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May 19 2014

A choice for parents of a baby boy to make

So I was on a panel on multiculturalism should we worry about it on Saturday, moderated by Rebecca Goldstein, with Taslima and Katha and Sarah Jones. At one point Rebecca said we were agreeing too much so it occurred to me to try to fix that by bringing up not female genital mutilation but the male kind. (Instead of cries of outrage, though, there was some applause. Yet more agreement! What can you do.)

You already know what I think, unless you’re a new reader. I don’t think it’s parents’ “right” to cut off healthy bits of their infants for non-medical reasons. I don’t. I think the only reason we don’t recoil in horror at the very idea of cutting off a bit of the penis for no real reason is because we’re so damned used to it. Well isn’t that always the way violations of human rights go unnoticed for year after decade after century.

On the other hand to (some) religious people it’s a foundational part of their “community” and not doing it would deprive the child of the right to be included in that community. If you take that as a right, you have competing rights here. I don’t take that as a right, but some parents do.

Seen on Twitter just now:

circ

The Circ Decision @TheCircDecision 19 h

[with a logo saying PARENTS KNOW BEST]

Circumcision is a choice for parents of a baby boy to make. Read & make an informed decision

No. It isn’t. It isn’t “a choice for parents of a baby to make” whether or not to cut off a head or a nose or an arm, and the same applies to a bit of the penis. Parents don’t have carte blanche to mutilate their children.

94 comments

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  1. 1
    LykeX

    I think this ties in to a view of children as property, rather than wards. Even though we’ve legally recognized that children have rights, it still hasn’t quite sunk in culturally. Much like women’s rights, really. For some reason these attitudes hang on long after we’ve rationally accepted that they’re wrong; a kind of cultural inertia.

    There is some sense in being hesitant to apply state pressure to parents, but that shouldn’t extend to allowing what is clearly a completely purposeless mutilation, done only for reasons of tradition.

  2. 2
    johnthedrunkard

    It is a clear ‘threshold’ issue. Take away the razor blades and broken glass, and the nice clean mohels and sanitary hospital settings…

    It is not right, ever, to surgically modify someone for arbitrary reasons and without their consent. I am horrified to see American women express horror and disgust at the very notion of unmutilated male bodies. Even suggesting that the intact male is somehow ‘unnatural!’

    A damn’ good example of how the outrageous can become normalized.

  3. 3
    Seth

    I subscribe to a model of parenting that reserves all rights to children and reserves all responsibilities to their parents, at least until the children reach certain developmental milestones. Mutilating a child for any reason save therapeutic intervention is a horrible crime and it demands justice.

  4. 4
  5. 5
    qwints

    Aren’t many if not most circumcisions at least purportedly for medical reasons?

  6. 6
    left0ver1under

    I’ve seen a fair number of posters including – many on FtB – who say they’re against FGM and then say doing it to boys is perfectly normal. They’re so inured to reality that they can’t see the contradiction and hypocrisy.

    Here’s a point that most don’t think about: the male foreskin helps in lubrication during intercourse. By removing it, it actually makes sex more painful for women. And yet most of the voices I see arguing for it are women….

  7. 7
    stewart

    Yes, if you ignore the vast majority that are outspokenly, explicitly and exclusively for religious reasons.

  8. 8
    MyaR

    While it was a good panel, I thought it could have done with a little more… not conflict, exactly. Katha Pollitt said one of the things that it might’ve been nice to highlight a little more — “here’s one of the places I disagree with myself” and went on to talk about how she had changed her mind on the French ban on wearing head coverings for schoolgirls, where something that seems like a liberal good (freeing women and girls from oppression) could have not just an opposite effect, but possibly opposite motivation.

    The agreement was sort of interesting in and of itself — the position of everyone was that it’s a nuanced issue — you should not allow apologism for horrible cultural practices, but you should also take a look at your own motivations and rhetoric (and those of your allies) when publicly condemning those horrible cultural practices. Denouncing something horrible while wrapping it up with a dollop of racism (or sexism*) isn’t exactly what we’re going for.

    I would also add that I disagree with one thing you said about the circumcision — I think Angela Merkel was probably correct in reversing the German court decision, not because of the rightness of the case itself, but because it’s Germany. They just can’t go first on the issue. I hope other countries will ban it, and that ban will catch on and spread.

    * Just found on facebook, she was doing awesome until the hashtag: “My dad was in prison for eight years of my life. When he got out, he spent a little time with us, but then he got a new girlfriend and started spending all his time and money on her. My mother doesn’t have much money, so I recently asked him if he could pay for a class trip to Spain. He promised he would, so my grandmother went ahead and put it on her credit card. But right before he was going to give me the money, we got in an argument. He started saying bad things about my mother, which I wasn’t going to allow. Afterwards, he texted me that he was going to take the money for my trip, and spend it on himself. He told me he was going to take photos of all the things he bought and post them on Instagram. So I took a screenshot of the text message, and posted it on Instagram, with the hashtag: ‪#‎deadbeatdad‬. He reported me to Instagram for bullying, so they deleted the post. Then I put it right back up, hashtag ‪#‎onlypussiesreportpeople‬.”

  9. 9
    Shatterface

    God created man in his image/has been directing evolution since mankind rode dinosaurs to work/whatever – but for some reason he screwed up the penis and needs some guy with a pair of scissors to finish the job.

  10. 10
    Decker

    I’m against male circumcision, but get somewhat angered when people invoke it as though it was a grevious as FGM.

    The term ‘female circumcision’ rankles because “circumcision” is not what FGM consists of.

  11. 11
    sawells

    How about “footbinding is a decision for the parents of baby girls?”

  12. 12
    Shatterface

    Aren’t many if not most circumcisions at least purportedly for medical reasons

    Unless Jewish and Muslim kids are especially at risk of knob-cancer in early childhood I’m deeply skeptical.

  13. 13
    Ophelia Benson

    Mya, true…I did flinch (in writing, here) that it was Germany at the time. But, I think overruling it is bad too. Another one of those places where I see reasons in both directions.

  14. 14
    Beth

    It isn’t “a choice for parents of a baby to make” whether or not to cut off a head or a nose or an arm, and the same applies to a bit of the penis. Parents don’t have carte blanche to mutilate their children.

    While it is true that parents don’t have carte blanche to mutilate their children, they are, in our common culture, allowed the choice of whether or not to circumcise their infant boys. I don’t think comparing cutting off the foreskin to cutting off their arm, nose or head is helpful. Circumcision would be more equivalent to tattoos, piercings, scarring and other body modifications, some of which are allowed on minors with parental consent.

