Having been an activist for one “bleeding heart” liberal Human Rights issue or another since I was 13, I’ve learned that people who don’t jive with Human Rights fall into one of two categories:
1 – those who are completely unaware of an issue so their apathy is due to ignorance…
2 – those who are aware of the issues but have been drinking the Kool-aid too long to see the rights violations right in front of them…
Or in this case, in their pants.
Last night on Facebook, I updated my status with this:
“My thoughts on FGM & Male Circumcision: Any body modification not fully consented to by the person on whom it is being done is straight up EVIL & being perpetrated by ASSHOLES.”
After yet another exhibition of my Irish gift of being blunt, an interesting discussion followed by friends who, of course, feel similarly. I went on to say:
“Any change to the body is the basic human right of THAT PERSON to make a change to the body. Especially when this isn’t a life-threatening situation. Circumcision in 1st world countries is done out of habit more than educated knowledge that it is a religious act — and since many white Americans proudly claim to be Christian, why the hell do they do this to their babies? (Though I think brainwashing a child in any one religion is also heinous, but that’s another convo.)… Many people do not realize that baby boys die from male circumcision, just as some girls die from FGM. Female Genital Mutilation is the definition of barbaric & misogynist.
“P.S. I refused to cut my daughter’s hair until SHE was ready to have her hair cut. Most people see the hair as dead, but it isn’t — not from a spiritual perspective (and no, I’m not Indian)… I gave [her] her first haircut on her 5th birthday, and her ears were pierced 5 years later. Her body. Her choices.”
One enlightened friend wrote about male circumcision:
“It’s traumatic to babies, it’s dangerous, and so unnecessary. The argument “so he’ll look like his father” makes me want to fight! If Dad was missing a finger, would we chop one of baby’s fingers off too? And then there’s the rampant sexual dysfunction caused by corneated glanses that guys have to beat the crap out of in order to get off.”
Then there was one comment that left me with my jaw hanging open as disgust and dismay ran through my bloodstream.
One commenter wrote:
“FGM is a sin (if you are a believer in such) and a crime against nature, but male circumcision is no biggie. It actually has proponents in the medical field who make good arguments for it.”
While I love it when people agree with me, the only time I can truly create change is when I’ve reached someone whose ideology is different (read: narrow-minded and uneducated). So my response is thus:
- No, I don’t believe in sin. “Sin” is a carefully crafted construct of religious propaganda to steer the masses into doing its bidding, which usually entails keeping the rich, white guys wealthy and in control. (Where have I heard that before?)
- Circumcision IS a “biggie” to the innocent baby on whom this violation is being perpetrated.
- The so-called medical proponents must be operating under the delusion of religious brainwashing, socio-cultural conditioning, or being highly compensated to keep spouting these “medically necessary” lies regarding male circumcision.
Circumcision as we know it is a practice of the Abrahamic religions, namely Judaism and its spin-offs Christianity and Islam. As with many aspects of the Jewish faith, Judaism was heavily influenced by the religious practices and ideologies of Ancient Egypt, which is known to have practiced circumcision on adult men who chose to be circumcised as part of their initiation into the priests’ order.
Because of the spread of these religions outside their indigenous Middle Eastern origins, the brutal practice of shearing the foreskin off a newborn’s penis has gone global. However, not every country under these religious delusions practices male circumcision.
The proponents for male circumcision offer little medical evidence that it is actually “necessary.” Also, I would rather trust the body’s inherent intelligence that it has a foreskin because it serves a purpose — to the boy who will become a man. Granted, I don’t know why we still have an appendix, but I do know why my clitoris has a hood — the same reason the male version of the clit, the glans penis, also has a hood.
Proponents for male circumcision also offer the ridiculous argument that boys want to “look like their father.” Was the father circumcised later in his life when he was old enough to make an educated, informed decision based on his personal preference to have the foreskin removed? Likely not. The father was probably circumcised as an infant as well, without his consent.
Those who say circumcision prevents AIDS and HIV transmission are also not getting the whole picture. Plenty of circumcised men in America have HIV or AIDS. The lack of foreskin didn’t prevent the spread of the sexually transmitted disease. Here’s an article from the University of Oxford regarding medical studies supposedly supporting male circumcision.
Essentially, the issue of male circumcision is one of basic Human Rights, that a person has the basic right to choose what happens to her or his body. No one should be allowed to make such a permanent change to a person’s body without their consent.
Informed consent is crucial because of the medical and sexual ramifications, including permanent physical damage to the penis, the urethra, as well as the psychological repercussions as the child grows up.
What if the government passed a law that all baby boys must have their pinky amputated? Or their left ear? Or their nose? Would you willingly submit your newborn child to this just because the government said to? I doubt it. But parents willingly subject their baby boy to having a part of his anatomy amputated just because of a tradition from a Middle Eastern religion and/or American cultural conditioning?
