Meet the Foreskin Restoration Movement

I think the title pretty much sums it up, right? But it’s an interesting and well-balanced article.


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About Jill

Jill began blogging for Feministe in 2005. She has since written as a weekly columnist for the Guardian newspaper and in April 2014 she was appointed as senior political writer for Cosmopolitan magazine.
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63 Responses to Meet the Foreskin Restoration Movement

  1. Bitter Scribe says:

    Every Mothers Day, I get my mom an extra-nice present for not having had me circumcised.

    Of course, you can’t miss what you’ve never had, but I can’t imagine what life would be like without a foreskin.

  2. PrettyAmiable says:

    It’s interesting, isn’t it? It’s such a cultural norm that I think I’ve seen more penises without foreskin than with it. I’d be pissed if I were the first guy in the article and I could attribute later loss of sensation to the loss of foreskin.

    Also, the picture of the banana with the bandaid is awesome.

  3. soren says:

    While I appreciate the silliness of the extreme anti circumcision crowd, I cannot see what is unreasonable about letting the decision be up to the boy.

    The attitude that men who mourn the mutilation of their penis are silly is just gruesome. I have no doubt that a lot of men, perhaps most who were circumcised at birth are fine with it, but it is still an attack on the integrity of their body, and noone to ignore their concerns just because there are worse things out there, such as fgm, is no reason to ignore their pain

  4. Bitter Scribe says:

    I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?

    • Jill says:

      I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?

      I think any woman who is “grossed out” by foreskin (or at least any woman who voices that disgust – you can’t necessarily help what grosses you out) doesn’t deserve to partake in sex, which ideally is a pleasurable activity that, when you think about it, is pretty gross in and of itself. I personally am not grossed out by foreskins, and I haven’t ever actually met a woman who has voiced disgust for foreskins — I’ve only heard that they do, from Sex & the City. But I kind of think you’re a jerk if you go around voicing disgust for the natural state of an entire sex’s genitalia. I feel the same way about dudes who say that an unshaved vulva is repulsive. They’re jackasses, and don’t fuck ’em.

  5. Bridget says:

    PrettyAmiable…it’s a cultural norm in some places (like the US, though it is decreasing here too) but in most of the world it is not.

  6. Bitter Scribe says:

    Jill–Thanks, that’s pretty much what I thought too.

    I wasn’t even thinking about SATC, but now that you mention it, I remember an episode where a guy had the procedure as an adult and, as a result, got laid exponentially more. That seemed ridiculous to me, even by SATC standards.

  7. PrettyAmiable says:

    Bridget: PrettyAmiable…it’s a cultural norm in some places (like the US, though it is decreasing here too) but in most of the world it is not.  

    Well, look at me and all my US-centrism. Nice catch, and thanks for the reminder :)

    Bitter Scribe: I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?  

    I’m sure it’s about as common as dudes who are grossed out by what I’ll call outtie vulvas. As a semi-outtie vulvaed person, I’ve found it didn’t make a difference to anyone I’ve had sex with, and when I’ve heard men say otherwise, I just didn’t bang them. They’re entitled to their opinion, but they’re sure as fuck not entitled to good sex. I would take that same attitude to women.

    Incidentally, I once had sex with a guy twice before I realized he wasn’t circumcised. They all pretty much look the same to me when doing the happy dance.

  8. Amadei says:

    Jill: I personally am not grossed out by foreskins, and I haven’t ever actually met a woman who has voiced disgust for foreskins.  (Quote this comment?)

    I have, though she almost absentmindedly followed it up with that she’d never seen/touched/had sex with an uncircumsized penis, so I rolled my eyes and went back to the card game.

  9. Bushfire says:

    In high school I knew a girl who broke up with her boyfriend when she found out he wasn’t circumcised. I still think she’s a jerk for that. Imagine breaking up with someone because their parents didn’t ask the doctor to cut off a piece of skin at birth? It’s nonsensical. I think he was better off without her.

  10. This article is interesting, but I’m not entirely convinced I agree with it. I was circumcised shortly after birth, and I’ve never felt as though I’ve missed out somehow.

    Growing up, the men who were uncircumcised were vastly in the minority. I always found them weird, but not necessarily unpleasant. They were just different looking and I remember, even as a boy, thinking that I was glad that mine didn’t look like that.

