Circumcision

Any time male circumcision is discussed, people can usually be described in one of three ways: 1) those who have had it done and thus favor it. 2) those who have not had it done and thus do not favor it. 3) Women. This third category doesn’t have any significant, inherent bias that can be easily detected (at least by me). That notion is true for Christiane Northrup and her anti-circumcision article.

Believe it or not, circumcision was introduced in English-speaking countries in the late 1800s to control or prevent masturbation, similar to the way that female circumcision–the removal of the clitoris and labia–was promoted and continues to be advocated in some Muslim and African countries to control women’s sexuality. [1]

Routine female circumcision, which has been practiced in some cultures, is completely unacceptable. Few people would argue otherwise. In fact, the United Nations has issued a decree against it. Circumcision is a form of sexual abuse whether it’s done to girls or boys.

I never like this tactic. Northrup first mentions female circumcision and does so relevantly – circumcision has been used as a tool to control sexuality. But then she goes on about it in the next paragraph, quickly trying to draw a connection between it and male circumcision. These are two entirely different things. One is violent, messy, often comes with complications, and is emotionally scarring in most instances. Who can guess which one I just described?

We justify male infant circumcision by pretending that the babies don’t feel it because they’re too young and it will have no consequences when they are older. This is not true. Women who experience memories of abuse in childhood know how deeply and painfully early experiences leave their marks in the body. Why wouldn’t the same thing apply to boys?

What does “abuse” mean in this context? While the article is generally well written, this paragraph is a bit of a mish-mash. Northrup tries equating female and male circumcision, goes on about pain, and throws in abuse, undefined. If female circumcision is meant here, it’s quite odd since Northrup talks about childhood trauma. If female circumcision isn’t meant here, then abuse first needs to be defined, then Northrup needs to explain why she is equating what happens to an infant to what happens to older children; one will remember the event – a key aspect in what defines “traumatic”.

In medical school, I was taught that babies couldn’t feel when they were born and therefore wouldn’t feel their circumcision. Why was it, then, that when I strapped their little arms and legs down on the board (called a “circumstraint”), they were often perfectly calm; then when I started cutting their foreskin, they screamed loudly, with cries that broke my heart? For years, in some hospitals, surgery on infants has been carried out without anesthesia because of this misconception!

The “pain argument” is often used by anti-circumcision advocates. That’s seemingly fair enough, especially coming from someone qualified like Northrup (who is an M.D.), but she quickly undermines the argument by pointing out the use of anesthetic. If hospitals are now using them, then there is virtually no pain, right? So…argument defeated?

But these are justifications that science has been unable to support. Nor is there any scientific proof that circumcision prevents sexually transmitted diseases.

This includes the recent studies done in Kenya, South Africa, and Uganda by Ronald H. Gray, a professor at Johns Hopkins University. He recently reported that men who were circumcised were less likely by half to contract HIV virus and less likely by one-third to become infected with HPV and herpes. [2]

While this sounds promising, I agree with my colleague George Denniston, M.D., who said, “The United States has high rates of HIV and the highest rate of circumcision in the West. The “experiment” of using circumcision to stem HIV infection has been running here for decades. It has failed miserably. Why do countries such as New Zealand, where they abandoned infant circumcision 50 years ago, or European countries, where circumcision is rare, have such low rates of HIV?”

When I first read this article, I had no knowledge of the author or anything of that nature. Upon reading the above excerpt, I assumed the person was a journalist or a passionate advocate, but not a doctor.

The evidence continues to mount that HIV transmission is reduced with circumcised penises during penile-vaginal intercourse. A number of studies have supported this. It’s surprising enough that Northrup disagrees on the point, but what really raises an eyebrow is her quote of George Denniston. Yes, the U.S. has a relatively high rate of HIV and yes, many in the U.S. are circumcised. So what? Where’s the evidence? Right now I see a broad correlation: the U.S. has a lot of two things. Okay, that’s great, but are there studies showing that HIV transmission is no different in circumcised versus uncircumcised men? Could other factors be at play? Given that the HIV prevention studies are based upon vaginal sex, could the higher acceptance of homosexuality be a contributing factor in the U.S. versus poorly developed, less accepting nations? What about number of partners? Do Americans tend to have more partners than others? There just needs to be more than a simple correlation.

