German Circumcision Ruling

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Jason Kuznicki

Jason Kuznicki is a research fellow at the Cato Institute and contributor of Cato Unbound. He's on twitter as JasonKuznicki. His interests include political theory and history.

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  1. Avatar Ethan Gach
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    “Now suppose that it wasn’t some funky new-age religion that did the toe cutting. It’s one of the great and ancient religions of the world, the origin of vast amounts of subsequent theology, philosophy, law, art, and literature. Without this religion, neither you, nor I, nor anyone we know would be at all the same. This religion has enriched and enlightened the entire world. And they cut a toe from every defenseless newborn girl among them.”

    Doesn’t an example like this simply force us to ask if the procedure/ritual in question is necessary; essential to the religion itself and the good things that come from it?

    What good could possibly come from/or be necessarily attached to, forcing sacrifice on someone who is unable to make it willingly?

    On a side note, my mother worked in the maternity ward (she is a nurse) for some time, and was of the opinion that if more people did, and saw the baby screaming, they would not be so blithe about it.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Ethan Gach
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      The example suggests that if a religion of this type could keep the ritual, then maybe it’s not as bad as all that. And if it were harmful, we should expect to see the harm among them. So why have they endured through all of their remarkably difficult history?Report

      • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Hmmm, perhaps I’m just not seeing the connection.

        What does this mean exactly “And if it were harmful, we should expect to see the harm among them. “Report

      • Avatar Fnord in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        If you actually believe that the long standing practice is evidence that it’s “not as bad as all that”, why “ask people not of the faith to decline to imitate them”?

        I can see the conservative argument that a blanket ban could have unintended, negative side effects (attempts to circumvent the law covertly leading to unsafe procedures is an example that springs to mind). But that doesn’t seem to be the argument you’re making.Report

        • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Fnord
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          The Masked Mohel, the Black Market Bris.

          I was joking, of course, but with one quick google, we see once again reality outstrips any attempt to mock it.

          http://www.tabletmag.com/scroll/69224/when-anti-circumcision-turns-anti-semiticReport

          • Avatar Fnord in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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            It’s funny you should bring up that cartoon, since it’s a bigoted depiction of legal circumcision, not hypothetical illegal circumcision. It’s almost as if you’d rather cry “Antisemitism” than actually engage an argument.Report

            • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Fnord
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              Pls don’t get personal, Mr. Fnord, if you’re able. I was riffing on the Masked Mohel, not arguing the point in particular. Fortunately in the US, we still have a freedom of exercise for religion, and with only grave exceptions, children are wards of their parents, not the state.

              The state has a compelling interest in the lives of children, but not in their foreskins and should butt out.Report

              • Avatar Mark Lyndon in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Doesn’t one person’s freedom of religion stop at cutting off parts of someone else’s genitals though? You can’t cut any healthy normal living tissue off a daughter even if you think it’s your religious duty, so why doesn’t the same apply to sons?Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Mark Lyndon
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                Not phrased fairly. “Someone else” is not synonymous with “my son.”

                I do admit that female circumcision complicates the issue tremendously, as we in the West pretty unanimously see it as nothing short of mutilation. That the West has a 3000 year custom of male circumcision is not without meaning or relevance, however.

                These conversations get abstract and untethered from reality in a hurry, as if all x’s are equal to all y’s.

                Muslim female circumcision imported into the West isn’t the same as male circumcision with a 3000-yr history in the West. Neither is America’s First Amendment equal to whatever rubric the German court is using to abolish female circumcision.

                All x’s do not equal all y’s.

                A similar discussion is the Netherlands, and perhaps more of Europe to follow, abolishing kosher/halal slaughter under the rubric of animal rights. I think that wouldn’t fly here under our First Amendment, but it’s something to think about.Report

              • Avatar Stillwater in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                The state has a compelling interest in the lives of children, but not in their foreskins and should butt out.

