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Oct 01 2013

“it is time for the genitals of all children to be protected from people with knives and strong religious or cultural beliefs”

Taslima has the news: experts in Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland are proposing a complete ban on circumcisions of all types. Unfortunately, it’s a little premature to say it will happen: what we have right now is a group of ombudsmen for children, paediatricians, and paediatric surgeons passing a resolution at a meeting. There is no law yet.

But it certainly makes sense. Hacking up babies’ crotches is perverse and bizarre and unnecessary.

86 comments

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  1. 1
    Matthew White

    That would surely cause a problem in the United States?

  2. 2
    sponor

    That would surely cause a problem in the United States?

    Er, what would not cause a problem in the United States today? Of all reasonable initiatives to improve humanity and increase the well-being of people, I mean…

  3. 3
    opposablethumbs

    Great news, and I hope it becomes law.

    It should be blindingly obvious that while everyone has the right to modify their own body if they so wish (and are not being bullied or otherwise coerced or pressured into doing it. If they are independently acting adults, ideally. Like sex) nobody has the right to take a knife or worse to somebody else’s without their consent.

    And just as children cannot meaningfully consent to having sex, so too they cannot meaningfully consent to having their bodies modified (or, to be more specific, their genitals mutilated). No amount of religious belief, no matter how sincerely held, gives anyone the right to cut, pierce, scarify, staple or mutilate someone else’s body.

  4. 4
    Tashiliciously Shriked

    There are times when cutting off the foreskin is required.
    These times are rare.
    Circumcision is not a preventative surgery. People who make the “cleanliness” claims can just teach their fucking kids how to wash their penises, it’s not fucking difficult. I understood when I was four.

  5. 5
    opposablethumbs

    … oh yeah: plz add “except in those very rare cases of genuine medical need” to my #3. ‘kyou. (And that does not include parents or doctors deciding “for” a newborn with atypical genitals that they need “corrective” surgery; the parents or doctor can’t know in advance what that child’s own decision might be with regard to sex or gender, and it’s just as likely they’ll get the decision wrong.)

  6. 6
    Deen

    @Matthew White in #1:

    That would surely cause a problem in the United States?

    Quite likely. In the Netherlands, it’s been the official position of the Royal Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) to be against circumcision for non-medical reasons for a few years now, and it’s been met with quite a bit of religious opposition. So far there hasn’t been much movement in politics either to adopt the recommendation and change the law, usually citing “religious freedom” considerations, and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. I doubt it will play out very different in Scandinavia, and probably considerably worse in the US.

  7. 7
    sponor

    I always find it astonishingly, and irritatingly, strange that people claim their own “religious freedom” when trying to alter other people’s body parts…

  8. 8
    ekwhite

    As someone who was circumcised as a child, I don’t feel that I was particularly harmed by the circumcision – I don’t even remember it. As a matter of fact, I didn’t even know I was circumcised until I went to gym class.

    But I agree that there is absolutely no need for circumcision, and it should be banned. This is doubly true for female circumcision.

  9. 9
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    while I feel this is the right decision, rightly or wrongly I can’t get excited about it until more takes place.

    This is a group of doctors that has, historically been the group that makes money off of chopping bits off of healthy babies – one of the first plastic surgeries. To say “we shouldn’t do this” is so morally minimal that I have no interest in giving them a cookie (or applause). Moreover, there isn’t a bill. Further still, it’s fucking ridiculous to think that these people still cling to the idea that the morality of chopping up intersex kids is different than the morality of chopping up male kids.

    I know that there are people who will be happy with this news. I’m glad you can be.

    I’m not.

  10. 10
    burgundy

    I was raised super-liberal Reform Jewish. In my early 20s, when I was both still invested in Judaism and pretty sure I’d have kids, I struggled with the idea of circumcision. I never thought about it growing up, but I’d met people who were passionately against it, so I was confronting the issue in a way I hadn’t before. I believed quite strongly that it was wrong to cut bits off a child that can’t consent, but I had a very visceral reaction to the idea of raising a Jewish boy who hadn’t been circumcised. And I didn’t believe that god would be mad at me, or that the child in question wouldn’t be really Jewish, or that there was an actual covenant that would magically not be fulfilled. It just didn’t compute in my head. I never could reconcile it; the best I could do was hope that I wouldn’t have sons.*

    Which just goes to show that even very liberal religions can fuck with people’s heads. Anytime you have a conflict between what you know to be right and what your religion compels you to do, you know that something is very, very wrong.

    *Of course what I was actually wishing for was that I wouldn’t give birth to a baby with a penis, which is not quite the same as wishing that I wouldn’t have sons, but that’s how I thought of it at the time.

  11. 11
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Crip Dyke @ 9 – Seconding everything you said. Until there’s some real move for change and a genuine internalization of the principle, it’s just more hot air.

    It’s actually funny (in a grim, depressing way) how often I’ve run into people who are opposed to circumcision/FGM and can effectively argue that the social pressures for conformity are no excuse for removing the need for consent…and yet believe the social pressures for conformity are a reasonable motivation for non-consensual surgery if the victim’s body deviates from what they find acceptable.

  12. 12
    Deen

    @burgundy in #10: would you say it might be possible that your unease came from having to break with tradition, or with part of your cultural heritage? I’m not Jewish, but I can imagine that even if the belief in a deity is gone, those things would remain and could still make one feel vaguely uneasy.

  13. 13
    burgundy

    @Deen – I’m sure that’s part of it. I still have a bit of a defensive reaction to the idea of making circumcision illegal, even though I think that without medical necessity it’s a terrible thing.

  14. 14
    burgundy

    And also, yes to Crip Dyke @9. These are just words, and not necessarily even influential words. It’s good to get people talking about it, but it doesn’t in itself change things. And any conversation about nonconsensual surgery that doesn’t address what’s done to intersex babies is woefully incomplete.

  15. 15
    Inaji

    What’s needed is a wide cultural change that doing such things to infants is acceptable. It’s not acceptable, and even if it is outlawed, right now, people would find a way to carry it out.

