Our Bodies, Our Choices: Circumcision is Not a Joke

Tom Gualtieri of The Weeklings believes men should advocate for choice when it comes to their bodies.

Originally published at The Weeklings

“My body, my choice.”

I like this phrase, even with its reductionist simplicity. All argument seems pointless in contrast.

In America we may do anything we want with our bodies, barring suicide (a topic for a separate essay) and using illegal substances. There are piercings, tattoos, collagen, sex changes & hormones, breast augmentation…  The list goes on and on, and that’s not counting the non-invasive procedures like diets, beauty regimens, waxing, sugaring, hair styling, the classic cut & color, and even (heavens!) exercise. We may paint ourselves blue, wear nose rings, ear gauges, dress in rubber clothing or use mountains of silicon in an effort to satisfy our need to feel beautiful, unique or to fit in. We fight for the right.

Todd Akin’s recent remarks about abortion (and his bizarre ignorance about rape) only highlight the ongoing debate over the phrase: “My body, my choice.” The subject of reproductive rights and battles to overturn two pro-choice decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court in the 20th Century come around again every election cycle. And even though the 2010 mid-terms were supposed to be a referendum on jobs and economic growth, they resulted in attacks on Planned Parenthood and women’s reproductive choices.

In the pro-choice movement, the most important argument has been a woman’s right to choose. That right to choose involves the whole body and sexual rights are inevitably tied to it. The inability of half our nation to recognize a woman’s right to her own body abuts another issue tied up with that powerful phrase:

“My body, my choice.”

♦◊♦

A decade ago I was walking a Manhattan street with my ex when I spotted a fellow (I assumed this person was a man, though I couldn’t tell for certain!) with neon-blue hair, a studded wardrobe and ear gauges – something I had never seen before. I turned to my ex and snidely remarked that he should remind me to pierce my eyelids when we next visited the mall. He shook his head and said, “I think people can do whatever they want with their bodies.”

With that plain declaration, he unwittingly asked me to look at myself. Why was I so threatened by this person’s self-expression? Why need I be? His choices had no effect on me except to irritate something I preferred to keep hidden: my insecurity. Ever since then, I have been a firm believer in privacy. What you do with your own body and how you do it, so long as it does not interfere with my rights, is perfectly acceptable. Sure, someone may cause a disturbance if he walks down the street with a skull tattooed on his face, but if it disturbs me that’s my problem, not his.

“Suggestive clothing” or “flirtatious behavior” are often used against rape victims — as if either justifies a perpetrator’s violence. If I don’t have the self-control to keep from raping a woman because her short skirt makes me feel a need to dominate her, there’s something wrong with me, not her. She is free to dress and behave as she chooses. Just like a man.

Self-sovereignty is the touchstone of American culture but  is often opposed by those who feel threatened. To the small-minded, independence and the assertion of self somehow diminishes their rights. To feel superior, they must fight back. Rape and Female Genital Mutilation (FGM) are just two in the panoply of attacks which either aggressively or suggestively attempt to crush a woman’s right to self-hood.

In the fight for male dominion over his sexual self, the foreskin has gotten short shrift.

♦◊♦

Now that’s you’ve stopped laughing long enough to pay attention (because let’s face it, circumcision is almost always treated as a joke, as is any form of violence against male genitals), think for a moment about your instant reaction:

“Eww, foreskin is gross.”
or
“That’s the parent’s choice.”
or
“It’s healthier without it.”
or
“What about religious reasons?”
or
“There is no comparison to Female Genital Mutilation.
or
“What difference does it make?”

For me, it all comes down to one point:

“My body, my choice.”

The foreskin is the only body part we routinely amputate in the absence of an immediate health threat. There are perhaps a dozen reasons cited as to why circumcision is a “benefit,” but none is an immediate threat and all can all be traced back to one of these:

  1. Appearance
  2. Religion
  3. Possibility of medical problems.

Let’s address #3 first, since the American Academy of Pediatrics issued a statement this month reversing its previously neutral stance on circumcision. The AAP’s endorsement of circumcision cites several medical issues which are, debatably, more prevalent by a few percentage points (sometimes fractions thereof) in the intact male: urinary tract infections, increased chances of STDs including HPV, HIV and others, as well as reduction in penile cancer. None are a direct threat and all are contingent on possibility, not probability. In addition, counter-studies have suggested otherwise.

Dr. Douglas Diekema, a member of the AAP’s circumcision task force, states in a recent  Huffington Post article on the subject, “What remains unchanged is that the AAP still holds that the health benefits are not great enough to recommend routine circumcision for all newborn males.” Nevertheless, the AAP’s statement leans sharply toward cutting. This new stance, coupled with the World Health Organization’s embrace of experiments involving the circumcision of African men in order to reduce HIV transmission risk, has caused more than a bit of controversy.

“Intactivists,” believe that routine infant circumcision is violence — mutilation. The stress on the phrase “routine infant” is notable because while infant circumcision is decried, Intactivists remain dedicated to the grown man’s right to choose.

The sleeve-like structure that is the male foreskin (which, unsheathed, amounts to approximately 12 square inches in the adult male) serves a sexual function. Among those cultures that practice circumcision, medical reasons are heaped onto existing societal and religious custom, even though religious and medical practices have no relationship. American women rarely give a thought to the foreskin unless they are expecting a baby boy OR encounter an intact man during sex. For American men it is the same; there’s no occasion to speak of it unless they are dealing with an infant, have same-sex partners, or joke about it in the locker room. It is largely addressed as a nuisance by the American medical community even though the last 15 years has seen a reduction in the US practice.

The message is, “Cut it off. It’s easier.”

Maligned in the U.S., the foreskin is accepted for what it is by the majority of the world population: a functional part of male sexual anatomy.

When we think about infants, we do not like to think about the sexual beings they will become. We think only of their safety and their protection. But our infant boys do grow up to be men. All adults, men and women alike, deserve their full spectrums of sexual function and pleasure. They are also entitled to make choices for themselves.

Can a man experience sexual pleasure without his foreskin? Well, duh! Millions have, but it is the quality of the sexual experience that serves both psychological and biological functions. (Prolonged periods of heightened sexual pleasure produce stronger orgasms in both men and women, making it more likely conceive. Not only that – it feels better! Duh!) Since the male anatomy can function (and has for centuries) without the foreskin, little thought is given by the general population to the long-term effects of its removal. If the plumbing works from infancy through the teen years, what problems could possibly exist?  But it is often later in life that cut men start to experience problems.

According to Ronald Goldman, Ph.D., executive director of the Circumcision Resource Center in Boston, “Medical studies have shown that the foreskin protects the penile head, enhances sexual pleasure, and facilitates intercourse.” Additionally, a study released in the April 2007 British Journal of Urology (BJU) International concluded that the “five locations on the uncircumcised penis that are routinely removed at circumcision had lower pressure thresholds.” Let me translate: The parts that are removed in circumcision are more sensitive than the parts that are left.

The study also notes that “The glans [head] of the uncircumcised men had significantly lower mean pressure thresholds than that of the circumcised men,” which amounts to the same thing. The head of the uncircumcised penis is more sensitive than the head of a cut male.

The study also found that in the circumcised male the circumcision scar is typically the most sensitive spot on the penis.

That’s completely fucked up.

A flicker of logic will draw the same conclusion that led to the above experiment: if the penis is engineered around the biological need to orgasm, and if the orgasm is produced by nervous stimulation, wouldn’t amputation of a part of this complex web of nerves and vascular tissue have some effect? This is no numb, useless flap of skin, though the population of content but naive circumcised men (and repulsed women) may argue otherwise. Whose right is it to tell me that it should be removed at birth? Infants in our care are meant to be protected from harm. But what of the adults they grow up to be?

Parallels to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), seem offensive when a parallel is mistaken for comparison. But let me be clear: I do not compare the two. I draw a parallel related to genital integrity.

Women’s sexual needs have been vilified for centuries. The violence done on women through FGM is done to subjugate women to male desire. By removing pleasure, the male who has been taught to possess, dominate and rule is placated. Her sexual power over him is diminished if he feels that he is dominant. Her pleasure must be secondary – or entirely eliminated.

Genital mutilation, like rape, is an act of violence. Unlike rape, however, FGM represents a bizarre marriage of patriarchal domination and female complicity in the cycle of abuse. Perpetrated and perpetuated by women on women at the behest of men, FGM stifles a woman’s sexual health and pleasure to keep her part of the tribe. No one must step outside the circle – power must be equal among the subjugated. If I suffer, so should you. If a woman does escape this ritual, her pleasure reminds the tribe of the millennia of horror men have forced upon women, and that women have allowed to be done to their daughters: what does it say about women who have, for centuries, perpetuated male dominion by taking on the role of circumciser? There can be no rebellion in these societies. And where there is no rebellion, there is no fear and no self-examination.

If you re-read the above paragraphs with a few substitutions, it is equally ghastly:

Circumcision represents a bizarre marriage of patriarchal domination and female complicity in the cycle of abuse. Perpetrated and perpetuated by men upon men, with the complicity of women, circumcision mutes a man’s sexual health to keep him part of the tribe. No one must step outside the circle – power must be equal among the subjugated. If I suffer, so should you. If a man does escape this ritual, his experience of greater pleasure than his father calls to mind the millennia of horror men have done upon men, and women have allowed to be done to their sons.

Circumcision rituals are performed on males in cultures that include Judaism, Islam and various African tribes like the Kikuyu and Maasai at ages ranging from infancy to adolescence. Unlike modern American circumcision, which is done under medical supervision in private, tribal and religious customs involve public settings in which the child or teenager is on display during this ritual.

Sexual subjugation is about power.

What power, then, do we wield over our boys when the first thing we do to them after birth is to take a knife to the most delicate and sensitive part of their anatomies? What happens to the mother/child bond when she gives him into the arms of a stranger to experience the most excruciating pain of his newborn life, before being returned to her?

♦◊♦

In her August 12 op-ed in the LA Times (“Circumcision: It Was Good Enough For Jesus”) Charlotte Allen says, “Cmon on, guys, man up!”

Did she actually write “Come on guys, man up?!!?!”

My response is: How fucking dare you, madam?

I wonder, does she know anything of the men who are afraid to be called victim or less-than-men because they are not allowed to complain that their circumcisions have left them mutilated, partially damaged, impotent or having to live through a life-time of genital reconstructive surgeries? Men who have suffered from choices made for them in infancy suffer well into adulthood, often remaining silent on the issue, or silenced by other men and women, like Ms. Allen, who think they are “whiners.”

I was permanently damaged by my circumcision. A surgery, badly performed, left me with severe scarring and extreme sensitivity which actually causes unbearable irritation during certain sexual activities. This sensitivity has grown worse as I get older. Basically, too much flesh was removed from one side. I learned as an adult that I came home from the hospital with stitches in my penis. Upon examination, it is clear that a major vein was severed and the cut was too deep.

