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Apr 11 2014

Should you circumcise your child?

Probably not. But the New York Times reports:

A review of studies has found that the health benefits of infant male circumcision vastly outweigh the risks involved in the procedure.

Actually, it doesn’t. Not at all. The paper is all about the frequency of circumcision in the US; this is the only real data in the paper, and notice that a good chunk of it is speculation.

Prevalence of adult circumcision in the United States during the past 6 decades (1948-2010). The solid line represents documented prevalence among adults; dashed line, [Morris's] predictions.

Prevalence of adult circumcision in the United States during the past 6 decades (1948-2010). The solid line represents documented prevalence among adults; dashed line, [Morris's] predictions.

It does toss in a table purporting to show the tremendous risks of not circumcising baby boys, but this is not new — these are the same sloppy data that the author has been peddling for over a decade. With some trepidation, I give you a sample from his 2007 paper: don’t trust these numbers!

circrisks

The author is Brian Morris, better known as the Man Who Hates Foreskins. He’s a real crusader, who touts foreskin removal as just as important as vaccination — that leaving it intact imperils the child to a 1 in 3 chance of a serious condition requiring medical attention. You might immediately question how he arrives at this conclusion — by multiplying a series of dubious assertions together — and the likelihood of it being true, given that circumcision is a culturally variable practice, and that countries where it’s rare (for instance, in Scandinavia, where the frequency of circumcisions is around 2%) don’t typically have emergency rooms crowded with young boys whose penises are in painful, infected, states, raddled with disease.

I suppose it could be because glorious Scandinavian penises are perfect and universally wholesome — that’s what I’ve been told, anyway — but that would be baseless speculation and unwarranted extrapolation of anecdotes into unsupportable evidence, of the sort that Brian Morris does.

Take that first condition, the likelihood of urinary tract infections. That’s taken from a sample of 36 children, half of whom had an unknown circumcision status, and the difference was not found to be statistically significant. Yet here he just presents it as established fact, that uncircumcised children have a ten-fold greater rate of urinary tract infections.

Or look at his claim of much greater rates of HIV infection. There actually is some interesting mechanistic reasoning behind that: the foreskin represents an enlarged area of delicate membrane which could be an avenue of entry for some viruses. But the real test would be an epidemiological study: there are lots of circumcised men around, and lots of uncircumcised men, when we look at the rates of infection, is there a significant difference? It hasn’t been done very often, but when it is, the hypothesis often fails to be supported. Here’s one example of a scientist who thought heightened sensitivity to STIs was a reasonable hypothesis (his “hunch”), but found it didn’t pan out at all when examined.

Armed with this hunch, rather than set up a website I chose to do some research. Australia is a good place to do such research because there is a roughly even population split for the intervention (circumcision) and in most cases it is not a maker of ethnicity, wealth, education or religion. Unexpectedly, our research findings were uniformly negative. Circumcision did not protect against STDs in our clinic population, though we did not look at HIV because it is rare in heterosexual men in Sydney.

Then there are some of Morris’s very peculiar ideas. This is the abstract from a paper advocating more circumcision; note that one of his arguments is basically that women find uncircumcised penises ugly. As usual, no evidence for that is presented.

Circumcision of males represents a surgical “vaccine” against a wide variety of infections, adverse medical conditions and potentially fatal diseases over their lifetime, and also protects their sexual partners. In experienced hands, this common, inexpensive procedure is very safe, can be pain-free and can be performed at any age. The benefits vastly outweigh risks. The enormous public health benefits include protection from urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted HIV, HPV, syphilis and chancroid, penile and prostate cancer, phimosis, thrush, and inflammatory dermatoses. In women circumcision of the male partner provides substantial protection from cervical cancer and chlamydia. Circumcision has socio-sexual benefits and reduces sexual problems with age. It has no adverse effect on penile sensitivity, function, or sensation during sexual arousal. Most women prefer the circumcised penis for appearance, hygiene and sex. Given the convincing epidemiological evidence and biological support, routine circumcision should be highly recommended by all health professionals.

I suspect that women’s preferences are going to be shaped by culture, by familiarity, rather than some objective hideousness of the foreskin, and what the heck is appearance doing in a paper that is supposed to be summarizing medical evidence, anyway?

It’s also an argument that can cut both ways. When presented with evidence that one phenomenon, dyspareunia (painful intercourse) was found to be more common in partners of circumcised men than uncircumcised men, Morris waved it away by arguing that women in countries with lower rates of circumcision might be disturbed by the sight of a cut penis.

Morris et al. should be commended for their creative attempt to dismiss the higher prevalence of frequent dyspareunia in women with circumcised (12%) than uncircumcised (4%) spouses (ORs between 4.17 and 9.00). They suggest that Danish women with circumcised spouses may be so psychologically troubled by the shape of their spouse’s penis that it might result in painful intercourse. A more plausible explanation would be that reduced penile sensitivity may raise the need among some circumcised men for more vigorous and, to some women, painful stimulation during intercourse in their pursuit of orgasm.

But then, that’s Brian Morris all over the place. He actively tries to suppress work that doesn’t support his conclusions, he inflates any evidence that suggests circumcision might have a few benefits (there are some!), and dismisses any evidence to the contrary…or worse, twists it around to claim it supports the opposite of the author’s interpretations. All this in defiance of worldwide statements from pediatric organizations that say the evidence for health benefits from circumcision are weak, and that routine circumcision is not recommended.

One other weird thing: why are circumcision advocates so obsessed with this procedure? It’s certainly not that the benefits are as solidly established as they are for vaccination; reading the literature, the most striking observation is the murkiness and insignificance of the evidence. If you’ve got lots of studies, and they vary up and down in their conclusions, and are constantly skirting the margins of likelihood, what’s the best explanation: that there is a strong effect that can only be detected by true believers, or that we’re dealing with no effect at all and people are cherry-picking peaks and troughs from statistical noise? I lean towards the latter. The former is also the excuse used by psychics, UFOlogists, and Bigfoot hunters.

It also doesn’t help that Morris has been affiliated with the Gilgal Society a pro-circumcision organization that also published a book of ‘erotic’ circumcision stories.

Yes, you read that right. Circumcision child porn. Short excerpt below, in rot13.

Ur unq abg ernpurq choregl ohg fbba jbhyq: n srj unvef jrer fgnegvat gb tebj ng gur onfr bs uvf cravf. Arvy jnf gura nfxrq gb yvr ba gur pbhpu sbe gur cravf gb or cubgbtencurq. …gur qbpgbe grfgrq gur svg bs gjb fvmrf bs Tbzpb Pynzc oryy. Qhevat guvf cebprqher Arvy rerpgrq, ohg jnf abg rzoneenffrq ol vg naq znqr ab nggrzcg gb uvqr vg.
Znex pnzr va arkg naq ntnva qebccrq uvf gebhfref ernqvyl. Ur unq ernpurq choregl naq jnf dhvgr jryy qrirybcrq. … Vgf yvxr na ryrcunagf gehax jnf gur qbpgbef pbzzrag, gb juvpu Znex urnegvyl nterrq. … Cubgbtencuf bs uvf cravf jrer gnxra…
Ur unq ernyvfrq nsgre frk rqhpngvba yrffbaf ng fpubby gung ur unq n ceboyrz.
…gur oblf jrer tvira cyragl bs jvar gb erynk gurz. …gur qvfphffvba jnf nobhg gur frk yvirf bs gur oblf naq gurve fpubby sevraqf. Gur qbpgbe nfxrq ubj bsgra gur oblf jnaxrq. … Gur qbpgbe fubjrq gur oblf uvf zvpebfpbcr naq nfxrq vs gurl unq rire frra fcrez haqre bar. … Ur fhttrfgrq gb Znex gung vs ur jnagrq gb, ur pbhyq unir n dhvrg jnax juvyfg Arvy jnf orvat pvephzpvfrq… Guvf jnf rntreyl npprcgrq. … Ur ynl onpx jvgu uvf rlrf pybfrq naq whfg yrg gur qbpgbe trg ba.

Morris has been trying very hard to dissociate himself from Gilgal, at least, but still…eww.

“Gilgal”, by the way, is apparently Hebrew for “hill of foreskins”. Really? They needed a word for that? Double eww.


Frisch M (2012) Author’s Response to: Does sexual function survey in Denmark offer any support for male circumcision having an adverse effect? Int. J. Epidemiol 41 (1): 312-314.

Morris BJ (2007) Why circumcision is a biomedical imperative for the 21st century. Bioessays 29(11):1147-58.

Morris BJ, Bailis SA, Wiswell TE (2014) Circumcision Rates in the United States: Rising or Falling? What Effect Might the New Affirmative Pediatric Policy Statement Have? Mayo Clin Proc doi: 10.1016/j.mayocp.2014.01.001. [Epub ahead of print]

123 comments

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  1. 1
    Anthony K

    “Gilgal”, by the way, is apparently Hebrew for “hill of foreskins”. Really? They needed a word for that? Double eww.

    In fact, Hebrew has over fifty words for dealing with foreskins, but none for snow.

