Tough Questions: On Banning Circumcision


Iceland is currently discussing a bill that would ban infant male circumcision and, if it succeeds, it will become the first country in the European Union to do so. I always knew that I would eventually comment on this most touchy of subjects, and in light of this current news I guess now is as good a time as any.

I am aware that for many people, this is not a “tough question” at all. Many have very strong opinions on the subject one way or another, whereas I find myself quite torn on the topic. I am also aware that, as someone who does not own a penis my opinions on the subject are somewhat less valid than someone who has more skin in the game, so to speak, but my current dilemma is mostly based on the science and the fact that both sides often exaggerate or twist it to fit their own notion.

Before we continue yes, I made a circumcision pun. I totally meant it. I apologize… kind of. Now let’s move on.

By now, I would be surprised if every single one of you reading this has not come across this particular debate at least once. I expect you all know at least one person on the pro circumcision side, who says that it is cleaner and healthier to be circumcised, and it is also an itegral part of many people’s tradition so back the fuck off. Then you hear the “against” side, who will eventually compare it to female gential mutilation, and that true gender equality means being categorically against any kind of genital mutilation regardless of gender. The problem is, as far as the science goes, neither of these arguments have much merit.

As far as the “clean and healthy” side goes, there is really no evidence that being circumcised leads to any kind of health benefit. Maybe this was a thing back when running water and regular bathing was not an option, but in this day and age there is no scientific evidence that suggests any such health benefit. While it has been shown that circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV (having to do with the reduced ability of the virus to enter and infect a circumcised penis), this benefit is only relevant in countries with an extremely high prevalence of HIV and is positively dwarfed by the use of actual condoms.

On the other hand, you just cannot compare male circumcision to female genital mutilation. It is not even close. With FGM, you’re talking about cutting off the clitoris and sewing up the vagina so that it can be ripped open upon the woman’s first sexual encounter, and that’s the better case scenario, in which they don’t completely remove the entire labia as well. Saying that is the same as losing a little skin off the top of a penis is, at the very least, hyperbolic. With FGM, the damage to health and well being is clear, whereas a properly performed male circumcision just does not have the same associated adverse effects on health. As far as the science goes, you’re not going to find proof of benefit or harm.

However, note that I said a properly performed male circumcision. As with all surgical procedures there is always a small risk that it will be botched, and one thing you definitely do not want is a botched circumcision. That in the end is the main argument that the proponents of this bill are making: it is completely medicaly unnecessary, there is always some risk associated with it, why take that chance with a baby’s future health? If they really want to have it done, let them do it when they are older and can decide for themselves.

Well, that seems like a logical argument. So why am I so split on this?

Because, while I normally don’t find myself bending over backwards to accomodate old fashioned religious beliefs, I still see the point of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Iceland who claim that this is discriminatory. Basically, it depends on which way you look at it. The Icelandic Progressive Party is saying: there’s no use for it, why take the risk with a child who cannot consent? The Jewish and Muslim communities are saying: there’s no harm in it, why ban us from  a practice that is critical to our culture?

Call me a traitor, but they kind of both have a point.

This ban also calls back terrible memories of a not so long ago past, where being circumcised in Europe meant a surefire way of being identified as a member of a persecuted group. I do not think enough time has past for people to say that these concerns have no merit. Instead of letting the practice fizzle out along with other silly religious beliefs, banning it at this point in time would, I think, just make it seem like an attack on a culture rather than a concern for the health of a child. I can also imagine that, if you are a Jewish man growing up in Iceland and you are certainly going to choose to be circumcised, you’ll curse the dickheads who passed a law thinking you’d prefer to have the procedure done when you are old enough to remember it. That wont feel like they were protecting you and your rights in the slightest.

And, let’s be honest, banning a procedure like this just means endorsing the “backalley” variety. Then, if something does go wrong, they will be hesitant in bringing their babies to the hospital for fear of getting jail time. That’s just disastrous all round.