    Since you are arguing for changing our cultural acceptance of this body modification on infants, I think it is necessary to show that the harm committed by circumcision is greater than the harm committed by prohibiting the practice unless medically recommended. The harm a prohibition would cause can be summed up as an infringement of the parent’s right to weigh the reasons pro and con (which would include the religious/community arguments) and decide such matters individually. Generally speaking, our culture reverences protecting individual freedom of choice unless there is a compelling reason for the intervention.

  15. 15
    LykeX

    I’m against male circumcision, but get somewhat angered when people invoke it as though it was a grevious as FGM.

    The severity is often different (sometimes quite outrageously so, like in those cases where they remove the clitoris entirely. Yikes!), but the principle is the same. Both practices are wrong. We achieve nothing by beating each other over the head with which one is more wrong than the other. Let’s just ban both and be done with it.

  16. 16
    LykeX

    Beth #14

    The harm a prohibition would cause can be summed up as an infringement of the parent’s right to weigh the reasons pro and con (which would include the religious/community arguments) and decide such matters individually. Generally speaking, our culture reverences protecting individual freedom of choice unless there is a compelling reason for the intervention.

    So, why aren’t you in favor of protecting the child’s choice to make an informed decision of their own? By letting the parents alter the child’s body, you’re taking away the child’s opportunity for making that choice themselves in the future.

    The harm of a ban is entirely on the parents, while the harm of continuing the practice is entirely on the children. Since it’s the child’s body that’s being permanently altered for no medically valid reason, which concern do you think should weight more heavily?

  17. 17
    qwints

    Looking at it, my perception is a case of the US being an outlier. In the US, non-religious circumcision is much more prevalent than religious circumcision (Jews and Muslims are around 2.5% of the US population, but over 50% of US male infants are circumcised with major US health organizations endorsing the practice.)

  18. 18
    stever

    At the turn of the twentieth century, circumcision was supposed to prevent masturbation. This idea was total bullshit, but the quacks who advocated it, principally Dr. John Harvey Kellog (yes, the inventor of corn flakes) never bothered to do any research. Somehow, the idea caught on, and while the original rationale has been forgotten, the practice continues in the United States out of sheer habit. Fortunately, Dr. Kellog’s proposal for preventing female masturbation never caught on. That involved cauterizing the clitoris with carbolic acid.

  19. 19
    Beth

    An infant cannot make a choice, so there isn’t any ‘child’s choice’ to be concerned about wrt infant circumcision. In general, I don’t think the child should be allowed to make such a choice without their parent’s permission, so it really comes down to whether or not the parents’ right to make that choice should be favored over society barring the practice. That the ‘harm’ of prohibition falls on different individuals than the ‘harm’ of circumcision does not justify prohibiting the practice. Which is the greater harm is not an easy question to answer in this case.

    Which concern do I think should weigh more heavily? At this point, I think the harm of prohibition would be greater than the harm of circumcision, primarily because it would interfere in the practice of some common religions that are part of our society.

  20. 20
    John Horstman

    On the other hand to (some) religious people it’s a foundational part of their “community” and not doing it would deprive the child of the right to be included in that community.

    And it’s the choice of the community to not accept someone who hasn’t had bits cut off of them, so I don’t see why it should have to be the parents who acquiesce to the norm and not the community that should accept difference. Also, I don’t want to be part of any community that glorifies chopping pieces off of people who cannot consent, and neither should anyone else, becasue that’s deeply unethical behavior.

    @Beth #14:

    Circumcision would be more equivalent to tattoos, piercings, scarring and other body modifications, some of which are allowed on minors with parental consent.

    1. Removing the foreskin has practical material implications (beyond risk of infection etc. that go with any surgical procedure, including tattooing, piercing, scarification) in terms of sexual activity, both solo and partnered, so it’s not comparable to non-functional body modifications, like cutting off ear lobes or piercing or facial scarification. It is more similar to cutting off part of one’s nose or a pinky finger – one can get along fine without those bits, but it makes some tasks more difficult or require a different approach.
    2. Point 1 is entirely irrelevant to the ethical debate, becasue bodily autonomy. All the practices you describe are also wrong, for the same reason.

  21. 21
    yahweh

    Beth, logically anterior to the question of a parent’s right to weight the pros and cons is, I think, the question of whose foreskin it is in the first place and whether it’s the parent’s to chop off. Finding proof of harm might work as an argument to compel the practice to stop – no bad thing perhaps – but that rather misses the point.

    There’s absolutely no reason these days why the op cannot be done on reaching one’s majority – if culture is so important to the owner. No worse than other cosmetic procedures. Except that, as any fool knows, no one would do it then and the practice would die in a generation. Which is why it is so important to do it to helpless children. The meme would be extinct otherwise.

    Same applies to FGM or course, only much more so.

  22. 22
    John Horstman

    @stever #18: Also straight-up cliterodectomy i.e. what we now call FGM – I read one contemporaneous report for a history of sexuality in the US class that described Kellog’s office shelves displaying excised clitorises preserved in jars (apparently this was the era of displaying preserved human tissues in jars).

  23. 23
    LykeX

    Beth #19

    An infant cannot make a choice, so there isn’t any ‘child’s choice’ to be concerned about wrt infant circumcision.

    You do realize that children eventually become non-children, right? It’s called “growing up”. When they become adults, they’re quite capable of making such decisions for themselves. That is, unless the decision to circumcise was made earlier, without their input.

    Not circumcising allows the future adult to make their own decision, one way or the other. Circumcision restricts that freedom. Unless there’s a good reason that the decision has to be made immediately (such as a genuine medical problem), waiting until the child is old enough to understand the issue and make a decision themselves is preferable, for exactly the reason you cited; it protects their individual freedom.

    So, why are you prioritizing the rights of the parents over the rights of the child, when it’s the child’s body that’s being altered and when there’s no pressing reason to make the alteration now, as opposed to later?

    Which is the greater harm is not an easy question to answer in this case.

    Actually, it’s quite easy. The harm to the parent is a limitation on their right to make decisions about another person’s body. The harm to the child is a limitation on its right to make decisions about its own body, as well as the permanent, physical alteration of that body.

  24. 24
    Shatterface

    Since you are arguing for changing our cultural acceptance of this body modification on infants, I think it is necessary to show that the harm committed by circumcision is greater than the harm committed by prohibiting the practice unless medically recommended

    The default position is that the child is born uncircumcised and should remain that way until he is old enough to decide for himself unless there is a compelling medical reason to circumcise him as an infant.,,

    ‘Body modification’ is a choice; theres a difference between you chosing to have your ears pierced and me getting you drunk and sticking needles through your helpless body.