Compared to the grotesque damage which can be seen in images in various forums and activist groups about circumcision(these images of adult men with severely deformed penises as a result of circumcision are almost unbearable to look at it), mine may be an ungrateful complaint; my sex life has been basically normal. The damage, because Americans are so accustomed to the circumcised penis, wouldn’t register unless you looked closely. I’ve even been asked to pose nude and appear naked onstage. I don’t know anything other than the sex life I’ve had, yet I can’t help but wonder what my sex life could be like had I been allowed to keep the body nature designed.

Ms. Allen, not having a penis herself, should shut up. She has no right to have an opinion on the matter of my genitals. Though there may be argument from the women’s health camp because studies have shown that circumcision reduces the threat of cervical cancer in women by reducing the possibility of HPV transmission. (Although counter studies say otherwise.)

So – just to clarify – you want to cut off a part of your infant son’s sex organ because there is a possibility that he might, as an adult, come in contact with HPV and, subsequently, might have sex with a woman who hasn’t had the HPV vaccine?

Sorry. No. I can’t get on board with a lifetime’s alteration of a man’s body any more than I can a woman being forced to undergo a 20-minute vaginal probe before an abortion.

The case of David Reimer, an example of a worst-case scenario taken to extremes (hyperbole intentional), remained largely unknown until an expose in Rolling Stone Magazine in December of 1997. Reimer and his twin brother were sent to be circumcised several weeks after birth due to phimosis (a tightening of the foreskin). When Reimer’s surgery went horribly wrong, his brother’s surgery was aborted. The brother’s phimosis, a condition often treated through surgery, cleared up on its own without surgical intervention. But Reimer’s penis turned black and fell off.

Reimer’s penis turned black and fell off.

The darkest irony, to me, is that the condition for which they were both being treated cleared up on its own in Reimer’s brother.

The loss of Mr. Reimer’s penis resulted in a series of tragic decisions. First, his parents were convinced by a Johns Hopkins scientist to choose sexual reassignment for David. What followed was an orchiectomy (the complete removal of Reimer’s testicles) and an attempt to raise him as a girl via hormones and dozens of genital surgeries throughout his life. In his teen years, Reimer’s father disclosed what had happened and Reimer attempted to live his life as a man until his suicide in 2004.

Reimer’s story went unreported for three decades. Other stories like it are available to those who will listen, told by horrified nurses, doctors and O.R. staff. One nurse, who spoke  on the condition of anonymity, told me:

“I had a baby who, shortly after his circ, his penis turned black and necrotic. He was transferred to our hospital for evaluation and died within two weeks.

“Then several months ago, we had a partial amputation with urethral involvement. That baby had to be transferred to a tertiary care hospital for repair and will have lifetime urologic complications. The father was inconsolable.”

And those are just two of her stories. And those stories are just the observations of one nurse. This week alone I have read three articles on botched circumcisions. One story reports the loss of the penises of twin infants after botched circumcisions. Another, the partial amputation of the glans penis (the head) during a bris. There are hundreds of stories like this. What will it be like for those boys to grow into adults?

There are countless men who say, “Hey, my dick is fine,” but there are just as many who can verify a loss of sensitivity. The removal of healthy erogenous tissue, whether or not its loss is recognized, is more to the point than, “My dick works.” Can you miss something you never had? I do.

♦◊♦

Christopher Guest, M.D, co-founder of the Children’s Health & Human Rights Partnership (CHHRP) calls the AAP’s statement “seriously flawed.” In a press release picked up by Reuters and other online publications, Guest states:

“‘Circumcision alters the structure of the penis, which inevitably alters function. Long term harm to men from infant circumcision has never been studied.’  He referred to a growing body of anecdotal evidence collected by the Canadian-based Global Survey of Circumcision Harm. Guest said that in the past 12 months over 900 men have answered the online survey to document their harm.”

The type of circumcision performed on Reimer was an unusual method and though there are various methods available today, they each bear a different set of risks. Stories of damage are not urban myths.

I came across a extraordinarily moving video on YouTube in which a devout Jewish mother expresses her personal feelings about the ritual bris:

“…the trauma that I felt as a mother having witnessed this rite on my babies… I didn’t know how to even formulate the questions because they were in total contradiction with everything that I believed and trusted.  And it wasn’t until… many years later that I finally took a step to start learning about circumcision and I was devastated. And my heart has never been whole since.” – Miriam Pollack on Circumcision.

There is no empirical data to justify her feelings so her emotional response can be easily dismissed. But Intactivist boards are filled with stories like this by women who listened to their child’s screams or who watched their boys go into shock and whose protective instincts caught fire in that instant of “too late.” What regret must a parent live with to know that she has subject her child to even the most momentary pain or, worse, to a lifetime of anger predicated by a decision in which her son had no part?

Whether or not you believe that the foreskin has any function; whether or not you have researched its function; whether or not you believe an infant is traumatized by this bizarre custom, the fact remains: the man your son will grow to be is left without a choice when you choose for him.

Hugh Young, the founder of www.circumstitions.com, speaking at a debate on religious circumcision, said,

“No matter how ancient, no matter how beautiful the ceremony … no matter how much it is perceived as binding people to their ancestors, no matter how divinely commanded – what is happening at the centre of this is that a baby is held down and part of his or her genitals are cut off, and they stay cut off for the rest of that person’s life…”

♦◊♦

The revised statement by the American Association of Pediatrics fails to address both the sexual function of our children’s genitals and statements by the medical organizations of other civilized nations which oppose routine infant circumcision on the basis of its barbarity and uselessness. The problem we step into with all matters sexual is the embarrassment caused by having to think about sexual pleasure and, more specifically, the quality of that pleasure. It tears at our puritanical scabs to consider that our infant sons will grow up to be sexual beings, yet the foreskin must serve a man in adulthood, for the most refined sexual pleasure possible. Not just for sexual pleasure that is “good enough.” So how can we avoid talking about it? It may be easier to “cut it off” — but easier for whom?

Even if circumcision were not violence, and even if the foreskin were not a functional part of the male sexual anatomy, why would it be anyone else’s right to decide to remove it? When we make a permanent choice that affects the adult sexuality of our infant boys, how do we justify the phrase “My body, my choice?”

 

 

Tom Gualtieri

About Tom Gualtieri

Tom Gualtieri is a performer, playwright, lyricist and director who maintains an ongoing collaboration with composer David Sisco. He is the recipient of the Best Actor award from the National Gay & Lesbian Theatre Festival for BAIT. He lives in New York.

 

About The Weeklings

"The Weeklings' mission is this: a single essay a day, every single day. Their core company of seven contributors—one for each day of the week—covers politics, sex, music, art, literature, film, truth, justice and the American way. Save the day with @TheWeeklings !

Comments

  1. I used to engage in fairly regular arguments in grad school regarding circumcision of male babies (amongst other things that discussion of men/boys seemed to be left out of). Anyhow, I contest (along with a small subculture of women) that circumcising babies is a barbaric practice. Even if I eliminate all the later effects of this on an adult male the fact of the matter is that this is a not a procedure without trauma on the child. In my world anything that can traumatize a baby like that, and have some bad undesired effects, isn’t kosher with me. I was actually surprised to see how much in the minority I am in the female world and for that I have gone a crusade to actively talk to people about this. To me it is comparable to FGM (which I also find barbaric).

    I’ll never be able to truly walk in a man’s shoes because it’s a life experience as a woman I just won’t have and as much as I try to contemplate these things I will always have questions that I have to give me clarity. I was hoping you’d bring up the social arguments that I find people seem to give as justification for the circumcision. The whole, “He’ll get teased in the locker room…. Girls won’t like it… etc.” I seem to run into folks that rely heavily on the social reasons for circumcision when making the decision. I don’t know what the male experience is with these things. Socially does it make a huge difference to be circumcised or not?

    • Tom Gualtieri says:

      Thanks for reading this, Kat. since there are so many aspects to this particular debate, certain issues were left out. The social issues (and the profits which circumcision generates in the medical community) are left out. My focus here was strictly choice. But this piece, at least as published in The Weeklings, will have additional segments and the social issues will be brought up but it all comes down to this for me:

      Your child’s private parts are private. And if he’s not being made fun of by other boys in the locker room, won’t boys find OTHER things to make fun of anyway? I don’t think it’s a condition for circumcision: looking like the father; fear of social rejection. I’d rather teach my kid to be proud of himself and his body.

  2. I dunno… I’m a man (32), have a penis, and was circumcised at birth… I think the childhood trauma argument of this is bonkers… I don’t remember it, I am not traumatized by it. For those with the “my body, my choice” argument, wrong… Your body, your choice…once you turn 18. Until then, it’s your body, your parent’s choice. If they decide to have you circumcised, then accept it. There’s nothing you can do about it.

    -Innominately Yours

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      So if my parents decide to get me a tattoo of their favorite band on my forehead that’s a-ok? What if it’s their tribe’s custom to chop off my left thumb?

      Clearly the right of parents to make decisions about their children’s bodies is limited, and so should they be. Unless there’s a decisions which has to be made immediately and has serious implications for the child’s health, then parents shouldn’t be able to permanently modify their child’s body. Circumcision satisfies neither condition.

      “If they decide to have you circumcised, then accept it. There’s nothing you can do about it.”
      The same could be argued for just about any horrific custom. If something badly wrong is done to someone against their will then they shouldn’t have to “just accept it” because they weren’t able to object at the time.

      • Peter,

        Yes I say accept it… What else are you able to do? Going to try and sue your parents? Going to get a foreskin implant/re-attachment? If you’re born and your parents had it done, tough….you cannot change it…you cannot regain your lost foreskin. That’s not me even injecting my opinion, that’s simply reality.

        As far as limiting parental rights… The day when you fully surrender your child and all decisions
        regarding that child to the state, is the same day you fail as a parent. By that I mean that yes, people, parents, etc., make some pretty shitty choices now and then…but…as a parent, that is their right.

        I’ve got 2 children…an 8 year old daughter with cancer and a 7 year old son…single father, full custody. So yeah, I know about parenting (kinda). Have I made some mistakes? Absolutely! And I grantee I will make more (even unintentionally). How I raise my children does not have to be how you raise yours… But…if you want to try and get the state involved (limiting/banning/etc.) circumcision because you are offended by it, well, that’s when we have a problem. Any parent will attest to this one simple fact “you raise your kids, I’ll raise mine. You’ve got no right to tell someone how to parent…none.”

        -Innominately Yours

        • Peter Houlihan says:

          Or you could campaign for greater awareness, so that parents in the future don’t do this to other kids. It’s true that once a foreskin is removed it’s gone, but that doesn’t mean that nothing should be done about the cultural practices that caused it to happen.

          I disagree. To take an extreme example: Honour killings. Clearly they’re a case of parents intervening to correct their children’s “mistakes” and acting in their perceived best interests, but nonetheless are completely illegal and morally wrong. Children have human rights too, and there has to come a point where their parent’s wishes (while well intended) infringe upon those rights and shouldn’t be supported. I argue that circumcision crosses that line.

