Circumcision: Our Bodies, Our Choices Part 2, Men and Their Members

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  1. Anne Thériault says:

    First of all, let me start off by saying that I’m not the biggest fan of routine infant circumcision. My son is not circumcised, and I’m happy that we made the decision.

    I also want to take a moment to thank you for not referring to male circumcision as mutilation or child abuse. My husband, who is circumcised, finds those terms hurtful, as do many other men, I’m sure. His parents did what the medical establishment recommended at the time – they were acting in good faith, not abusing him. And to call a circumcised penis “mutilated” is to make a man feel self-conscious, maybe even ashamed, of his genitals, and obviously that’s the opposite of what the intactivist movement is trying to do.

    I enjoyed what you wrote here, and found much of it informative & interesting, however where you lost me was when you compared circumcision to FGM. The two are not comparable. FGM often involves removing the entire clitoris (or at least a good chunk of it), which will almost always leave a woman unable to reach orgasm; while, as you point out, male circumcision might be in some ways linked to sexual dysfunction, it doesn’t result in a total inability to orgasm. As well, FGM often carries with it serious, lifelong consequences, such recurring UTIs, cysts, infertility and an increase in childbirth complication and newborn deaths.

    I agree that circumcision is something that should be talked about, I think that you do yourself a disservice when you compare it to FGM. There’s enough to discuss without going there, you know?

    • OirishM says:

      ‘I also want to take a moment to thank you for not referring to male circumcision as mutilation or child abuse. My husband, who is circumcised, finds those terms hurtful, as do many other men, I’m sure.’

      As I’m sure do many women who underwent FGM as part of their cultural upbringing. What must they think of the usual Western moralising swooping in and using a hurtful word like mutilation?

      ‘ His parents did what the medical establishment recommended at the time – they were acting in good faith, not abusing him.’

      And the parents who have their daughters circumcised are also sincerely but wrongly convinced they are doing the right thing for their child.

      ‘And to call a circumcised penis “mutilated” is to make a man feel self-conscious, maybe even ashamed, of his genitals, and obviously that’s the opposite of what the intactivist movement is trying to do.’

      And this same logic magically doesn’t apply to FGM victims…..how, exactly?

      All of the outcomes you listed occur in MGM too, and all of the above criteria for finding calling male circumcision mutilation offensive are applicable to FGM as well, so there has in fact been no consistent criterion presented to justify refraining from calling MGM ‘mutilation’.

      There may be an issue of degree between the frequency and prognosis of the two, but mutilation is mutilation is mutilation whether you’re cutting off a bit of skin or an arm.

    • John T. says:

      Ah, the oppression olympics got off to a quick start. Afterall, getting your skull bashed in isnt analogous to getting raped either, but, who’s counting, right. Its not like I need therapy for it or I am reminded every time out to make sure my I dont have my back to the door when taking a piss.

    • “I agree that circumcision is something that should be talked about, I think that you do yourself a disservice when you compare it to FGM. There’s enough to discuss without going there, you know? ”

      Really, what businees is that of yours? What business is it of yours is it how this is discussed?

      It alomnst sounds as if you can’t stand this very direct comaprison for some reason. What motivates that? Simple lack of empthy? Anxiety that there’s only so much empathy to go around and you want to hog it all up for females? Your request is very starnge and ifficul to make any sense of.

    • Anne – the issue with MGM and FGM is that any mention of FGM (in any form) raises the spectre of “who is the most victimized” and “which is worse.” In fact, I did not compare FGM to MGM in this article but I did make a parallel – I think the distinction is important.

      Both procedures involve involuntary cutting of the genitalia. Banned FGM procedures include everything from a ritual pinprick to draw blood (arguably causing no sexual damage), removal of the clitoral hood, complete excision of the clitoris, and complete ablation of the labia (inner and outer) and reduction of size of the vaginal opening. MGM falls somewhere in the middle of this scale.

      I don’t believe there is a contest about who is the most victimized, nor which procedure is worse, only that the absence of personal choice in all matters related to the human body is unacceptable to the person who is on the receiving end of these procedures.

      The pretense that circumcision doesn’t cause “too much harm” is the very problem I have tried to address in this article by looking at men’s responses and the unspoken damage caused by this procedure to men who do feel they have been mutilated.

    • Gary Harryman says:

      Anne, I know two men who were so severely sexually mutilated at birth that neither has ever had a sexual experience with another human. One says he hasn’t had an orgasm in decades because masturbation is too painful. I found it helpful to compare and contrast male and female genital anatomy. I spent months reading hundreds of research papers and have discovered that the clitoris and the mobile portion of the penis have thousands of the most specialized pressure-sensitive cells in the human body. Meissner’s corpuscles for light touch and fast touch, Merkel’s disc cells for light pressure and texture, Ruffini’s corpuscles for slow sustained pressure, skin tension, stretch, and slip, and Pacinian corpuscles for deep touch and vibration are found only in the tongue, lips, palms, nipples, fingertips, the clitoris, and in the ridged band at the tip of the male foreskin. These remarkable cells process tens of thousands of information impulses per second! These are the cells that allow blind people to “see” Braille with their fingertips. Cut them off and it’s like trying to read Braille with your elbow. Information from tactile sensitivity gives humans environmental awareness and control. With lack of awareness comes lack of control. To say that amputation of the lips, or fingertips, clitoris, or the mobile roller-bearing-like portion of the natural penis and consequently thousands of these specialized nerve cell interfaces does not permanently sub-normalize one’s natural capabilities and partially devitalize one’s innate capacity for tactile pleasure is grossly illogical denial of the bio-mechanical and the somatosensory facts of human genital anatomy. The mobile foreskin also forms an organic seal, keeping natural lubricants inside the vagina during intercourse. Millions of years of trial and error evolutionary forces have synchronously engineered the human sex organs. The natural penis perfectly compliments the natural female body. A woman can live without her clitoris and a man can live without the mobile and most sensitive part of his penis, but both are certainly better off with all of their natural genitals. And so are their sexual partners. Girls have legal protection from sexual mutilation in this country – period. Boys should have that same protection.

  2. It’s so refreshing to read this. I am also not a fan of circumcision. My son is intact. However, the only viewpoints I have seen/read to this point have been from frothingly passionate moms who encourage passing videos of screaming infants to your friends’ emails and putting “Save the Foreskin” stickers on people’s cars.
    I have never heard a circumcision opinion from someone who actually HAS a penis…

    • That would be me. The hospital fucked it up and didn’t tell my parents. I have scar tissue and tunnels from the stitching. Erections are painful and cause cramping through my groin. Through my extended family there are at least another three relatives with similar outcomes. There may be more.

      “Any person who wants to subject a child to this should be required to witness one first.”

      …or at least be made to watch the procedure when undertaken. I suspect many would not do it again.

      If parents were to hand their child over to a third party for the purpose of fondling that child’s genitals all three adults could and should be charged with child sexual abuse. Doing the same for the purpose of cutting bits off that same child’s genitals is an obscenity.

  3. I agree with Ann that the comparison to FGM is troubling, particularly if you don’t specify the type of FGM you’re comparing it to.

    But there is a ton of GREAT information here! Thanks!

    • The problem joanna is that when most people talk about FGM they never classify what they are talking about. iow, it is ALL TERRIBLE, no iffs ands or buts.

      When you get right down to it FGM and MGM are the same , it is an invasive procedure which is done mostly for religious reasons to a PERSON against their will, iow they have no choice.

      The reaction to it otoh varies widely in the west FGM is universally bad, even if you talk about the relatively minor forms of FGM and when talking about MGM you hear things like “it cuts down on infections, etc etc etc”, iow, dubious medical benefits.

      Whenever I hear the claims of these dubious medical benefits, I always answer the same. If you beieve we should allow MGM for such small gain medical benefits then I have a perfect plan to eliminate breast cancer in a generation. Simply lop off all the breast tissue from infant girls, after all, you don’t need breast to live, there won’t be any stigma because everyone will be the same and viola, no more breast cancer.

    • TheBadMan says:

      The only relevant comparison is personal choice. Any further opinion from women is just hypocrisy.

  4. I was also circumcised at birth so I share this wound with men and women the world over whose sexual anatomy has been mutilated. I believe I need to resolve the psychological harm that resulted from it in order to have a healthy adult sexuality. I also have painful erections periodically which may be a residual effect of the surgery. I would like to become part of the Imtactivist movement as part of my healing journey.

  5. spidaman3 says:

    I agree with Anne and Joanna when you start comparing it to FGM you start to lose credibility. As for the science, it’s not so clear. It actually resembles the same tactics used by mothers against vaccination.

  6. Yeah? Have a lot of sexually mutilated women in here, do we? Oh, we don’t?

    Then quit chiming in and pouting every time MGM is brought up. Which one is worse doesn’t really matter much to those of us who have had our penises cut.

    • spidaman3 says:

      “Which one is worse” isn’t the problem, it’s the fact that people compare them or even call circumcision a form of MGM that is.

  7. It is amazing to me that women continually feel the need to rush into male circumcision articles to protest against any comparison to female circumcision. Why does this bother you so much? Is it because you view it as losing some kind of moral superiority regarding an issue you believe solely impacts girls/women?

    Male and female circumcision are both mutilation of the sex organ. Why do women resist admitting this? The author cited three examples of the reduction of sexual pleasure being the goal of the procedure. Isn’t that the goal of female circumcision?

    They are both horrible, _ comparable_ procedures.

  8. Derek Soulliere says:

    Listen, the fact that some men may have their egos bruised and feel bad that. FGM is in every way comparable. No, cutting off the clitoris is not analagous to cutting off the penile head, because among other things:

    1) The penile head is functional for many, many reasons, both sexual and otherwise. The clitoris is purely an erogenous organ
    2) The difference in the amount of surface area that would have to be removed is immensely offset from that of the clitoris

    Circumcised causes keratinziation. It removes over 10,000 nerve endings. It is functional in sex, prevents friction and. The studies that show a decreased amount of STD infction are wholly contradicted by the bulk of studies that often show the opposite.