  16. 16
    SurlyJen

    Delurking for perspective:

    My husband was circ’d when he was 4 due to medical necessity. When our son was born, the husband pretty much strong-armed me into getting our son circ’d, even though I didn’t want to do it or think it was necessary. Before we had our second child, I decided that would NOT agree to a circ, under any circumstances, if the baby was a boy…we had a girl so that was no big deal in the end.

    What do you say to a husband who’s had a surgically medical circ and was hell-bent on circing his son, because he doesn’t want him to go through the pain and agony that he did when he was a child? He was very young, and still remembers the agony he endured pre-circ.

    I understand his motives, but I still don’t think he gets to make that decision. My question…am I responsible for “giving in” to his wishes and letting our son get circ’d, as in, do I deserve all the guilt I feel about it to this day? Perspective is gladly accepted.

  17. 17
    David Marjanović

    I always find it astonishingly, and irritatingly, strange that people claim their own “religious freedom” when trying to alter other people’s body parts…

    Well said.

    Germany, however, has already had the discussion. It concluded in the continued lack of a ban. A ban would come across as an attack on the Jewish religion, and Germany of all places doing that would not go over well. And that’s before we even get to the fact that Islam requires circumcision, too.

    What’s needed is a wide cultural change that doing such things to infants is acceptable.

    Exactly.

    these people still cling to the idea that the morality of chopping up intersex kids is different than the morality of chopping up male kids

    These same individual people? Are you sure?

  18. 18
    SurlyJen

    Note: Husband is a Yugoslav/Croatian native. His brothers are not circ’d. Religious motivation was not part of the equation, nor were cultural norms or pressures.

  19. 19
    David Marjanović

    My question…am I responsible for “giving in” to his wishes and letting our son get circ’d, as in, do I deserve all the guilt I feel about it to this day?

    …Are you sure that’s a good question? I mean, it can’t be undone. Suppose for the sake of the argument that I tell you “yup, you ought to have resisted most heroically” – would that help anyone?

    “The past is another country. They do things differently there.”

  20. 20
    David Marjanović

    …Or are you really asking to what degree your husband’s condition is heritable?

    (I have no idea, but perhaps someone else here does!)

  21. 21
    Seize

    This is great news. I hope these laws also protect intersex children against the type of on-the-fly gender assignment surgeries which still conducted in many areas, often without parental knowledge.

  22. 22
    Inaji

    Jen:

    Note: Husband is a Yugoslav/Croatian native. His brothers are not circ’d. Religious motivation was not part of the equation, nor were cultural norms or pressures.

    It seems your husband’s memories of pain and trauma are very strong, and those are much heavier motivators than religious feeling. I don’t think there’s much you could have done at the time, but it does highlight that having these exact kind of discussions long before any potential sprog is on the horizon is helpful and necessary. If that had been the case, you may have had time to really explore the issue with your husband, talk with doctors, a therapist, all that stuff. If you’re going to have more sprogs, I hope you do all that.

  23. 23
    Dutchgirl

    Caine at 22 wrote:

    it does highlight that having these exact kind of discussions long before any potential sprog is on the horizon is helpful and necessary.

    My husband and I talked this over a lot, before conceiving and before knowing the sex of the baby. But we couldn’t come to a clear decision. I am against circ for newborns, my husband is too, in priciple, but he was very concerned about locker room bullying. Not having a penis myself, or experienced high school boys locker rooms, I don’t know how valid his concerns are. We’re having a girl, so we’re off the hook. Anyone have imput on how much teasing there would be for a non-circumcised boy in American culture?

  24. 24
    David Marjanović

    Anyone have imput on how much teasing there would be for a non-circumcised boy in American culture?

    Look, haters gonna hate. If they want to bully him, they’ll find something to bully him for. I was bullied first for my hair color, then for being a nerd…

    Preemptive obedience to bullies isn’t a good idea.

  25. 25
    David Marjanović

    …Also, what’s up with this nudity in American locker rooms? Where I come from, we kept our underwear on for sports… sure they were showers, but they had, y’know, doors and stuff.

  26. 26
    Dutchgirl

    David, my HS required showers after PE. It was a communal shower, about 10 shower heads. No stalls, no doors. I hated it, but there wasn’t any teasing/bullying that I remember. (for me all of that came out on the field, where I was always picked last and with reluctance)

    As far as preemptive obedience to bullies, I think you nailed it with that one. Thank you.

  27. 27
    Inaji

    David:

    Preemptive obedience to bullies isn’t a good idea.

    This, all over the place, over and over and over. FFS, every stupid argument can be boiled down to this:

    “What happens when he sees daddy’s penis and it’s different?” Gee, explain it. It won’t kill ya.

    “What happens when/if other boys see it and make fun of him?” Gee, again, explain to your child. One day, you’re gonna have to talk with them about *sex*. So, good practice. Also, why presume there will be bullying? Why cave into potential bullying? This is just one of the reasons a cultural shift won’t happen, because people can keep coming up with excuses to take a scalpel to junior’s genitals.

  28. 28
    loopyj

    My favourite non-argument is that of wanting a little boy to ‘look like his father’. This willfully ignores the truth that a pre-pubescent penis looks nothing like an adult penis. And I sincerely doubt that circumcision advocates who use this argument would defend a parent’s choice to give their infant son a Prince Albert or apadravya piercing like the one daddy has so that he’ll ‘look like his father’.

  29. 29
    oswego

    People who campaign for genital autonomy, who’ve encountered so many of these comments and questions, can be found here:
    Intact America
    ARC (Attorneys for the Rights of the Child)
    DOC (Doctors Opposing Circumcision)
    Beyond the Bris
    Genital Autonomy
    NOCIRC
    NORM
    to name but a few in an old and expanding movement.

  30. 30
    Doug Hudson

    Personally, I think such a ban makes perfect sense–no unnecessary body modification without consent.

    The key difficulty in enforcing such a ban is, of course ,the issue of Judaism.

    Since Jewish law absolutely, unequivocally requires child circumcision, any ban on it naturally becomes an attack on Judaism, even if that is not the intention.

    In the United States, I’m not sure such a ban could pass constitutional muster, unless it included a religious exemption.

  31. 31
    David Marjanović

    “What happens when he sees daddy’s penis and it’s different?”

