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This is what is crude about circumcision, Lynne Featherstone

When I write about the ritual infant circumcision of boys, I try to avoid lazy and crass comparisons to female genital mutilation. FGM, in the form of clitoridectomy (as commonly practised in countries like Somalia), is a horrific procedure that causes unfathomable pain and trauma at the time it is conducted, followed by lifelong sexual pain and dysfunction. There is no question that the physical impacts and health risks of FGM are genuinely incomparable to those of male circumcision, or to give it a less euphemistic description, ritual male genital mutilation.

So making trite comparisons between FGM and MGM is unhelpful and obscures differences. It is often unhelpful to even hint at comparisons. That is why I was appalled and repulsed by Lynne Featherstone MP, who at the Lib Dem Conference today used the exact inverse analogy to make a rhetorical point.:

“It’s a practice that has been going 4,000 years and, without wishing to be crude about this, quite frankly if it was boys’ willies that were being cut off without anaesthetic it wouldn’t have lasted four minutes, let alone 4,000 years.”

I’m guessing that Featherstone has never sat in a court and listened to testimony describing an untrained practitioner taking a pair of kitchen scissors to the penis of a four-week old boy, without anaesthetic, dabbing it with olive oil and then leaving him to bleed to death. I have. When I read her words, the first image that flooded my mind were those vivid descriptions of the death of Goodluck Caubergs in Manchester last year.

Perhaps Lynne Featherstone has never heard of Angelo Ofori-Mintah  who died in London, aged 28 days, after a Rabbi told his parents to daub his uncongealed wound with Vaseline. He lost three quarters of his blood before he died of cardiac arrest. Perhaps she hasn’t heard of the baby in Bristol who suffered a fractured skull after falling off a table during a home circumcision. She may not know that Manchester children’s hospital treats an average of three babies a month with botched circumcision wounds, she may not know that 45% of babies circumcised at an Islamic school in Oxford suffered medical complications. She may not know that well over 100 baby boys die from complications after circumcision every year in the USA alone. While her eyes are on Somalia, she may have missed the story from South Africa where 30 boys died in one province alone during the “circumcision season”, with another 300 hospitalised with dehydration, gangrene and septic wounds, at least ten of whom had to have their penises amputated.

The truth is that nobody has got a clue what the true global toll of death and injury from male circumcision might be, because global bodies such as the World Health Organisation make no efforts to find out.  With around 30% of the world’s baby boys being circumcised every year, many in countries with minimal medical care, it is likely to be in the tens of thousands at the least.

Yes, the probabilities of mortality or morbidity following female genital mutilation are certainly far higher. However the other side of that coin is that while FGM is prohibited and abhorred in all but a handful of cultures on earth, male circumcision is tolerated and encouraged. Around one in four baby boys born on the planet this year will be subjected to an unnecessary ritual mutilation, the overwhelming proportion of which will be carried out without anaesthetic and not under surgical conditions.

Featherstone said she didn’t want to be “crude” and in that, I suspect she meant by using the word “willies.” Her crudeness is not in her vocabulary, it is in the grossly tasteless indifference and ignorance she shows to the fact that for 4,000 years we have indeed been taking knives to baby boys’ willies, countless numbers have died as a result, innumerable more have suffered botched mutilations, sexual dysfunction, pain and suffering,  and rather than “putting a stop to it in four minutes” we have turned our backs, averted our eyes to the blood, closed our ears to the screams and let it happen.

Comments

  1. Gjenganger says

    So, circumcision is horrible and dangerous if performed in the home by amateurs with kitchen scissors. I would not exactly disagree, but the same could be said about many other things: Lancing boils. Plastic surgery. Slaughtering animals. Abortion. Even psychotherapy (minus the scissors). You do not ban any of those because incompetent amateurs cannot do it properly.

    For any reasonable debate, you would have to leave off the gore, and base the discussion on the risks and costs of properly performed procedures. Not this time, then, but if you ever try I’ll be back.

  2. maudell says

    I don’t understand the widespread tolerance for circumcision. I am particularly puzzled by the amount of men who defend it… Most of all, the argument “I want my son’s penis to look like mine”.

    Beyond the obvious horrible consequences of ‘untrained practitioners’, circumcision performed by professionals is also morally wrong. First, accidents still happen (that’s how David Reimer was made into a woman in Canada), albeit less often. One accident is too many when it comes to unnecessary, non-consensual surgery. This combination (unnecessary and non-consensual) makes the violation of bodily autonomy all the more despicable.

    Why should this be a competition? The fact that FGM is worse does not make circumcision OK.

  3. Calaban says

    Medically unnecessary procedures should not be undertaken by amateurs and need not, and should not, be carried out by medical doctors.

  4. Ally Fogg says

    Gjenganger

    Well my argument today is not really with you but with Lynne Featherstone. I’m sure if you conducted FGM under surgical conditions and conducted by surgeons, that would be an entirely safe procedure too.

    But if we’re going to talk about what happens in the developing world, in remote parts of Africa, and the appalling consequences of conducting FGM under non-clinical, non-sanitary conditions without anaesthetic and all of that, then it seems to me entirely right that we also consider what is happening to boys under the same circumstances.

    As it happens, there was once an attempt in Seattle to offer symbolic FGM (clitoral hood-nicking, to be precise) as a safe, harm-reduction strategy. Hood nicking is actually less harmful and invasive than male circumcision, but there was outrage about it and it was banned by federal ordinance. I agree with that, as it happens, but don’t understand why the logic we apply to girls does no also get applied to boys.

    My broad position, which I have spelled out elsewhere but didn’t mention above, is that we need to move towards a position where all unnecessary genital mutilation is wrong, and I think that would be the best move to protect boys AND girls.

  5. says

    I agree with Ally here. This is a fair comparison is society tolerates the things he references about boys. They mostly do. Look at the fuss when San Francisco tried cracking down.

  6. carnation says

    First of all, I’ll say that I think male and female circumcision is something I disagree with.

    There is a difference in motivations, though, I think. The purpose of removing the clitoris is to degrade or remove sexual enjoyment for females. With males, that isn’t the case, though can be the outcome.

    I think that feminists (and unaligned activists) are right to see female circumcision as an extension of very negative patriarchal, misogynistic attitudes.

    Male circumcision is not as uniformally physically catastrophic because it isn’t designed to be.

    I’ll repeat, both are unnecessary, both are outdated and have no,place in society, in my opinion.

    Lynn Featherstone’s comments are unfortunate,mount her analogy has some merit. Female,circumcision prevents female sexiual,pleasure. I don’t think a procedure with that purpose would be widely practised.

    That said, as you demonstrated Ally, her comments are I’ll informed and in fact offensive to those affected by the examples that you gave.

  7. carnation says

    Typos…

    “Lynn Featherstone’s comments are unfortunate,mount her analogy has some merit. Female,circumcision prevents female sexiual,pleasure. I don’t think a procedure with that purpose would be widely practised.”

    Should read:

    Lynn Featherstone’s comments are unfortunate, but her analogy has some merit. Female,circumcision prevents female sexiual,pleasure. I don’t think a procedure with that purpose would be widely practised on males.

  8. says

    Ally in OP:

    There is no question that the physical impacts and health risks of FGM are genuinely incomparable to those of male circumcision, or to give it a less euphemistic description, ritual male genital mutilation.

    You mean ritual male genital mutilation; like making people eunuchs? At least in historical terms ritual mgm was worse.
    Today it is still far more prevalent. I think the comparison to fgm is a very important and useful tool of raising awareness about this issue in the west, since there fgm is strongly condemned and this condemnation can be used to prevent mgm as well. I think overall such statements are just a disservice.

  9. Minotar says

    Not all cultures that practice FGM do so to reduce women’s sexual please, keep women in their place, etc etc.

    And not all circumcised women feel bad about it.

  10. says

    punchdrunk,

    Regardless of probability of the statement ‘Male genital mutilation reduces HIV risk’ I struggle to see the relevance of this statement. I think men should be able to make the decision whether they want to change their body in any way for themselves . If someones decides for them in a case where they are unable to consent and there is no medical emergency (emergency not reason) present this is just violation of their bodily autonomy.

  11. says

    Btw cutting off penises should be more effective in preventing HIV transmission than cutting off foreskins. Does not mean we should do it.

  12. punchdrunk says

    sheaf,
    The same thing could be said about the HPV vaccine, or any number of decisions parents make for their children’s future well-being.

  13. punchdrunk says

    Thanks, Minotar, it’s difficult to know which orgs to believe.
    I’m seriously trying to get at the truth of all the claims.
    I had my son circumcised because every single adult man I knew well enough to ask, circumcised and un-, said to do it. That included his pediatrician. The purported HIV protection was the deciding factor for me.

  14. Ally Fogg says

    punchdrunk

    I deliberately steered clear of the Aids prevention issue, not because I was dodging it, but because it is a different argument and immensely complex. Most of the boys circumcised in the world are living in areas with very low HIV prevalence, and most boys who are circumcised are not subjected to it for public health reasons.

    The epidemiology is also much more difficult than often portrayed. The WHO and some charities are backing this solution in a big way, I suspect because it is very cheap and politically easy (compared to condom use) but the evidence is far from convincing.

