Mark Joseph Stern and the Conversation He Won’t Have About Circumcision

This is a guest post by Francelle Wax, the producer of American Secret: The Circumcision Agenda, a documentary about the problems with male circumcision.

[Note: Last week, Mark Joseph Stern wrote an article for Slate about how anti-circumcision activists ("Intactivists") are "drowning out reasoned discourse" in the debate. This piece is a rebuttal to that.]

I think that the best way to respond to Mark Joseph Stern’s address is to deal mostly with Mark Joseph Stern and barely at all with his address. Not because I think it generally good practice to go around making internet fights personal, but because I have little patience with someone who is pretending to have the objectivity of a cool academic when he actually harbors an intensely vested interest in arriving at a particular conclusion because the stakes are both so high and so intrinsically personal.

I do not know Mark Joseph Stern. But I can likely assume two facts about him, each of which in isolation are reason to be highly confident of his circumcision status; together, the likelihood is even greater. 1) Stern was born in North America when circumcision rates among the general population were at an all time high, and 2) his last name is characteristically Jewish. Given this, it would be highly surprising if Mr. Stern were not circumcised. Why am I telling you this? Because it’s relevant. Am I insinuating that circumcised men are incapable of being impartial on this issue? I don’t have to, the data says it outright. American doctors consistently diverge from their developed world counterparts when it comes to how they interpret circumcision studies, whether having to do with infection statistics, disease transmission rates, pleasure reduction, or any other findings. American doctors lean pro-cutting, to the renewed shock and at times amusement of the global medical community. (The majority of American females are equally compromised, hearing from a young age that the male foreskin is a conduit for dirt and disease, leading them to grow into mothers who readily consent to circumcision of their sons and into doctors who peddle the procedure to the parents of their patients.)

Now certainly in medicine, differences in opinion do occur. One doctor may advise a patient to go ahead and schedule back surgery while another doctor up the street cautions this same patient that the surgery is likely to create more problems than it will solve. But with circumcision, the splintering is clearly along a national divide.

Lets look at incentives Stern (and others) may have for wanting to avoid confronting the realities of the procedure.

Like most circumcised men, Stern probably does not want it to be true that his circumcision means that he is missing out sexually. Or that as he ages, he will likely notice diminishing sensitivity in his glans. Or that profit incentives played a role in the push to remove his erogenous tissue; or that other people altered his sexuality in a permanent way when he was still too young to do anything about it.

But the facts are what they are.

Over 50% of penile nerve endings are removed during a circumcision, including one-hundred percent of the Meissner’s Corpuscles, the unique fine touch nerve receptors found only in fingertips and on the ridged band of the penis.

Mucous membrane exposed to the air for decades does callus.

Many physicians earn sizable compensation for performing circumcisions.

And it is true that your circumcision means that someone surgically altered your body in a permanent way without first having obtained your consent.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to believe that all of these sacrifices were not in vain, that they bought you some greater good? It would, but we can’t just believe things because they are appealing. We can’t in good conscience marinate in denial when that means asking future generations to pay the price by allowing a harmful practice to continue to play out on their flesh.

We recognize in this country that there is such a concept as “a conflict of interest.” We acknowledge that people’s abilities to be objective in their evaluation of facts is typically impaired by emotions and conflicting loyalties coming into play, and that emotions run high when there are personal stakes.

We make provisions for this in law; we require that a judge recuse himself from a case when the defendant is his next door neighbor. We enforce it in politics, ousting a congressman who awards contracts to a company that has contributed to his campaign. We made these laws because we all grasped at a young age — when the most spastic and uncoordinated kid in Little League got to be pitcher due to an immutable appointment by Coach Dad — that personal longings tend to crowd out and trump objective judgment. It isn’t news that people’s private agendas inform what they see and what they screen out. This is particularly likely to happen in any situation where there is a high cost to admitting to having been wrong.

My suggestion that doctor’s employ denialism around circumcision doesn’t mean that I am charging them with being cruel and inhuman. Quite the opposite; it is acknowledgement that they are oh-so-very-human in their determination not to have to admit to having been wrong. A measure of sympathy belongs with doctors, the majority of whom did indeed set out to do good when they began their training. It is understandable that they may be angry at having been misled by their professors who taught them that proper medicine includes routine circumcision. Today’s physicians happen to belong to the generation that has finally begun to question this practice in serious numbers, and now they are left carrying the bag packed by their predecessors, replete with Gomco clamp and all. It isn’t an enviable position to be in and one can understand why they are on the defensive. No decent person wants to have the realization: “So this irreversible procedure I’ve performed on thousands of patients… turns out that was a bad idea. Oops.” They would rather it be true that circumcision is the prophylaxis and wonder drug to treat and prevent a whole host of ills. Which means that, when reviewing studies about circumcision, American physicians are poised to pounce on any shred of data which could be contorted to justify this surgery that they feel beholden to defend.

It’s incumbent upon us to always remember to ask: Who are the proponents of this practice? Are they capable of being impartial? What might it cost them to admit that they are wrong? Do they have a vested interest in arriving at a particular conclusion?

Speaking of risk assessment, does Stern really think that Americans are the only people who care whether or not a rampant epidemic breaks out in their country and that, by keeping their boys intact, the rest of the world has resigned itself to a fast and furious demise? Is he actually saying that the Australians don’t mind all that much whether or not they all contract HIV? That the Dutch shrug off the prospect of a generation ravaged by cervical cancer with nary a second thought? Does he expect readers to suppose that only America seeks to thrive and prosper and that everyone else has got a death wish?

I might add that even were this most outlandish scenario true, then the other nations are failing miserably in their morbid quests, given that they outperform the USA when it comes to rates of infection and disease transmission.

It seems far more probable that the intact nations have calculated the risks and concluded that the pleasure and sensation which would be sacrificed in exchange for a marginal measure of prevention is nowhere near worth it. As foreskin-havers, and the partners of foreskin-havers, it’s worth listening to them. They’ve done the research that many Americans have ignored or dismissed. And it’s all too easy for us in the United States to never value what most of us have never enjoyed.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • the moother

    Is the blatant ad hominem in the first sentence a sign of more logical fallacies to follow?

    EDIT: after reading into the second paragraph and meeting the straw man, it is! It sure is.

    • the moother

      Lol… pointing out 2 logical fallacies in the first 100 words of an article earned me a load of downvotes.

      Proof that:
      a) People are not really interested in whether an argument is rigorous.
      b) People loooove confirmation bias.

      • Jeff

        I agree on the logical fallacies issues. However, if someone calls you an ass, then proceeds to present a logical, factual, referenced dispute of your position, do we become absorbed in the insult and neglect the argument, or do we recognize calling them an ass is bad, but the argument is valid? For example, the recent Fox News interview of the Muslim who wrote a historical book on Christians. They couldn’t get past the Muslim part, regardless of his credentials as an historian. That is a common argument of certain radio/TV talking heads in how they dismiss any argument. “Oh, so and so has a realistic and doable plan for world peace, but he’s a liberal, so obviously its wrong”.

        • the moother

          Why are you so keen to support insults followed or preceded by arguments well reasoned or not?

          That is not the case here anyway. The VERY FIRST LINE of this piece says: I’m not going to bother with any actual arguments, I’m just going to attack the dude.

          The first sentence of the second paragraph says: I have no idea if this is the real profile of my opponent but I’ll use this straw man anyway because it’ll be the easiest to take down.

          Now, if you can do that in just 100 words then:
          - I’m guessing the rest of the article will include more informal fallacies. And maybe even formal ones too.
          - The author is not interested in debate/discussion.
          - The article is probably not worth me wasting my time on.

          And that’s the great thing about being me… I get to choose what is high enough quality to digest and what to discard.

          Also, insults are ad homs too… no matter how you wish to define it yourself. Stick to the facts.

    • Conuly

      Ah, the fallacy fallacy in the wild! What a striking example!

      • the moother

        Well, I’d tend to disagree… I did not declare the authors argument invalid…, I simply noted that there were 2 fallacies in the first 100 words and that there would likely be more to follow.

        I’m no fan of circumcision. And I’m also no fan of sloppy thinking/journalism. And no fan of confirmation bias either.

        This is crap journalism.

      • Brian K

        Not accurate. A fallacy fallacy would be if he had said “this argument contains a fallacy, therefore the conclusion is false”. No opinion about the conclusion was expressed.

        • Conuly

          The opinion seemed implied to me.

          • Brian K

            Well that would be the straw man fallacy.

            • Conuly

              I simply can’t see the point of going “fallacious!” with no context if you don’t intend to disparage. Evidentially there are people who disagree, but I must say I still find it pointless.

              • Brian K

                There’s nothing I like less than bad arguments for a view that I hold dear.
                -Daniel Dennett

              • UWIR

                Disparagement of an argument is not the same as saying that the flaw makes the conclusion wrong. If it did, all accusations of fallacy would be fallacy fallacies.

        • UWIR

          Are you accusing Conuly of a fallacy fallacy fallacy?

          • Conuly

            Am I the only one getting a headache here? This whole post is phallusy.

    • Jim

      It’s not a logical fallacy….the author specifically states that the purpose of her writing is to call Stern’s objectivity into question.

  • Slow Learner

    I expect better of posts here than to see “spastic” used as an insult. It was completely unnecessary, and highly insensitive.

    • Francelle Wax

      I’m sorry to have used this word. I honestly had never paused to reflect on the use of this term until seeing your comment just now, but I can see that what you’re saying makes complete sense, and “spastic” should not be used outside of a medical context. My apologies for having offended.
      For what it’s worth, I WAS that uncoordinated kid (and mercifully never pitcher), and described myself that way. The intent was never too disparage anyone with an actual condition.

      • Slow Learner

        Thank you for your gracious response. If you could get the article updated that would be appreciated.

        That one point aside, I thought it was a very good piece!

        • Michael

          Indeed. Just replace it with “clumsy”. It’ll be fine.

      • Rodrigo_Girao

        No, don’t surrender to the whining busybodies! It’s a perfectly valid expression in American English.

        • Conuly

          Except that it is deeply offensive to speakers of other varieties of English, some of whom are here. Ms. Wax is allowed to use new information to avoid causing offense if she likes. That will allow her to reach a wider audience.

    • ashground

      I had to google the word to try to understand what you’re complaining about. In Canada, at least, “spastic” isn’t even remotely offensive. Apparently in the UK it’s used as a derogatory term for people with developmental disabilities, but I’ve never in my entire life heard it used that way. I think it’s safe to assume that the author didn’t mean to offend anyone with its use.

      • Michael

        This is the challenge in trying not to offend people. We’re all offended by different stuff. In parts of the UK Spazz is more offensive than the C-word.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          People who get offended by “spastic” are such cunts!

          • Michael

            Likewise, Samuel L Jackson gave an impressive speech about people who are offended by the N-word.

            I’m still not typing it. Sorry, Sam.

            • allein

              There’s a web comic called “Mike: Bookseller” which recently did a strip about a book with this title. The customer needed it for school and he couldn’t bring himself to ask for it…the strip’s title is “Rhymes With.” I worked in a bookstore when that book came out; we kept it on a display shelf behind the cash registers for fear of people either stealing it or sabotaging it in some way. (Notice I haven’t actually typed the title of the book, either…)

    • Katarn

      First I’ve heard of this use of spastic. For most in the US its a highly inoffensive term. From my brief internet research its interesting that the offensive use in the UK means basically the same thing we use the word to mean here in the US but just with less malice and a different history of usage I guess. Similar to how in the UK c*** is not considered very offensive but means pretty much the same as it does in the US.