          I’m sorry to hear that, and I don’t blame you for having made mistakes, but that doesn’t mean that, as a society, serious mistakes like unnecessary genital surgery can’t be prevented. It’s not that I find circumcision offensive, if an adult wants to be circumcised they’re more than welcome, it’s that I fine circumcision of unconsenting minors to be morally wrong. “You raise your kids and I’ll raise mine” doesn’t work when the kids need protection from the parents.

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            I think it’s less about criticizing parents who have circumcised and more about trying to educate parents who are making the choices today and in the future.

            I don’t think it’s something that should be made illegal… yet… I think this is going to have to be a campaign of awareness where people’s mindsets slowly change. I also don’t think that piercing babies’ ears should be illegal, and yet I’m strongly against that too… Not quite equivalent, obviously, as it’s an earlobe and not a penis, but it’s still about letting the child make his or her own choices.

            • Would you have any problem trimming the labia of a daughter? It’s just a bit of excess skin, I’m sure there are countless excuses people could make similar to male circumcision such as doing it for looks, health, etc.

            • John Anderson says:

              @ Joanna

              This topic really presses my buttons so much so that I almost decided not to reply out of concern that I couldn’t stay civil, but I think that it would be worse to let it go unchallenged. I have very little respect for the argument that circumcision is morally wrong because it’s a violation of bodily autonomy (I consider it a human rights violation), but will not support a ban. The procedure is irreversible and once the harm is done, it can’t be undone. There are no do overs.

              “I don’t think it’s something that should be made illegal… yet… I think this is going to have to be a campaign of awareness where people’s mindsets slowly change.”

              Once people voluntarily stop doing it, there is no need to ban it so are you saying that there isn’t enough popular support for a ban or is this a disingenuous way of supporting a ban without having the ban actually prevent any preventable infant male circumcisions. If women believed that women should have the right to mutilate men’s bodies, I think they should just say it. I know fathers can do it to, but since there’s already one male without a choice, don’t tell me that it’s about choices for men.

              BTW I don’t have a problem with a ban on ear piercing, but based on my understanding that the ear will close up and that’s why people need to somewhat regularly have an earring in there, I don’t feel one is necessary. If something is reversible or significantly reversible through plastic surgery, etc. or doesn’t significantly impact a person’s life (The ear allows us to hear and assists in balance, but I don’t know what the ear lobe does), there is no need to ban it.

        • @Innominately Yours:
          “If you’re born and your parents had it done, tough….you cannot change it…you cannot regain your lost foreskin”
          Actually, you can do something about it. There are thousands of men who are restoring their foreskins through various non-surgical methods. It’s called foreskin restoration; look it up if you’re interested.

          • Actually, Jim, foreskin restoration takes years to achieve successfully (if at all) and cannot restore lost nerve endings, the frenulum, nor the frenar band, all of which are vital structures permanently removed by circumcision.

            The issue, as stated in several comments in this thread as well as in the essay, is that circumcision causes permanent, irreversible damage. Foreskin restoration is a sort of plastic surgery, without the surgery, which can regrow skin but which can never regrow the complex structures of the foreskin.

        • What a ridiculous strawman argument. You may as well include everything imaginable – from tattooing one’s children, to having their toes amputated, to child sacrifice – under your term “parental rights”, since you haven’t actually admitted that there are any choices parents shouldn’t have.
          And yeah, he can’t get his foreskin back, but he can try to prevent another boy from the same fate, and it’s a hell of a lot better than those circumcised guys who go around pushing circumcision out of emotional immaturity like a frat boy pushing a hazing ritual.

    • Tom Gualtieri says:

      Just because you don’t remember the pain of circumcision doesn’t mean that it is an acceptable practice. We no longer spank out of the birth canal because it is unnecessary trauma.

      It’s great that you’re happy you’re circumcised but the article clearly identifies that there are men who are happy it was done in infancy. You don’t circumcise a population in hopes that most of them will be happy with a permanent change to their body.

      The parent is responsible for the medical well-being of the child. But the child’s body does not belong to the parent and, in the US at least, you can be arrested for putting your child in harm’s way with the argument: it’s my child, i can do what I want. Well, actually, you can’t just “do what you want” with your child’s body because that body is another being and does not “belong” to the parent. The child is in the care of the parents who are guardians for his well-being. There are documented cases of parents being prosecuted for NOT sending their child to the physician when that decision ended in harm for the child. The difference in the case of circumcision is that a parent is making a choice for an unnecessary procedure in infancy which can be made later by the adult.

      There is nothing wrong with an adult deciding to permanently alter his own body. But to make that decision for your child – in addition to the torture it causes (whether or not you remember it

    • Some people live happy productive lives without being traumatized after being raped, does that mean rape victims who ARE traumatized are “just bonkers” and “need to get over it”. I mean after all rape does not result in a permanent loss of sensitivity right?

    • How would you know if you were? You don’t know anything else. By that argument it’s fine to neglect and abuse an infant in any way, as long as they survive and don’t consciously remember it.

  3. Peter Houlihan says:

    Very well written.

    The only part I had any trouble with is the FGM bit. FGM and MGM are both parallel and comparable and their interpretation as an expression of male domination and evidence of patriarchy is questionable.

    FGM describes a wide range of practices, some of which involve the removal of the clitoris (which is undeniably alot worse) other of which involve removal of the labia minora and clitoral hood (which is more of less the same thing). Either way, both are examples of a wider culture of body modifications which are used as a rite of passage or a mark of ethnic identity. If it were purely about controlling women’s sexuality then those other, similar, customs simply wouldn’t exist and it would be restricted to women.

    MGM doesn’t have to mean circumcision, there are other customs, but they are usually more restricted than FGM as the reproductive function of the penis is alot more easily destroyed. One example is penile subincision where the penis is cut open along the urethra:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penile_subincision

  4. If I lost my penis, I’d consider suicide quite seriously. Would I want to live in a world I can’t have one of my most pleasurable activities? The orgasms I have ARE NOT REPLACEABLE, they are 100% vital to my overall wellbeing. Anyone trying to interfere with that, I would knock them the fuck out. Anyone trying to do that to my child, even my wife, would have to answer to me. Never ever would I allow my son to be circumcised unless it’s medically necessary, or he is 18 and can decide for himself. If it was done without my permission, they’d be sued, or beaten the fuck up because that is an assault on my child.

  5. Tom, thanks for an interesting post. Having grown up in a country where male circumcision is rare, and where a circumcision debate quickly turns into a debate about respecting minority cultures and religion, reading your post was illuminating.

    I really agree with the “my body, my choice” view. I do not all agree that parents have the right to make random choices about the bodies of their children. I am the legal guardian of my children, and I get to make a lot of choices on their behalf. That is my responsibility as a parent; however, I also believe that I am ethically bound to limit my use of this power, taking into consideration what are necessary choices to make, and the consequences of those choices for my children. Changing their bodies (be it by circumcision or by tattoo) to me seem to have dramatic consequence, and at the same time fall short on any argument about necessity. However, I am sensitive to the fact that there are cultural and religious imperatives that changes what is “necessary”.

    As for the “it was good enough for Jesus” argument – really, now. That something was common, accepted practice 2000 years ago it hardly an argument that it’s the right thing to do. By that line of argument we could, after all, have argued that it was right to raze Baghdad to the ground and sell the natives into slavery. After all, that was common military practice at the time of Jesus ….

  6. Christopher Young says:

    Thanks for the article Tom, I found it really interesting and insightful.

    I’m not circumcised, and in the UK the only people I’ve ever known to be circumcised have had it carried out under religious grounds. When I found out that it was common practice in the US I was pretty shocked, and a little disturbed.

    Over here there have been no discussions I’m aware of to ever introduce it to the masses, it just seems completely nonsensical. I’ve never had, nor heard of anyone having any issues in life from having a foreskin, as far as I’m concerned it was a tradition brought in by people who lived in less sanitory environments (like the desert) many thousands of years ago.

    I did have some jewish friends curiously quizzing me about it once, because it’s suppsed to make sex more pleasurable for men, and apparently people without one need to use lotion for masturbation (or something like that?).

    I hope that’s provided some helpeful perspectives – long story short – over here we have them, and it’s a non-debate.

    • Christopher, sounds like things in the UK are much like in Denmark where I live. Here, there’s been some talk of outright outlawing the practice, but it appears the consensus that this would violate the right of minorities to cultural or religious practices. Implicit in that argument is that male circumcision is seen as fundamentally different then female circumcision (which *is* illegal and will find no support in a public debate).

      • Christopher Young says:

        Hi Lars,

        Yep, that sounds the same to me. I think this is pretty standard across Europe – I know Germany it can now carry criminal charges, classifying it as mutilation. I would be surprised if standardised circumcision is particularly common in any secular societies. To be honest, I’m still surprised it’s the standard and socially accepted in the USA. If a Doctor asked me if he could cut the foreskin off my kid, I’d probably say ‘only if I can cut yours off first!’.

        It just seems like a pointless physical trauma (whether remembered or not) for babies to go through.

        • RIght, I’ve read about rulings in Germany.

          Thing is, given the situation in Northern Europe, the debate becomes qualitatively different from the US. Here, the main concern quickly becomes one of making sure that we, the majority, do not enforce majority social norms over the heads of (religious) minority practices, for matters we don’t really understand the implications of.

          I’m torn myself. I’m seems a weird practice, a weird thing to do to infants, but I can’t claim I really understand the meaning of it in terms of religious practice, or the consequence of not doing it.

    • Peter Houlihan says:

      “I did have some jewish friends curiously quizzing me about it once, because it’s suppsed to make sex more pleasurable for men, and apparently people without one need to use lotion for masturbation (or something like that?).”

      The first is subjective, and since most circumcised men have the operation performed at birth they’re hardly in position to compare. Those that aren’t, are mostly circumcised for genuine medical reasons, so I wouldn’t be terribly surprised if they find things easier afterwards. As for the lotion thing… what? I’ve never used one myself, but from what I’ve read it’s the other way around. Part of the rationale around mass circumcision of gentiles in the US was that it made masturbation harder.

      • Joanna Schroeder says:

        I know three guys who were circumcised as adults… One is Hugo Schwyzer who wrote publicly about it. He was circ’d at age 37 and feels good about the whole thing. He doesn’t say sex is better, he says it’s different. He was having problems with his foreskin and it was medically necessary.

        The other was circ’d in his early 30s for the same reasons as Hugo. He has a very different take on it. He doesn’t say sex is less pleasurable without the foreskin, he too says it’s different and in some ways better, some ways worse. However, when I got pregnant and found out I was carrying a boy, this friend of mine said, “Please do not circumcise him. I’m begging you.” Even though he’d had problems, and had had to have surgery later, he still felt strongly that babies should be left alone. He was glad for being left intact. However, his urologist pointed out the tone reason he probably needed the later circ was because of having been forcibly retracted as a small child/baby.