Given that, it sounds like I’m falling on the side of not banning it. However, I start swinging the other way when I think about the overly relaxed attitude that some Jewish and Muslim communities takes in the face of male circumcision, as if it is no more delicate a procedure than getting a hair cut. While I agree that the procedure is minor when compared to FGM, it is still a surgery, and as such should be performed with sterility and hygiene in mind. Most egregious of all, in my opinion, is the practice of some Orthodox groups to have the mohel remove the cut skin and clean the wound by placing the baby’s freshly cut penis in their fucking mouths, which of course can have such charming effects as infecting the newborns with herpes.

Now that I would ban in a fucking second. I am still as shocked and disgusted thinking about it as I was the first time I discovered that it was even a thing.

So, after much twisting and turning over this subject, I think that I would probably ban circumcision in the home. I would say that, if you must do it, it has to be done in a sterile environment, in a hospital or clinic. Let the mohels or whomever get a certification of some kind which proved their competence and do it in a clean room with sterile equipment. But banning it outright? I don’t think we’re ready for that.

Of course I am still kind of on the fence about this, so I am curious to know what your thoughts are on the subject, as I can still be swayed either way.

But before I go, I want to leave you with a little video that highlights the cultural differences between the US and Europe on this issue. It might surprise many of you Europeans that a very large majority of the male US population is circumcised, almost as much as it might surprise many of you Americans that, in Europe, circumcision is almost exclusively a Jewish and Muslim thing. Why this disparity?

Would you believe that you can blame Kellogg, as in of Kellogg’s cornflakes?

I’ll let Adam fill you in on the history of it.

 

Comments

  1. Dave, ex-Kwisatz Haderach says

    I’m solidly unwaveringly on the side of bodily autonomy here. I got a piece of my dick hacked off, by a doctor in a sterile environment, in service to a christian god I don’t believe in, without any consideration whatsoever if it was something I would agree to. It wasn’t a necessary medical intervention, it was slavish devotion to an asshole god. As a result, I have a lump of scar tissue where, apparently, the most sensitive part of my penis should be.

    But you don’t have to ban circumcision, just require the informed consent of the actual owner of the dick. Just like you need for any other elective surgery.

  2. paxoll says

    So you think every significant medical society has no scientific basis for saying that circumcision DOES have medical benefits and should be available to parents if they want it? Maybe do a little research on the actual research out there before writing a lengthy blog.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      As you appear to be the only commenter here who seems to have taken the “against” position when it comes to banning circumcision I must ask you, what medical benefits exactly? I did do research on this, quite a bit actually, and the only proved benefit I could find is the HIV transmission thing. In the CDC report on the subject, that’s what they mention, and many doctors took issue with it because of the extremely low incidence of HIV in the US. TBH, the CDC report reads like an organisation that is trying to find anything to justify an unreasonably common practice in the US. If I have missed something, please, do direct me to one or two of these “every significant medical societ[ies]” that claim medical benefits to circumcision.

  3. says

    Junior and I are both uncircumcised and I taught him to wash behind the foreskin. Traditionally he would have been cut hadn’t his mother been on the outer edges of church life already (Anglican). It seems quite daft to insist on the practice in the 21st Century.

  4. flybywire says

    The issue is consent. I am cut because of culture, but my son is not. If he chooses to later, then fine. I have no right to push my culture onto him as it is his life to choose what is done to his body. I don’t for one minute believe that culture overrides consent.

  5. says

    While it has been shown that circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV

    Not really. [link] And yes, people could probably all fling PhD-strewn rebuttals and rebuttals of rebuttals ad infinitum, but I’ve yet to see anyone explain just exactly how the lack or presence of a foreskin would make a blind bit of difference to the transmission of HIV.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      As I hope I made clear in the post, I do not think that the HIV protection angle is a good enough argument in favor of circumcision. However, it is also incorrect to say that the mechanism of protection has not been proposed and studied. A comprehensive review on the subject is here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4192839/

      From the abstract: The proposed mechanisms of protection range from inherent immunohistological factors of foreskin such as difference in thickness of keratin layer and density of target cells for HIV between inner and outer foreskin to physiological mechanisms that follow male circumcision such as drying of secretions underneath foreskin after sexual intercourse, loss of microbiome that attract target cells to the genital mucosa and lack of priming the genital mucosa with less abundant sexual transmitted infections among circumcised men.