    But as for the matter of sensitivity, I’ve long taken antidepressants and other medications that detract from sensitivity, especially in an sexual context. I don’t really remember what it’s like to feel “normal” in that department anymore.

  11. I found uncircumcised penises different, rather….

  12. Bitter Scribe says:

    I’m sure it’s about as common as dudes who are grossed out by what I’ll call outtie vulvas. As a semi-outtie vulvaed person, I’ve found it didn’t make a difference to anyone I’ve had sex with..

    That description fits my ex-wife, and no, it didn’t make the slightest difference to me. It presented some minor performance issues that were easily taken care of with the right lubricant. To me it was just a completely innocuous physical characteristic, like a birthmark.

  13. Bitter Scribe says:

    One thing, though–her first husband used to call her “big lips, little tits.” Great guy, huh?

  14. I am that guy in the article. I think it is a shame that the culture in the US allows cutting the sex organs of baby boys. I really wished my parents had protected me and not let the doctor cut off part of my penis. My body, my choice.

    I have no idea what a real foreskin would be like. But I know that my restored foreskin is a lot better than what I had before I started restoring. Before restoring I often wondered why my partners always had such mind blowing orgasms compared to my spurt at the end. I don’t wonder any more. I am slowly approaching having mind blowing orgasms as I restore more of my foreskin.

  15. April says:

    Bitter Scribe: I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?  

    Nope, couldn’t care less.

    I’m glad this issue is getting more attention lately!

  16. April says:

    Bitter Scribe: I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?  

    Nope, couldn’t care less.

    I’m glad this issue is getting more attention lately!

  17. DanaR says:

    Wow, I find it pretty upsetting that Hugo would belittle other men’s rights to mourn the loss of their foreskin. I do *not* think it’s equivalent to FGM but I agree it should be illegal to circumcise your baby unless there is a genuine medical reason for it.

    I have encountered the sentiment that uncircumcised penises are “gross” online quite a lot actually, but in NZ virtually no one is circumcised and it is such a non-issue. People being weird about foreskins is just stupid.

  18. Tony says:

    Wow, a well written article with a lot of perspectives. As an uncircumcised male, in the end it left me sympathetic to men who wish they had a choice, and yet at the same time realizing that the decision must be balanced with health risks. I had no idea this was even such a big deal. Thanks for posting this.

  19. Jennie says:

    Before I was more informed about circumcision, I thought I would leave the decision up to the father. Hey, I don’t have a penis, so he probably knows better anyway. Now, I would never get one of my children circumcised and luckily my husband agrees. One of the biggest problem I have is how people just shrug off the pain that the babies experience. They explain it away by saying the babies won’t remember. Since when is it ok to hurt babies because of their memories? I guess that means I can punch my baby in the face because, hey, he won’t remember right? It’s ridiculous. Add that to the fact that I don’t think I have the right to remove my son’s body parts for aesthetic purposes and those things pretty much seal my decision.

  20. Miss S says:

    If I have a son, I probably will get him circumcised. I suppose it’s a cultural thing.

    As for “they won’t remember the pain, so we can just punch them in their faces” that’s going a bit far. Plenty of people pierce the ears of their little girls. I’m sure it hurts, but they don’t remember. I don’t remember mine. And babies don’t really have complete autonomy…they have parents who make decisions for them because they can’t yet.

    I wouldn’t go as far as putting a tattoo on my kid just because I could, but some culture might even do that. To each his own.

  21. timothynakayama says:

    I would just like to say thank you for posting this very well-balanced article. The ones on Jezebel are always FOR circumcision, touting the many so-called medical benefits if you just have your foreskin shorn off.

    And I’m always disappointed where people go “But I give my babies vaccinations and let them pierce my little girl’s ears”, as if somehow cutting off the foreskin is equivalent to having a shot or getting a piercing.

    Actually, I once thought only Muslims and Jews circumcised their boys, but then I learned that it was also very widely done in the US, Korea and the Philippines at least like maybe 2 decades ago.

  22. Nahida says:

    Miss S: Plenty of people pierce the ears of their little girls.   

    I’ve recently realized that I’m very uncomfortable with this comparison. Pierced ears can actually heal–and there isn’t really anything actually missing. It also (not that I would know from first hand experience, since I don’t have a penis) can’t nearly be the same amount of pain.

    I would probably get my son circumcisized too, being Muslim. But I totally get why people feel that it’s a real violation.