  25. 25
    Shatterface

    The body autonomy argument is the same as the abortion one; to either have control over one’s own body or to have that ownership trumped by the fundamentalist wing of ‘the community’ you just happen to have been born into.

  26. 26
    stewart

    I was curious about the beginnings of the non-religious variety and came across this (didn’t want to tamper with context, so it’s long, but downloading should give a legible resolution): https://www.facebook.com/144310995587370/photos/a.271728576178944.71555.144310995587370/788339387851191/?l=aa16388f55

  27. 27
    Shatterface

    That the ‘harm’ of prohibition falls on different individuals than the ‘harm’ of circumcision does not justify prohibiting the practice

    Thats so assbackward its hard to know where to start.

    Preventing someone from doing something that harms someone else is pretty much the entire basis of law.

    The ‘harm’ someone experiences when prevented from harming someone else is entirely fictitious. What ‘harm’ does a thug suffer when prevented from beating up a passerby? What ‘harm’ does a rapist suffer when prevented from raping someone? What ‘harm’ does a terrorist suffer when prevented from committing mass murder?

  28. 28
  29. 29
    anat

    To left0ver1under: Outside the US the main reason for circumcision is religious. In the US the most common reason is ‘we wanted Junior to look like his dad’, with possibly some vague notion that it might be healthier this way, without actually considering at what time of life would such health benefits be relevant.

    To Beth: I agree that the harm of infant circumcision to the victim is significantly less than the harm caused by severing limbs, though worse than the harm of infant piercings. We can change what we allow parents to choose for their children, though such changes would probably be smoother to introduce by raising consciousness and changing the cultural attitudes first. The bigger problem is that religious circumcision is practiced by minority religions, one with a past of persecution, one with a present problem of marginalization.

    Your post #19 was a non-sequitor. Indeed the infant cannot make the choice. Therefore, barring serious and urgent medical need, there is no need to circumcise any child until the child is grown and can make the decision for themselves. The general approach should be that any irreversible decision should be left to the individual whose body is affected by it directly, and that a conservative approach is to be preferred until said individual is capable of making the decision – unless there is clear evidence for a need to intervene earlier.

  30. 30
    ludicrous

    LykeX at 23,

    Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I just get so angry when people casually dismiss children’ rights I couldn’t have responded without being vicious. As they so often say, power corrupts……..

  31. 31
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth @ 14

    While it is true that parents don’t have carte blanche to mutilate their children, they are, in our common culture, allowed the choice of whether or not to circumcise their infant boys.

    Yes I know, and that’s what I’m objecting to. I don’t think it’s productive just to repeat the conventional wisdom when that’s what is being objected to. I’m saying parents in our common culture shouldn’t be allowed the choice of whether or not to circumcise their infant boys, so it’s not helpful to inform me that parents in our common culture are allowed the choice of whether or not to circumcise their infant boys. Do you see what I’m trying to explain here?

    I don’t think comparing cutting off the foreskin to cutting off their arm, nose or head is helpful. Circumcision would be more equivalent to tattoos, piercings, scarring and other body modifications, some of which are allowed on minors with parental consent.

    Sez you.

    And why? Because, as I said in the post, we’re so used to it. That’s not automatically a good reason.

  32. 32
    Ophelia Benson

    Thanks for the documentary background Stewart!

  33. 33
    stewart

    Welcome! (I was curious myself.)

  34. 34
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    This is making me insane because it’s so through the looking glass. Beth—why do you present this as if the burden of proof is on those of us (or on children) who object to NOT cutting off a piece of a kid’s body? You are speaking as if it never occurred to you (and it doesn’t occur to a lot of people) that the default position is “leave a body intact unless there is a compelling reason not to). In your formulation, the default position is “let parents choose whether to cut off part of the child’s body. . .that’s normal.”

    No, it is not. It may be common. It may be unremarked on. But it is definitely not a rational or ethically defensible position. It can only be because we’ve internalized this bizarre notion that cutting off foreskins is normal that you can blandly state that the default position is “whatever parents want.”

    That’s ethically. . . outrageous. Surely you can see that if you reflect on the situation?

    This isn’t an attack on you as Beth qua Beth, please understand. The majority of Americans would say the same thing. But that’s *alarming*. It should alarm us—and it should alarm you—that we’ve become so dulled to this that we actually think that the abnormal thing, the thing that needs lots of evidence to support it, is simply leaving the child’s penis intact.

  35. 35
    Beth

    Regarding the bodily autonomy argument which several people made: This is not an argument applicable to children, only adults. The child’s parents/guardians are expected to make those sorts of decisions wrt any legally allowed procedures – i.e. vaccinations, piercings, and circumcision and assumed to do so with the child’s best interest in mind. What is legally allowable can change, which is what I presume you are arguing for, but bodily autonomy is not a convincing reason.

    @yahweh #21

    There’s absolutely no reason these days why the op cannot be done on reaching one’s majority – if culture is so important to the owner. No worse than other cosmetic procedures.

    This is true, but does it justify the infringement of religious practices and intrusion of the government into private family decisions? That’s the tricky question because it requires a subjective weighting of various harms and conflicting rights.

    @ Shatterface #24

    The default position is that the child is born uncircumcised and should remain that way until he is old enough to decide for himself unless there is a compelling medical reason to circumcise him as an infant.,,

    The default position is what is currently legal and accepted in society. You may desire that it is otherwise, and wish to change that default, but that simply isn’t true about our society today.

    @ Shatterface #27

    The ‘harm’ someone experiences when prevented from harming someone else is entirely fictitious.

    This is not true. ‘Harm’ is a vague term with many different meanings. Physical harm is not the only sort. To declare that the ‘harm’ suffered by a Jewish family if they were unable to perform their family’s ancient religious rite on their newborn son is ‘fictitious’ is not a judgment I support. It’s a dismissal of someone else’s pain by someone who would be unaffected by that pain. I don’t think the harm they would suffer should be discarded as an unimportant consideration.

    @LykeX #23

    You do realize that children eventually become non-children, right? It’s called “growing up”.

    You do realize that once grown up, they are adults, right? It’s no longer a child’s decision at that point.

    @anat #29

    Your post #19 was a non-sequitor.

    It was a direct response to this question: So, why aren’t you in favor of protecting the child’s choice to make an informed decision of their own?

  36. 36
    Beth

    @Ophelia,

    Yes I know, and that’s what I’m objecting to. I don’t think it’s productive just to repeat the conventional wisdom when that’s what is being objected to. I’m saying parents in our common culture shouldn’t be allowed the choice of whether or not to circumcise their infant boys, so it’s not helpful to inform me that parents in our common culture are allowed the choice of whether or not to circumcise their infant boys. Do you see what I’m trying to explain here?