      • SphericalBunny

        For clarification; ‘cunt’ is considered highly offensive in the UK. It is not a word one would use in any formal setting, to absolute strangers, in polite company, in front of children, etc. unless one either didn’t care or was purposefully trying to provoke an adverse reaction. Yes; it may also be used in social groups in the UK as either a neutral term, or even perhaps one of endearment – but only when there already exists an understanding of tone and intent by those people who know each other. It’s also a fact most people aren’t so stupid that they think it would be alright to approach a stranger and say ‘alright nigger?’ – even if they already overheard one of their friends address them in this way. Thought people here (generally, not specific to Katarn) might like to know, since I’ve heard variations of ‘it’s different in the UK, therefore it’s ok’ drifting round a few times.

        • Katarn

          I didn’t mean to imply that I even know just exactly how the c-word is used in the UK or imply that it is polite just that it has different levels of offense. Would you say it is the most taboo word in the country?

    • TLCTugger

      I say lighten up. People who are attempting something for the first time can make make spastic movements and it’s perfectly acceptable use of language. Choose to take offense if you wish, but people afflicted with chronic spasticity do not own the word spastic any more than lung cancer sufferers own the word cough.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        No it isn’t — it’s an ableist slur.

  • Garrett Wolfe

    I am a circumcised male of Jewish decent. I am also an active intactivist who donated to the making of the authors film. That said, I am offended by the many assumptions made in this post. If one wishes to have their opinion considered truly valid, one should stick to the facts and avoid making assumptions based on statistics and averages. Mr. Stern’s circumcision status and religious background are anecdotal at best and irrelevant to his obvious pro-circumcision bias expressed in his article. The facts speak for themselves, and to attack him personally because he personally attacked us just lowers our argument to his emotional, irrational level. Further, in making assumptions about his ability to be impartial on this matter, you have also attacked my, and thousands of other circumcised Jewish intactivist’s ability as well. Not cool.

    • guest

      Ramen to that, it is important to stick to the facts about nerve loss being caused by circumcision, lower STD rates in Europe than the US, and other such things. As hominems only make us look less valid and can turn off potential readers.

    • Grotoff

      Being a circumcised Jew DOES impair his ability to be impartial. That’s simply a fact. It doesn’t matter whether you like it or not.

      Having undergone the procedure myself, I fully accept that. It matters to me. Plenty of intactivists have had to procedure and work to eradicate it for exactly that reason. It’s not purely based on reason. Nothing we do ever is.

      • Brian K

        We all do well to itentify and address our own biases, but belong to a class of people with a likely bias doesn’t disqualify us from having opinions. That’s where this article goes wrong.

      • Sven2547

        Why does being circumcised make someone partial, yet being uncircumcised makes someone impartial?

        • GCBill

          I was about to ask this myself. This strikes me as a binary issue – there’s no “neutral” penile state of serene objectivity.

          Perhaps only people without penises should be allowed to discuss circumcision from here on out? That would at least be a logically-consistent policy.

          • Sven2547

            It reminds me of that Appeals Court ruling (in California?) regarding same-sex marriage that was decided by a gay judge. The anti-equality crowd railed against his supposed bias on the matter, but the implication of their protests is that only heterosexual people are capable of impartiality on the matter – an absurd claim.

          • rg57

            Not for female circumcision.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          Being told it is a “holy covenant” makes one partial, though.

          Here’s a little thought experiment: imagine a world much like ours, but in which circumcision does not exist. It has never been done, never even considered. Then, out of nowhere, someone says: “Hey, what if we chopped off a part of our penises? Better yet, what if we did it to newborns?”

          Is there any doubt that this guy would be locked up in a mental asylum? See, there’s a whole social construction that justifies circumcision. When one dismisses that, and considers just the facts, it becomes clear that circumcision is absolutely irrational.

          • Aureliano_Buendia

            “Here’s a little thought experiment: imagine a world much like ours, but in which circumcision does not exist. It has never been done, never even considered. Then, out of nowhere, someone says: “Hey, what if we chopped off a part of our penises? Better yet, what if we did it to newborns?”

            Is there any doubt that this guy would be locked up in a mental asylum?”

            It very much depends. In general I would say no; or if he was, the practice would still continue. Even if it was completely quack science, it’s likely a portion of society would still champion the view (see Andrew Wakefield, vaccines, and autism).

            What’s even more complicating is that there is data reflecting medical benefits to circumcision, though they are minimal. Now it’s a much murkier situation. Would most people go for it? Of course not (just like now). But would some, even for non-religious reasons? Almost certainly.

        • Dreamer

          My feeling is that when it comes to routine circumcision, there is no such thing as being unbiased.

          One can be unbiased when considering only medically necessary circumcisions. When a person NEEDS to become circumcised, they may like it, they may not like it, but they need it and nobody is going to deny it.

          But, when it comes to performing an operation on a person who is healthy, has no need for it, and cannot consent, only bias can be used to justify or oppose the decision.

          Once the person is of legal age, of course personal bias will be involved in any decision of seeking non-medically-indicated circumcision.

    • cosmopolite

      Thank you very much for having the courage to be both a circumcised Jew… and an intactivist. You are seriously at risk of being dismissed as self-hating and “Jewish antisemite” (a term I heard used in college in the 1970s). Stay strong, Garrett. If you need a friend, talk to Rebecca Wald in Facebook.
      The flaw in Stern’s reasoning is not his alleged conflict of interest, but his making a fetish of peer reviewed publications. The American obsession with circumcision is a scientific and sexual scandal, abetted by an amazing silence by medical school profs and so-called sexologists.

      An American woman with a high school education, and 3 or more lover of each kind, knows a lot more about the sexual value of the male foreskin than hundreds of profs and PhD scientists. But admitting that would violate the American class system, built on university degrees.

    • Eric

      Conflict of interest exists.

  • dinosaurjrjr

    here! here! nice article!

  • L.Long

    As far as genital cutting goes ALL such should be illegal until the age of consent. At that time if you think it is SOOOoo important to your imaginary friend then hack it off, have fun and good luck.
    But one of the problems with the penis is that the skin can grow attached to the end ( I had that problem) but it is primarily caused by improper cleaning, and for small kids this is a problem because ONCE again the religious schites make people feel so guilty about their bodies that mothers wont touch the kids penis and then later show them how to keep it clean.
    Has far as diseases go chopping the end off is not has effective as good sex ed and proper sex precautions.
    So again we see religion causing harm 3 different ways on this subject alone.
    1-genital mutilation, 2-producing a situation for improper care, and 3-improper sex ed to stop diseases.

    • Dreamer

      Actually the “super careful cleaning” often mentioned even by medical professionals is problematic. Proper penile care by parents requires the penis to simply remain attached to the child while the baby takes a bath or shower. No need for painful retraction or special cleaning.

      Pinhole urination and also some irritation as the foreskin and glans start separating are normal, but often used by American doctors as justification to circumcise boys who dodged the procedure during the neonatal period. I should know, a doctor justified the decision to circumcise me based on a diagnostic of “phimosis”. Most boys are born with physiological phimosis, and that’s normal and not a reason to circumcise. It takes years for the foreskin and the glans to separate.

    • Jim

      We left our son intact (I was strongly against circumcision, even though I am myself circumcised), and there really isn’t anything special that you need to do as far as cleaning. In fact, we were told not to try to retract the foreskin or anything like that, as it would happen on its own in due time. Just plop the kid in the bath and that’s that.

  • Brian K

    Questions of motive and conflict of interest can have a place as PART of a discussion, but they are not a substitute for addressing a persons actual argument. This is just a rote ad hominem attack, it has zero value to public discourse. I expect better here.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    1) Those who disagree with me are engaged in motivated reasoning, and selectively presenting data to support their confirmation bias
    2) You should trust me instead

    Yeah. Right.

    Am I insinuating that circumcised men are incapable of being impartial on this issue? I don’t have to, the data says it outright.

    It seems very possible that it is true that “circumcised men are incapable of being impartial on this issue”. However… I scanned the paper by Morris et alia that was linked. Yes, the paper does argue that circumcision is a bad thing. The paper argues that the opponents are (in another paper) in error, and alleges various flaws to the reasoning presented in the other paper. Nohow, that paper merely presents evidence that circumcision is a bad thing — and does not present data directly addressing whether circumcised men in general relative to uncircumcised men (or to women) are particularly capable or incapable of impartiality (which is a different claim).

    When a cited paper’s data doesn’t say what it is claimed to say, that seems the sort of fast-and-loose reasoning that makes me inclined to re-examine even a position that I currently am inclined to agree with.

    • cosmopolite

      Francelle’s link may be mistaken. The link is to an attempted rebuttal of Van Howe’s critique of the AAP’s 2012 confusing partial defence of RIC. The lead author of that rebuttal is the notorious Brian Morris. His coauthors are all known American RIC apologists. Brian Morris and his friends are publishing 4-5 papers a year defending circumcision and attacking intactivism.

      The abstract to Morris et al follows:

      “In a recent issue of the Journal of Medical Ethics, Svoboda and Van Howe
      commented on the 2012 change in the American Academy of Pediatrics
      (AAP) policy on newborn male circumcision, in which the AAP stated that
      benefits of the procedure outweigh the risks. Svoboda and Van Howe
      disagree with the AAP conclusions. We show here that their arguments
      against male circumcision are based on a poor understanding of
      epidemiology, erroneous interpretation of the evidence, selective
      citation of the literature, statistical manipulation of data, and
      circular reasoning. In reality, the scientific evidence indicates that
      male circumcision, especially when performed in the newborn period, is
      an ethically and medically sound low-risk preventive health procedure
      conferring a lifetime of benefits to health and well-being. Policies in
      support of parent-approved elective newborn circumcision should be
      embraced by the medical, scientific and wider communities.”

      My very brief reply. The benefits cannot outweigh the risks, because the long term risks for sexual pleasure and function have never been studied. Morris and his friends are no experts on medical ethics. Morris and his friends silently assumed that circumcision does not detract from sex, which is a leap of faith and not a fact. Most of all, the reality on the ground in europe, Japan, and New Zealand simply do not support the assertion that the foreskin is harmful for personal and public health.

      • Francelle Wax

        Citation corrected!

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          The corrected (doi:10.1542/peds.2012-2896) link at least appears to address the issue of bias. However, it appears at best to claim that the conclusions are from cultural bias, rather than a particular bias among those who are themselves circumcised.

          Furthermore, the assertion seems essentially made based from subjective assessment of the evidence (“Cultural bias reflecting the normality of nontherapeutic male circumcision in the United States seems obvious”), and does not seem to admit and consider the possibility that the cultural bias is among those countries where circumcision is non-normative.

          The phrase “the data says it outright” continues to seem a melodramatic overstatement. At best, it’s a plausible implication of the data.

    • Jim

      That quote makes no sense….circumcised men can’t be impartial? I’m a circumcised man who didn’t allow his son to be circumcised after an “impartial” look at the data.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Oh, it’s quite sensible. It’s even conceptually possible to design falsifiable experiments to detect such lack of impartiality. (Fairly easy, given a few hundred billion dollars and a complete lack of ethical constraint on human subjects research.) Some degree of partiality seems almost certain to exist among both circumcised and uncircumcised (for the former, based on the human tendency to post-facto rationalization; for the latter, based from the nigh-universal strong emotional aversion males have to genital surgery).

        However, the data given does not suffice to resolve the question as to whether the circumcised are particularly incapable of impartiality. (Your own anecdatum does at least imply the incapacity is not absolute; however, nothing more.)

