This Guy Has a Good Reason to be Anti-Circumcision

This one’s not for the squeamish.

Here’s the short version of the story: Decades ago, in Montreal, an 8-year-old boy was accused of masturbating (?!?)… so a priest at his church-run boarding school grabbed him one night, took him to another room to see a mohel, and had the boy forcibly circumcised. “No anaesthetic, no disinfectant, no nothing.”

Paul Tinari has been an “intactivist” — arguing against circumcision — ever since, and Vice‘s Dave Dean interviewed him:

Can you get into the industry of circumcision a bit?

If there was no profit to be made in circumcision it would have been abandoned long ago. But Dr. Kellogg [a man who invented Corn Flakes because he thought "bland foods" could "curb passions" and allegedly thought circumcision could "cure" masturbation] realized he was making a fortune circumcising children—the parents were paying him to circumcise their children to prevent masturbation — so he taught, basically all the original doctors to perform circumcisions in the United States were trained by Dr. Kellogg. And you’ve got to realize he knew what he was doing. He was inducing sexual dysfunction because not only did he think that masturbation was evil but he also thought that sex itself was degrading. He advocated celibacy that sex was unhealthy as something evil, so he believed that rendering the penis dysfunctional was a good thing.

Do you have any idea if he was circumcised?

No idea. He probably circumcised himself. The guy was crazy enough to do that… So anyways, the industry grew up that discovered that foreskin is highly useful stuff. Actually from the 1980s on that it’s very useful for many, many products and so the profit is enormous to be made from this. So there’s a multi-billion dollar industry driving continued circumcision.

You can read the full interview here. If you’d like to read more about why male circumcision is a bad idea, check out this site’s interview with Francelle Wax, who’s working on an anti-circumcision movie.

(Image via Shutterstock — Thanks to Dave for the link)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Glasofruix

    Not having a scalpel in the near vicinity of my junk is a good enough reason for me…

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Just get a catheter put in first and you won’t even NOTICE the scalpel being used. Holy Jesus.

      For context, catheters suck so hard (metaphorically speaking) that getting one actually made it impossible for me to feel the kidney stone that had had me shaking and vomiting from pain for hours.

      • ml66uk

        I’ve had a catheter for kidney stones, but I was under general anesthetic. Isn’t that normal??
        I’d pay a year’s salary rather than be circumcised btw.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Apparently not, though I’m sure they would have been leery about putting me under for several reasons, including that they had already given me several intravenous morphine doses. (Three doses in under an hour, none of which lasted more than ten minutes. Yay for being resistant to anesthesia!)

          Yeah, I’m irritated at having been cut. I don’t have problems exactly, but I can tell that it should be more comfortable than it is.

      • Katherine Hompes

        Wow! I had no idea that catheters hurt men that much! I’ve had a few myself with absolutely no anaesthetic, and while a tad uncomfortable (and no, I’m not understating) it certainly wasn’t a horribly painfulprocess.

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          I wouldn’t know if they’re that bad for all men, but it was that bad for me.

          I am curious now as to how kidney stones affect women, since I had the joy of learning that they can aggravate the same nerves as when a man is kicked in the groin… except it doesn’t fade.

  • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

    I saw the picture of the Banana from the rss feeder and then the headline and thought, “What! Ray Comfort is against circumcision?”

  • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

    Great job. Now thanks to the illustration I am going to have a nightmare about a banana.

  • DougI

    Interesting thing about Kellogg, he was married but all his life him and his wife never had sex. They did have a lot of kids though, adopted apparently. I doubt he was the first one to think of genital mutilation as a means of curbing sexual desire by reducing pleasure.

    • Stev84

      Kellogg was a really sick fuck and torturer:
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvey_Kellogg#Drastic_measures

      “The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an
      anesthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a
      salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the
      idea of punishment”

      “application of one or more silver sutures in such a way as to prevent
      erection. The prepuce, or foreskin, is drawn forward over the glans, and
      the needle to which the wire is attached is passed through from one
      side to the other”

      “In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid (phenol) to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement”

      “Cool sitz baths; the cool enema; a spare diet; the application of
      blisters and other irritants to the sensitive parts of the sexual
      organs, the removal of the clitoris and nymphae”

      All from the same book apparently.

      • Tainda

        We were watching a movie at my parents house this weekend and they mentioned female circumcision. My mom had no idea that it was done. I explained and she said “That’s HORRIBLE” Uhh, yeah, you need to read more about the world lol

        I have no idea how I came from that family.