  2. 2
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    One other weird thing: why are circumcision advocates so obsessed with this procedure? It’s certainly not that the benefits are as solidly established as they are for vaccination; reading the literature, the most striking observation is the murkiness and insignificance of the evidence.

    A deep-seated psychological need to prove that the state of their penis/preferred state of their partner’s penis is not only JUST AS GOOD but actually BETTER? It’d be pathetic if it weren’t so dangerous.

  3. 3
    PZ Myers

    Words for finding a foreskin in your soup, a particularly thick foreskin, the enchanting blush on a foreskin just before it’s bitten off, a stylish coat made of foreskin leather, that sort of thing? I could see where words like that would frequently come in handy.

  4. 4
    PZ Myers

    #2, Azkyroth:

    I shall have to ask my wife if her self-esteem rests entirely on the relative beauty of my penis. It might, you know.

  5. 5
    permanentwiltingpoint

    “Gilgal”, by the way, is apparently Hebrew for “hill of foreskins”.

    Is that something like the Norse Naglfar? https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Naglfar

  6. 6
    Anthony K

    Words for finding a foreskin in your soup, a particularly thick foreskin, the enchanting blush on a foreskin just before it’s bitten off, a stylish coat made of foreskin leather, that sort of thing? I could see where words like that would frequently come in handy.

    Or fundamentally necessary, if your language is agglutinative. Also, I was lying about the fifty words thing. (Like Boaz.)

    But also, גִּלְגָּל (gilgal) apparently means (sacred) circle of stones, among other things. It’s not true that it means ‘hill of foreskins’, though one place with that apparent name was also referred to as gilgal.

  7. 7
    Anthony K

    Wikipedia goes into more detail, and other sites turned up by Google suggest the same.

  8. 8
    PZ Myers

    I suspected it was an unlikely definition.

    That said, taking a trip on Naglfar to visit Gilgal would still count as the most disgusting vacation ever.

  9. 9
    Eamon Knight

    Re “Gilgal”: Joshua 5:2-9 is the relevant passage, but the etymology is a bit more complicated than that (read the footnotes).

    Because you really, really, wanted to know, right?

  10. 10
    Richard Smith

    Went to Gilgal once; bought a nice little wallet as a souvenir. Rub it, and it becomes a suitcase!

  11. 11
    Anthony K

    That said, taking a trip on Naglfar to visit Gilgal would still count as the most disgusting vacation ever.

    Now where’s your spirit of adventure, PZ?

  12. 12
    anuran

    @1 PZ Myers

    a stylish coat made of foreskin leather,

    …and if you rub it it turns into a tent
    *rimshot*

    If it is prone to chronic infection or severe phimosis there’s not much you can do short of surgery. The question is “when” not “if”. Then there are men who bring it on themselves. If you meet my dad DO NOT ask him to recount what he saw while doing induction physicals for the military. Take my word for it, you don’t want to hear the stories. Fortunately, most of those guys could be trained in basic hygiene. Most.

    The STD transmission studies are interesting. More work needs to be done of course, but if it does reduce your chances of dying from a horrible disease and incidentally killing your wives and children that’s a pretty good reason to snip, at least as an adult.

  13. 13
    Anthony K

    [Eyes Richard Smith's 'suitcase'.]

    Careful opening that, Richard. It looks like your bottle of conditioner leaking all over your luggage.

  14. 14
    Roy G

    “It has no adverse effect on penile sensitivity, function, or sensation during sexual arousal.”

    This is, for me, one of the confusing things about the anti-foreskin crowd. (As opposed to the several idiotic, horrible and disgusting ones)

    Isn’t the foreskin full of nerves? In fact, isn’t the foreskin one of the most sensitive parts of a male’s body? But cutting away that sensitive tissue, all those nerves, has no effect whatsoever? How do they explain that?

  15. 15
    John Horstman

    Doesn’t claiming the benefits outweigh the harm necessitate the confusing position that removing parts of one’s body is not intrinsically “harm”? Ethics of bodily autonomy aside, if we’re not considering chopping bits off of one’s body to necessarily be “harm”, shouldn’t we be removing ALL parts not directly necessary for survival? Don’t really need pinkie fingers – they just increase the likelihood of pinky injuries. And ear lobes? All they do is sometimes get infected when pierced. Slice ‘em off!

  16. 16
    brett

    I think the obsession is coming from religious defensiveness. Routine involuntary mutilation of the genitals for men and women is rightfully coming under broad attack, and the defenders of ritual circumcision have been getting more defensive and hostile in response.

    There’s always plain ignorance as well, with doctors in the US carrying on despite new information (or the lack thereof) because it’s easier than changing.

    Is he still citing that African study, the one where they cut off the experiment while the recently circumcised men were still recovering from the surgery, and over-stated that still-tiny net result in favor of circumcised men avoiding HIV more than uncircumcised men?

  17. 17
    Allan Frost

    Who are you to deny Yahweh his delicious foreskin appetizer? I’ve heard it’s very similar to calamari.

  18. 18
    John Horstman

    Huh, I spelled “pinky” two different ways. How very odd.

  19. 19
    Roy G

    @anuran “The STD transmission studies are interesting.”

    Really? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if your toddler is the thrusting part, as it were, in a sexual relationship, you have bigger issues than circumcision to worry about.

  20. 20
    consciousness razor

    But cutting away that sensitive tissue, all those nerves, has no effect whatsoever? How do they explain that?

    Fucking magnets.

    I don’t really understand it, but somehow they’re different from ordinary magnets. You should probably ask Anthony K.

  21. 21
    blf

    Ah! Thanks, poopyhead. When I read that article in the dead-tree edition of the INYT (formerly the IHT) the other day I was going WTF?! The claim that the benefits to torturing babies far outweighed the obvious risks set my BullShite! alarm off, but I couldn’t point at any specific problem in what I had read.

  22. 22
    Roy G

    “Fucking magnets.”

    Even if you have a doughnut-shaped magnet, I’m not sure I want to try that…

    No, no, that’s a lie. I’m -def’nitely- sure I don’t want to try that.

  23. 23
    gussnarp

    I expect he also has no data on his claims of no decrease in sensitivity either. As a data point of one, I don’t know how sensitive a circumcised penis is, but I honestly don’t know how circumcised men walk around with clothes on if they’re not less sensitive.

  24. 24
    jrfdeux, mode d'emploi

    Anthony K @13

    I hate you man. So does my laptop, because it now has coffee nasal-sprayed all over it. And it was good coffee.

  25. 25
    chimera

    I find that suitcase “joke” extremely offensive.

  26. 26
    Gregory in Seattle

    Ain’t it funny, how the supporters of male circumcision use pretty much the same justifications that the supporters of female genital mutilation use.

  27. 27
    Anthony K

    You should probably ask Anthony K.

    [Is jolted awake.]

    Never buy gribenes from a magnet manufacturer!

    Wait, what was the question?

  28. 28
    David Chapman

    That graph cracks me up. It looks like it’s been circumcized!
    Is nobody safe?

  29. 29
    Sven

    I remain completely baffled why anyone includes STD statistics when advocating the circumcision in infants. Even IF they’re accurate, [b]do you expect your infant son to be sexually active?[/b] No? Then it’s completely irrelevant, and he can make that call for himself when he gets older.

  30. 30
    Sven

    Ahh, I screwed up the tags. Well done, me.

  31. 31
    jacksprocket

    Here in the UK, circumcision has always been practically unknown outside Jewish and Moslem communities, except for certain medical conditions. You youth of today have it easy; fifty years ago zip fasteners were coarse sharp steel. Get your foreskin trapped in one of those after a pee and you certainly knew about it.

    But widespread circumcision would have shut up the rugger buggers (rugby players- it’s a game a bit like what you Americans call football, but without the breaks, so the game is over in less than two hours, and play doesn’t stop when the carrier is tackled, in fact it really just begins then, and without body armour), who are celebrated for their less than respectable song repertoire. One widespread song runs:

    My oneskin joins on to my twoskin.
    My twoskin joins onto my three;
    My threeskin joins onto my foreskin,
    So roll back my foreskin for me…

  32. 32
    Travis

    gussnarp #23,

    I expect he also has no data on his claims of no decrease in sensitivity either. As a data point of one, I don’t know how sensitive a circumcised penis is, but I honestly don’t know how circumcised men walk around with clothes on if they’re not less sensitive.

    As someone that went from uncircumcised to circumcised as an adult, I have an idea what both feel like. I have to say, right afterwards it was the most sensitive, most horrible thing ever and I could not wear pants and ended up staying at home for almost a week because it it. Over time that changes. So I think there might be something to the claims of decreased sensitivity, but I may also be a bit of a strange case.

  33. 33
    Travis

    Oh hmm, I should not imply that the sensitivity got better within a week, that was a longer process, it just became more bearable, no intense pain, stars in your eyes, I think I am going to die sensations.

  34. 34
    Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    “Most women prefer,” eh? Somehow I suspect that this isn’t even “I asked six of my friends and four of them agreed with me,” it’s “Journal of I’m Making This Up.”

