The case against circumcision

Alan Dershowitz’s flippant, dismissive remarks about male genital mutilation (aka circumcision) are infuriating, but an apropos Freudian slip. From where I sit, military Zionism shares a lot in common with this barbaric practice. Both involve inflicting violence against an oppressed victim without regard to his/their wishes, rendering the oppressed a voiceless object, an ‘It’ as opposed to a ‘Thou.’

I’m 37, and have been sitting on a mountain of grief and rage for 17 years, since I discovered what was stolen from me while reading a critique of circumcision in a hip, underground, alternative Jewish newspaper I found at a campus Hillel, of all places.

Most circumcision advocates don’t know the first thing about what a foreskin is and what its purpose is in human sexuality. Did you know that a foreskin increases pleasure for both a man and his partner? Did you know that a foreskin contains tens of thousands of fine touch nerve receptors found nowhere else in the male genitalia, covers and protects the head (glans) of the penis, and creates a pleasure-inducing gliding mechanism? Did you know that circumcision removes the most sensitive and pleasurable parts of the male penis?

Most adult circumcised men I’ve spoken to are reluctant to discuss this topic and get highly defensive about it, saying, “Hey, my penis is perfectly fine. My sex life is great.” If you don’t have a foreskin, you don’t know what you’re missing, Tricking yourself into thinking your sex life is all it could be (when it’s not) is a very bad reason to continue inflicting this cruelty on future generations.

Think of it this way: if there was a ritual surgery performed at birth that removed a child’s ability to see in color, the world would still be beautiful in black-and-white. But why should your son’s ability to see in color be taken away just because yours was? Sex in black-and-white is good, but sex in color is much better.

It’s well documented that one of the primary drives for circumcision, in both Jewish and gentile communities, was to dampen sexual pleasure. Moses Maimonides, the famed medieval Jewish rabbi, physician and philosopher, wrote,  ”One of the reasons for circumcision is to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question.” Shouldn’t that choice be left to the man whose body it is, not inflicted upon him when he’s a defenseless baby?

Much like military Zionism, circumcision is promoted on the back of a load of bald faced lies. Consider “a land without a people for a people without a land.” Its analogs are “circumcision makes the penis cleaner,” “circumcision reduces your chance of catching an STD,” and the shopworn “God commands us to do this” (just like God allegedly promised us this land exclusively, and ordered us to ethnically cleanse it of non-Jews.) None of these statements are true, and I shudder at the necessity of debunking them, but debunk them I must, as I can only assume many readers of this blog have been brainwashed about circumcision as I was as a child, and are perhaps reading a rebuttal of the myths for the first time.

“Circumcision makes the penis cleaner” – Let’s apply some common sense here. Virtually no European men are circumcised. Is there rampant gangrene in Europe? No. Intact male genitals are as easy to clean as a female’s.

“Circumcision reduces your chance of catching an STD” – Again, Europe and common sense are our allies. Why is it that in uncut Europe, STD rates are lower than in circumcised America? Regardless, are infants at risk of catching STDs? Shouldn’t decisions about how to practice safe sex be left to grown men? Condoms and responsible sexual choices prevent STDs, not genital mutilation.

“God commands us to perform circumcision” – In the Torah, God also commands us to stone people to death, burn animal sacrifices, and take slaves from neighboring nations. Jews have given up those unholy practices, why shouldn’t we give this one up too? The majority of Swedish Jews are intact, and guess what? They’re still Jewish! Judaism, whether a cultural, ethnic, or religious identity, does not require circumcision. Jewishness is solely defined by parental lineage or conversion, not by genital cutting. Today, there are Jewish baby welcoming ceremonies for all genders free from genital cutting.

In addition to significantly reducing a grown man’s capacity for sexual pleasure, circumcision is a highly risky, unnecessary surgery that results in over 100 infant fatalities every year in the U.S., and leaves countless others with highly disfigured genitals in so-called “botched” circumcisions. In one famous case, David Reimer committed suicide because of his grief over his lack of a penis, the result of a botched circumcision.

My entire argument boils down to one thing: It should have been my choice, and it should be the choice of every man/boy whose body it is — not the parents. I have no objection to a man who’s reached the age of consent choosing circumcision or any other permanent body modification for himself. But that choice must be preserved, not stolen.

Parents who defend circumcision by saying “It’s a personal choice” – I encounter that argument all the time in my work as an intactivist – are quite delusional to think they should have the right to choose to amputate healthy tissue from a non-consenting minor. They wouldn’t do that to their daughters, why should they have the right to inflict such a human rights violation on their sons?

I stand against sexual abuse, child abuse, genital mutilation, and torture, all of which are accurate – and I meant that logically, according to the precise dictionary definitions of those terms – descriptors of the anachronistic practice euphemestically called ‘circumcision.’ The very fact that our culture is so proud of judging African tribes as barbaric for practicing ‘female genital mutilation,’ while the mainstream media never uses the term ‘male genital mutilation’ to describe what routinely happens here, says a lot. Hint: In Europe, they think we’re as twisted and barbaric as we think the tribes in Africa are. Fortunately, circumcision rates are falling in the U.S., from a peak of higher than 80% in the 1970s to around 33% today.

According to a 1996 U.S. federal law, it is illegal to perform any act of genital cutting on a non-consenting minor female, even variants of circumcision that are far less invasive and damaging than the typical male circumcision. It’s illegal in this country to even prick a clitoral hood and draw a tiny drop of blood from a baby girl for religious purposes, or for any purpsose! I want to see the same legal protections extended to baby boys. In San Francisco, efforts are underway to ban circumcision within city limits, although unfortunately a judge struck it from the ballot – I hope that an appeal will be successful. I see the anti-circumcision movement as being where the gay rights movement was 40 years ago, and I hope it doesn’t take that long to catch up. The organized Jewish community presents a significant barrier to this effort, just as they do in the quest for Palestinian rights.

Back to Mr. Dershowitz. He said:

And the first thing you have to do is have all these guys who are circumcized demand it back, go to the hospital, and have it sewn back on. That’ll make them complete pricks, instead of the pricks that they are, O.K.?

If I could sue the doctor who cut me (unfortunately I’m past the statute of limitations), or wave a magic wand and regenerate what I lost, believe me I would. But since I can’t do either of those things, I’m restoring. It doesn’t give me back everything that your allies in the penis mutilation industry stole from me, and it doesn’t provide justice for the crime, but it does make a big difference.

And I’ll tell you what Mr. Dershowitz, circumcision has something in common with military, apartheid Zionism: both belong in the dustbin of history. Someday – someday! – Palestinians and Israelis will live together as equals, and someday baby boys will enjoy the same human rights baby girls already do in this country, namely, freedom from non-consensual genital cutting. I wonder if your fear that we’ll ask for our foreskins back is an analogue to your fear of ethnically cleansed Palestinians demanding their right of return.

(An aside: The fact that circumcision is widely practiced by Muslims, American gentiles, and others doesn’t let Dershowitz and his pro-mutilation allies off the hook. Worldwide, 75% of men are intact, putting the circumcision camp in a dwindling minority.)

For more info, check out my resources page.

P.S. – Mr. Dershowitz, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to a public debate about circumcision. I’ll win. All I need is one legal, constitutional argument: it’s called Equal Protection. Thus, if this law were ever challenged at the Supreme Court level, it would have to be amended to outlaw male genital mutilation, too. Maybe you’d get used to Brit Shaloms instead, I hear they’re quite enjoyable for everyone involved – especially the baby.

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{ 190 comments... read them below or add one }

  1. ehrens says:

    You are welcome to do whatever you want to do with your own children, but to argue that circumcision is a minor, unnecessary practice for Jews (as you do with your Swedish example) is a load of crap. I don’t know if you self-identify as Jewish, but it sounds like you’d be a lot happier in a Jews for Jesus congregation. Or maybe the Catholic church.

    • Koshiro says:

      You are welcome to do whatever you want to do with your own children

      Errr… no. That is kinda the point. I am against infant circumcision (neutral on adult circumcision) because permanently amputating parts of the body is very far out in the field of things you should not be allowed to inflict on your children.

    • Mooser says:

      “is a load of crap. “

      Ehrens, in that case, I’m sure you will have no trouble convincing your son and heir to undergo circumcision as soon as he’s reached his majority and can make non-emergency medical decisions for himself. Why, I bet you’ll be so convincing he will forego anathesia, to savor the experience!

      “You are welcome to do whatever you want to do with your own children”

      That’s when I start smelling that raw sexual fear. “Ehrens” can’t seem to comprehend that it’s not the anti-circumcisers who want to “do whatever” with their children, they want to leave them alone. It’s you who wants to grab them and mutilate them before they are old enough to defenestrate out the nearest Jen-Weld when the subject comes up.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “You are welcome to do whatever you want to do with your own children…”
      My dear ehrens, that is exactly the point: one is not permitted to do whatever he wants with his own children. He can not toss them off of a cliff, he can not place them in a microwave oven and turn it on, he can not, if the child its a girl, cut off her clitoris or even draw a drop of blood from the clitoris with a pin, but he can hack off a portion of his son’s penis. That is evil and worth outlawing except where medically necessary.

    • eherns,
      I’m not arguing that circumcision is a “minor, unnecessary practice for Jews” (where in my piece do I use those words)? I’m arguing that Jews can and should give it up, because it’s a human rights violation, and the choice should be left to the boy/man whose body it is. Were not my human and religious rights violated when this was forced upon me without my consent? The Swedish example shows that you can be Jewish without being circumcised.
      -Matthew

      • hophmi says:

        “I’m arguing that Jews can and should give it up, because it’s a human rights violation,”

        Please cite me the international law saying it’s a human rights violation. You know very well it’s not.

        “Were not my human and religious rights violated when this was forced upon me without my consent?”

        No, they weren’t, because you have no human right to not have a circumcision and you certainly have no religious right as a Jew not to have one.

        “The Swedish example shows that you can be Jewish without being circumcised.”

        It shows that like everything else, one can be born Jewish and reject the entire religion by virtue of living in a free society. I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it’s silly to argue that one can “be Jewish” without being circumsized and cite this example. One can be Jewish and practice Catholicism. It doesn’t prove that Jews should become Catholic.

        • “Please cite me the international law saying it’s a human rights violation.”

          The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights

          Article 3 Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person [which certainly does include the security from having any other normal, healthy, functional, non-regrowing body part cut off].

          Article 5 No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. [Look at recent stories of forced circumcisions of adult men in Kenya and say that's not cruel, inhuman and degrading. Now what's the difference when it's a helpless baby?]

          Article 6 Everyone has the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law. [And not just as an extension of their parents.]

          Article 7 All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. … [ALL female genital cutting - not just the horrors of tribal Africa - is outlawed in most of the developed world]

          International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights

          Article 1, part 1: All peoples have the right to self-determination [which ought to include determination of the fate of their own normal, healthy body parts].

          Article 1, part 2: Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognised in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind such as race, colour, sex,.. birth or other status. [FGC as above]

          Article 24, part 1: Every child shall have, without discrimination as to race, colour, sex, … the right to such measures of protection as are required by his status as a minor, on the part of his family, society, and the State. [FGC as above]

          Article 26: All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law.

          The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

          Article 8, part 1: States Parties undertake to respect the right of the child to preserve his or her identity [...and not be surgically altered to look like his father].

          Article 13, part 1: The child shall have the right to freedom of expression… [infant circumcision circumvents the child's freedom to decide for himself what parts of his body to keep, and his freedom of sexual expression by permanently and unnecessarily diminishing his sexual sensations].

          the U.S. Constitution

          Article IV The right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable … seizures, shall not be violated.

          Article V No person shall be deprived of life, liberty or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

          Article XIV … No State shall … or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. [If the foreskin is not property, what is it? (It certainly is property when it is sold.) And if it is not the property of the person it is attached to, whose is it?]

          “you have no human right to not have a circumcision ”
          Interesting choice of words. A circumcision is not something someone “has”. It’s something that is done to him (and then a foreskin is a real thing that he lacks). You certainly have a human right not to have any other normal [etc as above] body part cut off. As an adult, you certainly do have a human right not to “have a circumcision”. It’s illegal to tattoo a child, to pierce a child’s genitals, or to circumcise a domestic pet. Why is the infant male foreskin alone fair game?