  • Sylvie Shene

    I thought I would share here the words below written by Alice Miller.
    “Banished Knowledge: Facing Childhood Injuries” by Alice Miller, she says: “As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children,
    maintaining that their behavior does no harm because their own loving parents did the same.
    Historians and psychologists will long continue to ponder the reasons for this outlandish behavior because in their deliberations they overlook the only correct explanation. But in the long run this explanation cannot be avoided, and it becomes obvious the moment the question is asked: What eventually happens to the person who was mutilated as a child? When a small child is tortured by ignorant adults, won’t he have to take his revenge later in life? He is bound to avenge himself unless his subsequent life allows the old wounds to heal in love, which is seldom the case. As a rule, children who were once injured will later injure their own children, maintaining that their behavior does no harm because their own loving parents did the same. Besides, in the case of circumcision it is a religious demand, and to many people it is still unthinkable that religion could demand cruelty. But what if the unthinkable is true? Are the children and children’s children to be sacrificed because of the ignorance of the priests? It took three thousand years for the church to accept Galileo’s proofs and admit its error. Today it is not a matter of theoretical astronomical proofs but of the practical consequences deriving from an insight that could save humanity from self-destruction, because it has already been proven that all destructive behavior has its roots in the repressed traumas of childhood. As soon as legislators become serious about the rights of the child to protection and respect as proclaimed by UNESCO, the fact will have to be acknowledged that ritual circumcisions
    1.offer no advantage and are a mutilation;
    2.prevent the relaxation experience and lead to over-stimulation with potentially destructive and self-destructive effects;
    3.inflict a trauma on the child leading to an injury of his whole being, with the consequences of these injuries affecting not only the individual and his descendants but other human beings as well.”

    Also in her book “Breaking Down the Wall of Silence: The Liberating Experience of Facing Painful Truth” Alice Miller speaks of the custom in some countries of female circumcision that also shows the same mechanisms perpetuating male circumcision: “Their consciousness, however, has not registered the realities of their situation. By repressing not only the pain but also their anger and desire for revenge, they have managed to banish consciousness, even idealizing the custom. Today, as a result of their repression, they can justify the procedure as harmless and necessary. They cannot recall their repressed anger and have never grieved about what happened to them. Consequently, they inflict the same ordeal on their children without wishing to acknowledge what they’re doing to them.”
    http://sylvieshene.blogspot.com/2012/08/question-about-circumcision.html

    • cosmopolite

      Alice Miller was of Polish Jewish ancestry, and an eloquent opponent of ritual circumcision. Regrettably, she is little known in present day intactivist circles. She died in 2010, aged nearly 90. She was a moral giant.

      One can be Jewish, and see very clearly that the circumcision of minors is gravely wrong.

  • Kevin

    Ms. Wax is an asshole. I don’t say this as an ad hominem to attack her position, which has merit and is worthy of discussion, but because she has the temerity to preach and condescend to those of us who have a differing, though valid, opinion.

    I’m always taken aback when someone without a penis tries to convince me that I’m broken and mutilated. I’ve had many enjoyable sexual encounters. You’d think that, at 40, I would have noticed by now how horribly ruined my genitals are.

    Does my disfigured status create a bias? Sure. But only a bias of contempt towards those who know so much better than everyone else.

    Ms. Wax, if you’d like to have a reasonable and adult discussion about infant circumcision, I’d suggest you get off your high horse. I can’t hear you from all the way down here.

    • baal

      I don’t (and won’t) think of myself a disfigured either or that I’m missing out. OTOH, if i could have had even more yum-yums, that’d be awesome.

      • Kevin

        I, for one, would not want a more sensitive penis. I’ve been with women who found sex sometimes uncomfortable because of oversensitivity of their clitoris. More nerve ending does not always mean better.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          Imagine you can only see in black and white. When people say they can see more, all you can imagine is increased brightness, because you don’t know what color is. Then you say you would not want more sensitive eyes…

          • Kevin

            Honestly, this is a terrible analogy. The argument is not that circumcision eliminates sensation but that it reduces it. And it might for some men. There are unwanted side effects to every procedure. It then becomes a cost benefit analysis.

            Personally, I would not want a more sensitive penis. I’m sure there at other men who feel the same way. Why are our opinions worth less than yours?

            • Rodrigo_Girao

              I recall reading that the foreskin is rich in a kind of nerve end that detects fine touch, but circumcision scars are rich in a kind of nerve end that is specialized in detecting pain. So here’s why you don’t want more of that sensation: it has a component of pain that would not be there otherwise.

              • The Other Weirdo

                You didn’t answer the question.

        • Conuly

          The foreskin increases sensation during sex but, by protecting the glans, reduces it during daily activities.

    • The Captain

      “I’ve had many enjoyable sexual encounters. You’d think that, at 40, I would have noticed by now how horribly ruined my genitals are.” Just wondering… how could you “notice” something of your perception (sexual sensations with or without a forskin) if you have never had the experince of the perception in the first place to compare it too?

      This would be like a blind man denying there is anything wrong with his sight by saying “I’ve had many enjoyable walks through the park. You’d think that, at 40, I would have noticed by now how horribly ruined my color perception is.”

      • Kevin

        I wasn’t trying to compare sensation with and without a foreskin, only to ay that sex can very enjoyable without one. No doubt your hypothetical blind man would realize quickly that something was wrong when others discussed the colors and depth and beauty that he could not see. That is not the case here.

        • Garrett Wolfe

          Actually, I have heard more than one man who was circumcised post puberty compare the difference to suddenly becoming colorblind. There are several YouTube interviews on this…

          • aunursa

            I’ve also read of several men who were circumcised after having sexual activity and reported that their sexual experiences as circumcised were more pleasurable than their previous experiences. Clearly the effect of circumcision on a man’s sexual performance and pleasure vary from man to man.

    • Dreamer

      I re-read her article. Nowhere does she say male circumcision ruins
      the genitals. Nor she says that circumcised males are broken and
      mutilated. Perhaps you are saying this from previous interactions with
      other people opposing circumcision or from a cognitive dissonance
      resulting from this mental process:

      A: “She said circumcision removes nerve endings and harms the glans”

      B:”I am circumcised”

      C: “She says my penis is ruined and I’m broken and mutilated”

      The
      jump from B to C is not a logic one. The real C should be something
      like: “I must have lost nerve endings and may be suffering some
      callousing of the glans”. A fact without any emotional reaction to it.
      Different, isn’t it?

      What she says is:

      “Over 50% of penile nerve endings are removed during a circumcision,
      including one-hundred percent of the Meissner’s Corpuscles, the unique
      fine touch nerve receptors found only in fingertips and on the ridged
      band of the penis.”

      “Mucous membrane exposed to the air for decades does callus.”

      Whether
      your sexual experience or that of other circumcised males has been good
      or not, the loss of nerve endings and the alteration of the mucous
      membrane of the internal foreskin are facts.

      I’ve found
      many males who assume that discussing the issues with circumcision
      means that they are being personally attacked. Far from true. Many of us
      discussing this procedure have also been circumcised. We just agree
      that it was not fair and not needed to do so, and many of us wish our
      bodies had been left alone.

      • Kevin

        You are correct. Much of my response was not to what was stated here, but to her attitude and to almost everyone I’ve seen from others in her camp.

        She apparently thinks that she knows what’s best for me and every other male on the planet. I wanted to give her at least one example to contradict that claim.

        • RobMcCune

          Much of my response was not to what was stated here, but to her attitude and to almost everyone I’ve seen from others in her camp.

          I was circumcised. I am fine with it. I oppose infant circumcision. I am not governed by knee-jerk reactions.

          She apparently thinks that she knows what’s best for me and every other male on the planet.

          I don’t know what cosmetic procedures and body modification is best for people. I think its presumptuous to make that claim, that is why I oppose such procedures on infants when there is no immediate need or long term benefit.

          • Kevin

            If I seemed to imply that everyone on the anti-circumcision side is as contemptuous as Ms. Wax, I apologize. As I said, I believe that there are valid and reasoned arguments on both sides.

            I also do not know what is best for people. That is why I prefer to allow a child’s guardian to make medical decisions. They usually do a pretty good job.

            • Conuly

              Routine infant circumcision isn’t a medical decision, it’s a cosmetic one.

              • RobMcCune

                That probably won’t matter to Kevin. To let everyone know he was mommy’s little man, his mother had it tattooed across his chest st 6 months, and he believes she was right to do it.

                Consequently he runs a creepy motel and practices taxidermy.

                • Conuly

                  Look, I have sympathy with guys in his position, in the same way that I have sympathy with people who say things like “if my parents hadn’t beat me, I’d be a criminal right now”. Nobody wants to think that Mom and Dad really messed up big like that, so mostly people don’t think about it.

            • AngelXY

              Being born whole and healthy is not something that requires medical or surgical interventions. Guardians have to do what is in the best interest of the child but surgery puts the child in harms way when there are non surgical alternatives. Girls also get infections, phimosis (tight foreskin), urinary tract infections etc. but guardians make medical decisions that involves conservative treatment options first to fix or prevent them. Boys get surgery by default for the same issues?

              • Conuly

                It’s interesting to note that many conditions which “require” circumcision in the US somehow don’t require it in Europe or Latin America other parts of the world where circumcision is less common.

                • Dreamer

                  Circumcision seems to be a standard procedure for any perceived foreskin problem in the United States. See summary of this study: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18832942

                  “The standard practice for preputial disorders remains circumcision. However, prepuce preservation is often technically feasible without compromising treatment. Preservative surgery combined with reconstruction may lead to better patient satisfaction and quality of life.”

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                There’s nothing “healthy” about letting little boys get recurring UTIs.

                • Conuly

                  The evidence for a link between an intact penis and UTIs is shaky, at best.

                • Dreamer

                  Most boys won’t get recurring UTIs. Girls get more UTIs than boys. A common cause of infections in uncircumcised boys is the improper medical advice of telling parents that they should wash “underneath” the foreskin. NOBODY needs to retract a boy’s foreskin. The foreskin takes years to become retractable, and when it does, only the boy himself should retract it.

            • Anat

              But why should the child’s guardian be faced with the decision in the first place? Is there an urgency to do something before the child grows up and forms his own opinion, makes his own choice about his body?

        • AxeGrrl

          She apparently thinks that she knows what’s best for me and every other male on the planet.

          How does basically saying “the person who owns the penis should be the one who decides” suggest that she thinks she knows what’s best for every man?

          Advocating personal autonomy for every man is essentially the opposite of the attitude you’ve attributed to her.

      • shouldbeworkin

        “Whether your sexual experience or that of other circumcised males has been good or not, the loss of nerve endings and the alteration of the mucous membrane of the internal foreskin are facts.”

        This is true; they are facts. What I have not heard, however, is that sexual enjoyment is directly, and solely, correlated with the quantity of nerve endings or mucous. Until definitive research has been done to show this, I do not find the argument that circumcision reduces sexual pleasure to be credible.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          There ARE studies out there that point to decreased satisfaction and increased sexual difficulties after circumcision.

          • The Other Weirdo

            Citation required.

            • Rodrigo_Girao

              There’s this little thing called Google, ever heard of it?

              • The Other Weirdo

                See, that’s not the way that works. You make a statement, I ask for evidence, you provide it. That’s the way it works. Not, you make a statement, I ask for evidence, you point-blank refuse to provide it, and then downvote the original request.

                If there are studies out there, as in plural, that you are using to support your argument, surely you’ve read them and have a link close at hand. Just one, I am not asking for all of them.

              • Ronfar

                I’ve seen other studies claiming no difference.