        Here’s the thing – American doctors haven’t known how to deal with the foreskin because of such prevalence of circumcision, and so for so many kids born in the 60s, 70s and even 80s with foreskins, doctors were pulling back the foreskin forcibly, which was causing tearing of the fibers, causing scar tissue. This scar tissue often causes problems later in life. When my friend asked his mom if this had been done, she actually cried and said when he was like 6 months old, a doctor had forcibly retracted him, and he screamed at the top of his lungs. She was European and was shocked the doctor even did it. She changed doctors (this was the 70s) to a European doctor who knew about foreskin care. But the urologist wasn’t surprised that his foreskin had had this trauma, it’s very common.

        The third guy had a nearly identical story, though the mom didn’t remember whether he was forcibly retracted by a doctor, but his doctor said he had foreskin scarring too, and it could be from that. The third guy also said he would not circumcise his child unless there were a medical issue.

        So I think, for me, it’s less about a sensitivity issue after talking my friends. And more about the child’s right to bodily autonomy and not putting them through trauma when they’re newborns. My mom tells the story of how my brother turned stiff as a board, lips turned blue, shaking, after his. I just wouldn’t have done that to my newborns.

        • So I think, for me, it’s less about a sensitivity issue after talking my friends. And more about the child’s right to bodily autonomy and not putting them through trauma when they’re newborns.
          That’s what I’ve been trying to say for the longest time about this.

          Plain and simple at the end of the day a baby boy is having his genitals altered in a permanent surgical manner at a time in his life when he literally has no say in the decision. No more no less.

          If a grown man wants to have it done then by all means let him do it. At least said grown man has a say in the fate of his foreskin.

        • John Anderson says:

          “So I think, for me, it’s less about a sensitivity issue after talking my friends. And more about the child’s right to bodily autonomy and not putting them through trauma when they’re newborns.”

          This is precisely why it makes no sense not to support a ban on infant MGC. Even advocating postponing making it illegal makes no sense if you believe this. I believe that there should be a social movement and education that will eventually lead to infant MGC becoming socially unacceptable. I don’t see why it should not be done within the context of making it also illegal. Bottom line is you shouldn’t have the option to permanently mutilate another even if he’s your son. He’s not your property.

          • Joanna Schroeder says:

            I agree, making it illegal before there is a MASSIVE outcry against it, when almost all hearts and minds are sold against circumcision just turns it into anti-semitism and anti-islam, which is the absolute last thing that we want to be, or to do.

  7. This very US centric issue is bemusing. I keep wondering how the medical/Insurance industry ended up convincing the US General Public infant surgery and genital assault was a good idea – and even necessary?

    I’ve been looking for Historical references on the subject and they just seem to be missing. It’s almost as if it simply became fashionable in certain groups and then the fashion was aped, and some are still seeing it all as some form of socially normal climbing exercise.

    I do wonder. If you are a guy and applying for medical insurance, do they ask for the state of the foreskin? Is there a box for cut and uncut? Do you get higher premiums, if you still have your helmet?

    The idea that a boy should be circumcised so that he does not look out of place in the locker room later in life is just disturbing and adult neurotic body fascism. When I was young and being made to use school sports facilities and locker rooms, I knew of two cuts guys. One was Jewish and the other had been cut for medical need. It was no big issue and I did not notice anyone blushing or being neurotic of the presence or absence of that little old helmet.

    Daddy had it done to him is equally banal as an argument. In that case, if daddy was sexually abused, why the hang up about not allowing little Joey to be with worrying adults? If daddy was witness to domestic violence by either parent – well it just gives Carte Blanche for either parent to pull out a baseball bat and swing – doesn’t it?

    The argument that the grown male does not miss what he has not had are also plain silly. If people wish to go that route then why not extend it to removal of the appendix as a precautionary measure for all children? So many liken the foreskin to the appendix – along with tonsils – why is there not a mass movement to have all children, male and female, snipped up as early as possible? They will both be too young to remember and trauma and parents can then sit back and be terribly satisfied that they have acted in the best interests of the child’s life long health – and I’m sure that there will be some study that can prove that it will also have a benefit on the parents mental health and well being too!

    I am very much aware that circumcised adult males perform differently in the bed room. As a Kinsey 6 Queer I’ve handled many cocks and had the joy of playing with them. Loss of sensation is an issue – you also have to handle a cut cock differently to an uncut one – and sensory pain can be a very real issue. Cut guys are also more likely to have odd shaped cocks too – scarring does occur and does not just affect the Glans but also can lead to alterations in the Frenum and Corpora Cavernosa – and when that happens you have different inflation rates which can lead to unusual inflation and bending.

    Uncut guys enjoy themselves more – have higher sensitivity – and they do cum harder. Given that the penis is a rather integral part of the male sexual response and experience, I really don’t get why there is such a long term debate as to whether altering that is significant or not.

    On another anecdotal note, I have chatted with many women about their preferences and have encountered a subset who like CUT. The reason they give is always the same – the cut guy, with the less feather like trigger, bangs harder and longer and it is more satisfying for the lady concerned. However – that still does not mean that they get a vote on how all infant males should be treated. Allowing adult female women to use their adult sexual pleasure as a reason to have male children circumcised at birth is ethically, morally and socially unacceptable.

    Infertility and sexual dysfunction rates are far higher for cut men – so for banging it’s cut and for breading it’s uncut?

    The medical evidence being used by the American Association of Pediatrics is flimsy – misguided and frankly so flawed that it needs to be binned. It smacks more of Professional Protectionism, cos if they dealt with all of the factors and realities they would have to call for am immediate cessation of all activity – and the financial implications at $300 per procedure are high – Over $ 1 Billion per year.

    Counter arguments on grounds of coast are interesting – with it being claimed that Circumcision saves medical insurers over $3 Billion per year. … so lets be clear, there is a question over who is benefiting and how such benefit is measured and with the questionable conflicts of interest.

    What is the increase in medical premiums that some will wish to impose?

    I keep reading figures of increased rates of UTI in uncut male children – and yet I never see a comparator for UTI rates in female children – or any indication that parents should be encouraged in foetal sex selection, or that there is any outcry from the Medical/Insurance industry that steps have to be taken to cut any such UTI rates in female children. There is a lack of clarity and relevant information for people to make any kind of rational judgement across the WHOLE population.

    Where are the advocates for female foetal genital surgery to cut UTI rates in female infants?

    I have even seen some figures where the costs have been inflated with calculations of HPV incidence – and it’s interesting to see that the estimated figures there are potentially massive, and considerably more than the costs of actually vaccinating against HPV – for both men and women – the Whole Population. So I wonder if the vaccine manufacturers have been invited to the debate – they can be seen as a highly interested party. Condom manufactures may also have a vested interest – and so may the religious right.

    If some wish to use costs and insurance as an argument in support of child genital mutilation, then they really need to be honest and invite all interested parties to the debate – and there needs to be rational consideration of what needs to be cut and how – is that male children’s genitals or Insurance costs and even insurers profits. …. oh and when it comes to medical argument and even infection risk, It’s normal to talk about whole populations in a balanced and scientific manner – and not skew demographics to support only one view.

    As an uncut guy, I’m no swing voter – and I know exactly where my sympathies lie. It’s a no brainer – and it don’t matter which male brain is doing the calculation. P^)

    • I’m just going to address the insurance part of it to my knowledge. Since we have few jobs where I live which offer benefits I’m familiar with the benefit sets and to a T none of them cover elective circumcision. If a parent wants to do that to a child and it is not medically necessary then the parents will be paying out of pocket for it just as they would for any elective or cosmetic procedure on themselves. What I find interesting here is that so many people still elect to do this.

      I would argue if it was a money making thing that it is pushed more by the medical industry than by the insurance industry.

      • Tom Gualtieri says:

        Well, the medical community in the U.S. DOES push it, actually, and the recent statement released by the AAP is in the self-interest of doctors.

        You are right that many insurance companies do not do it, but the theory is that the medical community has convinced the insurance companies that it is more in their interest to push circumcision because it reduces insurance output later over various other complications. If the insurance company can push it in infancy there is a reduced chance of, not only the ridiculous claims made by the AAP in their statement, but of medically necessary circumcision (which sometimes happens later in life, though rarely) which WOULD be covered by insurance. It’s a game, really. Because late-life circumcision is rarely as necessary as the medical community would have us believe. Phimosis, which can happen to adults, is diagnosed by the physician, not the insurance company so if a doctor can make that diagnosis, he/she gets money.

        On the other hand, if the doctor can convince the parent to cut at birth, he/she still makes money and does not have to involve the insurance company.

  8. Ele Munjeli says:

    I’ve long opposed circumcision based on the fact that it is generally a non-consensual surgery performed on an infant. In that respect I think it is very parallel to the discussion on FGM. Arguments about the severity of certain forms of FGM are not relevant since I can’t compare apples and oranges: there’s no telling what damage was done to a man’s sensation if he was circumcised as an infant.

    Arguments about what women prefer disgust me. Would I like to have my genitals rearranged on the basis of what men like? Yuck. That’s not a woman you want to know. Geez, if a woman makes unpleasant comments about your penis, dump her. That’s demeaning. If your penis works and you experience sexual pleasure, it’s a good penis to me (btw, stop worrying about how big it is).

    Unfortunately, when I discuss this issue with circumcised men they are often just defensive. It’s very hard to break the chain when fathers insist on circumcising their sons (which is also the issue with FMG, with mothers and daughters).

    • John Anderson says:

      “Unfortunately, when I discuss this issue with circumcised men they are often just defensive.”

      They are some of the biggest supporters of infant MGC. Men are taught that they can never be or allow themselves to be victims so they convince themselves that this must be beneficial. I hate that some people use this as an excuse for inaction. If the practice was universally condemned, there would be no need to ban it. You support a ban because some people will opt to do it.

  9. There’s no need for cutting it off. I’m glad I have mine. Religion is pretend.

    • The Blurpo says:

      ” There’s no need for cutting it off. I’m glad I have mine. Religion is pretend. ”

      I agree Jacob, just my though. Stop the violence toward babyes, outlaw the practice!

  10. Thank you so much. I’ve been pressing this issues for over decade now. When I started I was a lone voice completely laughed at. Now i see it everywhere and even countries are taking a stand against. Thank god.
    I was mutilated at birth. Its a horrible thing to do to someone.

  11. As I watch this discussion I keep being amazed that it needs to take place at all.

    I keep coming across reports of a Bumper Sticker on a midwives car that reads “100% of babies oppose circumcision” – It does seem to sum it all up.

    • John Anderson says:

      “As I watch this discussion I keep being amazed that it needs to take place at all.”

      I was thinking the same thing this morning and I could only conclude that it’s because the victims are male. I remember how relatively quickly atrocities against little girls have been condemned at least in the west like FGC , foot binding, sex selective abortion, or honor killings. I know FGC is already illegal pretty much everywhere. I’m pretty sure the same goes for honor killings. Sex selection in India was banned and I think so was foot binding in China.

      People will still do illegal things. Murder and rape are crimes, but they’re still committed. When something is illegal, it is recognized as wrong by a country. That is what makes legal infant MGC so disheartening.