    The Aids epidemic among gay men in the US was mostly happening among circumcised men, while transmission rates among gay men in Europe, where circumcision is much rarer, were far lower. For every study finding strong effects there are others finding no effect or contrary effects. There have been huge circumcision drives in Zimbabwe and Kenya which have shown no impact on numbers of new infections.

    I keep an open mind, for now. But in any case, if there is a public health case for circumcision, it still doesn’t address the public health catastrophe of non-sanitary, informal circumcision and the complete silence of the global health NGOs, and politicians like Featherstone on the issue.

  15. maudell says

    @punchdrunk

    I read a few qualitative studies suggesting such a relationship, but all were inconclusive. I just read the study the article you linked is based on (Auvert et al 2013, from PLoS: http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.1001509).

    It is interesting, and I like that Dr. Auvert uses a good statistical model to base his inferences. However, it is noted pretty early in the paper that causation could not be eastablished, since it does not use a random sample and is cross-sectional. The questions about the respondent’s sex lives were also asked in person, which tends to skew results (based on cultural sexual taboos – anonymous questioning tends to be more accurate). The researchers also add that there is no evidence that circumcision can work for prevention. But it is a well performed survey, and it can add knowledge to help find new methods to reduce female to male HIV transmissions (male to male transmissions have not been studied so far, therefore studies are framed in this way).

    Surely we can agree that people do not circumcise their toddler because they fear they will get HIV in their adult life?

  16. says

    chopping bits of children is wrong, frankly the fact I even need to type that says so much. What is equally wrong is Featherstone trying to point score with lazy comparisons.

  17. Dave Thompson says

    “There is no question that the physical impacts and health risks of FGM are genuinely incomparable to those of male circumcision”

    I see you contradicting yourself, when in the latter part of your article you give every reason in the book that makes the forced non-therapeutic genital cutting of girls, comparable to the non-therapeutic cutting of boys. As you well know, there are several types of FGM, some of which are far less invasive, painful and violating than the typical MGM. Perhaps we should be clear about what procedures we are talking about if insisting on stating how “incomparable” they are? Statistics are blurry and unreliable to confidently know what the majority of FGM involve, but isn’t it bizarre that there is NO recognized procedure on boys that is defined as genital mutilation? Boys are completely and utterly left out of the equation, where any parent can stick their baby on a table, cut off literally half of their penis and shaft, kill them in the process, and STILL not be found guilty of “Male Genital Mutilation”? I mean, WOW, penises are totally disposable aren’t they…

    As soon as there is a law that grants boys “some” level of protection against “genital mutilation”, then it would topple and FGM would finally and rightfully have to become gender neutral. This is one issue: and that is banning non-consensual, non-therapeutic genital cutting of children. No more competitions….ban it on all, then we can fight it as one as we should be doing. This happens because there is no one in government looking out for men, and everyone fully accepts and trusts a body titled “Women and equalities”. Yeah, equality from a woman’s point of view. I cannot believe what is going on in this society.

  18. wowjustwow says

    @punchdrunk

    “As I said, protection from HIV was the argument (from a pediatrician) that convinced me.”

    Yup, it’s amazing what sort of nonsense traditions people will defend with a few correlational studies that are contradicted by other such studies, even if they’re medical practitioners.

    Well, you probably already live in a social environment where circumcision is widespread so your kid won’t end up holding it against you (“I did it so you wouldn’t get infected with HIV! Nevermind the probability of that happening!”). Goodie.

  19. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    Well, I think you’re right, given the implications and associative factor, to point this out.

    However. Granted that I don’t know this person, don’t know what the tone and other context is, I think she quite clearly meant what she said: “Cutting off penises”. The intent to cut off a penis isn’t there. The intent totally is there in FGM. It is a valid comparison.

    Does she discount the problem of male circumcision? I don’t know. But it sounds like she is right about patriarchy to me.

  20. Dave Thompson says

    A “willy” would include the shaft too. A penis and clitoris are analogous, but most of the clitoris is internal, unlike a penis, and therefore impossible to cut off the entire clitoris. This woman is a moron; to take on this subject with such disregard for men, is appalling. It turns out she was brought-up within a Jewish family and has two children. My mind wants to know if she has a son, and did she circumcise him.
    Incredible that’s a very real possibility right? given the subject of her mission? I don’t hear her promoting the equivalent procedure on females to “equal” things out a bit.

  21. says

    sheaf,
    The same thing could be said about the HPV vaccine, or any number of decisions parents make for their children’s future well-being

    And vaccinations have been proven to be remarkable effective at preventing diseases more devastating than HIV that at the same time would spread like wildfire. I think the bodily alteration in the case of vaccines is extremely minor- a single sting -and the benefit so universal that one can argue against bodily autonomy in this case. On the other hand male genital mutilation is a measure that may lastingly affect the sex life of the child and HIV can be effectively prevented by using condoms.

  22. triamacleod says

    As long as people see children as property and insist on brain washing them into their religious beliefs/cultures (correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t 95%+ of circumcisions based on old Abrahamic traditions) we won’t be able to end this cycle.

    Less and less males are being circumcised at birth in the USA, partly because more people are beginning to understand that it is HIS body, not theirs but most of the reason comes down to insurance not covering (paying for) that procedure any longer. Even with this it will probably take 3 to 5 generations for uncut penis to become the norm rather than the exception.

    I do have to wonder how the procedure ever got started in the first place. I know the story in the Bible, about it being part of a covenant with god, but think about it. What sort of Svengali like character would it have taken to convince other men that snipping part of their penis off was a good idea?

  23. Soarer says

    We all know that children cannot consent to sexual activity with adults. We are all rightly appalled when it occurs, and punish the perpetrator severely.

    Children also cannot consent to genital mutilation, whether FGM or MGM. The perpetrators of this disgusting and unnecessary disfigurement should be punished as the child molesters they so clearly are.

    If people want to have their genitals surgically altered, they can do so when they are adults, in a surgical environment, with the usual counselling and consents required. I doubt many would do so.

    There are not many times when I am glad that I was born into a Catholic family, where circumcision is not practiced, but this is one of them.

    Practicing or defending MGM or FGM is, in my view, equivalent to practicing or defending paedophilia.

  24. M says

    @Ally:
    You left out the part about reduction of sensitivity (and therefore of function) of the penis. Circumsision is harmful even if done properly. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1464-410X.2006.06685.x/pdf

    @carnation:
    “There is a difference in motivations, though, I think. The purpose of removing the clitoris is to degrade or remove sexual enjoyment for females. With males, that isn’t the case, though can be the outcome.”

    No, not true. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_male_circumcision#Male_circumcision_to_prevent_masturbation

  25. Tamen says

    Punchdrunk:

    If I were to produce three papers showing that women who are circumcised have a reduced risk for HIV infection, would that then change your view of FGM (if done under clinical circumstances by a trained physician) similar to how those other studies on male circumcision and HIV have changed your mind on MGM?

    WHO and the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics have postulated as early as 1992 that FGM increases the risk of HIV (without any basis in research). So what happens when someone does the research?

    Some researchers tried to verify 4 hypothesis formulated by E.K. Kun as to why FGM could lead to increased risk of HIV infection. They surveyed women in Tanzania. They found that FGM in fact reduces the risk of HIV infection and they were unable to locate any confounding factors/variables (besides the FGM itself) which could explain this reduced risk among circumcised women.

    Here is a presentation of that paper: http://www.tzonline.org/pdf/femalecircumcisionandhivinfectionintanzania.pdf
    (Stallings, R. Y.,and Karugendo, E. (2005). Female Circumcision and HIV Infection in Tanzania: For Better or for Worse? Abstract of paper given at Third International AIDS Society)

    And there also exist on such paper based on a study done in Kenya; http://scholarworks.gsu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1113&context=iph_theses

    And there’s a paper from a study in Senegal:
    Kanki P, M’Boup S, Marlink R, et al. “Prevalence and risk determinants of human immunodeficiency virus type 2 (HIV-2) and human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) in west African female prostitutes”. Am. J. Epidemiol. 136 (7): 895-907. PMID

    All those authors lament their findings and in contrast to the papers finding a reduced risk of HIV among circumcised men none of them advocated for FGM as a result.

  26. carnation says

    @ M

    That is listed alonside heightening sexual pleasure and many other reasons. My comments remain entirely valid.

  27. Thil says

    In terms of the effect a more apt male equivalent might be castration. Ritual castration has been carried it many cultures throughout history, and well it wasn’t stopped after 4 minutes I’m having a hard time thinking of a place where it’s still common?

    @Ally
    To be fair she said cutting the penis off entirely, that’s not the aim of circumcision

  28. Ally Fogg says

    Thil

    To be fair she said cutting the penis off entirely, that’s not the aim of circumcision

    it’s still a grossly offensive and inaccurate analogy. For starters, as someone else observed above, only a small amount of the clitoris is external, so if you wanted to be honest she’d be talking about the glans of the penis, not the whole organ.

    Secondly, there are many different forms of FGM, some involving greater butchery than others, and most of them are not equivalent to total penile amputation.. If we want to get into really accurate comparisons, look at the so-called “Seattle compromise” I mentioned above.