          “you certainly have no religious right as a Jew not to have one.” That’s getting really tangled. Religions don’t have rights, people do. How can a religion you did not choose take away your human rights – lifelong?

        • hophmi says:

          That’s nice. Unfortunately for you, none of this has been interpreted to mean a ban on circumcision.

          Also from the UNDHR:

          Article 18.

          Everyone has the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion; this right includes freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom, either alone or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in teaching, practice, worship and observance.

          ICCPR:

          Article 2

          1. Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.

          Article 18

          1. Everyone shall have the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This right shall include freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice, and freedom, either individually or in community with others and in public or private, to manifest his religion or belief in worship, observance, practice and teaching.

          2. No one shall be subject to coercion which would impair his freedom to have or to adopt a religion or belief of his choice.

          3. Freedom to manifest one’s religion or beliefs may be subject only to such limitations as are prescribed by law and are necessary to protect public safety, order, health, or morals or the fundamental rights and freedoms of others.

          4. The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to have respect for the liberty of parents and, when applicable, legal guardians to ensure the religious and moral education of their children in conformity with their own convictions.

          Article 27

          In those States in which ethnic, religious or linguistic minorities exist, persons belonging to such minorities shall not be denied the right, in community with the other members of their group, to enjoy their own culture, to profess and practise their own religion, or to use their own language.

          US Constitution:

          Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791. Note

          Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

        • Well all of that can and should be interpreted to mean a ban on infant circumcision.

          Thanks for pointing out “this right includes freedom to change his religion ,,,, and freedom, … to manifest his religion … in … practice.”

          That implies that nobody has a right to mark a religion on someone else for life, because such a mark has to impugn his right to change his religion.

    • talknic says:

      ehrens August 5, 2011 at 9:48 am

      Uh? Jewish babies are Jewish by birth, BEFORE the boys are mutilated.

      “Jews for Jesus congregation”

      Uh huh…. Jews for Jesus

      Some folk just spout off without checking anything. The Hasbara of course depends on them. However, it seems to have seeped into the unconsciousness of some folk.

    • CigarGod says:

      When you start taking away the rituals, you start dismantling the religion…and a darn good thing, too.

  2. Mooser says:

    I don’t know much about history, and even less biology, don’t remember all the French I took, but I know one thing. If those ancient tribespeople were willing to risk infection, and cause pain to their male offspring, they had a result in mind. They didn’t just suddenly decide it would be lot’s of fun to start mutilating infant penises, for no definite reason. They were expecting a result, a result they interpreted as beneficial.
    At any rate, it probably helped keep those impetuous boys from making love to the liver. “And now you know the worst thing I ever did…”

    • Philip Weiss says:

      what a mashup mooser,
      did roth really say that? did hewrite that tune?

      • Mooser says:

        Jeez, Phil, if you haven’t got most of the “Complaint” by memory, you really need to go back to cheder. What on earth were you doing while you were supposed to be studying it? Reading Thoreau?

        I am not gonna get hung up in all that rage and grief over sexual maiming. Frankly, I wake up in the morning, look down at myself, and instead of kvetching “Where’s the rest of me?” I just think how lucky I am they didn’t cut the entire thing off.
        Actually, my parents did show quite a lot of concern over the effects of circumcision. Just as the mohel was about to go into his ‘cut now and pay later’ act, my father, drawing himself up to his full short, yelled “Stop! Stop! I must know! Will my son be able to play the violin after he’s circumcised?” “Why, of course!” replied the amateur vivesectionist they employed. “That’s funny,” my father mused, “He never could before!”

        • Mooser says:

          “Wonderful World” (sometimes referred to as “(What a) Wonderful World”) is a soul song that was written in the late 1950s by soul music pioneer Sam Cooke, along with songwriters Lou Adler and Herb Alpert.
          Also known as “Cooke’s Complaint”

    • It was because back in the naked days… looking at a guys penis was the easiest way to know if he was your ally or foe in battle… or something i dont know

      • Mooser says:

        “looking at a guys penis was the easiest way to know if he was your ally or foe in battle”

        But it was the laughing and pointing which turned the tide of battle, and routed the foe!

  3. marc b. says:

    In the Torah, God also commands us to stone people to death, burn animal sacrifices, and take slaves from neighboring nations. Jews have given up those unholy practices . . ..

    well, most jews have given up those traditions.

    from the king james bible,

    Wherefore David arose and went, he and his men, and slew of the Philistines two hundred men; and David brought their foreskins, and they gave them in full tale to the king, that he might be the king’s son in law. And Saul gave him Michal his daughter to wife.

    matthew, unless you are just being polite to lure the old cretin into a debate, please no signs of respect or deference needed for dershowitz. he is not deserving: it’s not ‘mr. dershowitz’, it’s just ‘dershowitz’.

  4. Mooser says:

    Well, if you’re going to make a “case” you need expert witnesses to sway the jury. Ladies, you have the floor.

      • Mooser says:

        Well put, annie! But do you really know what it’s like? My Mom was always talking about “Aunt Eunice” but had a tendency to mispronounce it with a “k” sound at the end. I was terrified of what was in store for me!

    • Thanks, Matthew, for your dear eloquence and great work, as well as to Mooser for your “endless” wit.
      A few helpful sites: link to nocirc.org, link to intactamerica.org, which has a petition
      “to the “American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG)” at
      link to org2.democracyinaction.org..

      • Mooser says:

        “endless” wit.

        Your plaudits are welcome, but please, no tipping!

        • hophmi says:

          I’m gonna die of laughter. Mooser has been pretty funny here, but there is nothing eloquent about Matthew’s juvenile ranting and raving.

        • Mooser, I knew you’d “top” anything I could think!–even on another sad topic.
          Oh, no: “top”-”ick.”

          And, Matthew, at the same time, I’m sorry for being flippant about something so hurtful: gallows humor, I guess. I’m grateful for your helpful, serious, deeply moving description of what this has meant to you!

        • Mooser says:

          I meant what I said earlier. I just thank God my parents didn’t castrate me and sell me for a eunuch. I mean, if circumcision is good, why not go all the way? America, of course, wouldn’t be satisfied with just my foreskin, as my first link illustrates.
          On the other hand, turning yourself over to doctors to “restore”? No thanks, I think the doctors did enough damage already.
          And a better sex life? Sex is never safe.

        • “turning yourself over to doctors to “restore”? No thanks, ”

          Indeed, and in fact surgical restoration is not recommended – neither the appearance nor the function is much good.

          Instead, many thousands of men are going to considerable time and trouble (but not a great deal of expense) to restore themselves by gentle, intermittent or constant, tension over a long period, which does not stretch but encourages cell growth (the same technique is used to grow skin to cover amputation stumps and the gaps left by conjoined-twin separation).

          The fact that they go to such trouble – and claim great sexual benefit, though the lost nerves can never be replaced – adds to the condemnation of infant circumcision. See for example link to circumstitions.com

  5. Oh no my penis! How will I ever be able to squirt my yurt?

    On a serious note, as a man who isn’t jewish/muslim who had his skin dinged for whatever reason, I would have preferred the choice. I literally got the raw end of my stick when I was a baby. I guess it seemed like a good idea in the 80′s.

    On an even more serious note, genital mutilation and the rituals involved with them are barbaric throwbacks to “curbing the sinful nature of sex”. Since women were viewed as unclean beasts of burden.

    • Mooser says:

      “I guess it seemed like a good idea in the 80′s.

      So did sex, back then.

    • eljay says:

      >> On a serious note, as a man who isn’t jewish/muslim who had his skin dinged for whatever reason, I would have preferred the choice. I literally got the raw end of my stick when I was a baby. I guess it seemed like a good idea in the 80′s.

      It seemed like a good idea to my European, Catholic parents in the late ’60s, too. The doctor convinced them to let him have a snip at my sausage. Regrets? Nope – there’s plenty of magic left in this wand of mine! :-)

      But I am against circumcision for any reason other than medical necessity.

      Yaniv Reich: I skimmed through the Wiki page you (incorrectly) linked to. I couldn’t find any explanation of HOW a foreskin causes or transmits HIV. Do you have a link to any information that explains this? Thanks.

      • marc b. says:

        lj, there are numerous studies that have concluded that MC reduces the transmission of HIV from male to female, the ones i know of being conducted in africa due to high infection rates. here is an abstract of one:

        link to plosmedicine.org

        and here is a brief statement of the ‘biologic plausability’ of increased transmission through the uncircumcised male:

        Biologic Plausibility

        Compared with the dry external skin surface, the inner mucosa of the foreskin has less keratinization (deposition of fibrous protein), a higher density of target cells for HIV infection (Langerhans cells), and is more susceptible to HIV infection than other penile tissue in laboratory studies [2]. The foreskin may also have greater susceptibility to traumatic epithelial disruptions (tears) during intercourse, providing a portal of entry for pathogens, including HIV [3]. In addition, the microenvironment in the preputial sac between the unretracted foreskin and the glans penis may be conducive to viral survival [1]. Finally, the higher rates of sexually transmitted genital ulcerative disease, such as syphilis, observed in uncircumcised men may also increase susceptibility to HIV infection [4].

        the WHO website has tons of stuff on this topic, for what it’s worth.

        • eljay says:

          Thanks for the reply, marc b.. What I get from this – and I’m not trying to be dismissive here – is “Keep it clean, and wear protection if possible, especially if you’re going to f*ck like a bunny.”

          Fair enough. :-)

        • talknic says:

          marc b. August 5, 2011 at 4:32 pm

          In all likelihood HIV/STD rates in Africa have gone down after ‘treatment’ (with the scalpel) primarily because of the education program and supply of condoms that accompany the cut.

          The logic behind the HIV/STD arguments for circumcision seem to miss the fact that circumcised males also CAN AND DO contract HIV/STDs.

          Best not mention centuries of Hindus or Chinese … it never elicits replies on the matter… must be a bit toooooo much for some folk to fathom.

        • Koshiro says:

          All of which are irrelevant when you’re doing the sane thing and use condoms.

        • marc b. says:

          i don’t disagree that there are much less radical means of achieving the same goal. as a general principle i’m also suspicious of the imposition by the west of these ‘grand’ health initiatives in africa.

  6. Yaniv Reich says:

    I appreciate your effort to cast a critical light on the accepted wisdom around circumcision. This is an argument I am sympathetic to. But your essay is filled with several misleading if not false statements.

    First, the issue of circumcision and STDs. This is my main problem with your piece. You write:

    “Circumcision reduces your chance of catching an STD” – Again, Europe and common sense are our allies. Why is it that in uncut Europe, STD rates are lower than in circumcised America? Regardless, are infants at risk of catching STDs? Shouldn’t decisions about how to practice safe sex be left to grown men? Condoms and responsible sexual choices prevent STDs, not genital mutilation.”

    While it is undeniably true that “condoms and responsible sexual choices prevent STDs”, the scientific evidence is very strong that circumcision causes a reduction in HIV infections. The best studies are a set of three randomized, controlled trials from Africa, each of which was stopped mid-way for ethical reasons because the evidence was so overwhelming that HIV infection rates are reduced by circumcision. In particular, the results of all three studies suggested that circumcision causes a roughly 55% reduction in HIV infections. Of course, getting circumcised and having the knowledge of this might make you more likely to engage in risky behavior, which would work against the beneficial effects, but the biological case is perfectly clear and widely accepted (Wikipedia has a good discussion and list of references: link to en.wikipedia.org). In other words, male genital mutilation *does* reduce your chance of catching HIV.

    Also, your comment about how many infant fatalities happen each year due to circumcision is meaningless without data on uncircumcised children to which we can compare the 100 fatalities. For example, circumcision reduces urinary tract infections (link to adc.bmj.com), some of which kill infants each year. How does this number compare to the 100 fatalities from botched circumcisions? Well, we are not entirely sure (the study just cited concludes circumcision might only make sense for kids at high risk of urinary tract infections because about 2% of boys suffer complications of infection of hemorrhage from circumcision, what you call “highly risky”). The point is that the issue is significantly more complicated than your discussion suggests.

    There are good arguments against (and for) circumcision. We don’t need to mischaracterize the evidence in order to make (either) point.

    It’s always nice to have critical discussion around the conventional wisdom. Thanks for the article.