  • http://porlob.tumblr.com porlob

    hmm… While I definitely think that compulsory circumcision is a practice that needs to end, I’m a bit bothered that his implication is that it is a profit-driven enterprise, and that foreskins are used for “many, many products.” Aren’t foreskins treated like any other medical waste or given to the parents? And why would a foreskin have these magical properties?

    I just wish we could pursue a good goal like this without polluting it with a conspiracy theory against Big Mohel.

    • http://www.miketheinfidel.com/ MikeTheInfidel

      I’m a bit bothered that his implication is that it is a profit-driven enterprise, and that foreskins are used for “many, many products.”

      Yeah, that sounds like complete BS to me.

      It’s this sort of thing he’s talking about: Wrinkle Treatment Uses American Babies’ Foreskins

      It’s about as true to say that they’re making money off of foreskins as it is to say that vaccines contain aborted fetuses. They’re harvested from cultured cell lines, not from fetuses or foreskins. This guy is practically a conspiracy theorist.

      • http://porlob.tumblr.com porlob

        Exactly. One of the articles linked from from Vice article stated that every harvested foreskin is worth $100,000, for use in the beauty industry. I believe the technical term for that is “bullshit.”

        • randomfactor

          Foreskins ARE used in the production of certain wound-healing skin products…but that figure would be something like saying “each apple seed is worth $100,000 because once you plant it the eventual harvests will reach that much in value.”

        • http://neitherheadsnortails.blogspot.com/ Kris Thompson

          Oprah is the spokesperson for a beauty product created from cells harvested and grown from infant foreskins–no shit. Sure, the cells are grown now, but the originals did come from foreskins, and some folks object to the message there. In addition, foreskins are sometimes utilized in wound treatment (think diabetic foot ulcers and the like), skin grafts, and burn care. But the money is in the performing of the surgery. When Medicaid and insurance companies stop paying for circumcision, the rates drop dramatically. The surgery costs money–doctors earn money for it. That makes it a profit-driven enterprise. Now, the 100,000 figure? Who knows–it certainly sounds like bullshit. Maybe it’s a reflection of eventual worth of products derived from it. Doesn’t matter–in my book, selling foreskins taken from human beings who have not given consent should never be okay, regardless of the price.

        • Dreamer

          Where do the cultured cells come from?

          Check this link: http://www.atcc.org/products/all/PCS-201-010.aspx

          Dermal Fibroblast Normal; Human, Neonatal@$399 per frozen mL.

          Organism Homo sapiens, human
          Tissue Foreskin

          There are several biomedical applications from cultured foreskin cells. Histogen, SkinMedica TNS, sprays for legs ulcers, growing skin for grafting… Even the Vatican has stated that they don’t oppose stem cell research when using foreskins rather than embryos.

          This may not be the main or the only motivation, but as long as there is need for supplies, it’s one more reason to maintain this practice. Especially with university hospitals and larger institutions, if you read the consent form you will see this: “I authorize the hospital to dispose of any severed tissue, organs or parts in accordance with their policy. I also consent to the examination, disposal, retention or use of any tissue parts or organs which may be removed during the procedure.” Some also indicate the possibility of being used for research. Basically this line authorizes the hospital to use the tissue (even if they get monetary compensation for it from a third party, in other words, they can donate it in exchange for money).

          As for the monetary significance of circumcision in the U.S., considering 1.2 million circumcisions of babies per year in hospitals, at 250 to 800 each, it constitutes a good income given the low cost and little time required per procedure. Add the necessity to perform “circumcision revisions” and other procedures (such as repairing meatal stenosis resulting from circumcision, lysing adhesions, performing re-circumcisions when too much skin was left, repairing buried penis, etc) and you have job security for pediatric urologists…

    • Randay

      I have about fifty bookmarks of anti-circumcision organizations and articles. The info is easy to find. For the marketing of foreskins see:

      http://www.conspiracyplanet.com/channel.cfm?channelid=119&contentid=4335&page=2

      For general information, see CIRP http://www.cirp.org/

      On YT there are many horrify videos, including ones by Jewish groups even ones proud of it. There are other Jewish groups opposed, such as

      http://jewishcircumcision.org/

      There is also the human rights issue. http://www.circumstitions.com/Rights.html

      A person who performs a circumcision–except in very rare cases of medical need–is a child abuser.

      • http://porlob.tumblr.com porlob

        As you’ll note, I clearly stated that I am firmly in favor of an end to compulsory circumcision, for which there is no legitimate medical purpose in almost all cases. So I take no issue with the human rights or health aspects of this issue. We’re on the same page.