      A more detailed explanation of the proposed mechanism is in the conclusion: Based on the evidence from the summarised studies, the mechanism of HIV transmission through the penile tissues stems as follows. When HIV-1 infected cells come into contact with foreskin, especially with IFS, they make synapses with the epithelial cells. This results in HIV-1 budding and subsequent capture by epidermal LCs through dendrites. This is followed by transfer of virus to T cells to initiate local expansion, HIV dissemination and systemic infection. The large surface area of the foreskin increases the chances of synapse formation by increasing number of contacts, while subprepusal wetness can facilitate the process by keeping the virus alive. This process is facilitated by abundant HIV target cells found in IFS and their higher responsiveness through altered cellular protein expression in response to external stimuli. Chemokines present in genital fluids further change the spatial distribution of HIV target cells (especially LCs) favouring connections with HIV infected cells. Furthermore, presence of concurrent STIs and microbiome under the prepuce and induced inflammation therein amass the target cells into dermal and epidermal tissues to facilitate the process. The closeness of target cells and their dendrites reaching closer to apical surface enhance the HIV infection process further. Physiological factors such as mechanical friction during sexual intercourse that cause micro-trauma can also provide easy access for the virus. Removal of foreskin by MC disrupts most of these mechanisms and helps achieve protection for men from sexual HIV transmission.

      The relative strength of the individual pieces of evidence is discussed and cited in the review, if you want to read the whole thing. I would not call the matter conclusively proven, but the proposed mechanisms are in fact out there.

      Either way, I still believe it is moot, because even if MC does help, it doesn’t come close to the benefit of condom use, and in my opinion safe sex is a better and more practical sell than circumcising entire countries of men.

  6. Acolyte of Sagan says

    I’m an intact, middle-aged (if I live well into my hundreds) man with similarly aged friends, some of whom are circumcised. Now, I’m aware that the following cannot be regarded as evidence in the strictest sense, being information gleaned from conversations alone and on a highly subjective matter (though it is proof that men can talk about something other than sport, cars, and sex in a ‘phwoar, I’ve had sex’ kind of a way).
    Anyway, from assorted conversations, it seems that my uncircumcised friends have somewhat de-sensitised glans compared to us intact men.
    My theory (and again, based on such circumstantial evidence as above) is that having the glans itself in constant contact with clothing is what causes the de-sensitising, the nerves getting used to the feel of relatively harsh fabrics leading to a loss of reaction or felling to gentler stimuli.
    Not a health risk, of course, but it is something that can, and apparently does affect quality of life in a certain way.

    That’s one argument against circumcision, but there is a second: In Britain, the docking of dogs’ tails is illegal, being considered an unnecessary and cruel procedure, so why are people still allowed to have their baby boys’ foreskins lopped off willy-nilly (sorry)?

    • RationalismRules says

      Anyway, from assorted conversations, it seems that my uncircumcised friends have somewhat de-sensitised glans compared to us intact men.

      I just don’t see how that can be determined conversationally. How does anyone have any point of reference to measure their experience of sensitivity against someone else’s? If you said 7/10 and I said 6/10, how do we know that our 10s are at all similar?
      Unless you have a friend who was circumcised as an adult, as of course they have personal experience of both cases.

      On the other hand, it is an incontrovertible fact that in removing the foreskin thousands of nerve endings are being removed. That is objectively a reduction of sensation.

      [Never apologize for a good quality pun! That’s my tip-off for you.]

  7. RationalismRules says

    The Jewish and Muslim communities are saying: there’s no harm in it, why ban us from a practice that is critical to our culture?

    Critical to your culture that you permanently mutilate the bodies of infants without their consent? Such a culture is archaic and barbaric and deserves no consideration when laws are made in the modern world.