    • Mooser says:

      “There are good arguments against (and for) circumcision. We don’t need to mischaracterize the evidence in order to make (either) point.”

      Good try at obfuscation, fella. As I understand it, isn’t the question whether or not you have the right to subject your child to an uneccessary surgical operation for religious reasons?
      If there are such good reasons for circumcisions, and especially if you are willing to offer sufficient rewards for it, it’ll be no problem to convince young men to get themselves (wait, of course, it’ll be free) when they turn eighteen.

      • Mooser says:

        “….when they turn eighteen.”

        Unless, of course, they die from non-circumcision induced urinary infections or STD’s before they reach their medical majority. Better to be safe then sorry, huh Reich?

        • Circumcision itself is not without risk:
          aesthetic damage
          - skin-bridges
          - skin-tags
          - scarring
          - unevenness
          - excessive skin removed
          phimosis
          hairy shaft
          haemorrhage
          meatal stenosis, meatal ulcer
          de-gloving
          urethrocutaneous fistula
          infection
          - MRSA
          - hepatitis
          - tetanus
          - bladder infections
          – septic Arthritis
          neuroma
          blockage of the Urethra
          buried penis
          penoscrotal webbing
          deformity
          necrotising fasciitis (galloping gangrene)
          priapism
          gastric rupture
          oxygen deprivation
          clamp injuries/plastibell ring injuries
          loss of glans
          ablation (removal) of the penis
          death – from
          - haemorrhage
          - infection
          - anaesthesia

          A full cost/benefit analysis does not favour circumcision.

        • hophmi says:

          Then don’t do it, Hugh. Leave the rest of the us alone.

    • marc b. says:

      with all due respect, yaniv, you are twisting the points about a bit yourself.

      the transmission of HIV attributable to uncircumcised males occurs through sexual intercourse, presumably not practiced by infants. the point here is that the decision to amputate a healthy organ should be left to informed adults, and not imposed on a screaming child. the other important point in this discussion, apart the medical wisdom of having a child circumcised, is that presumably outdated norms that still inform the debate, just as in the debate over abortion. despite arguments to the contrary, sexual morality is still in part the basis for the support of circumcision. you cannot ignore the influence of that history anymore than one should ignore the influence of eugenics on the development of abortion rights in the US and elsewhere.

      • Yaniv Reich says:

        Folks, don’t make the mistake of confusing a more accurate description of the science with advocacy for attacking children’s genitals. I was responding very specifically to the health arguments that the original author made. I also said very clearly that the true cost/benefit of the procedure is subject (still) to scientific uncertainty. And I didn’t say anything about child rights, although they are of inherent and essential importance and are moreover critical to the debate. When making comments on people’s arguments, it’s always a good idea to make sure you are responding to what they actually said, not what you imagined they think.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      The problem with you rebuttal regarding HIV is simply that, even if it is effective at reducing sexually transmitted effectivee among adults, that provides no basis to perform circumcision on children, who are not sexually active, and fails to note that condoms are extremely more effective at HIV prevention, and that the results of these African studies (which are actually much less conclusive that you suggest) were done in a social and technical situation that does no exist in the Industrialized World. So to the extent there is any marginal benefit in adult circumcision in what used to be called the Third World, that result has no bearing on the question of whether to permit infant circumcision in the Industrialized World, especially given that those benefits would be dwarfed if condoms are used.

    • Yaniv,

      Your comment is full of junk science and flawed reasoning.

      The Royal Dutch Medical Association in 2010 released the world’s most up-to-date policy statement on circumcision. Here’s the report:

      “The Royal Dutch Medical Association on Thursday (May 2010) suggested a possible ban on elective circumcisions for young boys, saying they were medically unnecessary and violated children’s rights. The 161-year-old organization, which represents more than 46,000 doctors and students, called the procedure ‘a violation of the integrity of the body.’”

      link to reuters.com

      Medically unnecessary. Violation of the integrity of the body. Violates children’s rights. Do these words mean anything to you?

      I’m sure you’re well aware that 1 out of 10 women in the U.S. will contract breast cancer sometime in her life. So does that mean we should slice off the breast buds of newborn infant girls?

      Circumcision has been a solution in search of a problem for decades in this country, but it started for one reason and one reason only in the U.S. gentile population: not to solve a medical problem, but in an effort to diminish male sexual pleasure.

      You may not realize this, but speaking as a victim of this barbaric procedure, I find circumcision advocacy to be a form of hate speech against me personally and men everywhere who’ve had their choice stolen. And that includes your words above.

      • hophmi says:

        “You may not realize this, but speaking as a victim of this barbaric procedure, I find circumcision advocacy to be a form of hate speech against me personally and men everywhere who’ve had their choice stolen.”

        ROTFLMFAO. Stop, please stop. You’re killing me. Help, help, I’m bein’ oppressed.

        • Mooser says:

          Hophmi, it’s pretty obviuous the entire subject un-nerves the hell out of you. I suggest you stop before you commit even more indecent exposure. Especially telling is your complete inability to see that an infant is not the chattel property of its parents, not a car or motorcycle you can modify.

      • Yaniv Reich says:

        You make the very simple mistake of confusing my comments on (some of) your specific arguments with “advocacy” for a “barbaric procedure”. My comments were nothing of the sort, as I think a rereading of what I actually wrote will make clear.

        As for the Dutch association statement: this is perfectly consistent with what I referenced that specified the benefits and costs, and determined that it was scientific unclear what makes sense from a strict perspective of reducing morbidity and mortality. I’m not sure what your particular affinity is for the Dutch medical association, but I encourage you to consider other sources as well, such as the World Health Organization (link to who.int).

        Finally, the points about integrity of the body and child rights are fundamental, and I agree wholeheartedly. But as you will see in my original comment, these issues were not my problem with what your article.

    • Koshiro says:

      In other words, male genital mutilation *does* reduce your chance of catching HIV.

      No, it doesn’t.
      a) Making the above claim betrays a misunderstanding of how statistics work.
      b) See above: Does not apply when you are using protection and
      c) Did not take into account behaviour changes post-circumcision.

      The sane thing to do is use a condom. I don’t know if I would appreciate my parents thinking: “Well, the boy is probably going to be too stupid to use protection, so let’s just hack a part of his dick off.”

      P.S.: I am also intensely skeptical of these studies based on the experience that new justifications for circumcision have been pulled out of various heads literally for centuries.
      P.P.S.:Of course, everybody’s free to think “Meh, I’m just too dumb and/or lazy to use protection, I’d rather have my penis slightly abridged”. Fair enough, but make this stupid decision for yourself please. Let your kids make your own stupid decisions.

  7. Dan Crowther says:

    Very Glad that I am intact. Alright, alright alright :)

    This is by far the best/worst/crazy/ totally hilarious post ive ever seen on this site…… I love it

    • Mooser says:

      “Very Glad that I am intact. Alright, alright alright :)”

      Okay then, big shot; what do you call a Mohel who forgets his Mila knife?

    • What’s “worst” about this post. What’s “crazy” about it? What’s so “hilarious” about criticizing routine genital mutilation? Whenever this topic comes up, a bunch of people make a bunch of dick jokes, which is really offensive, because it distracts from the very serious nature of this issue. (Would you crack jokes about female genital mutilation? No? Then why is it okay to joke about male genital mutilation?)

      Dan, I’m glad you enjoyed the post. I would appreciate knowing more about your criticisms. (Maybe you wouldn’t find this so funny if you weren’t intact!)

      • hophmi says:

        “What’s “crazy” about it? ”

        Read the tone. It’s way over-the-top. “I’m 37, and have been sitting on a mountain of grief and rage for 17 years”

        Really?

        “What’s so “hilarious” about criticizing routine genital mutilation?”

        My friend, you’re the hilarious part, not the criticism. You fit the stereotype of the angry young man so perfectly.

        “Whenever this topic comes up, a bunch of people make a bunch of dick jokes, which is really offensive, because it distracts from the very serious nature of this issue. ”

        That’s because, for the vast majority of people, this isn’t a serious issue. Most people are fine with it and with those who do it. The hilarious part is that you get offended, Matt. We laugh because you’re so offended. It’s funny.

        “Would you crack jokes about female genital mutilation? No? Then why is it okay to joke about male genital mutilation?”

        Sigh. Because they’re not the same thing, and unlike FGM, which is part of the subjugation of women in many societies, male circumcision has no such history.

      • Mooser says:

        “(Maybe you wouldn’t find this so funny if you weren’t intact!)”

        Well, Matthew, I guess the joke is on us!

        • Mooser says:

          Okay, a mohel who forgets his knife is called, of course, a rip-off!

        • It’s a ripoff even if he remembers his knife. Before it can be cut, the foreskin must be separated from the glans, to which it is attached by a membrane called the synechia, like a fingernail to its bed. Doctors generally do it with a blunt probe, but the mohel in these videos – link to youtube.com – procures an erction by manipulating the penis, then yanks the foreskin forward.

  8. Chu says:

    link to msnbc.msn.com

    This occurred in 2005:
    Ten days after Rabbi Yitzhok Fischer performed religious circumcisions on twins last October, one died of herpes and the other tested positive for the virus, according to a complaint filed by the health department in Manhattan Supreme Court.

    The complaint, reported in Wednesday’s edition of the New York Daily News, also said health officials later found a third baby who had contracted herpes after being circumcised by Fischer in late 2003.

    Under Jewish law, a mohel — someone who performs circumcisions — draws blood from the circumcision wound. Most mohels do it by hand with a suction device, but Fischer uses a practice rare outside strict Orthodox groups where he uses his mouth to draw blood after cutting the foreskin.

    Herpes can cause potentially severe complications for infants because of their undeveloped immune systems. A recent study published in the journal Pediatrics found that the rare ritual puts newborns at serious risk of contracting herpes simplex virus and shouldn’t be performed as part of the circumcision procedure.

    Fischer’s lawyer, Mark Kurzmann, told the Daily News that Fischer was cooperating with the investigation, although it’s unclear whether Fischer submitted to the city’s request for a blood test.

    “My client is known internationally as a caring, skilled, and conscientious mohel,” Kurzmann said.

    and…

    Cut It Off
    Another disgusting religious practice.
    By Christopher Hitchens
    link to slate.com

    • marc b. says:

      are there any other surgical procedures that may be peformed by a non-physician? the only thing that i can think of that is of like nature are piercings.

      • Samuel says:

        Dental treatment?
        Acupuncture?

        • Mooser says:

          “Dental treatment?
          Acupuncture?

          Not needed, I use a combination of techniques which allow me to transcend dental medication.

        • hophmi says:

          I’m gonna die of laughter. Mooser is apparently funny unless he’s talking about the I-P conflict.

        • Mooser says:

          “Mooser is apparently funny unless he’s talking about the I-P conflict.”

          Very true. The intense shame engendered by Zionist actions really dampens my sense of humor.
          You may think theft, dispossession, lying and murder in the name of Judaism is hysterical, but I don’t.

    • hophmi says:

      I was waiting for someone to bring up this story.

      This method of circumcision is not at all a widespread or accepted practice in the Jewish community, but somehow, I’m betting this is not going to matter to people like Chu.

      • Mooser says:

        “This method of circumcision is not at all a widespread or accepted practice in the Jewish community”

        Yes, true observance of our religious customs are disappearing in these degraded days. I shudder to think of Jaweh’s enraged reaction when he finds out most mehels do not put the injured penis in their mouth and suck blood out of it.
        Come to think of it, no wonder Israel is in such difficulties! God found out most circumcisions are being performed by doctors, under hygenic conditions. I don’t think God will sit still for that!

      • Chu left out the outcome: Bloomberg was facing re-election so he capitulated to the hasidic mohels’ demand to be allowed to continue the practice, though they now wash their mouths out with Listerine first.

        Metzitzah b’peh was once standard practice and brit milah was not considered complete without it. I don’t impure any sinister motive to it, but it just shows how a practice once considered essential can be abolished when the revulsion level grows high enough, and not missed.

        Speed the day when the same happens, not just to brit milah (less than 3% of US circumcision), but to all infant genital cutting.

  9. eee says:

    Mooser,

    You are against Israel.
    You are against circumcision.
    You do not know Hebrew.
    You have never read the Talmud.
    You never denied that you are not in any Jewish community.

    Why do you still define yourself as Jewish? Just because of your parents?