Similarly, one of the main reasons people choose to have their child circumcised is they believe that it’s nearly impossible to keep an uncircumcised penis clean. This also isn’t true.

The best I have for the U.S. is a simple anecdote of a friend who got a circumcision at age 22 due to recurrent infections, and this was despite reportedly vigilant cleaning. Of course, on the whole, Northrup is right; it isn’t that hard to clean basically any part of the body, including the foreskin area. But one important caveat: for the West. Developed nations have constant access to showers and baths. Poorer nations where HIV is rampant are not always so high on hygiene. While cleaning is possible, the reality is that it may not always happen. That can be remedied, but I personally have to favor circumcision over a long and constant hygiene education program.

The next part of Northrup’s argument is titled “Religious Reasons”, but instead of really giving any or arguing against them, she describes how one religion does it and then concludes,

This allows the parents to practice their faith and adhere to tradition while protecting their child from a painful, medically-unnecessary procedure. This is far superior to what baby boys are subjected to in most hospitals. I know. I’ve done hundreds of circumcisions personally.

Again, the “pain argument” seems to be undermined.

Circumcision also has profound implications for male sexuality.

No. The evidence is weak, subjective, inconclusive, and extremely difficult to compare.

It would seem that a far better argument for the anti-circumcision crowd would be to just put the onus on the pro-circumcision crowd. Why do it at all? Here are basically the only real arguments.

1) Religion. This one sucks because all religions hold many falsehoods, tend to be based upon falsehoods, and do not offer actual arguments, only decrees and dogmas.

2) Tradition. So what? Circumcision is a non-moment in a baby’s life; he won’t remember it. The only way out of this is to say it’s a moment for a family. That might be true for Jews and some other religious groups (which aren’t merely doing it out of tradition, but religion, obviously), but it hardly seems to be the secular norm. And do families ever celebrate circumcisions later in life? What good comes out of this? There seems to be no point, no benefit from this reason.

3) Aesthetics. This is highly subjective, but more than a few accounts enthusiastically describe uncircumcised penises in negative terms. This is likely also true of circumcised penises, but would seem to be less so. This argument holds more water in countries where circumcision has become the norm.

The first two arguments are weak and dismissible. The third offers the most strength, I think. There seems to be no harm and it looks better by many standards. At the very least, this is a good argument against the level of vociferous opposition.

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35 Responses

  1. “The best I have for the U.S. is a simple anecdote of a friend who got a circumcision at age 22 due to recurrent infections, and this was despite reportedly vigilant cleaning.”

    Unfortunately, because the US has a circumcising culture, very few understand how to care for an intact penis. “Diligent cleaning” most likely was the cause of your friend’s problems. There is a study that shows that washing under the foreskin with soap is a cause of recurrent balanitis. The inner foreskin and glans are mucous membranes. Soap harms the mucosal tissue and creates problems. To properly clean a foreskin, all that needs to be done is retract, rinse, return. It works for me and for millions of intact men.

  2. I believe that to alter a newborn male infant genitals without an immediate medical reason is abuse – and is an act of violence against that innocent infant. Let him grow up and decide for himself, whether he wants to be altered.

  3. To me the big argument against circumcision is simply that all cosmetic surgery should be done with the consent of the person receiving it. A baby can’t consent to circumcision any more than they could consent to getting a tattoo, or any other more-or-less permanent alteration to their body.

    If they want to get circumcised when they’re older — for whatever reason — then that’s up to them, but it should be their decision.

    The female genital mutilation carried out in some countries is of course very different, but male circumcision is comparable to cosmetic labiaplasty. Adult women choosing to alter their genital aesthetics is one thing, but would anyone support a parent who wanted that surgery for their child?

  4. What Dave said.

    BTW, there’s a few missing categories. I was circumsized, and I don’t agree with circumcision.