I absolutely think there should be legislation prohibiting circumcision since there are fanatics who will keep enacting this barbarity on baby boys UNLESS legislation bans circumcision. If someone cut a slice out of my daughter, that act is punishable by law with prison time because it is aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a minor. But circumcision is okay?! NO!
Others would say that banning circumcision violates the parents’ First Amendment freedom of religion. Then what about the baby’s fundamental First Amendment right to Freedom FROM his parents’ religion — to remain a whole human being?
But I’m a female. What would I know about wanting to preserve a person’s right to choose what happens to their body?
Here are some facts from the wonderful website, IntactAmerica:
- Risks include infection, hemorrhage, scarring, difficulty urinating, loss of part or all of the penis, and even death.
- The amount of skin removed in a typical infant circumcision is the equivalent of 15 square inches in an adult male.
- No professional medical association in the U.S. or anywhere else in the world recommends routine circumcision as medically necessary.
- Most medically advanced nations do not practice child circumcision. Three quarters of the world’s men are intact.
- The foreskin is actually an important and functional body part, protecting the head of the penis from injury and providing moisture and lubrication. Circumcision also diminishes sexual pleasure later in life.
- Claims that circumcision prevents HIV have repeatedly been proven to be exaggerated or false.
- Whatever the rationale, forced removal of healthy genital tissue from any child – male or female – is unethical. Boys have the same right as girls to an intact body, and to be spared this inhumane, unnecessary surgery. (Okay, I threw this one in because of its comparison to Female Genital Mutilation.)
Source: IntactAmerica.org, “The Facts Behind Circumcision”
I can only surmise that the men who are pro-circumcision are circumcised themselves (and the women who are pro-circ have only been with circumcised partners), and the thought of a “different”-looking penis is too weird for them to accept what is natural. Or the circumcised men feel jealous that they might be missing out on sexual pleasure, so they want all men to miss out on sexual pleasure, perpetuating this basic Human Rights violation on these innocent children.
No one can undo the past, so if you’re a man who is circumcised, please don’t feel jealous. Sexual pleasure is an energy, and incredible sexual pleasure can be learned without the need for genital stimulation at all.
Just as women need to speak out for women’s rights, men need to speak out against male circumcision. The voice being heard has to come from the gender being violated. But know, we women are here to support you in ending this heinous practice of non-consensual circumcision just as we know you guys are here to support us in our fight to keep control over our bodies.
Male circumcision IS a “biggie.” Circumcision is a Human Rights violation that scars the male in more ways than just physically. If need be, let’s get Congress to enact legislation to prohibit male circumcision. It is the individual male’s right to choose what happens to his body.
Great article Trish. I would like to start with a law against circumcision of minors. Let adults do whatever body alteration they want.
Thank you for taking the time to read & reply! I read your post from Nov. 2011, about what it’s like to be intact. Feel free to reply here with the link to that article. (I even have a few questions myself!) One thought I had — just before you addressed it! — was, “If more men were intact, maybe there would be LESS RAPE?!”
This is my first but certainly not the last time I’ll address the issue of male circumcision.
(And as I’ve learned to say from my Aussie friends) Catchya later! 😀
I absolutely think there should be legislation since there are morons who will keep enacting this barbarity on baby boys UNLESS legislation bans male (and female) circumcision. If someone cut a slice out of my daughter, it’s aggravated assault and endangering the welfare of a minor. But circumcision is okay?! NO! (Think I’ll update my post with this, too.)
It wouldn’t have to be legislated if we could get “some people’s” religion out of the daily functions of the entire society. But then some people might say that it violates the parents’ freedom of religion — to which I would say — what about the BABY’S freedom of religion? Freedom and right to remain whole???
Great stuff Trish. Sadly I am the son of Irish parents (both now dead) that were ignorant of the harm they condoned when they allowed me to be circumcised as a neonate after they settled in England. I reflect that if they had stayed in Ireland I would almost certainly still be intact now. I am now very active in the movement to ban elective circumcision of minors and cannot believe how many of the pro-circumcision brigade are in complete denial of the fact that it is a human rights violation.
Wow, I’ve never thought about it this way, or what I’m missing out on. 🙁 I do feel it should be something that each male decides rather than the parents. It’s kind of like when you ask someone why they are in the religion they are in and they respond with “Because my parents are (insert religion here).” What kind of reason is that? Laziness maybe? I want to ask them if they are just not able to think for themselves or what it is. Well I sure wish I was able to make this decision for myself. I’ll be sure to talk to any expecting parents I know about this issue. Thanks!