                This is precisely where slippery slopes are most appropriate. The supposition is that foreskins of children are a compelling interest of parents. How does that argument go again? Since the child cannot make decisions for him/herself the parents have a legal and moral responsibility to make those decisions for him/her? How does a religious belief held only by the parents (not the child) entitle them to carve off parts of the child’s body?

                Suppose that a religious ritual required amputation of the arm below the elbow. Would preventing that ritual practice be a compelling interest of the state? If not, who is it a compelling interest of – beyond the religious adherents, that is, one of which isn’t the child in being amputated upon?

                Also, as a side note, I see the inexorable creep of utilitarianism in your thinking evidenced by this argument as well Tom. The initial claim amounted to an assertion that foreskin is pretty low on the list of harmful practices, and as such, it’s just not a big enough deal to justify the state attempting to restrict religious practices.Report

              • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to Stillwater
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                Why utilitarian, Mr. Still? The foreskin is under the radar is all I’m saying, that it doesn’t meet the threshold of the state having a “compelling interest.”

                The whole penis, certainly. Were I forced to abstract and analogize this issue—and I don’t think that every facet of human life or limb can be analogized—I’d compare the clitoris not to the foreskin but the penis, and that the state has a compelling interest in banning cutting it off.

                This is the second time in 2 days you’ve tarred me with the “utilitarian” brush. I don’t think it’s held either time, but it wouldn’t be a crime against principle if it did. “Philosophy” is love of wisdom and no small part of wisdom is prudence. A sense of proportion, don’t sweat the small stuff.

                Lady Justice holds a scale, not a sledgehammer.Report

              • Avatar Murali in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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                Lady Justice holds a scale, not a sledgehammer

                Though the front of a court house would look pretty awesome if she didReport

          • Avatar Mark Lyndon in reply to Tom Van Dyke
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            Matthew Hess is one person and does not represent all intactivists. He says that the imagery of the mohel was based on a real person. Intactivists (Jewish and otherwise) pointed out that Monster Mohel wasn’t a good idea, but taken in context with others in the series like Dr Mutilator, Githinji, and Ghinjo, it’s not that out of place. The creator was trying to get attention, and it’s a comic strip for crying out loud, where characters are typically larger than life. It was dumb to make the baby blonde, but at the end of the day, Foreskin Man is “saving” (depending on your point of view) a Jewish baby, so it’s hardly anti-Semitic.

            I really really wish the Monster Mohel character hadn’t been created, but that doesn’t alter the fact that cutting parts off children’s genitals is wrong.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Ethan Gach
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      We actually made the formal decision the other day not to circumcise. We’d talked about it before and neither of us was particularly in favor of it, but she performed three circs over the course of a morning and that was what made her much more adamant about it. Which was fine with me, as I have no strong preference and already had a weak preference against.Report

      • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Will Truman
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        I’m glad all my kids are girls. At the time they were born, had they been boys I think we would have circumcised them without giving it lots of thoughts. Now, having given it lots of thoughts, I would not circumcise, and I’d be very remorseful that I had.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
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          We circumcised my boy for what seemed like good reasons at the time (so he’d look like Dad; we’d seen some preliminary evidence, since contested, that it might provide some protection against HIV and other STDs; general ease of hygiene; custom).

          Plus, you know, I’d always enjoyed mine the way it was; some might say to a fault.

          I wonder now if we did the right thing, and I hope he isn’t bitter when he’s older. Strange to still be a fairly young parent and already forming my possible regrets.Report

          • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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            Now I feel bad about making you feel bad…Report

            • Avatar Glyph in reply to James Hanley
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              Man, James, first the South, and now this.

              It’s like I hear clanking, coupled with a repetitive, slapping sound, behind me everywhere I go…like a basketball-dribbling robot made of pistons or something.