    Jennie: One of the biggest problem I have is how people just shrug off the pain that the babies experience.They explain it away by saying the babies won’t remember. Since when is it ok to hurt babies because of their memories? I guess that means I can punch my baby in the face because, hey, he won’t remember right? It’s ridiculous.  

    Miss S:
    As for “they won’t remember the pain, so we can just punch them in their faces” that’s going a bit far.  

    I don’t think Jennie was going too far at all. It’s a ridiculous defense that you can do this to children because they won’t remember–and that really is the basis of this defense.

  23. Alara Rogers says:

    Plenty of people pierce the ears of their little girls. I’m sure it hurts, but they don’t remember.

    Yeah, but personally I consider that appalling, too.

    Why would you inflict pain on a child for non-medical reasons? A vaccination is something different; that has a profound medical benefit. But why would you ever pierce a baby’s ears? (Why would you ever pierce any child’s ears unless they’re old enough to nag you for it for several years even after you’ve told them horror stories about infected earlobes?) Why would you ever cut off a baby’s foreskin? Why do *anything* to a child that causes pain, just for aesthetic reasons?

    I did not pierce my daughter’s ears. My older daughter has pierced ears now because she nagged me for years and I kept telling her “when you’re 12” and she finally turned 12 so I let my mother take her to get her ears pierced. My mother also got *my* ears pierced at age 12, against my will, which probably has a lot to do with my attitude, but still. Why cause a child pain if you don’t have to?

  24. Sheelzebub says:

    I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?

    Speaking strictly for myself, no, it’s no big deal to me.

  25. PrettyAmiable says:

    Jennie: They explain it away by saying the babies won’t remember. Since when is it ok to hurt babies because of their memories?

    This was once used as a defense by the people representing this guy who sexually assaulted a woman with Alzheimer’s. Ever since I heard that (I think freshman year in a psych class), I’ve always found the memory thing just reprehensible. (It’s a little more nuanced because in Alzheimer’s, explicit memory is affected faster than implicit memory – so the woman had PTSD-like symptoms around her attacker but couldn’t articulate why – but I don’t know enough about how memory develops in infants to draw enough of a distinction).

  26. Sheelzebub says:

    PA, one of the defense attorneys in the OC Pack Rape case gave the same excuse. The girl didn’t remember it (she was passed out) so what was her problem, really? If it wasn’t for the egregious and unethical behavior of one of the other defense lawyers, I would have awarded that guy Douchecanoe of the Year for that bit of logic fail.

  27. thefallgirl says:

    I’m a little surprised that no one has brought up the religious aspects of this topic. There is a debate in the Jewish community about whether circumcision is a requirement or not. Whether or not it is religiously mandated, there are cultural aspects and aspects of Jewish identity involved that I have heard people express discomfort with the idea of leaving behind.

    On a personal level, if I were to mentally equate male circumcision with a surgery that could be performed on my female body (and there are a couple connections I can make) I don’t think I would want to have had any of those performed on me without my consent. I worry about the implications of making a permanent decision for any hypothetical child I have about their body that isn’t medically necessary. On the other hand, I would want to talk to my Rabbi about that choice, less to get approval of it (though that would be nice) and more to have my decision heard by someone with some religious authority, whether or not they agreed with me.

  28. Jill says:

    Seconding the argument that there’s a big difference between ear piercing, which is reversible, and circumcision, which largely is not. Why not just let the boy decide for himself when he turns 18? And as an aside, I really cringe when I see babies with pierced ears. It seems to be a part of publicly marking your infant as a girl, and why make your baby undergo a painful procedure with no medical benefits and significant risks of infection?

    As for the tattoo comparison, I’d be pretty skeptical of someone who tattooed a baby. Even a tattoo, though, doesn’t permanently remove a part of the child’s body, and does not change the sexual sensations that a person is capable of experiencing.

    I don’t think parents who circumcise their sons are bad people — most parents are doing what they believe to be best for their children. But I do think it’s well worth examining the reasons for circumcision, and being more than a little skeptical of it.

  29. Renee says:

    I think that if those of you who think circumcision is somehow a minor operation or comperable to a piercing were to actually watch an infant being circumcised, you’d think differently. It’s not just about cutting off about half of the most sexually sensitive skin a boy’s got, it’s about strapping him spread-eagled for fiteen minutes while nurses butcher his genitals. Modern medicine doesn’t simply amputate the foreskin, it crushes it first. (To reduce bleeding.) You know how it hurts when you slam your finger in a door really hard? Imagine that. On your genitals. Hard enough and for long enough to make your blood vessils cauterize.

