What to do in Hartford? »« Too easy

Comments

  1. says

    From the article cited:

    In 2011 alone, nearly a dozen infant boys had to be treated for “life threatening haemorrhage, shock or sepsis” as a result of their non-therapeutic circumcisions at a single children’s hospital in Birmingham.[96] This information was made public due to a specific freedom of information request, and so would not otherwise have been reported. It is clear, then, that we are seeing only the tip of the iceberg in terms of risks and complications.

    So in at least one facility, there’s an active conspiracy to cover up the consequences of circumcision? That says a lot about the pro-circumcision movement and their ethics.

  2. Helena Bowles says

    My partner was a paediatric nurse at Birmingham Children’s Hospital for many years (he now lectures in Paediatric Nursing at Birmingham University). I was also an (adult) nurse in Birmingham. Non therapeutic circumcisions are not a routine neonatal procedure at BCH, or, indeed, at any NHS hospital. The figures quoted are based on A&E admissions to BCH from the community. Birmingham has huge Asian and North African communities, both of whom regularly practice religious circumcision too often performed by unqualified or poorly qualified religious practitioners. These are the numbers referred to, NOT the consequences of medical interventions performed by qualified personal within the hospital. Apart from anything else when performed competently circumcision does not require a hospital stay. In the UK when parents demand circumcision – almost always on religious grounds as it is really no longer part of mainstream culture – it is generally performed at the surgery of a General Practitioner who is qualified and experienced in minor surgery and runs a clinic at his/her surgery for various minor operations.

    My partner is also relevant to this discussion as he was circumcised for medical reasons as an adult. He had a phimosis (tight, unretractable foreskin) that turned into a phimosis (foreskin retracted and caught tightly behind the glans). Noone, had realised he had a problem and as he was able to masturbate satisfactorily, neither did he. He had to have an emergency circumcision and, like most emergency procedures, it was neither a straightforward nor as successful as an elective procedure would have been. (To put it plainly, he has some stitchmarks and uneven scarring). Does this mean we should circumcise all baby boys just in case this rare condition happens to them? Of course not. That would be ridiculous. And we have a son, who has not been circumcised (although, as he got older, my partner made very sure that he did not also have a phimosis).

    It’s also worth mentioning my partner’s feelings about penile sensitivity pre-and post circumcision. He does agree there is minor loss of sensation – which he is not personally unhappy about as he finds penetration lasts much longer. He also comments that during intercourse while he has a mild loss of sensation on the in stroke he has a roughly equivalent gain in sensation on the out stroke. So it’s all been very neutral in its long term effect.

    The real point is though, that any surgical procedure, however minor, carries risks, however small. In the developed West there is absolutely no good argument for doing this to small children who have not and cannot consent. It’s also a stupid waste of resources when parents demand the procedure on the NHS.

  3. Helena Bowles says

    *headdesk* That should read: “a phimosis that turned into a paraphimosis”.

  4. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    I’m genuinely curious about the motivations behind such pro-circumcision obsessions. Honestly. I have no idea where this is coming from. Is anyone asking that question? No, inertia and the status quo are not sufficient to explain this level of aggressive promotion. Something else is going on psychologically. I’d think others would also like to know what that might be.

    It’s also not enough to simply debunk the medical misinformation. If we don’t frankly discuss the fact that motivated reasoning is happening—and frankly inquire about the specific motivation—we’re doing nothing but “he said, she said,” in the pages of magazines.

  5. Howard Bannister says

    I’m genuinely curious about the motivations behind such pro-circumcision obsessions.

    In my rightwing fundamentalist cult it was generally understood that circumcision was NOT required.

    80% of the men were circumcised, and the preacher would speak from the pulpit on how to get reluctant medical personnel to allow it.

    …although it wasn’t required by their religion.

    There is a HUGE religious push for this, for reasons that are tough to unpack.

  6. Helena Bowles says

    I’m genuinely curious about the motivations behind such pro-circumcision obsessions

    Certainly, in the UK, it’s largely a tribal marker. The majority of indigenous white UK men under 60ish are not circumcised. Jewish and Muslim men almost always are. What the reasons of Brian Morris are is a more difficult question! I’d be inclined to wonder if this evangelistic attitude is down to the fact it was done to him and if he doesn’t support the practice he might have to confront some personal issues relating to that.