  5. And… the argument regarding HIV transmission. Perhaps she’s not arguing that it doesn’t help, just that it hasn’t made a significant impact in stopping AIDS, or at the very least, definitely isn’t enough on its own. I don’t care if you’re circumsized or not, you need to use a condom if you and your partner haven’t been tested.

  6. Err, rather, perhaps that is a legitimate argument, even if it’s not the one she’s trying to make.

  7. Yes, I considered mentioning this category for the sake of being precise, but felt it hurt the flow of the post. Thus “usually” had to do.

  8. Yes, condoms are the most effective, most practical tool against the spread of HIV. I didn’t mean to imply that circumcision is in any way a substitute for such common sense.

  9. I don’t really buy into the aesthetics argument either, it’s just a bit too circular; something the majority have done looks better by the standards of said majority? A bit weak.

  10. There are lots of circumcised men who are against circumcision. You can find all these medical society quotes at their own websites:

    Canadian Paediatric Society
    “Recommendation: Circumcision of newborns should not be routinely performed.”
    “Circumcision is a ‘non-therapeutic’ procedure, which means it is not medically necessary.”
    “After reviewing the scientific evidence for and against circumcision, the CPS does not recommend routine circumcision for newborn boys. Many paediatricians no longer perform circumcisions.”

    Royal Australasian College of Physicians
    “After extensive review of the literature, the Paediatrics & Child Health Division of the Royal Australasian College of Physicians has concluded that there is no medical reason for routine newborn male circumcision.”
    (almost all the men responsible for this statement will be circumcised themselves, as the male circumcision rate in Australia in 1950 was about 90%. “Routine” circumcision is now *banned* in public hospitals in Australia in all states except one.)

    British Medical Association
    “to circumcise for therapeutic reasons where medical research has shown other techniques to be at least as effective and less invasive would be unethical and inappropriate.”

    Female and male circumcision are more comparable than some people think. Firstly, in countries where female circumcision is done under unhygienic conditions, male circumcision is too (broken glass, no anaesthesia, etc). Many boys die each year in Africa from tribal circumcisions – 79 young men died last year in just one province of South Africa. In some countries though female circumcision only involves the removal of the clitoral hood – the anatomical equivalent of the foreskin – and is done to babies in sterile conditions, even with pain relief. Check out how it’s done in Egypt, Malysia or Brunei, for example. Circumcised women choose to have their daughters circumcised, citing how it’s cleaner, good sexually, reduces secretions and smegma and is generally hygienic, and also mentioning studies showing circumcised women have lower infection rates. Basically the same reasons that people use to defend male circumcision. It’s just a cultural difference.

    Circumcision is a dangerous distraction in the fight against AIDS. There are six African countries where men are *more* likely to be HIV+ if they’ve been circumcised: Cameroon, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, Rwanda, and Swaziland. Eg in Malawi, the HIV rate is 13.2% among circumcised men, but only 9.5% among intact men. In Rwanda, the HIV rate is 3.5% among circumcised men, but only 2.1% among intact men. If circumcision really worked against AIDS, this just wouldn’t happen. We now have people calling circumcision a “vaccine” or “invisible condom”, and viewing circumcision as an alternative to condoms. The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups “believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms”.

    The one randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw.

    ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery will cost lives, not save them.

  11. What, precisely, is “scientific” about amputating healthy tissue from an unconsenting person for “aesthetic” reasons? Maybe I missed something here. This blog was clearly written by a circumcised male who has a vested interest in justifying what was done to him.

  12. When are American doctors going to find the moral courage to end the practice of non-religious, non-therapeutic circumcision of baby boys in this country?

    Medical doctors introduced the practice of non-religious male circumcision in the United States and medical doctors promoted it for decades. It is past time for the current generation of the medical professionals to end an unnecessary and harmful practice that their colleagues introduced and promoted.

    The fact that Jewish and Muslim parents believe that male circumcision is a religious requirement is not a sufficiently good reason for American doctors to tolerate medically unnecessary genital surgery on non-Jewish and non-Muslim baby boys.

  13. I’ve been told that there is no requirement in the Koran to circumcise males. Circumcision existed in some Arab countries long before the Koran. Actually, it was used as a coming out or transition from boyhood to adulthood.