      Things not considered “atrocities” have also come under near universal criticism in the west such as the prohibition on female drivers and not sending female athletes to the Olympics. If there was a reason the mutilation of over half the infant boys in the country is less of a human rights violation than not sending a dozen female athletes to the Olympics, I like to hear it.

  12. married2intact&grateful says:

    No, I do not have a penis personally, however, I am married to one who does. I can honestly say I am grateful for the fact that his eastern European heritage allowed for him to remain as God made him. Having limited experience, he was the first intact male I had ever been with. After getting past the curiosity of the looks and function, I was just so amazed at the difference it made to my comfort level. Who would have thought that it would have made such a big difference, no pun intended. Having the foreskin intact allows for his penis to expand to its natural size and leaves the head (glans) with a spongy quality, which makes it much more comfortable when coming in contact with my cervix. Previous experiences with clipped men had often times left me feeling bruised and beat up, like I’d been poked with a broomstick. We never had a son so were never actually faced with having to make the choice (I would have stood my ground for leaving the child in his God-given state) and I hope that one day my daughter will be as equally blessed. I still don’t understand American women and their hesitation regarding uncircumsized males. Ladies, all I can say is… you don’t know what you’re missing!

  13. I for one find it totally depressing and stupefying that we need to walk on eggshells when discussing such a blatant act of vicious abuse/torture/mayhem so as not to “offend” any of its practitioners.

    And to those of you who say “get over it” to men who are unhappy with the fact that they were cut, you are disgusting and immature. Would you ever dare tell an African woman who’s clitoris was sliced off to “quit whining”? Shall we tell rape victim advocates or any human rights activists for that matter to just live and let live? Even if it is essentially true that nothing can undo the past, what is the point of being so smart assed and smug about it? What do you get out of snubbing a person’s grievances like this?

  14. “Cmon on, guys, man up!”

    Seriously? I wonder what she would say to being strapped down and having her labia cut off without anesthesia.

    But, um, as far as having an opinion goes: sorry, I’ll continue to do so. I may not have a penis but I’m not about to ignore child abuse.

  15. wellokaythen says:

    The “my body, my choice” idea is actually somewhat flawed as a pro-choice message. It’s certainly vulnerable to pro-life propaganda – picture severed fetal limbs holding a tiny little sign saying “my body, not my choice.”

    The flippant defense of circumcision for Christians as “good enough for Jesus, so it’s good enough for you” fails to account for one of the biggest developments in the history of Christianity really early on, in the first century AD. Paul of Tarsus (“St. Paul”) made it abundantly clear that you don’t have to be circumcised to be a Christian.

    • The essay points out the double-standard employed by those who use the “my body my choice” message to defend abortion rights but do not apply the same logic to circumcision. Abortion choices are only in conflict with the anti-choice movement if one believes that a fetus is an independent life before it is able to sustain itself outside the womb.

      Presuming one is a Christian, Paul’s argument in the New Testament can be a useful tool in the circumcision debate but it ignores the major point of this article which is: each individual should have dominion over the choices he makes for his own body, regardless of religious doctrine or other outside influence.

  16. wellokaythen says:

    The vast majority of circumcisions in the U.S. are not because of religious or ethnic tradition. It’s so common here because it’s become routine all by itself. It’s much more of a medical custom in America than any sort of ingrained cultural custom. Far beyond whatever medical benefits people say it has, it’s mostly just hospital habit at this point. A change in the inertia of hospital policies would stop the practice in most cases. Not all, but most.

    I tend to think it’s an outgrowth of the way that Americans today tend to treat birth itself, as a medical procedure requiring a hospital and an MD and most likely some surgery. Routine circumcision is probably from the same warped mindset that leads 1/3 of all American babies to be delivered by C-section. (Another American medical statistic that’s way different than the rest of the world.) “Forget nature, let’s cut people up!”

  17. Thank you for the thoughtful article. I think the discussion alone is extremely useful in helping parents make an informed decision. Several years ago, our friends were expecting twins, a boy and a girl. I asked them about their plans regarding circumcision for the boy, and they had never even had the thought that they needed to decide for or against the procedure. They were thinking it was automatic to circumcise a boy baby. I kept it low key, but gave them lots of information over a period of months, mostly written by M.D.’s (since much of their concern was medical). By the time their son was born, they had decided to skip the procedure. Yay!

  18. Chandra Brill says:

    I agree with you on every level… I only wish you didn’t appear to hold such hostility towards women that are involved in this debate. There are MANY of us that are fighting WITH you. Just as I embrace your positivity towards female autonomy, I’d hope you feel similarly towards women that promote male autonomy. Telling women they need to shut up if we don’t gave a dick does not help further your cause. Might I recommend instead, that you share how it DOES affect women negatively (because circumcision very much does change sex and men’s behavior) in order to sway those that may be on the fence?

    • Hi Chandra

      I agree with you. It is not helpful to ask women to shut up.
      I am for a ban on this,I want to see laws against it. In my country that will not happen right now because of the ethnic minorities but we discuss it. And our ombudsman for children wants the age to be 15 before a boy can be circumcised, and make it his decision and his decision only. That is ombudsman for children is a woman. Shall we ask her to shut up?

      If we had a vote I would vote to make it illegal even for the Jews. Sorry , but that is the truth.
      My ex husband was circumcised while he lived a only a short while in America as a little boy and had to go to the hospital for some health problems. When the parents got their little boy back the hospital had circumcised him without asking the parents.
      This madness must stop,and I as a woman refuse to ” shut up”.

  19. Mother without a penis says:

    It’s a good thing I didn’t have your flow chart to tell me to “shut up” when I did my job as a Mother and protected my sons from this practice. Their father (who is the one with the penis) wanted them circumcised. They are intact today, because I wouldn’t allow it. The discussion shouldn’t be had at all, but it is still being had, and I don’t think I should be excluded as an advocate for my sons, because I don’t have a penis.

  20. you know I fully understand everyone has different thoughts as far as these kind of things go but who are you or anyone else for that matter to tell me that I am wrong if I have my son circumcised. It is a religious reason as well as a personal choice that my husband and I would make (and yes he has a penis) so he doesn’t have to “shut up” as it was so elegantly put int he diagram above. My husband is circumcised as well as his son from a previous marriage and his son actually came to us to ask what the big deal is about being circumcised and he was glad he was and when we asked him why he was glad he said because he felt healthier. Now I know what was said about the health issues and that is fine but you have no right to tell anyone how to raise their children because they do something that has been done for thousands of years and before all of you start about child abuse I am not saying if someone is beating their child you shouldn’t step in but if this is done within the first 24 hours there is little to no feeling (this coming from a pediatrician) so the “trauma” is none…please stop trying to shove your beliefs or thoughts down my throat or any other parents. If it is my religious belief to do so you HAVE NO right to tell me otherwise when it concerns MY child(ren)

  21. While I was pregnant with my son and his dad and I were considering circumcision, I remember watching a video of a routine surgical circumcision and the first thought I had was that this is mutilation. It was terrible to me. I let my husband know how I felt, but ultimately let the decision be his since he is a man and understands better than I ever could what the significance of this choice could be. He thought about it a long time, we talked to our pediatrician, but in the end we did not circumcise our son. When I asked him what made him settle on that choice he told me, ‘it’s his body, if he wants to be circumcised he can decide to do it when he grows up”. It is not for us to decide, even though we are his parents, it is his body. Thanks for writing this article and contributing to the awareness that IS growing. My father and brother are ‘intact’ and more and more parents are choosing not to circumcise. So by the time our son gets to the locker room, he probably won’t be the only intact guy there.

    • I could’t agree more. I had people ask me if I had considered circumcising my son, and my response has always been that is is simply not my decision to make. I would prefer it if he never mutilated himself at all of course (the old do as I say not as I do parent trap), but if he decides he wishes to circumcise as an adult, for whatever reason, I would not dream of intervening. If he found some sort of religious belief and wished to undergo it for those reasons, that would again be his choice. But how could I possibly justify an un-necessary surgical procedure for him before he can even speak?

  22. Lisa Pedersen says:

    *Applauds Wildly* Thank you for this article.

  23. Tom — thank you for taking the time to write such a comprehensive and thoughtful piece.

  24. Great piece. I’ve been so infuriated by our society’s dismissal of man’s right to choose not to be circumcised. To even raise the subject brings a torent of ‘are you serious?’ type comments. Many times these come from well educated men and women who are strongly opposed to any routine practice that damanges a woman’s body without her consent. I just wonder what the reaction would be if we were to say that new science found that snipping off a small part baby girls’ genitals might be good for their health so we are going to encourage it?
    Thanks for your article, I can finally let my frustrations rest!

  25. Please put a trigger warning on these. Thank you.

  26. As an Englishman recently moving to the USA I have to say I was stunned to learn that all American males are circumcised at birth without question. Unless you are Jewish why would you?

    It’s like saying “Yes billions of years of evolution have been slowly working out the best way to develop up until this very point in time but nature messed up just one small detail – we need chop the end off the most sensitive area of your body.”

    As a choice, fine; but as a rule?

    As an atheist I have to say that if God made me with one then I am keeping it.

  27. I am so glad to read your article. May I give you a female perspective. The foreskin is in place for female satisfaction as well as a males. The best lover I ever had was an uncircumcised man. Because of the increased sensitivity of the head of the penis, the motions of love making are much gentler from a circumcised man. Women will relate to the term ‘banging’. Circumcised men must thrust deeply in and pull almost all the way out in order to feel. This exaggerated motion, with the exposed coronal ridge voids the vagina of moisture making lovemaking painful for a woman. The ‘banging’ leads to thoughts of ‘when will this be over’. So keep up with your crusade….I will join you. Save the knife for diseased tissue and leave the healthy tissue alone!!!

  28. Eileen Hetherington says:

    I was lucky to have a nun enter my hospital room shortly after the delivery of my son, and give me the lowdown on what was to take place the next day. She let me know that she believed it to be unnecessary, very painful (no anesthetic is used) and harmful especially in later life when sexual sensitivity is decreased. My son was teased by other children for being uncircumcised. I hope when he is older he will thank me. Older men who are not circumcised report more sexual gratification and feeling. The worst part of this I believe is the wounding of the male soul. The mutilation is given to the most sensitive part of the body, the part that represents manhood. The trauma of the pain and the healing process have never been studied, because, like many other unnecessary procedures, there is money to be made. I predict that this issue will come to the forefront as a possible cause for many deep seated issues for men.

  29. While I agree with your stance overall, I don’t agree with the way you frame it. There was all together too much reference to circumcision, fear mongering, and anger. Talk up the benefits of being uncircumcised, and dial down the horror stories. There was approximately two paragraphs that were pro-natural, the rest was all anti-circumcision, I hope you understand the difference. And enough with the activist anger, you get angry about things that happened five minutes ago, not things that happened before you were self aware. From the perspective of someone who already agrees with your stance, this makes me angry, agree more, and validates my own beliefs. From the perspective of someone who doesn’t agree with your stance, this makes me angry, and stronger set in my beliefs. It all depends on who you’re righting for I guess. Like I said though, overall it’s good.

