breaking" meme, I'm calling Bullshit. Unless the circumcision was performed yesterday, the thing has been healed for how many years? Or are we to believe this poor boy has had an open wound for all of his life?

Shya, right. Must have been some embarassing in grade seven, when his regular-as-clockwork mid-morning hard-on would burst out a big ol' splotch of blood on the front of his jeans.
posted by five fresh fish at 3:45 PM on August 19, 2002


Of all the problems there are to fret about, circumcision should be among the last!

This is such a non-argument, I don't know where to begin attacking it.

If you were a guy who had a horribly botched circumcision, you might feel differently.

If you were a parent trying to seriously weigh the pro and con and decide about the fate of your baby boy's penis (which _is_ your responsibility, as is the rest of him), then you might feel differently.

If you think this whole question is useless and idiotic, perhaps you would better spend your time in another thread, eh?
posted by beth at 3:59 PM on August 19, 2002


five fresh fish, I guess you missed this Metatalk thread. As a matter of fact, it seems you didn't read this one very thoroughly. There's a lot more going on in this discussion than "what kinda tool other men have."

Oh. Another comment on preview. I guess you're just in here to do some mouthing off, aren't you? Hope you are enjoying yourself at least. Pointless to ask if you've read anything like this, if you've ever had surgery or other major scars in a much-used and vulnerable area of your body, or if you have an opinion on informed consent.
posted by Catch at 4:00 PM on August 19, 2002


If you're going to raise a boy Jewish, you really do have to get him circumcised when he's young.

Now, this isn't an obligation I feel personally; I'm just raising it for the sake of discussion. ybe Jews shouldn't be circumcised...maybe nobody should be. I don't know.

But you can't raise an uncircumcised kid and send him to Hebrew school and give him a bar mitzvah. I mean, you could, but the fact that you hadn't performed the ceremony on him at birth that is required of all Jewish males is going to undercut (no pun intended) everything else he learns about his relationship to the religion. It's the basis of the original covenant with Abraham that defined Jews (or at that point, Hebrews) to begin with. He may feel that you did him a favor in letting him choose whether or not to get cut as an adult, but by the time he's 18 (the legal age to check yourself in for surgery in most states in the U.S.), you will have also spent his whole life implicitly telling him that you don't believe the indoctrination you've been putting him through.

And maybe that's as it should be. But it is an issue to consider.
posted by bingo at 4:15 PM on August 19, 2002


er...that should be "Maybe Jews shouldn't be circumcised..." Should have checked the preview more carefully. Could be the result of another kind of premature truncation.
posted by bingo at 4:16 PM on August 19, 2002


Fwiw, there are some Jewish people who oppose circumcision, yet still hold strongly to the other facets of Judaism.

Religions change over time, or they die. Just a fact of life.
posted by beth at 4:27 PM on August 19, 2002


Just to let everyone who wants to compare foreskins, tonsils and appendixes. Both tonsils and appendixes do have a point. They reduce your chances of infection.
posted by stoneegg21 at 4:27 PM on August 19, 2002


My god, a whole lot of you sure are overly concerned about what kinda tool other men have.

Indeed, it is my primary obsession, if you haven't noticed.

And scars can and do chafte and bleed and occasionally break open. I've experienced this personally several times, but I'll only relay the less intimate one: I had surgery on a sensitive joint almost 16 years ago and, on several occasions, when I suffered an abrasive injury, the scar became inflamed and sore.
posted by evanizer at 4:28 PM on August 19, 2002


If there are any, beth, I've never heard of them before this.

As much as Judaism has changed, circumcision is one of the rituals that has continued since the very beginning. And again, I'm not necessarily arguing for its preservation. But I think that doing away with it would be in certain ways akin to Christians deciding not to use a cross as a symbol of Jesus anymore.

On preview: evanizer, unless you have a joint in your penis (and kudos if you do), I think we're talking about different things here. A scar on a joint is going to get stressed, stretched, and tested more often than a scar on a non-joint which is going to spend most of its time next to, or inside of, something soft.
posted by bingo at 4:34 PM on August 19, 2002


I had an uncircumcized boyfriend whose foreskin was extremely restrictive, and almost painful to pull back when he was erect. And his skin broke and bled where the foreskin was attached if you pulled back too hard. And he had problems with the dreaded smegma. If I were him, I would probably get it cut off.
posted by emyd at 4:41 PM on August 19, 2002


as is the node of flesh on the underside of the penis where the foreskin attaches (or doesn't, as the case may be)

Okay, sex-ed time, since the clinical term "clitoris" is mentioned at least ten times in this thread while its ostensible male equivalent is given a bunch of clunky metaphors. I'm amazed that women are exposed to clinical terminology for their bits almost constantly while men seem to remain in ignorance.

This "node of flesh" described above is called the frenulum (and oddly enough, that's what the flap of flesh that adheres your tongue to the bottom of your mouth is called, too).

As to the sensitivity question ...it's been my own personal observation that uncut men thrash, moan, whimper, say "stop that it's too sensitive", etc. far more--far, far more--than their cut cousins. Whether that means they're feeling more is a subjective question that I don't think can be answered to everyone's satisfaction.

And I do know 3 or 4 guys whose circs were botched and they all involved some sort of damage to the frenulum. They all claim to have extremely decreased sensitivity or pain. Needless to say, they're somewhat more than interested in litigations like this.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:49 PM on August 19, 2002


As to the sensitivity question ...it's been my own personal observation that uncut men thrash, moan, whimper, say "stop that it's too sensitive", etc. far more--far, far more--than their cut cousins.

I was going to mention this personal observation as well, but after being (perhaps justifiably) chided for using the term "pleasure stick" above, I thought I'd refrain from further descriptions of intimacy.
posted by evanizer at 5:00 PM on August 19, 2002


Smegma! I thought the giggles were over, but this recalls too many hilarious Red Dwarf episodes. What a funny thread. Yes, I'm extremely immature.
posted by insomnyuk at 5:01 PM on August 19, 2002


Beth said: Fwiw, there are some Jewish people who oppose circumcision, yet still hold strongly to the other facets of Judaism.

God pretty much made non-circumcision a deal-breaker. Check it out. Of course not every word in the bible needs to be taken literally -- but still, the foreskin part seems especially important in this whole covenant business.

Religions change over time, or they die. Just a fact of life.

Well, check back with the Jews in another, oh, four thousand years.
posted by Mid at 5:07 PM on August 19, 2002


I thought I'd refrain from further descriptions of intimacy

Clinical detachment, and thus a clinical vernacular, really is necessary in instances like this to avoid giggles and, uh, ill-advised terms. Which is why I'm always astounded, again, at the ignorance men seem to have when it comes to their own bits.
posted by WolfDaddy at 5:18 PM on August 19, 2002


Oh - and as for this "circumcision scar breaking" meme, I'm calling Bullshit. Unless the circumcision was performed yesterday, the thing has been healed for how many years? Or are we to believe this poor boy has had an open wound for all of his life?

Yeah, I'm with you on this. I have never in my life, in all the locker rooms, dugouts, and camping trips, even heard an urban legend of anyone's friend of a friend's foreskin scar breaking open. It's a new one to me. In my best doctor voice, I'd say that it's hard to imagine a healthy adult even having a visible, let alone volatile scar. When Hooper, Quint and I were showing each other our scars on the Orca, it didn't even come up. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.

By the way, I'm circumcised, and due to the lack of foreskin, my penis is almost entirely desensitized -- numb, really.

Just to let everyone who wants to compare foreskins, tonsils and appendixes. Both tonsils and appendixes do have a point. They reduce your chances of infection.

Alright, how about the coccyx? Wisdom teeth? The point is not those individual vestiges are worthless, but that the human body does, in fact, have some currently nonadvantageous evolutionary holdouts, which I think we can all agree is the case. Indeed, almost the entire human body seems to be poorly suited to the technological age we live in. Many of our protective systems, like the foreskin, are totally unnecessary. I'm not proud or ashamed of being circumcised, but I do think it's ridiculous to act as though the process is a crippling affront to natural law, when it has only negligible bearing on how you live your life.
posted by Hildago at 5:34 PM on August 19, 2002


"my penis is almost entirely desensitized -- numb, really. "

Overuse. Seen it a million times. Usually compulsive masturbators. Or those who engage in frottage with reptiles. Why, there was this one fellow who ran the crocodile rasslin' show over in Tulsa...
posted by mr_crash_davis at 5:53 PM on August 19, 2002


There's a lot more going on in this discussion than "what kinda tool other men have."

Is there? Where?

Most of the comments pertain to old boyfriends, hypothetical emotions of the hypothetically circumcised ("I'd be angry if mine were gone!"), and silly suppositions about self-esteem issues of the un-/circumcised adult.