  8. sonofrojblake says

    I am so disappointed by this post and it’s hard to remain respectful in the teeth of this, but I’m going to try.

    as someone who does not own a penis my opinions on the subject are somewhat less valid

    Turns out womansplaining is a thing. Who knew?

    yes, I made a circumcision pun

    Not cool. I love a pun. But the subject you brought up is the deliberate mutilation of the sexual organs of children by adults. Do you rape jokes? Tell us a rape joke, do. Oh no, hang on, the victims might be women so that would matter. As you were.

    Then you hear the “against” side, who will eventually compare it to female gential mutilation

    Straw man well poisoning.

    true gender equality means being categorically against any kind of genital mutilation regardless of gender. [This] argument[ doesn’t] have much merit

    REALLY??? It’s OK to cut up babies, but only boys… that’s an argument that has merit? Have you thought about this properly?

    there is really no evidence that being circumcised leads to any kind of health benefit […] it has been shown that circumcision can reduce the spread of HIV

    Umm… which is it? You said both these things in the same paragraph. It’s like you’re not trying.

    you just cannot compare male circumcision to female genital mutilation

    You can and should.

    Saying that is the same as losing a little skin off the top of a penis is, at the very least, hyperbolic

    Straw man, again. Nobody said it’s the same, but you absolutely can compare it. Tell you what, how about I just cut a little bit of skin off just your outer labia, in front of a bunch of people, without anaesthetic. Would you complain? Come on, saying it’s like FGM is at best hyperbolic.

    a properly performed male circumcision just does not have the same associated adverse effects on health

    And you judge that how, Ms. Non-penis-haver? If there were no (other) adverse health effects to shaving off the top surface of the tongue so you entirely lost your sense of taste, would you be happy for, say, Scientologists to go round doing that to babies because their Thetans told them to? You, as a non-penis-haver, may be happy to judge the loss of sensation as “not an adverse effect”. The victims may disagree.

    I still see the point of the Jewish and Muslim communities in Iceland who claim that this is discriminatory

    They’re right, it is discriminatory. Laws against taking child brides and honour killing are also discriminatory. Have an imaginary friend by all means, but by FUCK I’m going to discriminate against you when your sky pixie voices start ordering you to ASSAULT OTHER HUMANS. Fuck that.

    The Jewish and Muslim communities are saying: there’s no harm in it, why ban us from a practice that is critical to our culture?

    Call me a traitor, but they kind of […] have a point.

    You’re a traitor. Also, you seem to have missed something.

    The Jews and Muslims are saying “there’s no harm in it” – WHICH IS A LIE. Their entire point rests on a lie. There absolutely is harm in it. It’s frustrating that you can type that without seeing it.

    banning it at this point in time would, I think, just make it seem like an attack on a culture rather than a concern for the health of a child

    Heaven forfend we should “attack a culture”. Better to throw the babies under the bus, after all, it’s literally only boys who are going to suffer, and fuck them, huh? There’s never been a better time to attack those cultures. Absolutely attack them and hammer them until they grow the fuck up and join the rest of us in the 21st century. As I say – they’re welcome to their imaginary friends, but NOT to start assaulting other humans on their say-so.

    if you are a Jewish man growing up in Iceland and you are certainly going to choose to be circumcised, you’ll curse the dickheads who passed a law thinking you’d prefer to have the procedure done when you are old enough to remember it

    As ever, it’s worth saying just how massively disproportionate the effect of Jews on society is. Out of a population of 334,252, there are just 250 Jews. 0.07% of the population. Even by most world standards, that’s a vanishingly small minority to be having such a huge effect on public health policy that we’re even talking about it.

    And if you’re a Jewish man growing up and you are certainly going to choose to be circumcised (because your rabbi/mother/community demand it) and you’re going to blame the GOVERNMENT for the pain, you need to get a clue. Seriously.

    banning a procedure like this just means endorsing the “backalley” variety

    Legalise drugs – stop backalley drug transactions. Legalise mugging – too much of that happens on back alleys. Etc.

    Finally, to lighten the mood a bit:

    It might surprise many of you Europeans that a very large majority of the male US population is circumcised

    It would only surprise Europeans who have never watched much American-made porn. Which is to say – it is absolutely no surprise to anyone in Europe.
    (Also – Europeans are generally more clued-up about US culture than the vice versa, for all sorts of reasons to do with the comparative cultural dominance of the US and the proudly ignorant insularity of most USAians.)

