So, it’s Father’s Day »« Ing gets email

Key issues to trigger an internet fight

Amanda Marcotte claims to have published a definitive list of the weirdest people on the internet, but I think she’s wrong, and has missed a few. She hasn’t crossed swords with fanatical astrologers, New Age solipsists, or Presuppositionalists yet, apparently.

And the first item on her list might strike you as a bit odd.

1. Anti-male circumcision obsessives. No, not people who are simply opposed to circumcising babies. I’m talking about the people who act like removing a foreskin is one of the greatest human rights abuses of all time, on level not just with the much more serious female circumcision but also with slavery and the Holocaust and who tend to use the word “mutilated” to describe it. Most of them are misogynists whose eagerness to construct an edifice of male oppression has completely overwhelmed any concern that their weirdness is permanently destroying any ability to have a reasonable discussion about the pros and cons of circumcision. Because of the combination of gender weirdness, sexual obsessions, bad faith, and lack of all proportion, they get the number one spot.

But then you read the comments, and most of it is dominated by…anti-male circumcision obsessives. It’s like they’ve crawled out of the woodwork specifically to substantiate the validity of Marcotte’s ranking.

This is not to say that anyone should approve of circumcision. Personally, I consider it cosmetic surgery (in most cases — there are unusual conditions under which it’s medically necessary) that ought not to be inflicted on small children, but I don’t consider it crippling or significantly damaging to sexual activity. Which means I’ll probably get hate mail from both the loons who want to make it mandatory for every one, and the loons who regard it as tantamount to castration.

Comments

  1. Anthony K says

    Which means I’ll probably get hate mail from both the loons who want to make it mandatory for every one, and the loons who regard it as tantamount to castration.

    Who says we can’t be both type of loon?

    Castration for everyone! Miniature American flags for others!

  2. says

    And the first item on her list might strike you as a bit odd.

    It’s only odd if you haven’t written about circumcision before. Ask Harriet Hall. Over at Science-Based Medicine, any post about male circumcision is virtually guaranteed to attract the anti-circumcision activists, resulting in free-for-all threads grinding out hundreds of comments. These people are way nastier and scarier than almost all the other quacks and cranks who try to troll medical sites—even more so than antivaccine activists, although maybe not quite as bad as animal rights activists.

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

    I’ll probably get hate mail from … the loons who regard it as tantamount to castration.

    Totally see why it’s worse than slavery now! I mean, castration!!1!1!!1!! The WORST THING IN THE WORLD that can happen to a huMAN! And this is tantamount? So it must be worse than every other thing in the world EXCEPT castration, right? Am i rite?

    ugh. Look, I’m super in favor of people having control over their own bodies. I’ve been fighting for universal rights to bodily autonomy and integrity framed so that when in conflict, autonomy always wins. i can’t see what formulation would better protect those afraid of involuntary circumcision. But I’m truly sick of these toxic ideas that

    a) men are the only humans
    b) men are male
    c) it is maleness that gives men their masculinity, and masculinity that makes one a “real man”
    d) therefore castration – depriving a person of some very significant portion of their maleness – is necessarily depriving that person of masculinity, and therefore of manhood, and therefore being human, and therefore JUST KILL ME WHY DON’T YOU! THIS IS THE MOST HORRIBLE HORRIBLE EVAR!!!!

  4. colnago80 says

    Re Orac @ #2

    You may recall that a former blogger at Scienceblogs, Dr. Peter Lipson, once put up a post on circumcision where he had received when I stopped counting over 300 comments. He usually received anywhere from 10 to 20 at most.

    In response to most of the anti comments, I posted a comment pointing out that the Christian messiah, Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth, underwent the procedure on Jan. 1 the 8th day after his birth as proscribed by Jewish law, assuming he was born on Dec. 25. One response I received was from someone who was apparently from India who stated that she wasn’t a Christian and she thought the procedure was barbaric. I had to inform her that Yeshua wasn’t a Christian either as the Christian church wasn’t formed until after his death and that most Christian sects don’t require the procedure.

  5. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Basically put Crip Dyke in charge of everything. All things would be so much better, and we’d have a lot more free time.

  6. carlie says

    Circumcision is bad.

    But that doesn’t mean it’s the only bad thing we should ever talk about.

  7. anbheal says

    @3 Crip Dyke –lest we forget e) Jewish conspiracy.

    And yeah, I thought Ms. Marcotte might have at least tipped her hat toward Birthers, Truthers, Contrailers, They’re Coming After My Guns-ers, etc. But man alive, her #1 really got validated in a hurry. I really love the insistence that circumcised men can’t have orgasms and only produce an itty-bitty ejacula. Hard to believe how 80 percent of the American baby boom managed to procreate, let alone support the entire porn industry without enjoying masturbation.

  8. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Josh:

    I quite often find myself thinking the same thing.

    (not meant as an insult)

    ============

    I would put the anti-circumcision brigade as a subset of the MRA/PUA/Misogyny is Natural and/or good/How dare you ask men to change how they behave/how they are made/how they think/how they assert themselves. From Egate to the Red Pill marathon to so many other comment threads in which the OP makes the radical assertion that men are not perfect, we have seen this again and again. And again. And again. Ad pukeum!

  9. Trebuchet says

    I gave up on the comments before getting to much of the circumcision discussion, but the bicycle one was quite amazing. And lengthy.

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

    The Marcotte thread has been won.

    In reference to the debilitating effects of male circumcision, “Notgruntled” says:

    I don’t remember any pain, but I know I couldn’t walk for months.

    So much win.

    And since I’m in charge, you must all laugh as much as I did. :-P

  11. erik333 says

    I’m not sure how Amanda Marcotte figures “mutilation” is not an accurate description of the practice.

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

    Here’s Marcotte’s only use of any form of “mutilate”:

    I’m talking about the people who act like removing a foreskin is one of the greatest human rights abuses of all time, on level not just with the much more serious female circumcision but also with slavery and the Holocaust and who tend to use the word “mutilated” to describe it.

    Noting that certain groups are in part identified by their word-choice is not the same as saying that circumcision does not meet the dictionary definition of mutilation. It is entirely fair to note that most people wouldn’t use “mutilate” to describe male circumcision. Note also that using mutilate is not the defining characteristic of these folks: just a characteristic correlated with being one of these folks.

    So what was your criticism of Marcotte again?

  13. Nick Gotts says

    It is entirely fair to note that most people wouldn’t use “mutilate” to describe male circumcision. – Crip Dyke@12

    But isn’t that a result of the normalisation of this particular type of mutilation? When it’s done (as it usually is) without either medical justification or consent, it seems an accurate and reasonable term.

  14. erik333 says

    @12 Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    When she enumerates what she considers damning characteristics of the group, correctly describing the practice as “mutilation” is one of them. Why would she bring up one thing they are actually doing right?

  15. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Nick Gotts @14:

    I’m intrigued. How do you circumcise a bicycle?

    You remove the cover from the sticky-outie part. Which, I guess, is the aire valve?

  16. erik333 says

    @15 Nick Gotts

    Technically, it would still be “mutilation” if there was consent. It would, however, stop being immoral.

  17. Juliana Ewing says

    I can’t quite say I’ve never run into anyone who remotely resembles her description at number 6, but I would say I haven’t seen any large trollish group like that. Most of the way-out-there people on those topics tend to be lone eccentrics who obsess about one aspect (and a lot of them are men) and don’t go around backing each other up.

  18. darkwater says

    I think one of the things which characterize kooks in general is their tendency, when things aren’t going their way, to follow up their spittle-flecked rage with more spittle-flecked rage. Thus the vaguely (but sometimes overtly) MRA/misogynist/the-world-is-out-to-get-men subset of anti-circumcision activists seem to dominate certain spheres, and certainly make me reluctant to use the term “anti-circumcision” to describe myself.

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

    @Nick Gotts:

    But isn’t that a result of the normalisation of this particular type of mutilation? When it’s done (as it usually is) without either medical justification or consent, it seems an accurate and reasonable term.

    Oh, absolutely. I am in full agreement. I think the term should be used more.

    But if you say a firefighter is someone who is employed to fight fires, but that they are also often identifiable by a combination of their physical fitness and distinctive hats, that doesn’t make any statement that distinctive hats or physical fitness make one a firefighter, or that it would be good or bad to associate those two traits with firefighters.

    I’m noting that Marcotte failed to make the argument for which she is criticized, but for damn sure if she *did* make it, I’d be all over her.

    And it is appropriate to be all over the society that declines to call something mutilation simply because it is tolerated/traditional/embraced in the society as how delightful or respectable or healthy life is or isn’t after having a body part cut isn’t any part of the definition of mutilation.

    I’m against the normalization, but to say that a certain group is in part identifiable by the fact that they actively resist that normalization isn’t to say that normalization isn’t to be resisted.

    Is that too subtle a point?

    I just want Marcotte to catch hell for exactly what she does say – not for arguments she hasn’t made. I think your observation can be used to call out Marcotte’s statement as one that – in its social context – supports the idea that male circumcision isn’t mutilation. There’s nothing in her statement to distinguish a writer as someone who doesn’t believe mutilation applies from one who does. While that’s a defense against erik333’s initial assertion, I think it is sloppy and, through sloppiness and inaction, effectively reinforces an unjust status quo.

    I’d be happy with any criticism of Marcotte on that basis. I am not happy with asserting that she believes and argues the word mutilation is inapplicable.

    At least not based on this blog post. Maybe erik333 is just referencing things she’s written but with which I’m unfamiliar. In that case, erik333 is totally in the right, but I didn’t have the evidence to evaluate erik333’s claim.

  20. Terska says

    My uncircumcised friends don’t understand why circumcised guys hate condoms. It’s ironic that circumcision is touted as the best way to prevent HIV transmission.

  21. Artor says

    What about the loons that feed & mate on those many lakes in your cold, Northern land? Do they have exploding corkscrew penises like some ducks? I imagine they’d have a strong opinion on circumcision, if you had a way to ask them.

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

    @erik333:

    When she enumerates what she considers damning characteristics of the group,

    My entire problem with your previous assertion is that there is no indication that she considers the use of the word mutilation “damning”. Where is that in her writing? She considers it a characteristic of the group, sure. But she doesn’t condemn use of mutilation, just notes that it is much more frequent among these types than in the gen pop.

    From my reading, your insistence that she considers this a damning characteristic is unwarranted.

    But as I said above, it’s sloppy, given the unjust social context, to leave it unstated whether she considers it damning or not. I think that failing to resist injustice is a contribution to an unjust society (“all that is required for evil to triumph” and all that) and that Marcotte can be justly and accurately criticized for that.

    But I think it’s a different criticism from the one you made above.

  23. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    For clarity, I wasn’t being at all sarcastic or insulting when I proposed Crip Dyke for the position of Decider. We seriously would be better off!

  24. erik333 says

    @25 Crip Dyke, Right Reverend Feminist FuckToy of Death & Her Handmaiden

    I read the entire list as a compilation of damning characteristics of various groups, but I guess I could be wrong.

  25. Shatterface says

    I would put the anti-circumcision brigade as a subset of the MRA/PUA/Misogyny is Natural and/or good/How dare you ask men to change how they behave/how they are made/how they think/how they assert themselves. From Egate to the Red Pill marathon to so many other comment threads in which the OP makes the radical assertion that men are not perfect, we have seen this again and again. And again. And again. Ad pukeum!

    So Ophelia Benson is some misogynistic pro-rape jock and the Taliban are feminist?

  26. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    The best argument against referring to it as “mutilation” that I’ve heard is that many people who’ve undergone it, including those among them who oppose male circumcision, are often very uncomfortable with having their genitals called “mutilated” and being told that they must hate themselves for it. Many people do say they feel that they have been mutilated, which is of course their right, but telling others how they should feel abotu their genitals is not a great move?

  27. Shatterface says

    But isn’t that a result of the normalisation of this particular type of mutilation? When it’s done (as it usually is) without either medical justification or consent, it seems an accurate and reasonable term.

    I don’t consider getting tattoos ‘mutilation’ because I believe in bodily autonomy.

    I do regard giving babies tattoos ‘mutilation’ – and for the same reason.

  28. Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy says

    Terska– Whereas the man I know who most dislikes condoms is not circumcised. I strongly suspect there are other variables here.

    “Best way” to prevent HIV transmission? By whom? The claim is more like, “if you can’t get people to use condoms, circumcised HIV+ men are less likely to transmit the virus than uncircumcised HIV+ men.”

  29. thascius says

    Terska-I’m a circumcised male and I’ve never had a problem wearing condoms.
    For that matter all of my sexual partners have also been male, most have been circumcised, and I’ve never had one who mentioned a problem wearing condoms either.

  30. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    Shatterface:

    So Ophelia Benson is some misogynistic pro-rape jock and the Taliban are feminist?

    Of course. There is no way that there could be any nuanced position between those who argue as I described and those who are anti-curcumcision but approach from a non-MRA, non-what about the menz! position. Nor is there any way that there could possibly be other ways of approaching and arguing the same subject — from either direction.