There is a barely-restrained hysteria throughout the linked FPP news article, of the "can't you hear the screams of the lobsters!" sort. There are traces of the same hysteria in this thread. It distracts from the important information.

Which is, namely, that doctors need to gain a clue about performing circumcisions. It isn't okay to slip some language about whacking off the foreskin into the dictionary-thick sheaf of legalese required to cover the doctor's ass should the birthing go amiss.

All this hand-wringing over whether circumcision is wrong or right is moot. It's a parent's choice, and the lawsuits aren't going to change that. As the trend is towards not circumcising, and as doctors are now going to start making damn sure they've got permission, if anything that trend is going to get stronger.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on August 19, 2002


My father was born in the '20s in Japan and therefore must not have been circumcised. I was circumcised. Growing up I saw my father naked very often. I remember noticing that his penis was much much larger than mine and he had a lot of hair in the vicinity that I didn't. The presence or absence of a foreskin must have been a completely trivial difference by comparison because I never noticed. So if you're subjecting your male children to circumcision because you're afraid that they'll be traumatized by the difference, don't bother. I have a daughter so it hasn't been an issue but any sons of mine would not have been circumcised.
posted by TimeFactor at 7:43 PM on August 19, 2002


interesting thread. i've never before spent so much time thinking about Mefi members.
posted by tolkhan at 7:52 PM on August 19, 2002


The trial lawyers don't know how close they are getting to the edge. If the fast food litigation doesn't do it, then this kind of thing will.

Society has permitted litigation to reshape society, but the line has held thus far against litigation to reshape the prerogatives of basic personal and family choices, including the right to circumcise your son if you see fit, or have a damn whopper with supersize fries if that's what you want for lunch.

I'm a lawyer, and although my practice would put me in the defense not in the plaintiff's position in such cases, I think mass torts and class actions are frequently effective (and even occasionally efficient) at enforcing corporate and institutional responsibility, and I'd hate to see that tool be destroyed as a result of a few out-of-control activists who simply won't respect the boundaries of family.
posted by MattD at 8:14 PM on August 19, 2002


they can be seriously unattractive

eesh. what a disgusting thing to say. how old are you? 12? you should be ashamed of yourself. if the situation were reversed and women were being circumcised, you'd call it what it is: a horrific outrage. and if i, as a man, were to say that the parts a woman was born with should be lopped off because i found them "unattractive," women would tar and feather me. and rightly so.

consensus was they'd rather have had it done at birth instead of 25-30 years later when the pain is apparently more visceral.

no, they're just able to TELL you about the pain with words rather than screams.

anyone who circumcises their child in this day and age ought to have their head examined.

fff: All this hand-wringing over whether circumcision is wrong or right is moot. It's a parent's choice, and the lawsuits aren't going to change that.

but the choice is based on misinformation provided by doctors. it is not a NECESSARY operation. simple as that. but the hospital makes money on the operation, often by telling the parents about hygiene, what looks "normal", that it doesn't affect sex, etc. but there are millions of men who can attest to the bollocks of all of these things.

and besides that, it is not moot. how so? it's a part of someone's body! how can you say that whether they have a right to have what they were born with is not worth discussing?

baffling.
posted by dobbs at 9:40 PM on August 19, 2002


mr_roboto: Huh? How do you know that circumcision as an adult is more painful? An infant can't accurately communicate the extent of his pain: does that make it acceptable to subject the infant to pain?

Having just had a new child, who I was lucky enough to deliver myself (doc was late), I can say this: Infants have two expressions of pain -- extreme, and everything else. The PKU test elicited extreme. The last round of vaccinations were met with the extreme sound. The circumcision was just as extreme, but not as long a duration, for whatever reason. Maybe there was more anesthetic (a swab, but still). As far as the baby is concerned, in a system that doesn't know the levels it is feeling, that's about it. EEGs done on infants have shown that there isn't a whole lot of organization to the reactions at that point, so it may not be as much a lack of ability to express, but a lack of recognized differences in sensation.

So, it necessarily is more painful to an adult, because the adult can assess the pain and come to an understanding of the relative intensity of it. The same neurons firing, the same energy flowing, and an infant can't make that assessment. The level of pain is ALWAYS a purely subjective thing.

But, the whole thing comes to this -- if we can't tell what the level of pain is, can we assume the pain is critical? Some say yes, some no, but neither has any standing from the data -- it's still being collected. But, if we avoid causing the infant ANY pain... well, my son would be dead (had to be intubated because my wife was gestationally diabetic). My son would also be exposed to common illnesses that cause scarring, infirmaty, and death. I found it appropriate to cause him pain now, to cause him less problems later. Including circumcising him, for the same reasons.

Maybe we should pierce and tattoo infants as well, since they might prefer those body modifications as an adult, and they won't remember the associated pain.

I know more babies with their ears pierced than I'd care to -- it seems to be a hispanic culture thing here in the Atlanta area. But, I do believe that the laws specifically address tattoo consent requirements, so I don't see that happening until a shift in the legislature. If it changes, though, I wouldn't be surprised if someone got their kid done. Why not? Other than a cultural thing, can you show me why it would be bad?

And deadly? Where did you get that? Even botched infant circumcisions don't result in death; just severe deformity and sexual dysfunction.

Having done research (oh, the ignominity! I was using BOOKS, which will require you to head to a library) on this subject, I can say that there have been cases ending in death from infant circumcision. But, none recently, nor in this country -- the procedure is becoming safer every day. As to deformity, sometimes the deformity is gender switch - the parents agree to raise a daughter, and quick plastic surgery is accomplished on the new girl. This is why I got the right kind of doctor, and didn't trust "just this guy with a knife."

Also, an adult circumcision is going to be performed by a surgeon, in an operating room, with a full surgical team.

Not necessarily. It can be done by a single mohel, in a nurse station, with a single assistant. If that's a full team to you, it's no different than happens at infant circumcision.

The benefits of vaccination are great and generally accepted.

The benefits of circumcision are great and generally accepted, except by backwards countries and hicks... Well, that's the analogy that you'll draw when I point out that many countries do not innoculate, and there is ongoing controversy in the United States from those that consider it a violation of their rights. But, to be clear, the benefits of circumcision are worth note, but not great, and I don't find large sections of the EU to be backward, except for France.

Circumcision's safety is generally accepted by those that take the time to understand it, and don't just go by their personal experiences or anecdotal evidence. Like I said, I read quite a bit on the procedure, the risks, and the benefits, and even took some time to review the studies for statistical shenanigans. I saw no reason not to have my son circumcised, and several reasons that made it a good idea. My reading listed several issues with being uncircumcised, including greater risks of disease, infection, and cancer. I'll freely admit these studies are limited in scope, but there was significance in the finding.

In studies of men who underwent the procedure later in life, increased sensitivity was admitted, but I attribute this to exposure of the frenulum (props to WolfDaddy) after having it covered for so many years. I've even read about the scar getting torn open by extremely vigorous sex, but lack of lubrication on the part of the female was cited in one case. Failure to keep the woman aroused has risks, to both kinds of men! *grin*

Also, no adult has ever regretted a successfully performed vaccination procedure (though complications from vaccination can be even more tragic than those from circumcision).

Shingles, dude. I can personally vouch for an adult regretting a successfully performed vaccination. The illness would have been better handled, and safer on the body, than the shift in his immune system leaving him with several skin problems, all of which suck. I aborted my plans to get the shots when I heard. I'm still at risk, but I'll take the chance.

Beth -- there may be Jews that oppose circumcision, but if they have a boy and do not get him circumcised, he cannot be Jewish. He can act Jewish, and do all the right things, but he won't be part of the covenant, and not one of the Chosen People. Just a fact of the faith. Even converts have circumcisions done (that's how I know about adults, though there is an option for a "nick" rather than the full procedure).

dobbs: it is patently offensive that you'd make such a bigoted remark. There are those that have been instructed by their God, and indeed it is a requirement, that their sons be circumcised. Saying they should have their heads examined reveals an anti-jewish bias that is beneath you. Oh, and my hospital, considered by many to be the Baby Mill of Georgia, doesn't suggest the procedure. It is completely up to the parents and their doctor.
posted by dwivian at 10:32 PM on August 19, 2002


Oh - and as for this "circumcision scar breaking" meme, I'm calling Bullshit.

No insult overtly intended fff, but I'm inclined to believe you (as what I can't help but think as a circumcised man) haven't had one of those multi-day "eat-sleep-fuck-repeat" marathons I mentioned. It's amazing what all can get broken.

...Unless you think those are myths also?
posted by precocious at 10:33 PM on August 19, 2002


circumcised boys and men tend to masturbate more frequently, and engage in more risky sexual activity, because of the diminished capacity of their penis.

Bullshit.