    As a (white indigenous, atheist) Brit, I find the fact there’s even a debate about this quite strange. In the UK the medical establishment rejected it decades ago – the only time it’s performed by a medical practitioner (for non-medical reasons) is if a doctor considers this a safer alternative than having the parents go to a religious practitioner. Or if the doctor does it as part of a private practice. Technically, it’s a cosmetic procedure that isn’t funded by the NHS.

  7. otrame says

    I suspect that a lot of the pro-circumsion impetus is that men who have been circumcised don’t like the suggestion that their penis has been mutilated.

    At the time I was investigating to clip or not to clip, almost 40 years ago, I got the impression that there wasn’t much real difference (I know, of course, that that is nonsense but that was what I got from reading a good bit of literature at the time) and decided that my boy should be like his dad, who was born in the late 1940s in Germany–where, strangely, circumcision was not the norm.

    As it happened, my youngest needed a semi-circumcision when he was 8 months old because his foreskin was too tight to pull back and he was accumulating a significant lump of crud under it. They only removed the end of the foreskin. They put in stitches and when those fell out he had the loveliest scalloped edge on his foreskin. It gradually faded and by the time he was no longer in diapers it wasn’t so obvious.

    I didn’t take a picture for blackmail purposes because I am a moral person*.

    *And didn’t have a camera. They were expensive back in the day.

  8. Helena Bowles says

    Sorry, borked the blockquote (still not sure how…) that second quote is still me.

  9. David Marjanović says

    his dad, who was born in the late 1940s in Germany–where, strangely, circumcision was not the norm.

    I only just learned on this thread that it ever was the norm in the UK. After all, a debate about circumcision, with the outcome that it’s not required (and not encouraged either), stands at the very beginning of Christianity. The 19th-century war on masturbation seems not to have crossed the sea.

    he was accumulating a significant lump of crud under it

    Mystifies me.

  10. Howard Bannister says

    @David

    I think you missed the significant modifier there

    because his foreskin was too tight to pull back and he was accumulating a significant lump of crud under it

  11. PDX_Greg says

    When our sons were born in 1995 and 2000, it did seem remarkable to me that the circumcision choice was basically a checklist item you either selected or you didn’t in the standard protocol of having the baby at the hospital. What if they renamed it to: “Would you like us to perform ritual genital mutilation on your newborn for no medical reason whatsoever?”

  12. Howard Bannister says

    (which is of course normal in children of that age, but if there’s inflammation, infection, or other pathological effects — which I assumed the second half of the sentence alludes to — the doctors chose surgery as a fix. Wiki notes: “Phimosis is deemed pathological when it causes problems, such as difficulty urinating or performing normal sexual functions. There are numerous causes of so-called pathological phimosis” — I’m assuming from that description we’re talking about infection — but it’s fairly rare. About 1% of the population, with most of that treatable by non-surgical means))

  13. Juliana Ewing says

    The foreskin in an 8-month-old is normally totally attached and therefore unable to accumulate any crud under it (during a diaper change, you just wipe off the outside, the same as with a circed penis). It starts to loosens up when the boy is considerably older, in part by his tugging forward on it himself, e.g., in the bath. It should never be forcibly retracted. Steroid cream is sometimes used when adhesions have developed in an older boy.

  14. says

    I’m genuinely curious about the motivations behind such pro-circumcision obsessions.

    Judging from comments made by pro-circumcision people in discussions like this, they often have a sense that a circumcised penis “look better”. Many times I’ve heard them express the sentiment that an uncircumcised penis looks weird and unattractive.

    This may be one of those cases where people establish an expectation of what’s normal early on and then find it very difficult to shake that visceral preference. Later, all the usual motivated reasoning comes in to defend what is, at heart, just a personal preference.

    I’m not sure if this is the whole explanation, though. I grant that the dedication to circumcision often seems strangely fierce.

  15. Shatterface says

    Its one of those practices which, if it did not intersect with race, would probably have been outlawed in Europe.

    America’s mainstream acceptance of it would be regarded as one of those weird barbaric practices that distinguishes it from other developed nations, along with over-populated prisons, the death penalty, and low-ownership of electric kettles.