                • AngelXY

                  Go read those studies more critically. They are often very carefully worded so you have to look at who the authors are and the agendas behind the research. Actual scientist or just market researchers hired to sell products and services. Some state that there is no difference in “sexual function”. How do they define sexual function? The ability to reproduce? Other studies test sensitivity by only comparing area that are common to both groups in other words it excludes the additional sensory input of the foreskin for the intact group. Others report improved sex after circumcision but it turns out these were men with pre-existing issues so obviously fixing it results in an improvement. It does not necessarily mean guys without problems are going to have improved results.

            • TLCTugger

              The only opinion that matters is each penis owner’s.

        • ml66uk

          Kim and Pang 2006 (255 circumcised men)
          http://www.blackwell-synergy.com/doi/abs/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2006.06646.x
          “About 6% answered that their sex lives improved, while 20% reported a worse sex life after circumcision.”

          Frisch 2011
          http://ije.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2011/06/13/ije.dyr104.short
          “Conclusions Circumcision was associated with frequent orgasm difficulties in Danish men and with a range of frequent sexual difficulties in women, notably orgasm difficulties, dyspareunia and a sense of incomplete sexual needs fulfilment.”

          Bronselaer et al, 2013
          http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2012.11761.x/abstract
          “For the glans penis, circumcised men reported decreased sexual pleasure and lower orgasm intensity”

          • shouldbeworkin

            So, to take your first example, 3/4 of the respondents reported no difference. This kinda supports my point that claiming that circumcision (with the implication of “always”) causes a decrease in sexual enjoyment is not directly and solely correlated. IMO, this argument is a scare tactic. There are plenty of valid reasons to argue against circumcision, but I don’t believe that this is one of them.

            • UWIR

              So, to take your first example, 3/4 of the respondents reported no difference

              .”According to this study, 1 in 4 women have been raped.”
              “So… what you’re saying is, 3/4 of women haven’t been raped.”

              that circumcision (with the implication of “always”) causes a decrease in sexual enjoyment is not directly and solely correlated.

              You apparently have no idea what the word “correlated” means. Take a course on statistics, or stop using words you don’t understand.

              • shouldbeworkin

                Sure. As soon as you take a course on etiquette and stop telling people what to do.

    • C.L. Honeycutt

      Your argument might be more convincing if it was based on the actual article at the top of the page, rather than one you imagined.

      Weird how, statistically, you would almost certainly have no problem condemning the practice of female genital mutilation, nor in referring to it as such.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Maybe because there is a significant difference between losing a tiny bit of useless skin and the removal of all external genitalia without anaesthesia, all in the name of “purity”…

        • Conuly

          The foreskin isn’t useless. As for tiny, one of the problems with circumcising infants is that you can’t tell in infancy how the penis will develop.

          Some men have longer foreskins than others, and some, um, get bigger than others when erect, growers vs. showers.

          A common complication of circumcision is the accidental removal of too much foreskin (putting aside the discussion of whether any removal is okay, I mean that they remove more than they intended) , making erections painful, difficult, or even impossible as an adult.

          To reduce harm, less foreskin is generally removed nowadays than in the past, but the risk is still there.

        • Dreamer

          The foreskin is not tiny (a double layer of tissue, 1.5 inches outer surface, 1.5 inches inner surface, 4-5 inches circumference, area 12-15 square inches – way larger than the labia minora, the clitoris and the clitoral hood) nor useless (it has mechanical and sensorial functions).

          Babies are often circumcised without anesthesia. As are children and teenagers in traditional circumcisions in Africa – those that results in hundreds of mutilations and deaths every year.

          Muslim male circumcision is also called “purification”.

          So what was your argument again?

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          I won’t argue for a second that circumcision should be compared to that in practice, because my junk is still functional, there was no hate involved, only ignorance, and the chances of it going awry were quite small… which is enough reason for me to drop that argument, because, while the two things are only really separated by degree, it’s too much like what a shithead MRA would go on about, neh? WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ

          It irks me that he’s telling other people in this thread how THEY should feel about their OWN genitals. I can see by examination where my situation could be better without the procedure, even without knowing the details, so it’s easy to imagine other people being worse off from it. Apologies if I carried it too far.

          • Conuly

            People who practice FGM are not always acting deliberately hatefully either. They’re thinking “this is our tradition” and “how else will she get a good husband, something she really needs to have?” Instead.

            • C.L. Honeycutt

              Not on an individual level of course. I was thinking more of the origins of and effects of historic patriarchal thinking and behavior forever washing downhill, but my shorthand wasn’t clear.

        • UWIR

          Interesting bit of qualification there, “external” genitalia. Rather smaller category in the case of females, isn’t it? The foreskin isn’t “useless”. Would you be okay with FGM if it consisted of nothing but removing the clitoral hood?

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Yup, because it’s just an even tinier bit of skin.

            • Conuly

              As has already been pointed out, it’s not tiny, nor useless. I mean, I suppose it is pretty small on most newborns, because they are tiny, but everything about them is small at that age. Proportionately, not so much.

    • UWIR

      Unless you were circumcised after becoming sexually active, you have nothing to compare your sex life to. There are plenty of deaf people who don’t think they’re missing out on anything; that doesn’t mean it’s okay to remove infants’ eardrums.

  • Skepticgal

    I admit that my cultural bias may lean toward pro-circumcision, but I’m open to the idea that I might be wrong and willing to listen to facts on both sides of the issue. However, the ad hominem argument in this article (as well as the generalizations and assumptions about the entire American medical community) makes me inclined to dismiss this author as a credible source of information. Stick to the facts if you want to persuade a skeptic.

    • Dreamer

      For a fact-based response to Mark Joseph Stern, you may want to read this answer: https://www.evernote.com/shard/s39/sh/bba7bd08-90e5-4ca1-a207-00cbf44a9494/9a9c7ca46c76baa119dc776ade7add29

      • AlienGiraffe

        Thank you. To me, that article is a much better response. I found the approach of Ms. Wax’ response (making assumptions about Stern’s personal bias and Americans in general) to be off putting and a distraction from any substantive discussion of the issue.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          They are both equally valid responses to different ASPECTS of the debate. To put it very bluntly, one is “this Stern guy is talking shit”, the other is “what is making this Stern guy talk shit”.

    • RobMcCune

      How about don’t preform irreversible medical procedures with no immediate medical necessity and little to no long term benefit on newborn infants?

  • Sven2547

    It’s good to see an anti-male-circumcision column that doesn’t resort to hyperbolic language such as “mutilation”. It poisons the discussion to phrase it so outlandishly, and on a personal note, I do not consider myself to be “mutilated”.

    Most of the arguments I see in favor of male circumcision involve STD prevention and other sexual effects. While those might be reasons for adult men to consider circumcision under their own consent, these are not arguments for infants to undergo circumcision. As such, I personally have no intention of having any (hypothetical) sons circumcised in infancy.

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      I do consider myself mutilated. By the dictionary definition — “disfigurement or injury by removal or destruction of a conspicuous or essential part of the body” — mutilation is definitely is the right word.

      • Kevin

        I would take issue with “disfigurement,” “injury,” and “essential.”

        And why do you feel mutilated when hundreds of millions of circumcised men do not? Doesn’t that strike you as odd?

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          Disfigurement: to have the appearance marred. √
          Injury: Damage or harm done to someone. √
          Essential: is quality of sex not important? √

          Millions of women also think clitoridectomy is okay. Then, when one complains, we should tell her to quit whining!

        • C.L. Honeycutt

          Doesn’t it strike you as odd that you’re desperately dismissing people’s feelings about their own bodies in order to defend a scarring procedure that is known to reduce pleasure, and is far more likely to cause medical problems than to alleviate them?

          Most people are not aware that circumcision isn’t the necessary procedure that they were always told it is. You are arguing that their ignorance in numbers gives them, or rather, gives YOU, authority that exceeds actual knowledge on the matter.

          • Jeff See

            Well put C.L. I consider myself to be intentionally disfigured; mutilated, if you will. I care not if anyone else shares this same feeling, and consider my feelings about it, to be valid, regardless of what any other legion feels.

        • AngelXY

          There are many circumcised women here in Africa that resent being defined as mutilated by the West. They argue that they have given their consent for it, that it has not harmed them and that western women are allowed to modify their genitals without being labelled as mutilated. For example read “Hurray for Bondo women in Kailahun” by Fuambai Ahmadu.

          Their opinions are also valid, which is why I avoid using the term mutilation because it can be harmful for some to be described this way, independent of gender. My aim is to spread awareness without causing more harm which is not easy. But I agree that removing any part of another human being without their personal consent is certainly an act of mutilation. We cant have different value systems for different genders or for different body parts when it happens without personal consent.

          • Jeff See

            I have to ask: are the majority of the women in Africa, that you state as haven given their consent for genital mutilation (resent it as you like, I’ll call it what I will; I consider myself mutilated), actually of adult age? Have they received any education outside of the ‘that’s what we do’ of their society? Or are they under-aged children, simply doing what they do, because that’s what they, their families, and their cultures, do?

            If it’s the latter, then ‘consent’ is a bit of a stretch.

            • mobathome

              AngelXY> There are many … women here in Africa…

              Jeff See> [Are] the majority of the women in Africa, that you state as haven given their consent …

              Don’t feed the troll.

              • UWIR

                One hypothesis is that Jeff See is deliberately misrepresenting AngelXY. Another hypothesis is that he, like a large portion, if not the majority, of English speakers, is unaware of the proper use of punctuation to mark a clause as being restrictive. Don’t you think it’s rather uncharitable to jump to the conclusion that the former hypothesis is the correct one?

                • Jeff See

                  It was a very cumbersome sentence structure. Thanks for your objective hypothesis.

            • AngelXY

              Whoa there. Please don’t jump to conclusions. No where did I state that “the majority” of women in Africa have given consent of any kind. And I am not trying to justify the practice in any way. I don’t resent the term genital mutilation either, it is valid in these cases. But consider that just like adult women elsewhere in the world can choose to have their genitals modified, African women can also choose to do the same with valid and informed personal consent. My point was that even in these specific cases, it is still defined by the West as mutilation which is harmful to these women. That is what the article by Fuambai Ahmadu I referenced is about. We just need to be sensitive to everybody about how and when we use the term mutilation, that’s all I was trying to illustrate.

              • Jeff See

                “Have the majority of women that you state that have given their consent” is what I, in effect, said. NOT: “the majority of women in Africa”. You and the guy who called me a troll mistook me. I should have been more concise.

                I was speaking to anyone and every one who read my comment when I said ‘you can resent the term’, so don’t take that as a personal conclusion.

                I would still like to see statements from those women as a whole, stating that this was a decision they made themselves, informed, and in full consent. I cannot see a grown woman being willing to having any of their body parts unnecessarily removed (save voluntary cosmetic surgery, I guess, but this is way different). Especially those. I could be wrong.

                Calling something what it is, doesn’t harm any person.

          • Terry Firma

            Read Ayaan Hirsi Ali’s account of the day when, during childhood, they cut her genitals (in her native Somalia). Then explain to me what “consent” means.

            • AngelXY

              Personally, I do not approve of any form of genital cutting without personal consent, male or female. Ayaan Hirsi Ali and Fuambai Ahmadu both had different experiences.

              Fuambai Ahmadu states that she has not been harmed or mutilated and did consent. We either have to believe that this is true for her or we have to believe that she is incorrect about her experiences. If we choose to believe the latter then men who don’t feel mutilated or harmed may also be incorrect about their experiences. Or we have to believe it is true for them. Either way we have to be consistent about how we define harm and mutilation. It can’t be gender specific.