  31. mikeyb says

    Good list but a lot is left off like plain old tea baggers, gun nuts, anyone who listens to or parrots anything said by Glenn Beck, and all the racists with Obama derangement syndrome.

  32. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    HappiestSadist: That seems to me one of those cases that poses an actual ethical dilemma. It is not immediately obvious that sensitivity toward people who’ve undergone circumcision is enough to trump the (potential) benefit of deploying frank and raw rhetoric. An unhappy dilemma, to be sure, but a real one.

  33. Gregory Greenwood says

    Ah, the anti-male circumcision obsessives – those people who cannot let a single thread about FGM go by without howling ‘wot about teh menz?’ from the (digital) rooftops. They never seem to grasp that it is not that male circumcison is somehow above criticism – it is a cultural and often religiously mandated practice, the claims of its medical benefits are weak at best, and it is true that the pro-circumcision brigade have obsessive fanatics of their own who want to make the practice manditory – the problems start when the AMCOs start acting as if this is the only type of problem in society that can or should be discussed, and certainly the only reproductive health issue that should be on the table, and start crowding out discussion of any other topic, often using the appropriation of any and all discussion about reproductive health and bodily autonomy as a silencing tactic against women. It becomes very evident, very quickly, that they care far more about replicating misogyny and marginalising women then they actually do about making a reasonable case against male circumcision, which really isn’t all that diffciult to do. Hacking bits of the penises of baby boys is not exactly the most easily defensible of social practices.

    All circumcision is, to put it very, very mildly, problematic. FGM is a monstrously cruel, barbarous abomination that can and does ruin lives and kill innocent women and girls, and male circumcision is often socially toxic and at best medically useless, if not actively harmful. Just consign the whole poisonous cultural edifice of chopping chunks off babies (or children or adults) of whatever sex to the scrap heap of history where it belongs, but while you are about it, remember the differences in physical severity and cultural intent between male circumcision and FGM. Male circumcision is horrible enough, but FGM is nothing less than a bid to destroy the female capacity for sexual pleasure entirely, and so it is believed thereby eliminate a woman’s capacity for independent thought, and at the same time function as a mark of her status as a chattel, first of her male relatives and later of her husband. It is a mark of procreative and sexual slavery. It is worth bearing that in mind.

  34. mikeyb says

    Oh here’s another one- anti-abortion anti-gay activists (they almost always go together). If these people aren’t obsessive and kooky and at the same time have done more overall damage than any other obsessive group in society (except perhaps liberturds) I don’t know who has.

  35. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    And Gregory Greenwood, at 36, describes exactly the kind of person to which I referred in my #8. Thank you, Gregory. You described the element of toxic masculinity involved far better than I.

  36. Terska says

    Here you go.

    http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/the-case-for-neonatal-circumcision/

    See you can’t get AIDS if you are circumcised or so it goes.

    Most guys I know say wearing condoms is like taking a shower in a rain coat. I know this is not an uncommon view. Perhaps if you grew up only having sex with condoms this could be less of an issue. I know that I feel nothing at all now if I wear one. Nada. I left my kids intact so this would be less of an issue. Watch that video PZ posted the other day. The lack of sensation after circumcision is a big deal.
    http://www.cutthefilm.com It is not so benign of a procedure.

  37. darkwater says

    On “mutilation”: Nearly all of my anti-circumcision activism, if you can call it that, is done in person with people I have an existing relationship with, so what I say definitely depends on the circumstance, who I’m talking to, and how the topic got brought up. While I believe calling circumcision mutilation is perfectly crommulent, I’ve typically avoided using the word for the reasons HappiestSadist outlined, even when the discussion got heated and explicit.

  38. says

    Apparently Lewis’ Law is a subset of a wider phenomena and Amanda Marcotte’s article is winning the internet on that front.

  39. edmundog says

    Yeah, I’m personally opposed to circumcision, but in kind of a grudging way, because I’ve been so pissed off by hardcore anti-circumcision people in my life. I’ve been told to my face that I’m mutilated, that I’ve never pleased a woman or myself derived real pleasure from sex, that I cause pain to anyone I have sex with. Not exaggerating, I have been told this, and they believe it. It’s so insulting, and while all the really pro-circumcision people have is crappy science and ‘tradition’, I never see them doing shit like that.

  40. erik333 says

    @31 Vicki, duly vaccinated tool of the feminist conspiracy

    I thought the claim was that circumsized men were less likely to catch it while performing penetrating sex?

  41. says

    She hasn’t crossed swords with fanatical astrologers, New Age solipsists, or Presuppositionalists yet, apparently.

    I meant to ask earlier–assuming PZ blogged about it, does anyone have a link to a prior post on the fanatical astrologers?

  42. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    This just in: one of the most vocal defenders of bodily autonomy in every other context, who habitually runs a banner ad on her site with the slogan “If you are right, you cannot be too radical” feels certain defenders of bodily autonomy are too radical and should shut up.

  43. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Err, sorry, missed a point: “when the issue is one that doesn’t affect her.”

  44. says

    As someone who was circumcised at birth (along with all my brothers and nearly every male I knew growing up) some of this “mutilation” talk seems a bit much. It’s as if you were saying that baldness (something I also have) is a hideous physical deformity. If I’d had sons, I would not have had them cut, but it’s hardly the calamity I keep hearing described. Get a grip.

  45. says

    erik333:

    I’m not sure how Amanda Marcotte figures “mutilation” is not an accurate description of the practice.

    Mutilation generally entails disfigurement along with dysfunction of whatever bit was mutilated. One could argue that male circumcision constitutes a disfigurement, but as it’s the ‘look’ of the penis that’s responsible for a great many circumcision, not the best argument. One could also argue that male circumcision causes sexual dysfunction, but that one isn’t going to go very far.

  46. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    The best argument against referring to it as “mutilation” that I’ve heard is that many people who’ve undergone it, including those among them who oppose male circumcision, are often very uncomfortable with having their genitals called “mutilated” and being told that they must hate themselves for it. Many people do say they feel that they have been mutilated, which is of course their right, but telling others how they should feel abotu their genitals is not a great move.

    Should anti-bullying campaigns be similarly circumspect to spare the feelings of older people, especially men, who see being bullied as a sort of “rite of passage” or test of manhood that they went through and it wasn’t that bad, quit coddling the whiners?

  47. says

    Azkyroth:

    This just in: one of the most vocal defenders of bodily autonomy in every other context, who habitually runs a banner ad on her site with the slogan “If you are right, you cannot be too radical” feels certain defenders of bodily autonomy are too radical and should shut up.

    Amanda is not talking about every person who opposes male circumcision. She’s speaking of a very specific subset:

    I put the clarion call out on social media for suggestions on this list, and I’d like to thank everyone who contributed. This the 10th anniversary year for a lot of bloggers, including myself, and I thought it might be fun to look back on the past decade and honor/mock some of the strangest characters that keep popping up in all corners of the internet. To get on this list, a group of weirdoes has to meet three criteria:

    1. Being outright deluded in their obsession or, even if they might have a sliver of a point, their obsession outstrips any sense of proportion, pushing them into the “delusional” category.
    2. First rate trolling abilities. They can turn all sorts of discussions into flamewars about their obsession. They have this uncanny ability to know if there’s a thread somewhere online that touches on their obsession, so they can descend en masse and utterly derail any productive conversation. You start to suspect some of them never sleep.
    3. No sense of humor whatsoever, coupled with an enormous ego that leads to rapid fire butthurt at even the merest whiff of pushback.

    Note the first criteria.
    She’s talking about people who obsess over male circumcision out of proportion to the amount of harm it causes.

  48. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Would she accept people who aren’t affected by an issue being the arbiters of whether a response is proportional to the harm it causes on literally any other topic?

  49. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Amanda is not talking about every person who opposes male circumcision.

    Hasn’t she criticized people, including other feminists, feeling the need to distance themselves from and dismiss feminists considered “extremists” like Andrea Dworkin?

    3. No sense of humor whatsoever, coupled with an enormous ego that leads to rapid fire butthurt at even the merest whiff of pushback.

    Isn’t accusing people of not having a sense of humor or not being able to take a joke supposed to be a standard, contemptible trolling tactic, and “butthurt” supposed to be a homophobic slur or something?

    Whatever.

    Double standards. I dun like em.

    11th dimensional chess arguments about why double standards aren’t really double standards: I like them even less.

  50. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    Also…

    The best argument against referring to it as “mutilation” that I’ve heard is that many people who’ve undergone it, including those among them who oppose male circumcision, are often very uncomfortable with having their genitals called “mutilated” and being told that they must hate themselves for it. Many people do say they feel that they have been mutilated, which is of course their right, but telling others how they should feel abotu their genitals is not a great move.

    Do we seriously have feminists asserting that we shouldn’t call something what it is because doing so might make men uncomfortable?

  51. says

    Azkyroth:

    Do we seriously have feminists asserting that we shouldn’t call something what it is because doing so might make men uncomfortable?

    We have people asserting that we should keep other people in mind when bandying words about. I can certainly understand a circumcised man not wanting his genitals referred to as mutilated.

    There is a question of degree, also, whether one likes it or not. As Gregory Greenwood pointed out, supra, a majority of female circumcision involves mutilation, in the form of complete removal of the clitoris, and quite often, surrounding labia. That does cause serious sexual dysfunction, as well as disfigurement.

  52. David Marjanović says

    What about the loons that feed & mate on those many lakes in your cold, Northern land? Do they have exploding corkscrew penises like some ducks?

    Nope. Being less closely related to ducks than chickens are, they lack penises altogether. Most birds reproduce by what’s called the “cloacal kiss”. :-)

    This just in: one of the most vocal defenders of bodily autonomy in every other context, who habitually runs a banner ad on her site with the slogan “If you are right, you cannot be too radical” feels certain defenders of bodily autonomy are too radical and should shut up.

    …Not too radical, no. The post is specifically about the ones who go way beyond the evidence. It’s not about the people who (like me) point out that this particular little amputation has no advantages (except in the very rare cases when it’s medically necessary) and plenty of disadvantages and risks, it’s about the people who equate it with slavery and holocaust – and such people exist, even if you haven’t encountered them.

    Do we seriously have feminists asserting that we shouldn’t call something what it is because doing so might make men uncomfortable?

    What the fuck? Feminism isn’t an ad-hominem argument against men. Feminism is not a logical fallacy.

  53. lorn says

    Male circumcision just isn’t a big thing IMO.

    Assuming it is done competently by medical professionals it is a minor benefit or detriment at most. It is so simple that outlawing it is going to simply drive it underground and you end up with a significant chance of a botched job.

    OTOH female genital mutilation, particular the more involved forms, are a much bigger problem and one deserving of active protest. The more extreme forms are debilitating by design.

    The issue is far less clear when we compare the least intrusive forms of FGM, essentially a small nick as formality, and the more extreme forms of male modifications, analogous to the extreme forms of FGM, there the skin of the entire penis is removed or where the urethra is rerouted out the base of the penis in a now rare Australian tribal form. In which case it is the FGM that is the tolerable formality that is best not to drive underground for fear it might be less professionally performed or mutate into something horrendous and the male circumcision that needs strong reform.

    What I’m getting at here is that parents do have a right to inflict certain minor surgical procedures on their children. Minor piercings, dental extractions, perhaps a small tribal or identifying tattoo. The society’s concern should be that the procedure is done hygienically and professionally. Parents should be free to tend to their children without interference, not because I fear state control but simply for practical reasons. Authority is best preserved by using it as little as possible.

    Keep your powder dry and use it for more vital, and less borderline, issues like: vaccinations.

  54. David Marjanović says

    Speaking of logic…

    Being less closely related to ducks than chickens are, they lack penises altogether.

    That was oversimplified: the paleognaths (ostriches for instance) are even less closely related to ducks, but have penises. Having such a thing* is the default for birds, and only a branch unimaginatively called Neoaves has lost it; as it happens, almost all extant birds belong to Neoaves.

    * Some argue that the term penis should be restricted to the mammalian version, because the intromittent organs of birds, mammals and several other clades probably aren’t homologous. However, proposing phallus as the homology-independent cover term doesn’t strike me as a better idea.

  55. says

    lorn:

    What I’m getting at here is that parents do have a right to inflict certain minor surgical procedures on their children.

    No, they don’t, unless there is a medical reason for said procedures. It depends on where you live, but more and more people aren’t sanguine about carrying out any procedure on an infant which will last a lifetime, and that they may not be too fucking happy about later on. It should be enough to have a healthy sprog. You can let them make the decision in regard to minor surgical procedures when they are older.

  56. chigau (違う) says

    Feminism is not a logical fallacy.
    Just thought this is worth repeating.

  57. erik333 says

    @47 jamesheartney

    And the comparison is relevant because your hair follicles were removed for no medical reason while you were a toddler? *sarcasm* Of course, nobody in history was ever sensitive about being bald. */sarcasm*

    @48 Inaji

    One could argue that male circumcision constitutes a disfigurement, but as it’s the ‘look’ of the penis that’s responsible for a great many circumcision, not the best argument.