  14. I think what’s considered ‘the norm’ tends to also be what’s considered aesthetically pleasing. And that obviously means uncircumcised penises could become more aesthetically pleasing in the U.S.

  15. The state of my foreskin isn’t relevant in my argument, but you’re welcome to believe otherwise. However, I did not argue that there is scientific value in doing something for aesthetic reasons.

  16. Thanks, Michael, this is thoughtful and balanced, but you’ve missed a few points:

    “The evidence continues to mount that HIV transmission is reduced with circumcised penises during penile-vaginal intercourse.”
    It doesn’t “continue to mount”. Not long before the three trials came out, a Cochrane review found the evidence to date was inconclusive. Another afterwards was convinced, but there are several issues with those trials, such as “attrition bias”. 5,400 HIV- men were circumcised in total and a similar number (the control group) left intact. After less than two years (all the trials were cut short), 64 circumcised men had HIV and 132 controls. The difference, 73 circumcised men without HIV is the total effect on which is based claims like “millions will be saved”. Yet 327 circumcised men dropped out (attritiion), their HIV status unknown, and rather more intact men. They were encouraged to be HIV-tested at nearby clinics, but if circumcised men were more likely to lose interest in the trials on finding themselves HIV+, that could easily bias the outcome.

    The researchers and the subjects (all volunteers for circumcision, sooner or later) all wanted circumcision to be preventative, and the trials were not, of course double-blinded or placebo-controlled, so subject to experimenter and experimentee effects.

    Randomisation of subjects was the only control for number of partners, HIV status of those partners, number of acts of intercourse, exposure to non-heterosexual or non-sexual transmission, and it was assumed without evidence that circumcision, painful and memorable as it is, had no effect on any of those factors.

    The whole of the recent flurry of pro-circumcision studies has been generated by a small core of interconnected researchrs, several of whose interest in circumcision is other than scientific.

    Anaesthetic does nothing for post-operative pain, which is renewed every time urine gets in the wound for a week or two until it is healed. Taddio et al. found circumcised babies reacted differently to the pain of vaccination, months after the operation.

    As for sex, the prima facie case is strong that a richly innervated, uniquely structured moving part, strategically placed at the distal end of the penis where it can receive maximum stimulation, is important. The onus is on those who would remove it to show that it is not. So far we have only had studies like that of the amateurs Masters & Johnson, who never mentioned the foreskin in their discussion of penile anatomy, and didn’t consider the foreskin itself in their undocumented, unreviewed, non-sexual experiment, trumpetted ever since as showing that “circumciision has no effect on sexual function.” Those since are little better. The one that did consider the foreskin, Sorrells et al, found unsurprisingly that “circumcision [removes] the most sensitive part of the penis.” And for the men who say next, “If I had any more sensitivity, I’d have a heart attack”, it’s not just more, it’s better, being specialised for its purpose. The intact men of the world are not filling up the cardiac wards.

    Anyone who thinks circumcised penises are invariably “prettier” ought to look at a few that aren’t, such as those at http://www.circumstitions.com/Botched.html.

  17. A Ugandan study was cut short after 18% of the women with circumcised partners contracted HIV, compared to only 12% of the women in the non-circumcised control group – but before it could reach statistical significance. Women are already at more risk of transmission from men, so if circumcision does actually increase the risk to them, that could easily undo any reduction in the rate of transmission to men.

    (This is the trial that Mark Lyndon refers to, but I don’t think he should say “a 54% higher rate” when we’re talking about 17 (18%) women in the intervention group and eight (12%) women in the control group (p=0·36). Relative risk ratios are misleading, whoever uses them.)

  18. That trial *did* show a “54% higher rate”. I didn’t claim statistical significance, and given the numbers involved, the rate of transmission in the circumcised group would have needed to be more than double the rate in the intact group to achieve 95% significance.

    This is the *only* RCT into male-to-female transmission though, and it showed a higher rate in the circumcised group. It’s entirely possible that had the trial been as large as any of the other trials, that it would have shown a statistically significant increase in the risk of more than 54%. We simply don’t know, which is just one more reason why we shouldn’t be promoting male circumcision to prevent AIDS.