              In all seriousness, you didn’t make me feel bad here. Will I feel bad in the future if my son is upset that he had no choice, or feels a loss? Yeah, I will. Will I feel bad if it turns out we left him more, rather than less, susceptible to STDs, or if he experiences some other sort of medical issue that could plausibly be related to circumcision as an infant? Most definitely.

              But in the here and now, the other commenters have left it well enough alone, and for right now at least, I feel like we did the best we could with the info we had at the time.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman in reply to James Hanley
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          James, my mind was changed only somewhat recently and due to a lot of surfing. Circumcision is exactly the sort of thing I would otherwise do by default. And honestly, if I’d had a wife that thought it was the good and proper thing to do, I would likely go along. Instead I have a wife that actually performs them and gets to hear the babies cry with regularity (and who, several years ago, saw one botched).Report

      • Avatar Matty in reply to Will Truman
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        We actually made the formal decision the other day not to circumcise.

        Am I alone in finding it odd that this almost assumes circumcision is the default? I don’t think it would occur to any non-Jewish or Muslim people I know to do that to their sons.Report

        • Avatar Glyph in reply to Matty
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          Don’t know how common it is elsewhere, but for the line of Southern Baptists that I came from, it musta been the default. Whether that’s more due to the ‘Southern’ or the ‘Baptist’ I have no idea.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matty
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          What country do you live in, Matty? It has been the default in the United States since the middle of the twentieth century.

          That’s changed considerably in the last few years, however, and now it’s much more of an open question, I think.Report

          • Avatar Matty in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            I’m in the UK and to answer Nat as well, I’ve never heard of it being common let alone default but it isn’t like I’ve checked carefully. There are a limited number of circumstances where you can examine the genitals of a statistically meaningful share of the population.

            For the record every part of me is as God made it, or at least that’s the excuse I use.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Matty
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              It hasn’t been the norm in the UK for quite a while, but in the late nineteenth century, it was popular among the upper class, and in the early twentieth, among the middle.Report

        • Avatar Nat in reply to Matty
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          I thought the procedure was nearly universal in North America and the UK for a few generations, before beginning to subside. I know for a fact that it’s become a practically non-existent practice in my province, outside of religious reasons.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Matty
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          Are you in the US? Circumcision was almost universal in the mainstream here for a long while. The practice is much reduced now, at least in coastal metropolitan areas. Very different from anywhere in Europe where only Muslims and Jews circumcise their sons.Report

        • Avatar Simon K in reply to Matty
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          I don’t think it was as common in the UK as the US. The only circumcised kids I knew growing up were Jewish.Report

    • Avatar M.A. in reply to Ethan Gach
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      Doesn’t an example like this simply force us to ask if the procedure/ritual in question is necessary; essential to the religion itself and the good things that come from it?

      Especially when the general reason for the practice was pretty much to make sure they could tell the Jews apart from the Romans (Babylonians? Egyptians? Other tribes?) in the local bath house.Report

      • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to M.A.
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        Circumcision long predates the Jews’ contact with the Romans. The Egyptians themselves practiced it, as attested in Herodotus and ancient tomb art. This may actually be the source of the practice, although the evidence is somewhat contested as to whether the ancestors of today’s Jews ever lived in Egypt at all. I’m unsure about the Babylonians.

        So anyway, can I get a source on this?Report

        • Avatar J.L. Wall in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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          It certainly pre-dates the Romans as a practiced norm — it predates Hellenism, too. Don’t have sources off the top of my head/touch of the fingertips, but the Alexandrian Jewish community was known for NOT circumcising, even while remaining (for some time, at least, until disappearing into the aether) distinctly Jewish. This is how we get to Philo on the “circumcision of the heart.”

          The issue in ancient Israel itself was of attempts to UN-circumcise, among certain upper-class/Hellenized groups. There were instances of, erm, “weighting” the remaining skin in order to stretch it so that they’d fit in better at the bath house. So circumcision as an overwhelming norm predates the Hasmonean period, certainly.