              In cases of valid personal and informed consent, a man or a woman can choose circumcision when they are adults. Neither should be defined as mutilated in that case, no matter where in the world they are.

              By the way, Ayaan Hirsi Ali has also spoken about the harm male circumcisions can cause.

          • rg57

            Women and girls do not have equal rights in Sierra Leone, effectively being the property of men. So, resent it or not, a cultural “initiation” has no more validity or weight than religious nonsense, as a reason to remove their body parts. Adolescent consent cannot be said to be valid in such cases.

        • AngelXY

          I would like to add that most people see their foreskins as normal, essential, valuable and useful parts of their bodies. The vast majority of men and women have intact genitals. Sure, there are many parts of the human body we can function without (for example you would still be able to hear without ears, men don’t need nipples etc) but this does not justify their removal without personal consent. You may argue that these are ridiculous examples. Please understand that for me and most others it does not seem any more ridiculous than removing the foreskin during circumcision. Especially not for “benefits” that can be easily be achieved without it.
          You don’t need scientific evidence to justify why you have eyelids or why you should keep them, it is common sense. The same common sense men and women apply to all parts of their own bodies and the bodies of others. Men circumcised at birth may not have any inherent experience or frame of reference regarding their own foreskins but it does not make them less important to those who have them.

        • Conuly

          Whoa, Kevin. You don’t like the writer of this article to call you mutilated or broken or tell you how to feel about your body (when she didn’t do that), but it’s okay for you to criticize Rodrigo’s feelings about HIS body?

        • Jim

          Is it odd when an ex-Christian feels like he was indoctrinated when billions of Christians do not?

        • Conuly

          It isn’t essential for life, but it certainly is conspicuous, making it a “conspicuous or essential part of the body”.

          Really, quite a few of our body parts aren’t essential for life. That doesn’t mean they aren’t useful.

      • Conuly

        Whoops, wrong reply!

    • Miss_Beara

      I would never have my hypothetical son circumcised either.

    • Vincent Coletta

      It is mutilation, it’s primary cause is to DAMAGE the penis. That is why we started it in the first place.

    • Eric

      Do you call the removal of the clitoris and/or inner labia ‘female genital mutilation’ or ‘female genital cutting’?

      If you call it the former, you may need to ask yourself why you are sexist with regards the terminology you use for males.

      • rg57

        I try to use “genital cutting” for all cases of circumcision because (a) it is factually correct, (b) it sounds horrible, (c) it avoids the mutilation debate while also being seen as a synonym for mutilation, and (d) it removes gender from a discussion it doesn’t belong in.

  • calesuar

    Before we remove a live, perfectly healthy organ and deem it just not useful, a throw-away, right out of the assembly line, as evolving mammals, shouldn’t we be at least mindful, if not respectful or humble, to make us ponder of the intricate tribulations of THOUSANDS of years of Evolution that decided to keep this organ instead?

    It seems incredibly stupid today to completely ignore evolution, all those years of ADAPTABILITY between man and woman, and make a life time barbaric decision on healthy babies on just one side of the sexes just to please the ramblings of 3000 year old desert nomads, especially when most of these had such sociopathic tendencies clearly ilustrated in their writings, not to mention utter ignorance of the most basic functions of the body.

    • Aureliano_Buendia

      “shouldn’t we be at least mindful, if not respectful or humble, to make
      us ponder of the intricate tribulations of THOUSANDS of years of
      Evolution that decided to keep this organ instead?”

      Because something has evolved does not make it useful to us. I have nipples, but as a man I don’t find them useful. I have an appendix, and it has had no use (and 1/16th of all humans will need to have theirs removed). I had wisdom teeth grow in and had them removed because they could have caused constant pain because my mouth is not large enough to house them.

      That is not to say that these features are analogous to foreskin, nor am I making a moral judgment on circumcision. It’s simply to point out that “we evolved this, so it must be useful” is a non-starter in the discussion.

      • Dreamer

        Actually, as a man, you probably find your nipples to be pleasant or at least sensitive when your couple plays with them.

      • The Other Weirdo

        Try rubbing them. There is a reason for that scene in Little Nicky.

      • Conuly

        Actually, as time goes on we are finding more and more that the appendix and the tonsils do serve a purpose. We can live without them, in the same way that we can live with just one kidney, but we are generally better off all organs intact.

        That does not mean that true vestigial organs, that do serve no purpose, don’t exist… but the appendix is no longer considered an example of one.

      • calesuar

        Well, I think it is a starter for this conversation. It is about ignoring too quickly ( as you did with appendix, nipples, etc) organs in our body that have adapted from millenia to bacteria and decease, (not to mention the other sex) because of perceived hindrance to infection and decease. If 99 out of 100 times, let’s just say the majority of time, it looks like our body parts are meant to be there, what makes more sense, ignore, don’t pause to question its membership in the body because in 1% of the cases, or minority, they don’t, OR, pause for question because 99% of the cases they do? (this looks to me like a rethorical question). :-)
        In Evolution things are either ramping up or on their way out but with a backdrop of thousands of years it may seem they are standing still. This makes it even harder, and more support to my point, that we need to pause, be humble and respectful of adaptability by thousands of years before we attempt to discard for everyone a healthy and functional organ in our bodies.
        I think my point of evolution in this case it’s a good starter.

  • khampshire

    You’re all freakin’ missing the point. Circumcision is removing permanently a part of a human body without the permission of the person who it is being removed from. There is no argument that can morally support this position.

    • Kevin

      And there goes the entire field of pediatric surgery. Good job!

      • baal

        A healthy foreskin is not a problem in need of a surgery. Last I heard, they are rarely fatal.

        • Quintin van Zuijlen

          and in the rare situation that a foreskin can become fatal, it can be removed nevertheless.

        • Kevin

          Cleft palates are rarely fatal either. Are we going to ban those too?

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Awful analogy.

            • Rodrigo_Girao

              Those freaks actually think of complete bodies as abnormal.

          • baal

            okaaaay. Um. Having a foreskin is not nearly as disfiguring as having a cleft palate. I don’t understand your degree of insistence on this issue. Why are you so dead set on little boys having their foreskins removed? Please don’t tell me it’s the limited impact on disease transmission rates. That’s not enough of an explanation.

            • Dreamer

              Kevin’s insistence in infant circumcision is the same kind of mentality shown in Mark Joseph Stern’s article and denounced by Francelle Wax in this article.

              Not because they are Jewish (which Kevin may not be), not because they are circumcised, but because they have accepted their circumcision as an integral part of who they are, as something that was done for their benefit, so they see the idea of having a foreskin as exogenous as having a tail, or horns, most often having a distorted idea of what a foreskin even looks like or how it works (many envision a flap of skin flapping in the wind and getting in the way of urine, sex, etc…)

              This is unfortunately the kind of mentality of many American males, which leads to the perpetuation of infant circumcision, as these males are more likely to sign their babies for circumcision (unless challenged by their spouses), as doctors they are more likely to recommend it, and as researchers are more likely to look for ‘potential benefits’ and neglect to study its anatomy and functions.

              • baal

                On the plus side, insurers are generally against paying for male circumcision so the rates of it in the US had dropped.

              • Jeff See

                I would consider that last bit, an inaccurate assumption of the roles of males in their infant’s medical care, and the assumption that it is a source of perpetuation of the practice of circumcision, for the reasons you provided. Certifications or info sources?

                • Dreamer

                  Jeff, “In the 1990s, the likelihood of a baby being circumcised is influenced by an expanding array of usually nonmedical factors: circumcision status of the father, attitude of the mother, age of the attending physician, sex and circumcision status of the physician, geographic location and religion – factors that have little to do with the baby himself.” –

                  Eleanor LeBourdais – CIRCUMCISION NO LONGER A “ROUTINE” SURGICAL PROCEDURE
                  CANADIAN MEDICAL ASSOCIATION JOURNAL, Volume 152, Number 11, Pages 1873-1876,
                  June 1, 1995.

                  A recent Canadian study on the reasons for circumcision also showed that families with circumcised father were most likely to seek circumcision for their baby: “Parents’ rationale for male circumcision” Canadian Family Physician February 2013 vol. 59 no. 2 e110-e115:

                  “The reasons that parents most often gave for supporting male circumcision were hygiene (61.9%), prevention of infection or cancer (44.8%), and the father being circumcised (40.9%). The reasons most commonly reported by parents for not supporting circumcision were it not being medically necessary (32.0%), the father being uncircumcised (18.8%), and concerns about bleeding or infection (15.5%). “

                • Jeff See

                  And thank you very much for the info follow up.

            • rg57

              Indeed. I don’t imagine we’ll see Operation Smile’s charity work reported with images like these: (the second one contains some blood).

              http://newshopper.sulekha.com/philippines-free-circumcision_photo_2203878.htm
              http://newshopper.sulekha.com/philippines-free-circumcision_photo_2203877.htm

          • AngelXY

            They are not trying to ban circumcision. Women can choose how they want their own bodies to look, feel and function based on their personal preferences and experiences. Women can also choose how to deal with their own hygiene, and how to protect themselves against and treat disease. Women are legally protected to have and make these choices. In the same way, guys deserve to choose what is right for themselves based on their own experiences and personal preferences.

          • Anat

            Cleft palates interfere with feeding at the breast and may cause difficulty in speaking clearly. Fixing them benefits the infant directly, at a young age.

          • Jim

            You don’t remove a cleft palate.

          • Andrew Kohler

            A cleft palate is an abnormal condition and a functional impediment. A foreskin is a feature of healthy, normal human anatomy. Corrective surgery on cleft palates is to infant circumcision as restoring a painting is to putting a mustache on the Mona Lisa.

      • islandbrewer

        Pediatric surgeons don’t typically perform infant circumcisions. They’re typically done by the obstetrician or an attendant pediatrician (who is not a surgeon).

        The most common pediatric surgeries are ear tube placements and inguinal hernia repair, neither of which entail removing anything.

        • Kevin

          I was responding to the idiotic idea that patient consent is always required. That’s hard to do when your patients are infants.

          • islandbrewer

            And I totally know that, now, after you’ve told me.

          • AngelXY

            As opposed to the idiotic idea that removing healthy, functioning tissue from others is a valid surgical option considering that there are non surgical ways to achieve the exact same “benefits”. Why is the principle of patient or proxy consent different for infant boys and girls?

          • Conuly

            And it ought not be required to perform a purely cosmetic surgery on somebody?

          • Anat

            Since consent is impossible at young ages, surgical intervention should be limited to those that improve the well being of the infant at a young age (such that delaying to adulthood is not a meaningful option) and where on-surgical alternatives do not exist or are significantly inferior to the surgical option.

            • Andrew Kohler

              This is one of the best articulations I’ve encountered of this very important principle :-)

              On a related topic: there has long been a practice of “correcting” intersex babies to make them conform to one of the two major genders. This has had disastrous results in that it is done before the individual’s gender identity is established. Even though technically intersex genitalia is an abnormality (in that it is not the norm–I do not intend this to have an derogatory connotation whatsoever, and consider normality to be somewhat overrated), nevertheless this is a case where there is no benefit to the individual for the surgery to be performed in infancy or very early childhood. Social conformity is no reason for surgery (this goes too for the insufferable “he needs to look like other boys” circumcision non-argument). On the other hand, corrective surgery for cleft palates, as noted below, is indeed necessary for proper function.

          • RolandDay

            Kevin:

            The proper procedure is to defer the circumcision operation until the patient is old enough to decide for himself.

            http://rjolpi.richmond.edu/archive/Adler_Formatted.pdf

      • RobMcCune

        How dare you besmirch the entire field of pediatric surgery by saying they only preform unnecessary procedures.