        What I take issue with is the horrible presentation of the current motives behind circumcision, such as at the “Conspiracy Planet” website you linked to. For instance, the linked Vibe article makes the case that doctors keep circumcising merely to make the big $$$, referring to a doctor in Vancouver who makes $250-$400 per circumcision, as if he’s a mustache twirling villain duping people into it for his own enrichment.

        The fact is that this doctor is likely providing a service that he sees as an important one. Now, we may disagree with him — I certainly do — but it’s not far removed from anti-abortion activists railing against Planned Parenthood as the “abortion industry” just out to make money. We treat those claims as spurious, misleading, or even libelous — and rightfully so. This isn’t any different. The medical establishment has treated circumcision as de rigueur for quite some time now, and while it is important to educate the public and medical personnel on why it’s a bad idea, conspiracy mongering does not contribute anything but noise to the discussion.

        And to claim ridiculous figures for the value of a foreskin (seriously, $100,000 apiece for a hunk of skin the size of a Spaghetti-O?) only HURTS the cause, as it makes the anti-circumcision movement look like another Alex Jonesian conspiracy group.

        • Randay

          Totally wrong. If you had read to the end, you would have seen that it was from another site. It was also on Alternate, which is not an alex jones conspiracy site. I copied this site because the other links were no longer available. Just because a maybe questionable site reproduces an article, doesn’t mean that the article is bad.

          I knew I would get this sort of knee-jerk response which is why I cited other links you were apparently too lazy to look up and you just wanted to take a cheap unwarranted shot at me. Do your own research for a change, I have done mine.

          • http://porlob.tumblr.com porlob

            What was I totally wrong about? You didn’t really respond to anything I said.

            • Randay

              You brought up the image of “mustache twirling villain duping people” and comparing anti-circumcision activists to anti-abortionists. You are the one who brings up supposed “conspiracy mongering”. You are the one who makes a comparison to alex jones. You say, “The fact is that this doctor is likely providing a service that he sees as an important one.” BS. He does it because he is paid to do it even though he knows it is destructive, even though the first rule for doctors is “do no harm”. My parents weren’t even asked about the procedure, it just went on the bill.

              In a European public hospital, or even private Catholic, that would not happen. For the Cathos, it is because Paul said it wasn’t necessary. About the only intelligent thing he said.

              Your glenn beck photo fits you perfectly.

              • http://porlob.tumblr.com porlob

                You don’t seem to be really engaging with what I’m actually writing.

                I only compared one TACTIC used by SOME anti-circumcision activists to the identical tactic used by anti-abortionists. It was not intended as an attack on anti-circumcision activism as a whole. To the contrary, I clearly stated that that particular tactic, which I view as misleading, should be avoided because it may make the cause look foolish to the general public. I (again) am on your side on this, but unlike you, I cannot read the minds of doctors who perform the procedure.

                And really? My “Glenn Beck” photo? Thanks for making it clear that you’re not worth engaging with any further.

                • Randay

                  I see that you’re the the arrogant type that always likes to have the last word. So now you will have to write another.

                  You were never worth engaging with and I only regret wasting my time on you. I will know better next time. Now you can have the last word. Try to resist your compulsion.

          • b33bl3br0x

            If you had read to the end, you would have seen that it was from another site. It was also on Alternate, which is not an alex jones conspiracy site. I copied this site because the other links were no longer available. Just because a maybe questionable site reproduces an article, doesn’t mean that the article is bad.

            Without addressing the substance of the claims being made here (about the fate of foreskins, and utility of circumcision), I do want to address this paragraph.

            Just because a questionable site reproduces an article, I agree, it doesn’t mean that the article is bad or wrong. What it does mean however, is that it still can not be trusted as fact.

            When you’re trying to add support for a claim that someone else has labelled as a conspiracy theory, it does absolutely no good to point them to a conspiracy theory website to attempt to prove that the claim is substantiated.

            If your goal was to bolster support for the idea that this is not just a conspiracy theory, you should have linked some other sources. If all the other sources no longer exist, it may be that they were pulled down because the authors realized that the claims were not true.

            Further, the link at the bottom of the article (http://mathaba.net/news/?x=551050) is simply a link to the same article posted somewhere else. I’m not familiar with mathaba but professional is not an adjective I’d use to describe its appearance.

            The only thing posting a link like this will do is further convince the person thinking it to be a conspiracy theory, that they are right.

    • http://www.holytape.etsy.com Holytape

      He also said that a doctor boasted that he does 35,000 circumcisions a year. Assuming that the doctor works sixty hour weeks, and takes no vacations, that would be averaging around one circumcision every five minutes.