    If you’re willing to do that to another human being — a tiny, defenseless human being! — for anything other than a life-threatening disorder, you don’t deserve to breathe.

  30. kay says:

    I really agree with Jill and co that circumcision is certainly not the same as piecing a child’s ears. If anything, it would be more like piercing your son’s penis. Except, of course, that piercings once again do not amputate a part of the body, nor damage a second part, and can heal if removed. Personally, I find the idea of giving an infant a Prince Albert or a frenum ladder disturbing, though admittedly I’ve lived my life in a culture where that isn’t the norm.

    If we’re sticking with the ear parallel, perhaps it would be more like a cultural and/or religious mandate to remove part or all of the external structures of a newborn’s ears?

  31. preying mantis says:

    “Plenty of people pierce the ears of their little girls.”

    They shouldn’t. Happy now?

    “I’ve heard that some women are really grossed out by foreskins. That’s not been true in my personal experience, but what do you all think?”

    I’ve only heard one woman express distaste for the aesthetic, and that was limited specifically to flaccid penises. A few women my mother’s age (late-40s, early-50s) have mentioned foreskins being gross, but it was more an extension of guys in general being kind of gross and slobby, so yeah.

  32. Sid says:

    I don’t think this is really an aesthetic issue so much as it is a religious one: worldwide, the majority of circumcised men are born into Muslim families. Could you honestly propose that circumcision be made an illegal procedure?

    • Jill says:

      I don’t think this is really an aesthetic issue so much as it is a religious one: worldwide, the majority of circumcised men are born into Muslim families. Could you honestly propose that circumcision be made an illegal procedure?

      Huh? What does the fact that the Muslims account for the majority of circumcisions world-wide have to do with outlawing circumcision, presumably in the United States or some other single country?

  33. Wow, I find it pretty upsetting that Hugo would belittle other men’s rights to mourn the loss of their foreskin.

    Hugo is always all about telling other people whether their perceptions, conclusions, and feelings are “appropriate” or not. This is par for the course with him.

  34. Sid says:

    Jill:
    Huh? What does the fact that the Muslims account for the majority of circumcisions world-wide have to do with outlawing circumcision, presumably in the United States or some other single country?  

    Well the US, and many other “Western” nations have significant muslim minorities as well as many other minorities that for ritual, religious, or custom reasons perform male circumcision. I think it would be difficult and unreasonable to impose a total ban.

  35. Shoshie says:

    Renee: I think that if those of you who think circumcision is somehow a minor operation or comperable to a piercing were to actually watch an infant being circumcised, you’d think differently.It’s not just about cutting off about half of the most sexually sensitive skin a boy’s got, it’s about strapping him spread-eagled for fiteen minutes while nurses butcher his genitals.Modern medicine doesn’t simply amputate the foreskin, it crushes it first.(To reduce bleeding.)You know how it hurts when you slam your finger in a door really hard?Imagine that.On your genitals.Hard enough and for long enough to make your blood vessils cauterize.If you’re willing to do that to another human being — a tiny, defenseless human being! — for anything other than a life-threatening disorder, you don’t deserve to breathe.  

    Renee, I have seen a couple circumcisions performed, since I’m an observant Jew, and they were nowhere like that. It took about a minute, maybe two, and there was no crushing involved. Granted, they were ritual circumcisions performed by experienced doctors in a home or a synagogue, not in a hospital, so maybe they were different.

    Actually, a quick look at Wikipedia shows that your description does fit the circumcision performed in a non-ritual setting. Wow, that’s really terrible. Evidently it’s not done that way for the Jewish ritual because at least a drop of blood is required.

    I’m very much torn on the issue of circumcision for religious purposes. I strongly believe in bodily autonomy, and I feel like, if I weren’t Jewish, I would probably be anti-circumcision. but circumcision is a hugely important part of Judaism. What thefallgirl says is sort of correct, in that there is a small segment of the Jewish community opts out of circumcision, but the vast majority of the religious community holds that it’s very important, since it’s considered the sign of the covenant between us and God. Interestingly, it was originally intended to distinguish Jewish men from non-Jewish men. The assumption was that the vast majority of the population would be uncircumcised. For what it’s worth, all the Jewish men I know are quite happy that they were circumcised as children. They DO want to be circumcised, since it’s considered one of the more important commandments, but prefer to have no memory of the event.