    I bring it up because you presented no argument for changing the status quo other than you think it is wrong. If you want to convince all the people who support the practice and those who are indifferent about it (that would be me), you need to present an argument that addresses the harms that would result from taking that choice away from parents and shows that those harms would be less than the harm of allowing the practice to continue.

  37. 37
    Pen

    So how did it pan out with the whole multiculturalism thing?

    Personal anecdote: my husband is a jewish atheist, so when I was pregnant, I said circumcision or not was his choice if we had a boy. Only I needed it to be his choice, not his family’s and I wanted him to make it before we announced the pregnancy. He chose no. I wasn’t really surprised. He also strongly dislikes piercings, tattoos and other body transformations but his traditions do mean a lot to him, so there was a conflict. He got major pushback from his family (that’s why I made my ‘demands’ in the first place), but then we had a girl, which eased the issue. But then, years later, he started telling people I would never have allowed him to have our son circumcised. That really hurt me, not least because I’d set aside my own ideals to accommodate his culture. But multiculturalism does this shit to you sometimes. Often. I still wouldn’t be without it though.

  38. 38
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth you present no argument for why the status quo is right other than that it is the status quo.

  39. 39
    LykeX

    The child’s parents/guardians are expected to make those sorts of decisions wrt any legally allowed procedures – i.e. vaccinations, piercings, and circumcision and assumed to do so with the child’s best interest in mind.

    And what do we do when the parents demonstrate quite clearly that they do not have the child’s best interests in mind?

    Circumcision is plainly, simply, objectively not in the best interest of the child. The interests of the child have nothing to do with it. It’s done for the sake of the parents, as you’ve even implicitly admitted, by appealing to their rights.

    So, the issue isn’t whether the parents get to make decisions on behalf of the child. The issue is whether the parents get to make decisions that are plainly not in the best interest of the child; which sacrifice the future opportunities and freedoms of the child; all for their own benefit.

    You do realize that children eventually become non-children, right? It’s called “growing up”.

     You do realize that once grown up, they are adults, right?  It’s no longer a child’s decision at that point.

    Exactly, so why are you trying to take it away? Once adults, they’re perfectly capable of deciding for themselves, so why the rush to make the decision before then? What great harm is perpetrated by simply waiting until the person is mature enough to decide for themselves?

    It sounds to me like you’re making my point for me. The adult can only make a free choice if they weren’t circumcised as a child. By not allowing circumcision of children, we’re safeguarding the rights of that future adult to make the decision for themselves.

  40. 40
    Ophelia Benson

    Also – if that’s what you meant, you should have said that. What you did say did not say that. it simply said “there is a status quo.” That’s not an argument.

  41. 41
    quixote

    No harm results from taking the choice away from parents. They don’t get to mutilate someone else. That is a good thing. That’s the opposite of harm. Yes, they have to square it with their religion, but so do lots of people in many contexts. Voodoo requires the sacrifice of chickens which falls under cruelty to animals and is not allowed. They deal with it.

    The benefit to making it illegal is that people’s foundational right to control their own bodies is respected.

    As for the medical issues: biologically, the foreskin is there to protect the mucous membranes on the glans. Removing the foreskin means the surface becomes cornified (i.e. skin-like). That’s why circumscision provides some protection against catching HIV. It also results in reduced sensitivity. (Imagine if the inside of your cheeks was exposed until it became cornified. It’s the exact same process.)

    Circumscised men are associated with somewhat fewer hygiene problems because they don’t need to know how to wash. Uncircumscised men need to pull the foreskin back and wash properly, but apparently plenty of them can’t figure that out. (Sorry for the sarcasm. This issue is often used as a medical argument for circumscision, and it really isn’t. It’s an argument for teaching people how to wash.)

    And finally, before I get off my soapbox (this issue brings out my Giant Inner Podium Thumper) the difference between female genital mutilation and circumscision. The male equivalent of the common forms of FGM would be to entirely cut off the head of the penis (the equivalent shaft is internal in women so they can’t rmove it), remove most of the skin of the scrotum (the equivalent is the external labia) and then stretch and sew what remains back together.

    Yes, stomach-turning. Not remotely equivalent to male circumscision.

  42. 42
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth @ 35

    The child’s parents/guardians are expected to make those sorts of decisions wrt any legally allowed procedures – i.e. vaccinations, piercings, and circumcision and assumed to do so with the child’s best interest in mind.

    Yes, and in many states parents are legally allowed to refuse to get medical treatment for their children on religious grounds. You know what? That’s wrong.

  43. 43
    Beth

    Ophelia,

    I’m not presenting arguments for the Status Quo because no change is being advocated. I’m not even claiming the status quo is correct. I’m saying that if you want to convince people, like myself, that the status quo should be changed, you have to consider more than simply whether or not circumcision causes harm. You have to show that the benefits of changing the status quo are sufficient to justify the costs of the change.

    Yes, many things are wrong with the status quo. There are many instances that I support change. But circumcision isn’t one of them because I don’t see the harm of infant circumcision to be greater than the harms that would result from banning it. Consider, for example, one unintended consequence of banning would be to drive it underground. Once done, parents would be reluctant to allow their son to see a physician because it would expose them to legal consequences of having violated the law.

    Finally, I am also strongly in favor of abortion on demand throughout pregnancy – based primarily on the bodily autonomy argument. I cannot hold the position that it’s okay to allow an infant’s skull to be crushed inside the mother’s body when the mother is at full term while simultaneously holding the position that this same parent should not be allowed to authorize circumcision on her infant son a few days after birth. The two positions are inconsistent wrt children’s rights and I can’t hold both simultaneously.

  44. 44
    qwints

    @quixote. There’s an interesting US case regarding animal sacrifice. Merely killing chickens doesn’t violate animal cruelty laws.

    Every time I read this discussion, I just don’t share the moral outrage at infant male circumcision that opponents demonstrate. Society requires parents to make all sorts of medical decisions about their infant children, and circumcision, given the evidence of some benefits and tiny complication rates, seems in the bounds of reasonableness.

  45. 45
    Pieter B, FCD

    I vote in favor of bodily autonomy, to the point where I’m against piercing the ears of baby girls. Period, end of story. I have been told that since FGM is so much worse than circumcision that comparing the two is ridiculous. I see the ethical issue as the same, and that argument smacks of “Dear Muslima.”

    Random thoughts:

    I’ve attended many Jewish religious services. I’ve never been subjected to short-arm inspection at the doors of a shul.

    If they wanted me to look like my dad, I’d have been left intact. I did wonder about it as a boy, and figured it was maybe a grownup thing. I can’t say I worried about it much. In retrospect it would have been nice to have been told, I guess.