          The example of the pre-Hasmonean upper-class in ancient Israel and the disappearance of Alexandrian Jewry (not to mention that nasty habit the Romans developed of killing Jews right around the time the Mishna was codified) certain affected the strenuous tone later generations took with regard to circumcision. But that wasn’t the origin.

          The Egyptian evidence points, I’ve always thought, toward an ancient near-eastern custom: if I’m remembering correctly, the Greeks mocked the general area, not just the Egyptians, for their trimmed phalli. I also don’t think that it would matter a whit whether the ancestors of TODAY’s Jews ever lived in Egypt so long as the ancestors of SOME Jews (at some time) were simply in a cultural milieu in which this would be a normal custom — perhaps less pervasive than in the U.S. over the past 50 years, but not terribly so.Report

  2. Avatar MikeSchilling
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    This is an odd echo of the other thread. I can’t imagine Germany, of all places, making it illegal to practice Judaism.Report

  3. Avatar Roger
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    Am I the only one who clicked onto a completely different format for the LoOG? It had different formatting and pictures. Then everything reverted back to the normal format.

    There was a willow tree and a spoke. Am I going crazy?Report

  4. Avatar wardsmith
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    Doctors can’t seem to make up their minds about it.

    My thinking beyond the religious (which I ignore) is if circumcision reduces my sons’ chances of catching diseases I’m all for it, regardless of the other reasons. Their cousin wasn’t “cut” and has had numerous issues “down there” over the years.

    On the religious side, wasn’t it convenient that God had Jewish men get circumcised, thus reducing their odds of getting a sexually transmitted disease, while at the same time proscribing against multiple sexual practices? Genetically the circumcised male has a higher probability of reproducing including more opportunities with more partners especially in ancient times with questionable hygienic practices.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to wardsmith
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      Their cousin wasn’t “cut” and has had numerous issues “down there” over the years.

      That’s pretty flimsy statistical evidence. In like fashion: I don’t color my hair, and I have asthma. Perhaps you should color your hair so that you don’t get asthma?Report

      • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        Jason, Wardsmith started his comment with a link.

        In that link (though sadly, without study source): “Recently, however, several large studies revealed a 60% decrease in HIV transmission in circumcised males compared to uncircumcised males. This may ultimately influence some changes in recommendations in the near future.”

        As I noted above, this is an area of some debate and these studies (whichever they were) may well turn out to be flawed. But jumping on Wardsmith for his additional anecdata seems sort of silly.Report

        • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Glyph
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          LOL, thanks Glyph, was so busy trying to find the exact quote (which you did as well) that I didn’t get my response in. CDC is usually a good source to find the basis of studies although I believe there are more current sources as well.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to wardsmith
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            No worries sir. The thing is, let’s say 60% (or heck, anything north of 25%) is correct. You have to weigh the risks of something like circumcision (which has been performed on gazillions of people over time, with relatively rare complications) against the risk of contracting a disease that may lead to disability/disfigurement/death. In that respect it is not terribly different from the vaccination debates.

            But I’d go further. I believe it’s wrong to dose anyone with LSD against their will. In some small subset of people it may cause permanent damage.

            But if there was some serious disease that I could significantly reduce my babies’ statistical susceptibility to by dosing them with LSD, would I consider it?

            Yeah, I would. Millions of people have tripped and lived to tell the tale.

            So too with circumcision.Report

        • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Glyph
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          So let me see if I understand this.

          Wardsmith presents two sets of evidence on two different and unrelated questions. The first set of evidence is statistically validated. The second set is a single anecdote.

          And you’re telling me that because he presented the first set of evidence, I must give weight to the second?

          That’s preposterous.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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            No, Jason, obviously you don’t need to give it weight.

            Would you be willing to tackle the studies themselves, if you have time? There are a lot of smart and statistically-versed people here, and their wisdom on that topic (the resolution of which would probably be close to dispositive for many) would be much appreciated.