    However, circumcising infants for purely aesthetic reasons seems really odd and wrong to me. Though I’m sure many of you feel the same about circumcising for purely religious reasons. As I said, I’m torn, though my husband and I will definitely circumcise our male babies.

  36. Katrina says:

    Wow, Renee, I never knew it happened quite like that, and it brings tears to my eyes that most guys I know had that done to them at some point.

    Last summer, I had to have my toe nail removed after it got infected. Very painful, even with the local anesthesia. It still hasn’t finished growing back. I was walking normally after a day, though. Thing is, even though my toe nail got infected and had to be removed, and the procedure did not impede my walking, I would definitely not have appreciated, say, my parents having my toe nails permanently removed when I was born under some belief that “oh, they’re not totally necessary and they’ll just get infected”. Sure, I got the minor infection, but what to do about it when/if it happens is my decision, not theirs.

    The whole “foreskins are disgusting” idea that’s prevalent in pop culture disgusts me. It promotes the idea that if someone is disgusted by your foreskin, or any natural normal (or even not natural or normal, provided the person whose body it is is cool with it) body part, then it is your body that is wrong, though what we should be promoting is that the attitude is what is wrong. Like that episode of House where that guy comes to the clinic after having tried to circumcise himself because his foreskin freaked out his girlfriend. Ugh.

  37. Jim says:

    I was going to say soemthing, but then Renee came along and said every bit it better and stronger. There is really no excuse for infant genital mutilation. Even with adolescents, as in Islam, it’s done on people who can’t consent.

    Hugo is a hypocrite and an idiot on this subject. He was 37 years old when he had it done, and his penis was basically naturally deformed, so it was a medical necessity. Yet he blithely generalizes his experience to all other men and ridicules anti-circ activiists. He does this kind of thing regularly, generalizing his own experiences to men in general. I can’t tell if it’s naricissism or he is just kind of a white knight – maybe more than a little of both.

    Shoshie, can you explain to me why the basic human right of religious freedom extends to doing something to a separate and dicrete individual who not only cannot consent but also cannot resist?

  38. Miss S says:

    It’s a ridiculous defense that you can do this to children because they won’t remember
    You don’t just do it because they won’t remember. It’s a cultural or religious practice among many groups.

    Whether the majority of people here agree or not, many people will choose to circumcise their boys. It’s not exactly fair to ask people to change their cultural or religious practices simply because you find them ‘appalling.’

    They shouldn’t. Happy now?

    According to…. you? Why on earth do I need to be like you? I don’t find anything wrong with marking a child as a ‘girl.’ Perhaps we have different upbringings, cultures, etc, but that doesn’t make either of us wrong or right. Just different.

    • Jill says:

      It’s not exactly fair to ask people to change their cultural or religious practices simply because you find them ‘appalling.’

      Wait, why? I’m not trying to be a jerk — really, why shouldn’t we ask people to change their cultural or religious practices because they’re appalling?

      A few examples: In the United States, the death penalty is a cultural practice, and a punishment that we hand down to the “worst” criminals in some states. The death penalty is absolutely appalling, and is out of step with every human rights norm in the rest of the world. Why is it unfair to ask that we change that?

      In many Christian sects, women are told to be subservient to men; women who are sexually active before marriage are damaged goods; people who are homosexual are committing grave sins. We push back on that, if we’re liberal and dedicated to feminism and human rights. Is that unfair?

      And to stick with genital cutting: I don’t think that removing a girl’s clitoris and sewing up her vagina is at all comparable to male circumcision, but there have been mass international efforts to end FGM (and especially the most extreme forms of FGM). Is that “unfair”? Why is that unfair? Many, many human rights violations — and especially violations of the rights of women and girls — are justified by culture and religion. It’s not “unfair” to criticize a practice just because someone justifies said practice with “God said so.”

  39. Iany says:

    Jill:
    Why is that unfair? Many, many human rights violations — and especially violations of the rights of women and girls — are justified by culture and religion. It’s not “unfair” to criticize a practice just because someone justifies said practice with “God said so.”  

    Time I spend with religious friends is fraught with considered arguments shot down by “it’s a faith thing.”

    Sometimes the faith is missplaced, you can’t use faith as an excuse for unethical behaviour.