  16. twas brillig (stevem) says

    To throw in some “racism”: Wasn’t it once the case, that to prove one was NOT a Jew was to show one’s uncircumcised ~~pencil~~? /smirk

  17. David Marjanović says

    I think you missed the significant modifier there

    I didn’t. I can’t pull mine back either – well, maybe I could, but the feeling would be massively uncomfortable –, and nothing ever gets under it. At the same time, it doesn’t constrict anything (and pulling it forward isn’t a problem either). Clearly I’m missing vast anatomical diversity here.

    Its one of those practices which, if it did not intersect with race, would probably have been outlawed in Europe.

    Oh, I forgot – just two years ago, there was a debate whether to outlaw it right here in Germany! The only reason it hasn’t been outlawed is that there’s no way to do that without coming off as antisemitic, a… quite understandable concern over here.

    America’s mainstream acceptance of it would be regarded as one of those weird barbaric practices that distinguishes it from other developed nations, along with over-populated prisons, the death penalty, and low-ownership of electric kettles.

    “Would” in the sense that most other people don’t know about it. When I learned that most male-bodied Americans are circumcised – in a Pharyngula thread in 2007 –, I had to stop reading and lie down for a while. That’s how unsettling it was.

    (…Heh. Nice job of Arson, Murder and Jaywalking.)

    Wasn’t it once the case, that to prove one was NOT a Jew was to show one’s uncircumcised ~~pencil~~?

    That used to be quite common. Like in WWII over here, when some of the few male Jews who hid in plain sight undertook really drastic attempts at do-it-yourself foreskin restoration.

  18. futurechemist says

    This is mostly anecdotal, but I suspect it has to do with control – religious elders wanting to control other people’s sex lives. I was circumcised just after birth (I’m culturally Jewish – a Jatheist), my husband is uncircumcised. Compared to him, my penis is much drier and requires a lot more lube during any sort of sexual activity. Without lube, there would be times when that sexual activity would be downright unpleasant, if not painful.

    So my guess is that in historical times, religious elders needed to dissuade men and teenage boys from sexual activity. And how better to do that than to make the undesired activity unpleasant? And to cap it off, say it’s something that god demands so people will blindly do it. And since the US is such a religious country, we’ve never really questioned circumcision.

  19. says

    A few jewish theologins – including Moses Maimonides – are honest about the real purpose of circumcision. Removing the foreskin greatly reduces sexual pleasure (about 69% of penile nerve endings are there), and the reasoning goes that pleasure is connected with independent thought and rebellion. So, reduce sexual pleasure and you get an obedient population.

    Female circumcision obviously has the same purpose.

    That circumcised people are not notably less independent-minded than intact people shows the measure doesn’t even work.

  20. Menyambal says

    I’d say circumcision keeps going in the US partly from culture and partly from what someone mentioned above. If a circumcised man decides his son doesn’t need to be clipped, he has to deal with the fact that he has been.

    Frankly, the thought that somebody took me, as a helpless newborn, and made that decision, and then performed surgery on my winkie while I screamed, is teeth-clenching. And I identify myself with my penis a lot less than many men. It isn’t as horrible as what other folks have suffered, but damn, I can’t bear to think about it.

    The origin of circumcision as a general thing in America probably originated as a deliberately painful thing, not for sanitary reasons. See http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvey_Kellogg#Masturbation_Prevention The guy was a health nut, and invented healthy cereal flakes. His brother added the sugar that made Frosted Flakes so popular. If the influence of those guys is still affecting our breakfast, it may be we are still clipping dicks because one of them said to.

    The book that John Kellogg wrote about the evils of masturbation and the need to circumcise is at http://www.gutenberg.org/files/19924/19924-h/19924-h.htm if you want some old-time fun.

  21. Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls says

    The book that John Kellogg wrote about the evils of masturbation and the need to circumcise is at

    I grew up in Battle Creek. Needless to say, I was circumcised.

  22. says

    When I learned that most male-bodied Americans are circumcised – in a Pharyngula thread in 2007 –, I had to stop reading and lie down for a while. That’s how unsettling it was.

    I’m sort of relieved. I thought I was the only one.
    I’m not up-to-date but I believe that here in Italy You can have your children circumcised on welfare (taxpayer’s money) due to the growth of the Muslim community. The “official” reasons advanced for it on the media went from the laughable to the uttely f***ing insane.

  23. ledasmom says

    It starts to loosens up when the boy is considerably older, in part by his tugging forward on it himself, e.g., in the bath.