I have found this thread extremely interesting, having just found out that we are expecting a boy in November and will have to make this decision after having escaped it until now with three girls. The issue of non-informed consent is purely the fault of the parents, as I can't imagine anyone not realising that this is one of the decisions they will have to make when the time comes.

I have known two males who had to have circumcision later in life, one at 12 and one at 50+ and they both endured a lot of pain and discomfort which they were told by doctors would not have been the case with infant circumcision. Infants heal a great deal faster than adults, if nothing else. Can you imagine the pain of an erection with a newly circumcised penis?

My thinking at this stage is that circumcision is the right choice, not because he should be like me, which is a weak excuse at best, but because I feel that the potential harm is less than the potential benefits. Nothing has been decided yet, but it will be an informed decision that I will be prepared to stand by in the future. I would be sorely disappointed if any son of mine was to blame a doctor for a decision that his parents made.
posted by dg at 10:45 PM on August 19, 2002


I would be sorely disappointed if any son of mine was to blame a doctor for a decision that his parents made

No, he'll maybe just hate you, rather than the doctors, for deciding to 'circumcise' (or mutilate) him, assuming that, (hopefully) in 15 or so years, the practice will be looked upon with a much greater general abhorrence than it is now.
posted by evanizer at 11:06 PM on August 19, 2002


A couple who were friends of my family had a son and absolutely denied to circumcise him for many of the reasons cited above. They were politically committed to not mutilated his genitals etc, but when he was about 13 he began to experience extreme pain because somehow his foreskin didn't grow with his penis. He had to have it removed as a young man instead of as a baby; the docs said this happens in about 1 in 100 cases - so not insignificant. I don't think it makes all that much difference in the end, but just thought it worth pointing out that there's probably a reason people began the procedure...
posted by mdn at 11:17 PM on August 19, 2002


No, he'll maybe just hate you, ...

If I avoided making decisions about my children in case they hate me for them, I would be in serious trouble, as would my children. They will hate me at some times for some decisions, no matter what. My (our) job is to make the best decisions possible with the information available at the time. My main point was that the doctor should not be blamed, as the parents are the ones who made the decision. If they were poorly informed, that is their fault also.

In any case, the process of "restoration" is such that you should consider circumcision permanent. A quote from the link supplied by PinkStainlessTail:

The elastic devices use a tape to capture the shaft skin and are clipped to a suspender or similar elastic material and pulled to the sock, over the shoulder, or around the waist to produce tension.

OUCH!

The process is said to take from 1 to 3 years.

Again, circumcision is permanent, so think about it carefully.
posted by dg at 11:28 PM on August 19, 2002


mdn, that is the same reason as the 12-year-old described above. The other was due to the foreskin fusing to the penis. How that happens, I have no idea, but it must hurt like hell.
posted by dg at 11:33 PM on August 19, 2002


Clearly, circumcision is a horrible religious practice (and anything religious is basically evil, even though there is no such thing as evil) which ought to be banned by civilized people everywhere. Down with religion... er, circumcision.

After reading everyone's comments, I'm still glad I was circumcised at birth. What the fuck do I care if it hurt then, I don't remember anything that happened before the age of 3 anyway.
posted by insomnyuk at 11:36 PM on August 19, 2002


insomnyuk, I couldn't agree more, on a personal level. Not so easy to make the decision for someone else, however.
posted by dg at 11:54 PM on August 19, 2002


After reading this thread, there's a part of me that really wants to know what my friends, family, and aquaintances think about the subject. Unfortunately, I'll never mention it to them.
posted by redsparkler at 12:42 AM on August 20, 2002


The fact is that circumcision is a medical procedure that was done for a long time without proper (or any) medical justification. That there are possible slight benefits is beside the point, as the studies that revealed those benefits came after the practice was widespread. That does make a difference, and a big one, because it means that the medical establishment has never had the chance to examine the problem in an unbiased way. See this discover article on breast cancer for evidence of the trouble that kind of thing can cause. (Note: I am not equating the suffering of the women in the article to a foreskin removal) Then imagine how much more difficult it would be to figure out the right thing to do when the consequences are so much more subtle, even trivial, as with circumcision. The default for any medical procedure should be no. People mentioned tonsils and appendixes, and there may be some truth to the comparison of those two to the foreskin (I disagree, but I have no evidence), but neither tonsils nor appendixes are removed before they cause problems.
posted by Nothing at 12:46 AM on August 20, 2002


There are those that have been instructed by their God, and indeed it is a requirement, that their sons be circumcised.

Worst. Argument. Ever.
posted by rushmc at 2:21 AM on August 20, 2002


I am with Nothing on this. I have yet to see evidence to support circumcision from an unbiased source.
posted by whatnot at 6:37 AM on August 20, 2002


rushmc: why a bad argument? If there is a God, and you receive life instructions, it seems reasonable to carry them out. And, if we consider ourselves enlightened (and, in America, tolerant of other different cultures), we need to let those within a religious tradition keep the practices that they want. Outside pressure creates resentment, a sense of moral resolution, a desire to fight back, and on a few occasions a strong desire to wear heavy jackets in summer or learn to fly but not land.

As I've said several times -- the practice seems to have adherents and opponents, but there is insufficient data to make any claim that it is good or bad, when done properly (beyond those I've listed before, which are not overwhelming). It can be purely hygenic, or aesthetic, and that is sufficient.

The removal of my wisdom teeth was aesthetic, because I like my teeth straight. There are still routine removals of tonsils "before they become a problem", though it is a diminishing procedure. I've had skin tags removed, with the same degree of invasiveness.

Nothing: I think we are on the same page, but I think the default for any medical procedure should be "Why?" instead of No. Kinda the same thing, but it requires education, instead of merely desiring change. I hope we see that the same way, and I'm just clarifying things. I also have never seen unbiased research, but that's because it won't exist. Studies on both sides bely significant bias. All studies against circumcision, and the reading I've done, has been incredibly biased. Such is life, when talking about "Manhood." You'd think people would figure out this is a body part, and not the seat of their soul and intellect, no matter how many men think and emote with it.

And, a brief bit of research by a medical friend of mine indicated that foreskin problems do occur on the 1 in 100 rank, as mentioned by mdn. That means that there is a potential for 4 million men to suffer in the United States needlessly. Not a trivial number of patients, by any count. There is much more research and funding for things with a much smaller number of potential patients. Ah, the joy of living in Puritania.
posted by dwivian at 6:52 AM on August 20, 2002


And, if we consider ourselves enlightened (and, in America, tolerant of other different cultures), we need to let those within a religious tradition keep the practices that they want.

Then I'm sure you're on board for letting the children of Christian Scientists die for lack of medical care? For letting Scientologists trample all over free speech rights? For letting Catholic priests molest young boys, and practitioners of various cults sacrifice animals (humans?) to their various gods? Jim Jones, pass the Kool-Aid--Hale-Bop, here I come!

The rational laws of man > the mad mumblings of the imaginary.
posted by rushmc at 8:27 AM on August 20, 2002


Yes, it is part of official Christian Scientist doctrine that people must allow their children to die (if they are lucky!); much like Scientologists are actively lobbying for the repeal of the Constitution. It's of course widely known that Ecclesiastes 4:18 says "Go ye forth and molest children."

Rush, you're just being a jerkoff. You're willfully misinterpreting a statement by reading it to its (illegal) extremes. If you think all religious people are zombies with no regard for society, just say so.
posted by Skot at 8:38 AM on August 20, 2002


The circumcision was just as extreme, but not as long a duration, for whatever reason.

In enlightened birth circles, the theory on this is that the pain is so extreme, and the baby so powerless, that when his cries are unheeded, the nervous system basically shuts down to a certain degree.

In other words, the body realizes that there's some extremely bad shit going on, and that by ceasing to cry, the child can at least save some energy that might make the difference between life and death.

It's sort of like going into shock, in other words. The system gets so incredibly overloaded with stress hormones and pain signals that it has to chill out for awhile.

What the fuck do I care if it hurt then, I don't remember anything that happened before the age of 3 anyway.

Oh, spiffy! By this logic, any and all abuse of children under three should be legal and right?

As to deformity, sometimes the deformity is gender switch - the parents agree to raise a daughter, and quick plastic surgery is accomplished on the new girl.

...with positively horrific consequences. Gender isn't as simple as the genitals, and this particular case showed the folly of those who thought so.

The book As Nature Made Him: The Boy Who Was Raised As A Girl by John Colapinto goes into great detail about this case. They raised the boy as a girl, but it didn't stick and it caused him quite a lot of pain, as you can imagine. By the age of 14, he was dressing and living as a man.

He required extensive surgery to make him a penis, and luckily for him he is happily married now. Go ask him how benign a procedure circumcision is.