    It’s also possible that the assertion is based on 100 women taking a first-year psychology course at one U.S. university, so tending to reproduce the American cultural bias on this, even if the people doing the study made an effort to avoid leading questions.

  35. 35
    mikeyb

    Goddidit. The penis was so intelligently designed the foreskin must be removed, just to show how super duper the intelligent designer is. Sounds like Bill O’Reilly logic. Tides come in tides go out, goddidit.

  36. 36
    Zeno

    Most of my family* has never bothered with circumcision. (“Chop off what?!”) But I understand (from reliable hearsay) that my brother-in-law is cut; once he joined our ranks, it established a branch of the family tree in which all the nephews and sub-nephews got clipped. Poor kids!

    *I refrain from commenting on the one case of accidental circumcision among my cousins.

  37. 37
    Alan Boyle

    When I was at university I had a conversation with a Maltese woman about circumcision/foreskin. When I told her I was uncut, I remember her being surprised and almost outraged. This is in the UK, and circumcision is just not a thing that happens outside Jewish and Muslim communities, so this was the first time I’d come across this attitude (I was probably in my early twenties before I realized it was widespread in other communities in the US). She said it was dirty and she found uncircumcised penises unattractive.

    I was too stumped to be fully outraged. And too drunk to respond with anything scathing and witty, because drunk was how I spent most of my evenings at university (I was teetotal before I started there, but the building I lived in was in the middle of goddamn nowhere, 20 miles from the main campus, with nothing to do — I took to alcohol and cannabis as the only pastimes anyone there bothered with).

    I tried to form a retort about how it would be inappropriate for me to use my sexual triggers to determine what aesthetic surgery takes place on baby girls, but didn’t quite get there. Nevertheless, it was an educating experience to find out that “all boys should be circumcised because I prefer it when they have sexy time with me” was a thing. It’s no less awful an argument than “all women should get breast implants because dudes prefer them” in that it’s both incorrect and horrible.

  38. 38
    coragyps

    Speaking from memory of when my brother and I were prepubescent and thought nothing of peeing into the same pot at the same time: he sure had a funny-looking dick! (Though it was probably a peepee at the time….) He was the uncut one.

  39. 39
    lesherb

    My sons are 29 & 25. Besides the horrific realization that I’m old enough to be their mother (LOL), I feel badly that they were circumcised. It wasn’t a religious thing seeing as I’m an atheist but it was cultural. My friends’ sons and my ex-husband were circumcized. The final decision was made when I was told about an embarrassing & painful circumcision my friend’s father had to have as an adult. While I’m not privvy to either son’s love life, prior to adulthood, they suffered no problems because of it. Still, would I do it again? No.
    And isn’t it weird that Jews & Muslims, who seem to claim their god is perfect, think their creator made a mistake which needs altering?

  40. 40
    Louis

    Dirty foreskin? Relatively able bodied, relatively healthy, relatively privileged, in place with shower facilities you have access to, or even a sink? Clean it daily. The build up of chopper cheddar is negligible to zero. Penis parmesan is not like five o’clock* shadow.

    Wire brush and Dettol, that’s the way. Just like Matron used to.

    Louis

    *Five o’cock more like…look it was low hanging frui….oh the jokes make themselves don’t they.

    P.S. jacksprocket, ah memories. I think an hour long rendition of The Ball of Kirriemuir is in order. Or perhaps Cats on the Rooftop….

  41. 41
    jesse

    @lesherb — for Jews and Muslims (and others) it’s a mark of who you are rather than trying to make anything better. Dietary laws are similar — the point isn’t that it’s healthier (although we don’t know what the incidence of pork-borne food disease was in 1000 BC) but that it marks you as one of the tribe.

    Lots of cultures have these things, even now. Americans eat peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, for instance, and my wife (Filipino) thinks it’s weird. She also blanched at gefilte fish.

    Australians eat vegemite, and I think the stuff is strange at best.

    Or a more exotic example: The Yanomamo wear a penis band, where you tie the foreskin with a string and your penis is up against the stomach. (the string is around the waist). Napoleon Chagnon — yeah, I know — did report a very interesting incident when he was living with them, in which two men engaged in a ritual fight would stop if someone’s penis band came undone so they could tie it up again, rather like letting a western man pull his pants up. He noted that even though it was a common practice and no “properly dressed” Yanomamo male left off his band, the men did not enjoy it — it was seen as the thing you do like wearing a tie to work.

    (I keep imagining the Yanomamo equivalent of Tim Gunn and a weird surreal version of Project Runway).

  42. 42
    anuran

    @19 Roy G

    @anuran “The STD transmission studies are interesting.”

    Really? I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that if your toddler is the thrusting part, as it were, in a sexual relationship, you have bigger issues than circumcision to worry about.

    Reading comprehension. Learn it. I said “as an adult”, but you were already in high dudgeon and enjoying your throbbing madon so you didn’t read to the end of the sentence.

  43. 43
    chimera

    Well, in the USA, isn’t circumcision not only a function of religion but also of race and class? I remember most of the black boys were uncircumcised and most of the white boys were. The uncircumcised white boys were Catholic or working class and often both.

  44. 44
    ck

    He seriously is claiming there have been zero deaths from infant circumcision? He must’ve decided to rationalize away every single one of them (or didn’t bother looking), from those who caught an infection from the procedure to those that have haemophilia, because it simply isn’t possible that no one has died from that procedure.

  45. 45
    Holms

    Including phimosis on a list of medical reasons to have a circumcision is kind of like pointing out that people with legs have an infinitely higher chance of getting a broken ankle than a double amputee.

    Also, the idea that it has no effect on sensitivity to me seems necessarily wrong: if you are removing something with sensory nerve endings, then you are removing part of the sensory input from that area. When we include the fact that the foreskin not only has nerve endings, but has them in high density… we find that Morris is a dishonest bastard.

    @5
    Don’t forget Saturn!

  46. 46
    rorschach

    Thankfully Yahweh made it so that females can be fully Jewish without painful modification of their genitals.

    As to the medical benefits, IIRC the current evidence for circumcision having any benefit is only in high HIV plevalence areas in eg Africa, where there seems to be some reduction in transmission rates.

  47. 47
    Marcus Ranum

    the Man Who Hates Foreskins

    That sounds like the title of an HBO special mini-series.

  48. 48
    Francisco Bacopa

    Is there really even such a thing as “the foreskin”? I will admit that in the case of normal penises there are parts that could probably be classified as foreskin and not-foreskin, But is there any unambiguous dividing line between these areas?

    I assert that there is no such thing as “the foreskin”. Circumcision fetishists like Morris confess this when they speak of circumcisions as high and tight or low and loose and compare the results of one technique to another. If the the supposed foreskin were some distinct part of the penis and circumcision removed it, there could be no such variations.

    I believe that circumcision is in most cases equivalent to rape. You don’t believe me? look up videos of boys in early puberty in Turkey being circumcised and tell me you are not watching a rape video. Yes, they dress them in special clothes and give them presents. Yes, the parents hand them over and it’s endorsed by their culture, but I don’t give a shit. This is clearly rape.

    Why is it that we can all understand that if a Catholic priest sucks an altar boy’s dick this is sexual abuse, but if a Muslim cuts an an 11 year olds penis, or a Mohel cuts an eight day old’s penis, or a doctor cuts a one day old’s penis somehow everything’s OK and it all just a matter of parental choice?

  49. 49
    Marcus Ranum

    health benefits include protection from urinary tract infections, sexually transmitted HIV, HPV, syphilis and chancroid, penile and prostate cancer, phimosis, thrush, and inflammatory dermatoses

    So that means no circumcised men ever get any of those things? ‘Cuz that what’s “protection” means.

  50. 50
    ck

    @46,

    Some, but condoms are still many times more effective at blocking HIV transmission (not to mention many other STDs). Going for an invasive, less effective measure, when a cheap, and extremely effective measure exists is frankly rather stupid.

  51. 51
    Holms

    #48
    I assert that there is no such thing as “the foreskin”. Circumcision fetishists like Morris confess this when they speak of circumcisions as high and tight or low and loose and compare the results of one technique to another. If the the supposed foreskin were some distinct part of the penis and circumcision removed it, there could be no such variations.

    The foreskin is simply that part of the skin surrounding the penis shaft that extends beyond the direct physical connection to the shaft. The differences between ‘loose’, ‘tight’ and such are mainly differences in how much overhang was left behind.

    I believe that circumcision is in most cases equivalent to rape. You don’t believe me? look up videos of boys in early puberty in Turkey being circumcised and tell me you are not watching a rape video. Yes, they dress them in special clothes and give them presents. Yes, the parents hand them over and it’s endorsed by their culture, but I don’t give a shit. This is clearly rape.

    I think you make a very tenuous argument. Not every reach of bodily autonomy is rape, because not every breach of bodily autonony is sexual in nature.

  52. 52
    Francisco Bacopa

    I think you make a very tenuous argument. Not every reach of bodily autonomy is rape, because not every breach of bodily autonony is sexual in nature.