    • Mooser says:

      “eee” mostly I’m still Jewish because I believe in the one Jewish God. And I don’t think “just because of your parents” is such a bad reason. Judaism, is after all, their religion and the one they gave me.
      And how can you say I am against circumcision? Did I skip out on the process?

      • Mooser says:

        “eee”, where are you? It’s been twenty hours since I promptly replied to your query, and you haven’t come up with all the Talmudic proof needed to insist that belief in God disqualifies a person from Judaism?

  10. Les says:

    Oh the contradictions we abide!

    Eruv yes, Sharia Law no.

    Male circumcision yes, female circumcision\genital mutilation no.

    Yarmulke yes, headscarf no.

  11. Samuel says:

    Enjoyed the humour around the serious topic, but one has to say a few words about the religious viewpoint.

    It doesn’t matter what you might say about mutilation, sexual pleasure or child rights neither Jews nor Muslims will change their practices. Even if it were to be made illegal (as was in Soviet Russia) Jews and Muslims will find the way to clandestinely and illegally circumcise. Muslims won’t “correct” the Quran and Jews won’t change the Torah.
    For a Jew it is the last vestige of the most assimilated of Jews. I think I am not mistaken if I say that the Muslims are the same.

    Ironically, this and ritual slaughter of animals for food, is the most uniting factor of the two religions which often clash.
    And dare I say that many an anti-semite or Islamophobe has tried over the centuries to ban circumcision or ritual slaughter on apparent “humanistic” grounds whilst the true undercurrent is barely below the surface. It didn’t catch on then, and won’t catch on now.

    I’d be interested to read comments here from some of your regular Muslim commentators to see what they think.

    • Mooser says:

      Samuel, why is it so important that it be “infant” circumcision? Don’t you think that any sensible Jewish boy, once he learns all the benefits of circumcision, will be proud to get circumsised on his eighteenth birthday?

      Why is it so important to you that it be done to them, instead of them being given a choice?

      • Samuel says:

        In the Bible it says on the eighth day, so Jews do on the eighth day.
        You can’t choose to be born Jewish or Muslim, and there’s no way to opt out later even by “converting” to another faith. You’re stuck with it whether you like it or not.

        Don’t know when Muslims do it (I think at about one month) but for sure it’s before 18 years old.

        Why has the comment thread become JEWISH circumcision orientated?
        Where have all the regular Muslim commentators disappeared to? You’re not embarrassed in front of your friends about this dogma are you? Or are you afraid of losing support here on the I/P issue if you defend the Quran’s view of circumcision?

        I’m with you “mutilated ” Muslims on this one – and on the Halal/Kosher meat issue – why don’t I hear the Muslim support here for circumcision?

        • Mooser says:

          “You can’t choose to be born Jewish or Muslim, and there’s no way to opt out later even by “converting” to another faith.”

          You are one sick fella. Say, why not just tattoo either a Star of David or a Crecent on an infant’s forehead. Sure, tatoos do fade after about 15 years or so.

          “You’re stuck with it whether you like it or not.”

          I guess the only possible answer is to all start killing each other and see who’s left, huh?

    • Les says:

      Many Christians believe the fact that King Solomon had 10,000 wives and concubines justifies their belief in polygamy.

  12. hophmi says:

    “I’m 37, and have been sitting on a mountain of grief and rage for 17 years, since I discovered what was stolen from me while reading a critique of circumcision in a hip, underground, alternative Jewish newspaper I found at a campus Hillel, of all places.”

    A mountain of grief and rage? I think, then, Matthew, that circumcision is not your problem. You have either daddy and mommy problems or anger management problems.

    “Most circumcision advocates don’t know the first thing about what a foreskin is”

    That’s OK, Matt. Most circumcision opponents don’t know the first thing about Judaism, so it’s a wash.

    “Did you know that a foreskin increases pleasure for both a man and his partner?”

    A controversial claim, but did you know that you can still experience sexual pleasure without a foreskin?

    “Most adult circumcised men I’ve spoken to are reluctant to discuss this topic and get highly defensive about it, saying, “Hey, my penis is perfectly fine. My sex life is great.”

    OMG! Did you walk up to them and say “Hey! I’d like to discuss your penis” or “So, do you feel like your sexual pleasure is reduced because you’re circumsized?” And they were defensive, you say? Once again, I invite you to consider that you might be the problem here.

    “Think of it this way: if there was a ritual surgery performed at birth that removed a child’s ability to see in color, the world would still be beautiful in black-and-white.”

    Nobody is removing a child’s ability to see in color. And nobody is removing a child’s ability to have sex or enjoy sex. And with all due respect, Matt, your argument cuts both ways. Men who are not circumsized have no idea what sex is like for those who are.

    “It’s well documented that one of the primary drives for circumcision, in both Jewish and gentile communities, was to dampen sexual pleasure.”

    One opinion from an 11th century rabbi, even Maimonides, is not the same as “well-documented.”

    And the website you link to contains a number of mistruths. Nobody straps the baby down during circumcision, and the idea that circumcision will result in your baby never trusting you again would be laughable if it weren’t so transparently false and unprovable.

    “Its analogs are “circumcision makes the penis cleaner,” “circumcision reduces your chance of catching an STD,” and the shopworn “God commands us to do this” (just like God allegedly promised us this land exclusively, and ordered us to ethnically cleanse it of non-Jews.) ”

    Uh, sorry Matt, but these are not bald-faced lies. It is easier to clean your penis when it’s circumsized, and the rate of HIV infection in circumsized males is lower according to several studies. As far as G-d commanding us to do it, the shopworn argument that we should not do anything G-d commanded us to do because the Bible contains some nasty stuff simply reveals your simple anti-religious agenda, and it’s an argument that cuts both ways. G-d also commanded us to treat others with kindness and respect one’s parents. Should we stop doing those things too?

    You can if you want. Why should I?

    “The majority of Swedish Jews are intact, and guess what? They’re still Jewish! ”

    Guess what? There’s no thriving Jewish community in Sweden.

    “In addition to significantly reducing a grown man’s capacity for sexual pleasure, circumcision is a highly risky, unnecessary surgery that results in over 100 infant fatalities every year in the U.S.,”

    For which your source is a single study that itself notes the lack of accurate data on the issue. In any event, the death of 100 each year does not validate your argument that it’s a “highly risky” procedure. It most likely suggests that like any other simple surgery, there are some bad doctors who screw it up. How many mohel-related deaths have there been in the last 10 years?

    “In one famous case, David Reimer committed suicide because of his grief over his lack of a penis, the result of a botched circumcision.”

    Yes. That’s called “the exception that proves the rule.” It means nothing for anyone other than David Reimer. Or perhaps you’d like to enlighten us on the rash of circumcision-related suicides you’ve come across.

    “Parents who defend circumcision by saying “It’s a personal choice” – I encounter that argument all the time in my work as an intactivist – are quite delusional to think they should have the right to choose to amputate healthy tissue from a non-consenting minor. They wouldn’t do that to their daughters, why should they have the right to inflict such a human rights violation on their sons?”

    They do it all the time by encouraging their daughters to pierce their ears.

    And parents do much worse damage to a child by doing other things, such as imparting bigoted views to their children. Should we ban that as well?

    “The very fact that our culture is so proud of judging African tribes as barbaric for practicing ‘female genital mutilation,’ while the mainstream media never uses the term ‘male genital mutilation’ to describe what routinely happens here, says a lot. ”

    Yes, it says that in no way are they similar, and unlike FGM, no meaningful group is calling for an end to male circumcision.

    “Hint: In Europe, they think we’re as twisted and barbaric as we think the tribes in Africa are.”

    Hint: Nobody cares.

    “The organized Jewish community presents a significant barrier to this effort, just as they do in the quest for Palestinian rights.”

    I know how you hate the organized Jewish community, Matt.

    “If I could sue the doctor who cut me (unfortunately I’m past the statute of limitations), or wave a magic wand and regenerate what I lost, believe me I would. ”

    Believe me, you’d lose.

    “But since I can’t do either of those things, I’m restoring. ”

    Good luck to you. Remember to take those anger management classes while you’re at it to restore whatever sanity you used to have. And remember that foreskin or no foreskin, you’ll always be a giant dick.

    “Mr. Dershowitz, if you’re reading this, I challenge you to a public debate about circumcision. I’ll win. All I need is one legal, constitutional argument: it’s called Equal Protection.”

    LOL. All Mr. Dershowitz needs is one argument. The First Amendment.

    “(An aside: The fact that circumcision is widely practiced by Muslims, American gentiles, and others doesn’t let Dershowitz and his pro-mutilation allies off the hook. Worldwide, 75% of men are intact, putting the circumcision camp in a dwindling minority.)”

    And of course, when it comes to religion, this country operates by majority rule. It’s in the Equal Protection section of the Constitution, right? LOL.

    “Maybe you’d get used to Brit Shaloms instead, I hear they’re quite enjoyable for everyone involved – especially the baby.”

    You do what you want, Matt. Just respect the rights of others to do as they please as well.

    As an aside, these posts on circumcision, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Middle East, is only further evidence of the malicious and hateful intent of this blog.

    • “As an aside, these posts on circumcision, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Middle East, is only further evidence of the malicious and hateful intent of this blog.”

      Ha ha, you mean evidence of opinions you don’t like. Sure, there are many blogs you can enjoy, where you can wallow in the self-loving self pity of apologists and myth makers. You will be very welcome.

      • hophmi says:

        “Ha ha, you mean evidence of opinions you don’t like. Sure, there are many blogs you can enjoy, where you can wallow in the self-loving self pity of apologists and myth makers. You will be very welcome.”

        No, I mean what I said. I’ll ask it again: How does ranting and raving about circumcision help the Palestinians?

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “Uh, sorry Matt, but these are not bald-faced lies. It is easier to clean your penis when it’s circumsized”

      LMAO. It’s also easier to brush your teeth if you cut your lips off, but that’s no reason to do it.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “You do what you want, Matt. Just respect the rights of others to do as they please as well.”

      So then if someone wanted to ritually mutilate his daughter’s genitals (say by piercing, rather than by excision like with circumcision) for religious purposes, that no one should prevent him from doing so??

      How much more child abuse are you willing to put up with to protect religion?

      • hophmi says:

        “How much more child abuse are you willing to put up with to protect religion?”

        How much are you willing to put up with imposing your views on others?

        • talknic says:

          hophmi August 5, 2011 at 6:13 pm

          //“How much more child abuse are you willing to put up with to protect religion?”//

          /”How much are you willing to put up with imposing your views on others?”/

          Circumcising a baby for religious purposes which they know NOTHING about, is imposing your view on others.

    • marc b. says:

      A mountain of grief and rage? I think, then, Matthew, that circumcision is not your problem. You have either daddy and mommy problems or anger management problems.

      an anology: a mohel is to a surgeon as hophmi is to a psychiatrist. really, mohel heal thyself before diagnosing others.

      That’s OK, Matt. Most circumcision opponents don’t know the first thing about Judaism, so it’s a wash.

      circumcision is not an exclusively ‘jewish’ practice, nor does this post strictly relate to ‘judaism’. it is about the rights of individuals to determine whether to have a healthy body part amputated.

      A controversial claim, but did you know that you can still experience sexual pleasure without a foreskin?

      yes, brilliant. and there are millions of imperfect bodies that can still enjoy life, yet most would not have voluntarily elected to have their particular disability or defect if first given the choice.

      OMG! Did you walk up to them and say “Hey! I’d like to discuss your penis” or “So, do you feel like your sexual pleasure is reduced because you’re circumsized?” And they were defensive, you say? Once again, I invite you to consider that you might be the problem here.

      the psychiatrist returns. there is a general inability and/or reluctance to have a mature discussion about sexual matters, as you so amply prove. but thank you for pointing out what a positive thing it is to be uncomfortable and embarassed about one’s sexuality.

      Nobody is removing a child’s ability to see in color. And nobody is removing a child’s ability to have sex or enjoy sex. And with all due respect, Matt, your argument cuts both ways. Men who are not circumsized have no idea what sex is like for those who are.

      it’s an anology, you dolt. people who have had their legs amputated still manage to get about as well. but, again, this topic is minimized and infantalized.