  30. I agree with the article full-heartedly, But the portion about women not being allowed to have their own opinions about circumcision is unnecessary. The mantra, ” my body, my choice,” inevitably extends to the mental realm. Its their thought process, they can do with it as they please. It should go with out saying that decisions are not opinions. While it should not be up to any women (let alone anybody) who chooses to mutilate another man, they can still have opinions.

  31. I was mortified when I learned as a preteen that boys were circumcised. None of the males in my family were. What a horrible first experience for someone who has just entered the world. A previous commenter posted links to publications on the resulting psychological trauma. It begs the question… if in the US, for example, a majority of baby boys are routinely circumcised, are we as a society manufacturing recurring generations of psychologically damaged people?

  32. Okay, lots of things here.
    1) FGM has absolutely no place, whatever, in this article. MOST men who are “mutilated” (circumcised) are still fully functional sexually (read: able to achieve orgasm) where women who are “mutilated” (mutilated) are not as the clitoris is the only way for MOST women to achieve an orgasm. I know it said that the author was not comparing them, fine. But if he’s not then there is no reason to even bring it up because they are NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING THE SAME THING.
    2) Telling me to “shut up,” that since I don’t have a penis I don’t have an opinion? Um, what? Considering the fact that a penis occasionally enters my vagina and that I might one day have a baby that just MIGHT have a penis, I believe I have every right to an opinion. Further, this post was tagged with “abortion” and “pro-choice” so I’m assuming that the author, or whoever, has an opinion about abortion, regardless of their lack of a uterus. Never mind their STANCE, the fact that they don’t have a uterus means they need to “shut up” and they shouldn’t have an opinion (if the infographic shown is upheld to all decisions that have to do with strictly male or female parts.)
    3) Do your research; circumcisions performed in hospitals use a local antiseptic. Like, you know when you get stitches and you can’t feel the pain of being repeatedly stabbed with a needle? Also, as far as I could tell most of these horror stories are from a long time ago. How many botched circumcisions are there now days? All the images I’ve seen are old and so is the data.
    4) This article said that uncircumcised men have more sensitive penises. To me, this would just make me not want to sleep with an uncircumcised man because that means he’s going to orgasm quickly, which means I probably wouldn’t get to, and what’s the fun in that? In a comment a woman (C. Williams) said that it’s better to have sex with an uncircumcised man “Because of the increased sensitivity of the head of the penis, the motions of love making are much gentler from a circumcised man.” Huh? Snore…. She goes on “Circumcised men must thrust deeply in and pull almost all the way out in order to feel.” Uh, most women I know like/love this… “This exaggerated motion, with the exposed coronal ridge voids the vagina of moisture making lovemaking painful for a woman.” Maybe for you sister, but I do not have this problem. You should look into lube. They sell it everywhere
    5) Can you PLEASE stop saying “intact” in place of “uncircumcised”??? I mean, a man’s pride is apparently in his pants and to go around saying that a circumcised man is not “intact” you are saying that he is “incomplete” “incapable” “inadequate” etc, which, dearies, is FAR from the truth.
    6) All this being said, while some things we don’t get a say in, like our names, I DO think that circumcision should be a choice left up to the owner of the foreskin. However, people are going to do what they want regardless of my opinions…

    • Agreed

    • Not to mention, I am not going to listen to the whole “you don’t have one, so shut up” argument until the mostly male government gets the hell out of my reproductive system. I would never vote for or stand with a party that was trying to make circumcision a law, so do your part and get on the right side of this very real fight that is occurring right now regarding women’s reproductive rights.

      And anyone that is ignorant enough to compare circumcision to female genital mutilation needs to see if they can stomach a video or two. Cutting off a toe and severing a leg is not the same thing.

      • So you’re just going to give an eye for an eye until they stop telling you what to do with your reproductive system? I don’t think that’s helpful. He’s got a penis. You don’t (I assume, at least, from your comment). He has a right to tell you that your opinion on his penis/circumcision isn’t relevant, just like you have the right to tell him that his opinions on your vagina/reproductive choices/etc aren’t relevant.

        If either of you do run into a sexual partner with or without an intact penis (and it is intact, ladies, not “uncircumcised” – just like our vaginas are intact and not “un-mutilated”), you have the right to have a conversation with that partner. If you have a son, you have the right to have that conversation with his father, to make that circumcision decision based on the best knowledge you have. But you don’t have a right to tell all males, or this male, to man up, to stop bitching, that he’s being over dramatic. You have no right to minimize his experience. His penis was damaged. To write that off as “a man’s pride is in his pants” is a sexist comment and it infuriates me that as women we go around saying things like that when we’ve been written off for far to long with statements that are just as moronic. There are far more men being damaged by this than we know about, and even if they aren’t, they have a right to speak up and say they don’t want to be circumcised as infants.

        I do think the comparison to FGM is a little over the top – but he straight up says he knows they aren’t the same. He’s trying to elicit a response. It’s a technique used to get your attention, and it worked…though I think a lot of women here got really defensive about it instead of hearing him out. He’s talking about someone forcibly doing something violent to his penis. How is that different than someone doing something violent to a baby girl’s vagina? We’d never tolerate that, and we’d be the first ones making comparisons to rape and FGM. The writer takes circumcision very seriously and wants others to know how he feels about it. There is no need to get defensive. We can all agree that FGM is horrific and needs to stop – and that circumcision being left to a grown man to choose might be a completely rational and sensible thing to do.

      • Gaius Baltar says:

        But cutting a toe isn’t allowed either.

        Most intactivists are also vocally pro-choice. You can count on that. But you don’t seriously think that patriarchal cultures came up with this by accident, do you?

        It’s designed to ‘weaponize’ the organ so it’s never satisfied and can be used more roughly (foreskin being a sort of ‘safety brake’ that prevents that). It’s designed to restrict men to intercourse for their pleasure and discourage any partner of a male from being able to stimulate him any other way. It’s also used to justify FGM and always will be for as long as it exists.

        They wouldn’t have thought of it if it didn’t also harm women. I will keep sticking up for your rights. I’d appreciate the same.

    • PREACH!

      I’m no fan of routine circumcision, but the hyperbolic comparisons to FGM, rape, and forced birth are ludicrously offensive and counterproductive. Counterproductive because everyone with a lick of sense knows they’re moronic, which is why using them serves only to undermine credibility. Have these people learned nothing from Reefer Madness?

      • Tom Gualtieri says:

        You should probably read the article before commenting.

      • wow….is this “the good men project”, a place where men can talk about being harmed by having parts of their penises cut off…or a place where women can come and shame men into silence???? Im confused.

    • 1. I can agree. However both are violations of the body of a person who can’t consent to the procedure. Pointing that is not a comparison (even though it is sometimes accused of being so).

      2. Yeah its not cool to be told that is it? In regards to abortion the sentiment of “If you don’t ovulate, stay out of the debate” has been around for a long time (even to the point where some guys have been told they shouldn’t even feel any sadness over the child that never will be). I know I’ve been told the “you don’t have one, shut up” line on abortion before even when I agreeing that it should be a woman’s final decision (it turns out she believed that men shouldn’t even have an opinion on the topic much less final say). I think that given the fact that we are all in this together we MUST be able to talk to each other and have thoughts and opinions regardless of who makes the final choice.

      3. Regardless of how many are botched, where they are botched, or how long ago they were botched they were still botched. I’m sure if FGM were done under cleaner conditions there would be a much less risk of infection and things going wrong. But I’m pretty sure making FGM more sterile wouldn’t suddenly make it okay. I’ve always found it odd when people argue “but circumcision is done under clean and sterile conditions” as if that makes altering a person’s body without there consent.

      4. So that woman’s preference and opinion isn’t valid? As for “She goes on “Circumcised men must thrust deeply in and pull almost all the way out in order to feel.” Uh, most women I know like/love this…” She may be talking about guys that go overcompensate and thrust too hard or go too deep (I’m assuming that not every woman is the same depth).

      5. That one I agree with.

      6. Agreed.

    • Thank you. This is an important in its own right but even with the caveat’s offered in this article, there is NOTHING to be gained from comparing male circumcision to FGM or the reproductive justice debate. This stuff smacks of the bullish*t “men’s rights” rhetoric that consistently diminishes the real impact of gender inequality in our society. What I like about this site is that it largely avoids that type of rhetoric, though I’ve seen it creep in on more than a few occasions recently.

      The arguments around male circumcision are compelling enough without comparing the issue to a 10 yr. old girls having her clitoral hood, clitoris, labia, etc. removed or her vagina sewn together. Make the case and let it stand. Don’t conflate the issue.

      • John Anderson says:

        @ Chrissy

        “there is NOTHING to be gained from comparing male circumcision to FGM or the reproductive justice debate.”

        I disagree. The article was not written for those who already disagree with routine male infant circumcision. It was written for those who have not yet taken a position on it. Some of these people may already believe in a woman’s right to choose and oppose people’s attempts to curtail this right despite their religious conviction. It’s simple. If you don’t believe that someone has the right to tell a woman what she can or can’t do or must do with her body because of your religious conviction, why should anyone including a parent, be able to dictate what a boy must do to his penis. Unless you believe in parental consent for minors to get an abortion, it should be an easy enough connection to make.

      • Gaius Baltar says:

        It’s not a comparison. It’s a correlation. Female circumcision started with male circumcision and as long as one version exists it will be used as an excuse for the other. When you talk about human rights issues there is no choice but to compare different violations of the same right. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is cut herself and makes the comparison.

        Any degree of cutting done on a girl, as she points out, should never be tolerated even if it’s the ritual ‘nick’ proposed as a compromise. A ‘nick’ that removes zero tissue is illegal on a girl, but a boy can have entire structures removed entirely. The question isn’t one of degree. This is about honing your own arguments against FGM too. NO form of mutilation no matter how mild should be performed on anyone. If the severity is the problem, that leaves a loophole for some FGM supporter to say, “We only removed this much.”

        This is a patriarchal practice forced on people’s genitals surgically. You’ve got to see that this is intended to harm women too.

    • ATYPICAL: I’m sorry but the magnitude of your ignorance confounds me.

      1) Many men, myself included suffer painful erections due to circumcision, so while I may still ejaculate, I often don’t orgasm (yes, look it up, there’s a difference).

      So is it your belief that the genital mutilation of others is acceptable if it doesn’t eliminate the ability to orgasm?

      2) You don’t have a penis so you don’t have a clue, period. And occasionally having a penis in your vagina does not give you a say.

      3) they still mess up circumcisions, but more importantly. We are born with it for a reason. It’s not stamped, “remove at birth” nor does it fall of on its own. I can’t think of another body part we arbitrarily remove at birth.

      4) You do understand that this statement indicates that you think it is acceptable to mutilate men’s genitals for your potential sexual satisfaction right? This is simply barbaric and I’m sure it’s exactly the type of thinking that results in FGM.

