American Secret: The Circumcision Agenda

I’ve written about the morality of circumcision from a secular standpoint, as well as the medieval sages and Victorian doctors who advocated circumcision because it makes sex less pleasurable. I say there’s no justification for circumcising infants who can’t consent, and if you happen to agree with me, here’s your chance to do something about it.

The filmmaker Francelle Wax is directing a documentary titled American Secret: The Circumcision Agenda, about how circumcision became a common practice in America and how it lingers on due to religious and cultural inertia, in spite of a paucity of evidence for any clear medical benefit. She’s previously been interviewed on Friendly Atheist about the project. (My friend and generally awesome person Katie Hartman is also helping out.)

Many of the important interviews have already been shot, but everything that’s been done so far has been self-financed by Francelle, and now they need some help to finish the project. They’re seeking to raise $55,000 on Kickstarter by the end of the month, which will pay for professional editing, additional interviews, and hiring actors to shoot reenactment scenes. In my opinion, this is a project that deserves our support – especially since, the way Kickstarter works, they have to raise the full $55,000 or else get nothing at all.

I grant that circumcision isn’t the worst thing justified by religion. On the other hand, I think it can be a useful way to introduce people to the idea of secular, humanist moral reasoning, precisely because the stakes aren’t sky-high. Millions of American families who have no particular cultural or religious attachment to the idea of circumcision have it performed on their infant sons anyway, out of an unjustified sense of obligation, and that’s where a smart and well-crafted message can have the greatest impact. We can use this case to illustrate how we take human happiness as our watchword, how we demand evidence of benefit before acting, and how we don’t accept tradition or religious authority as an excuse for inflicting suffering on infants or others who can’t consent – and in the process, we can spare people from being subjected to this unnecessary cosmetic amputation of healthy, sensitive tissue, with all the risks and harms that entails. Again, here’s that Kickstarter link:

If you’re willing and able, please chip in and help them out!

UPDATE (6/25): The Kickstarter has been fully funded! Thanks to everyone who pledged.

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, City of Light, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Azkyroth

    Maybe I’ll get some money in before the deadline. :(

  • Shawn

    It sounds pretty interesting, but I have to ask, are they somewhat loony? I ask because some of the reward tiers sound like they might be (e.g. your wallet wants to be covered like your glans does.) Personally I am on board with a generic anti-circ agenda, since I agree there doesn’t seem to be justification for doing it to infants, but at the same time some activists on the subject are as woo-filled and zealous as any activists I’ve seen on any subject whatsoever, and I don’t really want to be associated with that.

  • Joel

    I think it looks like a really valuable film for raising awareness about an issue most people don’t know about. If it’s done well, and I think it will, it could get a lot of people to start asking themselves WHY many of us feel so committed to cutting off such a sensitive, functional and valuable part of our healthy children’s bodies when we know it’s not needed!

  • Adam Lee

    I think those rewards are being offered by some of the film’s other backers, whom I don’t know. But I met Francelle in person to discuss the project, and I can vouch for the fact that she’s a rational and grounded person who’s extremely well-informed on the medical science. I can say confidently that this film will be about facts, not woo.

  • Hugh7

    Some men are pretty mad about what’s been done to them so intimately and irrevocably, and drives them to exaggeration and strangeness. That doesn’t change the soundness of the basic message. The basic loonitude is in the determination of some people to go on doing it.

  • Azkyroth

    And a proportion of people are at least equally, irrationally, belligerently determined that no their culturally shaped “preference” ISN’T harmful and/or no something bad WASN’T done to their peepee, and besides, look, circumcision provides three whole millicondoms worth of STD protection so it’s TOTALLY WORTH IT and you’re being a sexist jerk by implying it has any relation to bodily integrity and you’re just WHINING by even bringing it up and…and…and…

    But, just like it’s the vegetarians who get stereotyped as the judgmental and combative side…

  • SbS

    From your language, I have concluded that your are ill informed on this subject and I urge you to research more before you continue to spout such ignorance. You will find yourself discovering things that will disturb you. Maybe this movie will be a great thing to fill you in the things you dont know, you know very little.

  • Azkyroth


  • Adam Lee

    Update: The Kickstarter is now fully funded! Thanks to everyone who donated. You can still pledge if you feel so moved.