      • http://porlob.tumblr.com porlob

        To be fair, it said 35,000 total, not annual, at “$250 – $400″ per. Though one of the articles linked from the Vibe piece ( http://thetyee.ca/News/2006/07/25/Circumcision/ ) lists those figures at 20,000 at $250 per, with both sets of conflicting figures attributed to Tinari with no source for his claim, so…

    • Hat Stealer

      Turns out foreskins are the main ingredient in most commercial smoothie-based beverages.

      • C.L. Honeycutt

        Okay, you have to shut up forever now.

      • duke_of_omnium

        “Today, we’ve secretly replaced the fine foreskins usually served here with dark, delicious Folger’s Crystals. Can these smoothie aficionados tell the difference?”

    • Dreamer

      Check this crazy “bioart” experiment, where neonatal foreskin cells were reprogrammed as stem cells and then as neurons, set in reactors, and monitored to generate sound from their electric activity…

      http://we-make-money-not-art.com/archives/2013/05/in-potentia.php#.UgAOTG3lhvA

      • sinmantyx

        Oh – that’s awesome.

        Also – totally the ultimate Rube Goldberg machine of noise production.

    • sinmantyx

      Right – incentive does NOT equal motivation. Even if there is an incentive to circumcise for various reasons, doesn’t mean that the motivation of the doctors themselves is monetary or otherwise nefarious.

      My sense is that because of the circumcision movement of Dr. Kellogg and others, it just became ordinary, and the current practice was then rationalized with other sorts of bogus reasons (such as urinary track infections and hygiene) because circumcised penises just become the norm.

  • Guest

    I’m sure this guy knew Dr. Kellogg intimately enough to make these accusations. Or did he get this information from his astrologer/palm reader? I’m betting he’s also claims that he’d been abducted and probed anally by aliens multiple times. Must be tough living with the Twilight Zone theme running through your head all the time.

    • Michael Harrison

      Sarcasm is warranted once you’ve done your due diligence, which I’m suspecting you haven’t. I suspect Psychology Today is acceptable as an unbiased source: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/circumcision-social-sexual-psychological-realities

      “Dr. Kellogg (of Corn Flakes fame) advocated circumcision for pubescent boys and girls to stop masturbation:
      ‘A remedy which is almost always successful in small boys is circumcision, especially when there is any degree of phimosis. The operation should be performed by a surgeon without administering an anæsthetic, as the brief pain attending the operation will have a salutary effect upon the mind, especially if it be connected with the idea of punishment…
      In females, the author has found the application of pure carbolic acid to the clitoris an excellent means of allaying the abnormal excitement’ (Kellogg 1877).”

      Not sure about your other claims, but my point isn’t to do your research for you–I’m simply demonstrating you haven’t done enough work to earn the cockiness of your tone.

      Edit: *His* other claims.

    • Tainda

      Is Kellogg your dad or something?

    • Mario Strada

      This is fairly well known stuff. I must have watched at least 3 documentaries and read a number of articles over the years about Dr. Kellog and his sometimes crazy beliefs.

      Are you a Dr. Kellog apologists or you just like Corn Flakes?

      Here is an excerpt for wikipedia:

      Views on sexuality

      As an advocate of sexual abstinence, Kellogg devoted large amounts of his educational and medical work to discouraging sexual activity on the basis of dangers both scientifically understood at the time—as in sexually transmissible diseases—and those taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.[14][15][16] He set out his views on such matters in one of his larger books, published in various editions around the start of the 20th century under the title Plain Facts about Sexual Life and laterPlain Facts for Old and Young.[7] Some of his work on diet was influenced by his belief that a plain and healthy diet, with only two meals a day, among other things, would reduce sexual feelings. Those experiencing temptation were to avoid stimulating food and drinks, and eat very little meat, if any. Kellogg also advocated hydrotherapy and stressed the importance of keeping the colon clean through yogurt enemas.[17][18]

    • DuWayne Brayton

      And I’m sure you knew Pol Pot intimately enough to know that he commanded one of the largest genocides ever committed. Because unless you knew him, there would be no way for us to confirm what he did. Makes total sense…

      Meanwhile here in reality, we have this idea we call history and the historical record. Through a variety of means and sources, scholars who are called historians try to determine what happened in certain times and places and the behavior that certain important figures from the past engaged in.

  • bananafaced

    Wait, what? Circumcision is a Jewish tradition. Why would a catholic priest seek out a moehl? And without parental approval? I would think this wasn’t legal to prescribe a medical treatment without being a licensed doctor?

    • Glasofruix

      Since when does catholic church ask permission to do anything, legal or not?