    For one thing, I didn’t expect mine to look like a grown man’s… and from comparison to my brother, I expected some individual variation, even though I’ve come to learn there’s much more than I used to imagine.

    One day, you’re gonna have to talk with them about *sex*.

    Only if the school and the peers and all other sources of information (library, innertubes…) all fail. :-)

    Jewish law absolutely, unequivocally requires child circumcision

    So does Islam.

  32. 32
    Inaji

    David @ 31, the last time we had a big thread on male circumcision, someone said they had their son circumcised because porn. Yep. It seems the majority of porn stars are cut, and well, he wouldn’t want junior feeling funny when he grew up and watched porn.

    The shit people come up with is unfuckingbelievable.

  33. 33
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Dutchgirl @ 23

    Anyone have imput on how much teasing there would be for a non-circumcised boy in American culture?

    Aside from the excellent points made here by others about bullies, I’ll point out that the demographics regarding circumcision are changing in the US. This is especially true in the western United States, where the circumcision percentage has dropped to only 24.6%. It’s uncommon in most of Latin America, and this is having an impact in areas with a lot of immigration and cultural influence. The overall incidence in the US is 54.5%, with it being more common among rural whites and less common in urban areas.

    PDF with more stats here.

  34. 34
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    DutchGirl #23

    Anyone have imput on how much teasing there would be for a non-circumcised boy in American culture?

    None that I ever experienced. (I got teased for all kinds of other things, but not that).
    Doug Hudson #30

    unless it included a religious exemption.

    Which would make the exercise rather pointless, really. As Caine notes, there needs to be a cultural shift as well, away from religious privilege among (many) other things.

  35. 35
    David Marjanović

    someone said they had their son circumcised because porn

    *epic facepalm*

  36. 36
    Dutchgirl

    Let’s hope the downward trend continues. However, in my state of Hawaii there is a long way to go: 93% in 1997 to 88% in 2005. It remains unclear why this is so, suggestions include high military presence and first generation immigrants desire for their sons to fit in. It’s still a routine procedure at most hospitals here.

  37. 37
    LykeX

    Since Jewish law absolutely, unequivocally requires child circumcision, any ban on it naturally becomes an attack on Judaism, even if that is not the intention.

    Quite frankly, tough shit. This is a point where attacks on Judaism are entirely warranted. We can’t have a standard that says that as long as something is “absolutely, unequivocally require[d]“, then people get to do it no matter how much harm it does to others.

    This isn’t right. It conflicts with basic rules for how we’re supposed to treat each other and I’m not willing for a second to give a religious exemption for that. Yes, it’ll be perceived as an attack on religion. Yes, Jews and Muslims both will be outrageously offended. No, I don’t give the tiniest little rat’s ass about it.

    I care more about the physical autonomy of children than the delusions of grown ups. If they have a problem with it, they can just not have children. If you decide to have children, you also accept the responsibility that follows and part of that is to act as a guardian for your child’s best interests; their interests, not yours. If you can’t do that, you shouldn’t be a parent.

    Being a parent is not an absolute right. You don’t get to treat your children however you want with no oversight. As a culture, we already accept the notion that sometimes we need to protect children against their own parents and this is one such case.

    I don’t think we’re doing anybody any favors by looking the other way. Religions have changed before. Let them change again.

  38. 38
    Eric

    My brother & I were born in the 70s and we’re both circumcised. We aren’t Jewish, but I think the prevailing medical wisdom at the time was it was necessary for health and hygiene reasons. I’m not sure my Mom had a choice, but I was an infant then and do not recall.

    In any case, in addition to cultural aspects, I think evolving medical advice plays a big role as well.

  39. 39
    Doug Hudson

    David Marjanović @ 31, I wasn’t sure about whether Islam required it, so I left it out. Thanks for the info!

    Dalillama, Schmott Guy @ 34, agreed.

    LykeX @ 37, agreed in principle, but in practice, weakening the First Amendment to ban circumcision would be like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The First Amendment is one of the few checks the US has on Christian dominionists, who would gladly kill gays and atheists.

    Now, if you want to persuade the Jews to voluntarily stop circumsizing babies–go for it. I don’t think you’ll have much success, because a) they’ve been doing it for thousands of years and b) they’ve been oppressed for thousands of years just for being Jewish, but hey, can’t hurt to try.

  40. 40
    Suido

    Cross post from Butterflies and Wheels:

    Absolutely agree, but concerned that circumcision will continue to be practiced without professional medical supervision.

    Education is key, and convincing people to abandon dangerous customs takes time. I’m happy that this is not yet legislation, as I think that the risk of botched backyard circumcisions is greater than the risk of allowing doctors to circumcise boys after explaining potential risks to the parents.

    I think legislation on this issue should wait until there is strong support from within the populations that practice it most, especially if they are minorities. Hence, it’s going to take time.

    I’d definitely advocate circumcision not being covered by public health insurance.

  41. 41
    Suido

    Caine #15

    What’s needed is a wide cultural change that doing such things to infants is acceptable. It’s not acceptable, and even if it is outlawed, right now, people would find a way to carry it out.

    QFT.

    Legislation is not the answer. YET.

  42. 42
    The Mellow Monkey: Non-Hypothetical

    Doug Hudson @ 39

    agreed in principle, but in practice, weakening the First Amendment to ban circumcision would be like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face. The First Amendment is one of the few checks the US has on Christian dominionists, who would gladly kill gays and atheists.

    A cultural change will be more effective for stopping such abuses of children, but how in the world does anyone have a First Amendment right over another person’s body? Denying life-saving medical care to a child because of your religious beliefs isn’t allowed in the US. Beating a child because of your religious beliefs isn’t allowed in the US. Forcing a child into a polygamous marriage because of your religious beliefs isn’t allowed in the US. Why, exactly, would this weaken the First Amendment when none of these other things have done so?

  43. 43
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    I am against circ for newborns, my husband is too, in priciple, but he was very concerned about locker room bullying. Not having a penis myself, or experienced high school boys locker rooms, I don’t know how valid his concerns are. We’re having a girl, so we’re off the hook. Anyone have imput on how much teasing there would be for a non-circumcised boy in American culture?