    If only enough people preferred the look of children without earlobes, cutting the earlobes off infants wouldn’t constitute disfigurement anymore. *roll eyes*

    One could also argue that male circumcision causes sexual dysfunction, but that one isn’t going to go very far.

    The foreskin is no longer there to protect the glans, obviously function has been removed. Ask a friend who is uncircumsised to retract his foreskin for a day and tell you if he can sense a difference or if his foreskin is completely useless and superfluous as you seem to think.

  58. says

    lorn:

    Male circumcision just isn’t a big thing IMO.

    I think its a violation of bodily autonomy and, except in rare cases, has no medical benefits. It’s not as vile as FGM , but it still a violation that shouldn’t occur barring medical necessity.

    What I’m getting at here is that parents do have a right to inflict certain minor surgical procedures on their children.

    They should have that right to the extent that such procedures are in the best interests of the child. Vaccinations are such an example. Vaccinations are extremely important both to the health of child and those they interact with, so they’re more than justified. There’s no health benefit to the vast majority of circumcisions, and they violate the autonomy of the child. Children have rights too, and too often that’s ignored. Especially when the argument is “but..but..but tradition and religious belief!”

  59. says

    Yes, yes, male circumcision is bad. I oppose it. I’ve spoken out against it.

    But comparing male circumcision to female circumcision is like comparing having a cat jump off the bookcase onto your penis and having your penis cut off with a dirty knife.

    Yes, both are unpleasant things to have occur, but one is holy fuck jesus omg worse.

    From my POV, the anti-circumcision ‘whackaloons’ are the ones that don’t acknowledge that part.

  60. says

    erik333:

    Ask a friend who is uncircumsised to retract his foreskin for a day and tell you if he can sense a difference or if his foreskin is completely useless and superfluous as you seem to think.

    So those anecdotes would be evidence of sexual dysfunction?

  61. darkwater says

    Ask a friend who is uncircumsised to retract his foreskin for a day and tell you if he can sense a difference or if his foreskin is completely useless and superfluous as you seem to think.

    Not something I’d be willing to do no matter how good of a friend asked me; but I also don’t think it would necessarily denote sexual dysfunction. If loss of functionality is a required component of mutilation, I’d say that the loss of protection of the glans and the loss of mobility of the shaft skin fill that requirement.

  62. erik333 says

    @63 Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    I never said that would be about sexual dysfunction. I said it was a loss of function – you no longer have foreskin protecting the glans. I never agreed to you moving the goalposts to only consider sexual function. Studies on sexual function have inconclusive results afaik, complaints of religious bias touted from one side – rasism from the other. Not to mention the problem of getting truthful or meaningful results from such studies.

  63. mikeyb says

    Male circumcision or not has no effect on male sexuality whatsoever, of course female circumcision is entirely different. Of course male circumcision is entirely religious and cultural. Get rid of Christianity as a major influence and naturally circumcision practices will decrease. Outside of that, I don’t see it going away any time soon. It’s odd anyway that Christians promote circumcision since St. Paul said it was unnecessary – I though St. Paul was a kind of second Jesus to Christians in authority, but I guess not in this point.

  64. erik333 says

    @64 darkwater

    Indeed not, i wasn’t clear that i wasn’t arguing for sexual dysfunction which was a dishonest shifting of goalposts to begin with – the penis is not performing intercourse every second of every day.

  65. erik333 says

    @66 mikeyb

    Male circumcision or not has no effect on male sexuality whatsoever,

    Citation needed.

    Get rid of Christianity as a major influence and naturally circumcision practices will decrease.

    Decrease? Probably. Still, something else is driving this than mere “Christianity”. Something in the virulent strains propagating in the US sets them apart from the rest of christendom on this issue.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Prevalence_of_circumcision#mediaviewer/File:Global_Map_of_Male_Circumcision_Prevalence_at_Country_Level.png

  66. says

    erik333:

    I never said that would be about sexual dysfunction. I said it was a loss of function – you no longer have foreskin protecting the glans. I never agreed to you moving the goalposts to only consider sexual function. Studies on sexual function have inconclusive results afaik, complaints of religious bias touted from one side – rasism from the other. Not to mention the problem of getting truthful or meaningful results from such studies.

    I wasn’t aware that I moved the goal posts.

    Inaji @48:

    One could also argue that male circumcision causes sexual dysfunction, but that one isn’t going to go very far.

    Your response to her comment @60:

    The foreskin is no longer there to protect the glans, obviously function has been removed. Ask a friend who is uncircumsised to retract his foreskin for a day and tell you if he can sense a difference or if his foreskin is completely useless and superfluous as you seem to think.

    You were responding to a comment about sexual dysfunction. So sorry that I was confused about that.

  67. sambarge says

    And… This thread is now a discussion of male circumcision. Not a discussion about the madness of some commenters but actually about the pros and cons of male circumcision.

    I guess everything really is about penises.

  68. mykroft says

    I was circumcised at birth, so I know of no other way of living. If it did contribute to my taking a long, long time to climax, I believe my wife considers that a feature rather than a bug.

  69. erik333 says

    @69 Tony! The Fucking Queer Shoop!

    Ah, soz. Inaji moved the goal posts, not you.

    I was responding to a post that claimed circumcision don’t count as mutilation because

    a) there is no disfigurement case because some people find this particular disfigurement aesthetically pleasing.

    b) there was no case for loss of function because an argument about sexual dysfunction “isn’t going to go very far”

    Clearly i should’ve taken the time to point out this was a shifting of goalposts (and double checking who i was responding to) in the first place, sorry for wasting your time.

  70. Nomad says

    I used to think circumcision was no big deal, as apparently many here feel. It didn’t feel it had negatively effected me much, although of course I lacked the ability to compare the experience to the natural state.

    And then I met my boyfriend. Dude requires insane amounts of stimulation to orgasm. I cannot do it manually, my arms give out first. Trying to get him off is an ordeal, I’ve damn near sprained a wrist before. Watching him masturbate is almost ludicrous, he has to do it so hard and so fast that you start to worry that he’s going to start a fire from the friction before he’s done.

    While contemplating these things I realized that the texture of his penis seems rather unusual to me as well. I haven’t got a great deal of experience with penii to compare it to, all my previous partners have been women, but the skin is tough and strongly textured instead of smooth. It seems to be scar tissue.

    I’m so very glad that PZ “considers” it to be cosmetic surgery. I consider it to be mutilation, because that’s what happened to my boyfriend. It’s definitely screwed up our sex life. Were he a woman who had had this dysfunction brought onto him by FGM people would be coming out of the woodwork to sympathize. As it is I’m told that I’m a misogynist for believing that it’s a very bad thing. It may not be consistently bad, I have no major grievances relating to my lack of a foreskin, but he’s been permanently damaged and can never get what he’s lost back.

    So go ahead. Tell me I’m being obsessive in thinking that circumcision can be a very bad thing.

  71. says

    erik333:

    or if his foreskin is completely useless and superfluous as you seem to think.

    I don’t think a foreskin is useless or superfluous. I’ve been trying to point out why the word mutilation, especially in light of what is done in many female circumcisions, isn’t the best word when discussing male circumcision.

    I am against circumcision, outside of absolutely medically necessary ones. I don’t dismiss that there are sexual dysfunction aspects to male circumcision. That said, in the case of male circumcision, most men are capable of sexual function and achieving an orgasm. That’s not the case when a clitoris is removed.

  72. darkwater says

    Are kooks kooks in part because they believe they can get away with it? I mentioned above that my “activism” as such w/r/t circumcision is typically with people I know; it’s hard for me to conceive of a conversation in meatspace with any member of the various constituencies that Amanda identified with them acting like their internet behavior.

  73. kevinkirkpatrick says

    A couple points for consideration:
    1) My wife and I opted to leave our male child intact. The amount of shock, indignation, and shaming that was unleashed upon us for this choice – and this is from friends and family, mind you – was truly disgusting. To this day, many years later, I’m taunted and ridiculed as the guy who “gets all weird” about the issue of circumcision – it’s kind of the running joke; i.e. when hotdogs are served at a family picnic, let’s peel some skin off one, point to it, and ask Kevin if it’s making him upset. Guess I’d qualify as one of those weirdo’s Amanda is talking about who “has no sense of humor”. Because really, this is just people joking around; no bullying going on there, amiright?
    In stark contrast, I have many friends and extended family members – from a variety of regions of the US – who have opted to have their male children circumcised. NEVER, not once, have I witnessed them so much as questioned/challenged about their choice; much less made to feel like they were failing as parents in their very first responsibility to their newborn child. But, yeah, it’s definitely a great move for social justice to focus on how anti-circumcision advocates really need to work on turning down the volume.
    2) Has anyone else noticed the uncanny parallel between arguments that “circumcision” ought not be referred to as “mutilation”, and that “spanking” ought not be referred to as “hitting”. As a parent who refuses to hit my children in any context, I’ve heard those arguments too, and… well… can you see a difference? “I was spanked as a child, and I am not okay with you saying that my parents hit me growing up.” “Saying that I ‘hit’ my child is a horrible thing to say, it makes me sound abusive.” It’s like there’s some mad-lib game for filling in justifications for being horrible to kids you’re charged with raising. I ask, non-rhetorically, of those who shun the “mutilation” language – can you come up with a justification that doesn’t exactly mimic a pro-spanking argument against labeling “spanking a child” as “hitting a child”?
    4) I think a huge bulk of the emotion in responses from the anti-circumsicion crowd is the result of the shaming and gaslighting one is exposed to for holding anti-circ views in our culture. I think those who, irrespective of their views on the issue of circumcision, would hop onto that band-wagon, and contribute to the shaming, mocking, and ridiculing those who stand firmly by their anti-circumcision views, are acting like bullyish assholes.

  74. says

    Nomad:

    I used to think circumcision was no big deal, as apparently many here feel

    I don’t think that’s the case. I see people saying that it *is* bad, but not the ultimate bad (in the way that anti-circumcision obsessives claim) or not as bad as FGM. That’s how I feel. I’m circumcised. I don’t know how I could tell if I have problems with loss of function or sexual dysfunction bc all my sex has been as a circumcised man. I don’t have anything to compare it to.
    It’s invasive, unnecessary, and needs to stop, but Amanda Marcotte isn’t talking about people like me.

    I’m sorry about the problems your BF has, but can you be certain they’re attributable to circumcision?

  75. says

    kevinkirkpatrick:

    I think those who, irrespective of their views on the issue of circumcision, would hop onto that band-wagon, and contribute to the shaming, mocking, and ridiculing those who stand firmly by their anti-circumcision views, are acting like bullyish assholes.

    I’ve taken part in almost every circumcision thread here, sciborg and ftb. I have never, and would never contribute to the shaming, mocking, and ridiculing of those who are against circumcision. I’m against it, and well aware of the shit flung at those parents who choose to leave their infants intact.

    All that said, there are those who insist on male circumcision being the equal of female circumcision, and they aren’t helping when it comes to trying to convince others that circumcision should not be the norm.*
     
    This very much depends on the where, such as in the U.S., where circumcision is seen as routine, and carried out damn near automatically.

  76. HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr says

    edmundog @ #42: That’s what I mean exactly. The use of the term “mutilation” is explictly telling people that they are mutilated, and usually brings a lot of other shit with it. Which is most definitely bullying, and also bullshit. It is definitely possible to talk about things like nonconsensual cosmetic surgery, or to focus on the abuse of bodily autonomy without telling people (again, who may well be opposed to circumcision themselves, and not be happy that it was done to them!) that they are disgusting disfigured freaks who are shitty in the sack.

    Azkyroth: Stop telling people what to feel about their genitals. That is shitty. And I’d say to try to read for comprehension once in a fucking blue moon, but that would get in the way of your relentless mewling about how everything is insufficiently about you. A better analogy would be that an anti-bullying campaign that stated that all people who were bullied are deeply emotionally hurt and will never get better and are constantly in pain as a result of the bullying they were subjected to. And then some say that no,they do oppose bullying, but don’t like being told they’re broken. Or when rape survivors push back against being told that what was done to them was so terrible that they’re forever broken shells of themselves, they’re not pro-rape.

  77. erik333 says

    @74 Inaji

    So, despite being a text-book example of mutilation (both disfiguring and causing loss of function, either of which is enough to warrant the label), we shouldn’t call it that because more severe forms of mutilation exist?

  78. futurechemist says

    I’m overall against male circumcision, but using the term “mutilation” makes me deeply uncomfortable. I’m all for having a dialogue, but among my (not that religious, but very cultural) Jewish family, someone coming up to them and saying “Circumcising your sons means you’re mutilating them” is going to sound a lot to them like “Jews mutilate their children”, or possibly “Jews should be forbidden from practicing their religion”. I know that religious laws should not be trumping secular laws, but this is an extremely sensitive issue for many of my family and friends and using terms like “mutilate” would really only serve to short circuit the debate before it even begins.