      And the website you link to contains a number of mistruths. Nobody straps the baby down during circumcision . . . .

      interesting. so babies, who squirm and thrash about when they don’t want to have their diapers changed. or refuse to eat if their formula is too cold, lay back, hands clasped behind their heads, cooing confidently ‘bring it on!’

      Guess what? There’s no thriving Jewish community in Sweden.

      and your value judgment as to the lack of vitality of the jewish community in sweden has exactly what to do with circumcision?

      i give up. the rest is equally tendentious.

      • hophmi says:

        “an anology: a mohel is to a surgeon as hophmi is to a psychiatrist. really, mohel heal thyself before diagnosing others.”

        It’s beyond ridiculous to believe that someone’s grief and rage issues stem from circumcision.

        “circumcision is not an exclusively ‘jewish’ practice, nor does this post strictly relate to ‘judaism’. it is about the rights of individuals to determine whether to have a healthy body part amputated.”

        Right. So that’s why Matt felt the need to compare it to Zionism.

        “yes, brilliant. and there are millions of imperfect bodies that can still enjoy life, yet most would not have voluntarily elected to have their particular disability or defect if first given the choice.”

        Now we’re comparing circumcision to being disabled. I look forward to your making this argument to an actual disabled person.

        “the psychiatrist returns. there is a general inability and/or reluctance to have a mature discussion about sexual matters, as you so amply prove. but thank you for pointing out what a positive thing it is to be uncomfortable and embarassed about one’s sexuality. ”

        LOL. You got it; most people are not interested in having circumcision discussions, but it’s not because they’re uncomfortable about their sexuality. It’s because it’s their own business.

        “it’s an anology, you dolt. people who have had their legs amputated still manage to get about as well. but, again, this topic is minimized and infantalized.”

        It’s a stupid analogy.

        “interesting. so babies, who squirm and thrash about when they don’t want to have their diapers changed. or refuse to eat if their formula is too cold, lay back, hands clasped behind their heads, cooing confidently ‘bring it on!’”

        They’re held, usually by their grandfather. But I’m sure you’ve attended lots of brises.

        “and your value judgment as to the lack of vitality of the jewish community in sweden has exactly what to do with circumcision? ”

        I’ll let you think about that one.

        “i give up. the rest is equally tendentious.”

        The only tendentious thing here is that circumcision is somehow related to the Palestinians.

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      “As an aside, these posts on circumcision, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Middle East, is only further evidence of the malicious and hateful intent of this blog.”

      Dershowitz is the one who linked circumcision to DBS and, thus, to the Middle East. If you have a complaint, it isn’t with this blog (which, to my knowledge, never addressed the issue pre-Dershowitz’s stupid comment) but with Dershowitz. Go talk to him.

      • hophmi says:

        Oh, I think we left Dershowitz long ago. And by the way, it does seem like Matt Taylor and others are dedicated to proving him right.

    • Djinn says:

      As an aside, these posts on circumcision, which have nothing whatsoever to do with the Middle East, is only further evidence of the malicious and hateful intent of this blog.

      So why insist on reading & posting here? I can’t imagine wanting to hang around people I genuinely felt were malicious & hateful. If you really do feel we’re all hateful the fact that you continue to stay seems pathological.

  13. Reading all the comments, I’m glad to see most readers of this site have the common sense to know a human rights violation when they see one. Of course, I imagine being able to see clearly on Israel/Palestine is an asset to spotting other injustices.

    I find it really funny, weird, and disturbing when I meet people in my community (Jews, especially) who take strident, righteous positions on the correct side of one of those issues, but not the other. I know right-wing Jabotinsky-worshipping Zionists who hate circumcision, and I know left-wing, Jewish, Palestinian solidarity activists who tell me stuff like, “I can’t promise you I won’t circumcise my son.” I find both positions repulsive and full of contradictions and cognitive dissonance.

    Solidarity means something deep to me, and I draw the line on having any kind of professional association with someone who’s in favor of the oppression of the Palestinians, or in favor of the mutilation of babies. These are my two litmus test questions.

    • hophmi says:

      “I find it really funny, weird, and disturbing when I meet people in my community (Jews, especially) who take strident, righteous positions on the correct side of one of those issues, but not the other. I know right-wing Jabotinsky-worshipping Zionists who hate circumcision, and I know left-wing, Jewish, Palestinian solidarity activists who tell me stuff like, “I can’t promise you I won’t circumcise my son.” I find both positions repulsive and full of contradictions and cognitive dissonance.”

      That’s nice. Maybe you should learn something, which is that people’s views don’t fit into the little boxes you have put aside for them.

      “Solidarity means something deep to me, and I draw the line on having any kind of professional association with someone who’s in favor of the oppression of the Palestinians, or in favor of the mutilation of babies. These are my two litmus test questions.”

      It sounds like solidarity means that if someone doesn’t agree with you, you won’t associate with them. That’s not solidarity. That’s being a closed-minded jerk.

      And I’m guessing that based on what you wrote, you refuse to associate with any Muslims in the pro-Palestinian community, since most of them believe in circumcision as well.

      You must a big hit at parties. I’m just imagining you going up to people and asking them if them support circumcision or not. It’s like some Saturday Night Live sketch. “The guy who can’t stop thinking about penises” or something like that. Do you like, walk up to people, ask them to drop their pants, and then hand them literature?

    • I can see where you come from and i see you have some valid points such as it is an unnecessary surgery and some circumcisions are worse then others by many magnitudes of degrees. But equating foreskin loss to Israeli oppression of the Palestinians (who also cut their shit up if they are Muslim but at a later date) is like equating spilled milk with north Korean gulags.

      One is colonialist oppression and the other is a bad tradition that has affected your penis (and other penis) in a way you disapprove of. I don’t see how many could climb on board your quest at first glance on what you wrote. I don’t have all the information on the topic of how it affected you in dept or what the organization was about here. I will say, however, that I do agree that cutting up babies is bad and that I wish I myself had time to choose to keep my skin or not.

    • Mooser says:

      Wowsa! Hophmi sure do get himself excersised about this circumcision thing! Not a trace of anxiety there, no sir!

  14. MHughes976 says:

    The practice of circumcision goes back to the Egypt of the 3rd millennium BCE. The inscription at Saqqara contains the instruction ‘not to let it fall’ so presumably the foreskin was kept for some sort of magical use, maybe something to do with virility/fertility. Circumcision seems to be connected with childbirth and virile power (or its renewal: Abraham is 100) when it is introduced in Genesis 17, so that the demand for circumcision doesn’t seem to be designed so much to vilify sexual passion as to release the life force. Procreation was often thought to result from union of bloods – as in John’s Gospel 1 where the children of God are said to be born ‘not from bloods or from a husband’s lust’, as ordinary children evidently are.
    There’s a certain fierce beauty in the idea, I suppose, even if it doesn’t have the support of modern science.

    • MRW says:

      How do we not know that the guy who came up with this idea was into sucking baby dicks the way Tiberius had baby boys (my ‘little fish’) thrown into his Capri swimming pool to nip him beneath the surface of the water?

  15. eee says:

    Matthew,

    You are an extremist and you see things in black and white. Circumcision is not a human rights violation just as sending a child to sleep without diner or not allowing them to watch TV is not a human rights violation. Circumcision at an early age by a qualified professional is not dangerous nor does it cause any long term problems. It is just a way to join the “club”. Since this “club” is not valuable to you, naturally you would see no benefit from circumcision. But most other Jews disagree with you. The slight risks and discomfort for the baby are a small price to pay for being part of a tradition that has continued thousands of years and ties Jews together.

    • Bumblebye says:

      Aw, Peee Weee, how could I tell this would be just another silly rant?
      Why, it had your moniker above it, that’s how!

    • im not even jewish so what club did i join?

    • marc b. says:

      eee, circumcision is practiced in the jewish community and part of its ‘club’ identity, but as usual you overlook the rest of humanity. matthew is making a broader point about the necessity of the procedure and its potential effect on people’s lives. try to keep up.

    • Mooser says:

      Well then, “eee” any Jewish boy ought to be proud to have himself, oh the hell with that, aren’t we a race of medicos, proud to circumcise himself when he reaches the age of majority. Cause you know, by that time he’ll be aware of the importance of it and all, and can make an informed judgement on how much it is worth to him.

      • Mooser says:

        “It is just a way to join the “club”.”

        I stand in awe of your spiritual, transcendant and pure vision of Judaism.
        And, I must add, nothing says “self-assurance” like marking your male infant children’s genitals to make sure they are in “the club”.

    • MRW says:

      “It is just a way to join the ‘club’ . . . and ties Jews together.”

      Circle jerks?

    • “Circumcision is not a human rights violation just as sending a child to sleep without diner or not allowing them to watch TV is not a human rights violation. ”
      I’ve really got to collect all the silly analogies used to circumcision together – haircutting, tooth-straightening, bedtimes, vaccination, abortion, ear-piercing, the list goes on.

      But just let anyone try to compare cutting male genitals (no matter how severely) with cuttting female genitals (no matter how mildly) – OH NOEZ! You can’t do THAT! They’re COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!

      • hophmi says:

        “But just let anyone try to compare cutting male genitals (no matter how severely) with cuttting female genitals (no matter how mildly) – OH NOEZ! You can’t do THAT! They’re COMPLETELY DIFFERENT!”

        That’s because it is different.

        • Mooser says:

          hophmi, what the hell would you know about female sex organs, except that they are unclean, and a source of pollution?

        • hophmi says:

          “hophmi, what the hell would you know about female sex organs, except that they are unclean, and a source of pollution?”

          Wow, Mooser, they sound a lot like you.

        • When you compare apples with apples, tribal with tribal, surgical with surgical, you find that MGC and FGC are not so different.

          Scores of boys die of tribal circumcision in one province of South Africa alone every year (nowhere else seems to keep statistics). They’re just as dead as the girls (number unknown) who die of FGC. Many others lose their penises.

          Millions of girls are “circumcised” under surgical conditions in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore in the name of Islam, and apparently quite minimally. This loving Malaysian mother writes about her daughter’s circumcision so that you’d be hard pressed to tell the child’s sex: link to aandes.blogspot.com Something similar used to be legal in the USA, using this device – link to circumsititions.com (NSFW) – which has a shield to protect the clitoris.

          So what differences are there that differentiate the ethics of the practice/s?

  16. I’m uncircumcised. My wife and I decided not to have our son circumcised. His doctor gave us a choice, saying she thought the practice unnecessary, unwise, and based on “ancient superstitions.”

    Our son says, “Thanks, mom and dad.” Haven’t asked his girlfriend what she thinks.

    • Mooser says:

      Oh, stop bragging, Phillip! How do you think it makes the rest of us poor schlimazels feel? Not good, I’ll tell you that.

  17. Although I am open to both the question of Zionism and ritual Jewish circumcision I think making the analogy from one to the other is gross (meaning inexact.) Circumcision is a tribal rite, inducting the male into the tribe at the age of eight days, separating it from the mother who brought the child into the world in its natural state and inducting it into the male world with the act of circumcision.

    I think one should refer to “The Finkler Question” on the overlap between the question of Zionism and circumcision. It needs a good dose of humor or irony and Howard Jacobson provides it in that book. As a matter of fact a decent critique of that book deserves to be offered by one of the anti Zionists on this blog. (which would exclude me.)

    A couple of notes on circumcision. Maimonides or the Rambam gave his rationale for the commandment- the reduction of sexual pleasure, but nothing of that sort was written in the Torah itself. The rabbis say that when Abram (his name became Abraham I believe through the act or as a result of the act of circumcision) when commanded to snip, consulted his neighbors Aner, Eshkol and Mamre and that based upon their advice (with only one or two of them giving his assent) he went through with God’s command. This consulting the neighbors seems to indicate (to me) that a rational basis could have been at the root of the practice. For thousands of years Jewish women probably suffered from lower cervical cancer rates than women whose husbands were uncircumcised in the same conditions. If now soap and water would accomplish the same thing, that is fine for those whose sole devotion to the practice was hygienic, but the combination of tribal continuity and the original beneficial purpose served by the practice, kind of makes it rather unlikely that the masses of Jews (or those Jews who wish to maintain the continuity of the tribe) will cease the practice. Certainly scientific and personal autonomy claims made by those who have not proven any devotion to the continuity of the tribe, will make little headway in the thinking of those who are devoted to the continuity of the tribe.