    She’s a minister for the Dept of International Development, hence her interest in this. She should know about procedures like the mass circumcision ceremonies in parts of South Africa and the utterly horrific consequences (including yes, a fair few boys having their “willies chopped off”) That makes her analogy incredibly inappropriate and does reveal utter, wholesale indifference to the issue.

  29. Soarer says

    @ 40 Thil

    all assault is not equal

    I never said it was. All assault is assault though.

    And chopping of a sensitive body part is assault. Doing it to a child is an abomination.

    I am, frankly, amazed that it is practiced at all. It is barbaric.

  30. Tamen says

    Thil:

    In terms of the effect a more apt male equivalent might be castration.

    A bit of anatomical fail there.

    Castration involves removing the testicles (male gonads) which produce male sex hormones (androgens). The physical equivalent of that would be removal of the female gonads (ovaries) which produces female sex hormones (estrogens).

    FGM type Ia (removal of the clitorial hood) is the exact physical equivalent of male circumcision. Type Ia isn’t exempt from any legislation against FGM that I am aware of.

  31. Thil says

    @Tamen

    Equivalent in terms of their effect on the victim’s quality of life, and Equivalent in terms of their purpose through out history

  32. Thil says

    @Ally Fogg

    I suspect she was trying to make the point that we wouldn’t do something to men that would reduce their sexual functionality, she could have but it much better but still

  33. Soarer says

    In no other circumstance is it acceptable to anyone to take a sharp knife to another individual and remove part of their anatomy without their consent, other than for medical emergencies. Even then, consent is sought if possible.

    FGM and MGM are both assaults with a deadly weapon, and should be prosecuted as such.

  34. Dave Thompson says

    “I suspect she was trying to make the point that we wouldn’t do something to men that would reduce their sexual functionality”

    Which shows her ignorance on the topic. The most sensitive and most pleasurable part on the penis is usually removed in circumcision. Seriously, this woman needs to resign.

    Here is Christoper Hitchens who knows full well that circumcision was intended to dull the sexual experience, as it is for females. This is why they are comparable in more ways than one.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mq_gmiJtJLA

    Here is someone who actually put the foreskin under the microscope and studied it. Any studies will reveal it is there for a reason, and those who have been circumcised really have been sexually damaged, even sexually crippled.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DD2yW7AaZFw

    Thanks Ally for bringing Angelo’s death to my attention. I didn’t know about that one.

  35. Dave Thompson says

    I would also like to add, that if the claims are true of x thousand girls coming forward and asking for treatment, why has there been not one conviction? The victims do not decide whether or not the abuser is punished right? That doesn’t work in other situations of child abuse does it?
    Isn’t the genital mutilation of these girls carried out in their home countries? They come back to the UK and suddenly need emergency treatment? I wish I could believe the media on these stories.

  36. Tamen says

    Thil:

    On what basis do you make the assertion that castration and (any form of) FGM have an equal effect on the victims quality of life? Since you’ve stated that assertion I presume you put some thought into why you think they are equivalent.

    The possibility of becoming a parent is one glaring difference between the two which would for many affect their quality of life.

    As for places where ritual castration is still common. It probably doesn’t qualify as common, but it certainly isn’t extinct – some Hijra communities requires hijras to undergo an initiation rite called nirwaam or nirvan – the removal of penis, testicles and scrotum.

  37. Tamen says

    Thil:
    Yes they do. But you need to have some measurable comparison to state that it’s equivalent.

    For instance killing the man would also drastically affect their ability to experience sexual pleasure. Yet I presume you wouldn’t argue that murder and FGM are equivalent.

    Regardless, it would’ve been better if your first statement had spelled out what you meant:

    Castration is equivalent to FGM in the terms of both drastically reducing sexual pleasure and also have historically had equivalent purposes (can you list those?).

  38. M says

    @carnation (38):

    More to the point, western countries were circumcision is widespread today (such as the U.S.) have a history of performing it for puritanical reasons. In our culture the practice originated from a moral panic around sexuality (including “self-abuse”), while medical justification came later.

  39. Tamen says

    Thil:
    If some studies showing a reduction of risk against HIV infection constitute a compelling argument for male neonatal circumcision I have to ask whether studies showing a reduction of risk against HIV infection among circumcised women would be a compelling argument for FGM?

  40. summerblues says

    Dave: Do you have backup for this? “most sensitive and most pleasurable part on the penis is usually removed in circumcision.”

    What she said: How not to tell your colleages (sp?) that you’re irritated with their foot-dragging on your pet issue.

    The rest of what Ally said: nononononono.

    I believe I read somewhere that the CDC states that circumcision rates are down in the US…but that, if I recall, was only newly born. No records on what happens later. I think this can be done in a doctor’s office. (shudder)

    I opted for no circumcision on my son. Wish I could take credit for being progressive but it was more that the practice was being questioned, my OB said there was no medical reason for it and I figured the kid had already had enough pain with just being born.

  41. Dave Thompson says

    Thil,

    The idea that circumcision reduces HIV transmission has been pretty much debunked.

    http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/05/when-bad-science-kills-or-how-to-spread-aids/

    One Doctor thinks the mission to circumcise Africa is lunacy.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlsUg0sdAtE

    I think perhaps education and condoms are a better solution than genital mutilation.
    http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/?articleID=2000093293&story_title=push-for-male-circumcision-in-nyanza-fails-to-reduce-infections&pageNo=1

    The USA, having one of the highest rates of circumcision, doesn’t balance very well against having one of the highest rates of HIV. Circumcisions takes away sensitivity, and that cannot be debated anymore. I know from personal experience that condoms are less likely to be worn if you are circumcised. The cutting culture, religious or just cultural, must defend themselves.

  42. Thil says

    @Dave Thompson

    I just posted that so I could hear what others have to say about it, I have foreskin and I have no real opinion of it.

  43. Dave Thompson says

    The most sensitive and erogenous part is your frenulum right? Circumcisions remove the frenula delta, which is said to contain the most nerve endings. I am learning myself, but as a victim of this practice, what I read about it makes sense. You are lucky this wasn’t you on this table, but sadly for me and many others, this WAS us as a baby. In my case, by abuser was the NHS who inflicted genital mutilation on me for religious reasons. They amputated a part of my body, damaged me physically and mentally and for no good reason, and definitely without my consent. I have an issue with that. They are guilty of extreme sexual violence, yet my complaint has been dismissed by every Doctor I have spoken to in person. They don’t want to admit the system abused me, but it did. If this was girl who was having tools inserted to crush and rip her genitals, would we call it “circumcision”? I don’t think so.

    I don’t post this to upset anyone, but perhaps people need to see what an infant circumcision is like. I think anyone of any age would express the same terror as this poor little soul.

  44. JT says

    @Dave

    Im thinking if someone took a video of FGM they would be up on charges of child porn. I have a sneaky suspicion Dave isnt too worried since its a male in this one.

  45. Dave Thompson says

    There are videos of FGM on youtube, but they’re only allowed as long as they’re not explicit, or promoting it (satire excluded: “circumcise your daughters”). Videos like the above however, are allowed to remain even without age restrictions. It puts a whole new meaning to “child abuse images” doesn’t it? Why don’t the feminists just come out and say it? “It’s only abuse when it’s done to girls”. I have come to the conclusion, that feminism has long gone past it’s use-by date.

  46. Ginkgo says

    Ally, this is what your colleague Jill Filipovic is up to:
    http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2013/09/18/how-intactivists-are-ruining-the-debate-on-circumcision/

    It starts off with a distortion.

    “Every time female genital cutting is mentioned on Feministe — every time — someone from the “intactivist” community shows up to derail the conversation and make it all about the alleged horrors of male circumcision.”

    FGM? There’s no debate on that, Jill, the article you quote at length is NOT about defending FGM is it; why are you making this about FGM? Talk about a deflection. What a lawyer she is.

    You have some pretty sleazy colleagues there, Mr. Fogg.

  47. summerblues says

    The video at 59: that’s a father with his son. Didn’t get very far into the vid, I would like to be able to eat tonight. Coldness of the male doctor, dad asking if he can quiet his son with a pacifier….hmmmm.

  48. Mark Lyndon says

    I agree with most of what you say, but I think it’s wrong to reject any comparison between male and female circumcision. Google “Zahra’s circumcision” for one form of female genital cutting, then compare that with male circumcision in the Eastern Cape Province of South Africa, where every year over 100 men and boys die, normally at least one or two suffer complete penile amputation, and this year there was a castration.

    Do you still think they’re “genuinely incomparable”? If so, then why did US and UK doctors continually point out the similarities when they were performing female circumcision, and why do defenders of FGC (mostly cut women) still do the same today?

  49. Ally Fogg says

    Gingko (64)

    I’m not exactly impressed by that, but not entirely sure why you’re so disgusted with JF there, when the really dreadful bit is that fucking awful Slate article she quotes at length.

    For what it is worth, I think intactivisits would have a lot more friends and support from Planet Feminism if they didn’t feel compelled to comment on every article about FGM and turn the conversation onto male circumcision, particularly when it is feminist sites. And in my experience, Filipovic is right about that, it is exactly what does happen.

  50. carnation says

    @ Gingko

    What about ideological colleagues? You appear angrier about a woman writing than you do about circumcision.

    Actual, tangible activism produces results and a high calibre of recruit. Inactivism attracts MRAs and by their anobymous, puerile, trolling, misogynistic deeds you shall know them.