    Conversely, the clitoris only has 8,000, albeit closer together. Unlike the penis, a woman’s vagina has multiple erogenous zones that often DO lead women to orgasm.

    Additionally, there is evidence that what circumcised men often call orgasm is simply ejaculation with a peak in pleasure. There is quite a bit of testimony from women who have been circumsized that their sex lives are fine. Are they lying? Is it internalized misogyny or blindness? If it is, how can you?

    The level of special pleading required to say FGM and MGM are not analogous is preposterous. Would all of you be okay with little girls merely having their clitoral hoods lobbed off? This is, by far, the most common type of FGM. This and clitdectomy are purposely conflated by advocacy groups as being of the same ‘type’ to give inflated credence to their cause. The fact of the matter is that cutting off the clitoris and allowing the girl to live is outside of the realm of most 3rd world countries, because of the massive amount of blood flow it receives. Circumcision is not routinely performed in sterile hospital rooms in much of the world. The problems men who have it done with a rusty blade are probably quite immense. There are other more brutal forms of FGM, yes, such as full labia removal, but there are tribes that practice things like penile subincision, embedding the penis with rocks, and partial removal of the glans. I’d like to remind you all that outright castration was performed on men for hundreds, if not thousands, of years.

    Lastly, if you’re still not convinced, understand that above everything, this is a local issue that affects boys in the West en-masse, and it’s a massive problem. Where are all of the feminists who moaned and whinged about Dawkins being supposedly dismissive about the problems of women in the west? Why aren’t they standing up for this egregious injustice?

    • Derek Soulliere says:

      *Feel bad that their genitals have been surgically mutilated doesn’t mean we can’t be honest in discourse.


    • The level of special pleading required to say FGM and MGM are not analogous is preposterous. Would all of you be okay with little girls merely having their clitoral hoods lobbed off? This is, by far, the most common type of FGM.

      indeed, and if just a pin prick of the clit hood is mutilation. then my pe.nis was mutilated.
      .mutilated.

  9. TheBadMan says:

    I still remember the early days when TGMP was ridiculing uncircumcised men.

    Baby steps.

  10. The country where I live have a law against FGM, making it punishable to have your daughters circumcised (no matter which type) regardless of where it’s done.

    Recently there was a public report about the state of the law and to what extent it has worked. There has been some cases where parents have been convicted for having their daughters circumcised abroad (typically Africa). The report also note that it can be a challenge to discover FGM even during gynecology examination as some FGM were indetectable even by a trained gynecologist. So while even circumcision undetectable by gynecologist are considered FGM male circumcision remain fully legal and it is considered inflammatory to call it MGM.

  11. It always amazes me when women feel the need to voice their opinion where it does not belong. What gives them the right to take away a mans foreskin? Nothing. They do not have the right and they need to stay out. I know they would feel the same if men were telling them FGM was perfectly fine. I know I feel mutilated. I know I have physical problems because of it. I know it’s wrong and I know women have no right to make that decision or even voice their opinion on OUR rights.

  12. I was writing a lengthy comment explaining why FGM and MGM are in fact comparable, but eventually when I returned to the browser tab in which I was writing it, it was just gone. How annoying.

    In short, there are at least ten different forms of each. Almost every form of FGM has an equivalent MGM form and vice versa. The only exception is that I couldn’t find an MGM form that is both inhibiting enough and reversible enough to equate to infibulation (sewing the vagina shut and, usually, cutting it open again only for the wedding night, for conception, and for birth).

    Since infibulation is generally intended to be reversible and generally can be reversed, it should be considered less severe than an excision of the clitoris, which, as a genital amputation, is never truly reversible.

    Amputation of the penile prepuce (“foreskin”) is also irreversible. Many people in the US have heard that it’s “just a useless flap of skin”, but that is entirely a myth. The penile prepuce serves several functions, chiefly those of protecting the glans and enhancing intercourse for both participants. It is extremely sensitive. How its sensitivity compares to that of the glans itself may be debatable (and probably varies from person to person like any other matter of genital sensitivity), but what isn’t debatable is that removal of the penile prepuce is a double blow against total penis sensitivity:

    Removing the penile prepuce removes its own intrinsic sensitivity AND, by exposing the glans to constant abrasion and inevitably consequential keratinization (drying out and thickening of the skin), significantly reduces glans sensitivity (resulting, unsurprisingly, in a significant increase in susceptibility to erectile dysfunction).

    In women the clitoris is not the only route of orgasm, so the loss of it does not necessarily preclude orgasm.

    I think there’s plenty of reason to not only compare a complete removal of the penile prepuce and frenulum to removal of the clitoris but also find them equally extreme and damaging when performed under the same conditions (keep in mind that, in the developing world, MGM too is often performed under unsanitary conditions with inappropriate instruments by unqualified persons).

    …Yes, that was a shorter version of the comment I was writing before.

  13. Thank you for this excellent article. I hope that, as more people are exposed to thoughtful and articulate voices like yours, they will stop mocking and shaming men who speak up against forced circumcision. Once people stop dismissing men and our truth and our pain around this issue, it will become harder and harder to defend forced circumcision as a legitimate practice.

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