    The Wawer study isn’t the first study to link HIV in women with circumcision in men btw. A 1993 study found that “partner circumcision” was “strongly associated with HIV-1 infection [in women] even when simultaneously controlling for other covariates.”
    http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/cgi/content/abstract/23/2/371

    Here’s another way to look at it. If male circumcision reduces the risk of men contracting HIV, and doesn’t increase the risk of women contracting it, then why are there those six African countries where men are more likely to be HIV+ if they’ve been circumcised?

    @Sheila: The Koran doesn’t mention circumcision, and some of its passages seem to suggest that circumcision would be wrong. That isn’t the only holy book for Muslims though, and they’ll generally quote other sources to defend circumcision. There is more debate amongst Muslim scholars about whether women should be circumcised than whether men should be circumcised.

  19. As a cut male in the US, I’m going to have to side with the “unless medically necessary, don’t cut the baby.” Then again, I would hope that any children I fathered would be raised well enough to know that they could come to me and say “I would like to be circumcised for reasons x, y, and z” and we’d go see a doctor.

  20. The critique mentions that the pain argument is debunked in Northrup’s own words, but that is not accurate. Only about a third of infant circumcisions use effective anesthesia. This may even be sound medically (because infants can have deadly reactions to anesthesia) but only if the surgery is warranted in the first place.

    But the pain argument is just a distraction. The reason routine circumcision of infants is not endorsed by any national medical association on earth is that it just doesn’t provide any benefit that justifies the certain harms and the risks.

    To me, it comes down to human rights. I have a human right to enjoy my whole intact body. If I am healthy, leave me alone and let me stay healthy and whole. If I am immediately threatened and can not express an opinion, only then is it ethical – because you may assume I would wish to continue living in the best possible health – to give proxy consent for permanant pleasure-reducing cosmetic amputations. But this is only true if other less-invasive alternatives were not available.

    Every single thing that infant circumcision is supposed to treat, prevent, or cure, can be handled with less invasive means. The amputation is unethically carried out without a diagnosis of defect or pathology, and with no effort to first treat in the least desctructive manner.

    Foreskin feels REALLY good. HIS body, HIS decision.

  21. Minus the subjective ending, this actually is the best argument against circumcision.

  22. Doctor Hawkins, to your category (1) “those who have had it done and thus favor it.” we must needs add those who have practiced it and thereby profited from it, and must needs justify it to themselves.

  23. You say “Foreskin feels really good” is subjective, but we listen to a man who says it feels bad and he wants it off, why not to a man who says it feels good and he wants to keep it? And by extension, to the men who say they wish they’d had a chance to find out for themselves how it feels.

    Meanwhile you say the subjectivity of aesthetics “holds…water” and “offers the most strength, I think. There seems to be no harm and it looks better by many standards. At the very least, this is a good argument against the level of vociferous opposition.” Please explain what these aesthetic standards are, especially with reference to the standards of Michaelangelo, Caravaggio, and Leonardo (the Renaissance arts, not the Mutant Ninja Turtles), who all resolutely carved and painted intact males, even adult Jews such as David. Also with references to the photographs of circumcised penes (NSFW) at http://www.circumstitions.com/Botched.html . “Seems to be no harm”?

  24. Hugh,

    There is hardly an objective way to determine whether foreskin feels better than a lack of it. It can vary from person to person. So yes, any individual may have a circumcision later in life and claim it felt better with foreskin, but that has no bearing on whether or not it felt better for the other guy who had the procedure.

    I’m not claiming that something which is aesthetically pleasing is good because there is an objective standard. I’m saying aesthetics give one reason to have it done because more people seem to like penises with a lack of foreskin. The subjectivity of those tastes is immaterial to my point, and in fact, I earlier noted that “uncircumcised penises could become more aesthetically pleasing in the U.S.” That is, tastes may change and my argument may begin to favor uncircumcised penises.

    But to be clear, I’m saying that may be the best argument, but I’m not saying it is an exceedingly strong one. However, other than the argument from bodily sovereignty, I don’t see any excessively strong arguments against circumcision. (At least not strong enough to justify the high passion that comes along with this discussion.)