  • Matt D

    Well, I say if there’s a problem with this practice, it needs to be exposed, and I agree such a thing should be forbidden until the individual can provide consent.

    I had it when I was born (strange, as my parents have always been secular, but as I am their only boy, perhaps they didn’t know it was a religious thing), so it’s a bit late for me, although considering my current sex life, I’ll get over it.

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      What’s even stranger is that so many Christians do it, even though their religion is staunchly opposed to it.

  • prometheus
    • primenumbers

      Thanks for finding this excellent response to Stern’s poor arguments and use of highly biassed sources like Morris.

  • The Other Weirdo

    People say you shouldn’t dismiss an idea just because Hitler happened to have held it. Like loving one’s mistress or children. Are you suggesting we accord less to this man’s ideas than we do Hitler’s? If you had a valid rebuttal(in fact, you cowardly decline to admit that fact when you claim what tactic is to be used to deal with the question), you would not need to engage in ad hominem. In other words, and if I may paraphrase Spock, reverting to ad hominems suggests you find his reasoning valid and are reacting in anger.

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      Circumstantial ad hominem is a valid argument; this piece explains why Stern’s point of view is likely charged with an irrational bias.

      • The Other Weirdo

        And the piece itself isn’t?

      • Daniel_JM

        Where does the piece explain that? Basically she just says he is wrong because he is an American and maybe a Jew. I’m against circumcision, but the author should be ashamed. This is a purely emotional and bigoted article. To say that we can total disregard the arguments of a circumcised American Jew just because he is a circumcised American Jew is pure bigotry. Someone could just as easily say that she is automatically wrong since she isn’t a man, but fortunately we aren’t as illogical as the author.

        There are strong counters to the pro-circumcision arguments, but “well you’re a Jew so you must be wrong” is certainly not one of them. Disregarding someone just because of their gender or ethnic heritage is not something worthy of this website.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          >Basically she just says he is wrong because he is an American and maybe a Jew.

          Nope! Stern is wrong because he *is* wrong. Wax merely posited, very reasonably, that since Stern is an American and (presumably) a Jew, he is subjected to sociocultural influences that may explain his error.

          Now, of course Wax could be mistaken, and Stern’s stance is based on something completely different. In that case, Stern would still be wrong.

          • Daniel_JM

            She admits from the beginning that she is attacking him personally and not dealing with his arguments. She doesn’t show that he is wrong, she just tells us he is and says it’s because he’s (maybe) a circumcised Jew from America.

            Like I said, I’m against circumcision and have read a lot of good criticisms of the practice, but Wax’s article is beyond silly. It’s illogical and bigoted. It’s just as bigoted as if I said we can ignore gay people’s arguments for gay marriage, or African American’s call for voting rights, or women calling for equal pay, simply since they have biases. QED. That would be illogical. We all have biases, which is why we examine the strength of arguments, not just instantly discredit them simply because the person who made the argument is gay, or a women, or circumcised, or a Jew.

            Just about nothing is as ridiculous as homeopathy, but if someone wrote a somewhat thoughtful article in favor of homeopathy referencing poorly done studies I would certainly not say “I think the person making the argument might possibly be German, therefore they are wrong because they have a potential bias and I will not deal with any of their evidence” and think I had made a cogent rebuttal. Sure it might be useful to briefly discuss how homeopathic history in Germany might create a potential bias, but leaving it as “you are German therefore you are wrong” and “we do things differently in other countries” would be just plain illogical, that might be a place to start, but you have to actually provide evidence. And especially with the history of antisemitism it’s even worse to say basically “you might be a Jew, therefore I don’t even need to deal with your arguments to say you are wrong.”

            • Rodrigo_Girao

              And you keep missing the point: that Stern is wrong, it’s a given. Anyone who supports circumcision is automatically wrong. The point of this piece here is not to debunk his errors (someone else already did that), but to point the probable roots of them.

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                Haha, NOPE. You’re so wrapped up in the state of your tiny peen that you can’t see past it. You are wrong. You are beyond wrong. You are so fucking wrong you’re ripping a hole in the space-time continuum.

                Circumcision is not “mutilation”, and it doesn’t do any actual harm.

                Actual mutilation would be cutting off the entire peen (and balls), the equivalent of “female circumcision”. Losing a tiny bit of skin is nowhere near comparable!

                Now be a good little boy, and go play in traffic.

                Oh, and as for your wife — TRY MORE THAN TWO SECONDS OF FOREPLAY!

                • Rodrigo_Girao

                  No, you are the one wallowing in ignorance. Or just trolling, it’s really hard to tell.

                • Conuly

                  Well, one of the complications of botched circumcision is accidental removal of the penis.

                  For a necessary or life saving procedure, the risks of that complication would be acceptable. For an elective, cosmetic procedure? Nooooooo.

                • Dreamer

                  “Circumcision proper” of the female involves the removal of the clitoral hood, not the clitoris, and that’s how it’s done in the Middle East. The clitoral hood is the anatomical equivalent of the male foreskin (both develop from the same fetal tissue, one covers the glans penis, the other one covers the clitoris).

                  Removal of the clitoral hood on a female minor is also considered Genital Mutilation by the WHO/ UN/ US and most countries in the world.

                • UWIR

                  Circumcision is not “mutilation”, and it doesn’t do any actual harm.

                  It permanently alters a person’s body without consent. That is mutilation. And it does do harm.

                  Actual mutilation would be cutting off the entire peen (and balls), the equivalent of “female circumcision”. Losing a tiny bit of skin is nowhere near comparable!

                  “It’s not equivalent to this other thing that is mutilation, so it’s not mutilation” is an idiotic argument. And FGM is not equivalent to amputating the penis and testicles.

                  Now be a good little boy, and go play in traffic.
                  Swearing at people at people is one thing, but wishing death on them is quite another. You really ought to be banned.

                • Andrew Kohler

                  “It’s not equivalent to this other thing that is mutilation, so it’s not
                  mutilation” is an idiotic argument. And FGM is not equivalent to
                  amputating the penis and testicles”

                  Very well said! This so-called argument is akin to saying that unwanted groping isn’t sexual assault because it doesn’t involve forcible intercourse. Yes, there is a degree of difference, but that hardly excuses the less severe offense.

                  Circumcision does not remove a “tiny piece of skin”–this is the trivialization that the likes of Edgar Schoen and Brian Morris would have you believe. Hanny Lightfoot-Klein’s excellent research on FGM has revealed that women subjected even to the worst forms sometimes are still able to enjoy sex (though obviously there are others who aren’t), which comes as a surprise to many people. This does not in any way mitigate the seriousness of FGM, any more than the fact that most circumcised men feel sexually fulfilled mitigates the seriousness of male circumcision. It does, however, further explode the myth that male circumcision has no impact on sexual experience while FGM invariably eradicates it.

                  To be clear: I do not mean in any way to suggest that FGM does not have a serious impact on women’s sexual experience, or even that the experience of circumcised women is the same as the experience of circumcised men. Ethically, any interference with a person’s bodily autonomy that is not necessary and therapeutic in nature (and, in the case of the child, cannot be postponed until he or she reaches the age of consent) is unacceptable. It doesn’t matter how damaging it is.

                • Andrew Kohler

                  You lost me at “peen.”

            • Dreamer

              Daniel, for a different kind of response to Stern’s article, read: http://goodmenproject.com/ethics-values/an-open-letter-to-the-author-of-how-circumcision-broke-the-internet/?fb_action_ids=10100336521390234&fb_action_types=og.likes&fb_source=other_multiline&action_object_map={%2210100336521390234%22%3A506697126090071}&action_type_map={%2210100336521390234%22%3A%22og.likes%22}&action_ref_map=[]

          • Dreamer

            Rodrigo, I agree with you. Francelle should have probably disclosed that she is also American and Jew.

        • Dreamer

          Francelle Wax also happens to be American of Jewish background. A disclosure that probably would have helped understand her response to the inflammatory article by Stern. http://www.beyondthebris.com/2013/06/my-jewish-heritage-was-key-to-unlocking.html

  • Beenie

    At the risk of thread hijacking, I will add that the same mentality applies to rampant overuse of hysterectomy in the US (admittedly one of my Pet Issues, since I had to fend off the “oh, it’s a nothing operation, why most of us have done it!” argument for decades.

  • Stephen Rowley

    I agree withe article but can we not use the word “spastic” please its a bit tasteless?

    • onamission5

      In comments below (above? darn discus) she apologized and said she’d not use the term any longer. So good for that!

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      It’s only offensive for brits. Go be politically correct elsewhere!

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Um, right, because there aren’t any disabled people on the internet…

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          It’s not offensive in the US.

          • C.L. Honeycutt

            Go represent 315,000,000 people with your personal anecdotes elsewhere!

          • baal

            Actually, it is.

            • Rodrigo_Girao

              No, it’s so harmless in the US that there was a video game company called Spaz. (To be more precise, it was the label that Working Designs used for its action games.)

          • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

            Dude, it’s an ableist slur.

            Knock that shit off.

            • Rodrigo_Girao

              >ableist

              Now where did I put my Hippie-English dictionary…

              • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                ableist, meaning it’s a slur against disabled people, you brainless jackass.

                • Rodrigo_Girao

                  >brainless
                  *gasp* How dare you say that word? That is so offensive to people with mental disabilities!

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Anencephaly isn’t a “mental disability” — it’s the complete lack of a brain and is incompatible with life.

                  You still need to sit the fuck down and shut the fuck up, you ableist jackass.

                • Rodrigo_Girao

                  Go have your sarcasm detector checked, you PC crybaby.

                • Rodrigo_Girao

                  Ladies first.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Nope. You’re the one in the wrong, so you can either apologize for using and defending the use of ableist language, or you can go fuck off somewhere where that shit is considered “acceptable”, because it won’t be tolerated here.

                • Rodrigo_Girao

                  Are you a caricature in real life or only on the internet?

                • UWIR

                  You’re the one swearing at people because they don’t agree with you. Hemant gets to decide what’s tolerated here, not you.

            • UWIR

              Look, it is perfectly reasonable to give preference to able-bodied children for the position of a pitcher, and it is PC nonsense to pretend otherwise, and all your obscenity-laden rantings will not change that. “Spastic” is not an “ableist slur”. It’s a formal medical term. If “ableism” refers to the idea that it’s okay to have athletic competitions in which people who are more able do better, then I’m an “ableist”, and proud of it. I have no tolerance for wannabe Handicapper Generals.

        • islandbrewer

          … or brits on the internet …

          • UWIR

            What does whether there are Brits on the internet have to do with it? If someone’s speaking American English, then their words mean what they mean in American English. Just because their reader happens to be British, that doesn’t mean that their words magically transform to have the British meaning. If I’m reading a story by a British author and the story mentions “biscuits”, I say to myself “Oh, that means ‘cookies’.” I don’t say “Gee, I’m American, so the word ‘biscuits’ in this story means what it means in America.”

            • islandbrewer

              Unlike “biscuit” or “lift”, the meaning of “spastic” is not significantly different in American and British English. The offense is caused by it’s meaning (which is the same in both instances), as opposed to some cultural specific flag.

              • UWIR

                Then why did you bring up the fact that there are Brits on the internet? You are engaging in rather dishonest rhetoric. Besides that fact, the meaning of “spastic” is not offensive.

                • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

                  Yes, it is. Spastic is a specific slur directed at the disabled.

      • Conuly

        It’s not about being politically correct, it’s about having manners.