            Or, you could just jump on someone for a silly aside they made, and double down when someone gently points it out.Report

            • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Glyph
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              I am aware of the studies. I didn’t think it was really worth discussing them, because I see them as mostly beside the point.

              For countries where condoms are not widely available, or where men refuse to use them, perhaps voluntary adult circumcision is called for. I don’t see these studies as a sufficient justification for involuntary infant circumcision anywhere. Let alone in a country where condoms are readily available and where men are willing to use them.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                So the existence of a common non-surgical prophylactic alternative obviates the studies’ relevance for you, even if the studies are accurate.

                Fair enough. Thanks for the reply.

                Now, where’d I put that LSD-laced baby bottle…uh-oh.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Glyph
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                So the existence of a common non-surgical prophylactic alternative obviates the studies’ relevance for you, even if the studies are accurate.

                Yes. Condoms are vastly more effective than circumcision at preventing many different kinds of STDs. The additional preventative value of circumcision is very small by comparison, and I don’t really believe it’s worth the bodily harm.

                Now, where’d I put that LSD-laced baby bottle…uh-oh.

                First you’ll need to find a peer-reviewed study. Then you’ll need to find that the other methods are less effective, rather than more. And then you can think about the side effects of giving a baby a psychedelic drug. Uh-oh indeed.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                She’ll grow up to be a genius! A GENIUS, I tell you! And you will all tremble…

                Sorry. I appear to have contracted Mad Scientistitis due to this blog’s sudden opening into another dimension, with willow trees that spoke.

                Speaking of, you guys oughta ban that Cthulhu guy. I think he’s a troll or something.Report

              • Avatar North in reply to Glyph
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                Glyph, I like the cut of your jib. Comment more.Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Glyph
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                Yes. Glyph has very quickly become an asset to our community here.Report

              • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to Glyph
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                +1 to both North and WillReport

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Glyph
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                (blushes)Report

              • Avatar James Hanley in reply to Glyph
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                I like the cut of your jib

                He says on a thread about circumcision.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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                “Circumcision is wrong because it decreases sexual pleasure! Instead, people should wear condoms.”

                (Yes, I know that this wasn’t the argument. But when you see a joke and you don’t go for it, it eats at the soul.)Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird
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                I’m actually still bitter over the sex-ed I got. Nothing to do with pushing abstinence, but rather that they insisted, over and over again, that there is no decreased sensation/enjoyment with condoms and any guy who thinks there is either (a) is lying or (b) is the victim of his own psychology.

                I discovered, in a particularly unfortunate way, that this was not true. It still makes me angry to think about all of the time I spent wondering what was wrong with me that I noticed this difference that I had been assured was mythical or all in my head.Report

              • Avatar Glyph in reply to Jaybird
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                Jaybird – Ha!

                I feel you, man. Both the joke itself, and the reasoning behind making it.

                Well, not ‘feel’ you as such.

                You all know what I meant, stop laughing.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Jaybird
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                Trumwill, you learned a much more important lesson: Grown-ups Lie.

                Personally, I would have gone with “you should be grateful that you’re not like those Southern Babtists who are stuck grinding for their entire adolescence!”

                Glyph, I got ya.Report

              • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jaybird
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                Trumwill,

                Try getting “sex ed” that includes instructors saying that female orgasm is a lie, any form of stimulation other than actual intercourse is a sin, and that the only acceptable position is missionary.Report

              • Avatar Simon K in reply to Jaybird
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                MA – Saudi Arabia?Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird
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                “Circumcision is wrong because it decreases sexual pleasure! Instead, people should wear condoms.”