    …are there parts of America where boys still get naked in the locker rooms?

  44. 44
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Mellow Monkey, 42:

    One doesn’t have a first amendment right over another person’s body. One’s first amendment rights do, however, protect your right to own, use, and dispose of property when such actions constitute speech, assembly, publication, or religious expression.

    I’ll let you guess how that is relevant here…

  45. 45
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    Personally, I think such a ban makes perfect sense–no unnecessary body modification without consent.

    The key difficulty in enforcing such a ban is, of course ,the issue of Judaism.

    Since Jewish law absolutely, unequivocally requires child circumcision, any ban on it naturally becomes an attack on Judaism, even if that is not the intention.

    In the United States, I’m not sure such a ban could pass constitutional muster, unless it included a religious exemption.

    Suppose the Christian Kooks weren’t just making up the whole Ritual Satanic Abuse thing and there was actually a historical child-sacrificing satanic religious movement in the US. Would the law against murder need a religious exemption too?

  46. 46
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Azkyroth, 43:

    I assume. My old high school still stands, and it had communal showers unseparated by booths or wings or anything at all. While such mods could be made without visibly modifying the exterior of the building, I’d be surprised if many school districts in Oregon had the money to upgrade such facilities in the last 20-25 years. It would surprise me quite a lot if the majority of HS students in Oregon went to HSs that provided private showering facilities for the average student (though some may have showers modified for disability access that also provide privacy for those few students that use them).

  47. 47
    Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    @Azkyroth, 45:

    Suppose the Christian Kooks weren’t just making up the whole Ritual Satanic Abuse thing and there was actually a historical child-sacrificing satanic religious movement in the US. Would the law against murder need a religious exemption too?

    Only if those constituting the group of Christian Kooks found a piece of scripture saying that the Be-Greased One would return only after the Satanists returned to their historical child-sacrificing grounds. Then you might.

  48. 48
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    All I know is we didn’t in the 90s, that I saw. The sports teams might have been different.

  49. 49
    left0ver1under

    Claiming the mutilation of foreskins is “necessary” is like claiming the amputation of left hands is “necessary” to prevent lefthandedness. Amputating hands would be seen as an excessive and outrageous act, even in societies which try to “discourage” (read: beat kids for their) lefthandedness.

    And yet there are some who will attempt to rationalize male mutilation. If ekwhite (#8) had said similar things in threads about racism, rape or sexism (an “It doesn’t affect me” type of comment), people would have ripped him a new one. But nobody bats an eye on this subject.

  50. 50
    burgundy

    @left0ver1under – I’m not really sure where you’re coming from. This whole thread is basically unanimous in opposing male circumcision. As I read the comment, ekwhite was referring to his own personal experience, and then went on to agree that the procedure should be banned. Why should someone be ripped a new one over that? Are people required to claim a degree of harm that they don’t feel they’ve experienced? What’s wrong with saying “I don’t feel that I personally have been terribly hurt by this, but I think it’s a very bad thing”?

  51. 51
    JAL: Snark, Sarcasm & Bitterness

    left0ver1under #49 -

    And yet there are some who will attempt to rationalize male mutilation. If ekwhite (#8) had said similar things in threads about racism, rape or sexism (an “It doesn’t affect me” type of comment), people would have ripped him a new one. But nobody bats an eye on this subject.

    50
    burgundy

    What’s wrong with saying “I don’t feel that I personally have been terribly hurt by this, but I think it’s a very bad thing”?

    For several recent examples, see the previous rape threads about Dawkins remarks. There were several people who told their stories and said it doesn’t effect them at all or anymore. They weren’t “ripped a new one for that”. The response was “I’m sorry you went through that and I’m glad you’re doing okay”. As long as they didn’t push their experience onto others like Dawkins did, of course. It’s not a requirement to be traumatized by something bad that happened to you, it’s just the saying no one else is hurt by it and ignoring the problems regarding whatever bad thing that happened to you. (i.e. bodily autonomy issues.)

  52. 52
    LykeX

    @Doug Hudson #39

    agreed in principle, but in practice, weakening the First Amendment to ban circumcision would be like cutting off one’s nose to spite one’s face.

    I don’t think it would be a weakening of the first amendments, anymore than a ban on human sacrifice is. The first amendment doesn’t give unlimited freedom, nor should it. On the contrary, this kind of religious exemption could be used to argue that killing gays is a religious right. The very same book that says to circumcise your child also says that gays should be killed.

    Are we really prepared to accept the idea that person A’s religious beliefs trumps person B’s physical well-being? Because that’s what this is about. This isn’t a first amendment issue and we shouldn’t allow it to be framed as such.

    I think this is a perfect example of how religion gets treated with kid’s gloves, even when the issue is clear as day. If religion wasn’t involved, we wouldn’t waste a second before banning such an obviously outrageous practice.

    There are points to be made (as have been in this thread) about the practicality of legislating without cultural change, but I think a good discussion about such legislation might help the culture along.
    I think a lot of people who favor circumcision haven’t thought about it much. Every time I’ve seen a discussion on the matter, those defending circumcision have inevitably been making some astoundingly bad arguments. Pushing that debate might be a way to get people thinking and spread the revolutionary notion that parent’s rights aren’t the only thing that matters.

  53. 53
    Inaji

    left0ver1under:

    And yet there are some who will attempt to rationalize male mutilation. If ekwhite (#8) had said similar things in threads about racism, rape or sexism (an “It doesn’t affect me” type of comment), people would have ripped him a new one. But nobody bats an eye on this subject.

    ekwhite was not rationalizing male circumcision, merely relating that the experience was not traumatic personally. That observation has been made by many males in every thread we’ve had dealing with male circumcision at Pharyngula, both Sciborg and FTB. It’s not unexpected to hear personal viewpoints on the matter, and there’s nothing wrong with someone not being mentally or emotionally affected by it.

    Why exactly do you think ekwhite should be “ripped a new one”? For daring to express their own experience? There’s a little thing called context, and it matters quite a lot. In comment #8, ekwhite went on to express that they don’t approve of circumcision. Does that not matter? It’s not as though they said “oh, hey, I don’t remember being circumcised, hasn’t affected me negatively, so take scalpels to ‘em all!”