Oh, by the way, he is a twin. His identical twin brother was NOT circumcised - poor Bruce was the first to go under the doctor's inept knife, and had his penis burned to a crisp by a malfunctioning / poorly wielded cautery device. After that, his parents spared his brother from the procedure.

And as for religion: the Bible is rife with blatant horrors and contradictions. Anyone who blindly accepts any of it and proclaims it as unerring truth and therefore immune to counter-argument, analysis, or questioning becomes a tool of the book, and ceases to be a thinking human being.

If the Bible recommended amputation of an arm to be part of a sect, would you think that was okay too? How about torture and killing of your firstborn in order to join? Would that make sense to you because it's written in some stupid book?

Is there any horror that people will not agree to because someone once wrote it down and started a psychotic bookclub about it?
posted by beth at 10:00 AM on August 20, 2002


Oh me, oh my, it's a part of the baby boy's body! How can you lop it off without discussing it with them! They have a right to their foreskin! The boy will grow up hating you if you do it! [continue handwringing]

Uh-huh. Yes, eversomany men are traumatized by their lack of foreskin, and have a deep and passionate hatred toward their parents for said foreskin's removal. Why, it's practically an epidemic problem!

What a load of hogwash.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:10 AM on August 20, 2002


In enlightened birth circles, the theory on this is that the pain is so extreme, and the baby so powerless, that when his cries are unheeded, the nervous system basically shuts down to a certain degree.

In other words, the body realizes that there's some extremely bad shit going on, and that by ceasing to cry, the child can at least save some energy that might make the difference between life and death.

It's sort of like going into shock, in other words. The system gets so incredibly overloaded with stress hormones and pain signals that it has to chill out for awhile.


I really don't know what a birth circle is, "enlightened" or not, but I defy you to scientifically document any of this horseshit.
posted by Skot at 10:16 AM on August 20, 2002


Jesus, so much for civil discourse. Here, again, is a well-researched article (with footnotes, even!) on the subject. An excerpt (the #s indicate footnotes):

Circumcision harms the developing brain: Recent studies published in leading medical journals have reported that circumcision has long-lasting detrimental effects on the developing brain,(36) adversely altering the brain's perception centers. Circumcised boys have a lower pain threshold than girls or intact boys.(37) Developmental neuropsychologist Dr. James Prescott suggests that circumcision can cause deeper and more disturbing levels of neurological damage, as well.(38,39)

Thanks, beth, for your posts here.
posted by whatnot at 11:13 AM on August 20, 2002


Jesus, so much for civil discourse.

Yes, I think it ended right around the time people started slinging around terms like "abuse" and "genital mutilation." Nice to know I was mutilated; I am now manufacturing the required amount of righteous horror, despite that all my cut male friends look at me quizzically.

The link you provide, whatnot, has some interesting points, but it is so shriekingly one-sided that I cannot take it seriously, especially when some of those lovely footnotes cite articles from the thirties, forties, fifties, sixties. My favorite is the German citation from 1893--I'll look that right up.

As I said earlier, I'm not really a zealot on this issue, but it's difficult to take the freakout going on about this without getting exasperated, hence my probably uncalled-for cry of "bullshit."
posted by Skot at 12:18 PM on August 20, 2002


beth: I was trained to deliever my son using the Bradley Method, one of the enlightened birth circle groups you mention. When I challenged some of the data to the instructor (privately, so as not to cause embarassment) she decided I was going to be a problem, and I wasn't involved in group discussion anymore. Odd that. Enlightened birth circles is a code phrase for the Moss Diaper crowd, as far as I'm concerned. If you want to be enlightened, learn basic statistical analysis and read some of these studies. You'll soon discover how a small sample group that happens to meet the needs of the researcher (or, one group of several that were indifferent) can be turned into a major issue. It's hogwash, and I'll keep believeing that until someone throws enough money at the research to generate something besides "slightly beneficial, no real harm from proper procedure".

As to the shock thing -- that's one guess, I suppose. Do you have any pointers to someone running an EEG to see what happens? I read several studies on baby pain (no, they didn't inflict pain - the babies had it anyway from surgery, birth complications, etc) which show that the brain doesn't shut down at pain -- it merely tries to categorize it. Now, there ARE reasonable studies that show nerves get tired after a while and stop listening to input (try staring at a wall and blinking to see the results of nerve fatigue first hand). But, if that's the case, what you're saying is that a circumcision is an extended pain episode.

Well, DUH. It's a surgical procedure leaving a scar. Nobody said it wouldn't be painful for a while. The tenderness in my son's legs from his last vaccination outlasted the pain he showed from his circumcision. And, he did react after the circumcision, much to the surprise of anyone swayed by the Enlightened Birth Circles who claim that a recently circumcised baby won't eat well, or even look at other people. Bunk. Babies don't eat and look dazed because of leftover episiotomy anesthetic in their blood (another common issue during the research period most cited).

rushmc: Actually, I am in favor of much religious tolerance, but there are issues, as you so subtly state, that cause the interest of the state to take precident. I have no problem with Christian Scientists not wanting vaccinations, so long as they understand that their infectuous kid won't get into the public schools with mine. I have no trouble with Scientologists trying to maintain intellectual property, where it is appropriate. I have no problem with voodoo animal sacrifice, in the context of the faith. This is their faith, and their business.

BUT....I don't believe children should be left to die for lack of medical care. I don't believe that intellectual property rights supercede right to free speech unabated by government interference. I don't think that ritual sacrifice should be done without regard to cleaning up the mess it might cause to others. And, at no time do I think a priest should molest anyone (which is both against the tenets of the faith, and illegal). Your decision to strawman wasn't unexpected, but I had hoped you'd be rational first.

beth, again: Yes, the Bible has contradictions. It should, considering how it was gathered. Where contradictions exist, I do my best to work through them to something rational and measured. If it required arm amputation to join the faith, I'd weigh that heavily against what I thought of the goal of the faith, and if it was what I wanted, I guess I'd be armless. You have to realize that you're talking about an arm versus a soul, in the context of the faith. If you believe, you have to ask yourself which is worth more -- quality of life, or quality of afterlife.

That's a difficult question. Perhaps it is therefore good, in light of the propensity of my loyal opposition here to go to extremes, to point out that the God of the Bible specifically wanted his children to enjoy the creation, and was quite put out when they took a path that lead to suffering instead. At least he worked to fix the problem, despite the best efforts of Paul and Augustine.

whatnot: Oh, yes. An unbiased article, which has the phrase "circumcision and other sexual mutilations" in the first paragraph. See, this is what I'm up against, in my research. And, yes, it was heavily footnoted, but to research much of which I investigated (trip to the library folks -- almost none of these are online). The studies are case, anatomy investigations, and small samples. The research is often dated (a mention of cancer research, as recent as 1998, is not recorded in favor of a report from 1973). In short, it's an incomplete, but nicely footnoted, article.

My favorite part is this: the procedure would have died out long ago, along with leeching, skull-drilling, and castration. Of course, anyone that can look up the JAMA, NEJM, and similar texts will find research on when castration can be effective, that leaching is becoming one of the best methods of restoring blood flow, and that drilling a skull to release pressure is preferable to complete removal of plates....

Again, I say, get some money, and settle the issue. I don't think that the scholarly journals of "Veterinary Pathology" and "Truth Seeker" (a publication of the Free Thought movement). I'll almost accept "Lancet" (not a peer review journal, but self described as a publication that provides "timely reviews of important findings in recent, indexed neurology literature"), but I'd be happer with JAMA and NEJM, cited for things beyond anatomy lessons. So, none of the things you nicely italicize have real peer-review research behind them, in the journals quoted. And, to make the point again, the cite to Dr. James Prescott above by whatnot is in the Truth Seeker Free Thought publication. You'd think such a powerful idea would be worthy of peer review.... unless it is just speculation or bunk.

Now, I'm enlightened. In time, perhaps research will be done, and I'll find that the REAL effect of circumcision is negative, instead of marginally positive or neutral. At that point I'm quite happy to state, for the record, my opposition. I'll even convince my circumcised son not to repeat the gesture with his children. But, not until.
posted by dwivian at 12:48 PM on August 20, 2002


This is their faith, and their business.

That is where we couldn't disagree more. People's rights to freely exercise their inner fantasies stop the moment they negatively impact others, be they a child rapist or a fundamentalist Christian (or both).

If it required arm amputation to join the faith, I'd weigh that heavily against what I thought of the goal of the faith, and if it was what I wanted, I guess I'd be armless.