    Ally needs no defence from me, or anyone else, but he uses his platform to swim agsinst the tide in a robust and credible manner. The polar opposite of your fellow travellers and their feverish commenting rituals.

  51. summerblues says

    http://www.netdoctor.co.uk/menshealth/facts/circumcision.htm

    I cannot verify the accuracy of this but it does list medical reasons for circumcision.

    Stay off the sites discussing FGM unless that is what you wish to discuss. And, for the love of God, shut up about your supposed “diminished sexual pleasure”. I don’t care (of course, of course I care about men’s sexual pleasure…but maybe..). I invite you to get pregnant, carry to term, give birth and breastfeed.

  52. Tamen says

    summerblues:

    You provided little context as to where you intended that link to be an argument for or against circumcision.

    The link you provided listed some acute medical reason which may require circumcision to be done. None of these (phimosis, acute balanoposthitis, paraphimosis) are applicable in an infant as the foreskin and the glans is fused together and hence there is no need for retraction of the foreskin.

    Anyway I don’t think there are many who argue against circumcision when done to correct/heal an acute condition/illness.

    It also lists up medical reasons circumcision is done to prevent. Below every one they state something like “Therefore, routine circumcision cannot be recommended to prevent…”

    I do find you attempt to tell circumcised men who say they have diminished sexual pleasure as a result of being circumcised to shut up simply appalling. I do have immensely respect for pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding – what I don’t have respect for is women who is marshaling that as the end-of-all sufferings authorizing them to tell other people to shut up about their (implied minor in comparison) pain and problems.

  53. Ally Fogg says

    Yep, I’m not sure where you were going with the reference to pregnancy etc, summerblues? Seems a complete non-sequitor to me,

    That netdoctor link is actually pretty fair and balanced look at the evidence on both sides, IMO. And worth noting that on that particular point, it says:

    Adult males that were circumcised as infants do not usually report sexual problems linked with their circumcision, perhaps because they have never experienced sexual sensation with a foreskin.
    However, men circumcised as sexually active adults quite frequently complain of sexual problems arising from either reduced or altered penile sensation.

  54. summerblues says

    I brought it up, Ally, as a possible reference to know your audience when discussing this. I’m a mom and that’s an infant in that video linked above. That infant is not sexual; he wants nothing more than a belly full of milk and to be warm and loved. His penis and testicles were just fine, thank you, so unstrap him and hand him over.

    Sex and reproduction are inextricably linked. I can take a pill, use an IUD, go under anesthetic for sterilization, but the threat of pregnancy is still there. My introduction to men’s rights issues (men’s problems) was through the MRA. Again, this has colored my views (“rawdogging” as many women as possible, paper abortions, women are sluts and baby killers). My desire to not get pregnant trumps whatever loss of sensation men might be experiencing, especially since abortion, pregnancy and miscarriage are not pleasant. I’ve had all three.

    I watched an intro to a video on female circumcision, possibly the same one linked above. The women who were circumcized had no sexual problems. So does this mean that we are manufacturing our outrage over this procedure? You tell me. There are lots of circumcized men who state they have no problems either. As for the men who state they lost some sensation, why should that surprise you? The penis had been covered the whole time, like the clitoris, and is now suddenly exposed.

    As I said above, what worked with me was fact (no medical reason) and emotion (my infant son had been through enough). Use that information to tailor your arguments if your goal is to stop the routine practice of circumcision. Infants and children are not sexual.

  55. Ally Fogg says

    My desire to not get pregnant trumps whatever loss of sensation men might be experiencing

    But circumcision is not a form of contraception? Whether or not boys are circumcised has absolutely no bearing on whether or not you will get pregnant or how painful or dangerous it is likely to be.

    I’m not being argumentative here. I genuinely have no idea what point you are making, sorry.

  56. Lelapaletute says

    There is no point really seeking physical equivalence between FGM and MGM; the level of physical and emotional harm and risk will vary from person to person and from procedure to procedure.

    However, there is a very clear ethical equivalence, which I think should form the basis of the joint movement against both: cutting off healthy parts of people’s bodies without their informed permission is a terrible crime and an affront to all notions of human rights. Just because the people in question are babies or children doesn’t make it alright; in fact, it makes it all the more repugnant.

    If there is a legitimate, clear and pressing medical reason for some form of genital cutting, then go ahead and cut. If not, it is the right of the individual to make these choices for themselves when of an age to do so.

    People who are anti-FGM but pro-circumcision baffle me. You either believe in people’s right to bodily integrity or you do not.

  57. says

    However, there is a very clear ethical equivalence, which I think should form the basis of the joint movement against both…

    The big problem with that idea is that the two things, FGM and MGM, are happening in different places, under different circumstances and different regimes, for different (stated and unstated) reasons. The MORAL equivalence of the two atrocities is hugely outweighed by the practical differences between them. So trying to cover both injustices with one “joint movement” would be both unnecessary and logistically disasterous. We can support both movements at once, of course, but they have to be separate and independent movements, or they will both be far less likely to succeed.

    Besides, there already is a robust and growing movement against MGM, at least in the West; so it’s not like we Westerners would be hypocrites if we also talk about FGM.

  58. carnation says

    @ Raging Bee

    Very succinctly put. This is one area where activism can not remotely be described as “one side hogging the resources”.

    There is a stage for activism against male circumcision. True to form; MRAs have failed absolutely to change anything. Although, also true to form, they “doxxed” some women in Canada. What a collection of despicible failures they are.

  59. Ginkgo says

    carnation -” MRAs have failed absolutely to change anything. ”

    This is demonstrably false; there is an established community of intactivists who have picketed conferences and mounted petiton drives. It is quite simple research to do.

    Ally @ 68 – I’m not exactly impressed by that, but not entirely sure why you’re so disgusted with JF there, when the really dreadful bit is that fucking awful Slate article she quotes at length. ”

    Yes the base article is vile. i don’t see much differnece in the vilenss of writing such and article and quoting it with approval, that’s all.

    “For what it is worth, I think intactivisits would have a lot more friends and support from Planet Feminism if they didn’t feel compelled to comment on every article about FGM and turn the conversation onto male circumcision, particularly when it is feminist sites. And in my experience, Filipovic is right about that, it is exactly what does happen.”

    For what it’s worth, intactivists should have been able to count on feminist support just on the basis of feminist principles (as they are usually state, for what that’s worth.) Those feminst principles should have led feminists to welcome those arguments which were based on those feminst principles. That they didn’t shows how much respect they actually have for those principles.

    So what Filipovic is complaining about is intacitivist’s calls for consistency. There was also the little matter of complaining about FGM – the mote in some other culture’s eye while ignoring MGM is our own – the log in our eye. That has to grate on Filipovic as well. When you think you hold the moral high ground, it’s very irritating when someone points out your moral failings – see also white feminists standrad reaction to being called on thier racism. (It even has a name, White Lady Tears).

    “….compelled to comment on every article about FGM and turn the conversation onto male circumcision, particularly when it is feminist sites. And in my experience, Filipovic is right about that, it is exactly what does happen.”

    Funny coincidence – this is exactly what happens on threads about circumcision. It is always just a matter of tiem before somem meathead jumps in to caution everyone against equating circumcision with FGM, which is immeasurably orse yadda yadda, and is misogynist to boot etc… It never fails. As a test you can pull up every article on Salon – there are probably seven or eight over that last five years – and loo at the comment threads.

    And in the larger debate this is in fact what Filipovic’s article amounted to. There is no debate to be had about FGM at this stage, thank God at this stage the only question is implementing and enforcing the consensus we have arived at – the only debate is about MGM. Filipovic’s article is one big “what about the wimminz” in the still on-going MGM debate.

    As for my actual opposition to MGM and how it appears to anyone – it goes this far. I insisted my son not be circumcized, over his mother’s objectins, but didn’t have to get too fussed about it because 1) she wasn’t all tta adamant anyway and 2) I knew that immediately after birth she wouldn’t be in any shape to insist on much of anything so there’de be time to continue the discussion. In the end the doctor talked her out of it. And in the case of my granadson, i talked to his parents. My son was overseas for the birth and my DIL was ambivalent right up to the time she held the baby. At that pointn she says if anybody had come at her baby with a knife she would have used it on them. Problem solved.

  60. sathyalacey says

    While we’re advocating for the the elimination of FGM and MGM, we should also pay attention to, and be infuriated by the practice of surgical “correction” the infants born with ambiguous genitalia (or as some are calling it, intersex genital mutilation). This sometimes occurs without the consent of parents (other times, consent is given under duress after parents are told how crippling their child’s life will be without this surgery), and sometimes without even their knowledge, revealed in puberty when finally their child begins to experience problems related to their unusual medical status (son starts developing breasts, etc) – and visits to the doctors reveal “Hey, whoops, looks like you were operated on as an infant!”

    Medically unnecessary surgery on infants to shove them into a doctor’s best guess of where in the sexual binary they might someday fit based on how their infant bits look to that doctor? That’s some fucked up shit.

    So yes, more to lump under the “can we please stop chopping up our children’s genitalia and move into the 21st century already?”