    I agree. But you didn’t answer my main question. If a Catholic priest sucks an 11 year olds penis, you probably think this is sexual assault. I agree. So why if a whatever the Muslims call them cuts an 11 year old’s penis, why is this not also a sexual assault?

  53. 53
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    The STD transmission studies are interesting. More work needs to be done of course, but if it does reduce your chances of dying from a horrible disease and incidentally killing your wives and children that’s a pretty good reason to snip, at least as an adult.

    It offers no benefits that condoms don’t.

    Isn’t the foreskin full of nerves? In fact, isn’t the foreskin one of the most sensitive parts of a male’s body? But cutting away that sensitive tissue, all those nerves, has no effect whatsoever? How do they explain that?

    They ask men who are intact if sex feels good, and they ask men who were circumcised as babies if sex feels good, and observe that most of both groups say “yes.” See if you can spot a problem with that approach…

  54. 54
    D

    So why if a whatever the Muslims call them cuts an 11 year old’s penis, why is this not also a sexual assault?

    Presumably because it isn’t sexual. Not every contact of a sexualized body part is sexual.

  55. 55
    Terska

    Thank you PZ for this. I always suspected the pro circumcision studies were garbage. The procedure is illegal now in some European countries. I left my kids intact. People from non circumcision countries are generally mortified at the idea.

    It isn’t easy to find accurate info on the proper care of the intact penis. I had to ask a friend that lives outside the USA. The info I was given at the hospital when they were born was complete nonsense and probably harmful. When they became teens I had to ask them, “how’s your foreskin?”. Talk about an uncomfortable conversation (for them) to have with your teen.

  56. 56
    Francisco Bacopa

    Presumably because it isn’t sexual. Not every contact of a sexualized body part is sexual.

    I agree. But I am very glad that my local laws governing whether something is sexual assault or not don’t much consider whether the asailant was actually turned on or not. Our politics may have been terrible here in Texas since’94, but at least we have not changed our sexual assault laws to focus on other than what happened to the victim. These horrors may yet come if we get Abbot as governor.

    So tell me: What’s the real difference between a Catholic priest sucking an alter boy’s penis and a Muslim circumcisor cutting the penis of a boy the same age? And if there is no difference, then why is it OK for a Mohel to do the same thing at eight days or a doctor to do the same thing at two days?

    Please don’t tell me that the fact that the priest gets a boner while sucking juvenile cock while the other three who are cutters usually don’t makes the priest wrong and the other three right.

  57. 57
    hemlock

    Should you circumcise your child? No. It’s a procedure seeking an excuse to exist, and none of those excuses apply to otherwise healthy neonates making it unnecessary surgery that poses a series of risks to them.

    Commentary from Prof Kevin Pringle: “I find this paper to be extremely worrying. The most worrisome aspect is the emphasis on possible diseases that are reported to be significantly more common in the uncircumcised population and the complete lack of any attempt to accurately document the risk of the complications of circumcision. The authors, for instance, quote a >20-fold increase in the risk of penile cancer, affecting 0.1% of the uncircumcised population. In fact, the incidence of penile cancer in Israel (almost 100% of males circumcised) is about the same as that in Scandinavia (circumcision the exception) suggesting that it is cleanliness, rather than godliness that is important. The increased risk for urinary tract infection in the first year of life only reached significance in a very large population and may be important if there is a congenital anomaly in the genitourinary tract.”

    “As I read their table, the authors suggest that performing 10 circumcisions will prevent 1 case of phimosis and/or 1 case of balanitis. 80% of children with a phimosis respond to the simple application of a steroid cream and only a small percentage need a circumcision. Similarly, many cases of balanitis are associated with phimosis and if the phimosis is treated, they have no further trouble. Paediatric Surgeons see most of the cases of phimosis and balanitis. They are nowhere near as common as is suggested in this paper.”….

    ….”Circumcision is an intervention with significant risks (ignored or minimised by the authors of this paper) to prevent problems that will not develop in the vast majority of males; most of which can be simply addressed if and when the need arises.”
    http://www.sciencemediacentre.co.nz/2014/04/04/circumcision-health-risks-and-benefits-experts-respond/

  58. 58
    robro

    Gilgal — Is that the place where John Hyrcanus had all the Idumean men circumcised after conquering Edom? Actually, one of the Gilgals mentioned in the OT is the place on the West Bank where Joshua had all the Israelite men circumcised (Joshua 5). It’s also where Joshua placed the 12 stones taken from the Jordan when it dried up so they could cross (a Red Sea redux). So there is an association between the two. (Circle of stones…how Druidic of him.)

  59. 59
    atheistblog

    You would never hear about circumcision in South Asia, I don’t think any young boy take their penis to doctors. Well, also there are few priests and rabbis, may be that’s why no demand for young boy with circumcised penis.
    Don’t worry in South Asia adults are into girls not boys, in case anybody try to defend your christian culture I save your time.

  60. 60
    Marcus Ranum

    Is anyone orchestrating a “WHY DID YOU CARRY THIS STUPID ARTICLE” letter-writing campaign to the NYT? I know they probably don’t care but if they get a passel of complaints they may think twice before carrying mr anti-foreskin’s propaganda.

  61. 61
    ck

    @Francisco Bacopa,

    I don’t think anyone here has said that the “other three [are] right”. Only that the offense they are committing isn’t rape. It may be many other things (child abuse, battery, etc), but rape is a sexual offense, and these unnecessary medical mutilations don’t have that requisite element. FGM isn’t rape either, even if the target isn’t willing.

  62. 62
    Holms

    @56
    “What’s the real difference between a Catholic priest sucking an alter boy’s penis and a Muslim circumcisor cutting the penis of a boy the same age?”
    The fact that they are two different activities, one of which is sexual in nature.

    “And if there is no difference, then why is it OK for a Mohel to do the same thing at eight days or a doctor to do the same thing at two days?”
    The difference here hangs on whether there is a medially indicated need for a surgery or not. If the doctor is simply doing a circumcision for the sake of circumcision, then it does not matter who does it (although the doctor will likely be the safer option). If there is a medical indication for the procedure on the other hand, then there is all the difference in the world; it is no longer a procedure done purely out of tradition, but is now medical treatment for something and thus has presumed consent.

  63. 63
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    It’s not clear to me how we can argue that involuntary circumcision isn’t sexual assault, but that shoving, say, a broomhandle up a prisoner’s ass is. What’s the meaningful difference?

  64. 64
    tuibguy

    I don’t get why the issue of STI’s is brought up, either. Has no one ever heard of condoms? I would think they would be satisfactory in preventing social diseases.

  65. 65
    Roy G

    @42 anuran

    Reading comprehension. Learn it. I said “as an adult”, but you were already in high dudgeon and enjoying your throbbing madon so you didn’t read to the end of the sentence.

    You said “at least at adults”. Misquoting oneself. Really?!

    And well done on the personal attack you felt you had to tag on there. Very adult of you.

  66. 66
    ChasCPeterson

    what about the wimminz?

  67. 67
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    what about the wimminz?

    Women born with penises shouldn’t be subjected to circumcision any more than boys should?

  68. 68
    Holms

    You said “at least at adults”. Misquoting oneself. Really?!

    Facetious response. Who gives a shit about whether anuran’s summary of his/her earlier post was word perfect or a paraphrase from memory? The fact remains that that initial post specifically referred to adult activity, and you are just dodging the fact that your appraisal of that post was mistaken.

    Women born with penises shouldn’t be subjected to circumcision any more than boys should?

    Women have a direct equivalent of the foreskin: the clitoral hood. So yes, women with or without a penis should not be subjected to the removal of their prepuce.

  69. 69
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Being German and neither of Jewish nor Muslim descent I find circumcised penises to look weird. I think I have only seen 3 or 4 so far in the sauna, because they’re pretty rare here.
    Mind the word: weird.
    Weird as in unusual. Not disgusting, off-putting or traumatizing. Just an unusual variation.

    My friend’s middle-son had a repeated phimosis, so did my husband and circumcision was discussed, but ultimately not necessary. So far, everybody is happy that it didn’t have to happen. Because unless you’ve been taught that cosmetic circumcision is a totally normal procedure, most people are unhappy about the idea of performing surgery on a child and removing body-parts unless there’s a really good medical need for this.

  70. 70
    Roy G

    @68 Hols

    Facetious response. Who gives a shit about whether anuran’s summary of his/her earlier post was word perfect or a paraphrase from memory? The fact remains that that initial post specifically referred to adult activity, and you are just dodging the fact that your appraisal of that post was mistaken.

    Bullshit. When you’re talking about genital mutilation, it is important as hell that you use your words right, so I’ll say it’s very important that you use the words that were actually used, and don’t try to state that you really meant something else, especially when you add insults. Also, the initial post, the one by PZ, is specifically about circumcising children. The main topic during all the comments have been about childhood circumcision, so what’s this about “the initial post being about adult activity”? Oh, perhaps by “initial post” you mean “the comment you replied to”? See? What words you use to express your thoughts are important: They can cause or remove confusion.