    I had a discussion with a co-worker who was about to birth a boy, and she was adamant about having him circumcised. When pressed, she said it was because she was worried that if she didn’t he might miss out on getting getting blowjobs when he grew up. It struck me as a bit creepy to be worried about your son’s future sex life that much.

  46. 46
    stewart

    Wasn’t the abolition of slavery pretty disastrous for the economy of the South?

  47. 47
    Pieter B, FCD

    If I’m not mistaken, the health benefits of circumcision are almost entirely based on studies in sub-Saharan Africa. If you’re a Ugandan boy, there’s a pretty clear benefit. The first world is a rather different place.

  48. 48
    LykeX

    Beth #43

    Consider, for example, one unintended consequence of banning would be to drive it underground.  Once done, parents would be reluctant to allow their son to see a physician because it would expose them to legal consequences of having violated the law.

    That’s a horrible argument. We should allow the mutilation of children because otherwise the parents might hurt them even more? Your argument presupposes that these parents are, as I’ve said, completely uninterested in the well-fare of their children, which is a position that completely undermines your earlier statements.

    I cannot hold the position that it’s okay to allow an infant’s skull to be crushed inside the mother’s body when the mother is at full term while simultaneously holding the position that this same parent should not be allowed to authorize circumcision on her infant son a few days after birth.

    Really? You can’t tell the difference between “inside the mother’s body” and “outside the mother’s body”?
    Maybe this inability to understand simple and clear distinctions is the reason why you’re making so little sense in general.

  49. 49
    LykeX

    qwints #44

    Society requires parents to make all sorts of medical decisions about their infant children, and circumcision, given the evidence of some benefits and tiny complication rates, seems in the bounds of reasonableness.

    What benefits are you referring to? In cases where there’s a medical need, like phimosis, obviously it should be allowed and nobody argues otherwise. Of course, that’s relatively rare, so those can’t be the benefits you’re talking about.

    The supposed benefits in relation to STDs (which are less than simply using a condom and only exist if you include the period of abstinence after the procedure) are obviously not relevant for infants, so it can’t be that.

    What else have you got? Remember, you’re arguing in favor of performing permanent surgical alterations to people’s genitals without their consent. You’d better have some rock-solid reasons for doing that.

  50. 50
    Ophelia Benson

    Pieter – also, if her son is worried about missing out on blow jobs when he grows up, he can get a circumcision then.

    What a bizarre rationalization: I’ll snip this thing off him when he’s an infant in case he doesn’t want it when he’s an adult.

  51. 51
    qwints

    @LykeX:

    UTI’s for one, but I don’t think adult health benefits are irrelevant when infant circumcision is so much less risky than adult circumcision.

    CDC

    American Association of Pediatrics

    A key study both rely on appears to be: Schoen E, Colby C, Ray G. Newborn circumcision decreases incidence and costs of urinary tract infections during the first year of life. Pediatrics. 2000;105(4):789-93..

  52. 52
    WithinThisMind

    For when teaching your kid proper hygiene is just too damn much work.

    For when you aren’t really bothered by leaving your kid sitting in a wet diaper until you find it convenient to change him.

    For when your biggest concern is that the floppy thing hanging between your son’s legs is just a tiny bit too floppy to be attractive.

    Circumcision: It’s not enough to just hurt the ones you love. You must permanently mutilate them as well.

  53. 53
    Jafafa Hots

    You have to show that the benefits of changing the status quo are sufficient to justify the costs of the change.

    That’s conveniently hard to do when those who the change would benefit most can’t talk.
    At least not for years, and well into the time when they’ve already been convinced that their resulting physical features are “normal.”

    As far as the costs of the change… how horrible.
    The cost that people can’t impose their religious beliefs on others to an incredibly invasive degree.
    The cost that some people may go “eww!” until they get used to it.

    The cost that by making the intentional infliction of physical harm on the defenseless illegal, you make criminals of people who want to intentionally inflict harm on the defenseless.

    Remember, if you make cutting infants a crime, only criminals will cut infants! (Or something.)

  54. 54
    Jafafa Hots

    Qwints, how much more could we decrease the instance of UTIs if we just cut the whole thing off?
    Worth looking into… innit?

  55. 55
    Jafafa Hots

    (keep searching and searching for justifications for continuing to do what you were always doing for totally unrelated reasons once people start demanding you justify your actions… lemme see. Leaving genitals intact destroys the sanctity of traditionally-altered genitals? Have we tried that one yet?)

  56. 56
    anat

    Beth: Your response that the child is incapable of making the decision is not an acceptable reason to allow the parents to make the decision, because it not only ignores, but overrides the possibility of letting the child grow up, become an adult, and make the decision then. The parents should be allowed to make those decisions that need to be made while the child is still young. They should also be allowed to make those decisions that are relatively reversible if the child, whether as a child or later as an adult is unhappy with the outcome. But if there is no urgency to make the decision while the child is still young and the decision is of a not-easily reversible nature why is the question even brought up to the parents? It should not be.

    A child must be fed something. We can’t wait for the child to grow up to retroactively choose which diet they would have preferred as a child. So the parents get to choose what to feed the child – and even that is within limits – if there is evidence that the diet a child is fed is deficient to the point the child’s health is at serious risk society may intervene. And the child may express preferences, which are sometimes considered (depending on the parenting philosophy and the strength of the preference). Once grown the former-child gains full control of their diet.

    In order to be able to have typical social interactions a child has to be called something, so parents get to name the child (some societies place more limits than others on this choice). If the child is unhappy about the name chosen the child can sometimes convince people to use a nickname or an alternative name. Once grown the former-child can officially change their name.

    The option not to feed the child does not exist. The option not to name the child effectively does not exist.

    Theoretically a parent may want to tattoo their child. To my knowledge, parents are not asked to make this decision. We wait for the child to grow up and as an adult to make the choice whether to have a tattoo and what kind exactly. Circumcision should fall in the same category.

  57. 57
    anat

    To qwints: What evidence do you have for the claim that ‘infant circumcision is so much less risky than adult circumcision’? I have seen a mohel claim the reverse (it was in an interview in print, can’t provide source).

    I have read the part of the paper that deals with UTIs. I find the data insufficient to make circumcision preferable. What they are saying is as follows: The risk of UTI under the age of 2 is 1%. Circumcision reduces the risk 3-10 fold, depending on study. So out of , say a million boys, if left uncircumcised, 10,000 will develop a UTI by the age of 2. If we circumcise them all, only 1000 to 3300 of them will do so, IOW we’ll be saving several thousands of boys from UTI. OK. How hard is it to treat UTIs in infant boys? How long does it normally take? How many days will they be miserable? Compare to how long does it take to heal from a circumcision that went well. And consider the chance that a circumcision does not go well and the morbidity involved with treating post-op complications. Because in this imaginary scenario we are subjecting hundreds of thousands children to surgery that does not benefit them (those would be the 990,000 boys who wouldn’t have developed a UTI anyway).

