don’t tell people what to do with their foreskin, thanks

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Freddie

Freddie deBoer used to blog at lhote.blogspot.com, and may again someday. Now he blogs here.

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175 Responses

  1. Avatar James says:

    Oh my God, Freddie. Thank you.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      To respond at a little more length & with a jot more articulation… I’ve been opposed to circumcision since I first heard of it. This was crystallized by the posts made on the matter by Andrew Sullivan many years ago, where he argued with a mixture of eye-opening rhetoric, water-tight logic & remarkable brevity against the practice. That turned the knee-jerk into a reasoned case, basically.

      He softened his position slightly with the HIV revelations (more than I would have liked, & I do not share your hope in the procedure being of much use in Southern Africa, which was my sole disagreement with your article), but remained true enough to the positions which had convinced me (he still uses the term “male genital mutilation”, a phrase I rarely make use of personally but can make no argument against the appropriateness of). Certainly he stuck with it more than he did his hawkishness, or even his wariness of the state.

      So, in brief…He was our man in the mainstream. Just like Penn & Teller were our men on the fringes (do yourself a favour & see their Bullshit! episode on the matter, if you haven’t already). Imagine then, if you will, the impact it had on me to see a post entitled “Lose The Foreskin!” at the top of Daily Dish. I felt like something had been defiled, as sentimental as that sounds.

      It was as much her approach as views: from the nonsense quotation of pro-circumcision poetry author & all around penile obsessional Schoen to the claim that those in opposition to it were anti-semites, to the absence of even considering the possibility of the foreskin possessing any functional worth, the post read like a bingo round consisting solely of the tiredest pro-disfigurement tropes.

      This article is every bit as crude, disingenuous & downright dishonest as you present it, Freddie. The opening paragraph of your post pretty much says it all, but somehow the rest of it manages to present a fresh argument on this heavily poured-over topic, while expressing everything I knew I already felt. The sole pity is that it took such a dreadful piece of dross defacing the Dish to evoke this. With any lucky she will be hammered in the emails & make a contrite “, Cont.”, but I wouldn’t count on it.

      A marvelous post, timely, compelling & strongest contender for the best post I’ve read that I’ve seen in quite some time.Report

      • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

        Penn & Teller’s Bullshit! is a pretty durned good show, James. To me, all you have to do is watch a circumcision (in person or on TV) being performed on a little baby boy and that’s enough. It’s traumatic. I can’t imagine doing that to a baby – unless there really was overwhelming data to support it, and there isn’t. Oh, and what Kevin Carson said down below…

        Great post.Report

        • Avatar Roscoe says:

          If you think watching a circumcision is gruelling, don’t go to a bris. Watching the mohel go down on an infant boy to suck the blood out of the cut, with everyone watching, is the closest thing I’ve seen to satanic ritual since “Rosemary’s Baby.” At the very least it’s barbaric. I don’t know in what other circumstance I’d be allowed, in America, to allow, or cause, a grown man to put his mouth on my son’s penis. Religion cannot trump human rights, or we have to say with regard to female circumcision.Report

    • Avatar okani says:

      I agree with every one opinion here, but wanted to point out few things:
      – the country i’m from which is considered to be 3rd world country are doing boys Circumcision using laser, so in 30mins boys can go ahead and play their games. I wanted to have my son Circumcised here, but after watching on youtube the way they do the surgery here to just born babies, I changed my mind. My son still will have a Circumcision but in my own country and in a way less invasive way.
      What I’m trying to say here is why the hell we live in US and don’t have a simple technology to have a less invasive surgery using the lasers? Even though FDA and other specialists from webMD recommend laser surgery by indicating that it is safer and healing is faster.
      Please note, I don’t discuss whether it is worth to do the Circumcision or not.
      But, giving you an idea that it can be done less invasive, we can have more people to agree with the Circumcision. Btw, in my country boys have it by age of 6. Just recently started to do them for newborns.
      As for my shame, I couldn’t find a clinic here that would do laser surgery to my son and have to take him home with the 2oh flight.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        How about leaving the decision up to your son & let him make his own mind up over whether he wants an erogenous zone removed?Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          Additionally, you shouldn’t make your kids take piano lessons.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Piano lessons are wonderful things: they teach a skill, & if he dislikes the piano he can give it up when he is fully grown.Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Says you. I was harmed by mine. I still get pissed off thinking about them.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I suppose I shouldn’t have expected the League’s resident jester to spare me.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It’s one thing to discuss these things in theory. I love it.

                When a parent comes in and says “I did this, wished I could have done that”, it strikes me as outside of the topic to point out to the person in question that he (or she) is a bad parent for making the decision that was made. There are cultural issues at stake, there are family issues at stake, there are all kinds of dynamics going on.

                Maybe it’s hypocrisy on my part but I very much see a difference between “parents ought to raise their children like this” and “you ought to raise (insert child’s name here) like this” (or “you oughtn’t have raised (insert child’s name here) like that”).Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I didn’t say that okami was a bad parent. You speak of cultural & family issues. If those mean a lot to okami then he should try & convince his son of how much they matter when his son is an adult & see how far he gets. Only the subject is the correct person to make this subjective decision.

                Ask the owner of the body what he wants done with it when he is able to make such a decision, let that be done. Via lasers, scalpels or not at all. I don’t see why that’s so unreasonable.

                If it irks you so then just try to imagine me as attempting to save okami a 2 hour flight.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                “If those mean a lot to okami then he should try & convince his son of how much they matter when his son is an adult & see how far he gets.”

                Imagine, if you will, the following sentence:
                “if people from other cultures cared about the following, then they would do this.”

                Imagine someone else using it. A republican, maybe.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I don’t mind who uses an argument, only how sound it is. In this case I’m arguing that okami’s cultural heritage should instruct him on how he should treat his own genitals, but it is a transgression to removal body parts of other people along those lines. Imagine how it’d sound if somebody said it mattered a huge amount to them to remove someone’s earlobes, as that was their culture.

                You haven’t really provided a counter-argument to my point. Where possible, subjective decision should be left up to the subject. Here it is possible.Report

  2. Avatar Sam M says:

    We were livinmg in an urban area when we had our twin boys. We decided not to circumcise. Nobody thought it was a weird choice and we thought little of it. (Despite the fact that we had to put “DO NOT CIRCUMCISE tags all over the kids, as if the basic reflex of all medical professionals is to immediately snatch up any and all boys they see and snip off the end of their wieners, no questions asked.)

    We have since moved to a small, rural town where circumcision is the norm. I know that “It will be weird in the locker room” is a poor justifications… but… It’s going to be weird in the locker room.

    Honestly, if we had known we would have been moving, we might have decided differently. Maybe not. I hope not, of course. But in the end, I am not sure we did them any favors… except to the extent that, when the kids are of age, some shady harlots will want to get a peak, or something weird and immature like that.

    Sigh.Report

  3. Avatar Mark says:

    Freddie, you’re right that there’s little reason to circumcise every man in America. But…

    It’s true that in the US it’s mostly men who have sex with men (MSM), IV drug users and those who frequent prostitutes get HIV. (This is not true across all socio-economic classes, btw, but it is very true of college-educated white people.) Unfortunately, these men also have sex with women, usually without telling the women anything about their behavior. Women are much more likely to get HIV from heterosexual sex.

    The study you pointed to (“Circumcision does not improve the risk of infection for a female partner”) only says that circumcision of men who already have HIV does not reduce their transmission rates to women. It says nothing about men who were circumcised at birth or prior to contracting HIV. We haven’t discussed whether their transmission rates to women are lower – circumcision would certainly protect women as a group in that case.

    There are certain cities and certain socio-economic classes within them where HIV is rampant among men and women due to unsafe sex, both hetero and homo. Reducing prevalence there by say 50% would have huge benefits.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      You raise valid points. The problem is that we can’t know who to circumcise for high risk behavior when they’re infants, and using circumcision on all infants to combat a disease when the odds of any individual of them catching that disease are vanishingly small isn’t a humane or rational thing to do.

      The rates of infection for heterosexual women, too, are egregiously inflated in the popular imagination. Broadly speaking, the idea that HIV or AIDS should be feared by heterosexuals outside of sub-Saharan Africa isn’t supportable. Again, I’d point to the overall infection rate in the United States where, as you say, people do use intravenous drugs, frequent prostitutes and engage in hidden homosexual behavior, roughly a third of one percent of the population is a carrier of HIV. It isn’t simply that the risk of infection is low; it’s additionally that the pool of people in the United States who are infected is so small. Increased risk of infection is only a problem insofar as there is a statistically high enough pool of partners to make that increased risk relevant.Report

      • Avatar Mark says:

        Well, if circumcision prevented HIV transmission to women, we could encourage circumcision in Washington, DC, for example:

        http://ta-nehisicoates.theatlantic.com/archives/2009/03/three_percent_of_dc_residents_have_hiv.php

        Broadly speaking, yes, when a heterosexual person goes to a clinic in San Francisco to get tested for HIV, the staff wonders what the hell you’re doing there given that HIV rates are perhaps 1000x lower than among homosexual men. White, college-educated, heterosexuals can do lots of risky things and the worst outcome is usually herpes.

        But narrowly speaking, there are communities where women are at much higher risk of HIV transmission due to partners who engage in MSM. And you’re completely correct here that the AIDS hysteria of the 80s obliterated our sense of relative risk – we just need to clearly add MSM to the list of risks for women.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          Mark, again, there have been studies conducted which demonstrate no link. Indeed one shows circumcised men transmitted more, only not to a statistically significant extent. Perhaps we could stick to talking about reality instead of toying with hypotheticals, please?Report

    • Avatar James says:

      Mark,

      We haven’t discussed whether their transmission rates to women are lower – circumcision would certainly protect women as a group in that case.

      This is a hypothetical, let us be clear of that. Scientists have looked for evidence of reduced transmission to females, & found nothing.Report

      • Avatar Sully Fick says:

        Scientists have looked for evidence of reduced transmission to females, & found nothing.