    • hophmi says:

      “Certainly scientific and personal autonomy claims made by those who have not proven any devotion to the continuity of the tribe, will make little headway in the thinking of those who are devoted to the continuity of the tribe.”

      Exactly. And it’s a wonderful hypocrisy that the same people who make the anti-circumcision arguments would be the first to make the pro-abortion arguments.

      • Djinn says:

        Nobody makes pro-abortion arguments. No-one encourages people to abort for cultural, religious or tribal reasons. There is absolutely no comparison between a PRO CHOICE argument which understands the difference between a person and a human (a fetus is one but not the other, the woman carry it is both) and an argument against non consensual non necessary amputation.

      • talknic says:

        hophmi August 5, 2011 at 5:47 pm

        “it’s a wonderful hypocrisy that the same people who make the anti-circumcision arguments would be the first to make the pro-abortion arguments”

        Let’s try it this way. “it’s a wonderful THEORY that the same people who make the anti-circumcision arguments would be the first to make the pro-abortion arguments”

        Except for deformities I oppose circumcision and I don’t advocate abortion.

        Biologically there is no such thing as an accidental conception. It is the perfect biological union for new and continued life.

        However, the circumstances under which conception occurs might not favor the well being of a child being bought into the world. Abortion ought be the final choice of the woman concerned. To that end I fully support their right to make the choice.

        • hophmi says:

          “Abortion ought be the final choice of the woman concerned. To that end I fully support their right to make the choice.”

          To what point?

    • Mooser says:

      Oh jeez, you guys will try anything!“For thousands of years Jewish women probably suffered from lower cervical cancer rates than women whose husbands were uncircumcised in the same conditions.” Yeah, okay “probably”.

      ROTFLMSJAO!!!!

      • Mooser says:

        “Although I am open to both the question of Zionism and ritual Jewish circumcision”

        Yeah, sure you are. Why, you couldn’t be opener if you tried!

    • MRW says:

      For thousands of years Jewish women probably suffered from lower cervical cancer rates than women whose husbands were uncircumcised in the same conditions.

      Wild conjecture.

      ♫ ♫ babee, I gotta’ look up under yo’ hood. ♫ ♫ 

      • Scientific comparisons of Hindu (uncircumcised) cervical cancer rates versus Muslim (circumcised) cervical cancer rates reveal the benefits of circumcision versus that disease.

        • MRW says:

          I don’t have time to get into the variables of this, the Indian castes, the hundreds of millions without proper hygiene, nor ask for the scientific studies, but as a cursory response: Muslims are exhorted in the Quran about cleanliness, and the daily washing of their bodies. They invented soap fercrissake. Just their daily body habits alone prevent disease.

          Muslim countries that have holes in the floor for a public bathroom have a water hose and tap to wash the private parts after defecating. Indian and Chinese hole-bathrooms don’t (unless you’re in a Muslim district or establishment); they don’t even have toilet paper, or a small sink outside the door to wash hands.

          Women can get massive infections just from wiping their asses the wrong way, as every woman finds out from her doctor after she’s given birth. If a woman wipes her ass forward toward her belly button she can cause all kinds of infectious diseases to bloom. But that is the preferred method, and how females are taught, in countries where squatting is how you shit.

        • Opposing circumcision of babies because of personal autonomy issues is valid. Rolling on the floor and laughing and dismissing a statement as wild conjecture regarding reduced cervical cancer rates in women who have had sex with circumcised rather than uncircumcised men, is merely indicative of not taking the topic seriously. Try googling circumcision + cervical cancer instead of rolling on the floor or dismissing an assertion. You might come across some headline reading “Male Circumcision cuts women’s cervical cancer risk” on webmd and newsmaxhealth.com and topnews.us quoting from Lancet, a medical journal. One hopes that you take other topics more seriously than you take this one.

        • MRW says:

          See my answer to your assertions about Lancet below at August 6, 2011 at 4:34 pm.

          newsmaxhealth.com?

      • hophmi says:

        “Wild conjecture.”

        Much like the claim circumsized babies will not trust their mothers. No, wait, that’s just an outright falsehood.

        • Mooser says:

          “Much like the claim circumsized babies will not trust their mothers.”

          Gee, who brought that up? Nobody but Hophmi!
          At any rate, I’m sorry you distrusted your mother Hophmi, but it was probably the wiser course.

        • hophmi says:

          ““Much like the claim circumsized babies will not trust their mothers.”

          Gee, who brought that up? Nobody but Hophmi!”

          Um, Matt did. It’s on the website he cited above.

    • “The Finkler Question” is interesting, but it’s striking that while its authorial voice claims to have a foreskin, the author obviously has no idea what it’s like to have one. link to circumstitions.com The great majority of Intactivists, like the great majority of circumcised men, are not Jewish and have no interest in Zionism.

      Under the conditions that it was done, with stone impletements and no asepsis, circumcision would have caused much more harm than it ever prevented. Rabbis earnestly discussed how many brothers could die of circumcision before one might be excused.

      Do not call it “snipping” until you have seen it done. With a a barzel or a Gomco clamp it is sliced, and with a Mogen clamp the glans may be sliced too (in at least three cases, two of which leading to millions in damages that have put the Mogen company out of business); with an Accu-circ it is chopped; with a Plastibell the foreskin is crushed and allowed to die (but generally cut off to spare the parents the sight of that).

      The cervical cancer claim now proves to be false. Jewish women have a genetic tendency to lower risk. More recent studies have shown a weak connection to the common and easily shed Human Papilloma Virus, but no good studies have shown a directl link with cervical cancer.

  18. When I was younger and heard about circumcision, I wondered what part they actually cut off. I was not Jewish and did not realize I *was* circumcised (even though my father himself is not) so the confusion was from not knowing what was already missing.

    I’ve read the different descriptions about what it does for the look of the organ, or the ability to last, or the presumption that it fostered cleanliness and resistance to certain STD’s. Most the performers in the pornography I saw were circumcised.

    It wasn’t until I read the details on the nerve endings concentrated in the foreskin that I was upset. True, I don’t know what I’m missing, and I wouldn’t pursue reconstruction because I’m satisfied with the look, but I sincerely wish it was not done. I don’t consider my parents guilty of child abuse, but think there is much more credible information available these days and would not object to it being outlawed as a barbaric practice.

    I am an atheist and do not see religious traditions overriding the right of the adult individual to make that choice themselves if they desire.

    I’ll be glad when the procedure on children is seen as unconscionable and outdated.

    There’s a part in the last “2001: A Space Odyssey” series (3001: The Final Odyssey) where local women want sex with Frank Poole, the astronaut killed by HAL 9000, but are repulsed when they learn his genitals were “mutilated.”

    • livingbridge says:

      “I’ll be glad when the procedure on children is seen as unconscionable and outdated”.

      One thing that hasn’t been mentioned in this thread, regarding the practice of circumcision, in the US, in particular, is that it has been a BIG money maker for the medical / medical insurance industry, for decades.

      I’m pleased to learn that the practice is now down to 33%. Twenty years or so ago it was in the 60% range.

      The male prepuce, like any part of the anatomy, serves a purpose: protection of the glans from chafing. It is also highly innervated with sensory nerves.

      From wikipedia: “According to a study by Sorrells et al. (2007), the five most sensitive areas of the penis are on the foreskin”.

      No reason to remove it unless an adult chooses to undergo the procedure.

  19. Djinn says:

    I don’t agree with circumcision (although comparing it with FGM is a bridge too far the most widely practiced FGM would be the equivalent of cutting your entire penis and testicles off, not the foreskin). It strikes me as utterly bizarre that someone would decide to perform unnecessary surgery on an infant simply because their sky god wants all the foreskins to himself. Or even worse because you want to be “part of the club”, it’s not as if you all drop your daks to confirm membership. To deliberately hurt a child for these reasons is quite obscene.

    That said, I wouldn’t think there’s any validity to the argument it has any bearing on a women’s pleasure. I don’t know a single woman who has ever noticed any difference, myself included. At the pertinent time, they’re all pretty much the same.

    • Genital mutilation is genital mutilation, whether practiced on males or females.
      You should watch this video:
      link to youtube.com
      Also check out this article:
      link to circumstitions.com

      There are many different types of circumcision, some more damaging than others, but all of them are genital mutilation.

      The only reason you think FGM is in a category by itself, and not comparable to MGM, is because of cultural and religious brainwashing. Europeans recognize the truth because they haven’t been brainwashed into believing male circumcision should get a free pass while female circumcision should be condemned.

      Finally, even if you haven’t noticed a difference, there are plenty of women who have. see:
      http://www.sexasnatureintendedit.com

      • Djinn says:

        No Matthew, it’s in a category by itself because, like I said, the overwhelming majority if FGM practiced is of a nature that goes FAR beyond removal of the foreskin. The fact that you have ANY sensation and are able to orgasm attests to that.

        Before assuming I’m culturally brainwashed to give male circumcision “a free pass” Perhaps you’d like to read what I wrote, which was that I do not support circumcision and think it’s obscene.

        Also it is nonsense to have sex with 2 guys and put down any difference in sensation to having a foreskin or not, rather than interest in the respective men, even slight differences in length/width, position, general mood at the time, and a host of other reasons.

        Seriously dude you have an amazing ability to people who are ON YOUR SIDE on the defensive.

        • Djinn says:

          Edit clearly didn’t work:

          Matthew try reading actual studies rather than demonstrably partisan websites ie don’t link to a site opposing circumcision but rather to Hofvander’s actual work or a reputable journal carrying it. When you don’t do that it undermines your credibility as someone who has actually researched anything properly.

          Hofvander is a credible researcher, O’Hara is a total and utter hack. Her ONE published study (preliminary only) has a methodology so flawed even a high school student could pick it. She surveyed a tiny number of women after placing an ad in a ANTI-CIRCUMSION newsletter. You dont any selection bias there? The rest of the paper follows the same sad pattern. Her work is utterly laughable.

  20. Oh yes, please give us specific data on the circumcised versus intact Jewish males in Sweden that back up your claim that most male Swedish Jews are intact. Maybe in recent years most Swedish Jews have abstained from circumcising their sons, but I doubt that most Swedish Jews are intact and I am awaiting some kind of reliable proof for this assertion to consider it.

    • Djinn says:

      Try searching Hofvander 2002 in PubMed. Also for future reference there’s this amazing new fangled tool called Google, it might help you look less like and old fashioned tool.

    • The majority of Swedish Jews intact info can be found here:

      link to doctorsopposingcircumcision.org

      “Europe has had a very high incidence of genital integrity, however, the increasing immigration of Muslim minorities is lowering the incidence of genital integrity in Europe. Sweden, like other Scandinavian nations, does not usually practice male circumcision. Even among Jews, the incidence of circumcision is relatively low. Hofvander (2002) reports only about 40 percent of Swedish Jews practice ritual circumcision, leaving 60 percent with intact genitals.”

      • Mooser says:

        “Europe has had a very high incidence of genital integrity…”

        How the hell did they manage that? When I ask my genitals any kind of moral question, I get no integrity whatsoever in the answer. Mostly I get the most bald-faced kind of subterfuges proposed to get the genitals what they want.

    • Mooser says:

      “but I doubt that most Swedish Jews are intact”

      Yeah, I’m sure you get all the latest news there on the settlement.

  21. MRW says:

    What’s the Muslim reason for the same practice?

  22. Dr Gonzo says:

    Very good article on a difficult subject. Would just bring up one thing.

    “Virtually no European men are circumcised.” I’m Irish and know it was pretty common here (not sure if it still is but was in ’83 when I was born). I actually don’t know why I was circumcised as a baby since my parents are both non-religious so assuming it was advice from the doctor at the time.

    Maybe it was something to do with the power of the Catholic Church but don’t really know. Think I asked my parents once about the topic as a teenager and they replied with the “prevents HIV” myth. Only in college and reading the internet did I find out that was bogus, so don’t know why I got the chop, certainly wasn’t for religious reasons in the family and if it was based on doctors advice it was bogus.

    • The “prevents HIV” claim didn’t arise till some time after 1983 (they had only just established that AIDS was caused by a virus – published May 20, 1983). Preventing Urinary Tract Infections was one of the big claims in the 1980s, and it had been claimed in 1954 that circumcision prevented cervical cancer in partners.