    I’ve had hypothetical discussions with some family about whether I would or wouldn’t have my sons circumcised, once I have any sons. Part of the argument basically came down to them guilting me for choosing not to circumcise my future sons when some of my ancestors were persecuted because they were circumcised, and that by not circumcising my sons I would be turning my back on my heritage.

    Of course, religious mandates for male circumcision only effect a small portion of the US population, so this particular factor won’t be relevant to many people.

  79. Tethys says

    Study shows male circumcision results in no loss of sexual sensation

    Contrary to popular theory and existing data,
    uncircumcised men
    did not exhibit more penile sensitivity than circumcised men. This is
    consistent with Masters and Johnson’s earlier findings, and
    yet, is surprising given widespread assumptions to the contrary. It is
    possible that the uncircumcised penis is more sensitive due to the
    presence of additional sensory receptors on the prepuce and frenulum,
    but this cannot be compared with the absence of such structures in the
    circumcised penis. This notwithstanding, the present data do cast doubt
    on the notion that the glans penis is more sensitive in the
    uncircumcised man due to the protective function of the prepuce.

  80. mikeyb says

    I don’t know what to make of this, I decided to look this up and I found that there are some studies which suggest a net health benefit to male circumcision. This Mayo Clinic study suggests the benefits outweigh the risks by 100:1 due to decrease risks in urinary track infections, prostate cancer etc. Perhaps this is flawed, I don’t know (if this is flawed please point out how and why – I’d like to be educated). Anyway we should always be open to examining the science behind whatever views or claims we make. Of course a different moral argument can be made independent of the possible health related benefits if any – ie this should not be the only consideration. I don’t want to start a new debate, I just was puzzled by this study.

    http://www.mayoclinicproceedings.org/article/S0025-6196%2814%2900036-6/fulltext

  81. says

    erik333:

    And the comparison is relevant because your hair follicles were removed for no medical reason while you were a toddler? *sarcasm* Of course, nobody in history was ever sensitive about being bald. */sarcasm*

    No, the comparison is between two largely cosmetic differences – cut/uncut vs. hairy/bald

    The foreskin is no longer there to protect the glans, obviously function has been removed.

    If so, a function I have never missed.

  82. says

    Whether or not the benefits outweigh the risks is a decision that can be made by the person who possesses the foreskin when they are old enough to make that decision in an educated fashion. Until then, unless there’s an emergency for which circumcision is the proper treatment (e.g., phimosis), there’s no reason to remove that decision from the individual.

    There are a whole lot of body parts we could remove from a whole lot of infants for prophylactic reasons. Unless there’s an actual emergency, there’s no reason why we should.

  83. says

    It is hugely arrogant of Amanda Marcotte to suggest to other people what they should be concerned about and to what degree. Also, conflating opposition to enforced circumcision with misogyny is unhelpful. There are many injustices in this world. None of us can give all causes the attention they deserve. We pick our fights to the ones that emote us for whatever reason. The fact that I think enforced circumcision is outrageous does not mean I think it is the only important issue; I just choose to give it my attention. To those that want to wag their fingers and tell me off for that, I politely say ‘mind your own business’.

  84. kevinkirkpatrick says

    @78 Inaji
    One common (so common it almost needs it’s own name, IMO) gas-lighting tactic I see is,
    Anti-circ point: The physiological impact of male circumcision is as severe, if not more severe, than certain forms of FGM (e.g. “clitoral nicking” is classified as a form of FGM). There’s no rationale for outlawing these less severe forms of FGM which, if expressed in a gender-neutral manner, wouldn’t also entail outlawing male circumcision.
    Gas-lighting counterpoint: Wow, these anti-circ people are completely out of touch with reality – I just heard one of them insist on male circumcision being the equal of female circumcision.

    I too have tuned into many an internet discussion over the topic of male circumcision; and I can’t say I’ve ever seen:
    1) A anti-male-circumcision argument that male circumcision is equal to all forms of FGM
    2) A pro-male-circumcision advocate addressing the more nuanced point actually being made (or fails to adopt a ridiculing tone; insisting the anti-circ advocate has just equated male-circumcision with female genital mutilation).

    I will acknowledge that MRAs have a penchant to muddy these waters – but in my experience, they’re pretty easy to spot – they tend to drag male circumcision into conversations about FGM with their sickening “but what about the menz!” attitude; they insist that there’s some kind of sexism going on in any efforts to curtail FGM, and they sound just like (and may be the same) the blowhards who object to e.g. shelters built for abused women, programs aimed at reducing sexual assaults of women, etc., etc. Fortunately, in every such context, it becomes easy to spot them: it just bleeds through in all that they write that they don’t actually give a shit about male circumcision, men assaulted by women (“betas”), men who’re raped (“prison-rape=LOLZ”); they really just care about “what about the menz!!”. So, yeah, there is that; but if THAT is the group Amanda’s really after, she’s done a lot of splash damage with her article, IMO.

  85. kevinkirkpatrick says

    @81 futurechemist

    Had you seen my point #2 of post #76 (it’s the one right before point #4, where I demonstrate my inability to count :-) )? Can you let me know if you think it ties into your comment at all?

  86. kevinkirkpatrick says

    @79 HappiestSadist, Repellent Little Martyr
    “Azkyroth: Stop telling people what to feel about their genitals. ”

    I just read back through Azkyroth’s comments…
    I then used “CTRL+F” for Azkyroth, and reread those same comments, to really make sure I hadn’t missed anything.

    I now feeling fully justified in asking.

    What the fuck are you talking about?

    And two sentences later: “And I’d say to try to read for comprehension once in a fucking blue moon…”

    An irony-meter reference wouldn’t seem to do justice here. I can’t even wonder about your reading comprehension – as near as I can tell, you’re reprimanding someone for some commentary that you’ve invented wholesale from imagination.

    I’m hoping this was a simple misattribution – can you please clarify who/what you were responding to?

  87. Pierce R. Butler says

    I meant to post a wry observation about the absence of prepuce crusaders here so far, and whether the absence of same partially vindicates Pharyngula pugnacity, but that required reading all the comments before posting. Ooh, I hate it when that happens…

    So far (77 comments as I type), the against-the-tide voices here have bypassed Marcotte’s #1 by making cogent – though not decisive – points. [Update: Tommy Mato @ # 86 may have disproved my point, but I will leave to others spectroscopic analysis of the sparks likely to fly.]

    Meanwhile, if Nomad @ # 73 would address # 71 by mykroft, certain trade-offs might come more clearly into the light. Also, mykroft and others here sparked a question in my mind about the effects of male circumcision on women.

    Trimmed at or near birth, and having no interest in any penis except my own, I accept on second-hand report that foreskins, properly maintained, are for most men a Good Thing. But a lot of human males neglect personal hygiene in ways we’ve all encountered; perhaps some of the human females stuck with servicing them have concluded that reducing the production of certain flavors of cheese would also count as a Good Thing.

    SFAICT, Jewish circumcision* began as a hardcore tribal marker, part of an extensive array of social-persistence gambits which have preserved a set of cultural memes through multiple cultural and genetic transformations. A major sticking point for Roman Empire citizens who wanted to investigate the only available monotheistic tradition (apparently part of what was meant by “works” in early Christian texts), “the cut” may have both sustained Jewish identity and encouraged the growth of Paul’s churches (and many others). Some sects of Christianism have continued/revived the practice, almost entirely on infants** – to my limited knowledge, mostly in English-speaking countries. (Which hypothesis, if not yet another of my ignorant blunders, deserves some serious digging-into, no?)

    If certain Victorians had it right in claiming that the razor would reduce adolescent prurience, I shudder to think what my intact brothers have gone (and are going) through.

    *Has any other society outside the Hebrew-influenced world taken up this particular kink?

    **Hell, the little brat is going to scream all the time anyway…

  88. mikeyb says

    I wasn’t aware that PZ had blogged about the Mayo study I cited previously and found it lacking for valid reasons, there may have been flaws and big biases in the methodology. So perhaps the evidence for the benefits of male circumcision is much more dicey and open to challenge that suggested by the tone of the study. Anyway my main point is that we should always be open to revising our point of views by the evidence but that evidence should be backed by valid methodology in order to consider it evidence. I had never had cause to look into the issue, so I did and that is why I brought that up.

    So whew, anyway that is that.

  89. jrfdeux, mode d'emploi says

    I am reminded of a one-panel cartoon I saw many years ago in (I think it was) Playboy: Moses standing on the Mount, looking skyward with staff clutched in one hand, and a look of great consternation on his face. Caption: “Just a minute. You want us to cut the ends of our dicks off?”

  90. Nomad says

    Tony @77 I referenced PZ dismissing circumcision as being the equivalent of cosmetic surgery for a reason. The message was clear. It’s not a big deal, it makes it look a little different is all. Yes, he stated he was opposed to it because it was unnecessary, but that was it.

    I did see that some in this thread viewed it as a subject of greater concern, but still the consensus seems to be that we’re not allowed to use harsh language to refer to it because someone somewhere is going through something worse. Because that argument totally goes down fine when someone shows up in a thread discussing something Christians have done in this country and says that we should only be talking about the Muslims because they’re doing worse things in other countries, right?

    As to whether I know for sure that circumcision did it, well, my thinking goes like this: I don’t believe he ever stuck it into a wolverine cage or got it caught in a cheese grater. Yet it seems to have some scar tissue that is a plausible cause of his lack of sensitivity. I’m going to guess that the unnecessary surgical operation that was performed on it had something to do with that. Nope, it’s not proof of causation. But I think it’s a fairly logical inference.

    But the thing is, imagine if I had asked an FGM victim a similar question. Can you imagine the shitstorm that would have followed if I dared to doubt that the FGM was the cause of sexual dysfunction? Yet you can do that to me without worrying.

    Of course I’m opposed to FGM. But this is not a zero sum game and I really resent the implication that I’m a misogynist because I think what happened to my BF shouldn’t happen either and refuse to be casual about it.

    My guess, and of course it is only a guess, is that the significant negative side effect incidence from male circumcision is low. Quite likely low enough to not show up on a study like the one Tethys linked to that only used 20 circumcised men. That study was looking at a completely different concept anyway, whether the glans loses sensitivity because it’s jangling around exposed all day. I admit I find that an interesting study, and if it’s reliable I definitely am surprised by it. But that’s not what I’m talking about at all.

    Others in this thread dismissed such possibilities by saying that a properly done circumcision shouldn’t do that, but all surgical operations can have complications. Circumcision is, overall, a pretty simple operation, but it’s being done on a pretty sensitive section of skin. Even when we’re not talking about situations like a mohel getting sloppy and lopping the entire penis off, it has to involve risks. I’m willing to believe that they’re fairly low, but for even a small number of men to have to live with them for the rest of their lives is unacceptable to me. And you know what? I DO find it horrific that this was done to them without their permission before they even had the ability to give consent.

    The thing I’m thinking about now, is trying to imagine one of those people trying to stop circumcision. I’m trying to imagine being called a misogynist because I don’t want other men to have to go through what I’m going through. After having your concerns dismissed out of hand because other people aren’t dealing with them and ultimately being marginalized as a misogynist, I can understand why someone might eventually become a little obsessive about it.

  91. spamamander, internet amphibian says

    The comment thread on Amanda Marcotte’s post has been SUCH a “proof of point”. The anti-circ nutter who went after my extremely reasonable post was frothing through the entire thread and was removed in several spots. Basically all I said is that there was, indeed, a difference between saying, “I think there is no legitimate reason for routine circumcision for infant boys, and religious exemptions should not apply.” and “zomg feminazis want to cut off all our penises!!!1!”. HE ended up on a tangent about how FGM was not a product of patriarchy because women performed the procedures and… oy.

  92. futurechemist says

    @88 kevinkirkpatrick

    I do think word choice is important, especially in knowing who your audience is. To be honest, I consider “spanking” and “hitting” to have pretty much the same connotation so it doesn’t really impact me which word someone chooses. On the other hand, mutilation to me is a much more visceral word with more negative connotations than circumcision, and more likely to cause an emotional response. I think my main point was that depending on your audience, you should tailor and if need be moderate your language to avoid losing your audience before you’re able to make any salient points.

    I found your story interesting. Going solely by your name, I’m assuming your family doesn’t belong to a religion that mandates circumcision, so I’m surprised how strongly your family and friends reacted to you being against circumcisions.

    Oh, and another thing about Jewish circumcisions is that they’re family events. Lots of friends and extended family, very joyous and emotional, lots of people celebrating. Both my parents cried through my youngest brother’s bris because of how happy they were to have another child. It’s basically everybody celebrating the baby being born. I reckon that causes adults to have very fond memories of their children’s circumcisions, making them less likely to understand how such a joyous event could be bad.

  93. sempercogitans says

    I’m not inclined to call people “too radical” when it comes to issues of bodily autonomy, but I’ve found some anti-circumcision advocates to be extremely inconsistent. Or basically, completely unconcerned about any violation of bodily autonomy that doesn’t affect cisgender men.

    One huge example: anyone ever tried engaging one of them in discussion about some of the surgeries parents inflict upon their intersexed children to “fix” them?