Set me straight if I’m wrong: afaik, the infant circ tradition in the US/UK stems from puritan/Victorian ideas, and was originally meant to prevent boys from masturbating (with a foreskin, masturbating is easier, and you don’t need any lube). Maybe this is an unspoken reason why some authoritarians insist on perpetuating this tradition even today?
Anyway, I totally agree that circumcision may only be performed on people consenting to it. Infant circumcision due to tradition is an abomination, and cannot be justified (that goes for religious traditions as well).
On the other hand, the modification *itself* isn’t that bad at all.
In continental Europe, only few people are cut the first place—and most of those are so due to their own, personal choice. That’s why the whole discussion here is different. There is little heated debate about infant circ. That’s just not a big issue here. Instead, when it comes to circ, people discuss a kind of surgery performed on consenting adults. Some men consider undergoing this surgery themselves, and people discuss the pros and cons of doing so.
I personally have been circumcised as a young adult, due to medical reasons (phimosis). Beforehand, I did some investigations on the topic. Most people over here think being circumcised or not is not a big deal in the first place. There *are* differences, of course: If you are circumcised, some things are better, other things are worse. But all in all, it’s simply a matter of personal *taste*. Some people prefer being cut, others prefer being uncut. Neither condition is inherently better or worse than the other. They are *different*.
In my perception, the US anti-circ movement tends to exaggerate things, and in particular to exaggerate the downsides of being circumcised.
I understand their cause (i.e. putting an end to infant circumcision). And I totally support that cause. But some activists make it seem like circumcised men were physically crippled in some way. That is just not true (unless something went terribly wrong in the course of the surgery). Men who are cut might be led to think they could never experience real sexual pleasure. That is not true, as well. You can be just as happy if you are cut. In fact, many people think being cut is even *better* than being uncut. That’s why they undergo this surgery voluntarily over here. Being cut is different, but it is no worse.
Like I said, it is a matter of personal taste, a matter of personal choice, which you prefer. The real problem, the only problem, with infant circ is that those boys are not being given this choice.
So, anti-circ activists should be careful not to overrate the *result* of a circumcision. Be careful not to demonize circumcision *in general*. Tell cut men their parents did a great wrong when they decided about this issue over their head. But do not make them believe they were physically crippled, do not make them feel doomed to superficial sexuality, do not tell them they were incapable of experiencing the “real” thing. That’s just not correct. And doing so would cause even *more* problems, because these people might *feel* like they were doomed. Plus, you can fight infant circ without demonizing circumcision in general.
In short: Being cut or uncut in itself *is* no biggie. Circumcision being performed on *infants* is an abomination, though. We need to eradicate the latter.
Once again: The reason we need to eradicate this is that the boy cannot decide about it on his own. The physical result is not inherently bad in any way, though. And it is important to tell this to those men. If they *feel* crippled and doomed, they will suffer from this attitude even more.
[Btw: I’m really upset with anyone even mentioning circ in the same breath as FGM. The latter is an incredible cruelty: Those women are actually mutilated, their sexuality is heavily impeded, and the risk of death is high. Circ, on the other hand, is not nearly as bad, and the risk of death/serious injury is very low (probably lower than the risks of things such as a bad diet). After all, being cut/uncut is a matter of personal taste / lifestyle. Maybe, even ear piercing would be a better comparison.]
You raise some interesting points, thank you, sorry I can’t read it in full but I find white font on black background quite blinding. I think the issues are quite different in developing countries, where adult circumcision is being sold as protection (rather than partial protection) against HIV and almost everything else, it seems! There is a lot of pressure on people, their partners, their communities, for men to be circumcised. There is no discussion of any possible down sides or of men having some kind of autonomy. Of course, they don’t have any autonomy against the abusive power of wealthy US institutions, who have been dictating what people here in African countries should and shouldn’t do for decades.
Sorry, I can see now that the reason for the white on black is that the site didn’t download properly, poor connection here in Tanzania. But finished your post and enjoyed it. Always good to keep infant and adult circumcision separate, as one of your respondents said. But there is little use of informed consent here in East Africa when US funded surgeons come wielding scalpels. People are rounded up, told whatever the party line is and expected to do what they are told, which many do. A lot believe the rhetoric, which implies that they are ‘vaccinated’, that they now have an ‘invisible condom’, etc. Interestingly, the same researchers who claim to have shown that the operation reduces HIV risk by some emotionally charged percentage also found that penile hygiene is far more effective, if carried out properly. They don’t boast about that finding but they did publish it along with the claims about circumcision with subsequently achieved legendary status, but no one seems to take any notice.