        In fact, while the clinical trials in Africa found that circumcision reduced the risk of a man’s acquiring H.I.V., it was not clear whether it would reduce the risk to women from an infected man, several experts said.

        “There’s mixed data on that,” Dr. Kilmarx said. But, he said, “If we have a partially successful intervention for men, it will ultimately lower the prevalence of H.I.V. in the population, and ultimately lower the risk to women.”

        Mixed data = found nothing?Report

        • Avatar James says:

          Find me a study demonstrating reduced transmission to females.Report

          • Avatar Sully Fick says:

            Gray RH, Kiwanuka N, Quinn TC, et al. Male circumcision and HIV acquisition and transmission: cohort studies in Rakai, Uganda. AIDS. 2000 Oct 20;14(15):2371-81.

            From here: http://www.cdc.gov/hiv/resources/factsheets/circumcision.htm

            Male Circumcision and Male-to-Female Transmission of HIV

            In an earlier study of couples in Uganda in which the male partner was HIV infected and the female partner was initially HIV-seronegative, the infection rates of the female partners differed by the circumcision status and viral load of the male partners. If the male’s HIV viral load was <50,000 copies/mL, there was no HIV transmission if the man was circumcised, compared with a transmission rate of 9.6 per 100 person-years if the man was uncircumcised [7]. When viral load was not controlled for, there was a nonsignificant trend toward a reduction in the male-to-female transmission rate from circumcised men compared with uncircumcised men. Such an effect may be due to decreased viral shedding from circumcised men or to a reduction in ulcerative STDs acquired by female partners of circumcised men [12]. A clinical trial in Uganda to assess the impact of circumcision on male-to-female transmission reported that its first interim safety analysis showed a nonsignificant trend toward a higher rate of HIV acquisition in women partners of HIV-seropositive men in couples who had resumed sex prior to certified postsurgical wound healing and did not detect a reduction in HIV acquisition by female partners engaging in sex after wound healing was complete [13].

            Report

            • Avatar James says:

              Ooh, a non-significant trend.

              The clue to how much those matter is sort of in the name.Report

              • Avatar Sully Fick says:

                The study I cited was this:

                If the male’s HIV viral load was <50,000 copies/mL, there was no HIV transmission if the man was circumcised, compared with a transmission rate of 9.6 per 100 person-years if the man was uncircumcised [7].

                I’m done talking about this. You can’t even read the results of the study properly.

                Though it doesn’t really matter. I’m just making an appeal to authority again.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Are you actually leaving this time?Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I guess so. To respond for the sake of posterity: the scientific method requires repeatability for claims to be demonstrated properly. If evidence if “mixed” then that means “insufficient”. Certainly when it comes to matters of public policy. “Mixed” is a handy euphemism for smear-artists though, for sure.Report

  4. Avatar Ian M. says:

    You’ll find the same problem of shallow reading of science articles in Rosin’s breastfeeding article at Slate.

    Sam M. – I’m not circumsized and no one pointed, commented on, or otherwise induced “weirdness” in me because of my foreskin.Report

    • Avatar Ian M. says:

      Let me also note the down side of circumcision – mistakes. My father had part of his glans “clipped” by a minor botch in the circumcision. Yes, doctors sometimes lop off part of the penis.Report

  5. An informal poll I took once at a large party (admittedly everyone was ripped) revealed about 99% of the girls thought un-circumcized weiners were gross. An equal number of the men were completely okay with being sans-foreskin as well. One guy had been circumcized as an adult and said the loss of sensitivity was completely worth the lack of embarrassment when he got with the ladies.

    Yeah, give it a generation and people will think it’s normal…but let’s be honest here, it’s very unlikely to ever happen in the US.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      From what I understand, it’s hard to distinguish an uncircumcised penis from a circumcised one when erect, so I don’t see how the moment of “getting with a lady” is particularly germane.Report

      • I really can’t believe I had to Google ‘foreskin’ to get his. What has the League come to?

        http://fboisclub.wordpress.com/2009/06/02/retracting-a-foreskin-3/

        Yes – it appears to be a mostly unnecessary medical procedure. But changing our cultural views of certain things takes quite some time. Good luck with that.Report

        • Avatar Freddie says:

          Honestly, what do you get out of ridiculing people who are different from you? I’d really like to know.Report

          • Who’s being ridiculed? While you can make a medical case that we should leave everyone’s johnsons alone until they are adults, I’m suggesting that the cultural barriers are far harder to overcome than the medical ones. Unless you have a formula for dealing with that, the larger point is moot.Report

            • Avatar Freddie says:

              And, culturally, the United States is a hotbed of disrespect and out-and-out hostility towards cops, particularly in urban areas and among the poor. Yet you argue vociferously against that in this space. The point is moot Mike! Give up!Report

              • I would disagree with your contention about the United States as a whole, but that’s a different subject..

                So what’s your brilliant plan to change cultural attitudes in the US towards circumcision?Report

              • Avatar Freddie says:

                What’s your brilliant plan to change cultural attitudes in the US towards cops?

                Education. Talking. Argument. Debate. In the 1930s, do you think widespread acceptance of homosexuality would have been seen as possible? Should those who argued for the acceptance of homosexuality have said, “hey, it’s a moot point, let’s stop trying”? If you want to argue content, fine. But “what you want is hard, so nyah nyah” is just trying to win the game of blog.

                And, incidentally, circumcision is most certainly not the norm in the vast majority of the world, so I’d say there’s pretty good evidence that cultural attitudes are mutable.Report

              • So what’s your brilliant plan to change cultural attitudes in the US towards circumcision?

                It’s already happening. Circumcision rates have fallen very quickly in recent years.Report

              • Avatar Roscoe says:

                Well, here’s a bit of cultural change going on: I have three boys, my oldest is circumcised (done at the behest of his foster parent before we adopted him) but the twins are not. They are sixteen years old and star athletes. In the locker room the other guys who aren’t cut tend to be more ethnic than them (circumcision rates are lower for African American and Hispanic and lower-income men) and these groups are often idealized as uber-masculine because of their athletic prowess and tough-guy stance. Also, my boys have many friends who are not circumcised (one of them high-fived me at dinner with a wink saying “I’m German, remember?” There is no shame, but in fact, cache, here in upper middle class northern California for boys who are not circumcised. And say what you will about the racial characteristics of jews (intelligence, etc.), athletic prowess is not one of them. If anyone was likely to be underdeveloped scrawny in the high school I went to, it was often the kids who spent their time in the library or at home and not the weight room. You can see where I’m going with regard to cultural norms shifting. One of my boys outright thanked me a few weeks ago for keeping him intact — we’ve talked about it for years because of the hygene issues and the fact that I’m circumcised myself.Report

      • Avatar Ryan says:

        Well, um, there are times when it’s not so erect. And also, it’s a little different. More fluids and such. You can tell.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      Incidentally, when I say that it’s really more about enforcing a norm and really has nothing to do with medicine, this is exactly what I mean.Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    I disagree. I am completely in favor of mandatory and frequent circumcision of all Dick Cheney’s.Report

  7. Avatar tt says:

    It’s my understanding that circumcision greatly reduces the amount of pleasure men can experience during sex.

    Foreskin Face Cream as well …Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      Not having been someone who has been both uncircumcised and non-circumcised while sexually active, I couldn’t say. One of the points I try to make on this issue is that even entirely separate from the issue of how circumcision can potentially negatively impact the life of someone being circumcised, we don’t, in Western medicine, perform medical procedures, particularly surgical procedures, without a compelling reason to do so.Report

  8. Avatar Tony says:

    James,

    Yes, although historically immigrants have been pressured or have chosen to conform, circumcising their children to “Americanize” them. Schoen, not surprisingly, is a big proponent of this. In not so many words in at least one of his books, he describes infant circumcision as patriotic. That’s not surprising given his belief in other offensive ethical lapses, such as his repeated declaration that the stated (subjective) sexual aesthetic preferences of women somehow justifies circumcision of (objectively) healthy children.

    To Mike’s point, I wouldn’t get with a lady who believed that a normal body part is gross by its mere existence. If I still had my choice on circumcision, of course. Thankfully I have a rational girlfriend who understands that the foreskin is normal and wouldn’t have been grossed out if my parents hadn’t taken my choice.

    From a different perspective, I have red hair. It enabled harassment from my peers when I was a child (and into adulthood, from the more immature among us). Should I, or rather, my parents, have dyed my hair to help me conform? I think not, obviously, since my hair color is what it is. But it also helped me learn how little to concern myself with the good opinion of others, even if that good opinion is held by 99%.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      Tony – My suspicion is that if 99% of the men Mike polled were circumcised, then the majority of the women had no actual sexual experience with a penis that had not been. Accordingly their reactions were simply a matter of fear of the unknown, rather than based upon actual sexual acts which had repulsed them.

      Now, if there was a Hispanic majority in America…Would the same be true of that many women? Obviously it would vary from region to region, but the point I was trying to make is that the current cultural predilection for circumcision, or at least the presumably ignorance fueled perception of unaltered genitals being “gross”, is not a trend I conceive of surviving the present trend of mass immigration into America from Mexico.

      Twin that with the high impact of the internet & I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic in doubting that tide out on the wave of mutilation will come any later than the mid-point of this century. Sound fair?Report

      • Avatar Tony says:

        That’s fair. I’m not sure I agree because the desire and push to conform aren’t going away. But I’m speculating no less in my conclusion.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          Well…The rate in California last they counted was 29-35% percent, right? Probably even lower, by this point. At this stage, in that state, to conform to the norm would be to not slice up your newborn.

          Additionally, what I was saying was more to do with the men women (& other men, I suppose) will encounter. That would then have an impact on the “gross” factor, I’d imagine, with my assumption being that it’s purely based on ignorance (women don’t think that way in Britain, for instance).