  94. Nomad says

    Pierce #90:

    You asked me to address mykroft’s point that if circumcision made him take longer in bed, his wife considers that a good thing. I’m unsure what you want me to say. I already stated that my boyfriend takes so long that he often cannot finish, and that I’ve ended up with a sore wrist that lasted for days one of the times I gave it my all to try to get him there.

    That’s not a trade-off. That’s considering him an acceptable loss for the benefit of others.

  95. says

    @82 Tethys: Well the flaw in that study is easy to spot— they compared sensitivity in the glans between intact and circumcised men, despite the foreskin itself containing most of the relevant nerves, a fact that they note briefly before stating it’s impossible to compare since those are removed during circumcision. For what it’s worth, from my personal experience my foreskin is more sensitive by a fair margin.

    @86 Tommy Mato: I’d actually say it’s the other way around— misogyny and sex phobia tend to be closely related, and circumcision is a product of sex phobia.

    @ 94 spamamander, internet amphibian: Which nutter are you talking about? The only one I remember from that thread is Lawrence Newman.

  96. Azkyroth Drinked the Grammar Too :) says

    …wow.

    The one(?) person who actually engaged with anything I actually said, I owe you a reply once I’m not on my phone.

  97. Nick Gotts says

    Has anyone else noticed the uncanny parallel between arguments that “circumcision” ought not be referred to as “mutilation”, and that “spanking” ought not be referred to as “hitting”. – kevinkirkpatrick@76

    I hadn’t, but it’s a very accurate comparison. We should not resile from using factually accurate terminology for abuses of bodily autonomy because it might offend. That doesn’t mean, of course, that all such abuses are equal, nor that anyone who has been the victim of the lesser abuses has suffered dreadful trauma – or even recognises them as such.

  98. Ichthyic says

    Would she accept people who aren’t affected by an issue being the arbiters of whether a response is proportional to the harm it causes on literally any other topic?

    reminds me of the debate over Dawkins response to child abuse in the Anglican Church, where he felt able to judge the reactions of everyone and claim it was “no big deal”, given that even though he was also abused, it didn’t affect him “greatly”.

    I don’t recall very many accepting Dawkins in his role of playing arbiter of the scale of damage of childhood abuse, and rightly so.

  99. Ichthyic says

    Study shows male circumcision results in no loss of sexual sensation

    read the methods used (seriously, I got a laugh out of it), and the fact that given the HUGE variability you are going to find in trying to measure something like that, the sample size is very, very small.

    I would take that study with a grain of salt (not rubbing it in the wound, mind you!)

  100. Ichthyic says

    because the intromittent organs of birds, mammals and several other clades probably aren’t homologous.

    don’t forget dah fishes, eh?

    ;)

  101. Al Dente says

    Several people here, particularly Tommy Mato @86, are missing Marcotte’s point. She is not expressing an opinion about male circumcision either pro or con. Rather she is commenting about people who are obsessed with various topics. The anti-male circumcision fanatics (AMCF) she was referring to are zealously pursuing their mania about male circumcision. As Marcotte says:

    No, not people who are simply opposed to circumcising babies. I’m talking about the people who act like removing a foreskin is one of the greatest human rights abuses of all time, on level not just with the much more serious female circumcision but also with slavery and the Holocaust and who tend to use the word “mutilated” to describe it.

    These are not people who think that male circumcision is a bad idea and parents should not inflict it on their sons. These are people with a compulsion to denounce both parents who allow their sons to be circumcised and those man who have been circumcised.

    Further, Marcotte doubts the AMCFs’ motivation. They’re using male circumcision to promote misogyny. Every internet discussion I’ve ever seen on female circumcision, which is properly called female genital mutilation, has had AMCFs try to wrench the discussion away from FGM to “what about the menz?” I have seen an AMCF claim that FGM is less serious than snipping off a baby’s foreskin.

  102. Ichthyic says

    She is not expressing an opinion about male circumcision either pro or con. Rather she is commenting about people who are obsessed with various topics. The anti-male circumcision fanatics (AMCF) she was referring to are zealously pursuing their mania about male circumcision.

    yeah, you’re right.

    doesn’t mean people are wrong to talk about their perceptions on the issue as a whole of course, but I can’t but agree that she does not appear to be attacking the position, so much as the nature of some of the people pushing it.

  103. says

    There are many, many hilarious things about “intactivists”—as opposed to people who simply agree that it’s probably for the best to leave the foreskin there, as there’s no real medical benefit to removing it—but right now, I’m laughing hardest at the fact that they try to present themselves as “progressive” but are incredibly piss-poor about concealing the fact that their circumcision obsession is a fig leaf for their general hatred of feminism. As usual with anti-feminists, they don’t actually have an argument. Feminists are more, not less likely to be open to a reasonable argument against circumcision. But, despite the fact that they claim only to be in favor of bodily autonomy, an thread flooded by intactivists shows that’s not it at all. Their actual argument, poorly concealed, is something closer to, “I hate and resent feminists because I am a misogynist. But I also know that baldly stating that I believe women are inferior and should be kept in a submissive position will win me no friends. So instead I’m going to try to argue that men are the real oppressed class, and I’m going to latch onto circumcision—distorting the reasons people do it, no less—because any other examples of “anti-male” oppression are even stupider and this is all I’ve got. Also, I’m really obsessed with my penis, though I will never admit it’s because I see it as the reason that I’m superior to half the human race.”

    Intactivists clearly want to convince people that circumcision is a “misandrist” practice put into place to control male sexuality, because female circumcision is, in fact, a misogynist practice put in place to control female sexuality and their goal is to argue that men and not women are the ones truly oppressed. But it’s a real leap. People who practice female circumcision will be quick to tell you that it somehow prevents women from being promiscuous or from cheating. But people who practice male circumcision will make the opposite argument: They want their son to have more sex and they are afraid that his foreskin will turn off potential partners. The motivations are oppositional: Female circumcision is to reduce women’s sexual opportunities, and male circumcision is supposed to increase sexual opportunities. They particularly are concerned with making sure their son doesn’t miss out on any blow jobs.

    FWIW, I think people overrate the aesthetics of a circumcised penis. But the notion that it’s done to police men is silly, and it’s not comparable to female circumcision in that sense.

  104. seranvali says

    While I really don’t think that circumcision is a good thing, on the grounds that one shouldn’t inflict unnecessary cosmetic surgery on minors, I find it odd that they have nothing to say about other forms of male genital mutilation. I feel like suggesting that they google sub-incision, which in the past was a right of passage for boys in several cultures. If my memory serves me correctly.

    And frankly, I find the way they compare it to FGM to be extremely offensive .

  105. darkwater says

    Al Dente @ 104: is it useful to make a distinction between AMCFs and more general activists? I’ve occasionally poked my head into the Facebook presences of organized groups like Intact America and Saving Our Sons and haven’t noted misogyny or anti-feminist content. Another contrast seems to be that while most AMCFs identify as men, most of the posters and it seems nearly all of the organizers in these Facebook groups are women, usually moms of newborns. To the extent FGM comes up at all, it’s usually addressed in a gender-neutral discussion of bodily (or genital) autonomy.

  106. raven42 says

    Especially given modern medicine, male circumcision is just a really spectacularly pointless thing to do. The health benefits are at best a way to make something that is already highly unlikely become infinitesimally less likely. On the other hand (when it’s not done badly, as is the case with some rabbis) it’s pretty much harmless, and the major problem is that it’s done on infants who can’t consent.

  107. says

    amandamarcotte #107

    …But people who practice male circumcision will make the opposite argument: They want their son to have more sex and they are afraid that his foreskin will turn off potential partners…
    …FWIW, I think people overrate the aesthetics of a circumcised penis. But the notion that it’s done to police men is silly, and it’s not comparable to female circumcision in that sense…

    I am no expert on circumcision, since I live in Europe and the here it is done almost exclusively for religious or medical (And laws are being passed or at least discussed, that forbade to inflict it on non-consenting infants for religious reasons). Aesthetics do not come into it at all.

    I wholeheartedly agree, that female genital mutilation is much, much worse.

    That being said, I remember vaguely, that wide usage of circumcision in US and UK commonwealth was indeed to controll male sexuality, concretely it was introduced in Victorian era and it was supposed to function as masturbation deterrent later in life. Whether it works or not is irrelevant to the reasoning why it became so widespread.

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

    There are no shortage of good arguments in favor of not circumcising. It’s a pity that many intactivists don’t make them.

    My personal belief is that circumcision is unnecessary, and I wouldn’t (unless there was a medical condition – e.g. phimosis – that indicated it) have a son of mine circumcised without his specific consent. Bodily autonomy and integrity and all that.

    But with many intactivists, I can’t help but wonder if many of them are in cahoots with the pro-circ crowd, because the sheer incoherence and inappropriateness of many of their arguments seem designed to shove wobbly people towards circumcising their sons.

  109. says

    This thread has become somewhat derailed by the issue and… This comment’s gonna do little to help that. The article was about more than circumcision after all (though PZ did highlight it in his post). Thankfully most everyone here avoids falling into the mould of those characterised by Amanda and are behaving far not reasonably than the awful behaviour I’ve seen some “intactivists” engaging in. It’s one thing to have the correct stance on something for good reasons i.e. that male circumcision is a waste of time and effort, being that it’s largely pointless and (more importantly) that it denies children their bodily autonomy. It’s entirely another to have the correct stance for bad “reasons” – reasons that are already phenomenally harmful in other ways.

    @84

    No, the comparison is between two largely cosmetic differences – cut/uncut vs. hairy/bald

    One is a cosmetic difference that results from mindless natural processes – the other is a cosmetic alteration carried out intentionally, by someone, for no good reason, on children who have no say in the matter… those things are far from the same.

    Look I’m glad that you’ve no problem with being circumcised. I don’t want you to have a problem with being circumcised at all – ever. I’ve no problem with elective cosmetic surgery whether it’s circumcision, nose work, breast augmentation (or reduction) having hair follicles added or removed or simply having your earlobes cut off. I do have a problem with cosmetic surgery being forced upon those unable to give informed consent – in this case children. If circumcision was simply a cosmetic alteration some guys opted for I’d have no real issues with it whatsoever… but it’s not.

    If so, a function I have never missed.

    I’m glad to hear it. Ultimately, thanks to modern medicine, for most men the fact that they’ve been circumcised is a largely trivial thing of little or no consequence (it may even have some rather trivial benefits) but that there are complications and problems associated with it for many men is also true and it’s hardly fair to dismiss their experiences just because you don’t share them. No, these problems cannot and should not be generalised but nor should they be dismissed.

    The main thing for me is the question of bodily autonomy. I think it’s a terrible thing to have a piece of your body cut off for no good reason before you could have any say in the matter and then having to make your peace with that fact (or not). It’s great if you can make peace with it. It’s great that many people do. But in my opinion no one should ever have to. The same goes with tattoos, ritual scarring, piercings, etc. Your body, your choice.

    Full disclosure though: I live in Ireland. Circumcision isn’t much of an issue here because it doesn’t really happen that often. The issue wasn’t even tabled when my brothers and I were born (but my mother would’ve shot it down anyway). Consequently I haven’t been circumcised and neither have the vast majority of guys I know. Of the guys I do know who’ve been circumcised (most of them weren’t born here) it hasn’t caused them much (if any) trouble at all.

    So, my final verdict on non-elective male circumcision?

    Stop that. It’s silly.

    (And potentially harmful)

  110. says

    So, my final verdict on non-elective male circumcision? Stop that. It’s silly.

    I agree with that. I just think some in the debate are exaggerating the harms of the practice; in most cases, it’s a trivial thing. Honestly, if you’re going to go on a crusade over something, you’d be better off picking something more consequential.

  111. says

    Her #7:

    Hardcore vegans who have never spent a day in their life hanging out with actual farm animals. Again, most vegans are fine. But you do find the ones who think milking a cow should be equated with rape, and they are kind of scary people.

    I haven’t come across, in my years on the internet, people who think milking a cow should be equated with rape. I’m sure they exist, but they must be concentrated in online locations I haven’t visited or extremely rare. Nor do I know what “hanging out with farm animals” has to do with anything. I have, though, encountered many, many people (I used to be one) who have no idea and want to have no idea what the dairy industry entails for cows, their bodily autonomy, or (their relationships with) their calves,* and more generally no awareness of the institutionalized sexual assault perpetrated against farmed animals, e.g.:

    Modern day turkeys have been bred to be so grotesquely large that they can’t even mate naturally. Commercial turkeys are “artificially inseminated”: the industry euphemism for roughly restraining female turkeys, turning them upside down, and violently shoving tubes or syringes of semen into their vaginas. To collect the semen, workers known as “milkers” restrain male turkeys and forcibly masturbate them until they ejaculate.