    Seems to me that perhaps you need to read more carefully, and if you have an objection to what someone wrote, deal with it yourself, via a well-considered and thought out reply, rather than expecting other people to “rip someone a new one.”

  54. 54
    killtacular

    So, why is there is this consensus against male circumcision, and in particular, support for outlawing it?

    The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits outweigh the risks. It decreases the (statistical) odds for some STDs and for penile cancer.

    The AAP also doesn’t recommend it, it either causes pain for the infant or requires anaesthetics, and there is always a risk the surgery could go wrong.

    So … seems like that should be a parent choice deal. Even if you shade on the “against” side, why should it be against the law? If I ever have a boy, my partner and I probably aren’t going to have him circumcised, but that isn’t a reason to make it illegal. Particularly when it does have real benefits.

  55. 55
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    killtacular

    AFAIK there are no statistically relevant health benefits which soap and water won’t address.

    As for parent choice: that’s just a polite way of saying might makes right.

    Even if you shade on the “against” side, why should it be against the law?

    Because mutilating other people’s bodies without their informed consent—which a minor, by definition, cannot give—is needlessly harmful and ignores their right to bodily autonomy.

  56. 56
    killtacular

    @Daz

    Does soap and water provide the anti-STD and penile cancer reductions? I honestly don’t know, I’m just going off, from what I can tell, is the best expert recommendations.

    As for parental choice/etc: I don’t think male circumcision is mutilation. Alterations to ones body do not equal mutilation. If I see a guy who is circumcised I don’t think they are mutilated.

    You are right, though, as people above thread have said, that this shouldn’t be done to people without their informed consent. EXCEPT. When it brings a health benefit and the person in question can’t consent (because, in this instance, they are too young). If there is a good case to be made that male circumcision decreases STD risk, then I don’t really see how this is different then, say, giving the HPV vaccine to 12 year olds (or whatever).

    Again, though: could be wrong about the science for the benefits. I just don’t think the facts are nearly well enough established to support making the procedure illegal.

  57. 57
    LykeX

    It decreases the (statistical) odds for some STDs…

    So does a condom. This might be an argument for certain limited areas where STDs are rampant and proper health care difficult to find. However, it’s distinctly inferior to simply improving the health care; for one, the very lack of proper health care increases the risk of complications.
    It’s quite clearly the inferior solution. If you’re relying on circumcision to prevent spread of STDs, I would contend that your biggest problem isn’t STDs at all.

    As for cancer, penile cancer is already extremely rare; in fact, it’s much less frequent than complications resulting from circumcision. According to wikipedia, penile cancer rates are at 1 in 100,000 per year, whereas complications from circumcision happens in 1% of cases. Even if limited to “significant, acute complications”, we’re still talking 1 in 500.
    In other words, even if we assume an average lifespan of 100 years, significant complications from circumcision would still be twice as likely as getting penile cancer.

    Then there’s that pesky little notion about bodily autonomy. The benefits of circumcision are suspect, at best, but the harm is obvious. Very little is gained by infant circumcision (e.g. the bit about STDs doesn’t apply here), but the violation of their right to make the decision for themselves is clear.

    Children aren’t property. They have as much right as you or me to make their own decisions and we should only try to make those decisions for them when it absolutely can’t wait. If possible, wait until they’re old enough to make up their own minds. In this case, it very much is possible.

    And let’s be honest, nobody is doing it for the benefit. They’re doing it for cultural reasons and pretending otherwise is just bullshit. It’s a blatant attempt at rationalizing a cultural practice that people don’t want to give up, even though it clearly should have been abandoned at about the same time as blood letting and reading portents in chicken guts.

    It’s the 21st century. Let’s act like it.

  58. 58
    LykeX

    Alterations to ones body do not equal mutilation.

    But non-consensual, medically unnecessary alterations to ones body do equal mutilation. What the hell else would you call it?

    Again, though: could be wrong about the science for the benefits. I just don’t think the facts are nearly well enough established to support making the procedure illegal.

    If the facts aren’t in, then surely we should err on the side of not chopping off bits of people’s genitals. It would seem to me that we need good reasons to defend such a practice, not to ban it. Banning circumcision is the default position, or it would be if we were rational about it.

  59. 59
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    killtacular

    According to The Fount Of All Knowledge™ rates vary wildly, geographically speaking:

    The annual incidence is approximately 1 in 100,000 men in the United States,[1] 1 in 250,000 in Australia,[2] and 0.82 per 100,000 in Denmark.[3] In the United Kingdom, fewer than 500 men are diagnosed with penile cancer every year.[4] In some South American countries, Africa, and Asia, this cancer type constitutes up to 10%. Cervical cancer also occurs more frequently in these geographic areas

    It’s worth noting that the it’s much more usual for men to have been circumcised in the USA than, for instance, my own country, the UK, yet rates of penile cancer in the US are higher than in the UK.

    That 1/100,000 is interesting though, because according to this study, the incidence of appendicitis is something around 140 per 100,000.

    I’ll let you ponder that.

  60. 60
    oursally

    A friend of mine converted to Judaism (out of love, to be able to marry his girlfriend). He got the chop at 25 years old, and if this seems to be good enough for the rabbis and their god, why should it be different for babies?

  61. 61
    Jadehawk

    The American Academy of Pediatrics says the benefits outweigh the risks. It decreases the (statistical) odds for some STDs and for penile cancer.

    how likely are newborns to get either of these things?
    Yeah, didn’t think so.
    You want to chose to protect yourself from these illnesses by chopping off your own foreskin, go ahead. Don’t chop other people’s foreskins off without their consent.

    So … seems like that should be a parent choice deal.

    NO. It should be the choice of the person with the penis. Because that’s what bodily autonomy means: not having other people mess around with your body without express consent.

    Alterations to ones body do not equal mutilation.

    medically necessary alterations aren’t mutilations; self-inflicted or consensual alterations are generally not mutilation; unnecessary alterations without consent cannot be reasonably excluded from that definition just because it’s so common an alteration that you have become subject to the “mere exposure effect” in regard to it.