                All of that is entirely reasonable if your priorities are, in ascending order:

                2. Sexual pleasure.
                1. Not dying of a nasty disease.Report

              • Avatar BobbyC in reply to Jaybird
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                Will – who did invent that sex-ed lie about condoms not reducing sexual pleasure at all? I got the same nonsense, as if point that women should insist that men wear condoms needed a false trump card to flash right before getting down to business. Isn’t “I insist” a sufficiently strong argument?Report

              • Avatar BlaiseP in reply to Jaybird
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                So I’m teaching my son about sex. I get him a BIG box of condoms. I tell him “learn to spank the monkey wearing a condom, get used to it, it’s actually rather nice once you get the hang of it and every woman in your life will thank you.”Report

              • Avatar Will Truman in reply to Jaybird
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                Bobby, no idea where it came from. They lied about the efficacy of withdrawal, too. I think getting young people to just put the dang condoms on trumped the conveyance of true and accurate information.Report

              • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Jaybird
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                says:

                So I’m teaching my son about sex. I get him a BIG box of condoms. I tell him “learn to spank the monkey wearing a condom, get used to it, it’s actually rather nice once you get the hang of it and every woman in your life will thank you.”

                This is a great idea. Your first encounters with a condom should definitely not be during an attempted sex act with someone else.Report

      • Avatar wardsmith in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        I think the medical site that I linked has the statistical evidence, if you have an argument bring it up with them. 60% reduction in HIV is a pretty compelling statistic. Recently, however, several large studies revealed a 60% decrease in HIV transmission in circumcised males compared to uncircumcised males. This may ultimately influence some changes in recommendations in the near future.Report

        • Avatar Mark Lyndon in reply to wardsmith
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          (I tried posting this earlier with supporting links, but it didn’t go through, so I’m posting again without the links. Sorry if it appears twice.)

          The people promoting male circumcision in Africa seem more interested in promoting male circumcision (or something anything-but-condoms) than in fighting HIV or AIDS.

          From a USAID report:
          “There appears no clear pattern of association between male circumcision and HIV prevalence—in 8 of 18 countries with data, HIV prevalence is lower among circumcised men, while in the remaining 10 countries it is higher.”

          The South African National Communication Survey on HIV/AIDS, 2009 found that 15% of adults across age groups “believe that circumcised men do not need to use condoms”.

          From the committee of the South African Medical Association Human Rights, Law & Ethics Committee :
          “the Committee expressed serious concern that not enough scientifically-based evidence was available to confirm that circumcisions prevented HIV contraction and that the public at large was influenced by incorrect and misrepresented information. The Committee reiterated its view that it did not support circumcision to prevent HIV transmission.”

          The one randomized controlled trial into male-to-female transmission showed a 54% higher rate in the group where the men had been circumcised btw:

          ABC (Abstinence, Being faithful, and especially Condoms) is the way forward. Promoting genital surgery seems likely to cost African lives rather than save them.Report

          • Avatar Glyph in reply to Mark Lyndon
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            Thanks Mark, this is helpful, I am hoping the one with links comes through too.

            As I said above, the evidence I had seen at that time seemed to be pointing the other way when we decided to do it to my son, and now I worry we erred.Report

      • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        says:

        This is my tiger attack prevention rock. I’ve had it for years and I’ve never been attacked by a wild tiger. See how well it works?Report

  5. Avatar Mark Lyndon
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    No-one complained when female circumcision was made illegal, even though some people regard it as their religious right or duty to cut their daughters and claim all sorts of health, hygiene and cosmetic benefits.

    It’s illegal to cut off a girl’s prepuce, or to make any incision on a girl’s genitals, even if no tissue is removed. Even a pinprick is banned. Why don’t boys get the same protection? Everyone should be able to decide for themselves whether or not they want parts of their genitals cut off. It’s *their* body.

    Except for the foreskin, there is no other part of a boy where normal healthy living tissue can be cut off, and no part at all of a girl.Report

    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to Mark Lyndon
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      Female circumcision isn’t even one uniform procedure. It includes lots of different things, up to and including removing the entire clitoris and sewing the vagina shut.