Proof positive that you are insane, in my book. If you followed through on such an absurd and self-destructive behavior, which I am virtually certain that you would not.
posted by rushmc at 2:47 PM on August 20, 2002


a small sample group that happens to meet the needs of the researcher (or, one group of several that were indifferent) can be turned into a major issue

In my (on-going) attempts to investigate the truth of this matter to make a decision regarding my son, I have yet to find any article or, in fact, any information at all that even came close to being impartial. There are any number of Web sites that claim to have both sides of the argument represented, but the impartiality only lasts as far as the front page. When you start reading into the material presented, the bias becomes stronger and stronger and the factual information more and more scarce. The next stage is to visit the local library and look into material there, but I am not hopeful that the results will be any better.

I suspect that the reason there is such a dearth of factual material is that it is not considered very important by the scientific/medical fraternity and, therefore, does not warrant significant research. Those who consider it important and publish their opinions do not, in my view, have much credibility at all. I could just as easily seek out obscure, outdated "facts" and quote them in the right context to prove that circumcision is vital to the well-being of a male child, in the same way that most of the articles against circumcision have done. This thread has only served to sway me more towards circumcision, as the arguments against it are, in my opinion, very weak (as are some of those for it) and based at best on obscure urban legends. The biggest and most common argument seems to be that various medical bodies (some of whom I have never heard of and cannot find any real information on) do not recommend the procedure. In this day and age, to expect any medical body to recommend an elective procedure is a joke, as they cannot afford the potential legal exposure. What carries more weight in my opinion, is that there are no valid medical recommendations against circumcisions (that I have found yet).
posted by dg at 3:32 PM on August 20, 2002


rushmc: Usually I'm on the other side of this argument, being an agnostic who was raised Jewish and being generally opposed to allowing religious doctrine to intrude on the lives of those who don't subscribe to it.

However, I think this issue is more complicated. It's not enough to simply say that circumcision is mandated by an old book without modern cultural, moral, or scientific credibility.

Judaism is an odd religion; it's original (supposed) conception being based in it's anti-idolatry nature, there are few sacred objects, few rigorously-mandated prayer rituals that have survived to the present day. The circumcision is the one physical act that was clearly mandated from the beginning as being vital to the male Jewish identity.

And who knows, maybe it was intended, even then, to decrease, or increase, sensitivity in the penis. Maybe it was intended to make sex different. Intended by God, or man, or merely Abraham himself, or whomever, for some specific reason that has been lost to time. And maybe it should remain lost to time, but the fact that it hasn't been, when so many other traditions have, as one poster mentioned above, over some 4000 years, indicates that this specific tradition is deeply tied to the core of the religion itself. To ask people to discard it is to ask them to discard the core idea that Judaism is based on a covenant with God to begin with. And hey, maybe that should happen. But it won't happen from saying that it's irrational to do something just because an old book said so. After all, circumcising one's son is one of the only things that many modern Jews physically do just because the book said so. And about the arm amputation analogy...remember, the guy who was first to cut off his son's foreskin was also prepared to sacrifice him arbitrarily because it was commanded by God. Most modern Jewish men would never do such a thing, fortunately, but the point of the story (in modern interpretation anyway) is that they won't ever have to make that decision; Abraham did, and all we're asked to do is cut off foreskin. Now, I don't believe that God told Abraham to kill his son. But for those who do, or even think they do, or even think they probably should, cutting off their sons' foreskin seems like a small gesture to make to show their commitment. Jews are not going to stop circumcision until they no longer believe that they are the "chosen people." And maybe they should indeed let go of that belief, but the two are inextricably tied together.
posted by bingo at 4:29 PM on August 20, 2002


oh,boy. I resisted this thread as much as I could. What the hell *grabs caution. throws it out window*

I was circumcised in my early teens. I am one of those 1 of 100 cited above. My foreskin was not growing as fast as my penis and erections were becoming painful. After seeing a doctor, he advised circumcision.

I dont know how painful the actual procedure was because I chose to be aenesthetized through the whole thing (I had been advised to do so by the doctor who told me the pain would not be bearable.) I was not particularly eager to be awake while my penis was being operated on anyways.

I can tell you that, after waking up in the hospital bed, I found the pain to be *excruciating*. My first thought was that something had gone wrong with the operation. Looking down, my penis was a bandaged, bloody mess. I yelled for the nurse and begged her for some drugs. She assured me that this intense pain was the norm.

After a day in the hospital, the pain receded and I was able to go home while the stitches healed. The advice from my doctor was to avoid getting an erection. This led to a (now) funny incident with an ex-girlfriend showing up out of nowhere and deciding to be casually cruel (but thats another story for another time)

I had already begun an active sex life before the operation but I do not believe that I can make accurate comparisons of before and after. On the one hand, sex before included some of my first ever sexual experiences which are difficult to compare to any others. On the other hand, the previously unexposed part of my penis provided a renewed level of sensitivity. Whatever the change was, I did not feel that it was dramatic.

For a little while I did miss my foreskin because it was something that I had grown up with. It felt that I had somehow gotten my penis exchanged for someone else's - but this is just sentimentalism.

I am now the only circumcised member of my family. I see no reason to have children undergo the procedure nor really a compelling reason that they should not. I think both sides have overblown this issue.
posted by vacapinta at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2002


remember, the guy who was first to cut off his son's foreskin was also prepared to sacrifice him arbitrarily because it was commanded by God.

Precisely. Zero credibility.

I appreciate the thoughtful post, bingo, but I don't feel that you have in any way supported your contention that

It's not enough to simply say that circumcision is mandated by an old book without modern cultural, moral, or scientific credibility.

It seems to me quite enough indeed. The Christian missionaries in the South Pacific didn't accept claims that "free love" and cannibalism were integral components of those cultures' identities and worked diligently to wipe out the practices. If society acknowledges that religions are neither infallible nor inviolate and are subject to rational review and normative censure, then ritualistic maiming, without some sort of justifying medical rationale, certainly seems to fall within the scope of this mandate to safeguard all members of society and to legitimize traditional practices according to modern standards of safety and protection of the individual from the predatory or destructive practices of other groups or individuals.
posted by rushmc at 5:16 PM on August 20, 2002


previous threads. Surprised there aren't more.
posted by whatnot at 9:08 PM on August 20, 2002


Guess what? Jews do sex pretty well. Do families pretty well. Do society pretty well. And civilization pretty well. It's pretty idiotic to negate this reality with a few studies, opinion polls and New Age types who are uncomfortable with surgery.
posted by ParisParamus at 9:35 PM on August 20, 2002


Wow. This thread now almost as long as the original (slave) reparations thread. Desperately, I am trying to choke down "sins of the father" jokes.

Similarities in Attitudes and Misconceptions toward Infant Male Circumcision in North America and Ritual Female Genital Mutilation in Africa.
posted by Catch at 10:27 PM on August 20, 2002


So... I have seen arguments for and against and neither of them has been compelling enough to make me decide one way or another without doubt.

Does anyone have anything to add here?
posted by dg at 10:56 PM on August 20, 2002


dg: unfortunately not. The problem is, for all the passion on both sides -- the surgery is primarily cosmetic or ritualistic. The benefits are minimal, the negatives improbable (but probability has this way of generating events given a large enough sample), and the whole thing needs lots more funding to figure out what is right.

It's just the way of fence-arguments. Nobody will be convinced of either side. My whole point, as we went through, is that there is no good way to take a side. You have to go into it with the knowledge that you're on the fence, or you have an uncomfortable position. That's it.

I'll add one final thing, though -- if you elect to leave a son uncircumcised, please, PLEASE take the time to learn what to do, and more importantly what NOT to do, to help the boy learn cleanliness. There will come a time when he's going to have to learn to take care of a moving foreskin (usually in puberty) and it isn't easy to suddenly spring a talk about hygiene on a kid at that age who's never had to care before. Plan your course, so that he takes care of himself.

Of course, that advice is just good parenting advice for everyone with kids -- plan your talks, never lose that connection that lets you discuss issues and concerns, and treat them like thinking and reasonable people. I've got three -- 11, 3, and 3mo, and I can honestly say that my oldest girl is more comfortable with some discussions we've had than I ever expected she'd be. They want to learn to do things right, so don't forget to teach them.
posted by dwivian at 6:14 AM on August 21, 2002


dg, I think of it this way: Circumcision is an intentional act -- elective surgery -- and you should have a reason to do it. (Whereas I don't know if you really need a reason not to circumcise -- it's not an "option" but an out-of-the-box feature, so to speak.) I count two possible reasons for circumcision (three if Judaism is a consideration):

1. Sometimes foreskins cause problems; they grow too slowly in, apparently, 1 case out of 100, causing later-in-life circumcisions that are arguably more traumatic that at-birth snips. (Although, really, that 1% figure seems awfully high to me.) But there's not really a modern precedent for preventative surgery -- we don't remove tonsils anymore just for the same of removing them. In fact, consider that analogy: Suppose the doc said, "We should just remove his tonsils while he's here. He's so young that he'll heal really fast, and he doesn't have to worry about tonsilitis later." As a soon-to-be father, that would give me pause; I think I'd want my kid to ride it out. My tonsils have never given me a problem, and I don't want my kid to have unnecessary surgery, particularly if it's only to prevent something as minor as tonsilitis. (I would consider that an entirely different risk/reward balance than vaccinations; maybe you don't.) The same train of thought applies to the suggestion that foreskinned penises are better STD carriers -- the data's so slight that it looks more like noise than signal. (Also, anyone whose foreskin "fuses" to the penis must have hygiene issues.)