      5) INTACT – def; not altered, broken, or impaired; remaining uninjured, sound, or whole; untouched; unblemished…enough said.

      • can men come here to “the good men project” and share their concerns about having parts of their genitals cut off…or is it just a place where women can shame men into silence???

        Is the “Good men project”…. a voice for men, or a voice to shame men into silence???

    • Well, Atypical – this deserves a couple of responses.
      1) Incorrect. FGM, both type I and II, only seldomly causes loss of ability to have an orgasm. A high percentage of women, even type III FGM victims after defibulation, reported being able to have orgasms, consistently. (http://www.womenonwaves.org/en/page/4715/sexual-pleasure-after-female-genital-mutilation – refers to ‘Pleasure and orgasm in women with female genital mutilation/cutting, L. Catania, O. Abdulcadir, et al, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17970975 ). Feel free to google around a bit, you can find plenty of other research about this.

      2) Oh, most definitely, you are entitled to an opinion. Question is, in a hypothetical situation where you are pregnant with someone’s child – does the father of that child have a right to an opinion on whether you should have an abortion or not, or should they shut up too?

      3) I will assume you meant local analgesic. Said analgesic is by the way not effective in blocking the pain levels involved during circumcision. Studies show long-lingering psychological effects of the procedure for as much as weeks afterward, and during the neonatal stage, it takes a lot to cause that.
      There is plenty of recent data on male circumcision, especially for the US. The CDC reported in 2011 that, following an earlier increase in neonatal circumcision rates, rates decreased in the period 1999 to 2010. Citing three different data sources, most recent rates were 56.9% in 2008 (NHDS) 56.3% in 2008 (NIS), and 54.7% in 2010 (CDM). (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevalence_of_circumcision).
      As for complications from circumcision, it depends on what you’re talking about. If we’re talking ‘penis turns black and falls off’ level, then yes – the severe complication statistic in the US is around median 0-0.2%. Any complication falls around the 1.5% median. But if you’re looking at later complications in the form of changes to sensation of sexual pleasure, deformation, scar sensitivity or psychological effect? Upwards of 30%.

      Mull on that for a bit. 30% of the little over 50% of male americans born in 2010 that were circumcised, will grow up with their alteration complicating their sex life. That is a rather large number of people. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23374102?dopt=Abstract , Frisch, M., Lindholm, M., and Grønbæk, M., “Male Circumcision and Sexual Function in Men and Women: A Survey-based, Cross-sectional Study in Denmark,” International Journal of Epidemiology (2011);1–15.)

      As for the lack of pictures, the reason most medical pictures of intimate parts are old is because of changes in the legislation, protecting the privacy of patients, and copyright law. You find the greatest number of available images from the medical community in the public domain from 1960-1980. After that, studies often did not release images used in that study as public domain, but retained copyright of those images. Buy access to the studies if you really want recent images of malformed penises.

      4) So if I find that a woman orgasms too quickly for my tastes, I should insist she get circumcised?
      Endurance is something that is achieved by ‘training’, not by changing your body’s ability to feel stimuli. We men are not hardwired so that X nerveendings firing Y times results in an orgasm, it is a product of the mind as much as it is the body. To suggest we are so base we are ruled utterly by what our penis tells us is, frankly, quite offensive.

      5) This one… You are so far out of bounds you hopefully look back at this with a little perspective and feel ashamed for uttering it. After bringing up female genital mutilation as the abhorrence of complete loss of pleasure in point 2, you DARE to claim that a male’s foreskin has less value to their identity? Take your misandry elsewhere.

      6) Thank you. So your opinion in point 2 about your right to have an opinion even though you lack a penis should be given the same weight as you give everyone else’s, then?

    • Your wrong with # 3 Im and RN have been for over 35 years. Cercs are done with the infant strapped in a devise that places all four limbs out . a hemostat is used to crush the line to be cut then scissors is used to cut along the line, no pain killer is used at any time. Doc say they don’t feel it. infant screams the whole time. some have a bleed with has to be burned to stop it no suture are used There are other ways like the band witch is place around the foreskin until it fall off painless right. You don’t have a clue!

    • Wow that is really disturbing of you to argue.

    • Anonymous says:

      my foury’s so big i can use it as a tent when i go camping? yewww gotta luv it

    • Hi there. Oxford University compares female genital mutilation with circumcision. http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2013/03/announcement-journal-of-medical-ethics-special-issue-on-circumcision/

      Enjoy

    • People who come on here to derail very important discussions on male suffering need to be banned.
      Yet again I see a number of commenters diminishing the significance of male suffering.
      We live in a culture that condones and applauds male suffering. This has to stop.
      Good men project should be a place for men to come together and support each other and not a place where others are allowed to dictate that male suffering is unimportant or exaggerated or non-existent. Enough is enough.

    • Michael Rowe says:

      Thank goodness there’s a place where men can come to read women’s opinions of circumcision, and be instructed by women on whether or not to call uncircumcised penises “intact” or “uncircumcised.” Because, as we all know, men are far too clueless to discuss their own bodies, and intimate issues, with each other, without female supervision.

      I think MattyD just nailed it perfectly: this site started off as a place for men to discuss issues pertaining to their lives, including their bodies. There is a generalized tolerance here of the sort of intrusive, offensive trolling that no women’s website would ever tolerate from male commenters. Those sites may be on to something. I wish there was more of that intolerance of trolling here.

    • Ok, listen up. I’ve experienced sex with both circumcised and uncircumcised men. The latter I found to be much more pleasurable (apologies to all circumcised men), and I find it idiotic that anyone would assume uncut men can’t be “rough”. Trust me, they can, and in every way. The major difference is that with an uncut man, rough sex (and prolonged sex) won’t leave you feeling raw and dried out. The foreskin retains lubrication like nothing else, no need for artificial lube. No need to stop or take it slow from things “getting too dry/painful”. There’s also a certain sensuality to the foreskin that is very, very appealing. It just FEELS better.

      Oh, and the assumption that uncircumcised men are “too sensitive” and can’t last long enough in bed is also complete BS. Certain hour-long sessions come to mind.

  33. It is up to the owner of the penis, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    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

    Doctors around the world critique AAP’s circumcision opinion.
    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

  34. *hugs you and doesn’t let go*
    Thank you for writing this article.

  35. I genuinely applaud the writer of this piece. It’s a very sensitive, delicate issue. Whilst I can see why comparing it to FGM can really ruffle a few feathers (and before anyone asks, I’m a woman with a doctorate on gender and politics) – I think the author has done a beautiful job. Not mentioning it will raise the question of ‘WELL WHY ISN’T IT THERE? IT’S IMPORTANT TOO? PATRIARCHY!!!!’ Saying it’s ‘even worse’, or ‘more important’ than FGM will get it shot down by most sane people.

    I really like what’s been done here:

    “Parallels to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), seem offensive when a parallel is mistaken for comparison. But let me be clear: I do not compare the two. I draw a parallel related to genital integrity”

    The way this article is written is one that both men and women (and everyone who is both/in between/neither) can relate to. I empathized at a visceral level at the author’s personal narrative, whereas the science he cited (on how the removed parts are the most sensitive) just sent shivers down my spine. Yes. Clear overlaps to the ways in which women are abused. Different, but parallel.

    By acknowledging both forms of pain, and the different ways in which they affect the well-being of a person, I feel as though the author provides a balanced treatment of the subject – and one all those who support the idea ‘my body, my choice’ can get behind. We can even ask more structural questions as to Who? Why? and What do we do about it?

    I am so grateful to have read this. Thank you for writing it.

    • “Parallels to Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), seem offensive when a parallel is mistaken for comparison. But let me be clear: I do not compare the two. I draw a parallel related to genital integrity”
      While there are those that try the direct comparison at the same time there are more than a few folks that take nearly any instance of cutting both boys and girls in the same article as a comparison by default and then launch into “girls have it worse” mode.

      Both procedures are serious violations of a person’s bodily autonomy in the form their bodies being altered without their consent. Full stop (as the kids say these days.)

    • GSS, I’m also a woman with a doctorate relating to gender, and I couldn’t agree with you more. This is an important conversation to be having. Tom, thanks for writing this. My sympathy goes out tho the boys and men who have suffered as a result of their circumcisions…

    • ihavequestions says:

      — And some forms of FGM are vastly less invasive and traumatic than the typical American circumcision surgery.

  36. Stephanie says:

    I fought my husband, even conceded my sons’ first name, to keep him intact! Mothers DO have a lot of influence on circumcision, so instead of. ‘Shut up’ encourage them to keep their babies intact. My son will one day have his own sex life who can then decide if he’d like to alter his body. The mothers of these babies could be your greatest ally!!!

  37. The argument for circumcision really only comes down to two things, religion or hygiene.

    Religion: If you are a religious person I simply ask that you consider that if your god put it there, there was a reason for doing so. Otherwise your god made an error and I want you to consider the implications of that. How many people have had tonsils or appendixes removed because they were believed unnecessary?

    Hygiene: We don’t cut off peoples hands because some people don’t wash then effectively, we teach them to wash. The fact is, a penis has decidedly less nooks, crannies and folds to care for than a vagina. Is anyone suggesting that vaginas needs to be altered to make them easier to clean? I certainly hope not.

    The fact is, it is by very definition, genital mutilation. And, while you can spend all day arguing which is more severe there is one simple undeniable fact. Only ONE of these procedures happens daily in our hospitals in western civilized nations! This is a tragedy that needs to stop. ALL FORMS OF GENITAL MUTILATION ARE BARBARIC!

    • Hygiene: We don’t cut off peoples hands because some people don’t wash then effectively, we teach them to wash. The fact is, a penis has decidedly less nooks, crannies and folds to care for than a vagina. Is anyone suggesting that vaginas needs to be altered to make them easier to clean? I certainly hope not.
      Pretty much. Its amazing that people bring up the hygiene argument. And even the heavily contested “It decreases the risk of catching STDs/Is. Has it come to that now? Instead of teaching boys/men proper hygience and safe sex practices its better to just remove it to make things easier?

      What other body part, male female or otherwise, do we remove at that early of age for the sake of preventative maintenance?

  38. I am so thankful whenever I think of it that my parents decided to have me circumcised. I couldn’t imagine having to go through life without being cut. I don’t think woman should have any say in the discussion whatsoever. This is something that affects men and should be decided by men,

    • ihavequestions says:

      Let’s see how “thankful” you are after you are older, and begin to suffer from erectile dysfunction due to having been circumcised. Let’s see how “thankful” you are after your lady (assuming you are hetero) goes through menopause, and the pounding that you have to do because of your lack of penile sensitivity causes her pain.

      Your “thankfulness” does not justify the continued routine genital mutilation of baby boys.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      Except that your mother certainly had a lot of say in the discussion.