    • snuffcurry says

      As ever, it’s worth saying just how massively disproportionate the effect of Jews on society is. Out of a population of 334,252, there are just 250 Jews. 0.07% of the population.

      And 2,000 Muslims. It’s weird that you omit them here when in an earlier paragraph you acknowledge that it is a Muslim and Jewish tradition.

      Even by most world standards, that’s a vanishingly small minority to be having such a huge effect on public health policy that we’re even talking about it.

      Twice you’ve mentioned the “effect” of allowing circumcision to remain de jure legal in Iceland. What effect is that? From the link:

      Circumcision is rare in Iceland, as in much of Europe. It is difficult to find a doctor who is willing to perform one for religious reasons, said Imam Seddeeq, forcing Muslims to travel out of Iceland to uphold the tradition.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      I have a feeling, based on how strongly you feel about this subject and the fact that we seem to have people from both sides in this thread, that you are going to get into another one of your epic comment flame wars with another commenter pretty soon, and as my opinion on this subject is not particularly set in stone, I’ll leave you to it with someone who actually is more invested. I just have three minor reponses to your comment:

      1. I’m getting really sick of the whole womansplaining thing. Mansplaining covers two phenomena: 1. when men assume that, because you are a woman, you don’t know your ass from your elbow about things like fixing stuff, or cars, or technology, or science, or any other traditionally non “feminine” thing, despite clear evidence to the contrary (like having a PhD in a STEM field, or walking up toy uo as you’re competently fixing something in your car, etc.). 2. when men think they know more than you do about being a woman and that your existence revolves around men’s perception of you. Now, all of a sudden, any time a woman explains anything, she’s womansplaining. Acknowledging that my opinion is LESS valid than someone who has had the experience of circumcision is the exact opposite of that. If I had said something along the lines of “Yeah well I know that you have a penis and you were circumcised but let me tell you you’re not missing anything you’re actually way better off I think uncircumcised penises look weird ergo better for you that you were circumcised because that way your penis is more appealing to me” then you would have a point.

      2. You can’t accuse me of straw manning the anti circumcision argument by saying that people usually compare it to FGM, and then compare it to FGM.

      3. Women are not the only victims of rape, so that argument just made no sense. I find your offhand ignoring of all of the boys and men who are victims of rape while accusing me of ignoring the concerns of boys and men deeply ironic. But hey, we have a blogger here on the network who talks about this subject alot, I’ve actually learned alot from him. The blog is “Heteronormative Patriarchy for Men”, maybe look there for more on that subject

  9. axxyaan says

    With FGM, you’re talking about cutting off the clitoris and sewing up the vagina so that it can be ripped open upon the woman’s first sexual encounter, and that’s the better case scenario,

    This is not true. There is something called type IV FGM. This is a catch-all category which can include a pin-prick or scalpel nick, or a labial piercing. Now as far as I am aware, each time someone propose allowing type IV or even just the pin-prick, the general reaction is that the only acceptable choice regarding FGM is a total ban.

    I really don’t understand how it can be totally wrong to prick the female genitalia of a girl with a pin, yet would be allowable to cut away part of the penis skin of a boy.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      I’ll be honest, I’ve never heard of type IV FGM. All of the women I have ever known or read about who had been circumcised, the procedure was done as I have described. The cultural practice, from what I have read, stems from a control of female sexuality. For example, there exists a belief that, if left intact, a girl’s clitoris will continue growing until it dangles like a penis, and the sewing up of the vaginal canal is, of course, their way of unequivocally ensuring female “virginity” until marriage. I had never heard of a group of people for whom a pin prick of the labia (can you even see the results of that later in life??) is a core essential to their culture.

      But of course you are right. If we’re talking about a pin prick or a nick, then the comparison becomes more apt. But once again, I have never heard of people who fervently argue in favor of being allowed to practice it. Do you know which religious group or ethnicity holds to this particular kind of FGM?