    EXCEPT. When it brings a health benefit and the person in question can’t consent (because, in this instance, they are too young).

    This is pure nonsense. Circumcisions can be performed on consenting adults just fine, there’s no need to do it to newborns.

    If there is a good case to be made that male circumcision decreases STD risk, then I don’t really see how this is different then, say, giving the HPV vaccine to 12 year olds (or whatever).

    1)12-year-olds have a much higher ability to consent than a newborn.
    2)A vaccine is a much smaller alteration than circumcision.
    3)There reason for giving the vaccine as early as possible is that exposure to HPV weakens its effectiveness; no such problem exists with circumcision; it’s just as effective when done on adults.

  62. 62
    Jadehawk

    I just don’t think the facts are nearly well enough established to support making the procedure illegal.

    you’re confused. No one is trying to make the procedure illegal; the cultural practice of doing it to newborns is what’s under discussion. No one is saying adults can’t chose circumcision for themselves, and no one is saying that circumcision for relief of already existing medical problems should be banned.

  63. 63
    Doug Hudson

    To clarify my remarks on the First Amendment, my experience is that a majority of Americans REALLY don’t like anyone telling them what they can do to/with their children. And they would disagree, fiercely, that children have equal rights to adults.

    One day one of my co-workers made the innocuous comment that she thought spanking was wrong. The way other people responded was genuinely surprising–they were infuriated and offended. Not only was it their right to spank their children, but spanking and corporal punishment were good for the children.

    Courts in the U.S. give tremendous leeway to parents in how they treat their children, especially when it comes to religious belief. Anything short of death is generally overlooked, and even then, it can be hard to get a conviction–consider the uproar over the parents who allowed their child to die because they preferred prayer to actual medical care.

    So, while this should not be a First Amendment issue (the child’s right to self-determination should over-rule the parents’ right to practice religion), the reality is, this very much is a First Amendment issue.

    Until we can persuade Americans that children should have equal rights, this is not an issue that can legislated against.

    Which brings us back to the problem of persuading Jews to give up a tradition that literally defines their people and which they have maintained in the face of thousands of years of persecution. Good luck with that.

  64. 64
    killtacular

    @LykeX:

    It’s quite clearly the inferior solution. If you’re relying on circumcision to prevent spread of STDs, I would contend that your biggest problem isn’t STDs at all.

    Sure. If anyone was suggesting that, I’d be right behind you. You know what else is great at preventing, for instance, HPV? The HPV vaccine. But you don’t need that if you use a condom. So no reason for that vaccine.

    See how that line of reasoning is bad? The fact that A prevents B better than C prevents B isn’t a reason to ban C.

    The reason you provide to ban C is that it violates bodily autonomy without consent. But that isn’t nearly good enough. We violate the bodily autonomy of infants and young children all the time in order to obtain good health outcomes for them, for very good reasons. You have to convincingly argue that there are not good health outcomes for circumcision for that line to work, and you haven’t. I disagree that the default rational position is banning the procedure.

    @Daz

    I agree, penile cancer is quite rare. Not sure what you point is other than that.

    @Jadehawk

    So, suppose we develop a vaccine for various STDs, and it can be added to the normal course of shots given to young children. Would you oppose giving that shot, because it is unlikely that the newborn would get that STD? Of course not.

    Anyways, again, we violate the bodily consent of young children all the time in the name of their own health and public health. And that is a good thing! The idea that “bodily integrity” of an infant automatically trumps their health, and the health of others, is bullshit.

    unnecessary alterations without consent cannot be reasonably excluded from that definition just because it’s so common an alteration

    Agree. The question is whether the procedure has actual medical benefits or not. The balance of the evidence says it does, but not enough to be blanket recommended. However, that it is more than good enough to say it shouldn’t be banned.

    For your three reasons against the comparison to the HPV vaccine

    1) So? Does anyone think the argument turns on whether 12 year olds can consent to the vaccine? What if it were available for much younger children?
    2) Ummm, I guess? Who cares?
    3) Is also irrelevant. Even if this was not true, it would still be a good idea to give the vaccine at a young age.

    Finally, you say no one is talking about making it illegal. This is flatly false. The issue in the OP is about a ban, and numerous commenters here have talked about making it illegal, as have a lot of organizations in the US elsewhere. So … wrong.

  65. 65
    Jadehawk

    To clarify my remarks on the First Amendment, my experience is that a majority of Americans REALLY don’t like anyone telling them what they can do to/with their children.

    the first part of that sentence makes sense in relation to the second part of that sentence if you don’t think children are people.

  66. 66
    Jadehawk

    The idea that “bodily integrity” of an infant automatically trumps their health, and the health of others, is bullshit.

    I would have a much easier time taking you seriously if you didn’t misrepresent my comments like this.

  67. 67
    Jadehawk

    The question is whether the procedure has actual medical benefits or not.

    incorrect. the question is whether the procedure has medical benefits that necessitate being administered before consent can be given.

  68. 68
    Jadehawk

    Finally, you say no one is talking about making it illegal. This is flatly false. The issue in the OP is about a ban, and numerous commenters here have talked about making it illegal, as have a lot of organizations in the US elsewhere. So … wrong.

    in other words, you can’t read for shit.

  69. 69
    Daz: Experiencing A Slight Gravitas Shortfall

    killtacular

    I agree, penile cancer is quite rare. Not sure what you point is other than that.

    If the incidence of penile cancer is considerably lower in a country with low incidence of circumcision than in a country with high incidence of circumcision, then that would suggest to me that any cancer-beneficent outcomes of circumcision are statistically negligible.

    My point re appendicitis is that appendectomies are a good example of the safe removal of a body part, which leads to little or no harm. Given that incidence of appendicitis is much higher than that of penile cancer, why are we not seeing young children routinely given appendectomies “just in case”? And would you defend a law making appendectomies of healthy children legal, on that basis?

  70. 70
    rorschach

    You know what else is great at preventing, for instance, HPV? The HPV vaccine. But you don’t need that if you use a condom.

    Unless you use a condom or membrane for oral sex on your male or female partner, that statement is incorrect and makes you look a little clueless.