  61. Thil says

    @sathyalacey

    I feel like you’re advocating forcing a child to grow up with a humiliating deformity so you can advance your own agenda

  62. Ginkgo says

    Thil @ 81 – As opposed to advancing the doctor’s preferences or best guess?

    I can see surgery in that case but why can’t that decision be left to that person? I can see there is an age limit to that surgery that might require a decision before the person is an adult. But don’t you think the issue of what is bascially re-assignment surgery is best left to the person concerned whenever that is possible?

  63. John Horstman says

    @62 Dave Thompson:

    Why don’t the feminists just come out and say it? “It’s only abuse when it’s done to girls”. I have come to the conclusion, that feminism has long gone past it’s use-by date.

    *sigh* Not all feminists believe the same things about any particular issue, and some of us are even men, and some of us are even men directly affected by infant genital cutting (I am one such person, in case it’s not clear). Stop universalizing. Most of the feminists I know (perhaps by a combination of subconscious and conscious choice, I tend to associate with those with similar views to me) agree entirely that (non-consensual) male genital cutting is ethically as bad as (non-consensual) female genital cutting on the basis of bodily autonomy.

    At any rate, the asinine Oppression Olympics around genital cutting doesn’t serve anyone well. Raging Bee is entirely correct: we can have congruent but separate movements specific to their particular issues and contexts, based on a shared respect for bodily autonomy.

    Also, cliterodectomy became a widespread practice in USA (I’m less familiar with the UK – my knowledge comes from a sociology class on the history of sexuality here in USA) at the same time as excision of the penile prepuce (foreskin) and for the same reason: it was a response to Victorian sexuality panic over children (also adults, but especially children) masturbating (as a number of people mentioned above; we also invented breakfast cereals and crackers and straightjackets and chastity belts and various male chastity contraptions for the same reason at the same time; Kellogg was one of the leaders of the medicalized side of the movement). Cliterodectomy faded in practice and ceased to be normative long before male genital cutting here, which rather undermines the point Featherstone was trying to make: in USA at least, we got rid of the practice of cutting on infant females long before we got rid of the practice of cutting on infant males (since it’s still widely practiced, if not as widely as it used to be, and it’s finally no longer standard practice by way of AMA guidelines).

  64. Mark Lyndon says

    @Thil: This is a fairly standard part of intactivism. Most intersex people are against surgery without their informed consent to try to assign them to what they call the “binary gender model”. They believe that except in exceptional circumstances, they should have the right to choose for themselves,

  65. Ally Fogg says

    John Horstman (83)

    *sigh* Not all feminists believe the same things about any particular issue, and some of us are even men, and some of us are even men directly affected by infant genital cutting

    Good spot. I missed that one at the time, but I should point Dave Thompson (and everyone else) to he HetPat First Directive. This was a pretty flagrant violation.

    I’ll let it pass for now, but please be careful with the generalisations (on both sides) – thanks folks.

  66. carnation says

    @ Gingko

    “This is demonstrably false; there is an established community of intactivists who have picketed conferences and mounted petiton drives. It is quite simple research to do.”

    And what did these, ahem, actions change?

  67. Mark Lyndon says

    @carnation (86)

    It’s mostly about raising awareness. Many people, including OBG’s and pediatricians used to claim to be unaware of anyone that was unhappy about being circumcised for instance, and were unaware that neonatal circumcision is rare outside the USA and Israel.

    We honestly believe that the more people know about circumcision, the less likely they are to have it done. Marilyn Milos, the founder of NOCIRC, has been campaigning against circumcision for over 30 years. She has three sons though, all circumcised. It was only when she was present at a circumcision as a nurse that she realised what was involved and started finding out more about it.

  68. Lelapaletute says

    @Thil 81:

    I feel like you’re advocating forcing a child to grow up with a humiliating deformity so you can advance your own agenda

    Seriously? A ‘humiliating deformity’? If someone’s a-typical genital arrangements do not cause them any physical problems (e.g. trouble urinating) why should they be humilated by them? They’re a child; bar a bit if doctors and nurses with their peers (who will not be in a position to pass judgment, having no more experience than the subject of genitals and what is ‘normal’), no-one will be looking at their bits in judgment for many years to come.

    As and when they are old enough to think about showing them off to other people in a sexual context, they will also be old enough to consider whether their atypicality is significant enough that it will impede their expression of their own individual sexuality and seek surgical options at the time if they see fit.

    Performing medically uneccessary surgery to ‘correct’ atypical but perfectly functional genitals based on some doctor’s best guess is taking away the child’s physical integrity and right to choose for no other reason than that difference and atypicality makes society at large uncomfortable. That is not a good enough reason.

    Tongues are a good example; if a baby is norn with tied tongue and is unable to feed properly, one medically appropriate response is surgical intervention. If, on the other hand, a baby’s tongue was longer than average, or an unusual shape, or bright green, but worked perfectly well, the appropriate medical response would not be to cut it off. But our intensely rigid conception of sex and gender, and its totally exaggerated importance to our worldview, makes otherwise intelligent people think they have a right to chop about perfectly healthy body parts so that the atypical body tells a story they can understand.

    This is only tangentially related to circumcision in practical terms, but I totally agree with Sathyalacey, it is definitely part of the fundamental ethical argument against FGM and MGM.

  69. kevinkirkpatrick says

    Dave Thompson,

    If we asked strangers on the street:
    1) Do you support feminism?
    2) Should parents be allowed to have their newborn boys circumcised?

    I would wager [a LOT of money] that those answering “yes” to #1 would be FAR more likely to answer “no” to #2 than those answering “no” to #1. Would you bet otherwise?

    -Kevin

  70. Thil says

    @Lelapaletute

    I don’t think avoiding embarrassment for them in the future is a bad reason to do sugary on a child, if there’s not too much to loose. I would advocate fixing tongue but not removing it, I would advocate removing one set of genitals if the doctor could be reasonably sure about the most likely true gender

  71. Lelapaletute says

    @93 Thi:

    The point is (with intersex as with circumcision) it is not the parent’s right, the doctor’s right, or indeed your right to judge what is or is not ‘too much to lose’ when it comes to someone’s healthy body parts. It is the child’s. To return to the topic in hand, many circumcised men (I know, I’ve met plenty) are happy to be circumcised, would not choose to be otherwise, and do not see what the great big fuss is about. Others are traumatized, feel violated, and believe they have had a wealth of experience that was rightfully theirs stolen from them by people who should have been protecting them. The point is, the one group doesn’t get to decide for the other what they ought to want. They decide for themselves.

    People have to face difficult decisions as they get older; that is the nature of freedom – it comes with responsibility for oneself. We do not try and make people’s lives ‘easier’ by taking away their choices. Or rather we shouldn’t.

    And as for doctors being able to establish ‘true’ gender, I’m afraid this remark shows that you are ill-informed on the subject of intersex conditions and probably shouldn’t opine so freely until you’ve done some research. Sex is not an either/or – in most cases, it seems straightforward, but the existence of intersex conditions givs the lie to the idea of a simple male/female binary. What would you say is the ‘true’ gender of someone with XXY chromosomes and both ovaries and testes present? Don’t you think rather than chopping about with such an individual, to approximate something more standard, they should be given the opportunity to decide if they are male, female, both or neither themselves?

  72. Ginkgo says

    “What would you say is the ‘true’ gender of someone with XXY chromosomes and both ovaries and testes present?”

    This sums the problem up exactly. We take a cultural paradigm of a gender binary and insist on crushing it down over biological reality.

    We don’t have to do this and not every culture does. And there have even been times when not doing this has paid off big for a society, as in the case of Hastiin Tłʼa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hosteen_Klah

  73. says

    The point is, the one group doesn’t get to decide for the other what they ought to want. They decide for themselves.

    Maybe not, but both groups are (or should be) subject to the same ethical principle: don’t mutilate the body of an underage person without good medical cause. Just because some people were less traumatized by such mutilation, does not mean the principle isn’t valid for all of us.

    We do not try and make people’s lives ‘easier’ by taking away their choices.

    Actually, yes, we do just that all the time — there’s a lot of things you can’t legally do to your kids, and such prohibitions do indeed make kids’ lives easier (at lest when they’re enforced). You can’t choose to cut off your newborn baby’s right arm; so why should you be able to choose to lop off any other body part?

  74. Thil says

    @Lelapaletute

    I think a parrent should have the right to alter a child’s body to spare them humilation.

    From what I’ve heard most hermaphrodites grow up to identify as either one sex or the other as do most people

    “XXY chromosomes and both ovaries and testes present”

    like I said if it was that ambiguous you should do nothing

  75. Thil says

    @Lelapaletute

    I think a parent should have the right to alter a child’s body to spare them humiliation.

    From what I’ve heard most hermaphrodites grow up to identify as either one sex or the other as do most people

    “XXY chromosomes and both ovaries and testes present”

    like I said if it was that ambiguous you should do nothing

  76. Thil says

    @Ginkgo

    Making your kid feel like freak isn’t worth it on the very outside chance they might grow up to indentify as a third gender

  77. Ally Fogg says

    See? That’s why we have the HetPat First Directive.

    Carnation’s post at 88 has been deleted, and replies zapped altogether for tidiness. Consider this a stern rebuke, Carnation!

    There were a few others that skirted close the the limits, but just about remained tenuously connected to the OP, so I’ll leave them for now, but I think we’ve gone as far down that route as we need. This thread is not about MRAs, or feminists for that matter.