      • axxyaan says

        As far as I know this is a positions that is typically held by people who find the traditional FGM horrific but still are reluctant to leave the tradition entirely or are reluctant to totally forbid it and see allowing this as compromise that may advance progress faster.

        I also think it is not that important which group is advocating for allowing this. What is more interesting is the reaction when someone proposes allowing this. The reactions are AFAIK usually a total rejection. So if allowing this is totally rejected, I don’t see why aloowing male circumcision shouldn’t be totally rejected too.

        • thoughtsofcrys says

          I agree with you on that. I ask which group simply in an effort to look them up and read about them in general, see where these laws were proposed, so as to form a more comprehensive opinion on the subject. Without that I can say for certain that I agree that, if there are people who abhor a labial nick while at the same time thinking that male circumcision is absolutely fine, that is a hypocritical and illogical position. If there is a person in political power who made such arguments I would like to see if they were ever asked to defend their contradictory position on the subject.

  10. sonofrojblake says

    @snuffcurry:
    “And 2,000 Muslims. It’s weird that you omit them here”

    It’s not weird at all in context – i.e. responding directly to Crys’s “If you are a Jewish man” example. She didn’t say “If you are a Muslim man” despite there being ten times as many Muslims as Jews in Iceland, and a THOUSAND times as many worldwide. As for why that is, you’d have to ask her.

    And the effect, if you think about it for a moment, goes beyond just forcing barbarians to travel abroad to mutilate their children. Even debating whether it should be allowed at all, rather than just banning it immediately on the fairly unarguable principle of bodily autonomy in the absence of medical necessity, validates barbaric and backward practices and the loony belief systems that promote them. That the conversation itself is harmful to society is my contention.

    @crys:
    Re: womansplaining – I regret using the term because it really doesn’t apply here. I’m sorry. I have a different understanding of what “mansplaining” is, but I’m not going to ironically explain to you what I think it means, or what the gender-reverse would entail.

    I can and shall accuse you of straw manning if you list the arguments your opponents are going to make before they make them.

    Finally, I said

    Tell us a rape joke, do. Oh no, hang on, the victims might be women

    You said:

    Women are not the only victims of rape, so that argument just made no sense

    Look again at that word “might” in what I said. The argument is:
    1. you joked about circumcision – i.e. consider the mutilation of boy children a fit subject for humour.
    2. You therefore may reasonably be expected to consider rape a fit subject for humour since it can also involve horrible crimes perpetrated against boys.
    3. The fact it’s also perpetrated against women would make you consider such humour beyond the pale.

    The point is to make you reconsider your disparate attitude to victims based entirely on gender. I’m sorry I expressed that so ineptly that you didn’t get it. I’m perfectly aware that men and boys are victims of rape. I’m a frequent reader and less frequent commenter on Ally’s blog thanks.

    I’ve no interest in a flame war. I don’t think I’ve much more to say about this in any case.

    Really, I don’t think there’s much more to say than was said in the first sentence of post 1, which sums it up perfectly:

    I’m solidly unwaveringly on the side of bodily autonomy here.

    I can’t see any possible argument against that, especially ones based on nonsense like “cultural sensitivity” or “freedom of religion”.

    • thoughtsofcrys says

      OK I am noticing a miscommunication when it comes to definition of terms here.

      The mansplaining thing: Thank you for noticing that you explaining to me what mansplaining means would have been ironic, but I’m actually super curious now so please tell me what your understanding of the term was/is.

      On straw manning: It was my understanding that a straw man argument is when you exaggerate or invent the argument that your opponent makes, and then procede to disprove the argument or “beat the straw man to death”. Example: a common creationist argument: “Evolutionists say that a dog can spontaneously evolve from a rock! Here are the scientific reasons why that can never happen ergo evolution is a lie”. No the theory of evolution makes no such claim therefore that is a straw man argument. Given that definition of straw manning, I don’t believe I am guilty of it when I say that, in my experience of witnessing these debates, the FGM comparison comes up. I was not attempting to forsee an argument, just saying what the argument often is as far as I know. Is there another definition of straw manning that I don’t know about? Am I using it wrong?