  • A3Kr0n

    The American Academy of Pediatrics says you should do it. The AAP says you should not do it. The AAP says you should do it. I don’t think the AAP knows what the hell it’s talking about.

    • Dreamer

      You are right.

      After 38 international physicians criticized the AAP’s policy statement, among other reasons for ignoring the sexual role of the foreskin see http://circumstitions.com/Docs/aap-12-europe.pdf , the AAP response was further display of their ignorance of the topic. They literally wrote:

      “However, the task force did not move beyond what these [histological] studies actually reveal (the foreskin has nerve bundles and pain fibers, the foreskin contains Meissner corpuscles, the inner surface of the foreskin resembles a mucous membrane) to speculate about the effect that circumcision might have on sexual function or pleasure.” http://circumstitions.com/Docs/aap-12-replytoeuro.pdf

      Not only the Policy Statement is missing any discussion of anatomy and function of the foreskin (the words Meissners corpuscles, frenulum, mucous membrane are never mentioned in the report), but when questioned about it they say they would have to “speculate”. Most intact males don’t need to speculate, because they know from personal experience.

      How many studies does a person need for example to know that kissing gives and provides pleasure, and that the lips have a role in kissing?

  • http://www.groverbeachbum.blogspot.com/ Neil

    Long comment here, apologies.

    It is one thing to suggest possible bias, even strongly. It is another thing to show direct evidence of that bias. It is another thing altogether to claim that that showing general bias applies as a certainty to an individual and allows you to ignore his arguments on the strength of that perceived bias alone. None of these are compelling arguments on their own, but the third one just makes you look silly. Also, the abstract you link to doesn’t seem to support what you claim. I can only see the abstract, but it appears that it was two Americans who were criticizing the AAP conclusion that circumcision was safe and helpful, and a group of Australians at University of Sydney who were saying that the anti-circumcision duo was stretching things a bit. You are correct to be aware of culturally-supported biases….they can be hard to detect and correct for….but I don’t think you’ve really done that. Actually, of all the links you provided, the only one that was particularly relevant IMO was the one showing that many European countries (which often have lower rates of circumcision than the US) also have better outcomes re disease. Decent sex ed alone could be the reason for this.

    I’m glad that you are writing on what is seen as a “men’s issue”, it is appreciated. I am glad that you are anti-circumcision. But if I were to make a claim that say, no Muslim woman who has had any sort of genital modification can ever achieve a reasonable or unbiased view on female circumcision, so we don’t need to listen to any of them or a particular one, I’m pretty sure there would be no shortage of feminists and assorted progressives lecturing me on my bigotry, even if I provided some evidence for my claim(which you have not that I can see).

    For fairness, my own views: I am generally anti-circumcision on grounds of bodily autonomy and general needlessness of the procedure(even if there are ‘possible’ benefits…it would need to be a clear, repeatedly demonstrated, strong benefit to change my mind), and because I don’t like promoting practices that give religion and culture so much power over helpless individuals, society, or views of sex or sex organs. I am against modern western circumcision for the same reasons I am against tribal genital mutilation and female circumcision. I believe it is a barbaric practice that was born out of sexual paranoia and a desire to tie the vigorous sex drives and lives of humans to social control and bodily submission, and that humans can do just fine without such norms. There may be some medical value to male circumcision in countries ravaged by aids, but I am personally skeptical that a small amount of skin can really reduce HIV transmission by the often claimed 60%, and whether it is really caused entirely by circumcision….wouldn’t somebody willing to undergo adult circumcision also be more likely to listen to advice about promiscuity and condoms? Also, religious attitudes towards sex and monogamy, and toward alcohol also seem to be at play, but with no absolute numbers attached. Studies from geographically close societies seem to contradict each other, and there has been no apparent benefit among gay men. There has to be more going on here than circumcision, even if circumcision helps to some degree. In the information I’ve read, there is also no info regarding the hygiene standards of those studied…a foreskin might be a great place for infections to stay alive longer, and maybe the additional penetrable skin is only part of the story. It also seems questionable to me that trying to get higher circumcision rates will be of much use if there is cultural resistance to the idea.

    As far as lost sensitivity, that may well be true, and seems logical….I can’t help but assume that having part of a sensitive area removed and the rest of it rubbing against cotton all day instead of wrapped in warm skin would eventually reduce sensitivity. It hasn’t really been an issue so far for me, but hey, I’m only 40, and I have no way of knowing what I’m missing! Maybe we need some research on nerve signals and even brain scans. Who says science can’t be fun?

    • primenumbers

      “There may be some medical value to male circumcision in countries ravaged by aids, but I am personally skeptical that a small amount of skin can really reduce HIV transmission by the often claimed 60%, and whether it is really caused entirely by circumcision….” – you are right to be skeptical. The studies that show this were “rather flawed” to say the least, and there’s other studies showing contradictory results.

    • cosmopolite

      Brian Morris is Australian, but most or all of his coauthors are Americans or employed in American universities.

  • AlienGiraffe

    From my undecided position, it seems like people on both sides often speak from such a place of frustrated certainty that they can easily veer into emotional arguments, insults, taunts, straw men or ad hominem attacks.

    Framing the issue as one of protecting newborns from unnecessary mutilation may seem like a strong point for those who already hold an anti-circumcision position. However, it misses the mark for people on the fence because they are also trying to protect their children. The difference is that they are still trying to discover whether circumcision is beneficial–and there is a lot of conflicting information on the subject.

    In general, assumptions and arguments about why the other side is “wrong” don’t hold much weight with me. It’s much more helpful for someone to simply lay out the reasons behind their position (medical studies, personal experiences, etc.) and let me make up my mind for myself.

    • Dreamer

      There are plenty of writings about reasons not to circumcise. Intact America presented these ten reasons for example: http://www.intactamerica.org/resources/decision

      There are ethical reasons (no disease and no consent, self-ownership, bodily integrity, future preferences of the patient), medical reasons (avoiding unnecessary risks, some of which are rare but severe), sexual reasons (the foreskin is erogenous tissue with sexual functions) and there is a large (and growing) community of males who wish they had not been circumcised. I often see boys as young as 14-15 years inquiring about foreskin restoration and expressing resentment over their circumcisions on internet forums.

      This particular article by Francelle Wax is basically an inflammatory response to an inflammatory article by Mark Joseph Stern, who wrote a diatribe against a movement showing that he has no knowledge of the History, timeline and intentions of the movement.

  • cosmopolite

    “when the most spastic and uncoordinated kid in Little League got to be pitcher due to an immutable appointment by Coach Dad”

    LMAO!!!!

    Francelle, you have the Jewish gift for comedy!
    Now if only Sarah Silverman were to line RIC and bris up in her sights…

  • Dave Wildermuth

    I don’t usually wade into these discussions, but as an Information Science professional, the bias and poor sources in this article concern me greatly. In particular Ms. Wax’s “data says it outright” source actually says exactly the opposite of what she claims it does. She then uses this study to support the idea that circumcised men cannot be impartial in this discussion. Using a baseless claim to level an ad hominem attack would appear to be exactly the kind of drowning out of reasoned discourse that Stern is concerned about.

    Sorry for this to be my first comment, Hemant; I’m a big fan. However, I think we need to leave the promotion of poorly-sourced material to the religious activists.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

      My fault with the “outright” link. I used the wrong one. I’ve fixed that.

      • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

        Even with the new link, “data says it outright” seems an overstatement.

  • Vincent Coletta

    Circumcision
    has done me no favors! I have had bleeding abrasions from intercourse that a
    foreskin would have prevented. These abrasions have made me leery of having sex
    with my wife. Without the mechanical lubrication provided by a foreskin, I have
    to use artificial lubricant or sex would be painful for my wife and I. My
    parent’s chose this painful and unsatisfactory sex life for me and my wife and
    I simply cannot fathom why. I would never have chosen to have my foreskin
    removed. Only 1/16,667 intact males will have a problem with their foreskin,
    99% of which can be treated with medicine not surgery. 117 babies die from
    circumcision a year in the US that is 9/100,000 babies that die each year from
    a cosmetic surgery. Men have lost their penis, glans, and suffered from
    deformity caused by the operation. It isn’t right that these children pay the
    price for a decision their parents made, a decision that should be left up to
    the owner of the penis. Even those who survive still have problems like mine,
    though they are seldom discussed.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ceht-3xu84I&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    http://Www.sexasnatureintendedit.com

    They didn’t
    tell you the functions of the foreskin, but they did lie to you and said it had
    health benefits. Did they also tell you it pays for their house, their cars,
    and their children’s college? FYI It is illegal to sell an organ taken from a
    patient but they still do it.

    Foreskin for sale: $155/500µg = $310,000/g =
    $8,788,345/oz.

    http://www.rockland-inc.com/Product.aspx?id=40484

    My numbers and claims are supported by these
    studies:

    Dutch Medical society and their stance on RIC

    https://www.dropbox.com/s/dhipa1ei2rqj12q/KNMG-viewpoint-Non-therapeutic-circumcision-of-male-minors-27-05-2010-v2%20%281%29.pdf

    Meta-analysis of circumcision research

    http://www.hindawi.com/isrn/urology/2013/109846/

    This document outlines the deaths caused by
    circumcision in the US.

    http://db.tt/0LW1FHVy

    All the myths about circumcision and how they
    are dispelled.

    http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/moral-landscapes/201109/myths-about-circumcision-you-likely-believe

    Boy wants to be a girl after botched
    circumcision

    http://www.courthousenews.com/2012/11/09/52144.htm

    Cost benefit analysis of circumcision.

    http://mdm.sagepub.com/content/24/6/584.abstract

    US Navy Study that shows circumcision has no
    effect on HIV or STI infection rates.

    http://www.dtic.mil/cgi-bin/GetTRDoc?AD=ADA458066

    Article to Appear in AAP’s
    “Pediatrics” journal.

    http://www.circumstitions.com/Docs/aap-12-europe.pdf

    All the statements made by medical
    organizations about circumcision, and they are cited.

    http://www.cirp.org/library/statements/

    Men complaining about being circumcised
    against their will.

    http://www.mendocomplain.com

    Three Videos of Circumcisions they are very
    graphic.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xjkd30_infant-circumcision-injection-and-procedure_news#.UYWGx7Vn7pI

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bXVFFI76ff0&feature=player_embedded

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=MDuDhkiDdns

  • sailor

    Finance has a lot to do with it. You will see a big drop off when and if it is not covered by insurance. The AAP were suggesting not too long ago that it might be beneficial for them to do a limited female circumcision. That did not turn out to be too popular so they dropped it. I would not trust their opinion on anything. The supposed gain against HIV is a fraud. I was interested enough to read the studies it was Circumcision PLUS education about HIV, against doing nothing as I remember. Duh! Talk about confounding variables.

    • Conuly

      To be fair, as I recall the argument for female circumcision ran something like:

      Umpety young women get sent back to Africa every year to have their bodies cut in dirty environments with improvised tools. This leads to infection and death, and even when things go as planned, often large parts of their external genitals are cut off. It might be better if those young women can have a much more minor surgery in a safe and sterile environment in the US, where they already live, not because it’s a great idea but because that would do less damage.

      • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

        Harm reduction FTW.

        • Rodrigo_Girao

          So much for having principles.

        • Conuly

          In general principle, I concur. If you really are having trouble convincing people to stop it, minimizing it is the least worst option. Though I also see the argument that it would create a veneer of acceptance to the whole thing.

      • Dreamer

        You are right about the intention. In that policy from 2010 they acknowledged that some forms of female genital “cutting” are less invasive than male circumcision as performed in the U.S.