    But you know what? The above is me just being obtuse for the sake of making a point, and honestly, if not for anuran’s ad hominem at the end of his post I would have admitted that I should have clarified my post in that I quoted him as an example of a much used excuse to circumcise children, and that since he was talking about adult circumcision he should have started the paragraph with that, not added it at the end, as an afterthought. You see, I didn’t use the words I should have used to express my thoughts without causing confusion. ;)

  71. 71
    Frenzie

    @40, Louis

    Dirty foreskin? Relatively able bodied, relatively healthy, relatively privileged, in place with shower facilities you have access to, or even a sink? Clean it daily. The build up of chopper cheddar is negligible to zero. Penis parmesan is not like five o’clock* shadow.

    Nope. Nope, nope, nope. But regardless, there is absolutely no need for any privilege or access to anything. It doesn’t matter one iota where or in what condition you find yourself: unlike the rest of your body, your penis has a built-in supply of sterile liquid. So if you want to give it a rinse for some reason, preferably a better one than some misguided notion about having to wash it daily, hold your foreskin closed between two fingers and let your innate shower do its job.

    @68, Holms

    Facetious response. Who gives a shit about whether anuran’s summary of his/her earlier post was word perfect or a paraphrase from memory? The fact remains that that initial post specifically referred to adult activity, and you are just dodging the fact that your appraisal of that post was mistaken.

    The initial post was about children, not adults. Nice try though. And regarding adults, yes, how terribly interesting. It’s almost as if a small potential net benefit to circumcision presented as a great advantage makes people think they’re as protected as they’d be if they wore condoms.

  72. 72
    left0ver1under

    Cutting children to preven disease is as stupid and false an argument as cutting off hands to prevent lefthandedness.

    The medical industry keeps pushing for mutilation because they profit from it at both ends of the deal. They charge parents a fee for cutting up boys, and then charge for the skin which gets used in skin grafts. Why would they stop selling the lie when it’s doubly profitable?

    What really galls me are those who claim “being born with it is no reason not to cut it off”. Some them are commenters on this site.

  73. 73
    azhael

    @33 Travis

    Oh hmm, I should not imply that the sensitivity got better within a week, that was a longer process, it just became more bearable, no intense pain, stars in your eyes, I think I am going to die sensations.

    Oh, jesus fuck, shut up….
    I´m feeling ill just thinking about it…
    I TRIED to wear clothes with a retracted foreskin once…to see what it might feel like….i lasted about 3 seconds and it was fucking horrible…as in dizzy, i might faint horrible…i can´t imagine having to feel that sensation for weeks :S

  74. 74
    D

    re: sexual assault

    The context of circumcision is not one I think of as sexual. If the child feels differently then I think that instance could be considered sexual assault, but not as a generality. As a counter-example to the obvious rape/sexual assault examples used: is spanking a child sexual assault? I think it would be in some context, but not the normal context. How about taking a child’s temp w/ a rectal thermometer? Again, in some context I think it would be, but that’s not the context I think of of hand nor do I hope any one else thinks of.

    re: condoms/STI

    Unfortunately not all people are willing to use condoms. In such cases I do think one can make an argument for the benefit of circumcision. I have however seen concern raised that promoting circumcision in such a culture could make it harder to convince people to use condoms, so it might not be the best course in the long run.

  75. 75
    Sili

    They suggest that Danish women with circumcised spouses may be so psychologically troubled by the shape of their spouse’s penis that it might result in painful intercourse.

    Most women prefer the circumcised penis for appearance, hygiene and sex.

    Why do these wankers not read what they themselves write?

  76. 76
    tigtog

    As an Australian brought up in a family which actually talked about this stuff, because my father declined to have his son’s penis be cut as his had been, and my parents were sufficiently counter-cultural that I grew up around skinny-dipping and streaking bushwalkers, folkies, and nudists whose foreskin states varied widely, I’m very pro intact penises.

    However, I also spent quite a few years as a hospital health professional, and so am also aware of adult clinical conditions which only circumcision can alleviate. I just don’t see any valid excuse for infant circumcision, since the adult conditions can be perfectly adequately dealt with reactively with fully informed consent.

  77. 77
    opposablethumbs

    atheistblog @ 59

    You would never hear about circumcision in South Asia, I don’t think any young boy take their penis to doctors. Well, also there are few priests and rabbis, may be that’s why no demand for young boy with circumcised penis.
    Don’t worry in South Asia adults are into girls not boys, in case anybody try to defend your christian culture I save your time.

    um, you do realise this is an atheist blog here, right? So nobody here is very likely to want to “try to defend your christian culture” ! That’s a bit of a laugh, really.
    Incidentally I would hope in South Asia or anywhere else adults would be “into” men and women, not girls or boys. You sound as if you think it’s OK for adults to be into girls; maybe that was inadvertent on your part, but if you did actually mean that – well, newsflash, it’s not ok for adults to be into children of whatever sex.
    Where I am, circumcision is almost completely unheard-of except for the muslim and jewish communities. Just a quick question to anyone who may know – what is the incidence of circumcision like in the muslim-majority countries in South-East Asia, such as Indonesia? And according to the map I’m looking at, Pakistan and Afghanistan are in South Asia. I’d have thought atheistblog is wrong about circumcision being rare in either of those countries?

  78. 78
    Sunday Afternoon

    Inspired by PZ’s title and howdovaccinescauseautism.com:

    http://shouldwecircumciseourchild.com/

  79. 79
    Dog Almighty

    Yay! I have a glorious Scandinavian penis which is perfect and universally wholesome.

  80. 80
    varady72

    In an anti-intellectual, superstition-deluded nation like the USA, logical, reasoned, fact-backed arguments detailing why circumcison should not be practiced on minors will make NO headway, particularly since many hearing these argumetns are circumcised males who do not wish to reimagine themselves as sexually mutilated victims of a primitive ritual. — (“MY John Thomas works just fine for that purpose, thank you!)

    Also, the hygiene argument seems very much a rationalization. I mean, really, we circumcise kids because we fear they won’t clean their penises sufficiently?!…. If we can trust our kids to wipe their behinds and then clean their hands, I think we can trust them with the lesser task of penis washing…

    Anyway, Brian Earp has one of the best critiques on circumcision:

    http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/08/the-aap-report-on-circumcision-bad-science-bad-ethics-bad-medicine/

  81. 81
    HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr

    As I recall, in hte 19th century, the big draw for circumcision in the US was that it would reduce sensitivity (and this was the main advertised point!), thereby making sure that little Johnny wouldn’t play with his little Jimmy and thereby become incurably insane. The claims about it have always shifted to justify the status quo. In Canada, it used to be routine, as late as my parents’ generation and maybe a little after. By the time I was a bun in the oven, there were already arguments in my family about opting in or not when I emerged. As it turned out, it was moot, as I’m AFAB.

    It does strike me as rather ridiculous to insist upon painful and bodily-autonomy-violating surgery that is fundamentally cosmetic (post hoc justifications aside), when condoms are a thing that exists, as does hygiene. I mean, vulvas produce a lot of smegma too, but we’re mostly not okay with cutting baby vulvas up.

    Regarding francisco bacopa’s argument, I suppose the main point I can offer is my own experience. I’ve been raped repeatedly. Also, years after that, I had some terrible things done to me, against my will in that they explicitly refused to stop, as part of a gynecological medical procedure. It was intensely traumatic to me. (I’m better now, and would rather not derail about my experience.) I don’t think it was the same as my sexual assaults, even though it involved the same area. I classify it as “traumatic medical assault”, if I had to describe it. It’s a weird and slippery definition, I know, but it felt different? If about as horrible and more painful physically.

  82. 82
    Frenzie

    @81, HappiestSadist

    As I recall, in hte 19th century, the big draw for circumcision in the US was that it would reduce sensitivity (and this was the main advertised point!), thereby making sure that little Johnny wouldn’t play with his little Jimmy and thereby become incurably insane.

    Judging by American movies, circumcision also makes it desirable to use some sort of lubricant to aid masturbation. If true, circumcision would make masturbation more difficult as well as less desirable. Compared to all the ridiculous post-hoc rationalizations, it makes those 19th century authoritarian prudes sound almost rational.

  83. 83
    Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :)

    if not for anuran’s ad hominem at the end of his post

    Speaking of using words right, “ad hominem” is a logical fallacy in which a negative comment about an opponent as a person or entity is presented as a reason to ignore their argument, where the nature of the party making the argument has no bearing on it – in other words, it’s the use of an insult as a premise. Attaching an insult to a conclusion reached by other means does not qualify.

    You smarmy, ignorant twerp.

  84. 84
    azhael

    @82 Frenzie

    Judging by American movies, circumcision also makes it desirable to use some sort of lubricant to aid masturbation. If true, circumcision would make masturbation more difficult as well as less desirable.

    True. Unless you are some kind of preseminal-fluid-on-demand human wonder i can´t imagine the first few minutes of masturbation would be much fun without access to some type of efficient substitutive lubricant.