      Some of these procedures may be compared (more or less) with male circumcision, but others definitely can’t.Report

      • Avatar Mark Lyndon in reply to Jason Kuznicki
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        I agree, and the worst forms of female cutting are truly horrific, but there are also different forms of male circumcision. Over 100 males died of circumcision in just one province of South Africa last year and there were at least two penile amputations. There are lots of documented forms of male circumcision, and anthropologists have even found tribes that practised testicle removal (one testicle only).

        I just don’t see why there’s a zero tolerance approach to female cutting, but male circumcision is commonplace. The people that cut girls don’t see a difference, and neither do I. Neither did the western doctors that used to promote female cutting btw.Report

        • Avatar M.A. in reply to Mark Lyndon
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          says:

          Zero tolerance to female cutting sadly has a lot to do with antipathy towards Islam (or those subcultures of Islam where it is currently most prevalent). It’s an opportunity for some people to shout of the “horrors” of Islam itself, with female genital mutilation as Exhibit C or D in a long laundry list of complaints they have about the religion.

          There is also some small measure of disproportionality. A circumcised male can still procreate and still get a certain amount of pleasure out of sex. To hear it described from female circumcision survivors there is almost a total loss of lack of ability to have pleasure from sex due to the way the procedures are usually done.

          It’s not an easy topic, nor is it all black-and-white answers. Given my choice I’d ban them all and tell the religions to grow up and enter the 21st century where most of the “medical” reasons have been long debunked.Report

      • Avatar M.A. in reply to Jason Kuznicki
        Ignored
        says:

        up to and including removing the entire clitoris and sewing the vagina shut.

        Well, there went my appetite for the next week or so.Report

  6. Avatar Tod Kelly
    Ignored
    says:

    This is a good example of where principled pragmatism lets me down. It’s like motorcycle helmet laws. I get each side’s point of view, but I can’t get myself invested enough in either argument to care very much.

    Apologies in advance to those subsets of people that think that the existense or the absence of circumcision or motorcycle helmets laws are the lynchpins that hold our Republic together.Report

  7. Avatar BobbyC
    Ignored
    says:

    Jason – I’m also anti-circumcision as a personal preference and I share your view that it seems counterproductive to impose that viewpoint on longstanding cultural traditions. But don’t we have to explain how to draw the line, what principle is involved? What is the limiting principle for what a parent can do to a child if non-aggression and voluntary cooperation are inapplicable? Inertia is unappealing. Reasonableness is without sufficient content. Weighing the tradeoff between the interests of the child and the parent is hopelessly subjective.

    More generally, why are you comfortable ceding any such issue to the culture as opposed to the courts when individual rights are trampled? Is there some hierarchy of getting knifed against your will?Report

    • Avatar Tom Van Dyke in reply to BobbyC
      Ignored
      says:

      Inertia is unappealing. Reasonableness is without sufficient content. Weighing the tradeoff between the interests of the child and the parent is hopelessly subjective.

      More generally, why are you comfortable ceding any such issue to the culture as opposed to the courts when individual rights are trampled? Is there some hierarchy of getting knifed against your will?

      And there you have it. And even if you were knifed not against your will.

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    • Avatar Jason Kuznicki in reply to BobbyC
      Ignored
      says:

      A conservative approach to almost any issue isn’t going to work from first principles, from stuff like “you are a self owner” or “the greatest good to the greatest number.” It’s going to ask what has been done in the past, then change a little only when it absolutely must in order to maintain the whole.

      I don’t generally share the conservative approach; I’m much more of a liberal in my decisionmaking style. That said, prudence makes a pretty good case on this issue, I think. Is there a hierarchy of getting knifed against your will? You’re darn right there is. If not, we can stop talking about circumcision and start setting up a guillotine.Report

  8. Avatar NoPublic
    Ignored
    says:

    I am in the “statistically small” class of people who had complications from circumcision. Were I given the choice, I’d outlaw it in a heartbeat. Nearly 50 years later I still have lingering issues.Report

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