    Jerry,

    I’m flattered, but I’m not a doctor.

  25. “There is hardly an objective way to determine whether foreskin feels better than a lack of it. It can vary from person to person. So yes, any individual may have a circumcision later in life and claim it felt better with foreskin, but that has no bearing on whether or not it felt better for the other guy who had the procedure.” This is getting absurd. A man with a foreskin says his foreskin itself gives him enjoyable sensations. It should be self-evident that he could not have those sensations without it. If another man has a numb foreskin, that says nothing about the first man. Try your argument with “nipples” instead of “foreskin”. Many men enjoy sensations from their nipples, but some don’t. Does the existence of the latter group justify cutting off babies’ nipples?

    And even more when you grant that aesthetics are not objective, do the tastes of some present-day adults justify permanently altering babies to suit unknown future adults?

  26. Does the existence of the latter group justify cutting off babies’ nipples?

    That’s a bait and switch. The argument is whether foreskin objectively feels better than a lack of foreskin. Your began with that premise, but now you’ve moved to a point where that’s entirely irrelevant. That is, you have two arguments going:

    1) Foreskin feels better, therefore we shouldn’t cut it off (because pleasure is a good).

    2) Foreskin might feel better or it might feel worse, but since we don’t know, we should reside on the side of caution and not cut it off.

    First, those points are different. Second, the “switch” part of your argument (number 2) cedes the subjectivity of saying foreskin is better/worse. In other words, you’ve defeated your first argument with your second one.

  27. You seem to assume that circumcising an adult with a fully discovered sexuality must have the same effect as circumcising a baby whose sexuality is still inchoate. Yet cutting part off must have some effect on how its functionality develops.

    The Ugandan trial that claimed to show no ill-effects was on volunteers for circumcision. This automatically selected men who did no value their foreskins. (It seemed to find their sex lives were virtually perfect both before and after circumcision. It is more likely that the questions were too insensitive than that Uganda is a sexual paradise.) Ideally, it should be done on a random sample of the population. This would be unethical on adults, for want of consent, as it ought to be on children.

    Without being able to go into the brain of a man who chose to have himself circumcised, I can’t say whether he is telling the truth when he says his foreskin gave him no pleasure, or that other considerations (conformity, his aesthetics, fetishism) overrid that. Knowing what I know about mine, I can only conceive of it in terms of numbness. So rather than “might feel better or it might feel worse”, I would say “normally feels better, but could in exceptional circumstances be without feeling”.

    So “foreskin feels real good” – except for some unfortunates, and those are exactly the men most likely to choose to have themselves circumcised as adults.

  28. As a woman who’s been with quite a few both circumcised and uncircumcised men, I can strongly advocate against circumcision.

    Regardless of all the health issues and the aesthetic arguments, one fact remains—

    Sex with an uncut man is so, so, so much better.

    More sensitivity for him, more lubricant to go around…

    If an uncut adult wants to be circumcised, let him. Otherwise, keep your hands off his body.

  29. “As for sex, the prima facie case is strong that a richly innervated, uniquely structured moving part, strategically placed at the distal end of the penis where it can receive maximum stimulation, is important. The onus is on those who would remove it to show that it is not.”

    THIS is an excessively strong argument against circumcision. The penis is not a organ of the immune system. It is a part of the reproductive system, and as such, has a vital function to fulfill. Circumcision jeopardizes this primary function in favor of secondary and tertiary benefits.

  30. Masturbation is something that hardly ever gets mentioned.

    Masturbation is harder for circumcised men because there is no foreskin to move up and down; there is more friction. You may also damage the inside structure of the penis by applying too much pressure.
    What teenage boy has lubrication to hand? That could be a reason why the teenage pregnancy rate is high in the USA – if you can’t masturbate, then you have sex.

    The reasons for infant circumcision are spurious. Michael Hawkins you have chosen to take this article to task “for the sake of science”. When you are cutting off a functioning part of someone’s body without consent, “science” shouldn’t come into it. It is unethical. Are you in favour of infant circumcision or not? If you are not, your article is pointless as the main message of Northrupp’s article is a good one, which is, don’t do it. And that should be applauded.