  40. saurus says:

    Jill:
    I don’t think that removing a girl’s clitoris and sewing up her vagina is at all comparable to male circumcision, but there have been mass international efforts to end FGM (and especially the most extreme forms of FGM). Is that “unfair”?

    I think it’s worth noting that a lot of international efforts to end FGM have made the situation worse, not better, because they were imposed by outsiders instead of fostered from within. For example, the US announces it won’t fund any reproductive health clinics in African countries if they do the FGM procedure. So the health clinics, which also provided medication to HIV/AIDS patients, condoms, birth control, etc get shut down, and infection rates from non-sterile FGM procedures shoot back up.

    The most success in stopping FGM has been from women in their communities (and they have a terrific success rate). I think it’s important to end FGM, but only by supporting the community-insider organizations and projects that are trying to stop it. Not by shoving our way in, in which case the intervention will be (perhaps fairly) viewed as another imperialistic, colonialist imposition.

    I know that probably didn’t need to be said, but I always feel nervous in discussions like this because they so often go in a “bring the weight of the state down on these people!” legislative direction instead of a “support their grassroots efforts to end the practice from within!” direction, or it goes in a “something’s wrong with your religion/culture” direction instead of a “something’s wrong with that practice” direction…

  41. preying mantis says:

    “According to…. you?”

    According to the principle that self-evidently unnecessary procedures ought not to be performed on the unconsenting. I mean, this is about as basic a standard as you can get. If the answer to “What happens if we wait until they can tell us whether or not they want this done?” is “Absolutely fucking nothing,” you wait.

  42. Azalea says:

    The idea that people decide to permanently remove a piece of SOMEONE ELSE’S genitals because its a cultural norm still leaves me uneasy. It’s his penis and he should have a say so in how it will look/work/feel for the rest of his life. His parent’s have nothing to gain orbenefit from the removal of hisforeskin. If you can do the “extra wiping” necessary to change a baby girl’s diaper you can do the same for an uncircumcised baby boy. His body, it should be his choice. The genital area is just WAY too personal for someone’s parents to be dictating how they will PERMANENLTY look and feel without a person’s permission or medical necessity.

  43. Azalea says:

    preying mantis: “According to…. you?”According to the principle that self-evidently unnecessary procedures ought not to be performed on the unconsenting. I mean, this is about as basic a standard as you can get. If the answer to “What happens if we wait until they can tell us whether or not they want this done?” is “Absolutely fucking nothing,” you wait.  (Quote this comment?)

    I am in total agreement!

  44. Miss S says:

    Jill- I think there is a fine line between social justice, and expecting others to assimilate to your culture. There’s a difference between making changes in your own community, and making changes in someone else’s- especially if they don’t want your input.

    Ex. If not having sex before marriage is a part of someone else’s belief system, who are you to tell them it’s wrong? Every one of us (even the ones who claim to be oh-so liberal here) are constrained by social, religious, or cultural constraints.

    I’m pushing back on the idea that anyone has the ‘right’ idea and everyone else is wrong. I don’t support female genital mutilation (for me it’s not the same as male circumcision) but I don’t support a bunch of middle class white women showing up in someone else’s neighborhood and telling them how they need to change. As though middle class Americans are the only enlightened group on the planet.

    There’s a difference between outside guidance and teaching and forcing someone to give up a cultural practice.

    Preying Mantis-
    I’m done engaging with you. I don’t, and won’t see a problem with piercing the ears of little girls. The women in my family have been doing it for decades, and we’re just fine. None of us need the approval of anyone else.

  45. Azalea says:

    Miss S, I think the issue here is that people are liberally LITERALLY tearing away at a defenseless babies sensitive genitals in an excruciatingly painful way because its cuter that way- culture and society says so. A woman or man is free to cut away at their own genitals as they culturally religiously socially see fit but why FORCE that upon a defenseless nonconsenting baby? That is the issue here. You’re claiming a right to inflict pain and remove parts of an infant boy’s genitals when you say circumcision is YOUR decision.