          & it varies from region to region immensely, obviously. But somehow I imagine a bunch of working class Catholics are going to have a high population growth rate. Or at least higher.Report

          • Avatar Tony says:

            James,

            My concern is on multiple fronts. I suspect the actual circumcision rate in the U.S. is higher than the reported figure. As I understand it, the rate is for hospital circumcisions only. I’ve encountered enough anecdotal accounts to accept that many infant circumcisions are performed in a pediatrician’s office after discharge from the hospital. This wouldn’t show in the statistics, but it adds to the men and women, as parents, determined to perpetuate this for the varied, common excuses given.

            As an aside, re: Mike’s informal poll, how many women are indifferent, yet say they think the foreskin is gross to protect egos? A small percentage, maybe, but new mothers defer to their son’s father all the time when they (the mothers) have anti-circumcision sentiments.

            My other concern is the profound, committed ignorance of American doctors regarding the foreskin. How often do they recommend circumcision for ailments that can be resolved with less-invasive, non-body altering solutions? How often do they recommend circumcision for ailments that aren’t ailments? Most are ignorant of how long it takes for the foreskin to naturally separate from the glans, claiming “adhesions” if the parents can’t go digging in there to clean. Put them in a position of power over immigrant parents who don’t understand English well and the boy may lose.

            When my brother and his wife had a kid last year, their doctor was adamant that they should circumcise and gave the hard sell when they declined. This is from a person who is supposed to know that it’s unnecessary and that the child wouldn’t likely be in any high-risk categories. That’s before we get to the ethical issue of a doctor actively advocating a surgical procedure on a healthy child.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              But of course, Tony, it also leaves out those who were not born in hospitals & were born in more “crunchy” institutions, or at home. The “AP” parents who go in for that sort of thing also make up a substantial part of the anti-circumcision movement, so missing them out skews things in the other direction.

              As for ignorant doctors: you get them here in Britain, too. That’s why our rates of circumcision for ailments that largely don’t need it, such as phimosis, are so much higher than those of (say) Scandinavia. A hang-over from when we were a circumcising culture (or the circumcising culture, we were the ones who passed it around the Anglosphere, as you probably know), I suspect, but not enough to stop the absolute unpopularity of secular infant non-therapeutic circumcisions.

              The days of the all-powerful doctor imperatives are over. The anti-circumcisionists have the internet stitched up, as a perusal of the New York Times article, the recent Huffington Post or Daily Beast articles on the matter or…Well, basically almost any blog comment section where this matter comes up, will show you. Hell, by an overwhelming degree even most of 4Chan is convincing. This constitutes a burgeoning anti-circumcision culture, which I have quite a lot of hope for.

              Again, you then add a huge influx of people to whom purposeless infant disfiguration is pleasingly alien & you have the makings of the end of American routine circumcisions.Report

    • Heh. I figured this post would draw you out of the woodwork, Tony! Good to hear from ya. Hope all is well!Report

  9. Avatar Kevin Carson says:

    I work in healthcare, and in over twenty years I think I’ve seen a grand total of two uncircumcised adult men who chose to be circumcised, and that only in response to immediate and clear health dangers. Circumcision is a procedure performed, except for a few adult religious converts, overwhelmingly on those who are unable to object. That should tell you something.Report

    • Avatar Sully Fick says:

      Baptism is a procedure performed, except for a few adult religious converts, overwhelmingly on those who are unable to object. That should tell you something.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        Have you heard of, um…This tiny little sect called “Baptists”? They’re not very big here in Britain, but I here they’re a tiny bit more popular in America. Very much into the consenting-to-baptism thing, counter-intuitive as that might sound.Report

        • Avatar Sully Fick says:

          Baptists total 110 million world-wide. Compared to the 2 billion Christians world-wide, I think I was safe to discount them in a comment that was making a much larger point.

          But, don’t let that stop you from nit-picking!Report

          • Catholics are baptized as infants and allowed to choose to remain in the Church when they are confirmed in 8th grade. I believe several Protestant churches work this way as well.Report

            • Avatar Sully Fick says:

              Yet, baptism is still an irreversible procedure on those who are unable to object. And, I don’t see a similar level of vehement opposition to that procedure.Report

              • Avatar Freddie says:

                I don’t know any Christian sects that believe baptism to be irreversible; more to the point, baptism doesn’t do anything, circumcision permanently alters the body.Report

              • Avatar Sully Fick says:

                I don’t know any Christian sects that believe baptism to be irreversible

                From wiki:
                According to the Catholic Church, baptism imparts an indelible “seal” upon the soul of the baptized. Thus, once baptized, an individual cannot be baptized again. This teaching was affirmed against the Donatists who practiced rebaptism. Baptism is said to operate ex opere operato and is valid even if administered in heresy or schism. Like holy orders, it confers a “character” on the recipient, who can never be re-baptized.

                more to the point, baptism doesn’t do anything,

                See above.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                See above.

                This is hugely disingenuous. Baptism removes no body part. If you are not a believer in the Catholic Church then their procedures won’t mean much to you: I was baptised into it, have a very low view of the institution, but exactly because of that their rituals having been performed on me does not concern me. A baptism has symbolic meaning, but only a transitory connection to the physical. A circumcision leaves a permanent physical alteration, which you need belief in no creed to observe.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I don’t know any Christian sects that believe baptism to be irreversible;

                As far as the Catholics are concerned, once you are recognised before the eyes of God, you are impossible to obscure from him. Baptism can not be reversed.

                But…The point Sully is trying to make via this is utterly non-nonsensical. Why would anyone mind having been baptised? If you don’t believe in a God, then it was simply a splash of water. I certainly can’t see the rational case for caring much about that. There’s no vehemence since it does no harm (leaving aside the Dawkin’s critique of a religious upbringing, which I doubt that even he takes seriously).

                But to use that to claim that having an erogenous zone removed permanently must be something which there is no rational case against, or that it is somehow the same thing as baptism, is sheer folly. Not least because the entire point is not really relevant: if only religious circumcisions were performed in America a tiny percentage of the population would receive them. In America the vast majority of circumcisions happen in a secular context.Report

              • Avatar Sully Fick says:

                If one believes in the Catholic vision of the Immortal Soul, then baptism is much more important than a physical alteration. Even if one does not continue in the Church, one’s Immortal Soul has been permanently altered. And, if one then wishes to practice a different religion, one’s soul is forever “tarnished” by that irreversible procedure.

                Only for devout Athiests is this a non-issue.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I have yet to encounter somebody seriously perturbed by that prospect. Those who opt to convert to Protestantism tend to either disagree with the Church’s exact doctrine on the immortal soul, or deem it to lack the authority to behave in the fashion it claims it does.

                But I don’t see why we’re arguing theology, all of a sudden. Like I said, most circumcisions in America are secular circumcisions, performed for cultural reasons. I am suggesting that America’s culture should be altered to one where people decide for themselves which non-therapeutic procedures they do & do not get subjected to. Talking baptism isn’t going to dent the case for that being wise.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Yeah, a mere 110 million people is nothing.Report

  10. Avatar Sully Fick says:

    Here’s some other important facts from the NYT article:

    1. 79% of men in the U.S. are currently circumcised.

    2. The CDC will probably release (by the end of the year) recommendations to have infant boys circumcised.

    3. Dr. Peter Kilmarx, chief of epidemiology for the division of H.I.V./AIDS prevention at the C.D.C., said that any step that could thwart the spread of H.I.V. must be given serious consideration.

    “We have a significant H.I.V. epidemic in this country, and we really need to look carefully at any potential intervention that could be another tool in the toolbox we use to address the epidemic,” Dr. Kilmarx said. “What we’ve heard from our consultants is that there would be a benefit for infants from infant circumcision, and that the benefits outweigh the risks.”

    4. Circumcision rates have fallen in part because the American Academy of Pediatrics, which sets the guidelines for infant care, does not endorse routine circumcision. Its policy says that circumcision is “not essential to the child’s current well-being,” and as a result, many state Medicaid programs do not cover the operation.

    The academy is revising its guidelines, however, and is likely to do away with the neutral tone in favor of a more encouraging policy stating that circumcision has health benefits even beyond H.I.V. prevention, like reducing urinary tract infections for baby boys, said Dr. Michael Brady, a consultant to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

    5. Observational studies have found that uncircumcised men have higher rates of other sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and syphilis.

    So, to all the anti-circ commenters, a question:

    Do you think that you know more about the studies than the CDC and AAP?Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      I read a lot on the Internet. Yet it’s rare that I read a comment that is this long and yet contains no argumentative content. The fact that such a high percentage of American males are circumcised means nothing in the context of this debate.

      You haven’t even attempted to contradict the fundamental point, that straight men are the only people who seem to see a reduced risk of infection of HIV from circumcision, and straight men in America don’t get AIDS. The link to HIV is the only impetus behind recommending routine circumcision, and yet that link applies to a demographic that does not get HIV.

      Meanwhile, as far as medical authority goes, I could point to any number of issues on which the major American medical authorities have been flatly incorrect in the past– lobotomy! Homosexuality! Sterilization! Thalidomide! The treatment of the mentally retarded! Shall I go on? I suppose we should have just swallowed our tongues and accepted everything the medical establishment had to say on those issues!Report

      • Avatar Sully Fick says:

        Ad hominem attacks. Thanks for the civil discourse, Freddie.

        You haven’t even attempted to contradict the fundamental point, that straight men are the only people who seem to see a reduced risk of infection of HIV from circumcision, and straight men in America don’t get AIDS. The link to HIV is the only impetus behind recommending routine circumcision, and yet that link applies to a demographic that does not get HIV.

        You’re right. My Bad. If I had been addressing that fact, I would have written something like this:

        5. Observational studies have found that uncircumcised men have higher rates of other sexually transmitted diseases like herpes and syphilis.

        But, alas, I didn’t write that in my comment.

        Meanwhile, as far as medical authority goes, I could point to any number of issues on which the major American medical authorities have been flatly incorrect in the past

        So, past mistakes disqualify an authority from being an authority in the future.