2. There's an anti-foreskin cultural stigma, at least here in the US. You want your son to look like you (assuming you're cut); you think those to whom he'll be sexually attracted will like the look of his penis better sans foreskin; you think he'll get bjs from fewer potential suppliers if he's got a foreskin. Whether there's an actual difference in sexual pleasure is entirely up in the air (although one poster has attested that, when comparing three-day sex benders she's enjoined with different participants, the cut ones chafed more readily and their scars broke -- food for thought, I guess). Or perhaps it's better to say there's no measurable difference in sexual pleasure, as the sensations of a later-in-life cut penis are probably not analogous to a cut-at-birth one, and so no one has a standard of comparison. (Perhaps, in the interests of science, someone should only have half of their foreskin removed.) But what it comes down to is no one, cut or uncut (except, I guess, the people behind this lawsuit), is complaining that they don't enjoy sex because of whether they have a foreskin. So what we're talking about, then, is cosmetic surgery -- improving your son's looks. If your son had a physical deformity that was correctable at birth through surgery, you would probably strongly consider having it done, but hopefully you don't consider the foreskin a deformity. This is a surgery, then, that's more than 99% cosmetic -- i.e. tailored for others' presumed preferences -- and maybe an analogy would be a reasonably safe (though not painless) surgical procedure to change his eye color? His skin color? Maybe there's not a good analogy. But we're not talking about something that's going to make him more sexually functional, or more receptive to pleasure. It's an aesthetic decision, and as demonstrated by the posters here, it's a split decision -- some prefer it uncut, some prefer it cut.

Neither of these arguments is compelling to me. Not cutting off a layer of skin on one of the most sensitive areas of my son's infant body? Considerably more compelling. I'm sure these arguments would mean more from someone who's circumcised -- as I observed earlier, no male poster here seems able to really separate himself from his own cut/uncut status, and my pro-intact stance makes me one of them -- but they also seem like pretty straightforward, or even self-evident, arguments. Why are you on-the-fence/pro? As you said yourself, there's a "dearth of factual material," but that particularly describes any demonstrable advantages to the procedure. [understatement] If anecdotal evidence helps you any, I enjoy sex quite a bit. [/understatement]
posted by blueshammer at 6:48 AM on August 21, 2002


if you elect to leave a son uncircumcised, please, PLEASE take the time to learn what to do, and more importantly what NOT to do, to help the boy learn cleanliness.

dwivian: Not to make light of your sincerely stated concern, and while it's true that the foreskin will trap secretions, what we're talking about here is nothing more rigorous than washing it -- using soap and water! -- when he showers. Assuming he showers daily, he should be more than fine. Anyone who thinks I'm wrong feel free to jump in, but if there's a period where his genital care requires more attention than that, it would be an abberant dermatological condition that probably warrants a doctor's visit (like any other abberant dermatological condition). Sorry to say that I don't really have any experience to bring to the table here.

(OK, I'm not really sorry.)
posted by blueshammer at 6:59 AM on August 21, 2002


blueshammer: well, from my reading, there was an indicated difference in pre-foreskin seperation and post, marked at puberty, for hygiene practice. Learning that smegma is lotion and not slime, for instance, is important. Keeping things clean so the smegma doesn't grow bad flora and fauna is important. All things that you're going to have to discuss with a kid who's 11+, and doesn't want to hear coming from this old guy who's so strange that he probably never even HAD sex...... *grin*
posted by dwivian at 7:02 AM on August 21, 2002


Come on, people! Five more comments and we outdistance the Slavery Reparations thread! We can do it!

Um.....let's see. How to jump-start this again....

Catch: that list you linked is cute -- My immediate thought was how easy it would be to create a similar "uncuts and how they are like the weirdos that oppose vaccinations", and I was up to seven entries, when I decided it wasn't worth my time. It's badly done, and intentionally inflammatory, but that's the point here -- this is a polarizing issue. I guess its the whole manhood thing, again.
posted by dwivian at 7:08 AM on August 21, 2002


I guess its the whole manhood thing, again.

You know, there's been a lot of tangential commentary about this point, but none directly: It must be hella tough to change the paternal lineage from cut to uncut, or from uncut to cut. I would the great, great majority of boys have their father's configuration, and that it's always been that way, such that to break from that would be a Kinda Big Deal. For semi-Oedipal reasons, too; if you've chosen to deviate from what was chosen for you, you've probably been convinced by a strong argument that the alternative is better, which dovetails into: My son will have a better penis than I did. Not that any dad would think that explicitly, or that dads would be so petty as to turn this into a grudge, but I bet the germ of that thought is a little synaptic roadblock -- subliminal, mostly unacknowledged -- when men try to make this decision about their sons.

I also wrote a lengthy bit on smegma, but determined it would do no one any good and deleted it. In short: When people think "smegma," they tend to think not of the lotion (which is desirable and mostly ever-present ) but of the accumulation of that lotion, which is described in every dictionary as "cheesy" and which is the main repository of funk. Daily showers -> no real accumulation.
posted by blueshammer at 7:59 AM on August 21, 2002


Yeah, blueshammer, but how do you get an 11 year old to take a daily shower and actually WASH?

I'd really like to know.....*arg*
posted by dwivian at 8:51 AM on August 21, 2002


I would the great, great majority of boys have their father's configuration, and that it's always been that way, such that to break from that would be a Kinda Big Deal.

Yeah, and I wondered about the whole "rite of passage" thing after I saw the guy videotaping his kid's circumcision. Kinda like "I did this, and now my son will too." It's the "... and now we can watch it over and over again through the magic of videotape" that kind of freaked me out.
posted by whatnot at 8:54 AM on August 21, 2002


Yeah, blueshammer, but how do you get an 11 year old to take a daily shower and actually WASH?

I'd really like to know.....*arg*


(laughing) OK, point taken. I'm afraid I don't have an answer; ask in 11 years.
posted by blueshammer at 8:57 AM on August 21, 2002


no male poster here seems able to really separate himself from his own cut/uncut status

I'm cut. Had I a son, he'd be uncut.

I don't think circumcision is necessary. I don't think the uncircumcised are going to be tormented in the school gym. I don't think he's going to freak at having a foreskin when I don't. I don't think it'll pose a cleanliness problem. I don't think the risk of a tight foreskin is worth the preventative measure.

And that said, I wouldn't say anything bad about someone who did choose to circumcise their son. I don't think it makes one iota of difference to the quality of life. No difference at all.

It's about as big a deal as getting one's ears pierced.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:37 AM on August 21, 2002


You'd let someone get their ears pierced, FFF? What kind of barbarian are you? Don't you know the risk of infection, the build up of scar tissue, and the loss of sensitivity that such an uncivilized act can cause?

Next thing you know you'll be discussing tattoos and Abraham....

In lighter news -- Look out! I've got a foreskin and I'm not afraid to use it!
posted by dwivian at 10:10 AM on August 21, 2002


I was trained to deliever my son using the Bradley Method, one of the enlightened birth circle groups you mention.

Gee, so was I. I had a Bradley-esque birth with no meds and no I.V., just as I wanted. I was lucky, as this is extremely rare in a hospital.

When I challenged some of the data to the instructor (privately, so as not to cause embarassment) she decided I was going to be a problem, and I wasn't involved in group discussion anymore.

That sucks - sounds like your instructor was a dingus. I had a great instructor who really knew her info, who probably would have welcomed your questions.

Unfortunate that you feel the need to paint the whole enlightened birth movement as worthless because of one teacher's lack of willingness to discuss one issue with you.

As for foreskins, some people don't realize this but on babies, they don't retract all the way - they're not supposed to. They become fully retractable as the boy gets older (as long as everything is progressing normally).

To avoid tightness problems and so on, boys should be taught about their penises and encouraged to speak up if something seems wrong or painful in any way. Then the parents should be respectful and discreet about consulting a doctor who can help with the situation. Perhaps surgery could even be avoided in some cases, or limited to a partial circumcision if required. Keep in mind not many doctors know (or care) that much about intact penises in this culture, so it might be worthwhile to seek out a specialist.

How to make sure a kid keeps his penis clean? Tell him the truth about the consequences: from what I know yeast infections can be pretty awful, and I wouldn't be surprised if urinary tract infections can get started that way, too.