      On rape jokes: You’re projecting thoughts onto me that I have never had. I don’t make rape jokes, but it has nothing to do with only joking about things that don’t involve my gender. I don’t think rape is funny, and rape jokes are usually made from a place of hate. There are some exceptions, Sarah Silverman comes to mind, and I know some rape survivors who make rape jokes as a way of coping and I do not begrudge them that nor would I ever presume to tell them they can’t do that, but overall I dislike rape jokes and there is not a big mainstreaming of rape jokes that have preconditioned me to find them funny. For that matter, I also don’t make jokes about the rape that happens in male prisons, “dropping the soap” and all that nonsense, but by your logic I should be fine with those because they only involve men.
      Penis jokes, on the other hand, are big in comedy and let’s face it, most of them are told by men. A lifetime of absorbing comedy from various sources have lead me to chuckle at jokes about penises and make puns, and yes sometimes those jokes are about circumcised vs. uncircumcised penises. Afterall, one third of the global population is circumcised according to one of the articles I read about this Icelandic ban, it’s going to come up. Even so, I think that puns are the lowest form of humor, and I’ll find myself making a pun or not objecting to a pun about things that I wouldn’t make an outright joke about, and circumcision falls into that category. That’s where I stand on puns and joke making, but I can see that others do not share that opinion so I do apologize for that.

      At the end of the day, I don’t really think that I can be categorized as an “opponent” in this scenario. I personally am not entirely convinced that the practice should be banned by law, but I also wouldn’t call myself a defender of circumcision by any stretch of the imagination. If it came down to a referendum on the subject, I would either abstain or vote to ban it, but I wouldn’t vote for it. I do think that the practice is stupid, and if I ever have sons I would never have them circumcised, but I also see that my opinion is not shared by everybody. In reality, I am just a woman with no power who is witnessing the debate from the outside and commenting on how persuasive I personally find the arguments, but this debate is largely being conducted by men, it is men who mostly have the power to change these laws and other men who insist on continuing the practice. There is no overwhelming force of women who insist on circumcising boys as a way of controlling their sexuality, no all women panels which discuss forcing boys to be circumcised with men struggling to break into the discussions to have their voices heard and argue for their bodily autonomy, the entire thing is really taking place in a different sphere from typically female gender-based issues. When it comes to things like abortion, FGM etc, women need male support because men wield so much power in society. When it comes to male circumcision, the female opinion is largely moot.

      But I digress, so just one last thing: Why did I use the example of a Jewish man? Two reasons: 1. I was using an example, so simplicity ruled, and 2. I chose the example of a Jewish rather than a Muslim man because it is my understanding that Jewish people almost exclusively circumcise infants, whereas many Muslim practitioners do it later (Cenk from TYT for example talks about how he remembers his circumcision, because it was done when he was 8).

      • sonofrojblake says

        “please tell me what your understanding of the term was”: per the originator of the term, I understood it to mean a man patronisingly presuming to “educate” a woman on a subject with which he has a slightly more than passing familiarity, and in which she is an (acknowledged, accredited, qualified) expert. And ploughing on and continuing to do so even after this fact is pointed out to him. Like if I started holding forth to you on how great life is in Italy and how you should try it. Like I say – you merely holding an opinion on what should be allowed to happen to the penises of defenceless infants isn’t quite analogous. Me having or expressing an opinion on whether women should be allowed abortions isn’t “mansplaining”, rather, in my opinion, it’s truly none of my business and I should butt out of the conversation except to offer support to women with whom I agree and who ask for it.

        Re rape jokes – I’m not projecting thoughts onto you. I don’t think you think those things. I’m saying you’d HAVE to think those things to be morally consistent. But hey, you apologised – forgiven. And without knob gags would standup comedy even exist? As you accurately say – it’s where the joke is coming from, and I perceived your pun as coming from a place of indifference, rather than hate, if that helps, and it’s societal indifference that allows it to persist.

  11. snuffcurry says

    That the conversation itself is harmful to society is my contention.

    So the “massively disproportionate the effect of Jews on society” is a conversation.

    You said “a vanishingly small minority to be having such a huge effect on public health policy.” What is that policy? What are the consequences of it? “Conversation?”