        Are there any authorities left? (Besides you, of course.)Report

        • Avatar Freddie says:

          I’m not claiming to be an authority. I’m saying that authorities make mistakes and change their mind, as you are alleging the US medical establishment are, by the way. “Observational studies” are a kind way of saying that these supposed effects don’t have anything resembling the weight of reputable, repeatable and scientifically compelling data.Report

          • Avatar James says:

            Do you think that you know more about the studies than the CDC and AAP?

            Wow…You spent that entire comment just building up to an appeal to authority? Then you chastise Freddie of an ad hominem. Truly remarkable.Report

            • Avatar Sully Fick says:

              What’s truly remarkable is the level of discourse in these comments.

              You’ll have to work hard to find a way to attack this comment, but I have faith in you!Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              “Appeal to Authority” isn’t a fallacy if the person in question is an authority on the topic in question.

              It’s not like he was saying “Albert Einstein prefered Blue Bunny ice cream”.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Yes Jaybird, it is. That’s a very common misunderstanding about that particular fallacy:

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Argument_from_authority

                It’s basically a reversed ad hominem, usually via proxy. You are claiming that you are correct because of the traits of somebody who disagrees with you (or because of your own traits, when facing a particularly arrogant debaters). Especially disingenuous when the institution in question has a lengthy history of being very, very wrong about its supposed specialty, as is true of the American health profession.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                I’m agnostic on the whole circumcision thing (though I strongly oppose the use of tax dollars to pay for circumcision).

                I do, however, see “argument from authority” as a usually good enough inductive argument. “We are talking about topic X. Person P has been right on various parts of topic X to the point where he is considered an expert. We are talking about sub-topic X-sub-1. Person P is an expert. Person P is probably right about sub-topic X-sub-1.”

                Now, if the dude is arguing that the scientists in question are infallable and you need to listen to them!!!1, that would be one thing.

                But it seems to me that it’s an example of the inductive argument at work here and ought not be waved away.

                Which isn’t even to say he’s right.

                Just that I don’t think he’s wrong to the point where pointing out that he’s appealing to scientists who have studied this destroys his argument. It is, as far as I’m concerned, the type of counter-argument that we want to see a hell of a lot more of.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Personally I also consider it to be a variant on the ad hominem. You can never rely on somebody being correct at all times because they are in a high-ranking position.

                In other news: wow, 105th comment. What a snipstorm…Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Remember that when we (inevitably) have a thread on Global Warming.

                “You’re quoting so-and-so? Way to appeal to authority!”Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I never said you shouldn’t quote people.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Think of it this way: what if I said to you “But Jaybird, think of all the years Al Gore spent researching An Inconvenient Truth! Are you sure you know better than him?”?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                How about if, instead of appealing to Al Gore, you made an appeal to the researchers he used?

                “Are you seriously arguing that you know more about this than Roger Revelle and Naomi Oreskes?”

                Now, Roger Revelle and Naomi Oreskes are not necessarily right because they are Roger Revelle and Naomi Oreskes. But let’s say that I make an appeal to the reports they’ve published. You disagree with me… and then I ask “are you seriously arguing you know more about this stuff than Roger Revelle and Naomi Oreskes?”

                Is that really an appeal to authority? It seems to me that the foundation of the argument is the research which has been waved away rather than the awesomeness that is Roger Revelle and Naomi Oreskes.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Both of them have presented research which stands upon its own legs, & does not need their reputations to prop it up. If you are focused upon this research, & it truly is sound, then why would you need to namedrop at all? It is not only an argument from authority, it is pointless.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Eh. Again, I don’t know that “argument from authority” is necessarily fallacious as much as an inductive argument that is good enough most of the time.

                But I said that already.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                As far as I’m concerned fallacies are simply non-responses. Freddie here made an argument that circumcision would do nothing to help US AIDS rates, in reply Sully said “But these people disagree with you”. That isn’t a response to Freddie’s point. It doesn’t demonstrate how circumcision is effective in curtailing HIV transmission, it just reminds Freddie that there are people who disagrees with him, then stages an implicit ad hominem against him by pointing out that a few high-ranking doctors may not accept his argument (or, more likely, heard it). If the balance of every argument rests upon having unanimous establishment agreement with you, debates are going to grow pretty stunted & dull.

                That isn’t a counter-argument, in short. That’s a poorly disguised namecheck.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Fallacies, where I’ve seen them, can range from complete non responses to gaps in logic to laziness to shortcuts to a right conclusion for wrong reasons despite the right reasons being available. If there *ARE* studies showing what the original docs claim (for the sake of argument, I’m willing to accept that there are), then the “appeal to authority” is something that most folks do every day.

                “I am not a doctor. Here is a doctor making statements about studies that have been made.”

                I mean, is it a sufficient argument against global warming to scream that the raw data is being discarded and we aren’t being allowed to look at the underlying formulae that give us the hockey stick graph?Report

              • Avatar James says:

                In this context, Freddie’s point was not replied to. Instead an attempt to implicitly malign his credentials as a debater were made. Sully’s comments do not constitute a rational attempt at rebuttal of anything Freddie said.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                It depends on who you consider the first person to bring up the NYT article.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                That would be Hanna?Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Heh. Fair enough.Report

        • Avatar Ian M. says:

          You ignore the downsides (accidental penis amputation being the most extreme) of circumcision. The procedure has complications, they are not rare and they are not good for the child. I would like the advocates of circumcision to confront the fact that circumcision can mutilate the penis. This is (to me) a much greater risk than the advantages put forward by defenders.Report

          • Avatar Sully Fick says:

            Ultimately, this is a risk/reward evaluation. Scientists who study the risks and rewards in great depth have decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.

            The arguments against circumcision remind me of nothing so much as the anti-vacc arguments. And, the risk/reward evaluation is very similar.Report

            • Avatar Freddie says:

              And, with that, you’ve officially jumped the shark. Vaccinations are nothing like circumcision. Vaccinations reduce the risk of infection for everyone. Circumcisions reduces the risk only for the person circumcised. The chances of contracting diseases that are prevented by vaccinations are vastly higher than the tiny risk of contracting HIV in the United States. What’s more, the way people are infected by those diseases, through the air and through casual contact, is of course far more likely to result in spreading infection than a sexually transmitted disease. Even more, sexually transmitted infection has a tried-and-true method for preventing infection, condoms and spermicidal lubricant. There is no comparable prevention absent vaccinations for the diseases we vaccinate against.

              Seriously, you’re going to have to do better than that.Report

              • Avatar Sully Fick says:

                The anti-vacc arguments are:

                – Doctors and scientists are wrong. Vaccines harm babies.
                – Vaccines aren’t needed, because there are other ways to prevent the diseases.

                This seems (to me, anyway) to be similar to the arguments against circumcisions:

                – Doctors and scientists are wrong. Circumcision harms babies.
                – Circumcision isn’t needed, because there are other ways to prevent the diseases.

                Not to mention that circumcision reduces the risk of infection for everyone (not just the patient), due to lower transmission rates.

                I’m done trying to make logical and reasonable arguments about this. You don’t want to discuss this. You want to berate anyone who disagrees with you.

                So be it.Report

              • Avatar Freddie says:

                This seems (to me, anyway) to be similar to the arguments against circumcisions:

                I’ve just described for you why this is an invalid comparison, and you’ve done nothing to dispute why it is. Have you? You have not.

                And, again– unlike vaccinations, circumcision only can have a benefit when a person is of sexual maturity. Why not let a child, at ten or eleven or twelve, discuss the decision with a parent and make a choice about his own body? What is lost, besides the enforcement of the norm?Report

              • Avatar James says:

                I get pretty bored of circumcision advocates trying to tie it to something more benign. It’s a pretty curious tactical approach, really. If circumcision truly is so wonderful why not just talk about how great it is, rather than pretend its like a vaccination or splashing water on someone’s forehead?

                The tendency to get bogged down in comparatives (which to be fair, anti-circumcision activists often trigger with the whole FGM comparison thing, which is tactically unwise in the extreme) is a major bane this sort of discussion.

                As Freddie points out, this comparison is as vapid as it always is. I suppose if we’ve got to the stage where you need to stage a positive smear upon circumcision to justify it we have at least progressed from the “Circumcision just happens to all boys”, stage. At least nobody’s said it’s just like ear-piercing, yet.Report

              • Avatar Tony says:

                I know you’ve said you’re done with this, but I’ll post it anyway.

                I disagree that these are the correct questions, if only on semantics. But assuming they are, why is it apparently unreasonable to suggest that the answers to the anti-vaccine version and anti-circumcision version differ?

                With question one, doctors and scientists are wrong, there are distinct arguments in challenging their conclusion that circumcision reduces the risk of f-to-m HIV transmission and their conclusion that we should use the results studies conducted on adult volunteers in sub Saharan Africa to justify circumcising infant males in America. I think the former is likely shaky for various reasons, but I have no problem conceding that their results are 100% accurate. Adult male circumcision reduces the risk of f-to-m HIV transmission. So? Imposing those findings on infant males is unacceptable, ethically, medically and economically.

                Ethically: Do no harm. Circumcision is surgery, which is harm to the body. We generally seek to achieve a goal that outweighs the harm. Perhaps circumcision does that. But the evaluation is subjective when the patient is healthy because the benefits qualify only as potential. For an adult, this is irrelevant to public policy. He is presumably competent to make his own decisions. I know of no one suggesting that he shouldn’t retain this option. But circumcision of children is decided by proxy. Such consent demands a standard more than potential benefits (or cultural/religious preferences of the parents) for healthy children.

                Medically: Again, the patient is healthy. No intervention is indicated or needed. Since the patient is a child, it is not justifiable.

                This is slightly more complicated when factoring the rationale of vaccinations, but there is a difference between infection from being in public to acquiring a sexually-transmitted disease. We can’t pretend that disease risk alone is the endpoint of consideration. The threat is different. And for most children, vaccines won’t alter their experience of their normal body.