If you look on the net, you might be able to find pictures of infected penises to scare the truly recalcitrant with, but it's unlikely you'd have to really call out the big guns. My guess is that if it's pathologically dirty, he'll feel itchy or annoyed or painful, and get the picture pretty quickly.
posted by beth at 12:07 PM on August 21, 2002


Babies don't eat and look dazed because of leftover episiotomy anesthetic in their blood (another common issue during the research period most cited).

Episiotomy? Um, the traditional anesthesia for that is nothing or injected novacaine. I have never heard of anyone suggesting that this gets to the baby, especially since it's injected into the mother's tissues, not her bloodstream, and it happens right before the baby is born.

Now epidurals are another story. The heavy opiates that these involve are on a steady drip into the mother's spine typically for hours on end, and these do affect babies.

Plus the labor's longer, moms are likely to get a fever, edema (which impedes breastfeeding), have difficulty pushing, and other unsavory sequelae.
posted by beth at 12:12 PM on August 21, 2002


beth: you got me on that one. Too many e words, and not enough memory. I had enough to focus on keeping my lovely lady relaxed while the doctor failed to show up on time. Bradley taught me how to catch, too, so I got to be the first to hold my boy. Kinda neat, if he was covered in vernex....
posted by dwivian at 12:22 PM on August 21, 2002


beth: oh, and it isn't a single incident that caused me to paint the enlightened birth crowd with the moss diaper brush. It was two Bradley classes, a friend that was learning to be an instructor, and several issues. After a while I realized I needed to just listen, get the USEFUL information, and toss the hype and bad science out (while keeping both baby and bathwater). It took much more reading than I wanted, but I knew that was necessary to give my wife the best birth experience possible.

Unmedicated deliveries are cool, and I don't even mind vernex in my beard.
posted by dwivian at 12:26 PM on August 21, 2002


Thanks, skot. Hope this annoys some of you
posted by ParisParamus at 12:38 PM on August 21, 2002


OK, some good points there and some food for thought. The 1% risk of complications from not having the procedure is a pretty high risk, in my opinion and, when added to the fact that the procedure for an adolescent or adult is much more painful, I am still leaning towards circumcision.

I cannot find many reliable statistics on complications from circumcision and this is the all-important other side of the argument. In fact, reliable information at all on this subject is extremely scarce. Web sites of organisations set up to oppose the procedure seem to be the most common source of information and they are generally very obviously biased, making their information worse than useless in my view.

I did find some information at the Web site of AAFP, which seems to be the closest so far to being impartial. Unfortunately, it is also inconclusive.

The University of Washington's site has a brief report on a study that concludes ... one in 500 circumcised children may suffer a complication, and one in 100 children may derive a benefit. But people will weigh that differently. However, the vast majority of children will gain no medical benefit nor suffer any complication as a result of circumcision. Again, inconclusive.

The AAP has a page on their site that, while also generally inconclusive, provides some idea of the possible complications - Medical reports suggest that the complication rate is between 0.2 and 0.6%, and that most of these complications are minor.

It appears that there is sufficient medical evidence to support either side of the argument and that the decision is a personal one to be made by the parents. The only hard evidence for either side is that there seems to be a clear link between circumcision and a reduction in urinary tract infection, with as many as 95% of infants with UTIs being uncircumcised. The low incidence of these generally, as well as a similar reduction in the risk of penile cancer are so small, however, that they are not a reason in themselves to decide either way.
posted by dg at 4:19 PM on August 21, 2002


I cannot find many reliable statistics on complications from circumcision and this is the all-important other side of the argument. In fact, reliable information at all on this subject is extremely scarce. Web sites of organisations set up to oppose the procedure seem to be the most common source of information and they are generally very obviously biased, making their information worse than useless in my view.

How about talking to a doctor/surgeon who has performed these operations? For these kinds of things, dg, perhaps the Internet is not the best source.
posted by vacapinta at 4:24 PM on August 21, 2002


dwivian: i thought it was made clear early in the thread that we weren't discussing circumcision for religious reasons. my post doesn't take them into consideration.
posted by dobbs at 4:43 PM on August 21, 2002


For these kinds of things, dg, perhaps the Internet is not the best source.

What? The Internet is not the best source for something? Wash your mouth out!. Seriously, I have come to the same conclusion and will be speaking to my GP as a first point of contact. This discussion has given a lot of food for thought, though and all comments are appreciated.
posted by dg at 6:04 PM on August 21, 2002


dobbs: we agreed to look at the procedure from an independent perspective, but you said that anyone that considered circumcision ought to "have their head examined." As the rite is a central part of Judaism and Islam, it is a very callous remark. There are much better, and less inflamatory, ways to make your point without causing offense.

From my research, I have to disagree that the desire for circumcision is somehow the result of some mental defect. It seems to be normal to certain cultures, and as a statistically benign procedure is not a reasonable focus for derision, outside an anti-culturegroup bias.
posted by dwivian at 6:58 PM on August 21, 2002


dg, for what it's worth, our sons' pediatricians have stopped performing circumcisions entirely. At first I thought "how progressive," but now it occurs to me that they may be dodging liability in the wake of lawsuits like the one at the beginning of this thread.

waaaaaay up there. heh.
posted by whatnot at 9:05 PM on August 21, 2002


rushmc: The Christian missionaries in the South Pacific didn't accept claims that "free love" and cannibalism were integral components of those cultures' identities and worked diligently to wipe out the practices.

I'm honestly not sure what the analogy you're going for is here. Are you saying the missionaries were right?


If society acknowledges that religions are neither infallible nor inviolate and are subject to rational review and normative censure, then ritualistic maiming, without some sort of justifying medical rationale, certainly seems to fall within the scope of this mandate to safeguard all members of society and to legitimize traditional practices according to modern standards of safety and protection of the individual from the predatory or destructive practices of other groups or individuals.

Yeah, but while circumcision may be unnecessary, I hardly think it falls under the heading of "predatory or destructive." I think "ritualistic maiming" is a bit of a stretch, too.

blueshammer: My son will have a better penis than I did.

Honestly, if this happens, more power to my son. I'm happy with mine, but I'm not one to stand in the way of innovation. I also hope that if I do have a son, he makes more money than I do, grows taller than me, and surpasses me in every other way he can.
posted by bingo at 3:00 AM on August 22, 2002


bingo: So do I, of course, of course, and so, I would hope, would every father. But there are those whose love for their kids is more vicarious than unconditional, yes, and whose measurement of their children's success is contingent on their, not their kids', standards? That was the mentality that I was referring to, I think, although the original statement wasn't so much an accusation as an unstoppered train of thought.
posted by blueshammer at 6:13 AM on August 22, 2002


I'm honestly not sure what the analogy you're going for is here. Are you saying the missionaries were right?

Not that they were right, but that they acted as society's moral agents (reflecting society's current morality). Do you honestly think that if an isolated society were discovered somewhere in the world today that practiced cannibalism that it would be tolerated? Therefore the claim that a culture's practices, traditions or rituals which can be proven harmful to individuals or the society need always be tolerated and accepted simply does not reflect the reality of the world, nor would most of us wish it to.

I think "ritualistic maiming" is a bit of a stretch, too.

If having one's penis sliced up, scarred and disfigured doesn't constitute maiming, I have a hard time imagining what does. If our noses received the same treatment, few would argue the point. While I have no personal stake in decrying the practice (the choice having been made for me as an infant, and not having any sons to choose for), I do believe in acknowledging the reality of a thing when discussing it. I think that any medical procedure which can be demonstrated to be ineffectual constitutes abuse and should be abandoned, and only a sound medical justification would be acceptable here, as the social ones can be more easily and ethically addressed through non-surgical means.
posted by rushmc at 8:02 AM on August 22, 2002


dg: as there is no medical benefit, your only reasons for choosing circumcision will be religious or social. I suggest the former may be cause enough to choose it; the latter is not sufficient cause. IMO.

My son will have a better penis than I did.

Better? ?!? How do you even begin to quantify that? Unless your willy is an inch-long tadger that can't satisfy your woman, I can't imagine how there's any "better" or "worse" to a penis.

I'm starting to believe that some men identify their self-worth far, far too much with their penis.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:39 AM on August 22, 2002


3f: Oh, goodness gracious. This is my last comment on the matter; I feel I have to clarify myself because comments about my earlier comment have missed what I was getting at.

First: Following the line you quote, I said:

Not that any dad would think that explicitly, or that dads would be so petty as to turn this into a grudge, but I bet the germ of that thought is a little synaptic roadblock -- subliminal, mostly unacknowledged -- when men try to make this decision about their sons.