      It may have been common in your part of Ireland, or among babies delivered by that doctor, but it has never been common in Ireland. There may have been some of the upper-class English circumcision in Northern Ireland.

      But “bogus” pretty much summarises it all.

  23. talknic says:

    I have Jewish friends who have not circumcised their three boys. They are never the less quite observant Jews. The elder lad came out with a twisted piece of hilarity during a recent conversation on this very subject …

    “What we believe is a part of the thought processes happening in our brains and our brains are in our head. Right?”

    There was general agreement. Turning to me … “You are Jewish and circumcised and an atheist, which means you don’t believe in G-d, right?”

    So it is… He then continued with a cheeky grin … ” Then I’m glad mum and dad didn’t get me circumcised, I’d never have passed my maths exam!”

  24. notatall says:

    A guy is walking along a street and sees a storefront window with a display of watches. He goes in and says to the man behind the counter, “I’d like to leave my watch for repair.”
    The man behind the counter says, “I’m sorry, we don’t repair watches. We perform circumcisions.”
    “Why do you have all the watches in the window?” asks the puzzled man.
    “What am I supposed to put in the window?” asks the man behind the counter.

    • Mooser says:

      The customer replies: “Well, I think that’s false advertising, and I’m pretty ticked off, frankly!”
      Man behond the counter: “Ticked off, huh? Well we can’t fix that, but we have ways of making them tock!”

  25. Mooser says:

    This is really something. I’ve never seen the hasbaratchniks so inflamed. You can excoriate Israel all day, and they barely look up from their copy of The Protocols. But touch on circumcision, and here they come, one and all. And that circumcision-prevents-cervical-cancer wheeze, wow, where did he dig that one up?
    Most telling, to me, is their complete inability to recognise that an infant is anything other than the chattel property of the parent, to modify as they desire, and having no inherent rights of his or her own. They can’t even touch that with a ten-inch, well never mind. Let’s you know everything you need to know.

    • Mooser says:

      And, come to think about it, I can’t get over all the shills trying to get us to believe that they chose to be circumcised!

    • lancet magazine, and if you bothered to google circumcision and cervical cancer you could have found out.

      • MRW says:

        You should have searched Lancet itself instead of reading a reference to it from newsmaxhealth.com. The issue is not whether a penis is circumcised or not. The issue is whether men with penile human papilloma virus (HPV) infection—genital warts—are circumcised or not, because a man infected with genital warts can cause the woman to get cervical cancer.

        From Lancet Circumcision reduces cervical cancer risk
        The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Volume 2, Issue 6, Page 320, June 2002 doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(02)00304-3

        An international research team has shown that circumcised men have a lower risk of contracting penile human papilloma virus (HPV) infection, and that if they have had multiple sexual encounters, the risk their current female partners run of developing cervical cancer is also reduced (N Eng J Med 2002; 346: 1105-112).
        *
        HPV causes genital warts in both sexes, and is strongly linked to cervical cancer: some 99% of cases may be caused by oncogenic genotypes of the virus. The idea that circumcision might help prevent penile infection, reduce transmission of the virus to women, and therefore reduce the risk of cervical cancer, is not new, but few data were available to support the theory. The new study provides strong epidemiological evidence that this is indeed the case.
        *
        PCR was used to detect HPV DNA on the penises of men from couples enrolled in seven case-controlled cervical cancer studies. The virus was found on the penises of 166 of 847 (19·6%) uncircumcised men and 16 of 292 (5·5%) circumcised men. [...] says Castellsagué. “Our data show that not being circumcised increases the risk of penile HPV infection by 2·7-fold; penile HPV increases the chances of cervical infection by fourfold; and cervical HPV infection increases the chances of developing cervical cancer by 77-fold.”
        *
        Manuel Sánnchez Chapado, urology chief at the Hospital Principe de Asturias, Alcalá, Spain, told TLID, “Though important, these results should not be taken as justification for routine circumcision”.

        And in case you’re going to weigh in with HIV:

        Male circumcision and risk of HIV infection in women: a systematic review and meta-analysis
        The Lancet Infectious Diseases, Volume 9, Issue 11, Pages 669 – 677, November 2009 doi:10.1016/S1473-3099(09)70235-X

        Summary
        *
        Male circumcision provides long-term indirect protection to women by reducing the risk of heterosexual men becoming infected with HIV. In this Review, we summarise the evidence for a direct effect of male circumcision on the risk of women becoming infected with HIV. We identified 19 epidemiological analyses, from 11 study populations, of the association of male circumcision and HIV risk in women. A random-effects meta-analysis of data from the one randomised controlled trial and six longitudinal analyses showed little evidence that male circumcision directly reduces risk of HIV in women (summary relative risk 0·80, 95% CI 0·53—1·36). Definitive data would come from a further randomised controlled trial of circumcision among men infected with HIV in serodiscordant heterosexual relationships, but this would involve enrolling about 10 000 couples and is likely to be logistically unfeasible. As circumcision services for HIV prevention are scaled-up in high HIV prevalence settings, rapid integration with existing prevention strategies would maximise benefits for both men and women. Rigorous monitoring is essential to ensure that any adverse effects on women are detected and minimised.

  26. jon s says:

    Damn right, Mooser. I’ve been busy and preoccupied lately, haven’t commented here for a few weeks – but this thread has what it takes to bring me back.
    First of all, let me confess to being a Male Genital Mutilator. Of course I didn’t actually do it myself, but the mohel at my son’s brit was acting as my proxy, so the responsibility was mine, and I’m proud of it.
    As I see it , it’s a clear-cut (no pun intended) freedom-of religion issue. Jews have always regarded circumcision as an essential element of our religion, to the extent that they were willing to risk death rather than forego it. Banning circumcision, as has recently been proposed in California, would be tantamount to prohibiting the practise of a religion, and therefore unconstitutional.

    • annie says:

      Banning circumcision, as has recently been proposed in California, would be tantamount to prohibiting the practise of a religion, and therefore unconstitutional.

      not to dive too deeply into the practice of circumcision but does practicing ones religion allow one to circumvent federal law and/or the constitution? don’t some religions permit slavery?

      • jon s says:

        Annie, of course not. Obviously you can’t torture or murder people and then claim that you’re practising your religion. That’s not the case with circumcision.

      • hophmi says:

        “not to dive too deeply into the practice of circumcision but does practicing ones religion allow one to circumvent federal law and/or the constitution? ”

        Obviously not. But the Constitution disallows one from passing legislation aimed at restricting religious practice unless there is some very compelling interest. Most people do not buy these ridiculous comparisons of male circumcision with FGM, male circumcision with slavery, and male circumcision with child abuse. Circumcision doesn’t bother them, and it certainly doesn’t bother the vast majority of Jews in this country who practice it. Any ban on neonatal circumcision would be seen as targeting Jews, and in the absence of any real evidence that the practice is actually harmful or dangerous, no law will ever pass Constitutional muster.

        • annie says:

          Any ban on neonatal circumcision would be seen as targeting Jews

          it will be seen by jews like this but you must realize the vast majority of people in the US who are circumcised are neither jewish or muslim and for them it is not a religious choice. it is interesting you wouldn’t see it as targeting muslims but only jews. it never crossed my mind to think about it in religious terms when i chose not to circumcize my child. just because you are religious centric doesn’t mean you should assume others are the same way. most people are not going to view their choice as an intended target against jews they are going to assess whether they think it is cruel or not and make a decision based on that. that would be my hunch anyway although there are always people who will want to make others suffer because of racism. but if jews had nothing to do w/it and it was only muslims it would not change my opinion. you know that right? i could understand having some caveat for religious purposes like one has to have in the schools to evade vaccinations. after my child had a horrible reaction to a vaccination i didn’t want him to have any more til he was older. i had to declare it was for religious purposes, but i was not putting his little body tru that again after he almost died from fever after his first series. i was petrified and the schools were telling me i could not register him with out a full series of them. so i lied because i didn’t have the paperwork to prove he had all his vaccinations (it was a law in the state we were in to enter the public schools). most people in the US who get circumcised do it because it is in fashion (to look like their father). the way bottle feeding was in fashion in the 50′s and breast feeding was out. the trend is going the other way now wrt circumcision imho.

          i choose my own battles tho and this is not a battle on my front burner. i think it is sad tho and i never thought twice about having my child go thru that kind of trauma at his young age. he was born jaundice so the first weeks of his life involved so many blood tests and needles i was almost passing out from that as it was. hearing him scream bloody murder and he was born 5 weeks early. no baby should have to suffer so. and that was just from the constant blood tests. i can’t think about it any more, it’s too distressing. yuk.

        • hophmi says:

          “it will be seen by jews like this but you must realize the vast majority of people in the US who are circumcised are neither jewish or muslim and for them it is not a religious choice.”

          No, it is a medical choice, apparently. Regardless, a ban on NEO-NATAL circumcision can only be seen as targeting Jews.

          “it is interesting you wouldn’t see it as targeting muslims but only jews”

          That’s because Muslims don’t practice neo-natal circumcision. They circumsize at 13, I think.

          “just because you are religious centric doesn’t mean you should assume others are the same way.”

          You asked the Constitutional question, I gave you my answer. That’s the way the courts will see it, IMO.

          “most people are not going to view their choice as an intended target against jews they are going to assess whether they think it is cruel or not and make a decision based on that.”

          If this were a democratic question, I would agree with you. But bans that impact a religion in the way a ban on circumcision would impact Jews makes it a First Amendment question. In any event, whether it’s democratic or Constitutional, a ban on circumcision is not something that’s coming to the US anytime soon.

          “but if jews had nothing to do w/it and it was only muslims it would not change my opinion. you know that right?”

          Yes, I understand that. I should hope so.

          “i could understand having some caveat for religious purposes like one has to have in the schools to evade vaccinations. after my child had a horrible reaction to a vaccination i didn’t want him to have any more til he was older.”

          And that’s your right, though it clearly would be against most medical advice, no? Had a great aunt who refused to vaccinate her kids for polio way back when after a number of kids died from the vaccine.

          “i was petrified and the schools were telling me i could not register him with out a full series of them. so i lied because i didn’t have the paperwork to prove he had all his vaccinations (it was a law in the state we were in to enter the public schools). ”

          Yes, well, that was because of the risk to everyone else.

          Annie, your conclusion from your personal experience should not be to support a ban on circumcision, which, without question, hurts a lot less people than common childhood vaccinations. Your conclusion should be to live and let live.

        • Bumblebye says:

          I considered it when my son was born, but it’s a no-no on NHS except for health reasons. I’m sure he’d thank me if he knew! I had the same vaccination thing, too, and without them he was one of the healthiest kids on the block. In their time, sister and hubby chose it for their boy (probably to be like his dad), again, not NHS, but a mohel who turned out to be the same one my Jewish schoolfriend had had for their boy – despite fact sister’s hubby aint Jewish and live in a different county to old friend!
          The only person I know who had the op in adult life is dear old Dad, so I’m not exactly best placed to ask if it made much difference. He only talks about his mis-spent youth when my son and daughter-in-law visit. Generational gap thing, I suppose. There are some hair-raising tales. I do know that certain rumors about a certain monarch’s consort playing the field are tr…..

          Edit
          It’s also the only op Dad had under general anaesthetic. He wasn’t even knocked out for last year’s hip replacement!

        • annie says:

          it wasn’t because the vaccination ‘hurt’ him, it was because it gave him a fever of 104, a tiny baby. an older child can withstand that much easier, it doesn’t lead to brain defects.

    • MRW says:

      Banning circumcision, as has recently been proposed in California, would be tantamount to prohibiting the practise of a religion, and therefore unconstitutional.

      How do you feel about Mormon Warren Jeffs convicted of child bride rape this week?

      • hophmi says:

        Just curious: do you have a comparison that is not ridiculous? Obviously, there are compelling reasons to prevent child brides and statutory rape that go beyond religion, and a ban is not a shot at one religion in particular. This is simply not true of circumcision.

      • jon s says:

        Your analogy is false. Rape (and female genital mutilation) leave the victim traumatized for life. Jewish ritual circumcision is performed on 8-day old infants, who retain no memory of the event, hence no lasting trauma.

        • annie says:

          iow if female mutilation happened earlier, say at 8 days it would be ok?

        • MRW says:

          Hophmi and Jon S, you both missed the point. Jon, your point was that banning X is “tantamount to prohibiting the practise of a religion, and therefore unconstitutional.”