  71. 71
    Doug Hudson

    Daz@69, good point. We don’t remove automatically remove tonsils either.

    The “health benefits” argument is bullshit. This is an irreversible surgical procedure we’re talking about here–in order for it to be even remotely ethical to perform it without consent, it would need to be either a) necessary to save the patient’s life or b) be a situation where the patient is unlikely to be able to give consent.

    With regard to circumcision, a is obviously not true, and b would come up so rarely as to be irrelevant.

  72. 72
    John Horstman

    @Jadehawk #65: Sadly, so few people actually DO think infants and juveniles are people. Ironically, there’s heavy overlap with the group screaming about ‘fetal personhood’ overriding a woman’s right to self-determination. A (proto-)human is a person until it is born, then ceases to be one until it’s an adolescent if it is both biologically male and socially masculine. Everyone else isn’t a person, at least not as much of one as a male man.

  73. 73
    burgundy

    The World Health Organization recommends male circumcision for HIV prevention in very specific circumstances which are not applicable in the US or Europe, and even then they specifically refer to voluntary male circumcision.

  74. 74
    John Horstman

    @Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) #43: I graduated HS in 2004, and we had communal showers. While there was plenty of body insecurity, there wasn’t really much teasing/bullying. None of the teasing/bullying had anything to do with circumcision or even penis size. Fatness is the only aspect of body-shaming I witnessed. There WAS teasing/bullying that was unrelated to bodies that went on in the locker rooms.

  75. 75
    Esteleth, [an error occurred while processing this directive]

    The primary reason we don’t routinely give everyone appendectomies and tonsillectomies is that (lo and behold) the appendix and the tonsils serve important functions. Yes, they can go bad, or some situation can manifest that makes the removal the optimum choice. But minus those situations, it is generally better to have your appendix and your tonsils.

    The same is true for the foreskin – it actually does serve a purpose. It is not a vestigial flap of skin.

  76. 76
    John Horstman

    Oh, I should probably add: yay for any suggestion that the modifications of the bodies of people who cannot consent (for any reason other than *immediate* medical necessity) should be banned. For context, I object to the fact that I was circumcised as an infant, not only on ethical grounds (though this would be enough) but also on functional grounds.

  77. 77
    David Marjanović

    My brother & I were born in the 70s and we’re both circumcised. We aren’t Jewish, but I think the prevailing medical wisdom at the time was it was necessary for health and hygiene reasons.

    Nope. It was the prevailing “medical” wisdom in the US of A. Over here, only Jews and Muslims are circumcised, and to the best of my knowledge nobody has ever lobbied for that to change.

    Circumcision for preemptive “medical” “reasons” is an American thing. It briefly spread to Canada, but has mostly stopped there…

    It decreases the (statistical) odds for some STDs and for penile cancer.

    Uh, sure. The less penis there is, the less penile cancer can develop. What else would you like to amputate for that reason?

    Full disclosure: I still have my appendix. I even still have my tonsils – even though the doctors offered to amputate the tonsils “just in case” when I was having surgery in that general area anyway (for a middle-ear infection). I was 8, and haven’t regretted that decision.

    As for cancer, penile cancer is already extremely rare; in fact, it’s much less frequent than complications resulting from circumcision. According to wikipedia, penile cancer rates are at 1 in 100,000 per year, whereas complications from circumcision happens in 1% of cases. Even if limited to “significant, acute complications”, we’re still talking 1 in 500.

    I was about to ask why I’ve never even heard of penile cancer outside of circumcision discussions!

    In some South American countries, Africa, and Asia, this cancer type constitutes up to 10%. Cervical cancer also occurs more frequently in these geographic areas

    Sounds like the HPV vaccine may actually be a good thing.

    Just saying.

    So, suppose we develop a vaccine for various STDs, and it can be added to the normal course of shots given to young children. Would you oppose giving that shot, because it is unlikely that the newborn would get that STD? Of course not.

    Oh, that depends on whether the vaccine would cause any permanent damage.

    Come on. Please.

  78. 78
    David Marjanović

    But minus those situations, it is generally better to have your appendix and your tonsils.

    As far as the appendix is concerned, it seems to be a reservoir for gut bacteria so they can repopulate you after you’ve had ravaging diarrhea – hardly a concern in the First World.

    Even so, cutting a healthy appendix out would be unnecessary surgery and therefore shouldn’t be done.

  79. 79
    LykeX

    @Doug Hudson #63
    Fair point. There would certainly be a large amount of pushback and I get the reasons why legislating at this point may be impractical or even impossible until the culture has changed.

    I don’t think it really is a first amendment issue, but I agree that the other side would probably see it like that. That would be part of what needs to change. I grant, it’s not something we’re going to get done in an afternoon.

    @killtacular #64

    You know what else is great at preventing, for instance, HPV? The HPV vaccine. But you don’t need that if you use a condom. So no reason for that vaccine.
    See how that line of reasoning is bad? The fact that A prevents B better than C prevents B isn’t a reason to ban C.

    Except that the HPV vaccine is both largely harmless as well as much more effective than circumcision. If we’re going to look at this as a medical intervention, then the fact that there are better methods is a reason to ban it. Medical ethics would demand it.

    It should only be used when it’s the best method for resolving the problem. In 99% of cases, it isn’t. It’s method that results in permanent alterations to the body for the sake of dubious health benefits that could easily and cheaply be effected without those alterations.

    You have to convincingly argue that there are not good health outcomes for circumcision for that line to work…

    No, you have to argue that there are good health outcomes for circumcision. The burden of proof is on the person who wants to violate someone’s autonomy.

    I disagree that the default rational position is banning the procedure.

    You’re going to have to explain why, because it seems quite obvious to me that respecting autonomy should be the default. I honestly don’t see how you could possibly take any other position.

    We can justify performing medical procedures on children too young to consent only if we act as guardians for their best interests and do not overstep the bounds of that role; i.e. we do things that are strictly required, which have demonstrable benefit, and which cannot be delayed until the child is old enough to make the decision for themselves.

    Barring serious and rather rare medical conditions, circumcision can definitely be delayed. As mentioned, the STD angle is obviously not relevant for children. Even delaying until age 12 would give the child some ability to make up their own mind and so should be preferred.