    One worker describes his brief stint at a turkey hen breeding facility in Missouri: “The birds were terrified, and beat their wings and struggled in panic…Having been through this week after week, the birds feared the chute and bulked and huddled up. The drivers literally kicked them into the chute…I have never done such hard, dirty, disgusting work in my life: 10 hours of pushing birds, grabbing birds, wrestling birds, jerking them upside down, pushing open their vents, dodging their panic-blown excrement and breathing the dust stirred up by terrified birds.”

    A writer for The Independent describes observing the “milking” of males: “The turkey was already upside down in Paul’s hands. He swiftly uncovered a hole amidst the feathers, gave it a couple of tweaks, and there was the turkey semen, looking like a bit of crumbly old toothpaste. ‘We take this,’ said Paul, ‘and suck it into a rubber tube. It’s then blown into the vagina.’”

    Many people have made the case that the practices described here constitute rape: forced impregnation, and the violent sexual invasion of overpowered victims. (Have a look at the video above to see how violent and invasive this procedure really is.) Whether or not you agree with the terminology, it is indisputable that turkeys and other farmed animals are sexually molested, and their reproductive processes perversely violated, for human greed and profit. This is morally indefensible.

    * As a journalist, Marcotte should know that hanging out with farmed animals is increasingly criminalized in the US.

  112. Nick Gotts says

    But people who practice male circumcision will make the opposite argument: They want their son to have more sex and they are afraid that his foreskin will turn off potential partners. – amandamarcotte

    This is a truly bizarre feature of American culture. I doubt you’d ever find that argument deployed outside the USA, certainly not in Europe.

  113. twas brillig (stevem) says

    Honestly, if you’re going to go on a crusade over something, you’d be better off picking something more consequential.

    Really? Again? Another, “Don’t concern yourself over this bad thing, there are worse things, over there”?
    Where have I heard this before???

  114. mykroft says

    Found a Danish study on the effects of circumcision. They looked at the effects on both men and their spouses.

    Results: Age at first intercourse, perceived importance of a good sex life and current sexual activity differed little between circumcised and uncircumcised men or between women with circumcised and uncircumcised spouses. However, circumcised men reported more partners and were more likely to report frequent orgasm difficulties after adjustment for potential confounding factors [11 vs 4%, ORadj = 3.26; 95% confidence interval (CI) 1.42–7.47], and women with circumcised spouses more often reported incomplete sexual needs fulfilment (38 vs 28%, ORadj = 2.09; 95% CI 1.05–4.16) and frequent sexual function difficulties overall (31 vs 22%, ORadj = 3.26; 95% CI 1.15–9.27), notably orgasm difficulties (19 vs 14%, ORadj = 2.66; 95% CI 1.07–6.66) and dyspareunia (12 vs 3%, ORadj = 8.45; 95% CI 3.01–23.74). Findings were stable in several robustness analyses, including one restricted to non-Jews and non-Moslems.

  115. speed0spank says

    It seems to me that Amanda is pointing out a specific group of (mostly dude-bro) people that just use circumcision as a “gotcha!” for feminists or any talk of FGM. I don’t think those people really give a shit about it to the extent that their hateful and misogynistic internet comments would suggest. I think the point about mutilation is that most of these folks just call it mutilation to put it on the same level of FGM and therefore pretend that all is equal and duderos win.
    That was what I got out of before looking the comments, anyways.

  116. erik333 says

    @107 amandamarcotte

    So we shouldn’t care about male genital mutilation because intent is magic, and those foreskins were all removed from entirely benign reasons? Never mind the fact I think your line about ” and male circumcision is supposed to increase sexual opportunities.” needs a fucking citation.

  117. erik333 says

    @113 Keith Monaghan

    If someone offered you, free of charge, to remove your foreskin under anasthetic – would you accept? If a doctor removed your foreskin without concent while doing other surgery, would you complain?

  118. says

    I think there’s another reason why we should be careful to call it “mutilation”:
    Circumcision is both, an unnecessary violation of bodily autonomy as well as a legitimate medical procedure that helps boys and men with serious medical problems. Do we really want to call them “mutilated”? Would we consider that an appropriate term for women who had a masectomy?

  119. says

    erik333:

    So we shouldn’t care about male genital mutilation because intent is magic, and those foreskins were all removed from entirely benign reasons?

    She was talking about a contingent of the anti-circumcision crowd that uses discussions of circumcision as cover for their misogyny. I didn’t see any comment about not caring about male circumcision.

  120. Ichthyic says

    more generally no awareness of the institutionalized sexual assault perpetrated against farmed animals, e.g.:

    It’s early… but I’m hoping this is an over the top attempt at dry humor?

  121. says

    Azkyroth #52:

    When I hear the term “butthurt”, I tend to think more “whiny child being spanked”, not so much “assrape”. As for Marcotte and authoritarian feminists, in the very same article, she goes after TERFs, so there’s that.

  122. Ogvorbis: Still failing at being human. says

    BrianX:

    When I hear the term “butthurt”, I tend to think more “whiny child being spanked”, not so much “assrape”.

    It can also vary with individuals based on the persons experiences (good or bad).

  123. darkwater says

    Speed0spank @ 119:
    I think you’re pretty much right. I went back to look at some of the Facebook groups I mentioned earlier and also looked at some of the comment threads that Marcotte was talking about and what struck me was how little overlap there was between them. I think a remarkable percentage of the “activists” referenced by Marcotte are indeed arguing in bad faith and I have to wonder how anti-circumcision they actually are; have they broached the topic with people they know, their partners, with friends who’re expecting? Have they engaged in any activity besides yelling, what about the menz?

  124. Terska says

    Certainly Americans aren’t used to seeing intact penises and some think they are weird and ugly but my female friends from countries where the practice is rare think the same thing about circumcised penises.
    My male friends from countries where the practice is rare think circumcision of infants is cruel and outrageous. None of them would choose to have it done to them. Foreskins are so rare here that most doctors and pediatricians have no idea how to care for one. When I left my boys in tact I was given wrong info in writing by my pediatrician. I had to ask my friends from Canada and Europe for the correct hygiene practices. They were taught it in sex ed at school.

    I consider myself absolutely a feminist. I want the same things for my daughter in her life as I do my boys. The fact that FGM is becoming a well known issue is an opportunity for Americans to examine their own cultural practices. I know almost nothing about the anti-circumcision activists but I support that mission if that is what they are about. If some of them are part of the He Man Women Haters Club that is too bad because the issue might be dismissed just because some of the activists are assholes.

  125. Anton Mates says

    amandamarcotte @107,

    People who practice female circumcision will be quick to tell you that it somehow prevents women from being promiscuous or from cheating. But people who practice male circumcision will make the opposite argument: They want their son to have more sex and they are afraid that his foreskin will turn off potential partners.

    Eh, depends where, depends when.

    Type IV female circumcision (nicking or pricking the clitoris in infancy, usually not removing any tissue) is extremely common across Southeast Asia–we’re talking hundreds of millions of women. It’s supposed to protect against STDs. It doesn’t, of course, but anyway, restraining female promiscuity is not the intended purpose. I believe some Middle Eastern parents also have their daughters’ clitoral hoods split, which is meant to improve sex by exposing the clitoris, though I don’t know the prevalence.

    Conversely, a hundred years ago in the West, male circumcision was absolutely intended to prevent masturbation and otherwise police sexuality. Yes, of course the primary reason was religious, but the Victorians were wizards at explaining why science and medicine proved you should do everything the Bible says anyway.

    SC @115,

    and more generally no awareness of the institutionalized sexual assault perpetrated against farmed animals

    I can’t condone the behavior your source describes, but IMO this is an issue of animal welfare, not sexual assault. I’m ok with humans using turkeys to make more turkeys, provided they’re not causing needless suffering in the doing of it.

    Giliell @122,

    Circumcision is both, an unnecessary violation of bodily autonomy as well as a legitimate medical procedure that helps boys and men with serious medical problems. Do we really want to call them “mutilated”? Would we consider that an appropriate term for women who had a masectomy?

    I would say we generally reserve the term “mutilated” for violations of bodily autonomy. A woman who consented to having a breast removed for cancer–no, not mutilated. A woman who had her breast cut off when she was a baby for no good reason–hell yes, mutilated. “Appropriate?” Well, I don’t go around calling people “mutilated,” because that’s not really a label you assign to folks without asking them first, unless you’re awful. But I’m still comfortable calling the act of chopping unnecessary bits off a baby “mutilation.”

    (This entire post is the sort of thing I used to write on a monthly basis a few years ago, before I gave up on circumcision threads because of exactly the sort of weird cats that Amanda Marcotte describes. Yes, I would like to raise public consciousness on male circumcision, and the “milder” forms of female circumcision while I’m at it. No, I do not agree that every circumcised man is a sexual cripple. No, I do not believe that the foreskin has more neurons than the human brain. No, I do not need to hear your violent revenge fantasies against the evil feminist surgeons who tried to shackle your mighty phallus. This isn’t the first “men’s rights” issue where I want to endorse the “rights” part, but keep getting chased off by the MENZ.)

  126. mykroft says

    I can get some of the logic. FGM is driven by religious and/or cultural norms, based on the assumption that it is bad if women enjoy sex. Since they are considered to be property, enjoying sex might lead them to stray from their “owners”.

    In some of the references I’ve seen online regarding circumcision, one of the primary drivers of circumcision in America was that it somehow reduced the tendency for boys/men to masturbate. Also driven by religious and/or cultural norms, this practice was based on the assumption that it was bad for guys to masturbate because Gawd said so. From personal experience, I’d say this was not an effective approach.

    While there are some parallels between FGM and circumcision, they are far from equivalent. In the case of FGM, it is a matter of men controlling women. The lifetime consequences include making sex not pleasurable for these women, one of the many costs of not being born male is societies where this happens.

    Regarding circumcision, if it kept most men from enjoying sex during their lives I imagine the practice would be limited to those religion soaked groups where enjoying sex was considered bad, period. I also imagine such groups might have problems sustaining their population, although the “go forth and multiply” directive could counter that. The practice would certainly not remain mainstream, however. In reality, the costs and harm of FGM in most cases far outweigh the costs and harm caused by circumcision.

    In either case the fault for these unnecessary surgeries lies not with feminism in any way, it lies with religion. A set of directives from an imaginary deity who created the universe with billions of galaxies, yet has an intense personal interest in our sex lives. If these guys want to rail against anything, let them rail against the needless suffering religion causes in this and so many other ways.

  127. loopyj says

    I’m a straight cisgender woman. I’m a feminist. I oppose non-medically necessary circumcision. It is barbaric to slice off perfectly healthy genital skin without the owner’s consent, and babies can not give consent. Adult men can alter, pierce, or circumcise their penises as they see fit. It is still the case that cosmetic circumcision can result in disfigurement, whereas not cutting off otherwise properly-functioning genital skin does not sometimes result in damage to the penis. Also, foreskins are beautiful and delicious.

    The only good reason to cut a child’s genitals is when it’s medical best practice for relieving a physical condition that’s causing pain or interfering with proper functioning.

  128. David Marjanović says

    Get rid of Christianity as a major influence and naturally circumcision practices will decrease. Outside of that, I don’t see it going away any time soon. It’s odd anyway that Christians promote circumcision since St. Paul said it was unnecessary – I though St. Paul was a kind of second Jesus to Christians in authority, but I guess not in this point.

    Only in America do Christians promote circumcision. Only in America.

    Over here, only Jews and Muslims and the handful of Americans are circumcised, and only they have ever been (to the best of my knowledge, and excepting the few medically necessary cases).

    …Oh. I didn’t know about South Korea; I’ll ascribe that to the American missionaries. :-/

    Slovenia is a surprise. I can’t explain it.

    And… This thread is now a discussion of male circumcision. Not a discussion about the madness of some commenters but actually about the pros and cons of male circumcision.

    I guess everything really is about penises.

    Bingo! We have a winner. :-|

    penii

    No. If “penises” isn’t Latin enough for you, the only option is penes. “Penii” would require penius!

    when hotdogs are served at a family picnic, let’s peel some skin off one, point to it, and ask Kevin if it’s making him upset

    What the vertical gene transfer.

    That’s bullying. I want to get violent, and it’s entirely possible that I would if I were witnessing this situation.

    “I was spanked as a child, and I am not okay with you saying that my parents hit me growing up.”

    …Seriously? People say that?

    Am I spoiled by the fact that German doesn’t have a separate word for spanking?

    Trimmed at or near birth, and having no interest in any penis except my own, I accept on second-hand report that foreskins, properly maintained, are for most men a Good Thing. But a lot of human males neglect personal hygiene in ways we’ve all encountered; perhaps some of the human females stuck with servicing them have concluded that reducing the production of certain flavors of cheese would also count as a Good Thing.

    Ah, the American Hygiene Argument.

    As you have already admitted, it’s an argument from ignorance. It’s an argument from ignorance when other people make it, too.

    because the intromittent organs of birds, mammals and several other clades probably aren’t homologous.

    don’t forget dah fishes, eh?

    It was already clear that those aren’t homologous to the mammalian penis. The same holds for the so-called pseudopenis of most newts, which I didn’t mention (or think of) either.