    I’m pretty sure they’re tugging it any which way they can as soon as they can get their hands on it. Our younger son seemed to be under the impression that his penis was a rubber band; I once found him stretching it out to what at the time appeared to be an unreasonable length, and poking it with a fork.

  24. says

    I’m circumcised and it doesn’t bother me except for the fact that it’s a religious symbol (let’s be honest, the ‘medical’ reasons are bullshit) and I’m not a religious person.

  25. darkwater says

    I can’t pull mine back either

    Hey, as a teen on the East Coast of the USA in the mid-80’s, during an exam for high school sports my doctor retracted my foreskin fully and ran his fingernail around my suculus trying to collect smegma. He then chided me saying my discomfort and the moistness of my glans proved I wasn’t *really* keeping it clean.

  26. Anton Mates says

    LykeX @15,

    Many times I’ve heard them express the sentiment that an uncircumcised penis looks weird and unattractive.

    And if there’s one question that determines what elective medical procedures I schedule for my baby, it’s, “What will the general public think of his dick?” Granted, the depleted-uranium Prince Albert cost me a pretty penny, but there’s no way he could compete with Spider-Man 8: The Fourth Reboot otherwise.

    darkwater @27,

    as a teen on the East Coast of the USA in the mid-80′s, during an exam for high school sports my doctor retracted my foreskin fully

    oh my god am I glad I went to high school in Berkeley in the 90’s. What the hell sport was this, 100m freestyle child molestation? Tell me this policy was resolved via lawsuit?

  27. Al Dente says

    Anton Mates @28

    During physical exams a doctor can do all kinds of things. At my last medical exam the Physician’s Assistant gave me a prostrate exam, inserting a finger up my anus and moving it around. I would have been amazed if I hadn’t undergone that procedure. Incidentally the PA is a woman. Neither of us got any kind of sexual thrill.

  28. Muz says

    For Josh’s questions, I heard a good radio show about it years ago. I thought it was Radiolab or This American Life, but I can’t for the life of me find it.
    The story followed a young couple making the choice for their boys and it was fascinating.
    In the end the wife, who was in favour, had no argument for why it should be done. She even agreed with her husband’s arguments against it on a rational level. But she couldn’t escape the -feeling- that to not circumcise was dirty and wrong. And you could hear fairly clearly the anxiety it was causing her and the stress on their relationship.
    From memory these people were just regular Mid-West liberal Christians. Not conservative, particularly.
    The wife would talk to her parents about it though and they would be “Of course you do it. Is there another option?”.

    Based on that and other cases they were reporting the story was simply that it is culturally ingrained and that’s powerful stuff, never to be underestimated. There’s no real explanation or justification.
    So why the pushback? Well, it does seem to be that standard US populist thing doesn’t it. People telling you something you’ve always done is wrong and wanting to ban it is an encroachment on your freedom and way of life, even if it’s an entirely irrelevant and pointless bit of it. It can be turned into a symbol then with post-hoc justifications and ‘…the bible’ etc etc. The religious right fashions wedges out of “tradition”.

  29. randay says

    @6 – Howard Bannister. Christians forget or don’t know their Bible. What a surprise! In Galatians 5:2 Paul said, “Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you.”

    All those 19th century Christians certainly also seemed to forget. Paul of course was at times contradictory. Another surprise! as he circumcised one of his followers Timothy.

  30. darkwater says

    Anton @ 28:
    The retraction of the foreskin wasn’t that big of a deal; I’m used to it being a quick way to verify no phimosis or paraphimosis issues, although I’m typically asked to do it myself. The hunt for smegma and the Ur Doin It Rong lecture: that was annoying.
    (Not as annoying as the same doctor’s suggestion a few years later that I get circumcised prior to joining the armed forces, since “those doctors” weren’t nearly as friendly to foreskins as he was.)

  31. Anton Mates says

    The retraction of the foreskin wasn’t that big of a deal

    Oh, I know. It’s the bit about it being for high school sports that blew me away. I mean, I know they need to check you for hernias and stuff; I just can’t think of a school sport where the contents of the players’ foreskins are hugely relevant.

    I guess I just got lucky by taking women’s self-defense classes instead. They threw a lot of punches at your junk in that class if you were a male student, but they didn’t investigate it.