    Finally, you say no one is talking about making it illegal. This is flatly false. The issue in the OP is about a ban, and numerous commenters here have talked about making it illegal, as have a lot of organizations in the US elsewhere. So … wrong.

    When talking about “banning” circumcision, we’re talking about not using it on children too young to consent, without a specific medical issue, such as phimosis. We’re talking about banning the clearly cultural use of circumcision as a standard practice.

    If your premise for this discussion is that we think it should never, ever, under any circumstances, be performed, you’re out of the loop. Obviously, there are individual cases where this is the treatment. That fact does not justify wide-spread circumcision of infants.

  80. 80
    Doug Hudson

    LykeX@79, indeed. To clarify, I don’t think it SHOULD be a 1st Amendment issue, but I’m pretty sure that is the argument that ban opponents would make, and I’m pretty sure they would win, certainly under the Roberts court.

    Curiously enough, I see significant overlap in the arguments used by those who favor child circumcision and those who are anti-abortion (because both groups oppose bodily autonomy) and/or misogynists (because both groups oppose consent). I wonder what the demographic overlap between the groups would look like.

  81. 81
    killtacular

    @Daz69.

    That is a good point. My impression is that appendectomies carry much greater risks than circumcision. Is that wrong? If not, I probably would have to be in favor of not banning them for young people, which does give me pause. Thanks.

    @Rorshach70

    Well, it was supposed to be something of a reductio. But yes, to be clear, unprotected oral sex carries STD risks as well (and not just for HPV, obviously).

    @Doug Hudson 71

    Of course not. Vaccines are often not necessary to save a life in your sense. Still obviously worth doing.

    @LykeX 79

    No, you have to argue that there are good health outcomes for circumcision. The burden of proof is on the person who wants to violate someone’s autonomy.

    I guess I disagree. When you are talking about banning a procedure, then the burden is on someone who wants to ban the procedure. If the question was whether to make the procedure mandatory, then sure, then the burden would be on me. But supporting that would be insane.

    Barring serious and rather rare medical conditions, circumcision can definitely be delayed. As mentioned, the STD angle is obviously not relevant for children. Even delaying until age 12 would give the child some ability to make up their own mind and so should be preferred.

    Fair enough. Actually, this seems obviously preferable to performing the procedure on infants, as you say.

  82. 82
    LykeX

    When you are talking about banning a procedure, then the burden is on someone who wants to ban the procedure.

    I’m finding it very difficult to not just write you off as a complete lunatic. That sounds so far off-base to me, I don’t even know what to say.

    When you’re making medical decision on behalf of someone else, obviously you should have positive evidence that the procedure you want is actually effective, safe and the best choice under the circumstances.

    Let’s suppose that you were in a coma and I was responsible for making medical decision for you. What if I said that I thought that the best way to treat a coma is the amputation of all limbs? Since there are no studies that I’m aware of that proves that this treatment is ineffective, apparently you would think that it’s perfectly fine? After all, the burden of proof is one those who want to prevent the treatment, right?

    You wouldn’t want the doctors to stop me? You’d think it was a terrible overreach for the doctors to refuse the method on grounds that the side-effects were unnecessarily great? When you woke up, missing all four limbs, you’d have no complaint at all?

    Are you fucking kidding me?

  83. 83
    killtacular

    Well no. But if the expert consensus said that the benefits outweighed the risks, albeit the procedure wasn’t positively recommended, then sure, I think that should be allowed. You don’t?

  84. 84
    killtacular

    Err, I should add that is just for a general hypothetical. Not for limb amputations. That, indeed, would be insane.

  85. 85
    LykeX

    But if the expert consensus said that the benefits outweighed the risks…

    But it doesn’t, not really. As we’ve already discussed, the stated medical reasons for circumcision are complete hogwash. They’re blatant rationalizations for a clearly unnecessary procedure, done primarily for cultural reasons.
    “Trust, but verify.” When I try to verify, I find that the evidence doesn’t support the claims made. As such, I become extremely suspicious of this supposed “expert consensus”. I suspect that this is more a matter of doctors allowing subjective biases to corrupt their professionalism.

    If this was a newly proposed medical procedure, nobody would waste any time discussing this. It would be obvious that it was idiotic and every doctor in the world would refuse to perform it. It causes permanent alterations to people unable to consent for no clear benefit. Any minor benefits can be obtained by less invasive methods and nothing is lost by postponing the procedure until the person is old enough to consent. There’s simply no rational, medical reasons for general circumcision of infants.

    It’s all well and good to say “if the benefits outweighed the risks” but they clearly don’t. As we’ve also already covered, in those rare cases where this actually is the proper medical procedure, nobody is trying to ban it. Indeed, in those cases where the benefits actually do outweigh the risks, circumcision is completely uncontroversial.

    I can’t help but seeing this whole discussion of medical benefits as a red herring. Pretending that this is about a medical procedure is simply dishonest. As a medical procedure, circumcision is fine, but must be backed by good evidence supporting efficacy and minimal harm.
    Is this really a medical procedure? If it is, then it should be judged by that standard and by that standard, it’s clearly unnecessarily invasive for very little actual benefit.

    And I have to go back and repeat this again: Bodily autonomy! Children aren’t property and parental rights are not absolute. If you personally prefer a less effective, more invasive procedure, fine; go ahead. However, you don’t get to make that choice for someone else, not even your child.

    When making medical decisions on another’s behalf, the burden of proof is on you to demonstrate that the procedure is necessary, beneficial, causes the least possible harm and side-effects, and can’t be postponed until the person can make the choice for themselves.

    I consider that axiomatic. If you don’t, then we’re not going to see eye to eye on this.

  86. 86
    LykeX

    To add to that point, I think this is really the central question:

    I’m sure you could come to the conclusion that the procedure has more benefit than harm if you leave out the fact that it’s a violation of the autonomy of the child. If you ignore that bit, then I’m not surprised that the equation comes out in favor.

    It’s a bit like saying that theft is perfectly moral, as long as you ignore the loss of the victim. Leaving that part out means you’re avoiding the whole point of why it’s a problem.

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