    But people who practice male circumcision will make the opposite argument: They want their son to have more sex and they are afraid that his foreskin will turn off potential partners. – amandamarcotte

    This is a truly bizarre feature of American culture. I doubt you’d ever find that argument deployed outside the USA, certainly not in Europe.

    It makes sense in context: in a place where most men are circumcised, most potential partners of that hypothetical son will know beforehand what a circumcised penis looks like, but an intact one will, at best, look strange to them.

    I wonder if Jews and Muslims have the opposite problem over here. I also wonder how many people really expect no individual variation, and how many really care about looks…

    So we shouldn’t care about male genital mutilation because intent is magic, and those foreskins were all removed from entirely benign reasons?

    Not what she said.

    Never mind the fact I think your line about ” and male circumcision is supposed to increase sexual opportunities.” needs a fucking citation.

    Search Pharyngula for a few more circumcision threads (there’s one every few months), and you’ll find a few people (invariably Americans, AFAIK) stating as a fact that The Lady Monolith prefers the look of a cut penis. You’ll even find people saying this about their own preferences.

  129. trina says

    Anton Mates @129

    How do you decide what necessary harm is when it comes to animals?
    I think most us prefer to picture our beef coming from a cow who lived in a green paddock somewhere- who had a calf via natural sex.

    We don’t like to remember that every glass of milk we drink comes at the expense of a calf which was seperated from its mother at birth. It was then probably put into a dark box, restrained further to ensure it couldn’t move around and gain any muscle tone and then slaughtered at a few weeks old.

    Is this the necessary harm you are fine with?

  130. says

    I guess poor wording on my part, but I’ve been raging against these anti-circumcision extremists for years and usually managed to be accused of being pro-circumcision. I don’t have any strong feelings about it, except that the people claiming that they’ve been mangled and sexually ruined** have always seemed to be using circumcision as something to hang other issues on. As the flip-side to PZ’s “I don’t consider it crippling or significantly damaging to sexual activity”, I’m pretty sure that I’m not having some sort of exponentially better sexual experiences because I’ve got a foreskin.

    **I’m not referring to the small percentage of people who suffered from an incorrectly executed circumcision and have legitimate medical issues because of it. Those people have all the sympathy I have to give.

  131. Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel says

    Of course male circumcision is entirely religious and cultural. Get rid of Christianity as a major influence and naturally circumcision practices will decrease.

    Circumcision originated with Judaism, not Christianity; Christians attach no religious significance to it. I’ve long wondered how circumcision came to be so popular in the US, considering that Jews are a small minority here, and historically not well liked by others.

  132. ck says

    lorn wrote:

    [...] the least intrusive forms of FGM, essentially a small nick as formality, [...]

    The “least intrusive forms” were suggested an an alternative to FGM by doctors. Instead of actually cutting away flesh, a small puncture would be made as a controlled bloodletting ritual done under medical supervision. As far as I know, this didn’t really take off, since the purpose of the procedure was to diminish sexual pleasure. At this point, even type I FGM (the least intrusive grade currently recognised) includes removal of the clitoral hood, and at least partial removal of the clitoris.

    I’ll also point out that when they had women appraise the damage done to their own genitals during FGM procedures, they generally underestimated what had been done.

    WithinThisMind wrote:

    But comparing male circumcision to female circumcision is like comparing having a cat jump off the bookcase onto your penis and having your penis cut off with a dirty knife.

    Yes, both are unpleasant things to have occur, but one is holy fuck jesus omg worse.

    Uhm.. Which one is supposed to be worse? And might it depend on the cat? Wait, you’re fully clothed in the first one, maybe?

    On the topic at large in this thread: it does seem like certain people are determined to make Amanda Marcotte’s point for her. Especially the anti-circers and the anti-bicyclers. I’m just surprised the glibertarian brigade didn’t show, since they tend to be just as noisy. I didn’t see any TERFs, but despite being extremely vocal, they’re still a fairly small group, and their voices may have been drown in the other tsunami of complaints. I don’t usually see the International Association for Competitive Mothering exploring outside of their own corners of the internet, and they don’t seem to be present here either.

  133. says

    Rex Little:

    Circumcision originated with Judaism

    I’m not so sure that’s true.

    Today, many Anthropologists disagree on the origins of circumcision. Some, such as English Egyptologist Sir Elliot Smith, believing that circumcision originated in the ‘Heliolithic’ culture over 15,000 years ago and was adopted by other cultures, while others believe that circumcision developed independently within separate cultures. Although the origins of circumcision are uncertain, it is documented that circumcision has been practiced in areas throughout Africa, in the Near East, by Australian Aborigines, and by Muslims in South-East Asia.

    Circumcision, although having been practiced in areas throughout the world, was first documented in art form by the Egyptians. Found in an Egyptian tomb built for Ankhmabor in Saqqara and dating to around 2400 B.C.

    According to author David L. Gollaher in his book, Circumcision: A History of the World’s Most Controversial Surgery, the Jewish people borrowed the practice of circumcision from the Egyptians. Egyptians of the time lived in an intellectually and technically advanced society. They had a vast understanding of the human body, were respected for their military conquests and great architecture, and were therefore regarded as amazing to their contemporaries. If the Egyptians performed circumcision, it was considered to be rooted in wisdom. In Egypt, circumcision was a ritual that transformed the youth into manhood, allowing them into admittance of the divine mysteries. Although scholars suggest that circumcision was limited to the elite only (priests and pharaohs), others disagree. Circumcision for the Egyptians was a method of purification; the body’s openings were considered portals through which impure and malignant spirits might penetrate.

  134. Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel says

    Point conceded, Tony. However, my major question still is, since the mostly Christian cultures which settled the US didn’t generally practice circumcision (if I’m wrong about this, someone please correct me), how the heck did it get so popular here? I mean, if I were a new father whose family and friends hadn’t done it for generations, my reaction would be “You want to do what to my baby boy? Over my dead body!”

  135. Tethys says

    how the heck did it get so popular here?

    I think it had something to do with WWI and trench rot.

  136. says

    Rex Little

    I’ve long wondered how circumcision came to be so popular in the US

    As a means of preventing masturbation, a perennial obsession of U.S. moralists and health quacks for generations.

  137. says

    how the heck did it get so popular here?

    Perhaps this may be an (the?) answer:

    In the United States circumcision emerged at the same time as in Britain and for much the same reasons: hostility to masturbation, delusions about congenital phimosis, fear of diseases like syphilis and cancer. But it got its biggest boosts from the two world wars and from the medicalisation of childbirth. The importance of both the obstetricians/gynecologists and the the military in the promotion of circumcision in the USA cannot be overestimated.

    Although experts in venereal diseas such as Abraham Wolbarst had called for universal circumcision as early as 1914 [1], it was the obstetricians and gynecologists who were responsible for realising his dream. It may seem strange that the most important advocates of routine male circumcision within the medical profession were experts in women’s health, who knew little and cared less about male anatomy, but from the 1930s onwards it was the obstetricians and gynecologists who most vigorously touted the advantages of the procedure and performed most of the operations. Symptomatic of their power was the introduction of the Gomco clamp by the obstetrician Hiram Yellen, who wanted a device that was so simple to use that his colleagues would be able to claim the circumcision procedure from fussy and expensive surgeons who still insisted on anaesthetics and strict control of bleeding. The result was that circumcison came to be seen as part of the birth process, often performed within a day or even a few hours of the boy’s arrival in the world – a procedure no more surgical or problematic than tying his umbilical cord [2].

    So obsessed did these specialists in women’s bodies become with altering male bodies that it was not unknown for them to circumcise the poor boy before he had even fully emerged from the womb. The authors of a book on childhood diseases report: “The practice of circumcision has become almost universal in the United States…. Some obstetricians have made early circumcision almost a fetish, reaching it to a reductio ad absurdum in one instance with which we are familiar in which the operation was performed when the hips been delivered and pending expulsion of the upper half of the body.” [3]

    Miltary discipline
    The US military was another important influence. Around the turn of the last century, circumcision of infants was still rather rare, though circumcision of older boys was gaining in popularity. During World War I, the military led a concerted effort to circumcise soldiers and sailors because it was believed that this would make them less susceptible to venereal disease; military discipline forced men to submit to a procedure they would never have agreed to had it been left to their own decision. Thousands of men were circumcised in their late teens and early 20s. When these men returned home and became fathers, doctors began asking whether they wanted their newborn sons circumcised. Many, remembering the pain that they or their buddies endured from the operation as adults, said yes, thinking it would avoid having to do it later, when the pain was thought to be worse than in infancy. Most babies, however, continued to be born at home and were not circumcised.

    By the outset of World War II, the USA had circumcision rates of about 40-50 per cent and Britain 30 to 40 per cent. Most sources agree that circumcision in the UK continued its climb until just about the outbreak of war. After the Second World War, there was a remarkable split in circumcision rates in the USA and Britain. The UK was absolutely ravaged from war – there were no spare resources anywhere. The National Health Service, which had originally been planned for the 1930s and delayed, finally came into being quite shakily in July 1948. Most people predicted its imminent failure. While circumcision was theoretically “included” in the free procedures, most physicians had real trouble justifying it in the climate of near-poverty. There was thus no financial incentive for unnecessary surgery.

    Role of medical insurance
    In the USA, there was rapid development and prosperity after World War II. One consequence of this was the shortage of labour for all the newly-created jobs. From the early 1950s, companies began offering lavish benefits packages to lure employees, and it became standard for them to include full, private health insurance as a condition of employment. Thus, there was no need for the US government to even investigate starting a national health scheme as long as there was full employment and companies were falling over each other to provide the most lavish plans.

    Almost all of these private insurance packages paid for male infant circumcision, then considered to be quite a progressive and good thing to do. The USA saw a tremendous rise in the number of hospital births after the war, and it became a sign of backwardness to have a child at home. Even the poorest citizens arranged to have their babies in hospital. During the 1950s the rate of routine infant circumcision exploded from about 50 per cent to about 90 per cent. This was also fuelled by the popular press, such as Dr. Benjamin Spock’s Baby and Child Care. Nearly every American family had (has!) this bible of child care on their bookshelf. In the earliest editions, appearing just after World War II, Dr. Spock argued that circumcision is a very good idea, particularly if the other boys in the neighbourhood were also cut. Caring for the baby would then be easy, and he’ll grow up feeling “regular” (i.e., not eccentric, different or in any other way un-American – it is a very conformist culture). In the 1980s Spock recanted this advice and suggested that being intact was just fine and that parents should leave baby boy’s penises alone. But it was harder to stop a trend than to start it.

    In 1959 the circumcision rate in the USA was about 90 per cent. It was very rare to see a foreskin in the changing room. Those that did have one also usually had a story: born premature, to immigrant parents, or overseas and came to the USA as children. In Britain the incidence of neonatal circumcision declined to less than 5 per cent by the early 1950s. During this same period, it was skyrocketing in the USA. The biggest difference was probably around 1960, when hardly any British boys were cut and nearly every American boy got circumcised. The difference is illustrated in the contrasting answers given to the question “Should the baby be circumcised?” by the American obstetrician Alan Gutttmacher in 1941 and the British surgeon Sir Daniel Whiddon in 1953.

  138. xavierninnis4191 says

    Moses Maimonides; THE GUIDE TO THE PERPLEXED, translated by Shlomo Pines. (University of Chicago, 1963)
    Part III, Chapter 49, Page 609:
    Similarly with regard to circumcision, one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible. It has been thought that circumcision perfects what is defective congenitally. This gave the possibility to everyone to raise an objection and to say: How can natural things be defective so that they need to be perfected from outside, all the more because we know how useful the foreskin is for that member? In fact this commandment has not been prescribed with a view to perfecting what is defective congenitally, but to perfecting what is defective morally.

    The bodily pain caused to that member is the real purpose of circumcision. None of the activities necessary for the preservation of the individual is harmed thereby, nor is procreation rendered impossible, but violent concupiscence and lust that goes beyond what is needed are diminished. The fact that circumcision weakens the faculty of sexual excitement and sometimes perhaps diminishes the pleasure is indubitable. For if at birth this member has been made to bleed and has had its covering taken.

    http://www.jewsagainstcircumcision.org/jewish.htm

  139. darkwater says

    Improbable Joe @134:
    In my case, the sexual experience may not be exponentially better, but having my foreskin stretched and at tongue or finger inserted in it is an experience I wouldn’t have had I been circumcised.

  140. Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel says

    Interesting. It raises a couple of (rhetorical) questions:

    1. These specialists in women’s bodies–didn’t most of them have male bodies in those days? Didn’t the idea of circumcision creep them out just a little?

    2. If the idea was to prevent masturbation, didn’t someone eventually notice that it wasn’t working?

  141. carlie says

    I get the distinct whiff of that passage as trying to blame it all on women – never mind that it was men doing it to men, it was because they were “specialists in women’s bodies”. Harumpf.

  142. says

    Rex Little:

    2. If the idea was to prevent masturbation, didn’t someone eventually notice that it wasn’t working?

    How would anyone know that it wasn’t working though? Door to door Anti-Jerkoff checkups? I imagine a great deal of self reporting was going on back then. How many men were reporting the truth of the amount of masturbation they engage in?