      But now that an empathic supporter of genital cutting is here, I want to ask you a question, because there’s something I want to understand:
      I understand how anybody can have a deep emotional investment in staying intact and wanting others to stay intact. What I do not understant is how anybody can have an emotional investment in being cut as a child. I mean, it’s not like a on-the-balance-of-reasoning decision for you, the idea of being intact is actually abhorrent to you. Barring religious reasons, why could that be? Hygiene is a spurious reason, but even if you accept it it does not give a fervent conviction, does it?

      The only possible such reason I ever could come up with is that maybe people (like you) subconsciously feel that everything is not alright at all, and try to drown out that nagging suspicion (with the corresponding self-esteem issues) by loudly proclaiming that everything is more than alright. And as for the proselityzing, after all we often strive to convince others in order to convice ourselves.

      • Anonymous says:

        wow, give it a rest will ya, some people just like one thing over another, you don’t have to analyze the shit outta everything. a deep emotional investment, wow, it’s just appearance, most people won’t have any problems at all, you’re putting way to much thought into other peoples dicks. get a life.

  39. wallywood says:

    According to the author’s flowchart HE himself has no right or interest expressing his opinion.

    According to his flowchart the only person entitled to such opinion is a fresh-born infant.

    Oddly the word in-fant means “can’t speak.”

  40. Please don’t say “if you don’t have one, you have no say”. While I was still pregnant, I made the decision not to circumcise should my child be born a boy. I believe it is an outdated and barbaric practice. This despite family religious pressure to conform.

    I did indeed have a son & expect to discuss this with him when he’s older. My mother said my son wouldn’t be accepted into our religion. A close male friend (of the same religion, who is also against routine circumcision) assured me that nobody has ever requested to see his lack of foreskin!

  41. Wow. Some of you ladies are so over the top its pretty nuts. Reasonable women are recoiling in horror all over this article.

    The article states quite clearly that circumcision and FGM are not the same thing.

    I agree. But as a circumcised male, I can tell you I am REALLY NOT HAPPY that 90% of the nerve tissue in my penis was removed for no good reason.

    Thats all it says.

    In the future, when a woman tells me I have no right to an opinion on reproductive law (I am Pro-Choice) because I don’t have a vagina and uterus, I would like to thank you for providing me with the perfect refutation.

    For a bunch of people without penisis…you sure have opinions on what should and should be done to them on infant, innocent boys.

    But you don’t have a penis. So by your own rules…you are a total hypocrite.

    • Theorema Egregium says:

      It’s not quite as simple. Apparently you have a right to an opinion on abortion as long as that opinion is pro-choice. Likewise a woman is allowed to be pro-choice on this matter (being against infant genital cutting is nothing than being pro-choice — after all a man is entitled to have it done on his own volition anytime later). And that makes a lot of sense. You cannot have an opinion that forces an irreversible decision on others, but an opinion that grants the other person autonomy over themselves is always alright.

    • Wow. Some of you ladies are so over the top its pretty nuts. Reasonable women are recoiling in horror all over this article. The article states quite clearly that circumcision and FGM are not the same thing.

      Which is exactly why I said this above:
      While there are those that try the direct comparison at the same time there are more than a few folks that take nearly any instance of cutting both boys and girls in the same article as a comparison by default and then launch into “girls have it worse” mode.

  42. Why FGM and MGM are not the same thing?

    Most FGM is of the nick, pinprick, hood or labia removal variety, which are either not worse or similar to mgm.

    Wherever rusty blades are being used on women they are also being used on men.

    The same rationales are used for both.

    We have been deceived into believe they are not the same thing, by comparing the worst forms of FGM with the best forms of MGM.

  43. wellokaythen says:

    It’s like FGM. It’s not like FGM. What difference does that really make to the larger point? Whatever the similarities and differences, the basic argument sounds pretty valid and pretty gender-neutral:

    Don’t mutilate a baby’s genitals because it’s traditional or because it’s just what you do in your culture, country, hospital, whatever. You better have a damn good medical reason, and so far a lot of the so-called medical reasons are dubious.

    I cut my baby boy’s foreskin because the voices in my head told me to — lock me away.
    I cut my baby boy’s foreskin because someone 3000 years ago heard voices — no problem.

    If a person as an adult consents to being mutilated, then I have no problem with that. Snip away.

    If the vast majority of circumcised people would never volunteer for that as an adult, then that ought to tell you something. If if HAS to happen when the person is a baby or a child, then that ought to be a clue….

  44. wellokaythen says:

    People without penises are not allowed to have an opinion about male circumcision?

    If they’re against it, I bet you’d be okay with them having an opinion….

    If a female doctor was in the position being asked to perform one, I would like her to have an opinion, preferably deep scepticism about the medical benefits of doing so. If there are women on a hospital governing board examining the evidence about medical benefits, I want them to have an opinion based on good evidence. If there are women in the forefront of putting a stop to this barbarity, then good.

  45. The central question is why are we doing this to BABIES? People who can’t consent who are completely at the mercy of other people. Forget about the penises of grown men for a moment or how you feel about this as an adult. Forget for the moment that this is even about genitals at all.

    This is cutting something that (virtually) every boy is born with. We’re not talking about fixing a clept palate or a club foot. This is basically cutting a baby because you want to. Dress it up in tradition or religion or culture or aesthetics, but it’s basically “because I want to and you can’t stop me.”

  46. Well said Steve and Wellokaythen. Argue the severity ask you want. Any mutilation of any unwilling person is barbaric. It’s ok to do to a boy because girls have it worse its rediculous. Anyone can have an opinion, but, no one should be allowed to mutilate anyone without their express written consent, as an adult.

  47. I think the “Horror” of circumcision is being greatly over played here. I’m aware there are cases where being circumcised has led to health problems and a loss of feeling/pleasure for some. But speaking as someone who was circumcised later in life (10 years old) due to my foreskin being too tight and getting stuck. I wouldn’t say the experience was traumatic, it wasn’t pleasant but no operation is. I have a healthy and robust sex life which I enjoy immensely. I agree it should be your choice when it comes to your body. Nobody should make that decision for you but let’s not vilify a procedure for the sake of human rights.

    • Gaius Baltar says:

      Then what are human rights worth? One side argues that you shouldn’t have been cut unnecessarily. The other says you should have been cut whether there was a problem or not. And chances are your cutting wasn’t necessary either. A 10-year-old often isn’t retractable at all.

      Yes, let’s vilify a procedure (done by people who have no right, for the sake of profit and to alter human behavior) for the sake of human rights. You have a good sex life. What does that have to do with other people? Since you’re happy nobody else can complain? Lots of cut women say sex is great too. Adult women have been cut voluntarily. That’s not the point. The point is that each person should have a choice and the lies about human anatomy have to stop. Yes, let’s vilify medical fraud.

  48. Wow. This article really made me shiver.

    As a young adult living in Israel, having grown up in a modern Orthodox Jewish community, I have given the matter of circumcision a great deal of thought (despite your helpful chart above.) I envision myself becoming a mother and I am so torn between the immense pressure of the religious tradition and my own personal abhorring of the ritual. I recently polled my group of friends in favor or against circumcision, and those who are religious could so easily say they would obviously do it to their sons, while those who are secular can so easily say they would never do such a thing. To me I feel torn between the two worlds, and while I can’t imagine ever subjecting a child of mine to such a procedure, I also can’t be entirely certain of my ability to stand up to the societal pressures, and what kind of message I would give my children by doing or not doing it. Either decision is a statement. I would much rather make a statement that I believe in my child’s right to choose, but that also involves giving a finger to the religious rituals and values I was raised with. In short, I wish religion wasn’t so fucked up.

    I’ve read through the comments and I have to say, I was disappointed by the amount of people who insisted so harshly on correcting tiny little facts here and there. This article is so obviously not about facts, or whether the parallel to FGM and rape is legitimate or not. The point is crystal clear: circumcision, forgetting all health benefits and religious reasons and excuses we tell ourselves, is a violation of another person’s body and strips them of their freedom to make their own choices. Despite what I said in my previous paragraph, I agree with you one hundred percent and I think the phrase “routine infant” is just wrong on so many levels. I hope your message continues to spread and reach as many readers like me, who are stuck between a rock and a hard place, the pull of religion playing against their own morality. Please keep writing.

    • Have you read Maimonides’ Guide for the perplexed? It contains some reasoning for circumsision, like “It is hard for a woman with whom an uncircumcised man has had sexual intercourse to separate from him” or claims that it is done to weaken sexual stimulation and cause pain.
      The religious texts actually show that circumcision is done for the very same reasons as FGM, with the same justification. Please stay strong and don’t do it to your son(s) :)

  49. The “good men project” gets millions of dollars in federal funding to operate……so why don’t we let men share their concerns about being sexually mutilated as young boys…instead of having women shame them into silence????

  50. I’m confused as to why people are getting up in arms about comparing male circumcision to female circumcision- they are two sides of the same coin! The same way that those girls are having part of their healthy genitals forceibly removed (yes there are different kinds and different amounts removed: it’s still removal)- so are those male babies who are being circumcised. What’s so hard to grasp?

    Good article, it’s all true. Do your research. The foreskin is meant to be there- all mammals (male and female) have one. Look at the physical visible damage done *linked*~ there is an obvious difference between intact and circ’d penises. When circ’d the head becomes keratinizes and loses sensation. That’s a fact. What man would want that??. Routine male Circumcision should be banned the same way it is for females in the US. Equality anyone?

    http://Www.sexasnatureintendedit.com

    http://www.circumcisionharm.org/gallery%20intact.htm

  51. When my son was born 16 years ago, I did not want him to be cut; However my ex said yes because he wasn’t and he suffered a lot with his foreskin. I do not have a penis, so I just shut up and went along with it – even though I though this was a stupid procedure and that if the boy wanted that he should say so when he gets older. I was looked like I was crazy by his dad. I couldn’t advocate because I have no penis. Most people who are in favor of circumcisions are males anyway. I know a lot of new mothers who would prefer to keep their baby boys intact.

  52. I am a woman, without a penis, who feels very strongly against RIC. It is a good thing I felt entitled to an opinion because it ensured my son remained intact. I think it really comes down to whose penis it is, not the sex of the person with an opinion. The chart would make more sense to me and other female intactivists if that part were removed. Don’t alienate us, we need to work together to protect the babies. I liked the article otherwise.

  53. Samantha Ueno says:

    Let’s pretend that there isn’t shit tons of scientific evidence out there that tells us the foreskin is a necessary and beneficial organ, that circumcision is painful, risky, and leaves lasting trauma on the newborn, and that the “benefits” are trivial at best and all could be achieved by other non surgical methods.

    The US is the only country where people still think circumcision is a normal, routine practice. No medical organization in the world actually recommends it. And you’re performing an irreversible largely cosmetic procedure on a newborn, putting that on higher priority than breastfeeding and bonding. That’s fucked up.

  54. Carolyn Huff says:

    Excellent article. More men need to speak out on this and stand up for their newborns. I believe this is what it will take for routine infant circumcision to finally be socially unacceptable in the US., and consequently will create long lasting positive effects on our society.

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