    The situation may change if available antibiotics become ineffective in treating UTIs, but while the option exists I find the reduction in itself an insufficient reason to make such a broad recommendation.

  58. 58
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    You have to show that the benefits of changing the status quo are sufficient to justify the costs of the change.

    So, how many dead baby boys are worth the change? Say a number, because even though it is extremely rare, death happens.
    How many baby boys should lose their penis entirely? A number, please. Because that happens, too.
    How many baby boys should have to spend time in NICU because of complications? A number. State the price you are willing to pay. and then please justify why this price has to be paid by people who were absolutely not involved in making the decision.
    Yes, I’m pulling the dead baby card: How many boys are you willing to sacrifice on that particular religious altair?

  59. 59
    Beth

    @LykeX #47

    That’s a horrible argument. We should allow the mutilation of children because otherwise the parents might hurt them even more? Your argument presupposes that these parents are, as I’ve said, completely uninterested in the well-fare of their children, which is a position that completely undermines your earlier statements.

    It’s not an argument for circumcision, but an argument against banning it. Think of it as similar the difference between an argument for the use of pot versus an argument for the legalization of pot. Unintended consequences, such as I described, should be considered as part of the cost/benefit evaluation of such laws.

    Really? You can’t tell the difference between “inside the mother’s body” and “outside the mother’s body”?
    Maybe this inability to understand simple and clear distinctions is the reason why you’re making so little sense in general.

    Maybe I just don’t see things in as black and white terms as you do. I think the difference between a child just prior to birth and a newborn is considerably less than the difference between crushing their skull and snipping off a flap of skin.

    @anat #56:

    Theoretically a parent may want to tattoo their child. To my knowledge, parents are not asked to make this decision.

    Minors can receive tattoos with parental consent, but tribal tattoos for children are not a common practice in our society, so it’s not the same issue in our society as circumcision. Your argument regarding where the line should be drawn regarding what decisions parents can make and what must be reserved for the individual as an adult might be workable in an ideal society, but it isn’t in the one we live in now.

    @Giliell #58:

    Yes, I’m pulling the dead baby card: How many boys are you willing to sacrifice on that particular religious altair?

    This is an emotional argument that doesn’t make much rational sense. Consider that while it’s quite rare, vaccines sometimes kill babies. Should we ban vaccines? Or should we allow parents to weight the costs and benefits and make that decision for their children?

    That there are rare and deadly consequences to an act is a legitimate argument against making that choice, but it must be weighed against the benefits. I do think parents should be informed of such risks, but I don’t think circumcision is so dangerous that it should be banned.

  60. 60
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    beth

    This is an emotional argument that doesn’t make much rational sense. Consider that while it’s quite rare, vaccines sometimes kill babies.

    You’re really bad at making arguments. Vaccines demonstrably save lives and prevent great harm, just like seatbelts do while rarely somebody dies because of them. Show me the actual evidence that circumcision has any significant positive effect to justify that risk. It is a purely cultural and religious procedure (because nobody has objected against the rare cases where it’s actually medically indicated)

  61. 61
    Beth

    @Giliell

    qwints posted a cite for benefits at #51. Whether those benefits and any others parents may derive from them are sufficient to justify the procedure is debatable, but currently up to parents to evaluate for their child. Try to keep in mind that I am not advocating circumcision. Just keeping it legal.

  62. 62
    anat

    To Beth: Re: Circumcision vs abortion: You are saying parents have the right to circumcise the child for the same reason the mother has (or should have) the right to abort the fetus even late in pregnancy, and then you counter the argument that the bodily autonomy argument no longer applies once the child is born with

    Maybe I just don’t see things in as black and white terms as you do. I think the difference between a child just prior to birth and a newborn is considerably less than the difference between crushing their skull and snipping off a flap of skin.

    This shows you completely misunderstand the argument from bodily autonomy, whether regarding to abortion or circumcision. The argument from bodily autonomy wrt abortion is that it matters not what state the fetus is in, whether it is a person or not, whether its loss to humanity is irrevocable, whether it is capable of composing philosophical arguments in the womb or whatever. This is why Judith Jarvis Johnson used the hypothetical of the concert violinist to exemplify the primacy of bodily autonomy – to make the claim that we are not required to put our bodies to the use of others against our will even if they are more mentally developed than a newborn. The only thing that matters is that an unwanted fetus is violating the woman’s bodily autonomy by being inside her body, relying on her body to continue existing, limiting what she can do and risking her health, with no alternative of someone else (or something else) substituting for her. Which is why the woman should have the right to stop being pregnant at any moment. (This still leaves the option of early induction of live birth or C-section as means for ending a pregnancy where the fetus is viable and healthy – which is the realistic option if the woman’s health allows.)

    Once the child is born they are no longer violating the bodily autonomy of either parent. Therefore the parents cannot use the argument from bodily autonomy to justify doing things to the child. Contrarywise, permanently changing the body of the child is a violation of the child’s bodily autonomy and thus requires strong justification. Such justification exists for vaccination. I don’t see that at the moment it exists for infant circumcision.

    Yes, this argument is a deviation from the status quo, because the status quo places little value on the bodily autonomy of infants. This just means our culture is inconsistent.

    Also – regarding the potential harm to families because they would have to change the way their religion is practiced – religions change, sometimes in time with changes in the surrounding culture. About 1000 years ago Jews managed to (more or less) give up on polygamy, specifically because they realized it made them look bad to outsiders.

  63. 63
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    beth

    qwints posted a cite for benefits at #51

    Yeah, death vs. an UTI.
    I admit I never died before, but I’ve had UTIs, I think I’d rather risk the latter

  64. 64
    Ophelia Benson

    Beth @ 59 & passim – why are you talking about “banning” at all? My post says nothing about banning. You’ve explained in the past that your commenting style probably stems from the fact that you take everything very literally – is this some of that? Are you so literal-minded that you translate an opinion on ethics into a call for a ban?

    If so, try to correct for that. Check yourself. Don’t waste hundreds of words arguing against “banning” when banning is not the subject.

  65. 65
    Beth

    @anat:

    Yes, I understand the difference. I don’t evaluate those differences the same as you do. Thanks for giving your opinion though.

    @Giliell: I happen to agree with you on that particular evaluation. I just don’t agree that everyone else must come to the same conclusion regarding the risks and benefits.