    Michael Hawkins, you say: “Given that the HIV prevention studies are based upon vaginal sex, could the higher acceptance of homosexuality be a contributing factor in the U.S. versus poorly developed, less accepting nations? ”

    So European countries have a lower tolerance of homosexuality? Bollocks:
    http://www.advocatesforyouth.org/publications/factsheet/fsest.htm

    If infant circumcision is to be introduced in the USA, it needs to have a pretty significant effect to justify such an unethical action. A country comparison is a pretty good way of finding out if that is the case. Obviously it doesn’t have a significant effect – in fact it seems to increase the risk. There are other, better, more ethical methods to tackle STI’s such as condoms, sex education and anti-viral therapy.

    You also say: “Circumcision is a non-moment in a baby’s life; he won’t remember it.”
    Hmm, so much for “science”. Care to prove that blanket statement? Remember, given that you value science so highly, you will have to produce a study which shows no unhappiness at being circumcised. In other words complete 100% happiness, from all participants in the study, that they were circumcised.

    Regarding pain, you say: “but she quickly undermines the argument by pointing out the use of anesthetic. If hospitals are now using them, then there is virtually no pain, right?”
    Hospitals have no requirement to use anesthetics. I doubt many even use them at all. What about the discomfort post-circumcision? You have an open wound that could become inflamed by ammonia in the urine. It certainly won’t help the baby bond with his mother either.

    You say, regarding cleanliness: ” I personally have to favor circumcision over a long and constant hygiene education program.”
    You do know the skin has millions of bacteria on its surface? That makes the skin dirty right? So lets cut the skin off? Most bacteria are harmless. What constitutes clean and dirty is entirely dependent on the definition of clean and dirty. A few things we know for sure. The uncircumcised man is at no real risk of penis infection. On the rare chance it does become infected in his lifetime, there are these things called anti-biotics. These obviate the need for drastic surgery.

    It seems to me that what you are against is the vociferous opposition to infant circumcision rather than being in favour of infant circumcision. To me this is just a coping mechanism employed by a lot of commentators. They don’t want it to become an accepted fact that circumcision is harmful because they are afraid of the feelings it would provoke in them. They’d rather not think about it.

  31. While I understand your reasoning The fact of the matter is that in the intactivist camp I’ve heard just about every problem mankind has ever had be blamed on Circumcision. Most advocates tend to not go to such extremes which is why I think a lot of people tend to go after the intactivist camp.

    I’ve accepted that it may be harmful but what I have also accepted is that this shouldn’t be the dominating factor in my life. and I think that those that seek legal restitution really need to get over themselves.

  32. garrat: While it may be difficult for you to understand why some people seem to be affected to a greater degree than you are, it doesn’t mean that they are taking it to an extreme, or that they should just get over the themselves. Different people respond to similar trauma in different ways, and personally I can understand why many feel so outraged and violated when it comes to a very intimate part of their bodies.

  33. @garrat “in the intactivist camp I’ve heard just about every problem mankind has ever had be blamed on Circumcision.”
    A slight exaggeration there (climate change? malaria? tsunamis?), but the converse, that the reasons for circumcising males are insanely many and varied (some contradicting each other), has been documented here: http://www.circumstitions.com/Stitions&refs.html And that variety, and the ability to switch reasons, means that the custom can go on and on without there ever being a good reason.

    The point about legal restitution is not that it can undo the harm, but that it will discourage the operation. You can join a class action here: http://www.sueeasy.com/class_action_detail.php?case_id=258

  34. […] of the biggest non-Moritz/Maloney posts was the one about circumcision. I always feel the reactions to these sort of posts end up very skewed because much of the absurdly […]

  35. @hugh I know when it comes to reasons for and against things humans will find a reason. but the thing is that this can be used for ANYTHING. Frankly if you stopped and wondered why about the things people in do in life you’ll realize that most of it doesn’t make any sense. That said what’s odd is that we evolved to be in this manner. So really if we have anything to blame it is evolution itself.

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