                Economically: If circumcision is such a wonderful panacea against HIV, we’re wasting resources by circumcising those who won’t be sexually active for years rather than offering it to those who are sexually active now. Resources are finite. The only reason to perform it on children for HIV risk reduction is to eliminate the possibility they’ll say “no.”

                The answer to question two is “Nonsense” for vaccinations and “Absolutely” for circumcision.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              Ultimately, this is a risk/reward evaluation. Scientists who study the risks and rewards in great depth have decided that the rewards outweigh the risks.

              They have yet to explain why this decision can not be taken by the owner of the body, given that the conditions they claim they are aiming to eliminate via these means are not ones which trouble infants or children (i.e.: a sexually transmitted condition).

              The arguments against circumcision remind me of nothing so much as the anti-vacc arguments. And, the risk/reward evaluation is very similar.

              Vaccinations never remove an erogenous zone.Report

            • Avatar Ian M. says:

              An empirical reality (occurrence of penis mutilation) cannot logically be conflated with a widely discredited study on mercury in vaccines. One is real and factual, one is false and discredited – they bear nothing in common. You are not confronting the fact that each year children are going to get their penis mutilated (clipped or amputated) in a procedure with very narrow and debatable benefits. My father had some recurrent health problems (infection) caused by his botched circumcision. This is also real – not false and discredited. Here is a conclusion from Alanis & Lucidi (Obstet & Gynec. Survey 59(5) 2004 379-395) – a paper cited by the CDC in their HIV trasmission fact sheet:
              “a true cost-benefit analysis would be very difficult to calculate and is beyond the scope of this review. In nonindustrialized nations that suffer from higher rates of disease that could be decreased by circumcision, the balance between risks and benefits could be in favor of the procedure.” (p. 390) This is pretty much what Freddie was getting at – the benefits are heavily stacked if you are not in the US. Digging into one of the papers cited in that review (Christakis, et al Pediatrics 2000 105, p. 246) we find that the penis injury rate is 0.04%. Pretty safe – only 1 in 2,500 circumcisions will result in penis injury. That doesn’t sound so great to me, but more pointedly scientists who study this in great depth have *not* decided the rewards outweigh the risks.Report

  11. Maybe someone already made this point or answered this question, but can someone tell me how many circumcisions are botched in a given year? What kind of % are we talking?Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      I’m sure the percentage is quite small. But, again– HIV and AIDS are very rare in America, and close to non-existent among the demographics who receive any protection at all from circumcision. Heterosexual spread of HIV is close to a myth; homosexual men receive no benefit from circumcision, as has been seen in all of the major studies on this issue. What sense does it make to surgically alter the bodies of one half of our population to prevent the spread of a disease the vast, vast majority of people are never going to encounter in the first place? The burden of proof is on the people who want to enforce an elective surgical procedure with very tenuous health improvements.

      But, as you’ve demonstrated above, you’re really just interested in enforcing centuries-old superstition.

      And, again– the number of appendectomies that result in negative health consequences are similarly minuscule. Why don’t you advocate routine appendectomy at birth?Report

    • Avatar Ian M. says:

      I just posted this in the reply above – 0.04% rate for all penis injury according to Christakis et al. Pediatrics 2000, 105 p. 246. That’s 56 out of 130475 (1 in 2330) – they also note this is a conservative estimate. Most were penile injury or suture laceration, only one case was a penis reconstruction. Note these are circumcisions done in a hospital – not a private ritual setting which has a higher rate of complication.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        The problematic word here, Mike, is “Botched”. We’ll leave out the fact that a reduction of erogenous zones & a penile wound are problems in themselves just for avoidance of contention, although its worth bearing in mind that neither the removal of sexually sensitive tissue or leaving an open wound on the end of a penis which is generally contained by a diaper is very news. That’s something to bear in mind in what follows, but that in itself isn’t my point.

        Those aside, the most common problem to arise from an infant circumcision is meatal stenosis (also known as urethral stricture). This is a complication of a circumcision, not the outcome of the procedure going awry. It isn’t what happens when some incompetent or distracted doctor gets things wrong. It’s just something that happens.

        So what is it? Stenosis basically means a narrowing, in this case the narrowing of the urethra so that urine can’t pass through. How common is it? Studies vary from 1% to 11%, but the common theme is this: uncircumcised boys barely ever get it, indeed may never get it at all. In the Van Howe study on the matter 0% of those with intact genitals suffered from it.

        What causes it? Well, remember those diapers? It’s a consequence of all that muck providing irritation. Additionally: the frenulum is meant to provide circulation to the glans tip, but this function is frequently impaired since the frenulur artery pretty often gets damaged. Makes sense when you consider that the frenulum is basically the bridge between the underside of the glans & the foreskin. You can’t conduct a circumcision without (at least slightly) damaging the frenulum. The same frenulum, btw, which is often described as the other male G-spot.

        So how do we deal with meatal stenosis? Apparently there’s a less invasive way based around gentle dilation, but I haven’t seen studies showing that that is entirely reliable. The usual way is a meatonomy. The Wikipedia description of this nasty bit of surgery is more evocative than any summary I can think of, so I’ll just quote it:

        “[Meatonomy is the surgical act in] which the meatus is crushed for 60 seconds with a straight mosquito hemostat and then divided with fine-tipped scissors.”

        Lovely. When painful penile surgery goes wrong, the only answer is further painful penile surgery.

        So how come this happens all the time & we haven’t stopped circumcising yet? An apparently tricky question, but deceptively so: meatal stenosis occurs at least a few months after the circumcision itself. Most parents don’t join the dots, many doctors aren’t going to tell them the root cause. I’m sure that there are plenty of people who had a boy, had him circumcised without his permission, noticed meatal stenosis, gave him a meatonomy & then had another boy & went through it all over again.

        & this from a procedure which is meant to improve public health.

        Perhaps this comment will help people appreciate why I long for the day that people will look back on the times when healthy infants were circumcised with as much confusion & horror as they do the times when doctors had no clue you were meant to wash your hands before surgery. I certainly hope that awareness of meatal stenosis can be spread a little further than it is at present.Report

        • Avatar James says:

          Final note: with uncircumcised boys, besides their frenular arteries not having been tampered with, the foreskin is fused to the glans. This prevents bacteria from accessing the glans & urethra. This protective function is at least effective enough to prevent them contracting meatal stenosis.

          Pleasure is not the sole function of the foreskin. I’m sick of it simply being assumed that we evolved a waste of resources.Report

        • It’s funny you mention that. I actually had meatal stenosis myself when I was an infant. It was corrected and all the plumbing works fine down there. And I’m happy to report no PTSD.

          To just make a broad point here, I have no problem with parents who elect NOT to have their kids circumcized. I also have no problem with people that do. I guess I’m pretty libertarian on the issue. I’m just not convinced that the people against the procdure are stating their real motivations.Report

          • Avatar Freddie says:

            So in other words, you are churning out dozens of quickly-rebutted comments merely because you want to allege people are arguing in bad faith. So tell me: what are our “real motivations,” exactly?Report

            • I think most of the folks who advocate for this issue do so because they thing they are missing something important. The truth is, you’re not.Report

              • Avatar Freddie says:

                Ah. So when your logical arguments have been repeatedly shredded, you turn instead to a weird, vague, non-falsifiable and unverifiable bit of mind-reading that seeks to turn a contentious issue on which you disagree into a matter of “that’s not what you really think.”

                Pretty pathetic!Report

          • Avatar James says:

            It’s funny you mention that. I actually had meatal stenosis myself when I was an infant. It was corrected and all the plumbing works fine down there. And I’m happy to report no PTSD.

            I never claimed that it caused PTSD. Can you appreciate my actual point about this being a fairly strange prophylactic measure, given that it causes a medical condition which requires further surgery?

            To just make a broad point here, I have no problem with parents who elect NOT to have their kids circumcized. I also have no problem with people that do. I guess I’m pretty libertarian on the issue.

            Personally I’m of the view that the correct choice is none at all: leave the subjective decision to the subject. I have yet to hear a firm case against that.

            I’m just not convinced that the people against the procdure are stating their real motivations.

            I could be motivated by a demon who lives in my earlobe whispering me secret commands that only I ever here, & still be entirely correct. I think that your approach constitutes an ad hominem, but I’ll humour you: I’m motivated by utilitarianism.

            Circumcision is a painful procedure which removes an erogenous zone. Circumcision also induces a condition which requires further painful surgery. I think it is self-evident why a utilitarian would not approve. I hope that that clears things up for you. 🙂Report

            • Avatar James says:

              I think most of the folks who advocate for this issue do so because they thing they are missing something important. The truth is, you’re not.

              If you wanted to know my preputial status, then you should simply have asked. I am in possession of a fully functioning prepuce, & can testify that it is an erogenous zone. I consider pleasure to be important.Report

      • Avatar Hugh7 says:

        Christakis et al. are very conservative: the only risks considered are the direct complications of surgery – and only some of those.

        They define complications very conservatively, including only those that are noticed before the baby leaves hospital or that lead to him being brought back to the same hospital or doctor. They don’t include aesthetic results so bad the parents take him back for more surgery. Nor do they include the ones the penises’ owners learn to live with, so the mother of a cut baby probably doesn’t get to see or attend to a significant proportion of uneven cuts, scarring etc.

        They do not cite two of the main studies of complications, those of William and Kapila or Patel.

        They define benefits very generously, using a lot of the work of Wiswell, rather than those who estimate the benefits more conservatively, such as To.

        They assign no intrinsic worth to having intact genitalia, or to not performing invasive surgery, or to having a choice.Report

  12. I’m not interested in ‘enforcing’ anything. I have an anthropology degree, so I tend to think about cultural norms first. You’re advocating changing a major one. I’m curious as to how you would do that.