  66. 66
    Ophelia Benson

    And don’t be telling other people to try to keep things in mind when you lost the plot at the very beginning.

  67. 67
    Beth

    @Ophelia

    I’m sorry. I did misinterpret you. I thought you were arguing against parents being allowed the choice, not just making that choice.

  68. 68
    yahweh

    I know these arguments are well worn and that not every aspect will be covered, but I think its significant that no mention has been made of pain by anyone – except Beth referring un-ironically to the parents ‘pain’ if they were prevented from performing a circumcision.

    Even with anaesthetic (I don’t know whether that’s used, obviously for most of history it can’t have been) the wound is going to hurt afterwards. Without it, it must make your eyes water to say the least.

    Finally, Beth, I’d say the justifications for infringing these religious practices and intruding into family (all bar one) decisions are a) it’s not the family’s willy and b) it really, really hurts (even if it is pain which can safely be dismissed because they didn’t understand at the time and won’t remember afterwards).

  69. 69
    Ophelia Benson

    I was and am arguing that, but as a principle, not as a literal, now, on paper, enforced by the cops ban. I have opinions about how that process should go but that’s not part of this post. I’m talking about the ethics of it not the legalities. I think your literalness is interfering with your ability to grasp the difference.

  70. 70
    Beth

    @Ophelia

    You are right, I’m not understanding the difference. How can you argue for the principle of banning circumcision without arguing against the current legality of it? Why would my objections to banning be considered losing the plot if that is, in fact, what you were arguing for?

    Let me ask you to consider this applied to a different issue. Is it possible to argue for the principle of banning abortion without arguing against the current legality of it?

  71. 71
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Beth-it bothers me that you are conspicuously refusing to engage with very clear, very understandable, and very reasonable questions about why you think the status quo is worth preserving. Why are you avoiding that? Why are you refusing to engage with questions about the fact that the status quo is ethically indefensible?

    What is your interest in this? Yes, I am suspicious that you have an undeclared interest in preserving the cultural OK-ness of routine circumcision. Because if you don’t have such an interest, I’m at a loss to explain your very poor reasoning and evasions.

  72. 72
    WithinThisMind

    Beth:

    Would you support a parent taking their child in to have a fingernail ripped off?

    Do you think such a thing should be routine, or allowed? Encouraged? I mean, if you don’t have fingernails, you can’t accidentally scratch yourself, right? And you can’t scratch yourself while you have something under your nails and risk infection. You can’t scar yourself from picking at a bugbite. Totally makes sense, right?

    I can pull out numbers on kids that have turned a bugbite or other minor wound into a horrible infected scarred mass from picking at it and show that yes, getting fingernails ripped off has some basis in safety and hygiene support. I can even pull out statistics on where kids have scratched other kids. A few months ago there was a note in the local paper that a fight between two kids had ended up with one kid getting his eye scratched to the point there was a real chance he could lose vision and thus his until then promising ability to play baseball.

    So, parents should be able to make the choice to rip their kids fingernails off? You support this now, right? Should be a parental choice to weigh the pros and cons?

    Or are you looking at the above argument and thinking ‘what a load of fucking bullshit’ without realizing it’s just as valid an argument as the pro-circumcision thing?

    Now, as for it not being a ‘banned’ procedure, let me explain why I chose this example – I actually had to take my son in to have his fingernail ripped off. He got it smashed up pretty bad and it ended up having to get pulled twice before it grew back normally. The first time it got horribly ingrown, the second time it divided into two pieces that grew against each other. But he’s a rare case and it’s certainly not a normal thing. There may likewise be isolated cases where circumcision may be necessary. However, it should clearly not be done as a routine or preventative measure for the same reason that pulling out fingernails shouldn’t be done as a routine or preventative measure.

  73. 73
    yahweh

    The more I think about the idea of parents’ rights (to cut bits off their children) the more intriguing it becomes.

    Firstly, being the father of two boys, although it had never occurred to me, I must have acquired this right myself. Maybe I should give it due consideration and go out to the garage for a knife. Or is it too late? Has my right evaporated? Better not risk it.

    OK, that’s just a joke, but the really odd thing is that it is defended as a right, not an obligation. That not being allowed (whether the act or the choice to act) is the parents’ (unbearable?) loss. And that it is the parent – this person with total power – as well as the knife – who needs defending, not the infant.

  74. 74
    anat

    Beth, so your support for abortion rests on something other than (or additional to) bodily autonomy, if it carries on to the right to circumcise a child. And when, in your opinion, does a child gain their own bodily autonomy?

    Re: religious circumcision: Is it OK for authorities to intervene in the manner it is practiced? Is it OK to set standards of hygiene, even when those go against age-old traditions? What about requiring analgesia? Because traditional Jewish ritual circumcision is performed with minimal analgesia that does not meet the standards in the AAP paper.

  75. 75
    Beth

    @Josh,

    You should probably just ignore me as I mainly post just because I like to argue with intelligent people. I argue in favor of the status quo here because folks here are arguing against it.

    In general, I think that the burden of support lies on those who are arguing for change which is why I’m not arguing for the status quo as correct, but instead as costly to change and I’m not convinced that the cost of such a change is worth the benefit.

    @WithinThisMind

    No, I wouldn’t support it because there is no longstanding tradition of such an act. IMO, that is an important distinction. I think your point is that without the tradition, it wouldn’t be considered acceptable. I agree. But the fact that the tradition exists adds value to the act and thus results in a different cost/benefit ratio for the two situations.

    @Yahweh

    In general, not being allowed to do something is a loss for those who wish to do it, especially if it’s something with a long history of being permitted, even required in some cultures. It’s reasonable for our society to establish limits on acceptable behaviors and renegotiate those limits as cultural attitudes change. Even if I don’t consider the loss to be significant, I think it is important to recognize that there are people who do value it and would feel a significant loss if they were not allowed to do so.

  76. 76
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    That’s an astonishingly irresponsible way to argue, Beth. Ethically indefensible. These aren’t semantic games. This shit has consequences.

  77. 77
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Not being permitted to fire me because I’m gay is a loss to bigots.

    Jesus Christ, Beth. Do better. Even if you’re arguing for the sake of it, your reasoning is so shallow you’d get an F on a paper if this were your argument.

  78. 78
    Beth

    @anat #74

    Beth, so your support for abortion rests on something other than (or additional to) bodily autonomy, if it carries on to the right to circumcise a child. And when, in your opinion, does a child gain their own bodily autonomy?