  78. Mark Lyndon says

    @Thil 97.

    Have you actually spoken to any intersex people? (knowingly that is – you usually can’t tell) Like I said before, most of them are against attempts to make them fit into a binary gender model. Rather than feeling like “freaks”, some of them regard being intersex as a gift They are against surgery and hormonal treatment to make them either male or female, unless it’s with informed consent, and they feel that everybody should be able to choose for themselves. They repeatedly make the point that such treatment seems to be more to spare parents’ embarrassment than in the interests of the child. Surprisingly to many, most intersex children seem to be comfortable with being different.

  79. lelapaletute says

    @Thil 95 and 6: I think you’re wrong, as I’ve said. I’ve justified my position. Care to argue with that justification, or (imagine!) offering one of your own?

  80. lelapaletute says

    @Thil 95 and 6: Also, yes, most intersex people do end up identifying one sex or the other. But it isn’t always the one they were assigned by some doctor. And if surgery has been deployed, this can cause a decent amount of unnecessary trauma.

  81. Thil says

    @MarkLyndon

    I do not believe you on any of that, source?

    @lelapaletute

    you haven’t justified anything. You just expect me to accept that altering someone’s body for the sake of making it easier for them to be socially accepted, is a bad thing.

    “unnecessary trauma”

    any amount of trauma would be unnecessary by your standard because you don’t agree with me that the surgery is worth while

  82. Ginkgo says

    Thil @ 97 – “Making your kid feel like freak isn’t worth it on the very outside chance they might grow up to indentify as a third gender”

    Hmmmm. You’re having trouble with the idea of agency. Whos is making the kid feel like a freak? The parents who decide against guesswork-based surgery?

    You do realize this is a major “reason” that parents who blithely circumcize thier boys cite, that they are “afraid they’ll look weird in the locker room.” It’s utter bulshit.

    I remember a Salon article by Tracy Clark-Flores where one commenter said she’d had both her sons circumcized better she thought it looked better. (This is as disgusting as blepharoplasty to make kids eyes round. Utterly disgusting.) Anyway a couple of mothers ripped her up for it. one called her “a monster”.

    The kid may be mistreated over the shape of tir genitals? First question: why are kids at schools looking at each others genitals anyway? The little pervs. Second question: given that children are vicous bullying shits, it seems the answer is to ride herd on the vicious litle shits and try to make human beings of them rather than to just give in and accomodate their viciousness.

  83. Thil says

    “You do realize this is a major “reason” that parents who blithely circumcize thier boys cite, that they are “afraid they’ll look weird in the locker room.” It’s utter bulshit.”

    yes, which is why I’m not in favour of circumcision

    “The kid may be mistreated over the shape of tir genitals? First question: why are kids at schools looking at each others genitals anyway? The little pervs”

    because they’re 7 and don’t know any better

    “given that children are vicous bullying shits, it seems the answer is to ride herd on the vicious litle shits and try to make human beings of them rather than to just give in and accomodate their viciousness”

    and your kid has to suffer in the mean time?

  84. Mark Lyndon says

    @Thil 103
    “I do not believe you on any of that, source?”

    I actually know at least one intersex person, possibly two, and I have also heard three of them speak at conferences. (it’s nowhere near as in the open as transsexualism, transvestism or cross-dressing, but it’s not as rare as you’d think)

    http://oii-usa.org/about/our-intersex-mission/
    “OII-USA’s mission is:
    To campaign for the human rights of all intersex people, particularly the right to self-determination and bodily integrity.
    … ”

    http://www.intersexinitiative.org/
    “Traditionally, the medical protocol has called for the surgical “reconstruction” of these different but generally healthy bodies to make them “normal.” But this practice has become increasingly controversial, as adults who went through the treatment report being physically, emotionally, and sexually harmed by such procedures.”

  85. Thil says

    @Mark Lyndon

    I didn’t say I didn’t believe they existed at all, I said I didn’t believe such people were the norm for hermaphrodites

  86. Tamen says

    Ally:
    May I suggest that in the future when yuu delete comments that fall afoul of hetpat first directive that you don’t simply zap any replies to the offending comment, but rather delete them too with a placeholder text (like: “Deleted due to being a reply to another deleted comment” or some such).

    There has been a practice here of referring to previous comment by @81 for instance and as one can see the result of your zapping is now that Lelapaletute in their comment @92 now seem prescient when they refer to Thil
    ‘s comment @93.

  87. Mark Lyndon says

    @Thil 107
    It seems to be the norm to me.
    Only a very small minority of intersex people would identify as, or be classed by scientists as hermaphrodites btw.

  88. Thil says

    @Thil 107
    “It seems to be the norm to me”

    normality isn’t a subjective standard

    “Only a very small minority of intersex people would identify hermaphrodites”

    I don’t care, it’s a biological term not a gender

    “be classed by scientists as hermaphrodites”

    fair enough

  89. says

    It’s not “trite” to observe that bothFGM AMD male circumcision cit off part of a child’s genitals without therapeutic need or personal consent. That’s why they are both wrong.

  90. Dave Thompson says

    I may be risking deletion here, but I was challenged on my view of feminism, so want to briefly say that “Women and equality” being the office that deals with equality, is clearly biased and one sided. “Men and equality” would be laughed or fought out of town, and due to the gender specific term of “feminism”, equality will never be reached. Being a feminist and supporting feminism may be different things to some. If feminism was not around, would we have laws against genital mutilation for one gender only? The last time I checked, males had genitals too. It’s damaged it’s own cause, because no opposition is tolerated within the powers that be.
    Women can publish songs trivializing sexual violence towards men, but men would not be allowed to do the same. What right did the NHS have to carry out a ritual on me and amputate the most sensitive part of the most sensitive part of my body? You can’t take a picture of a girl’s genitals without breaking the law, yet you can carve your religion or sexual preference into a boys’ with a blade, have absolutely no regulation to follow, and upload the bloody material and be proud of it!

    The forced religious and cultural genital cutting of children (genital mutilation in all cases) must be fought as one.

  91. Ally Fogg says

    Dave Thompson (113)

    I won’t delete the comment, but I would ask you to look at the link to the First Directive post I linked to above. It explains why we have that rule, but in a nutshell, it prevents debates being derailed by endless arguments about whether feminists / MRAs are all this, that or the next thing. It doesn’t mean you’re not allowed to criticise specific ideas or specific individuals (eg the convo about Jill Filipovic and her piece above)

    In answer to your question:

    If feminism was not around, would we have laws against genital mutilation for one gender only?

    I think it is possible that if there had been no feminism, there would be no (or fewer) restrictions on FGM. It only really began to be recognised as an issue in the 80s, and feminist ideas may well be a significant reason why.

    I think it is almost inconceivable that had there been not been any feminism there would have been any greater restrictions on male circumcision. So I can’t imagine that boys would be any better off.

    FWIW my hunch is that the feminist focus on FGM and broader issues of bodily integrity have helped a lot of people realise that ritual circumcision of boys might not be such a great idea either, and may have made a fairly significant contribution to the rapid decline of routine circumcision in the US in the 80s and 90s.

  92. F [is for failure to emerge] says

    In response to various references about altering a child’s genitalia in order to spare them potential humiliation and make them more socially acceptable: It is society that needs to change, not your child’s genitals. When the child comes to a time in life where they know that they would choose something different, let them make that choice and support it.

  93. Ally Fogg says

    Carnation (115)

    Oh my. Wow. All I can say, if you’ll all forgive the generalisations, is that bloody hell Americans are weird sometimes.

  94. Ally Fogg says

    And talking of Slate, Brian D. Earp has written an outstanding rebuttal of the factual side of that bloody awful piece about intactivists we were discussing earlier. Lots of relevant info to the public health side of the debate more generally.

  95. summerblues says

    Ally, thank you for the link of the rebuttal. That’s the best argument I’ve ever read against routine male circumcision.

  96. says

    Technical question reagarding Dave Thompson’s comment #113: If you string together ten sentences, neither one of which follows from its predecessor, is that ten non-sequiturs, or just nine?

  97. summerblues says

    Ally, I have a question about the language that is being used. Since male circumcision is still considered normal here in the US wouldn’t saying that circumcised penises are mutilated affect young boys’, teens’ and young men’s self-esteem?

  98. carnation says

    @ Ally 177 (and anyone else that fancies a go)

    Flip the genders, parents talking about a procedure (for sake of discussion, let’s not opt for female circumcision) that could increase the level of oral sex their daughter receives in future life.

    I’d suggest such an article would NOT be published.

    This is clearly genders, but im not sure if it’s misogynistic, misandric, or plain fucking common sense.

  99. elementary_watson says

    @carnation 123: IIRC there have been articles about some treatment for pre-pubescent girls that prevents female pubic hair from growing (later on). As there are some issues with pubic hair and cunnilingus, you could say that such articles actually have been published.

    Not that it’s okay for either gender!

    @John Dalton 112: I kind of agree. Stabbing a 46 year old red-haired journalist to death is wrong. It’s not wrong because stabbing journalists or red haired people or 46 year old people to death is wrong. It’s not even because using a knife to kill someone is wrong. It’s wrong because *killing* *people* is wrong. Everything else is just (aggravating) circumstance.