    As someone who comes from a country where circumcision is almost exclusively a medical procedure aimed at correcting a medical problem, i completely fail to see how people could regard widespread neonatal circumcision as desirable or normal. To me it´s not just weird in the sense of unusual, it is cruel and profoundly stupid…
    It makes no medical or ethical sense…
    The “no loss of sensitivity” claim seems to be obvious nonsense to me. I can´t tolerate for my glans to touch any fabric…it´s extremely unpleasant, but circumsized people spend most of their time with theirs in direct contact with clothes…and they experience friction…and theirs is dry
    …you can´t tell me that there is no difference there…

    As for the aesthetic “argument”…sure, some foreskins do look kind of funky…but then again so do some circumsized penuses and anyway, “corrective” aesthetic surgery for 2 day old babies? Seriously? Does that sound like a normal sentence?

  85. 85
    Frenzie

    @84, azhael

    True. Unless you are some kind of preseminal-fluid-on-demand human wonder i can´t imagine the first few minutes of masturbation would be much fun without access to some type of efficient substitutive lubricant.

    As a counterpoint, chances are your mouth generates just what you need. That’d make the net result zero.

    To me it´s not just weird in the sense of unusual, it is cruel and profoundly stupid…
    It makes no medical or ethical sense…

    Agreed. My tonsils were cut because of a throat infection when I was a young child. (Can you guess where I’m originally from?) But even if it was in all likelihood an overreaction, at least there was an actual problem.

    The “no loss of sensitivity” claim seems to be obvious nonsense to me.

    It is to anyone with a foreskin, and should be to anyone with half a brain. Nerve-wise, it’s somewhat like saying you’ll be able to feel just as well with your hands after cutting off your fingers. Forget about the sensitivity of the glans. The foreskin itself has so. much. sensation.

  86. 86
    azhael

    As a counterpoint, chances are your mouth generates just what you need. That’d make the net result zero.

    Oh…i can´t agree with that but to each its own xD

    Forget about the sensitivity of the glans. The foreskin itself has so. much. sensation.

    Undeniably. I tend to focus on the sensitivity of the glans because it is particularly striking to me how much of a difference there is between my own experience and what i can see in circumsized men, but you are absolutely right, it can´t be ignored that the foreskin itself is extremely sensitive tissue as well.

    I think that just because circumsized men have orgasms too (and it seems to me the actual orgasmal experience does not change with or without a foreskin?) it is assumed that the sensitivity is necessarily the same, but the two things are quite distinct.

  87. 87
    azhael

    By the way, it´s probably something that has been done in many other places, but i´m going to be lazy and just guess that you were originally spanish :P

  88. 88
    Hank_Says

    …foreskin removal as just as important as vaccination…that leaving it intact imperils the child to a 1 in 3 chance of a serious condition requiring medical attention.

    Well, that explains my asthma!

  89. 89
    Holms

    @70 Roy G
    My reply to you referenced ‘Anuran’s summary of his/her earlier post’, which was then worded as ‘that initial post’. So no, I was talking about Anuran’s initial post, pointing out that it was unambiguously* talking about adult sexuality. All you really needed to say was something like ‘oops, I see what you mean now’ or perhaps not reply at all. Instead, you chose to dig in with the snide shit.

    Azkyroth has dealth with the ad hominem silliness.

    *I realise that calling something ‘unambiguous’ while also talking about how you misunderstood it may be seen as contradictory. I guess there is an element of ‘well *I* understood it fine, why didn’t you?’

  90. 90
    Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel

    I’ve never understood why circumcision is so widely practiced in the US outside the Jewish and Muslim communities. My brothers and I are all circumcised even though my parents were atheists; I never got around to asking them why before they passed away.

  91. 91
    Roy G

    @83 Azkyroth

    Speaking of using words right, “ad hominem” is a logical fallacy

    Of course, you’re right. My mistake, I should have written ‘personal attack’, as I did earlier. Speaking of…

    Well done on the personal attack at the end there. Very adult of you as well.

    @89 Holms

    Instead, you chose to dig in with the snide shit.

    Really? You’re going that way even after my clarification? I’m starting to see what people mean about the comments section of this blog now.

  92. 92
    chigau (違う)

    Which people?

  93. 93
    Shondolyn Gibson

    The way I see it is- circumcision should not be forced on babies. Men should have a choice when it comes to their own genitals. I don’t know why they don’t compare places that circumcision often and places that don’t and look at the rates of infection and ect. Even if it does prevent this that and the other, a man should still have a choice and CONDOMS prevent HIV and STDs, not circumcision.

    It’s creepy how obsessed with cutting penises Morris is. I think he needs a new hobby.

  94. 94
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    BTW, I’m always slightly freaked out about people who claim that without circumcision there’s a hygene problem, especially talking about sexual hygene.
    Speaking from my own, admittedly very limited, experience, uncut men wash before and after sex, because, well, you know, everything. Sweat and dirt, urine and other secretions.
    So, either the circumcised man does the same, which means the argument is bogus, or I don’t want to have anything to do with his dick.

  95. 95
    Frenzie

    @89, Holms

    My reply to you referenced ‘Anuran’s summary of his/her earlier post’, which was then worded as ‘that initial post’. So no, I was talking about Anuran’s initial post, pointing out that it was unambiguously* talking about adult sexuality. All you really needed to say was something like ‘oops, I see what you mean now’ or perhaps not reply at all. Instead, you chose to dig in with the snide shit.

    And yet all that is utterly irrelevant, because adults are utterly irrelevant to the topic. Let me snidely paraphrase your argument: “Poor anuran wasn’t fucking wrong, but merely wrong. But I’m going to pretend poor anuran wasn’t wrong at all for waffling about adults, and I’m also going to ignore that anuran’s waffling about adults was fucking wrong to boot.” Nice. I hope you feel proud.

    @93, Shondolyn Gibson

    I don’t know why they don’t compare places that circumcision often and places that don’t and look at the rates of infection and ect.

    Because then they’d find Europe is often doing better or at least no worse than the US in those areas where circumcision is supposed to help (e.g. penile cancer). Of course, it’s not like that has any bearing on infant circumcision either way. It’s disconcerting how few people here seem to realize what a giant red herring adult anything is.

  96. 96
    praestans

    1 SAM 18:25ff

    Saul then said, “Thus you shall say to David, ‘The king does not desire any dowry except a hundred foreskins of the Philistines, to take vengeance on the king’s enemies.’” Now Saul planned to make David fall by the hand of the Philistines…..David rose up and went, he and his men, and struck down two hundred men among the Philistines. Then David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full number to the king, that he might become the king’s son-in-law. So Saul gave him Michal his daughter for a wife.…

    200 Filistinian foreskins bag’d up t’ take away. All those sore penes post mortem.
    Thankfully there weren’t any female worriars….

    wun’v the nights of King Arthur’s round table was an advucut’v this procedure.

    Sir Cumsishun. possibly u’v hurd the name?

    [You're done. Your games with spelling make you look illiterate and pretentious at the same time, and I've decided I don't want to have to deal with your continuing affectations. Bye. --pzm]

  97. 97
    Rumtopf

    I think every parent considering circumcision for their sons should watch a video of the procedure being performed, at the very least. It’s absolutely fucking heartbreaking to watch a baby in so much pain like that, and for nothing but a paycheck for the doctor and the continuation of a ridiculous tradition with sexually oppressive origins and no regard for bodily autonomy.

    Understand that for babies the procedure is performed while they are awake, the foreskin is adhered to the glans and has to be forcibly ripped apart before it’s crushed in some sort of clamp device and then cut. There’s so little skin to work with it’s very easy to take too much and cause overly tight and even painful erections when the boy grows up, or a lopsided cut might cause a bend with a tight painful side, or skin tags/bridges… Sometimes loss of the glans, sometimes death.

    I actually really hate the hygiene “argument” when the immediate result of infant circumcision is a red raw open wound in an often faeces and urine filled diaper, which can cause infection, and narrowing of the urinary meatus. Like HappiestSadist said, women produce much more smegma yet we don’t tolerate mutilating vulvas and trust little girls to wash. And agreed, Giliell, lack of foreskin is not an excuse for not washing your penis, in fact a circumcised penis still generates smegma and it can collect around the edge of the glans where it’s not rubbing off on clothing.

  98. 98
    Frenzie

    @87, azhael

    By the way, it´s probably something that has been done in many other places, but i´m going to be lazy and just guess that you were originally spanish :P

    I missed that earlier. I’m actually Dutch. :) I was under the apparently mistaken impression that comparatively excessive tonsillectomy is pretty much exclusively a Dutch thing. Even today, neighboring countries like Belgium and Germany perform less than half the amount of tonsillectomies. But back in the ’70s there were four times as many as today (source).

  99. 99
    azhael

    @98 Frenzie
    Lol, i was under the mistaken impression that it was Spain which had a comparatively excessive tonsillectomy rate. It used to be pretty much rutine here…not anymore, thankfully.

    Isn´t it wonderful that our countries have stopped performing this completely unnecessary, detrimental surgical procedures?

  100. 100
    Frenzie

    @azhael
    So when you say “here”, you mean you’re Spanish?