    So there’s very few cases of complications yet still very vocal opposition. I think if we spent more time at it we could all think of various medical (and even non-medical) procedures that we do on kids that are geared towards a small % of risk. I can’t help but wonder if it all comes down to a perceived lack of sexual enjoyment for circumcision opponents. Call it foreskin envy if you will.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      You ignored my question. If the only reason to oppose preventative surgical procedures is the danger of side effects or surgical risks, why don’t you advocate routine appendectomy, an extremely safe procedure?Report

      • Well, if someone has problems with their appendix, usually they go to the hospital and have it removed. HIV isn’t something you can have removed. And STD transmission is also a ‘silent’ act in that the infected don’t even know they have it. My understanding of appendicitis is that if you have it, you know it. Plus appendix issues aren’t contagious.Report

        • Avatar Freddie says:

          You’re moving the goalposts; and again, people who have a reduced risk of infection from circumcision don’t get HIV in the developed world. Look at the numbers, please.

          I’ve yet to hear a single argument why this procedure can’t be done to a young adult, by the way.Report

    • Avatar E.D. Kain says:

      I think that we’ll actually just witness a drift from this in mainstream American culture. It will be a relatively organic drift and nothing much will be “done” to achieve it.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        lol, I used to spent quite a bit of time online with some people who felt differently. Perhaps they were wrong, but the intactivists were still a pretty dedicated bunch. Check out the organisation “Intact America” if you want to see them at work. Much respect for the people who can hack that kind of activism.Report

  13. So two guys of equal age and equal cultural circumstances, sexual activity, etc…one with foreskin and one without…have equal chances of getting HIV? That is your contention?

    Let me point this in another direction. The appendix example was intentionally extreme for obvious reasons. A better example would be moles. I’ll use myself to illustrate the point: I have red hair, very fair skin and about a million freckles. Once a year I go and get a checkup from my dermatologist. Every year she finds one or two moles that look suspicious. She gives me the option of removing them (and having a small scar) or keeping them and crossing my fingers. Every year I have them removed. I think I’m up to 20 or so at this point. Now I should also mention that I put on lots of sunscreen and wear hats, etc. And none of those moles have ever been malignant. I suppose any one of those wounds from mole removal could result in an infection, but I’m willing to endure that risk plus a little/lot of pain, stiches, etc for peace of mind. If i had suspicious moles when I was a kid and my doctor removed them…I would have been okay with that too.

    I still can’t help but think that this comes down to the sex angle. Otherwise, why the outrage? Kids get their tonsils removed for lousy reasons and tubes put in their ears all the time. Where’s the advocacy for them?Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      So two guys of equal age and equal cultural circumstances, sexual activity, etc…one with foreskin and one without…have equal chances of getting HIV? That is your contention?

      If they are homosexual, then it’s not my contention, it’s the contention of every one of these studies, which clearly, you have not read. If they are heterosexual and live outside of sub-Saharan Africa, their chances are effectively zero, and again, that is not me talking, but rather the statistics compiled by the medical community of the world. I keep telling you that, and you keep ignoring it. But it’s true.Report

  14. So two homosexuals, one with foreskin and one without, DO have differing chances of contracting HIV?

    And I’ll ask you (again): How are you going to overcome the cultural hurdles to ending widespread circumcision? And where is the advocacy for tonsil removal?Report

    • Avatar James says:

      So two homosexuals, one with foreskin and one without, DO have differing chances of contracting HIV?

      There’s no evidence of that, no.

      And I’ll ask you (again): How are you going to overcome the cultural hurdles to ending widespread circumcision?

      Arguing.

      So far, there’s been a decline from 80-90% of infants circumcised, to c.50% of infant circumcised. There’s many reasons for that, but I’d say part of it was the work of the anti-circumcision movement.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      So two homosexuals, one with foreskin and one without, DO have differing chances of contracting HIV?

      Huh? No. Dude, seriously… are you even reading? I have said, again and again, that every study done has demonstrated that there is NO difference in risk of infection between circumcised and non-circumcised homosexuals. Like I just said in the previous comment.

      And I’ll ask you (again): How are you going to overcome the cultural hurdles to ending widespread circumcision

      I already answered! The same way we change any cultural hurdles. We are rapidly changing norms about homosexuality, which are far more vigorously enforced. That just isn’t a serious question. We work at it. Same as anything.

      And where is the advocacy for tonsil removal?

      I’m opposed to tonsil removal that isn’t medically beneficent as well. Luckily, we don’t have routine tonsil removal at infancy. That’s not germane.Report

      • And neither was the appendix example….yet you still cited it?Report

        • Avatar Freddie says:

          Sorry– tonsils aren’t germane for your point, because as with appendectomy, they are not recommended as preventative medicine for all infants. See? The point is the fundamentally odd notion of preventative surgery. Tonsil removal and appendectomy are both extremely safe, routine surgeries. Yet no one proposes them for all infants at birth. Why should circumcision be any different– especially in light of the fact that circumcision does not actually cure a disorder, as tonsillectomy and appendectomy do, and because the risks of tonsillitis and appendicitis are far more likely than those of HIV.

          I’m sorry, but you have chosen to pursue a line of argument that is barren, and you are sticking with it out of a desire to not lose. But there’s no content here.Report

    • Avatar Brant31 says:

      OK, seeing as how you’re a trained anthropologist with a sincere interest in thie question, I’ll take on the challenge of how to change a cultural practice like circumcision in the United States.

      It’s actually pretty easy. Circumcision is not a cultural practice in the US, though it is convenient for many commentators to frame it as such. Both Canadians and Australians for decades insisted that infant circumcision was an inextricable part of their cultural identity, then dropped it like a hot potato when funding dried up with single-payer health. Ditto the UK, where even more curiously it was wealthy English paying for it out of their own pocket the first half of the 20th century (which is why circ never really got above 30% or so there, and never spread beyond England to Scotland and Wales) but even they abandoned infant circumcision with the advent of the National Health Service in 1948. The reason is pretty simple: circ uses resources (time and money) and simply does not improve health outcomes. Period.

      Here in the US, we have a situation where circumcision has its own little carved-out financial niche, being paid for automatically by 34 states via Medicaid and just about all private health plans. The reasons it got so ingrained are another story, but the fact is that payment for it became so automatic after WWII that a whole industry sprang up around it. Remove this financial “protection” or “incentive”, move it to a neutral state, and you’ll see just how fast Americans are not wedded to this “cultural” practice. If funding dried up overnight, I reckon the rate would drop to under 20% overnight, cultural claims or no cultural claims. It’s artificially propped up here.

      Where it gets problematic is with the recent proposals of the CDC and AAP to prop it up even further. With the recommendations of 2 health organizations behind infant circumcision (which sensibly none do today), it will be much more difficult for paying organizations to drop the coverage and truly leave the decision to parents, as will every other cosmetic procedure. And make no mistake, infant circumcision is a cosmetic procedure.

      I’m not advocating asking parents to decide. They should no more have to decide whether their son keeps his healthy genitals intact than how many of his 10 fingers he should be allowed to keep. But the choice today is far from neutral, and abundant evidence from other similar countries (UK, Canada, Australia, New Zealand) suggests that what we presently think of as a culturally-driven practice is in fact an economically-driven practice. Those other countries got the same or better health outcomes and collectively save about one billion dollars a year in healthcare costs. Seems pretty obvious.Report

  15. So then back to my example of mole removal… is that an unneccessary procedure that should be stomped out?Report

    • Avatar James says:

      Isn’t this sort of off topic?Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      First of all, when you misrepresent someone’s opinion, you really don’t do yourself any favors. I’m not advocating “stomping out” circumcision. I’m pointing out that there is nothing approaching a compelling medical interest in America for recommending routine circumcision, due to the nature of the disease, the fact that it’s incredibly rare in our community, and the facts of who, according to the medical science available, actually receives a benefit from circumcision.

      When a doctor identifies a potentially malignant mole and advises you to remove it, it’s because he or she believes there is a high chance of you developing a malignancy. Your average infant has a vanishingly small chance of both receiving a benefit to rate of infection and being exposed to the virus. Like you said, it’s risk/reward. The risk is absolutely miniscule for men who don’t have sex with other men in developed countries. The risk of an abnormal growth becoming cancerous is far, far higher.Report

      • Well so far I’m 0 for 20 on malignant moles. I’d say that makes the risk pretty small. Should I keep at it?Report

        • Avatar Freddie says:

          Yes, your anecdotal evidence utilizing yourself and no one else is of equal value to the epidemiological data the CDC has compiled on the risks of HIV infection among non-intravenous drug using heterosexuals and the risks of cancerous growths of unusual growths.

          Look, man, I argue a lot. I win a lot, lose some. It is truly rare that I argue for someone at this length where I so easily refute so many of that person’s arguments as I am here. Every one of your objections has been built on faulty reasoning, misrepresentation of my position, flat ignorance of the content of the actual studies in question, and a general dedication merely to prolonging the argument. I understand it sucks to be beaten. But you’re beaten.Report

          • You know Freddie – I understand that you are the resident asshole at the League. That’s the role you play and you’re good at it. I’m tempted to say it’s a liberal thing, but that’s insulting to respectable liberals. For whatever reason (boredom, I suppose) I got into this stupid conversation about a subject I care nothing about. Yes, i made some poor points at various times…but nothing that justifies the way you talk not just to me, but to other commentors. If you want to claim victory (i wasn’t aware the League was about winners and losers) be my guest. It’s not important to me. I’ll make a point to avoid addressing my comments to you in the future.Report

            • Avatar Freddie says:

              I’m a person who believes that you should argue in the understanding that your arguments will be given a full, critical evaluation by the people who disagree with you. I’ve done that, over and over again, and you continue to pursue the argument. My question to you is, if you aren’t interested in winning and losing, why do you persist long after the arguments you’ve offered have been rebutted? My suspicion, actually, is that you care about winning and losing very much.Report

            • Avatar James says:

              You know Mike, I might have taken exception to you deciding for me whether parts of my body are important to me or not, but I didn’t. I know that you’re just ignorant & meant no harm. You should extend the same tolerance to Freddie (although he is most certainly not ignorant).Report

    • Avatar Tony says:

      Mike,

      I know you’ve bowed out, but I actually think there’s validity in your mole removal question. I’d like to address it.