And even in that couched phrasing, perhaps "bet" was too strong a term -- "wonder" may have been better -- but I was noticing posters' near-uniform allegiance to passing on their "configuration" to their sons, which suggested to me a certain "if it was good enough for me ..." mentality that you sometimes find in parents. And so then, thunk I, what would be the flipside of that? If you were able to mount a very strong argument to, say, an uncut father with a pending newborn that cut was much better (as in, "was demonstrably more preferable" -- transmitted more pleasure, attracted more mates, whatever, although I think we all agree by now that this has not been demonstrated) than uncut, how would that father respond? Reasonably/paternally/lovingly, like bingo (I'm not one to stand in the way of innovation.)? Or would the weight of tradition carry the day despite "convincing evidence" (which, again, we've all determined can't be found)? The people for whom it might would probably be those who, in line with your comment, identify their self-worth far, far too much with their penis. Which was the same point I was trying to make.
posted by blueshammer at 10:31 AM on August 22, 2002


rushmc: Not that they were right, but that they acted as society's moral agents (reflecting society's current morality).

I really see this in a much different way than you do. The missionaries were the ones enforcing their religious beliefs on those who did not want them. Your use of "society" is inclusive of western, Judeo-Christian societies, far away from the people you're talking about.

Do you honestly think that if an isolated society were discovered somewhere in the world today that practiced cannibalism that it would be tolerated?

No, but I think that it should be.

Therefore the claim that a culture's practices, traditions or rituals which can be proven harmful to individuals or the society need always be tolerated and accepted simply does not reflect the reality of the world, nor would most of us wish it to.

And yet, the "reality of the world" is that there are many people out there who disagree with a moral perspective you and I might share. I think there's a difference between the obligation to "tolerate and accept" practices committed toward a culture with a different system of beliefs, and the obligation to "tolerate and accept" the practices of a society that is not trying to impose its will on societies with different values.

If having one's penis sliced up, scarred and disfigured doesn't constitute maiming, I have a hard time imagining what does. If our noses received the same treatment, few would argue the point.

Please. I think you're baiting just a bit here. "Sliced up" is simply not accurate. A single piece of skin is cut off. It's absence does not impair the use of the organ, which remains largely intact. "Scarred?" Honestly, if I have scars from my circumcision, I can't see them. "Disfigured"? This assumes an aesthetic standard that many don't share. And it's not possible for noses to receive the same treatment. What part of the nose is the equivalent of the foreskin? Yes, few would want to alter their children's noses at birth, since a) noses are generally on public display, and penises generally aren't, and b) there is no millenia-old tradition of altering one's nose that is directly tied to the seminal idea of a major religion.

I think that any medical procedure which can be demonstrated to be ineffectual constitutes abuse and should be abandoned,

Your use of "ineffectual" suggests that there is some effect that is not being achieved. What is it? The idea is to remove the foreskin. The procedure works.
posted by bingo at 7:08 PM on August 22, 2002


I've read this thread a couple of times. I've even had fantasy conversations between pro-c-me and anti-c-me. Outloud. Many times. Sometimes it scares people. And I'm also slightly drunk right now.

But, scanning the thread once again, I've yet to see a justification for parents being allowed to authorize body modification such as circumcision (or a prince albert, buttercfly, avulsion, etc) for their baby. Their baby being a completely different person with completely different body-parts. Imagine the parents of a 16 year old boy (under the age of majority... independance) saying he's going to be circumcised, if he wants it or not. Does the 16yo have a say? If so, why doesn't the 2 day old have a say?

Why should a parent be allowed to decide this for a boy, without his consent? Are religious reasons appropriate? I'm sure I don't want to get involved in a discussion about religion... but... if I decided to convert to judaism as an adult, I don't have to have been circumcised since the age of eight days. If a wannabe-convert with a foreskin decides to join the ranks of The Chosen, he gets himself circumcised and does whatever else he needs to join. Why should the respect for a human's choice be any different for a boy born into a certain religion?

Boys should have a choice on what body parts are avulsed. People have said that 1% of men who haven't been circumcised experience complications that require surgery. Is that a reason to circumcise them all? Any more a reason to put in a pacemaker in every baby's heart, considering the majority of men who experience heart disease later in life?

I hope this doesn't sound too stupid.
posted by stavrogin at 9:43 PM on August 22, 2002


From what I've read, it seems like at least 1% of uncircumcised men also experience complications.

If a Jewish boy waits until he's 18 to be circumcised, he's missed his puberty bar-mitzvah ritual already.
posted by bingo at 2:31 AM on August 23, 2002


Why should a parent be allowed to decide this for a boy, without his consent?

Because it simply is not a big deal. Honestly.

The men out there who are whinging on about their "loss" are fruitcakes who, had they not been circumcised, would have found some other trivial excuse to hate their parents.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:35 AM on August 23, 2002


Because it simply is not a big deal. Honestly.

To YOU. But someday you may realize that others can feel differently about things than you do. And that that's okay.
posted by rushmc at 3:28 PM on August 23, 2002


But, rushmc, the point is, if you get all caught up over a lost experience, and blame your parents for it.... why stop at a circumcision? Why not sue them for failing to put you in a superior private school? Or, sue them for failure to save enough for an Ivy League school? Or sue them for not giving you enough money to rent the stretch Kia for the prom? Or sue you for not having your room painted blue with fluffy clouds, or black with stars, or whatever else might have motivated you to have friends over enough to develop social skills earlier, and thus have a superior highschool, college, and professional experience?

The fact is, parents have to decide for their kids on far too many issues, and many are merely matters of culture, ritual, or aesthetics. The issue of circumcision has been shown here to be one that sits the fence rather well. The most important thing is merely this -- circumcision is not a medical procedure as much as a body-modification. Medical reasons for or against won't ever matter to adherents and opponents. Some thing they won't change themselves, others know they will. I know people who got their kids ears pierced before she was one month old. I know others that won't let any girl in their house get pierced. That's just the way of it.
posted by dwivian at 6:06 PM on August 23, 2002


bingo: If a Jewish boy waits until he's 18 to be circumcised, he's missed his puberty bar-mitzvah ritual already.

His parents could sit him down when he's thirteen and tell him 'son, if you want to be a jew like the rest of your family and get lots of bar mitzvah presents, you're gonna have to get circumcised.'. Around that age, he should be able to give educated consent. An 8 day old baby can't give such consent.

five fresh fish: Because it simply is not a big deal. Honestly. The men ... hate their parents.

I'm not talking about whether or not it's a big deal, but whether or not the parents should have the legal right to authorize unnessecary cosmetic surgery on their child without his consent. A cleft lip or suchlike congenital defects easily corrected with surgery, notwithstanding.
posted by stavrogin at 6:58 PM on August 24, 2002


stavrogin: Why make that exception? As you say, it's merely unnecessary cosmetic surgery....
posted by dwivian at 8:32 PM on August 24, 2002


Parents have the legal right to do any number of unnecessary things to and with their kids, stav. What's the big deal about circumcision?

rushmc: It should be a big deal to absolutely no one whether I circumcise my son or not, just as no one will ever be concerned should I get my baby daughter's ears pierced.

There are a very few men who suffer because the circumcision was botched, and who have a justified case against a doctor.

The rest of those adult men who are in such turmoil over the "mutilation" of their penis -- a perfectly normal and well-functioning circumcision -- are desperately looking for someone to blame for their social/emotional problems. If it weren't for their penises, they'd have to blame mommy for putting them into scouts, or not letting them be a scout, or some other such blither.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:29 PM on August 24, 2002


... desperately looking for someone to blame for their social/emotional problems ...

There in a few words is the root of a large proportion of cases that end up in courtrooms, in my opinion. If people could accept responsibility for their own lives more and do something about those areas that they are not happy with instead of looking for someone to blame for every issue they have, the world would be a better place.
posted by dg at 7:40 PM on August 25, 2002


stavrogin: His parents could sit him down when he's thirteen and tell him 'son, if you want to be a jew like the rest of your family and get lots of bar mitzvah presents, you're gonna have to get circumcised.'. Around that age, he should be able to give educated consent. An 8 day old baby can't give such consent.

That's very funny. You left out the part where he prepares for the bar mitzvah by going to Sunday school until he's eight, then Hebrew school three days a week until he's twelve. I prepared for my own ceremony for about a year, learning how to sing the haftorah and the designated torah portions with the appropriate tropes, and that was after I already knew the Hebrew alphabet and had most of the prayers memorized. All the while, your hypothetical privileged child is being taught that Judaism effectively began when Abraham circumcised himself, and that circumcision is the basis of the covenant with God that set the Hebrews apart from other peoples to begin with. Beyond that, Hebrew school is mainly about reinforcing the importance of Jewish tradition in general, and convincing the kids that they have inherited something significant, whether they wanted to or not. And so, again, circumcision is tied inextricably to the religion itself.
posted by bingo at 4:08 AM on August 26, 2002


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