        The UN, WHO, and all anti-FGM activists however strongly criticized it because it would dilute their efforts at abolishing FGM worldwide. And yet the WHO, UN, etc, can’t get their heads wrapped around the fact that male circumcision also helps keep FGM alive. Many of the groups performing FGM argue that why can’t they do to their daughters what Americans do to their sons.

        The UN, WHO, etc, have specifically written documents about preventing any attempt at medicalization of FGM as it would give legitimacy to the practice. Malaysia, Indonesia, Egypt are some of the places where FGM is taking place in medical environments in spite of the latest treaties against FGM.

  • Alconnolly

    I agree with the authors anti circumsicion agenda wholeheartedly. Unfortunately the author misspoke when writing the data outright says circumscribed people cannot be impartial on this issue. The very fact that circumscribed people come down on both sides proves it. I wish people wouldn’t make unsupported black and white statements.

  • cary_w

    This is all very interesting. I’m starting to think I was grossly under-educated when I had my son in the mid-90s. I don’t remember anyone saying anything about health, or sexual function or any of that. I remember the doctors saying it was all up to me, and there was no compelling medical reason to go either way. The only reason I was told to circumcise was so that he would look like his dad and look like the other boys in the locker room. Chopping up his poor little penis just so he’d fit in better in jr high seemed like the stupidest reason ever (and knowing that we would most likely be raising him without religion in a highly religious part of the country, I figured he wouldn’t fit in anyway), so I didn’t do it.

    The truth is, when I start hearing the “circumcision prevents STDs, etc.” argument, my first though is that it may make a difference in third world countries, but it doesn’t apply to my family. We are upper-middle class, well educated, Americans. My son has had enough sex-ed, and he’s smart enough, to know how to avoid STDs. I raised him to a high moral standard and taught him to respect himself and to respect women. I am confident that he will practice safe sex and only have a small number of carefully chosen sexual partners in his life.

    Yes, I know, it’s pretty naive of me to think he will always be so perfect, but I feel like I did my part by making sure he got a thorough education and learned strong morals. He’s an adult now, so if he wants to get circumcised, it’s his own choice, if he contracts an STD, it’s his own fault.

    I’ve never asked him if he is glad we didn’t circumcise him. I would love to make him read some of this and see what he thinks.

    • RolandDay

      The medical community has taken the position that it should be the parent’s decision regarding circumcision. This position is a wise move on their part because it shifts the responsibility for this unethical, immoral, and probably illegal operation from the medical doctor to the parents.

  • TLCTugger

    Foreskin feels REALLY good.

    Circumcision alters sex dramatically.

    Informed adults can decide for themselves about their own bodies.

  • GCBill

    So to lighten the mood of this thread, I decided to share a humorous personal anecdote:

    I was born via Cesarean section. While my mother was on the operating table, my father asked, half-jokingly, if they would remove her appendix while they were in there. Her family had a history of appendicitis, and the dominant hypothesis at the time was that it was a vestigial organ. With (seemingly) nothing to lose and potential future safety to gain, his non-serious request had the appearance of a rational proposition.

    The surgeon, however, was appalled, and merely stared at my father blankly. The idea of removing a healthy piece of tissue for the mere *possibility* of future defect seemed medically unnecessary, and hence absurd. Furthermore, the procedure (if actually performed) would have been carried out without my mother’s consent. The ethical violations this would have entailed prevented him from seeing any humor in the suggestion.

    A few days later, some member of the hospital staff happily and unironically removed a part of my penis. Simply at my parents’ request, of course. Meanwhile, my mother, to this day, still possesses a healthy appendix. Though I wish I could say the same about my foreskin, I’ve gotta credit my dad for being rationally consistent.

    • Conuly

      And like the appendix, your father probably thought (especially if he was circumcised) that the foreskin was useless or served no function. This is, of course, untrue:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Foreskin#Functions

      (Note: many clinical pictures of penises are on that link. It may not be safe for work.)

      I read once an article about intersex children, about how in the past the default was to simply assign a gender at birth (usually female) but how now more and more parents are opting to let the child decide when grown, or to at least not take any drastic steps.

      One of the adults interviewed had, as an infant, had surgery to make the genitals look more female. This entailed cutting off the clitoris, which was rather large. When she complained to her mother about it as an adult, her other said that SHE never felt much use for her clitoris, so she hadn’t thought at the time it was a big deal. She really thought that since the clitoris was so small, it was unimportant.

    • cary_w

      Really puts the whole thing in perspective. But it makes one wonder why your dad stood by and did nothing while your healthy foreskin was being removed.

      I am becoming more and more convinced that the pro-circumcision crowd is doing exactly the same thing as the anti-gay marriage crowd. They want so much to be right that they are desperately grasping at straws, but if you really delve into their arguments, they fall apart and make no sense. Because you’re right, what other healthy tissue is revoked from children to prevent possible future problems? Things like tonsils or appendixes are only revoked once they start causing problems.

      The anti-gay marriage crowd does the same thing, desperately clinging to absurd arguments like “What about the children!!!”, “it goes against my religion”. Really? You don’t think the kids are better off with MARRIED parents? You really want the government to make laws based on one specific religion? How are you going to feel when they start banning you from wearing a cross or praying in a public place? How are you going to feel when the government says ALL boys MUST be circumcised?

  • Roy Gamsgrø

    Circumcision and STDs/AIDS…

    Are people that support circumcision because of this seriously suggesting that they are cutting off healthy bits of their toddlers because of sexual practices?

    Are they suggesting that these children are going to be sexually active before they are old enough to make the decision to snip or not to snip themselves?

    • Conuly

      Well, the argument generally runs “and as an adult, he wouldn’t want the procedure”. If there were an ironclad case for circumcision reducing the spread of STDs and no other way to get the same results, that might be a good point. Since those two things don’t actually apply… Not so much.

      • Rodrigo_Girao

        >Well, the argument generally runs “and as an adult, he wouldn’t want the procedure”.

        Which is the also best argument AGAINST circumcision.

        • Conuly

          I tend to agree.

        • Andrew Kohler

          Exactly: if circumcision is so marvelous and if having a foreskin is so detrimental, why don’t intact men rush to the urologist as soon as they reach adulthood screaming “Get it off me now!!!” ? I know some men do choose circumcision as adults, of course, but I’d be willing to wager that this happens much more frequently in circumcising cultures as a result of pressure to conform.

  • GeorgeLocke

    This whole article is one big poisoning the well fallacy. I mean ,yes there are a lot of data that would stand on their own to prove the author’s point, but instead ms. Wax prefers to argue that circumcised doctors can have no voice in the discussion (unless, presumably, they agree with her. Incidentally, I am and I do.). Net that this is the same bs we hear from cancer quacks who say that doctors can’t be trusted to speak honestly about chemo.

    Again, I oppose circumcision, but I oppose bad arguments.

    • Rodrigo_Girao

      You’re missing the point of the thing. People who support circumcision (other than the very rare strictly medically necessary) are always wrong. Automatically wrong. It’s a given. This article’s purpose is to expose the *root* of this error: the cultural biases that make people accept and defend such a monstrosity.

      • GeorgeLocke

        I see how you could read it that way, but if that was Wax’s intent, then she might have left out all the argument in favor of her own position, or at least made clear that she wasn’t intending to convince anyone in this piece. Look at the conclusion:

        It seems far more probable that the intact nations have calculated the risks and concluded that the pleasure and sensation which would be sacrificed in exchange for a marginal measure of prevention is nowhere near worth it. As foreskin-havers, and the partners of foreskin-havers, it’s worth listening to them. They’ve done the research that many Americans have ignored or dismissed.

        This looks to me like the conclusion to an argument against circumcision.

        From the body of the piece:

        It’s incumbent upon us to always remember to ask: Who are the proponents of this practice? Are they capable of being impartial? What might it cost them to admit that they are wrong? Do they have a vested interest in arriving at a particular conclusion?

        These questions argue against listening to people who support circumcision.

        I agree that describing how people come to have wrong opinions is a worthy topic, but an essay doing that would look rather different.

  • calesuar

    Circumcision was simply a form of gruesome juvenile hazing to prove allegiance, and a permanent mark to show membership to an exclusive all male fraternity with gods’ undertones, like evertything else those days. To try to make it anything else today, by throwing up whatever the fuck you can think will stick, is nothing but exercises to cover one’s brutalities, or embarrasment, after the act is done.

  • http://itsmyworldcanthasnotyours.blogspot.com/ wmdkitty

    I just want to apologize for some of my behavior/comments last night, so… umm…

    I’m sorry.

    • Conuly

      Circumcision debates do that to the best of us.

  • AxeGrrl

    Re: this link that Prometheus posted: An Open Letter to the Author of ‘How Circumcision Broke the Internet’, I loved this from the comments section:

    “The funny bit is that the US somehow manages to have people discouraging HPV vaccination of girls because it might encourage premarital sex while at the same time advocating an intervention that might prevent male toddlers from contracting an STD from an African hooker.”

  • Jackno

    The parts that are cut off are some of the most highly innervated parts of the human. The lips, nipples and fingertips have similar touch sense. To take this away from another person without their consent is heinous. To do this to a newborn baby is creepy, child abuse and a human rights VIOLATION.

    It’s about time someone stood up to these wackos who still believe that the genital mutilation of baby boys is an acceptable practice in the 21st century. If they want to chop their own let them. But doing it to a defenseless baby is, or should be, a crime.

  • Stephen Moreton

    “I think that the best way to respond to Mark Joseph Stern’s address is to deal mostly with Mark Joseph Stern and barely at all with his address”. It bodes ill when a critique begins with the ad hominem fallacy. My worst fears were vindicated when I saw the standard mantras being parroted about nerve endings. Meissner’s corpuscles are NOT found “only in fingertips and on the ridged band of the penis”. They are found in most, if not all, glabrous skin. In fact, of 8 different areas of glabrous skin, the foreskin has the fewest and smallest of these nerve ends (http://medind.nic.in/jae/t08/i1/jaet08i1p30.pdf ), and they mostly disappear by middle age anyway. Sexual pleasure comes from genital corpuscles, which are concentrated around the glans and underside of the shaft, not the foreskin. So the entire argument is a red herring, as well as factually incorrect. Nor does the glans become calloused – another urban myth that gets parroted ad nauseam by people too lazy to fact check what they read on the internet. Careless factual errors, and starting with a common logical fallacy, destroy the author’s credibility and show he has not done his homework. Done properly, circ has no adverse effect on male sexual function, as recent meta-analysis shows (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23749001 ), confirmed by a separate independent review published soon after (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23937309 ), and confers significant protection against a wide range of conditions and infections. Something the AAP has finally conceded, much to the consternation of circ-opponents. I thought it wonderfully ironic that the latter should accuse the AAP of “cultural bias” yet 37 of the 38 making this accusation were themselves from non-circumcising cultures, so the accusation could just as easily be turned around and thrown right back at them.

  • RolandDay

    Almost all American male medical doctors were circumcised in childhood. As such they are products of a circumcision culture and themselves victims of circumcision. We now know and understand that victims of circumcision have emotional needs to defend and perpetuate the harmful practice. It has long been known that a baby boy is more likely to be circumcised if the attending physician is a circumcised male.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics has had several task forces to write several official position statements on male over a period of four decades. It is a safe bet that not a single member of any task force possessed a foreskin – a normal and natural part of the human body. Consequently, all position statements reek of ignorance and bias toward the circumcised penis and stand in sharp contrast to the policies of other developed nations.

    Parents would do well to ignore the false claims made by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    http://genitalwholeness.wordpress.com/article/circumcision-and-human-behavior-2y9nanfagw8nr-13/


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