      I don’t think it’s an unnecessary procedure. As a fair-skinned, freckled, red-head myself, I’m aware of the concern. I’ve already had one malignant skin cancer, so it’s certainly not something I’m willing to dismiss. But I don’t think the question is directly analogous to circumcision. The foreskin has specific anatomical functions. It is a normal part of the body. A new growth on the body is abnormal. I’d be hesitant to leave one on myself, and I’d be no less concerned if a child of mine had the same situation. I’d probably have them removed. That involves subjective analysis, but the abnormality distinguishes the decision from circumcision.

      For example, infant circumcision is a more complicated issue when the child has hypospadias. Circumcision is often delayed until the foreskin can be used to correct the abnormality. I’m not sure how I’d handle that situation, but there, proxy consent makes sense.

      Let me introduce another scenario: Suppose a mole appears on a child’s face. Removing it will leave a scar. What’s the analysis there for proxy consent?

      To be clear, I’m not trying to establish a gotcha. I don’t want to convey that proxy decisions are easy or objective, on average. But I am stating that the decision on whether or not to remove a child’s healthy foreskin is easy and objective.

      Another scenario: Is it an objective consideration in proxy consent to remove a child’s healthy foreskin because his father chose circumcision to cure his own phimosis?Report

  16. Avatar James says:

    Hanna responds to her critics here:

    http://andrewsullivan.theatlantic.com/the_daily_dish/2009/08/foreskins-lament.html

    Again, she tries to depict it as an emotional issue, confusingly shortly after brushing off quantitative data relating to sensitivity. Her comparison of circumcision to abandonment of your child or feeding them drugs is, I suppose, something to be admired.

    The only vague response I can see to Freddie is here:

    “It depends, I suppose, whether you consider HIV and STD’s a widespread public health crisis, or something affecting only a very few.” Which rather misses his point that the few affected are those not helped by circumcision, but then perhaps she just hasn’t read his post. She then says: “I could get into the specifics of the research here, but I won’t”, which is a pity. Finally: if she thinks that all circumcision entail merely “minor pain”, then she’s strikingly ignorant.

    She does at least, I suppose, seem a little chastened. I was hoping for a full-force smack down by Andrew himself, though. I guess I’m an optimist.Report

  17. Avatar Freddie says:

    While I remain convinced about the opinions that I’ve been giving here, I believe Mike was right that I was being an asshole about it. Sorry for that, Mike.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      I think that circumcision is quite a lot like eating marmalade.Report

    • Actually Freddie – it’s me that should apologize. After taking a couple of hours to cool off it occurs to me that you are completely correct. I was arguing for the sake of arguing. An old habit from my chatboard days I thought I had mostly broken.

      The truth is this is just an issue I have no interest in and even less of an opinion about (educated or otherwise). The fate of my own equipment was decided 34 years ago and I have two daughters. This is the exact reason I stopped talking about any random issue that poped into my head on my own blog because ultimately I end up sounding, as James put it, ignorant. And one has to question my own sanity in spending 2-3 hours of my day arguing about foreskin.

      I’ll stick to topics I understand a little better in the future. If you post anything on urban/rural planning I promise I’ll have more to offer.Report

  18. Avatar Joseph FM says:

    I was circumcised the old fashioned way, so I feel kind of out of place in this debate, though I should note that it’s Jewish tradition to oppose circumcision for nonreligious reasons.Report

    • Avatar James says:

      I doubt it was the really old fashioned way. As I understand it the millah is an innovation dating back merely to the era of the Ancient Greeks, being a reactionary response to Hellenization. The original Hebrew circumcisions left leeway for epispasms, or reversions/concealment of the ceremony’s aftermath. This became popular amongst those attempting to assimilate into prepuce-loving Greek culture (which found a bare glans vulgar). So to evade that (& the integration which it symbolised/aided) they required something more thorough. So they took to the removal of all the mucosal tissue. This was, incidentally, the most erogenous tissue on the male body. (A long fucking time later, when Moses Maimonides tried to justify the practice, he stated: “one of the reasons for it is, in my opinion, the wish to bring about a decrease in sexual intercourse and a weakening of the organ in question, so that this activity be diminished and the organ be in as quiet a state as possible.” This reasoning for performing it has declined in popularity, most likely due to the rise of utilitarianism. Now advocates deny this outcome entirely.)

      Old school means less loss, it would seem. I recall reading some suggestions that in its earlier incarnations circumcision literally just mean a cut around, no removal of tissue.

      (On a semi-related note: isn’t one of the most beguiling counter-factuals there is to ponder what would have happened had the Hellenizing Hebrews won?)Report

  19. Avatar James says:

    Here’s some more Maimonides:

    http://www.cirp.org/library/cultural/maimonides/

    My favourites:

    “The perfection and perpetuation of this Law can only be achieved if circumcision is performed in childhood. For this there are three wise reasons. The first is that if the child were let alone until he grew up, he would sometimes not perform it.… The third is that the parents of a child that is just born take lightly matters concerning it, for up to that time the imaginative form that compels the parents to love it is not yet consolidated. For this imaginative form increases through habitual contact and grows with the growth of the child. Then it begins to decrease and to disappear, I refer to this imaginative form. For the love of the father and of the mother for the child when it has just been born is not like their love for it when it is one year old, and their love for it when it is one year old is not like their love when it is six years old. Consequently if it were left uncircumcised for two or three years, this would necessitate the abandonment of circumcision because of the father’s love and affection for it. At the time of its birth, on the other hand, this imaginative form is very weak, especially as far as concerns the father upon whom this commandment is imposed.”

    Emphasis added. Pretty much like Freddie said, basically. Afraid to wait because he’s afraid they would say “No”.

    More talk of the need to prevent excessive enjoyment:

    “…sexual intercourse should neither be excessively indulged, as we have mentioned, nor wholly abolished. Did He not command and say: Be fruitful and multiply? Accordingly this organ is weakened by means of circumcision, but not extirpated through excision. What is natural is left according to nature, but measures are taken against excess. He that is wounded in the stones or hath his privy member cut off is forbidden to marry a woman of Israel, for such cohabitation would be perverted and aimless. Such a marriage would likewise be a stumbling block for the woman and for him who seeks her out. This is very clear.”Report

  20. Avatar Joe says:

    One thing I didn’t see mentioned here is the risk of exposure for a heterosexual man. The Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations released a fact sheet in February 2009 which noted that: “An Australian-born man is estimated to have a 0.02% (0.0002) risk of HIV acquisition if he does not inject drugs or have sex with men. This very low risk means that the population health benefit of an intervention like generalised circumcision programs would be negligible.”

    The risk in the US is going to be very similar, I would guess a bit higher but not much. So if we are looking at a lifetime risk on the order of a few hundredths of a percent the difference circumcision would make is clearly trivial. This is why when WHO made recommendations on Africa with regard to circumcision they also noted that these recommendations, this strategy, is aimed at countries with high prevalence, and not at countries with low prevalence or in countries where it relates specifically to one part of the population. Several other HIV/AIDS organizations have made similar statements regarding the utility (or rather lack thereof) of circumcision in the context of Western HIV epidemics. The CDC is really going overboard for reasons that are not entirely clear.Report

  21. Avatar Alex says:

    “Circumcision is still a surgical procedure; it’s permanently altering to those with no capacity to choose or ability to prevent the surgery” -Freddie
    “I don’t think a fetus has human rights” –Freddie

    So a helpless fetus shouldn’t have rights to prevent it’s demise, BUT HANDS OFF A HELPLESS BABY!! I know you can probably explain this away with some sort of “only at birth do we gain rights” argument or some such, but the idea that we’re violating some sort of patient right to self-preservation by circumcising a little infant seems ludicrous if you are pro-choice, where you aren’t just snipping the weenie…you’re snipping the cord.Report

    • Avatar Freddie says:

      Rare that someone writes a comment that torpedoes itself in the middle. Indeed, as I have explained many times, I believe we gain human rights at birth. As such, your complaint has no content. And you said so yourself!Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Eh. I can see the argument that the circumcision violates the rights of the baby. “Let the kid make the decision to take it off himself when he hits whatever age!” is one I can get behind.

      I’d more freak out at the idea that people should have the power to prevent other parents from making that decision for their children in accordance with their millenias-old cultural tradition. I’m not sure that that’s a good precedent to be setting, necessarily. You might be surprised to find what other people consider to be rights. You might be surprised to find what other people consider to be infringments upon the public sphere.Report

      • Avatar Freddie says:

        I’m not opposed to the rights of parents to have their children circumcised. I’m opposed to routine circumcision for medical reasons when those reasons are so ephemeral.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        Eh. I can see the argument that the circumcision violates the rights of the baby. “Let the kid make the decision to take it off himself when he hits whatever age!” is one I can get behind.

        I’d more freak out at the idea that people should have the power to prevent other parents from making that decision for their children in accordance with their millenias-old cultural tradition. I’m not sure that that’s a good precedent to be setting, necessarily. You might be surprised to find what other people consider to be rights. You might be surprised to find what other people consider to be infringments upon the public sphere.

        I do actually have a reply to this, but if I’ve learnt one thing from engaging in this debate in the past it’s to leave legality out of things. Ultimately there are two “pro-choice” arguments concerning circumcision: pro-personal choice & pro-parental choice. I’d opt for the protection of the former if I ever got in charge of the legislature/executive, but there are two obvious provisos to that:

        1) That’s never going to happen, is it?
        2) Any law a fantasy me would be next to unenforceable unless a massive cultural shift had happened anyway.

        So there’s not really a lot of point talking about it. In debates it always gets into a massive row over rights, usually staged by people who throw the word “MY” at each other with equal vigour & little outcome (body/son, delete as appropriate).