      • bananafaced

        True that! When the priest at my catholic school asked my mother for permission to paddle me and my brothers, he forgot to say how hard and with what. That was the last time I ever went to catholic school. My mom apologized…

    • Mario Strada

      Hey beautiful, my avatar would like to meet your avatar….

    • GodlessPoutine

      Circumcision was common in North America in the 1970s and 1980s. It was just done because people thought it was medically advantageous at the time.

      • baal

        WEll, and covered by insurance. The circumcision rates track downward as more insurers stopped covering it under base care.

    • Ohtobide

      I am sure it was completely illegal. I am very surprised no action was taken against them.
      The priest should also have been in trouble with the Catholic church, which has traditionally forbidden circumcision and indeed all forms of mutilation.

  • GodlessPoutine

    As a Montrealer, it’s just one more reminder of why this province went through its Quiet Revolution and is becoming more and more secular one abusive priest at a time – and thank goodness.

    This is a horrible story – compounded by the fact a nun had been raped repeatedly there as well. What a festering hell-hole. This on top of the ugly history of cultural genocide here in Canada, where Native Canadian children were wrenched from their families and thrown into religious schools with the express purpose of deleting their language and culture. And the Catholic and Anglican churches went along with it. Horrendous. What a black hole of pure evil that place seems to have been.

    Anyway… thanks to Hemant for posting this.

  • Thalfon

    Damn. I can’t believe that the priest and mohel weren’t even arrested for that (or at least, it doesn’t sound like it from the interview). And I’m assuming it’s well out of the statute of limitations if it happened when he was 8 and he’s now past 40. To me this is an obvious case of sexual assault, assault and battery, and perhaps more beyond.

  • Brad Jackson

    “Thanks for the tip!”

  • Wolverine

    They didn’t do my husbands foreskin removal correctly and he does have sexual problems. Honestly I think it should be outlawed PERIOD! If men were not meant to have it then it wouldn’t be on their tiny little penises when they are born. To me it is sexual mutilation in my book!

  • Matthew316

    I can speak for myself only, circumcision does not cure masturbation just makes it less enjoyable. That’s what you get for being born in the 80′s I suppose.

    • http://absurdlypointless.blogspot.com/ TBJ

      I totally disagree, TMI?

  • sinmantyx

    The people who circumcised him should be in jail. A early childhood professional I know worked with a boy who was circumcised at age 2 and was so traumatized that he lost speech.

    This isn’t okay.

    If an adult decides to be circumcised, or there is a valid public health reason in a particular area to circumcise infants with adequate pain management; that make some sense to me.

    Routine circumcision in the West makes no sense. My family hasn’t circumcised for a few generations. I’m told that it has something to do with a relative or friend being the nurse who got to hold the baby down while the baby screamed in pain. Pain screams are different than the normal cries of a baby; and it haunted them.

    It is NOT okay.

  • Brandie Lynn Winchester

    From a medical standpoint, I have heard many stories about older (uncircumcised) men who are unable to care for themselves getting infections on the tip of their penis, because it is harder for them to clean. When my sons were born I chose circumcisions because my mother who is a nurse told me it would be better for them once they became older men.

  • Jeff See

    I just wanted to comment that the picture is horribly wonderful.

  • Colonel Science

    My parents had me circumcised as an infant. Being forced to go to church was bad enough. Is it too much to ask for them to keep their bible away from my genitals?

  • TLCTugger

    Foreskin is the best part.

  • jcm

    Relevant:

    Penn & Teller — Bullshit: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TY5g4fFhxWA [NSFW]

  • Ohtobide

    I have been thinking about this story and somehow it does not seem to make sense to me. It is just a feeling, an alarm bell ringing if you like, but something seems to me not quite right.

    Catholic schools know that boys masturbate. They are told to confess that ‘sin’ in the sacrament of Confession. I once asked a Catholic if it was difficult to confess and he told me that no, it was not difficult at all because everyone did it. Why would a priest want to circumcise a child for masturbation?

    The Catholic church has always traditionally condemned circumcision and indeed all forms of mutilation. Why would the priest think it an appropriate punishment?

    And what about the mohel? They circumcise Jewish infants in a religious ritual. Is it really possible that there are mohels who can be called out to circumcise a non-Jewish 8-year old boy, who clearly does not want to be circumcised?

    And finally did the boy’s mother, finding that her child had been circumcised and had broken bones, really make no complaint to anyone?

    I don’t know, the world is full of horrible things happening. But this just does not sound true.

  • Katherine Hompes

    I don’t really care what people’s reasons are for doing it- for me, it is a question of bodily autonomy. It isn’t my penis so (barring an actual and urgent medical need) it isn’t my right to decide to remove the foreskin. End of story, as far as I’m concerned.


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