  101. 101
    ck

    Wait, the guy who is obsessed with foreskins signs his papers as Morris, BJ? Maybe that’s the source of his obsession…

  102. 102
    loopyj

    Just wanted to chime in here about the aesthetics of foreskins. As a straight woman, I think foreskins are lovely – they are soft and sexy. I don’t discriminate against altered penises, but I do think that they frequently look torn and scarred. I don’t support the medically unnecessary cutting of infants and children. And the ‘We want him to look like his father’ line is utter bullshit. A young boy’s penis doesn’t look like an adult’s penis, regardless of foreskin status, and what if the father in question also had a prince albert piercing? Would it be okay to pierce holes in a 8 day-old’s penis?

  103. 103
    azhael

    @100 Frenzie

    Si :)

  104. 104
    Frenzie

    @103, azhael

    Hurra!

  105. 105
    David Marjanović

    The closer you get to humans, the worse the science gets.

    Isn’t the foreskin full of nerves? In fact, isn’t the foreskin one of the most sensitive parts of a male’s body? But cutting away that sensitive tissue, all those nerves, has no effect whatsoever? How do they explain that?

    Not every area with lots of nerves can be stimulated sexually. Think of the tips of your index fingers for a start.

    However… not being Jewish, Muslim or American*, I’m not circumcised, so… I don’t know about other people, but… yes, the foreskin can be stimulated sexually.

    * I know, I know… a large (though decreasing) number of Canadians is circumcised, and there are various non-Muslim cultures in Africa and Australia where various forms of circumcision are or used to be the norm. I had no idea about Malta, though; it has a Muslim past, but that’s really far back… ~:-|

    The procedure is illegal now in some European countries.

    Is it? A year ago there was a discussion in Germany about whether to outlaw it; the outcome was a consensus that there’s simply no way of outlawing it without coming across as antisemitic, so the issue was dropped.

    People from non circumcision countries are generally mortified at the idea.

    When I found out (right here on Pharyngula, several years ago) that so many Americans are circumcised, I had to lie down.

    In fact, the incidence of penile cancer in Israel (almost 100% of males circumcised) is about the same as that in Scandinavia (circumcision the exception) suggesting that it is cleanliness, rather than godliness that is important.

    Full of win.

    Don’t worry in South Asia adults are into girls not boys

    Not how it works.

    And regarding adults, yes, how terribly interesting.

    :-o
    That link leads to the abstract of a scientific paper. Everyone in this thread should read it.

    Why do these wankers not read what they themselves write?

    They’re too busy wanking, because it takes them so long…?

    You’re done. Your games with spelling make you look illiterate and pretentious at the same time, and I’ve decided I don’t want to have to deal with your continuing affectations. Bye. –pzm

    What the fuck, PZ? I won’t claim that praestans has ever said anything interesting or useful or funny, quite the opposite – but their “games with spelling” are more regular than the usual spelling system. They make more sense than the way I’m writing here, where you have to learn some words like Chinese characters that only hint at their pronunciation vaguely. “English spelling doesn’t need a reform – it needs a bloody revolution” (Opinion 16) – and praestans, for better or worse, has begun to spill some of that blood. We should wish them luck.

    Understand that for babies the procedure is performed while they are awake

    …because of a 19th-century belief that newborns don’t really feel pain, the crying and stuff is just some kind of reflex. (That’s not a quote, the quotation marks are generated automatically by the <q> tag that I need for the Comic Sans.)

    I was under the apparently mistaken impression that comparatively excessive tonsillectomy is pretty much exclusively a Dutch thing.

    Oh no. When I was in hospital for an ear infection in Austria in probably 1989, it was offered to prophylactically take my tonsils out while I was already there and under anesthesia. It wasn’t done because another doctor said there was simply no reason, but it would have been unremarkable.

  106. 106
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    David Marjanović

    Not every area with lots of nerves can be stimulated sexually.

    At risk of providing TMI, I gotta say that my experience says otherwise.

    Think of the tips of your index fingers for a start.

    Oh, I am, I am.

    but their “games with spelling” are more regular than the usual spelling system.

    So the fuck what? They’re still nonstandard to the point of being virtually unreadable.

    “English spelling doesn’t need a reform – it needs a bloody revolution”

    Some people may feel that way, but it ain’t happening anytime soon, and jackasses like praestans aren’t helping it along.

    Oh no. When I was in hospital for an ear infection in Austria in probably 1989, it was offered to prophylactically take my tonsils out while I was already there and under anesthesia.

    The States were really big on prophylactic tonsillectomies too around that time.

  107. 107
    Frenzie

    @105, David Marjanović

    Not every area with lots of nerves can be stimulated sexually. Think of the tips of your index fingers for a start.

    I don’t know what you think about running your fingers over your partner’s body, but I find it quite stimulating. ;)

    When I found out (right here on Pharyngula, several years ago) that so many Americans are circumcised, I had to lie down.

    I found out about it through Penn & Teller: Bullshit! back in ’05ish. It’s not the most rigorous show, and sometimes their arguments make no sense whatsoever (like about recycling), but it was amusing enough. Then again, that was ten years ago; I have no idea if I’d still like it today. But to get to my actual point, I couldn’t agree more. I doubt anything I’ve learned about the US was as shocking as when I first heard about the widespread prevalence of circumcision. I realize that sounds callous when you have e.g. the projects and previously the lack of something resembling a proper public health care system, but those oddities of the American civilization are internationally well-known.

    Oh no. When I was in hospital for an ear infection in Austria in probably 1989, it was offered to prophylactically take my tonsils out while I was already there and under anesthesia. It wasn’t done because another doctor said there was simply no reason, but it would have been unremarkable.

    I think this new knowledge saddens me. :) But it wouldn’t surprise me if the ratio between the Netherlands, neighboring countries, and the European average has remained comparable even if the numbers all went down drastically.

  108. 108
    Colin J

    Frenzie,

    Let me get this straight. Anuran, way back at #12, says that one of Brian Morris’ argument might possibly be valid (pending further study) but if it is, it could only support adult circumcision. You say (#95) that Anuran is totally out of line “because adults are utterly irrelevant to the topic”.

    A direct criticism of one of Brian Morris’ arguments is off topic and yet somehow it’s on topic to discuss tonsillectomies?

    Riiight…

    By the way, I made the mistake of decoding that Gilgal Society extract. Can someone direct me to the “unread” function?

  109. 109
    Hugh Young

    PZ:

    leaving it intact imperils the child to a 1 in 3 chance of a serious condition requiring medical attention.

    How does that compare to any other comparable body part? I had a papilloma in one ear at the site of a piercing in 1997, so should my parents have cut off my earlobes at birth?

    Take that first condition, the likelihood of urinary tract infections. That’s taken from a sample of 36 children, half of whom had an unknown circumcision status, and the difference was not found to be statistically significant.

    Your link refers to a claim in earlier Morris papers, that “19% of uncircumcised boys had recurrent urinary tract infections, compared to none of the uncircumcised” based on 5 boys out of 26 whose intact status was known, out of 68 boys with any urinary tract infection (10 known to be circumcised), out of some 34,900 boys. The circumcision status of the other three of the eight boys with recurrent UTIs was unknown. In the USA, the intactness of a boy with a UTI is more likely to be noticed than his “normal” status of being circumcised. (In the same study 543 girls had UTIs, 75 of them recurrent.)

    Yet here he just presents it as established fact, that uncircumcised children have a ten-fold greater rate of urinary tract infections.

    The “tenfold” claim is based on his co-author Thomas Wiswell’s improbably large (>130,000 subjects) studies of babies born in military hospitals, where few boys would escape circumcision except those born prematurely, who are then at greater risk of UTIs from catheters. Wiswell’s measure of morbidity was re-hospitalisation, when that could be for circumcision, obviously unavailable to the already-circumcised. Infections are also caused by premature forcible retraction before the foreskin has naturally detached from the glans.

    Frenzie:

    Judging by American movies, circumcision also makes it desirable to use some sort of lubricant to aid masturbation. If true, circumcision would make masturbation more difficult as well as less desirable.

    Anecdotally, one of my circumcised friends masturbates between two pillows, another by lying on a towel. The very idea of either method makes my foreskin want to run away and hide.

  110. 110
    richardelguru

    Circumcision is OK as long as they don’t throw away the wrong bit…

  111. 111
    Frenzie

    @108, Colin J

    Let me get this straight. Anuran, way back at #12, says that one of Brian Morris’ argument might possibly be valid (pending further study) but if it is, it could only support adult circumcision. You say (#95) that Anuran is totally out of line “because adults are utterly irrelevant to the topic”.

    A direct criticism of one of Brian Morris’ arguments is off topic and yet somehow it’s on topic to discuss tonsillectomies?

    Riiight…

    First off, let’s make it perfectly clear what I’m talking about, because I don’t seem to recognize it in your description:

    The STD transmission studies are interesting. More work needs to be done of course, but if it does reduce your chances of dying from a horrible disease and incidentally killing your wives and children that’s a pretty good reason to snip, at least as an adult.