        The important thing is to work out whether circumcision is something which should be happening to infants. If everyone agreed with the argument that “No”, it should not be, the whole legal argument would be self-explanatory. As it is, arguing over legislation is just a way of proxying the argument, not to mention hopelessly muddling & muddying things.Report

  22. Avatar Ian M. says:

    I will also note that “donated” foreskins are used to grow skin grafts. Given that physicians are paid a fee for procedures (the circumcision) and the procedure yields a very useful, precious commodity (human skin with a weak immune response) the economic and moral incentives for physicians to encourage circumcision should at least be mentioned. If you want to learn more type “donated foreskin” into Google Scholar.Report

  23. Avatar Jim says:

    “……strikes me as outside of the topic to point out to the person in question that he (or she) is a bad parent for making the decision that was made. There are cultural issues at stake, ….”

    To be consistent Jaybird, you’re going to have to defend foot-binding and FGM too. For that matter you are going to have to defend selective abortion of female fetuses if you think this argument holds any water.

    It’s a fair point to raise a question about abridging others’ cultural autonomy. It’s also a fair point to ask at what point do outsiders have a responsibility to intervene. Whic is it, do we expect outsiders to care about other people’s children’s welfare or not?

    Mike Big Stick:

    “I have an anthropology degree, so I tend to think about cultural norms first. You’re advocating changing a major one. I’m curious as to how you would do that. ”

    Sometimes it take as civil war to stamp out a major cultural norm, or massive intrusive federal legislation backed up by the threat of troop deployments on US soil.

    “though I should note that it’s Jewish tradition to oppose circumcision for nonreligious reasons.’

    That’s an interesting point, Joseph. I think that is the principled position, if only for reasons of maintaining identity.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      So let’s go into Afghanistan and bomb the fuck out of the country until they finally treat women the way we know they ought. Maybe we can occupy to make sure the culture goes the way we know it should.

      See? It’s not that I’m “defending foot binding” or the burkha or whatever… it’s that I’ve come to realize that our attempts to change stuff, through *ANYTHING* but temptation (rock and roll, translations of stuff like Catcher in the Rye, The Dating Game) will result in us fucking it up. No matter how well-intentioned. No matter how much we know in our hearts that girls ought to be able to learn to read, there is no real way for us to change things without a bloodbath… and, let’s face it, it’ll revert back to the way it was (or very close) when we leave. And the difference between “the way it was” and “(or very close)” is not likely to be worth the blood spilled.

      God help me. I think I’m becoming a pacifist.Report

      • Avatar James says:

        As hard as this may be for you to accept, I’m not arguing that Britain re-colonise America.Report

        • Avatar Jaybird says:

          I do not have kids. My bride and I are living a child-free lifestyle. That’s the background for this next part.

          I am trying to imagine someone giving me unsolicited advice on how to raise my child (with an undercurrent of “you’re doing it wrong”).

          The essay begins with “My jaw sets.” The paragraph goes downhill from there. The one that follows is even worse… even if I do research and come to the same conclusion that you did.

          Do you see what I mean?Report

          • Avatar Hugh7 says:

            That’s what Mike means about a cultural norm. Now imagine you’re 19th century Chinese, about to bind your daughter’s feet – or a polygamist sect leader about to marry your 15th 12-year old… Would you feel any different?Report

            • Avatar Jaybird says:

              Now imagine that a round-eyed foreigner comes up to you and starts yelling that you are being exceptionally cruel and you need to respect your daughter as a human being with rights.

              What is your response?

              “Oh, thank you mister white man! Thank you for sharing your delightful enlightenment with backwards old me!”?Report

              • Avatar Hugh7 says:

                Now you’re discussing tactics. I hope you agree that footbinding was an evil, and that it was extinguished. I don’t know if it happened through the 19th C. equivalent of blogs and websites. Do you know of any cases of someone who goes up to parents and yells at them about circumcision. (One man stands outside the Univesity of Chicago Hospital with a placard, because the circumcision rate there is the highest in the state. Is that offensive to you? If anything, people yell at him.)Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Everybody, *EVERYBODY*, has come to the conclusion that their culture is superior to that of others and, sure, one’s own culture has excesses and problems but compared to the sheer barbarity of other cultures, it’s not that big a deal.Report

              • Avatar James says:

                Strange, I have not. I th?nk that people should be allowed to dec?de how they want to l?ve the?r own l?ves, a ch?ef cho?ce be?ng what they do to the?r own bod?es.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird says:

                Or how they raise their children?Report

              • Avatar Hugh7 says:

                Cutting parts off children’s bodies is not part of “raising” them. Can you think of another (non-regrowing, healthy) part of a child it’s even legal to cut off? Do you accept that parents may not cut parts off children’s bodies in the context of punishment? And circumcision has been used as punishment – especially for masturbation.Report

              • Avatar james says:

                You are correct: with this issue you can be either pro-parental or pro-personal choice. I am pro-personal on the grounds that the parents are ignorant of what set of values the body the owner of the body they are presuming to preside over will possess in later life. They are not the subjects, thus should not make a subjective decision of this kind, which possesses the characteristic of permanance (if you didn’t like piano lessons as a child, you no longer have to play the piano).Report

  24. Avatar Mollie says:

    Boy, you’re not kidding about Hanna Rosin being unthoughtful. I didn’t know that about her till she started at the Dish (I’d read her at Slate, but I guess she just blended in with the other “X Factor” people), but it’s become apparent very quickly. For example, today’s item about the new Whole Foods in NYC and protests at same, which concludes: “My question about this news item is much more basic: The Upper West Side is not already gentrified?” Well, yes, that is the stereotype, and how clever of you to have noticed. But if I may answer your question: the “gentrification” hasn’t quite reached the blocks and blocks of housing projects — you know, the projects right near this new Whole Foods. Those are still keepin’ it real.Report

  25. You go, Freddie! Glad to see some writing something that makes sense.

    This whole “let’s circumcise them when they are a baby because they can’t stop us” is nothing but BS that people like Hannah Rosin obviously do not understand.

    Let the adult man decide if he wishes to have a portion of his sex organ removed by circumcision. If the man is smart, he will wear a condom when having at-risk sex with his foreskin.

    Having non-medically required surgery on an infant is a violation of that infant’s human rights and bodily integrity. It is illegal to perform non-medically required genital surgery on infant girls in the US. Why is there a double standard that allows genital surgery on baby boys?

    Many men are finding out that they miss their foreskin. They, like myself, are restoring their foreskin to regain what was taken from us at birth. See http://www.RestoringForeskin.org to read accounts of men who wish they had never been circumcised and are doing something about it.Report

  26. Avatar Jim says:

    “So let’s go into Afghanistan and bomb the fuck out of the country until they finally treat women the way we know they ought. Maybe we can occupy to make sure the culture goes the way we know it should.”

    That’s an analogy that proves my point, because it is completely inverted from the situation we are discussing. We are NOT talking about going to some other and distant country, we are talking about events happening in our very own country, and to defenseless children. We either decide that we have a common obligation to the children in our society or we do not. It is really that simple.

    “I am trying to imagine someone giving me unsolicited advice on how to raise my child (with an undercurrent of “you’re doing it wrong”).”

    So try these on for size:

    Your neighbor flies a white power flag from his porch and his children talk about how “ZOG” is getting the “n*ggers” to destroy the white race.

    Your neighbor has a daughter, you think, but you almost never see her and the few times you do, she is covered head to toe in a balck tent.

    You hear screams and other alarming sounds, especially at odd times, from a house nearby. this really is your business, because you and everyone else will be living with these kids in the community for years to come

    Etc. There are lots of times when we are all doing the right thing by stepping in on parents. Children are the responsibility, not the property, of their parents.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      “we are talking about events happening in our very own country, and to defenseless children.”

      In “our very own country” does not give me the right to tell you how to raise your children. I do not have the right to make sure that your children hear the message of Jesus. I do not have the right to save their souls. I do not have the right to interfere with your endangering them for all eternity.

      “There are lots of times when we are all doing the right thing by stepping in on parents. Children are the responsibility, not the property, of their parents.”

      Which entails, what? Exactly? Waco?

      Or you’re not talking about stuff like Waco but about going up to strangers in the grocery store and telling them that spanking their kids is the equivalent of putting out cigarettes in their forearms?

      Just calling the cops and being secure in the knowledge that “the authorities” are taking care of it?Report

    • Avatar Hugh7 says:

      Or how about, your neighbour seems to have a second back yard ….Report

  27. Avatar Jim says:

    “In “our very own country” does not give me the right to tell you how to raise your children. ”

    Strawman much? This has nothing whatsoever about child-raising and everything to do with cutting parts off of them.

    There is exactly zero difference between cutting a boy’s penis and binding a girl’s feet for cultural rerasosn, other than the fact that bound feet are marginally more easily restored. The cultural defense is bogus. Culture is not sacred and is not an excuse for barbarism.

    The rest of your argument is false too. If I see that someone is raising their kid to be a neo-Nazi I have every right to tell that kid that her parents are full of shit and she is too if she believes any of that.

    Because this is a false analogy, again:

    “I do not have the right to interfere with your endangering them for all eternity.”

    We are not talking about eternity, are we; we are talking about indoctrination that can easily lead to behavior actually harmful to an actually existing community.

    And we legislate how people can raise their kids all the time. We don’t allow kids to be maried off at age 12, much to the anguish of some. We don’t allow forced marriages, intrusive and insensitive to some people’s cultural traditions as that is. Tough shit. At least go to some other country to your filth in.Report

    • Avatar Jaybird says:

      Yep. “We’re right, they’re wrong.”

      Would you say that we did a good thing by going into Afghanistan and overthrowing the Taliban? A good thing by going into Iraq and overthrowing the Baathists? Are you upset that we haven’t gone into China and freed Tibet yet? Or freed Somalia? Zimbabwe? Sudan?

      Are you still sitting in your chair when there are children (CHILDREN!) who could be saved?Report

  28. Avatar dev says:

    America’s unprogressive nature has reached it’s peak. I am glad they have decided to mutilate themselves comparing themselves to backward african states.

    Europeans and asians will always surpass this young immature nation in these matters, why? Because they’re not stupid enough to cut off a part of their body instead of cleaning it.Report