    Thanks for asking. Some good questions. I don’t consider bodily autonomy to be a yes/no right but a continuum with parents having 100% control over the body of a child prebirth. After birth, they can’t have it killed, but they do have the right to carry it around, control what it eats, where it goes, etc. They decide what risks and harms are acceptable within what is legal. Children do not have complete bodily autonomy until reaching adulthood, but they do attain some rights prior to that point. For example, during the teenage years, they gain the right to stop attending school and consent to sex. But they can’t legally imbibe alcohol or smoke.

    Re: religious circumcision: Is it OK for authorities to intervene in the manner it is practiced? Is it OK to set standards of hygiene, even when those go against age-old traditions? What about requiring analgesia? Because traditional Jewish ritual circumcision is performed with minimal analgesia that does not meet the standards in the AAP paper.

    I haven’t formed an opinion about these sorts of detail. If there are aspects that could be regulated without infringing on parent’s religious freedom, I would not have an issue with that. I think it would be far better to work on small changes of that nature as part of the cultural shift away from routine circumcision.

  79. 79
    Beth

    @ Josh #77.

    Yes, it was a loss to those who objected to homosexual behavior. In that case, I supported the change as being well worth the cost. But supporting a change isn’t the same as claiming there is no cost to it, which is the opinion that has been expressed here regarding circumcision.

    As far as the ethics of arguing about circumcision on the internet, I disagree that the cost/benefit of participating in such arguments is so disparate as to make the behavior unethical. But if you feel that it is unethical, I suggest you not participate.

  80. 80
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Muddled thinking, and a refusal to engage meaningfully with the concepts of “loss” and “rights.” It is you who’s not participating in a grown-up conversation, Beth.

  81. 81
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Beth

    I just don’t agree that everyone else must come to the same conclusion regarding the risks and benefits.

    Yeah, why bother with facts. It’s all shades of grey. Death, UTIs, just degrees. We need to endlessly discuss the costs for people whose bodies are actually not harmed.
    Did you watch the video linked to above? Please watch the first 5 minutes and then come back and tell me that this is defensible because parents think so.

  82. 82
    Beth

    @Giliell:

    Yeah, why bother with facts. It’s all shades of grey.

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Are you saying that everyone should come to the same conclusion if they have the same facts? Are you saying that if something is a matter of degree, then it’s not factual?

  83. 83
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    I don’t know what you mean by this. Are you saying that everyone should come to the same conclusion if they have the same facts? Are you saying that if something is a matter of degree, then it’s not factual?

    I’m saying that your complete relativism is disgusting.
    No, not all choices are ethical and founded and not all areas are matters where we can agree to disagree. The vote on circumcision isn’t still pending. The only paediatric association that vaguely supports it is the US American one, a group that has a cultural bias and a vested interest in it.
    Did you watch the video?

  84. 84
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Oh, and no, it also comes down to your values and what kind of person you are, of course. Pro-lifers and pro-choicers can have the same facts about abortion and one group is totally cool with the effects of treating women as property and letting them die. Same with circumcision, you can either value children as people with rights whose stewards parents are or you can view children as things and property on whom you can inflict serious harm and damage because you think so.

  85. 85
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Beth is only play-debating, Giliell. She says so right above. She’s being a contrarian for the sake of it. She doesn’t care that the issue under discussion is serious and has to do with harming babies.

  86. 86
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Beth is only play-debating, Giliell. She says so right above. She’s being a contrarian for the sake of it. She doesn’t care that the issue under discussion is serious and has to do with harming babies.

    Yeah, when the actual lives of actual people become your play-things for intellectual wankery….
    Worst sort of armchair-philosophers

  87. 87
    qwints

    Here’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics says on circumcision: American Academy of Pediatrics
    Circumcision Policy Statement

    The fact that the APA previously recommended against non-therapeutic circumcision in 1971 shows that it doesn’t have a cultural bias nor vested interest in the stance. It revised its stance based on new data, not religious or cultural sensibilities. Circumcision rates were much lower when it revised its statement to its present form than when it initially came out against circumcision.

  88. 88
    Beth

    @ Giliell #83

    So, when you said: “Yeah, why bother with facts. It’s all shades of grey.” you meant for me to interpret that as “complete relativism is disgusting”. Am I understanding you correctly?

    #84

    and one group is totally cool with the effects of treating women as property and letting them die. Same with circumcision, you can either value children as people with rights whose stewards parents are or you can view children as things and property on whom you can inflict serious harm and damage because you think so.

    Your statement above could be equally applied to the other side as ” one group is totally cool with the effects of treating fetuses as property and letting them die”. Indeed, an abortion opponent might equally describe your position as “view children as things and property on whom you can inflict serious harm and damage because you think so” as they typically believe that a fetus qualifies as a child. Personally, I think there is room to accept that people of good will and intention can disagree over the morality of various actions such as abortion and circumcision. Is that what you term disgusting relativism?

    #86 .

    Yeah, when the actual lives of actual people become your play-things for intellectual wankery….

    Actual lives of actual people? Care to elaborate on what you mean by that?

  89. 89
    Josh, Official SpokesGay

    Beth: Are you actually this dense, or are you grinding a specific axe? What’s your interest, Beth?

  90. 90
    chigau (違う)

    Beth #75

    You should probably just ignore me as I mainly post just because I like to argue with intelligent people. I argue in favor of the status quo here because folks here are arguing against it.

    You are an asshole.

  91. 91
    leni

    Indeed, an abortion opponent might equally describe your position as “view children as things and property on whom you can inflict serious harm and damage because you think so” as they typically believe that a fetus qualifies as a child.

    And some Jains think that killing an individual mosquito while it is is giving you malaria qualifies as murder.

    I guess there are simply no meaningful distinctions to be made about anything ever.

    All ideas are equal. I’m donating to the Creationism Museum now! It turns out they were right all along.

  92. 92
  93. 93
    Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach

    Well I kinda wish someone had stepped in to stop my asshole parents from sacrificing my foreskin to an imaginary sky-monster. But hey, I’m just the owner of permanently nerve-damaged dick, why should it matter what I think, right Beth? We sure wouldn’t want to offend a few parents feelings just to prevent mangled penises now would we?

  94. 94
    Sonny Vizzle

    Some people say that they have the parental rights. It is not merely one human being involved here though: one person making the decision to become circumcised based upon his own preference. Two human beings are involved. One is the decider, and the other is the object. The decider decides to have the circumcision performed. The newborn or young child is the object that is circumcised. Circumcision which involves cutting, tearing, flaying (for newborns), clamping, and slicing off skin from the child infringes on the child’s 1) human right to bodily integrity, 2) human right to self-determination, 3) human right to freedom from torture, and possibly 4) human right to freedom from harm. Does the decider have the human right to infringe upon another human being’s human rights? To do so would be to contradict human rights altogether.

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