    With that out of the way, let’s assume for the sake of argument that my reading was unkind. In that case it merely indicates a one-dimensional lack of knowledge. Ignorance hereby rectified. You’re welcome. But PZ also already addressed the it in the OP, so spare me the crocodile tears.

    As for your tu quoque, which doesn’t actually affect the validity of my argument, it’s hard to take seriously the suggestion that (not) cutting off children’s body parts is equally off-topic as implicitly and explicitly JAQing off about adult penises. There might be valid reasons to object to widening the topic, but it also just might be that the reasons why we no longer routinely cut off children’s tonsils* are pertinent to the discussion.

    Incidentally, a much better to quoque would have been to point out that I too am talking about adult penises. One such instance can be found just a few lines down.

    * Yet we still used to do that for an actual reason (throat infection) and a direct (fairly minor) benefit as opposed to some unproved potential far-off future benefit!

    @109, Hugh Young

    Anecdotally, one of my circumcised friends masturbates between two pillows, another by lying on a towel. The very idea of either method makes my foreskin want to run away and hide.

    Ditto.

  112. 112
    Louis

    Frenzie, way back at #71,

    Thanks for the info (seriously). Apologies if, in riffing humorously of the daftness of the “dirty foreskin” myth I accidentally granted it undeserved credence.

    Ta.

    Louis

  113. 113
    Frenzie

    @Louis
    Cheers. But yeah, I don’t know what the idea is either way. So you completely lack bodily hygiene, but thanks to circumcision at least your penis is clean? Or something. :P

  114. 114
    Hugh Young

    #10 Richard Smith
    The (only) funny thing about the suitcase joke is that it admits that the foreskin is erogenous.

    #12 Anuran
    Don’t call it “snipping”
    * With a Gomco, Winkelman or Mogen Clamp, or a traditional barzel, it’s sliced – and a Mogen may slice more than just the foreskin, which has led to successful claims worth millions and the Mogen company going out of business.
    * With a Plastibell or PrePex it’s crushed and allowed to die.
    * With an Accu-circ it’s chopped.
    - but never “snipped”.

    #86 Azhael

    I think that just because circumsized men have orgasms too (and it seems to me the actual orgasmal experience does not change with or without a foreskin?) it is assumed that the sensitivity is necessarily the same, but the two things are quite distinct.

    Circumcised men very often say
    “I can still reach orgasm, so what’s the problem?”
    but they seem unaware of the importance of the journey, compared to the destination. (I wonder if European women complain as much as US women that men are too goal-directed during sex?)

    They also commonly say
    “If I were any more sensitive, [I couldn't stand it]/[I'd orgasm way too soon]“
    suggesting that the nature of their sensitivity is closely akin to pain – since that is the function of the majority of the receptors in the glans – and that they are on the brink of PE. The innervation of the foreskin provides feedback and hence control.

    Circumcised (but not intact) men call their frenulum “the male G-spot”. The frenulum is the membrane linking the underside of the glans to the foreskin. It is the beginning and end of the highly innervated ridged band running round the foreskin on the inside near the tip (described by Taylor in 1995). Circumcisers take or leave the frenulum depending on their skill, luck or whim. And of course the outcome is unknown until years later, and the circumcised man has no experience but what he has left, so he may never know that being circumcised is the cause of his problems.

  115. 115
    Colin J

    Frenzie @111:

    Tu quoque? That’s bullshit. It’s the same as calling an insult an ad hominem. I’m not saying “You’re a hypocrite therefore you’re wrong.” Actually, as far as unnecessary surgery on children goes, I agree with you 100%. And I don’t think that discussing tonsillectomies is off topic. But I also don’t think that discussing Brian Morris’ bizarre arguments for circumcision is off topic either.

    Sorry, but I gets the shits with someone* who tries to lay down the law about what we are and are not allowed to discuss in a thread. Someone who declares another person’s post as “utterly irrelevant to the topic” while at the same time they are “widening the discussion”.

    If you don’t like being called a hypocrite then don’t be a hypocrite. Simple.

    ———————-
    *Other than PZ, of course.

  116. 116
    Frenzie

    @115, Colin J

    But I also don’t think that discussing Brian Morris’ bizarre arguments for circumcision is off topic either.

    “Interesting.” “More work needs to be done.” “Snip.” Seriously, fucking read.

  117. 117
    Frenzie

    Tu quoque? That’s bullshit. It’s the same as calling an insult an ad hominem.

    You know, I was going to ignore this, but your bullshit gives me “the shits” too…

    “A direct criticism of one of Brian Morris’ arguments is off topic and yet somehow it’s on topic to discuss tonsillectomies?”

    That does implicitly say I was wrong to discuss tonsillectomies. Just because it wasn’t a tu quoque pertaining to the main argument doesn’t mean it wasn’t a tu quoque.

    Sorry, but I gets the shits with someone* who tries to lay down the law about what we are and are not allowed to discuss in a thread. Someone who declares another person’s post as “utterly irrelevant to the topic” while at the same time they are “widening the discussion”.

    But you’re right, it’s may not be off-topicness per se that’s the problem. Thank you for making me clarify that. Now how about you quit defending that shit already.

  118. 118
    rorschach

    The States were really big on prophylactic tonsillectomies too around that time.

    Unless you are into deepthroating, how is that in any way relevant to this thread?

  119. 119
    =8)-DX

    @Frenzie #71

    Nope. Nope, nope, nope.

    and
    #94 @Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    Sweat and dirt, urine and other secretions.

    The link you give there Frenzie pertains more to the problems of forcibly pulling back the foreskin of babies and children, rather than foreskin hygiene in general. This problem looks like more a concern-fest of people used to circumcision who decide to leave their children’s penises intact. Yes – don’t mess with your kids foreskin. But I can’t see anything on that page pertaining to adult penis washing. In my experience, dirt *can* and *does* accumulate under the foreskin (sweat, lint, hairs), and most specifically sexual secretions. Washing under my foreskin with warm water is a basic daily ritual and something I do before and after sex – otherwise it can smell something terrible. Maybe not having a smelly penis is just a cultural thing for me, but since that discussion was on the idea of “dirty penises” as attractive to women, baby foreskins aren’t really an issue.

    I guess if you have a non-retractable foreskin or paraphimosis, forcing the foreskin back is not a good idea, but I can’t see how washing off the penis in the shower to remove smell (and taste!) as part of sexual hygiene is problematic.

    @Roy G #91

    I’m starting to see what people mean about the comments section of this blog now.

    If you’ve spent any amount of time reading and commenting here it should be obvious that people slagging each other off in variously colourful language, including (most often) the “regulars”. Having a thick skin is a requirement.

    @David Marjanović #105

    Not every area with lots of nerves can be stimulated sexually. Think of the tips of your index fingers for a start.

    It’s possible to orgasm just from stimulating the foreskin. Also the nose. As for the tips of fingers, since they were being stimulated at the same time during these instances, I think it’s safe to say they can be stimulated sexually as well, although the usual method is to apply those fingertips to another person’s sexually stimulatable areas ;) And uh, yeah I’ve also orgasmed by only fingertip stimulation of another person, it’s not common, but it’s possible.

  120. 120
    Frenzie

    @119, =8)-DX

    I can’t see how washing off the penis in the shower to remove smell (and taste!) as part of sexual hygiene is problematic.

    The same reason washing anything too much is problematic. Especially when it involves hot water and/or soap. It dries out your skin and kills the good bacteria.

  121. 121
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    rorschach118
    Well, if you’d read the thread, including the comment I was responding to, and the one that comment was responding to, you might have a clue. Since you can’t be bothered, you’re welcome to remain confused.

  122. 122
    Robert Darby

    It is not just Prof (now emeritus) Umbridge’s anti-foreskin fanaticism and dodgy statistics that are the problem, but unreliable reporting of evidence. In one article he claimed a staggering toll of disease among United Sates armed forces in north Africa during World War II, all arising from “lack of circumcision”, and cited a volume of the official US war history as the source. When the relevant volume was checked, however, it turns out that he could not even get the title and author correct, most of its data came from the Pacific campaign, and foreskin-related problems made up a very minor proportion of the text. For a detailed analysis, see http://www.circinfo.org/Circumcision_and_sand.html

    Sexually transmitted infections. While the protective effect of circumcision against sexually transmitted infections seems to have become an article of faith among the American medical profession and public alike (including the American Academy of Pediatrics, which ought to know better), the most an objective observer could say is that the issue is contentious and inconclusive. The latest meta-analysis finds no evidence of circumcision having any overall protective benefit:

    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn.urology/2013/109846/

    it is a sign of their gross pro-circumcision bias that the US media always report publications with a pro-circumcision slant, but ignore those (such as this one) reaching the opposite conclusion.

  123. 123
    Felix Garfield

    The latest meta-analysis finds no evidence of circumcision having any overall protective benefit: http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn.urology/2013/109846

    A paper has just been published attacking that meta-analysis. No prizes for guessing who the lead author of this attack is…

    http://www.hindawi.com/journals/isrn.urology/2014/684706/

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