I enjoy your blog and I agree with you on this issue for the most part but I object to some of the language that you are using. I may not have made the choice myself but I do not think of myself as a victim or my parents as monsters for choosing this for me, especially since at the time it was doctor recommended. As far as I’m concerned I am still “whole” and I do not need a few extra bits of skin to complete me as a man. I agree that circumcising babies should be stopped but please remember that there is nothing wrong with those of us who have had it done.
Thanks so much for taking the time to comment AND give us insight into this matter from your perspective.
I tried to make sure MY posts on the matter of circumcision do NOT vilify the men who were cut without their permission. If I personally came across as being against the MEN, that was NOT my intent. I love men, and I love penises, so I think they’re beautiful cut or uncut. What I highly object to is any person’s body being permanently modified withOUT his or her consent.
However, having been an activist since I was 13, I know for a fact that sometimes strong language is the only language that is heard — if you’ve been following the recent “slut” attacks against women and our body rights’ issues, you’ll see this is very (sometimes unfortunately) true.
The important thing here is to keep the discussion going — to keep it honest and respectful. This can only happen if men and women come together to discuss the issue(s) and work for lasting change — as we are now. And I will work harder to ensure men know MY personal anti-circ message is NOT against them. 🙂
Hope you’ll comment again!
Quick update from over here: A German district court just ruled that circumcising a kid ŵho is too young to consent is unlawful, and even punishable as physical assault—The only exception being cases of medical indication. In particular, religious beliefs of the parents (in this case, Muslims) cannot justify this surgery.
On the other hand, the parents can still appeal to a federal court, esp. with regards to their religious freedom. It’s difficult to predict what the outcome would be if they did.
Addendum: Since I posted the above comment I have now learned that it was my late mother’s decision that I be circumcised, and I therefore conclude that I would have most likely been circumcised even if I had been born in Ireland. I am not sure if my father was also circumcised. I have a strong suspicion that he was not.
I would please like to hear from women who like uncircumcised penis’s. What is it about the uncut penis that appeals to them. Thank you very much.
@Voss: I have been reading about the foreskin and its removal for nearly 50 years. I read my first anti-circumcision book 30 years ago, and it turned me into an intactivist.
The country with the most intense research on human sexuality is the USA. One would think that this American research would, by now, have a fair grasp on the sexual role of the foreskin and its motion, and have a fair understanding of the benefits and drawbacks of circumcision. This is not the case, however, and I have concluded that American sexual and medical research is refusing to look for the sexual truth about circumcision, for fear of antagonising Jews and Moslems. There never has been a large sample study of the North American penis, whose remit would include the anatomical and sexual outcomes of routine infant circumcision.
So all we have is a substantial collection of anecdotes, shared via the internet. Those anecdotes suggest that having the glans in constant contact with underwear for 40-50 years leads to a very gradual decline in the ability of the glans to experience sexual sensations. Hence circumcision promotes ED, mainly taking the form of lowering the average age of ED onset.
The drawbacks of circumcision are very easy to ignore, because they vary widely by individual and by age of onset. Many drawbacks emerge so long after the circumcision takes place that the victim and his doctor do not suspect that circumcision is to blame for the adverse symptoms.
Thank you for reminding me of this comment 🙂
In fact, my own view of the topic has changed significantly since I wrote it last spring.
For a long time, I refused to actually think about the results of my circumcision. I did hear about adverse effects, sure. But most of those effects, I either denied or whitewashed. For several reasons, I could not stand the idea that circumcision might be a bad thing after all.
In September last year, I had a key experience. I realized that my body was far from being done with this surgery—even though my mind wanted to forget it.
When I allowed myself to truly listen to my body’s feelings, I realized that there were some adverse effects that I had denied beforehand. And a few days later, I was able to actually consider even the intactivists’ arguments that I had shrugged off before.
For a few months now, I’ve been working on dealing with the surgery and its effects. By now, I agree with many of the points that are usually made against circumcision.
I am able to acknowledge that I have lost an important part of my sexual organs. Acknowledging this fact is difficult. The past months were a challenging time for me.
Anyway: In sum, my view of the the topic has significantly changed since September. I will write about these changes in more detail later. I need some more time to digest my own circumcision emotionally. And I need to sort my thoughts before I can write them down.
50+ years ago, Irish doctors working in Irish hospitals never performed circumcisions. Hence it would not have been an option, regardless of your mother’s preferences. I am intact because I was born in a French maternity ward, where circumcision was simply not an option.
Europe is no font of knowledge about the sexual virtues of the intact penis. Nearly all stuff I’ve seen in French about those virtues has either been translated from American writing, or has been strongly influenced thereby. To understand how circumcision affects human sexual function and pleasure, you frankly need ample sexual experience with both kinds of men. A large majority of those who deplore routine infant circumcision are straight woman (like our hostess) and gay men. The sexual downside of RIC is evident to them as end users of the penis.
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