    Feminists get that FGM is wrong, not because it’s done at an age when the girls can remember the procedure, not because it’s done in unhygienic circumstances by people with little to none medical training, but because it is wrong to cut away stuff from girls’ genitalia (without their fully informed and free consent). (I hope this sentence doesn’t violate this blog’s First Directive ;) ) Why do many of them find it so hard to expand this insight into the fundamental wrongness of doing plastic surgery on unconsenting girls’ genitalia into a universal principle that also includes unconsenting infant boys?

  100. says

    Feminists get that FGM is wrong, …because it is wrong to cut away stuff from girls’ genitalia … Why do many of them find it so hard to expand this insight into the fundamental wrongness of doing plastic surgery on unconsenting girls’ genitalia into a universal principle that also includes unconsenting infant boys?

    Which feminists have failed to do as you demand? Certainly none of the ones I’ve talked to or whose op-eds I’ve read. You need to stop asking the same questions over and over and start listening to the answers.

    summerblues @122: Your question has already been answered in the article Ally cited. Short answer: the word “mutilation” has a rather specific meaning in the field of medicine, and growing numbers of practitioners in that field are recognizing that routine male circumcision is, in fact, well within their pre-existing definition of “mutilation.”

  101. Ally Fogg says

    summerblues (122)

    I appreciate that argument. I know that many anti-circ campaigners (including Brian Earp, quoted above) opt not to use “mutilation” for that very reason – it can alienate and / or disturb those affected.

    I’m a bit torn. I can sympathise with that, but I also believe it *is* mutilation, by any meaningful definition of the word, and I think there is also a need for people to understand that.

    So I kind of dodge the issue by occasionally using any and all terms – circumcision, MGM, cutting etc – and hope no one notices ;)

  102. concerned cynic says

    This comment thread has lost sight of the fact that Lynne Featherstone’s remarks were grossly misinformed about what happens to boys in many cultures, and plain wrong.

    Circumcision removes the most richly ennervated male bits. The consequences of child circumcision for adult sexual pleasure and function have yet to be studied. Women who’ve been intimate with both kinds of men have revealed in social media that they prefer the unaltered variety. When circumcision is performed under septic conditions, as a traditional rite of passage or as an Islamic requirement, grave medical consequences can result. But no Third World nation or international organisation has deplored, much less banned, septic circumcision. And the reason is obvious to me: to criticise or restrict male circumcision in any way would outrage Muslims and Jews.

    Unrelated point. A generation ago, about 90% of American baby boys emerged from the maternity ward with shorn penises. The rate is now 55%. This decline overstates the reality, because it does not reflect the rise in circumcisions performed on outpatients in doctor’s surgeries. This is how most RICs are done in Australia and Canada. We have no idea how many circumcisions are performed in USA paediatric surgeries.

    Americans are not obsessed with circumcision. They are obsessed with making sure that their sons have penises that are socially acceptable in the USA, despite the organ in question being the most private part of the human body. (Hard core porn could be defined as anything that reveals the penis.) They fear that a boy retaining the willy he was born with will be ridiculed in school and summer camp. Will be humiliated when he tries to date. Will be rejected as a marriage partner. Most damning of all, that no woman who is not a total slut will ever take his penis into her mouth. The taste, the taste….! And of course, the typical American has no experience of what the moving foreskin contributes to masturbation, foreplay and penetrative sex. Hence they have no idea that by cutting a son, they are reducing his lifetime sexual options.

  103. says

    An excellent article, to which we’ve just put a link on our blog. In our view neither FGM nor MGM can be condoned on ethical, cultural, religious, or any other grounds in modern-day Britain. That’s why our political party – uniquely, so far as I know – has a proposal to make MGM illegal (other than on very rare physical health grounds) in our public consultation document, and I expect it will be in our 2015 general election manifesto.

    Mike Buchanan

    JUSTICE FOR MEN & BOYS
    (and the women who love them)

    http://j4mb.org.uk

  104. carnation says

    @ Mike Buchanan

    I noted that your blog has articles about male victims of DV. Will you be campaigning about male victims of sexual abuse and rape?

  105. carnation says

    @ Mike Buchanan

    Thanks for your reply. There are a number of links on your blog, prominent amongst them, one to an article by John Hembling.

    This is what Hembling had to say about rape: “I don’t give a fuck about rape victims”. He acknowledged that he should care “on an intellectual level” but concluded, again, that he “didn’t give a fuck” about them.

    http://tinyurl.com/pn98b84. all on video on that link.

    He is open about these views and I support his right to voice those views.

    I’m just wondering if its suitable to operate a blog and a political party dedicated to, among th other things, male victims of rape, whilst simultaneously endorsing the views of a man who explicitly “doesn’t care” about these same victims?

  106. says

    Carnation, thank you. I honestly cannot recall seeing that video before, but I found it worth watching even with the feminist ‘add ons’. John Hembling is making the point that the decades-long feminist narrative of ‘all men are evil, all men are rapists’ and ‘all women are saints, all women are victims’ has numbed him to the problem. I don’t endorse the ‘don’t care’ stance, indeed I care very deeply about sexual assaults on both women and men, but maybe that’s because I’ve been an active men’s human rights advocate for only 3-4 years, while John has been one for much longer. And of course feminists have nothing to say about the widespread physical and sexual abuse of men (and boys) by women. But men (and boys) aren’t humans worthy of compassion to gender feminists – by definition, female supremacists driven by misandry – so that’s hardly surprising.

    AVfM have done plenty of pieces by both men and women to the feminists’ use of rape as a political weapon to shame and thereby silence men. I did a keyword search for ‘rape’ on http://j4mb.org.uk and came up with the following pieces from AVfM and elsewhere (not a full list):

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/09/06/honey-badger-radio-rape-as-political-currency/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/09/01/feminists-are-the-real-rape-apologists/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/08/30/justice-at-last-astria-berwick-a-woman-who-made-false-rape-claim-against-a-taxi-driver-named-shamed-and-jailed/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/08/25/18-year-old-woman-makes-a-false-rape-allegation-wastes-a-lot-of-police-time-and-her-punishment-is/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/heather-macdonald-the-campus-rape-myth/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/08/22/meg-lanker-simons-28-feminist-threatens-to-rape-herself/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/06/08/woman-makes-false-rape-allegations-against-two-men-she-never-met-is-sentenced-to-community-service/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/06/02/nick-ross-on-rape-domestic-violence-prostitution/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/05/06/sexual-abuse-rape-of-male-inmates-by-female-prison-staff/

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/05/01/teenager-falsely-accused-of-rape-beaten-to-death-by-gang/

    I don’t believe I have a link to the John Hembling video you cite. I probably wouldn’t have put one up because it was so easy to select one or a few lines and miss the many valid points he was making.

    Mike Buchanan

    http://j4mb.org.uk

  107. Ally Fogg says

    Mike Buchanan (133)

    And of course feminists have nothing to say about the widespread physical and sexual abuse of men (and boys) by women. But men (and boys) aren’t humans worthy of compassion to gender feminists – by definition, female supremacists driven by misandry – so that’s hardly surprising.

    Mike, I appreciate you’re not a regular commenter here, so I won’t moderate this comment, but can I please draw your attention to the HetPat First Directive in my commenting guidelines

    Thou shalt not generalise about gender activist movements or judge people’s arguments by their association.

    It is patently untrue that feminists have nothing to say about widespread physical and sexual abuse of men and boys by women, or indeed men. I could point you to countless links by self-identified feminists discussing the issue at length and in great detail.

    There are good arguments to be had about whether feminists pay enough attention to these issues, and good arguments as to what they say about these issues, and you’re welcome to discuss the specific ideas and arguments put forward by any particular feminists, just as carnation is welcome to discuss the specific ideas put forward by JohnTheOther, Paul Elam or whoever else. But I’d ask that we don’t get lost in sweeping generalisations, thanks.

  108. says

    Ally, thank you, and my apologies for the unintended transgression. Our concern is not with ‘feminists’ collectively, and indeed along with 99% of MHRAs I’d happily self-identify as an equity feminist (except it would cause confusion!). My objection is to gender feminists, for the simple reason that gender feminism is a female supremacy movement based upon, and riven by, misandry. Only the latter form has been of the slightest political or other import for the past 30+ years in the UK. I find very few people understand the distinction, including the vast majority of women who term themselves feminists.

    Thanks again for the article on MGM. We have a policy on the matter in our public consultation document (hopefully I’m not repeating myself).

    Must dash, about to be interviewed by the estimable Erin Pizzey for her AVfM radio show (4pm – 7pm). And it’s all kicking off in Toronto…

  109. Ally Fogg says

    And only slightly less off-topic, I’m not entirely sure that showing your extensive links to AVFM’s repulsive, ignorant and misogynistic brainfarts on the issue of rape do much to demonstrate that your proposed political party should be taken seriously by anyone with an ounce of human decency.

  110. carnation says

    Getting back on topic, I have been thinking a lot about male circumcision and, frankly, I’ve changed my views.

    I’m not usually given to supporting criminalising actions, but I believe that it’s a criminal action.

    Then I started thinking: is illegalisation the best way to phase out, or stop, male circumsicion?

    Female circumsicion is carried out far less often and is therefore, I would assume. Easier to police.