    Even debating whether it should be allowed at all, rather than just banning it immediately on the fairly unarguable principle of bodily autonomy in the absence of medical necessity, validates barbaric and backward practices and the loony belief systems that promote them.

    Just so we’re clear: practices that are not made explicitly illegal in a nation are de facto legal. That is the starting point. You are suggesting that Iceland, in having a “conversation” — contemplating banning a practice that cannot, for practical reasons, actually take place in Iceland, as there is no one to do it — is “validating” the practice itself. Okay. It should have been done “immediately.” Okay. Immediate at what point? When?

    • sonofrojblake says

      Sorry, snuffcurry, I can’t make much sense of that.

      Circumcision – cutting a part off a defenceless child when there is no medical need to do so – should be de facto illegal, as it’s a pretty clear case of assault, and arguably sexual assault on a child at that. It’s not treated as such only because we tiptoe round “cultural and religious freedom”. It can be “made illegal” immediately simply by the government making a statement to the effect that it IS the sexual assault of a child and will henceforth be prosecuted as such. No new laws should be needed.

  12. paxoll says

    Here is a couple medical societies with fairly recent evaluation and position statements on circumcision.
    https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/circumcision
    http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/130/3/e756
    https://www.racp.edu.au/docs/default-source/advocacy-library/circumcision-of-infant-males.pdf
    All medical care is a risk benefit analysis given to the patient or the patients medical power of attorney. Pretty much all new research done on this topic is finding more significant benefits. As for the risks? Lots of BS out there that is not backed by any research such as https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28653427, congratulations uncut dudes don’t have more instances of premature ejaculation although they do have worse Intravaginal ejaculation latency time (IELT), difficulty of orgasm, erectile dysfunction (ED) and pain during intercourse. Blah, blah, here is where you insert your personal anecdotal evidence. If you don’t understand the risks and medical burdens of things circumcision helps prevent such as HPV, or infant UTI’s then you probably have never had to see a newborn get a spinal tap because of an infection or had to get an unpleasant cervical pap smear every year because you have HPV. Circumcision will never have the same level of risk/benefits as say, infant vaccinations, but parents should have the right to make that medical choice, just like they do for frenectomys and removal of extranumerary digits.

  13. blf says

    On a technical level FGM and MGM probably are not equivalent. So what?

    As far as I know, most FGM and MGM is done to children to satisfy (i.e., because of) adult superstitions: The (often very young) children are being treated like voodoo dolls — and then brainwashed as they mature into eventually stealing body parts from their children — continuing a cycle of treating / considering kids to be chattel.

    As a previous commentator put it, it’s about “bodily anatomy”. If a mentally mature competent individual wants such a procedure for themselves, well… Ok. But they have exactly zero business forcing their sadism on their children.

  14. snuffcurry says

    Sorry, snuffcurry, I can’t make much sense of that.

    That’s convenient enough. You seem to have grasped my meaning fine, although you’ve repeatedly skirted requests for clarification and have abruptly changed your position when questioned.

    It can be “made illegal” immediately simply by the government making a statement to the effect that it IS the sexual assault of a child and will henceforth be prosecuted as such.

    That’s not how it works, and I don’t know what body you’re referring to when you say “government” or what “statement” means outside of the abstract. You mean a bill in Parliament? That’s what’s under discussion. As for it being banned on grounds of “sexual assault,” that would not put it on par with similar bills that prohibit FGM (following the UN and WHO approach that discourages the practice as medically unsound and a violation of bodily autonomy), there’s no real precedent for doing so, and if one is actuated by a desire to actually protect children any legislation or proposal for legislation to do so would have far less public support than this proposal has at present and would be considerably less likely to pass.

    No new laws should be needed.

    Possibly, that’s true, if “should” is functioning as “ought” there. Practically, as I say, that’s not how legislative bodies function in democracies and quasi-democracies. Good to know you’ve abandoned that “conversation” and “public health policy” rigamarole, though, and have acknowledged this proposed ban is about endorsing a particular principle and ideal rather than about altering a practice and reality itself. I agree with that.

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