  143. says

    David @ 132:

    Search Pharyngula for a few more circumcision threads (there’s one every few months), and you’ll find a few people (invariably Americans, AFAIK) stating as a fact that The Lady Monolith prefers the look of a cut penis. You’ll even find people saying this about their own preferences.

    There was one (I think on Pharyngula Sciborg), where quite a few people gave the stupidest, inane reasons for getting their infant son[s] circumcised or planned to do so when they had a son. Some of them were:

    My son will be in the bath or shower with me, and I don’t want him to see a difference between his penis and mine.

    I don’t want kids to make fun of my son in the locker room.

    I want my son to look like his father.

    I want my son to have a good sex life. (This one when people were talking about infants, FFS.)

  144. Rex Little, Giant Douchweasel says

    It was a rhetorical question, Tony. Said so right on the label. :)

  145. Menyambal says

    Who started circumcision in the US? I still have this in my clipboard from tbe other day:

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Harvey_Kellogg#Masturbation_Prevention

    That’s the guy who invented breakfast cereal, so his influence could be just as long-lasting in other areas. He wanted the pain of circumcision to prevent masturbation. He wrote a fun little book, which Wikipedia mentions.

    He also wanted to wrap wires in the penis to prevent erections, and to burn clits with acid, so any of his influence at all is still pretty bad.

    I thought circumcision was symbolic castration, ‘way back when priests were trying to take religion less seriously.

    There are men who try to restore their foreskins by stretching the skin they have out to a useful length. Some of it is amusing, but I ain’t linking.

    Warning, icky talk: I kinda went the other way. I am circumcised, and used to masturbate dry, by pulling the skin up and down over the inside part. That, I think, is the standard practice for foreskins, and is even the case during vaginal sex—a lot of the slide is within/under the loose skin, not in the lubed-up lover. I decided, for some reason, to switch over to using lube, and now I slide my hand up and down over the surface of the skin, which has tightened back up to where dry tugging is painful. (Happily, I have a partner who does the sliding, but I recall a bit of confusion when I first indicated that dry was not good for me.)

    So there is the great difference during sex; where the sliding occurs. Circumcised guys might masturbate using lube, which kinda cuts down on the spontaneity. But the slide and sensation can either occur within the penis or on the surface of the skin (the squeezing goes deep, of course). And that “skin” is actually scar tissue, some of it (I have looked at my own dick, and can’t figure out what should be what), but I assure you that sex feels just fine.

    I estimate that half my skin wasn’t meant to be skin, but half was, and the head is all there (my clothes keep it protected) and the squeezing feels good. So three-quarters is original. I ain’t crippled, I ain’t ashamed, and I ain’t all about my penis. I would not circumcise a child, but I am not going to bemoan my own circumcision, not even to myself.

    (Goddammit, you men, if John Wayne got the end of the skin of his dick shot off, would he collapse in tears onto a message board, or would he keep soldiering on?)

  146. Ichthyic says

    I guess nobody has anything to say about the other things on her list?

    Penis trumps all.

    or it could be because that was how PZ’s OP started (marking the subject for discussion in bold… twice).

  147. says

    or it could be because that was how PZ’s OP started (marking the subject for discussion in bold… twice).

    AFTER the link to the list, which he put first. And which apparently everyone skipped past.
    I guess the point of his post was not about what she had to say, NOT to mention her list, point people in that direction, give her some hits, some traffic, give people here something outside of this bubble something to read and think about.

    It was about what everyone here would have to say. About the one part of the list he quoted.

    It was about how people are are NOT like those who hijack discussions of everything in order to rant about circumcision – by having everyone here ignore everything else she had to say and instead…. rant about circumcision.

  148. yubal says

    SO, this is about circumcision ?

    I think circumcision is over performed in general and in most cases unnecessary. There are more than ~50 % of US males suffering from phimosis? Statistically unlikely.

    now bite me.

    love,
    Y.

  149. Menyambal says

    The original post WAS about penises. The title and the first paragraph refer to Amanda Marcotte’s list, but after that, it’s all penes. Circumcision and the people who hate it is what the topic is.

    But for those who skipped the gist: Number 10 on the linked list was about anti-evolutionists who bring up the same tired arguments. Gosh, we know about them, don’t we, folks? How long has it been since PZ posted that vid with the creationist with his hat on backwards? How many creationist trolls have we hammered into the fucking ground with the same, God-damned same, tired-assed same, fucking same arguments? Have you noticed that they don’t seem to show up here quite as often? Are they scared, maybe? Have they nothing new?

    Okay, enough gratuitous discussion of the list that inspired PZ’s post …

    Does “inspired PZ’s post” sound like a euphemism? Some farmers put caps over the tops of wooden fence posts, some don’t. Which are real men?

  150. ck says

    Frankly, circumcision seems like just another instance of people treating their children like possessions rather than little people. I think I have to echo sempercogitans’ mention of the surgeries done to intersex children to convert them to a well defined apparent sex, too. The scope of the problem is well beyond this one little (usually unnecessary) procedure.

  151. says

    Jafafa:
    This is the direction the thread has gone. I read the whole article. I chose to participate in this discussion because other people were talking about circumcision and I thought it was worth talking about. Was there something else on her list that you’d like to discuss?

  152. Ichthyic says

    It was about how people are are NOT like those who hijack discussions of everything in order to rant about circumcision – by having everyone here ignore everything else she had to say and instead…. rant about circumcision.

    it was inevitable, given the setup.

    that was my point.

  153. Ichthyic says

    Was there something else on her list that you’d like to discuss?

    exactly. what point is there in pointing out that the direction a discussion is taking is not the one you wanted?

    instead, why not bring up that you want to talk about other points on the list, and then, you know, identify them and talk about them.

  154. Ichthyic says

    …the list is literally about key issues that trigger internet “fights”.

    frankly, PZ could have picked any one of them, and likely generated a multi-hundred comment thread just about that one topic.

    frankly, I’m surprised the comments on this thread haven’t passed 200 already.

  155. says

    Anton Mathes
    Nah, same difference.
    A child who needs a medical circumcision does not give consent either. The consent is given by his parents, same as in the case of a cosmetic circumcision. To call the resulting body-part mutilated hits both of them. I would never argue with a man who deeply resents his own circumcision about what he calls his own penis, but for the general discourse I would avoid the term.

    +++

    But a lot of human males neglect personal hygiene in ways we’ve all encountered; perhaps some of the human females stuck with servicing them have concluded that reducing the production of certain flavors of cheese would also count as a Good Thing.

    If somebody expects a blowjob without having washed immediately before then the foreskin is the least of the problems with that person.

  156. opposablethumbs says

    ck #136

    International Association for Competitive Mothering

    You’re kidding, right? This is actually a thing?!?!? My dog …

  157. David Marjanović says

    I think it had something to do with WWI and trench rot.

    Doesn’t explain the lack of circumcision in France.

    Perhaps this may be an (the?) answer:

    That’s harrowing to read!

    2. If the idea was to prevent masturbation, didn’t someone eventually notice that it wasn’t working?

    No, because masturbation wasn’t talked about.

    …except by Catholics at confession. Maybe.

    (Goddammit, you men, if John Wayne got the end of the skin of his dick shot off, would he collapse in tears onto a message board, or would he keep soldiering on?)

    Not sure how many layers of recursive sarcasm you’re using here; I, for one, consider John Wayne (or at least the characters he played) funny caricatures, not generally something to imitate.

  158. ck says

    opposablethumbs wrote:

    You’re kidding, right? This is actually a thing?!?!? My dog …

    Yes, I’m kidding. It was meant as a joke, playing off #6 on the list.

  159. eveningchaos says

    This is a bit tangential but there is a movie coming out about the Icelandic Phallological Museum called “The Final Member.” The museum lacks a human phallus and is seeking a donor. An elderly Icelandic man has donated his penis to be removed after his death. But here is where it gets interesting. An American man wants to donate his member and is willing to have it removed before he dies. He has even had an American flag tattooed on his penis so the world will know that it is an American penis on display. Here is a link to the documentary page…

    http://thefinalmember.com/

  160. opposablethumbs says

    Yes, I’m kidding

    Phew. You had me wondering, I’ll freely admit (because via Pharyngula I have become aware of the existence of such rethuglican/liberturdian/et al extremes as I had never dreamt of, in my philosophy or otherwise, such that I have begun to wonder if there is any depth that some RWA-types somewhere have not plumbed). I’m actually quite relieved to find that you were taking the mickey :-)

  161. Anton Mates says

    ck @136,

    At this point, even type I FGM (the least intrusive grade currently recognised) includes removal of the clitoral hood, and at least partial removal of the clitoris.

    Type I isn’t the least intrusive grade. That would be Type IV, which covers all the varieties of ritualized nicking, pricking, scraping, and other injuries that are done to girls’ genitals for no good medical reason, but don’t involve actually removing any tissue. Again, this is extremely common in southeast Asia.

    Jafafa Hots @153,

    AFTER the link to the list, which he put first. And which apparently everyone skipped past.

    Well, we’ve had people discussing the “is milking cows rape?” bit on this thread for a while now.

    Aside from that, though, I think people don’t have much to say about most of the groups on the list, because we don’t disagree about them. Pharyngula commenters aren’t going to be like “well, those transphobes and creationists do have a point….” Whereas, with anti-circ zealots (and radical vegans/animal rights folks), there are elements of their positions that many but not all of us agree with. That’s a prime conversation-starter.

    It was about how people are are NOT like those who hijack discussions of everything in order to rant about circumcision – by having everyone here ignore everything else she had to say and instead…. rant about circumcision.

    Oh, c’mon. Marcotte didn’t just make a bare point about how anti-circ zealots won’t shut up, she also said that claiming X,Y, and Z about circumcision makes you a weird extremist. PZ went on to describe his own position on circumcision when he linked to her. Obviously that’s going to get commenters discussing the topic, unless you ask them not to, which neither writer did.

    Yes, it’s also common for someone to write a post about FGM or Lyme’s Disease or shuffleboard and have people descend on it to rant about foreskins anyway, but that’s not this thread.

    Giliell @162,

    A child who needs a medical circumcision does not give consent either. The consent is given by his parents, same as in the case of a cosmetic circumcision.

    Sure, but a legal guardian’s right to consent on their ward’s behalf is not absolute. They must act with the ward’s best interests in mind. In which case, I think that factor replaces autonomy as determining whether the “mutilation” label is appropriate.

    E.g., if a small child gets some horrible infection and has to have his arm amputated to save his life, we wouldn’t call it “mutilation” even if he doesn’t consent. But if parents have their child’s arm amputated electively because they think he just looks better without one, we totally would. Or I would, anyway.

    Since you disagree, I guess I’d ask what could be surgically done to a child that you would call mutilation. Because whatever it is–clitoridectomies included–some unfortunate kid has needed it done for a legitimate medical reason. Does that mean FGM can’t be called FGM?

    (No, I don’t think that circumcision is as drastic as FGM or getting your arm amputated! But that’s my point: we don’t define “mutilation” purely by how drastic the procedure is. It’s also about whether it’s medically justified.)

  162. Anton Mates says

    Trina @133,

    How do you decide what necessary harm is when it comes to animals?

    I’m on the “welfare” side of the animal welfare/animal rights divide, so I’m likely to use something like the AVMA principles. I’m okay with people exploiting nonhuman animals for food, clothing, research, etc., but they should do it in ways that minimize fear, pain, stress, and suffering within that constraint.

    I think most us prefer to picture our beef coming from a cow who lived in a green paddock somewhere-who had a calf via natural sex.

    Quite probably. But I don’t think cows have an inalienable right to natural sex, nor do I think they particularly want it. A cow signals receptivity by, basically, not moving when a male mounts her. That’s pretty much it. I don’t see much reason to believe that this is the high point of a cow’s existence, or that she’ll feel terrible later in life if she had a calf via artificial insemination instead. (Now, if you want to talk about specific insemination techniques that are stressful or injurious, go for it. The turkey example SC described certainly qualifies.)

    With a green paddock, on the other hand, I think there’s good evidence that cows will actively choose to hang out there versus a dirt or concrete feedlot. And cows in the latter conditions are detectably more stressed and prone to disease and injury.

    It was then probably put into a dark box, restrained further to ensure it couldn’t move around and gain any muscle tone and then slaughtered at a few weeks old.

    Is this the necessary harm you are fine with?

    Nope, but I would be fine with it being slaughtered at birth. I don’t approve of veal crating, but it’s not the cow’s right to life and liberty that concerns me; it’s the stress and pain involved.

    I’m not saying you can’t make a case for cows having rights to life and liberty and physical autonomy; I’m saying you’re not required to do so in order to critique the meat and milk industries. Marcotte doesn’t believe that milking cows is rape, and probably doesn’t believe that artificial insemination of farm animals is rape either. It doesn’t follow that she thinks factory farming is A-OK.