    Male circumsicion is, at the moment, widespread. To criminalise it would criminalise many tens of thousands of parents. I not saying it shouldn’t be done, I’m just wondering from a practical point of view what the best strategy would be to reduce the number of male circumsicion s being carried out in this country?

  111. says

    @carnation

    I’ve just looked at our exchanges of comments, and you stated early on:

    “There are a number of links on your blog, prominent amongst them, one to an article by John Hembling.”

    I cannot find the link, ‘prominent’ or otherwise, could you please direct me to the URL? Or alternatively admit you made a mistake? Thanks.

    Mike Buchanan

    http://j4mb.org.uk

  112. says

    @carnation

    Just looked at the comments again, and note that you didn’t say the article by John Hembling was where he said, ‘I don’t give a f*** about rape’. My mistake, for which I duly apologise. I have linked to many of his pieces and will continue to do so. That doesn’t mean I endorse 100% of what he has to say at all times, obviously.

    A recent one on media manipulation of a university sex-related story:

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/2013/09/12/denise-ryan-shame-on-you-renee-fillipone-shame-on-you/

  113. carnation says

    Hi Mike,

    Sloppy wording on my part, I noticed a Hembling article and it reminded me of the video. Thanks for the gracious reply.

  114. says

    Thanks Carnation. Your wording wasn’t in the least ‘sloppy’, with the benefit of hindsight I should have read your comment more carefully. A ‘senior moment’ there!

    Best wishes.

  115. carnation says

    @ Mike Buchanan

    You wrote “And it’s all kicking off in Toronto…”

    I’d be interested to hear your views on the event at Toronto, or anyone else’s opinions for that matter?

  116. carnation says

    @ Mike Buchanan

    I’ve watched on video already, and looked at a number of photos. It seems perhaps 25 or so people talked to each other, some using a PA system, then had a ludicrous argument with inane counter-protesters.

    For me, it confirmed what I long expected, that the MRM can rely on virtually no real life support, or even acknowledgement, and that when attempts are made to go public, they will fail spectacularly.

    I haven’t read an MRA analysis that deals critically with the event, specifically the derisory numbers in attendance, the lack of preparation in speakers and the complete absence of tangible, change focused activism discussed or promoted.

    Your thoughts?

  117. says

    @carnation

    I understand there were about 150 MHR supporters at the rally – I’ve been informed of this by MHRAs I trust – so I’m sure video footage will bear that out. The ‘inane counter-protesters’ weren’t feminists, I understand. I think even gender feminists have realised how much PR damage has been wrought by women such as ‘Big Red’. MHRAs are big fans of Big Red – we’d happily sponsor her to turn up to every MHR event.

    Feel free to believe the MHRM will ‘fail spectacularly’. All human rights movements take time to gain traction, and the MHRM is no different from any other. The number of men (and women) who believe succeed in its aims is growing by the day, across the world. I invite you to listen to any of the Honey Badger programmes on AVfM Radio. For those who may be unaware, ‘Honey Badgers’ are female anti-feminists – wonderful women such as Karen Straughan (GirlWritesWhat), Alison Tieman (Typhon Blue), Della Burton, Diana Davison, Janet Bloomfiield (JudgyBitch)… the list is growing by the month.

    Must dash, I have a newsletter to send to our donors. We’ve already got funding for the deposits and campaigns of four candidates at the 2015 general election, and donations are coming in nicely to fund the fifth.

    Have a good week.

    Mike Buchanan

    JUSTICE FOR MEN & BOYS
    (and the women who love them)

  118. carnation says

    Hello Mike,

    Having seen various videos from different angles, it’s inconceivable how the figure of 150 was reached, but let’s ignore that for now.

    You wrote that you’d sponsor the feminist protester “Big Red” to appear at MRA events and that she resulted in “PR damage” that benefited MRAs. Could you explain what benefit you believe her and her actions had for MRAs?

  119. says

    Hi Carnation. Have you not seen video footage of Big Red? There’s footage of her on AVfM and countless other MHR sites. A young women screeching about the patriarchy then telling men (the oppressing class? haha) to ‘shut the f*** up’ is beyond parody. Likewise screeching ‘cry me a river’, I believe when the issue of the high male suicide was raised.

    It’s even been suggested she’s an actress financed by the MHRAs but my understanding is she isn’t. Likewise a lot of PR damage wrought by protestors outside a Uni (Toronto?) before Miles Groth made a presentation there some time ago – 6 months maybe? Again, very well documented on AVfM and elsewhere. Why are these PR disasters? Because it presents gender feminists as they really are. Hate-driven fanatics who will stop at nothing to leverage state advantaging of women at the expense of men, regardless of the consequences to the vast majority of men, women and children.

    I’m genuinely curious – if you believe the MHRM will ‘fail spectacularly’, why are you bothering to engage in a dialogue with a MHRA? I can’t see how the two are consistent. Just ignore me and all other MHRAs. Or if you’d really like to engage, I invite you to provide feedback on our public consultation document (link below). Ignore the request for a fee. Thanks.

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/our-public-consultation-exercise-2/

  120. carnation says

    I am aware of Big Red. On this blog, I like to challenge MRAs (I use MRA rather than MHRA) by using their own theories to interpret events.

    You stated that “Big Red” was positive PR for MRAs. Were people were radicalised by her doxxing, do you think? What about those people who became aware of the incredible level abuse she received following it? Do you think there will be justifiable anger at her treatment? Will this transfer into positive PR for MRAs?

    Using the same measure, and given your endorsement of avfm, isn’t posting “satirical” blog articles about how rape victims enjoyed the experience a complete PR catastrophe?

    My thoughts are that MRAs and the lunatic fringe of radfems need each other to justify their beliefs and their existence. Thankfully, neither have any influence. It is a fairly safe bet that the radfems conference in London was far better attended than the Toronto event, but that’s fairly depressing news anyway.

  121. says

    Carnation, thank you. The big difference between MHRAs and radfems is that MHRAs deal with facts, while radfems deal with conspiracy theories, fantasies, lies, delusions and myths. The J4MB public consultation document I cited earlier has proposals in 20 areas in which British men (and boys) are assaulted by the actions (and inactions) of the state. I expect our 2015 election manifesto will have nearer to 25 areas. No feminist has ever been able to tell me of one area in which British women (and girls) are currently assaulted by the actions and inactions of the state, other than by misrepresenting inequalities of outcomes as reflecting inequalities of opportunities. Most of the inequalities of outcomes were explained by Dr Catherine Hakim’s Preference Theory (2000). For every four British men who are ‘work-centred’, only one British women is.

    Let’s compare the justified grievances of MHRAs with the nonsense spouted by radfems. We’ve issued public challenges to numerous radfems (and their collaborators) about demonstrably misleading statements they’ve made on TV, radio etc. They include Kat Banyard and Caroline Criado-Perez. Not one of these people has ever had the integrity to admit their statements were misleading. For radfems maintaining narratives, however demonstrably absurd, is more important than telling the truth. And that’s what seperates radfems from MHRAs. A link to a small selection of those public challenges:

    http://j4mb.wordpress.com/our-public-challenges-to-feminists/

    Carnation, our exchange has become very OT. Might I suggest if you want to continue an exchange, you email me directly at mike@j4mb.org.uk? Thank you.

  122. carnation says

    Mike,

    You didn’t answer my questions regarding PR.

    Your statements about delusions etc belonging to radfems and not MRAs are, to put it politely, very much open to challenge.

    I would like to exchange emails with you, but will decline. MRAs, like radfems, enthusiastically publish personal details online of those they consider “enemies”.

  123. says

    Carnation, thank you. Please let me know which ‘delusions’ I suffer from, if any, after reading my materials. Not one feminist has accused me of ever making a demonstrably misleading statement. If they did, and I HAD made such a statement, I should apologise and revoke it immediately. I believe the overwhelming majority of MHRAs would do likewise. It’s one of the reasons we’re making progress. People know the evidence bases support us, and not the radfems – every time.

    Your choice re emails but I don’t publish personal details of those I consider ‘enemies’ online, enthusiastically or otherwise. To be honest I consider the men who pander to feminist demands (Cameron, Cable, Sir Roger Carr, and so many others) far bigger enemies than I consider feminists. Feminists simply demand more and more special treatment, it’s mainly men in positions of power who hand power to them on a plate, regardless of the consequences to society in general, and men and boys in particular.

    I’ve enjoyed our exchange, but suggest we leave it here for now. Very pushed for time, only so many hours in the week.

    All the best.

  124. carnation says

    Mike,

    I’ll conclude with one observation. Modern feminism has virtually nothing to do with the myriad challenges faced by men today. To believe otherwise is to be delusional. Cameron cares for the (unspecified by you) special treatment demands of feminists about as much as Thatcher cared for Women’s Lib.

    MRAs have zero influence over all but a statistically insignificant number of people. Ditto for radfems. Feminist activists in years gone by changed laws and attitudes and mproved society in doing so, not least by reducing the demands on men to be “breadwinners”. It’s just a shame that some feminist don’t recognise their successes.

    I’ve enjoyed our exchange too, but frankly, if you keep seeing feminism (whatever that means to you) as the all powerful enemy, you will achieve nothing, I’m afraid.

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