          Jeffs’ argument was that polygamy and marrying 12-year-olds as they break into puberty (and incidentally 100% approved of by her Mormon parents) is the practice of his religion. That’s the reason he gave in court.

        • marc b. says:

          iow if female mutilation happened earlier, say at 8 days it would be ok?

          that’s the sound of crickets chirping you hear, annie. hophmi cannot get past his identity when discussing the topic, which, in any event, he finds simultaneously ‘hilarious’ (Matt’s the one who seems upset. I find this all hilarious.) and critical to the defense of judaism. the problems are these: 1. hypocrisy – no one, including the resident hypocrites here, would support the right of muslims or any other religious or ethnic group, to cut off any portion of the female genitals at 8 days or any other age. it would rightly be seen as a brutal, anachronistic practice. 2. medical necessity – it is imperative to defend circumcision on medical grounds, because, as it is safe to assume that the practice will not banned any time soon, if the 90-plus percent of americans who are not jewish were to begin to abandon the practice, it is safe to assume that many american jews will question the wisdom of the practice as well. 3. psychology – it is something more than callous to suggest that a trauma will have no impact on individual development if it is experienced early enough. if this were the case, people would be free to abuse their children, from a psychological not legal standpoint, so long as they stopped the abuse at a certain, defined age. again, no one in their right mind would adopt such a position.

        • hophmi says:

          “1. hypocrisy – no one, including the resident hypocrites here, would support the right of muslims or any other religious or ethnic group, to cut off any portion of the female genitals at 8 days or any other age.”

          If FGM were actually comparable to male circumcision, and not a full clitorectomy, I would support it.

          “2. medical necessity – it is imperative to defend circumcision on medical grounds, because, as it is safe to assume that the practice will not banned any time soon, if the 90-plus percent of americans who are not jewish were to begin to abandon the practice, it is safe to assume that many american jews will question the wisdom of the practice as well. ”

          I wouldn’t say so. It’s not imperative to defend it on medical grounds either. It’s just that to say there are no medical grounds is untrue.

          “3. psychology – it is something more than callous to suggest that a trauma will have no impact on individual development if it is experienced early enough. if this were the case, people would be free to abuse their children, from a psychological not legal standpoint, so long as they stopped the abuse at a certain, defined age. again, no one in their right mind would adopt such a position.”

          It’s not callous. As far as circumcision goes, it’s the truth, unless you can point to a single scientific study that suggests otherwise. Last I checked, my Jewish friends were not traumatized by their circumcisions.

        • Mooser says:

          “Last I checked, my Jewish friends were not traumatized by their circumcisions.”

          You mean compared to all the years they had an intact penis?

        • marc b. says:

          hopmhi, once again you simplify, ignore and obfuscate.

          1. there is a range of procedures which constitute what is collectively called ‘genital mutilation’ or ‘female circumcision’, to include much less radical procedures than removal of the clitoris, e.g. removal of labia to reduce the number of nerve cells thus reducing pleasure, reversible, partial closure of the vagina to prevent intercourse before marriage, etc. all of which are designed to stifle female sexuality, and you would support the right to have these procedures performed?
          2. the mass circumcision of american males is based on medical grounds when there is ample evidence that there are easy and equally effective ways to avoid the problems that may arise in a non-circumcised male.
          3. i don’t have the time to educate you, but there are thousands of studies on childhood trauma and pathology, and trauma need not consciously recognized cause problems. everyone from the greeks to freud knew this.

        • Woody Tanaka says:

          hophmi,

          How many times are you going to ignore the fact that there are forms of FGM that do not involve cutting off the clitoris, and are, in fact, absolutely benign compared to the MGM practiced by Jews, but yet these forms, such a piercing or pin pricking, are illegal even for religious reasons, but Jewish-style MGM are not? Because the same First Amendment arguments apply to those FGM practices a to MGM.

          Are you proposing that the law give Jews an exception that other religions don’t enjoy? Or do you favor legalizing some forms of FGM?

    • Mooser says:

      “Jews have always regarded circumcision as an essential element of our religion, to the extent that they were willing to risk death rather than forego it. “

      That’s funny, I don’t remember anybody asking me if I wanted to be circumcised. Oh, but wait, I guess I wasn’t a Jew until I was cut, so my opinion didn’t matter.

      They still can’t distinguish between chopping themselves (go right ahead) and chopping an infant, can they? And these are the people who claim they can be trusted with the rights of non-Jews?

  27. to Phil and Adam: You are the editors of this blog and therefore are responsible for any falsehoods that are asserted by those who post articles here. In this post Matthew Taylor asserts: “The majority of Swedish Jews are intact”. Is this fact a fact, a guess, or an outright falsehood? If it is a fact, cite a source. It is my guess that it is a guess, which actually adds up to an irresponsible bit of non journalism. If you perform your function as editors you will ascertain the lack of evidence regarding this assertion and you will fix the post accordingly.

    • annie says:

      wj, this is from wiki/Circumcision and law:

      Swedish Jews and Muslims objected to the law,[42] and in 2001, the World Jewish Congress called it “the first legal restriction on Jewish religious practice in Europe since the Nazi era.”[43] The requirement for an anaesthetic to be administered by a medical professional is a major issue,[44] and the low degree of availability of certified professionals willing to conduct circumcision has also been subject to criticism.[45] According to a survey, two out of three paediatric surgeons said they refuse to perform non-therapeutic circumcision, and less than half of all county councils offer it in their hospitals.[46] However, in 2006, the U.S. State Department stated, in a report on Sweden, that most Jewish mohels had been certified under the law and 3000 Muslim and 40-50 Jewish boys were circumcised each year. An estimated 2000 of these are performed by persons who are neither physicians nor have officially recognised certification.[47]

      the source for (47) is ^ a b Robert Holender (24 July 2009). “Många läkare vägrar utföra omskärelse av unga pojkar” (in Swedish). Dagens Nyheter.

      i have not been following this thread so i don’t know if this is a repeat. nor do i know how many jewish kids are born in sweden every year. but i think the jewish community there is around 18 thousand people.

      • Hofvander’s evidence is based on personal communication. (see footnote to his article) I have no evidence to contradict him, but this is very thin evidence in fact.

        • MRW says:

          Yngve Hofvander* wrote in New law on male circumcision in Sweden in The Lancet, Volume 359, Issue 9306, Page 630, 16 February 2002:

          The reaction, mainly from the Jewish population, to the new law has been strong. Circumcision is judged to have become medicalised, having been a purely religious rite. However, only about 40 Jewish boys are circumcised in Sweden each year, which is less than 50%, compared with about 3000 Muslim boys. The reaction is mainly against the requirement for anaesthesia and the suggestion of future active debate. The willingness of doctors to participate in circumcision is still to be seen. Most hospital outpatients all over the country have expressed unwillingness to cooperate and no doctor or nurse can be forced to do so.

          *International Maternal and Child Health, University Hospital, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden

          Uncited Reference given:
          American Academy of Pediatrics. Circumcision policy statement. Pediatrics 1999; 103: 686-691. PubMed

      • MRW says:

        Two-thirds of these circumcisions are “performed by persons who are neither physicians nor have officially recognised certification?”

        Are parents nutz?

    • Mooser says:

      “to Phil and Adam: You are the editors of this blog…”

      As usual, you are lying. L-y-i-n-g, as usual. I just went to “about” and looked it up. Phillip and Adam “maintain” this blog, and they are not it’s editors.

      But wow, what a little self-dramatising, authoritarian, passive-aggressive prick you are, as usual.

      For once, I will be so bold as to answer for Phil and Adam: ‘So nue, so sue!’

    • Mooser says:

      “You are the editors of this blog and therefore are responsible for any falsehoods that are asserted by those who post articles here.”

      I don’t understand this comment, wonderful Jew. Are you asking to be banned?

  28. The assertion made by Matthew Taylor was not that the majority of newborn Jewish males in Sweden currently do not undergo circumcision, but that the majority of Jews are intact. This has not been proven.

    • annie says:

      wj, scroll up a few comments

      *International Maternal and Child Health, University Hospital, 751 85 Uppsala, Sweden

      Uncited Reference given:
      American Academy of Pediatrics. Circumcision policy statement. Pediatrics 1999; 103: 686-691. PubMed

      that’s probably not enough proof for you but it is for me.

  29. Andre says:

    Hmm, I’m pretty sure I posted a comment on this subject but for some reason it doesn’t show up. Perhaps I did something wrong…Anyway, I think that anyone who mutilates an infant should spend some serious time in prison.

  30. Mooser says:

    Look, you can’t do a thing with these pee-pee cutters. They keep on avoiding the crotch of the matter: not whether they have the right to circumcise themselves (go for it, guys, with my blessings) but whether they have the right to circumcise infants. If this is the amount of inherent human rights they think their own sons have, how on earth can they recognise the human rights of others?
    But I’ve finally found a name for it: they have delusions of glandeur!

    • Woody Tanaka says:

      that is correct. And not only that, they also steadfastly refuse to recognize analogies to other situations which might show the deficiencies in their arguments. that tells me that they actually know that there is no justification for their position in logic, but they are relying solely on blind faith, fear and emotion.

  31. athiestchick says:

    Many Jewish people have written and produced some excellent material regarding the question of circumcision.

    Ron Goldman, PhD, psychologist
    link to baycitizen.org

    Eliyahu Ungar-Sargon, filmmaker
    link to cutthefilm.com

    Beyond the Bris, a multi-media project
    link to beyondthebris.com

    jewishcircumcision.org

  32. cosmopolite says:

    I am well aware of Matthew Taylor’s writings on this tender topic. I am an intactivist who takes a close interest in Jewish intactivism, even though I am not Jewish. I believe that intactivism cannot win in the USA until American doctors and medical school profs firmly discourage routine circumcision. I believe that American medicine will not cross this bridge until liberal and secular Jews fully accept that brit milah can be a free adult choice. Jews will not cross that bridge unless and until
    Jewish intactivists convince a fair fraction of Canadian and American Jews. Hence I see helping and supporting American Jewish intactivists as a moral imperative.

    The large North American Jewish community will have to come to terms with the fact that many Jews outside of Israel and North America have quietly abandoned brit milah sometime in the last 150 years. “Uncircumcised Jew” is NOT an oxymoron!

    Let me reiterate that intactivism is NOT about forbidding circumcision. It is NOT about forcing devout Jewish women to marry intact spouses. Intactivism only wishes that circumcision take place after the 18th or 21st birthday, so that the owner can fully consent to it, after being informed of the potential sexual drawbacks. Delaying circumcision until the owner had attained his majority would also greatly enhance the ability of the circumcised penis to serve as a bodily sign of faith, commitment and loyalty. To circumcise at 8 days of age only attests to the faith etc. of the father, a much lesser thing. If it proves very difficult to convince young Jewish men to have a bris of their own free will, that would be telling evidence that circumcision indeed does have sexual drawbacks.

    Finally, there are Jewish men who are angry about the fact that the faith of their ancestors required that the most sexual part of their bodies undergo a minor operation. And the number of Jewish men who feel this way will rise over time, because of the availability and quality of intactivist prose on the internet. Most of all, given present-day mores, it is easy for a young unmarried nonorthodox Jewish woman to experience intercourse with an intact man. More than a few Jewish young women are hedonists and blog about it. The result will be more and more Jewish mothers who will refuse to let their infant sons go through brit milah.

  33. cosmopolite says:

    The link below is to an article that powerfully refutes the claim that the randomised clinical trials support mass circumcision in Africa as an AIDS-fighting strategy:

    link to xa.yimg.com

    It also is a raw fact that HIV and other STDs are more common in the USA (where adult men are heavily circumcised) than in continental Europe and Japan (where only Moslems are circumcised).

    The claim is only that if a man is circumcised and doesn’t use condoms, he is less likely to catch HIV from an infected woman on any given sexual act. What if circumcised men interpret that as a licence to have unsafe sex? It is also quite possible that all circumcision accomplishes is delaying the inevitable. We cannot determine that from the extant evidence, because the trials were cut short after only 6 months. They should have been run for 5, better yet 10, years.

    Every village commissary in Africa should stock free condoms, paid for by Bill and Melinda Gates. That might save lives. Pruning willies will not.