  46. ellid says:

    I would like to know how Jill’s assertion that practices like circumcision should be outlawed because cultural norms are now changing is any different from SF writer Elizabeth Moon’s demand that immigrants assimilate as proof of their Americanism. They seem very similar to me, but then again I’m not worthy of having sex since I personally don’t find foreskins (or smegma, which all too often is what ends up under foreskins if their owner doesn’t clean himself very well) particularly attractive.

    http://asoiaf.westeros.org/index.php/topic/45463-more-author-controversy-elizabeth-moon-on-islam/

  47. PrettyAmiable says:

    Incidentally, I want to be clear that I also am not attracted to people with poor hygiene. My understanding is that your hygiene is not intricately linked with whether you had unnecessary surgery as an infant – though I like where your head’s at: body policing, it’s not just for women anymore. [/snark]

  48. Cate says:

    Miss S: If I have a son, I probably will get him circumcised. I suppose it’s a cultural thing.

    Wow. Pretty blasé reaction to making a choice for someone else’s body. FGM is also “a cultural thing”. No, circumcision is “not as bad” as FGM, but “not as bad” hardly makes it okay. It’s not your body. And it’s *nothing* like ear piercing. It’s part of his genitalia: his.

    Let me say this: as a feminist mama of 2 intact boys, I firmly believe in bodily autonomy. If we as feminists advocate choice, why would we remove that choice from our sons over a cultural norm? Let’s not stick with things just because of the status quo, eh?

    When we choose to single out a gender for unnecessary genital surgery, we are no better than the patriarchs we fight against. Bodily autonomy regardless of gender.

  49. chava says:

    I’m almost exactly where Shoshie is on this one. I have a lot of personal qualms with circumcision, but it is an incredibly important part of Judaism.

    Now, no matter how important it is, we should work to change it if we’re harming those in our community. But again, like Shoshie, I don’t personally know *any* Jewish men who don’t want their sons circumcised or who regret their own circumcision. I mean, I’ve *heard* of these men–but only via the Internet. I’ve certainly never met a Jewish man who would rather have been given the choice as an adult (it hurts much more, with a longer recovery period, supposedly).

    So given that lived experience, I’m inclined to err on the side of following the tradition. That said, it’s something I still go back and forth on.

  50. Tamen says:

    Several have pointed out the weakness in using tattoing and ear piercings as comparisons. FGM seems to be off the table as a comparison because of dogma – so let me make the comparison this way – the majority of people who defends male circumcision is no different from the majority of people who defends FGM, the arguments are remarkably similar: s/he should look like the same-sex parent, it’s a cultural/religious thing, a future partner would find the unmutilated genital gross/abnormal and it would reduce their prospect of getting a partner/wife/husband and so on.

    Let me try another comparison; since women have a 12.5% (1 in 8) lifetime risk of having breast cancer, should parents be free to have their daughters undergo preventive prophylactic mastectomy without their daughters consent (and before you ask, yes, mastectomy is possible on prepubescent children)?
    Reduced risk for penile cancer and AIDS infection have been cited as medical reasons for having male infants undergo circumcision, however, the male lifetime risks for those is 0.17% and 1.86% respectively. By that logic we should really be pushing for preventive neo-natal prophylactiv mastectomy and while we’re at it why not get rid of that pesky appendix (8% lifetime risk) and throw in a tonsillectomy as well? Only the imagination and number of organs and body parts is the limit.

    Snarkiness above aside, I must say I am heartened that so many understands the concept of bodily autonomy and applies it to men as well. On the other hand, the number of women being dismissive or ok with it and/or are having their sons circumcised regardless saddens me. Hugo just makes me angry – especially his pride in having being quoted as “Dude, get over yourself.” in te article linked by the OP.

  51. Bombus says:

    Re: religious reasons, what if your son grows up and doesn’t want to have anything to do with that faith?

  52. RD says:

    I have never really thought about this before, but I would say let the kid decide. I think they could decide before 18 though…it would probably be an uncomfortable thing to talk about/ask for, but I would think your average 12 year old is old enough to decide, after a conversation about risks and pain and such.

    FYI, my ears were pierced when I was three, and it was a horrible experience all around because of my metal allergies and the nasty infections I would get. Not that its comparable, but something to consider if you have a baby and want to pierce their ears.

  53. RD says:

    FGM is different. That’s not dogma.

    Oh and to weigh in on the foreskin aesthetics question, meh, whatever. But is it just my imagination, or do condoms slip off of uncircumsized penises more easily? Maybe they need special condoms?

  54. Stoner with a Boner says:

    It seams like cricumsicion in males and females is designed to reduce sexual pleasure-that’s just a way to control people, like guilt.

  55. Tamen says:

    RD: Yeah, FGM is different from male circumcision (MGM)- it most often differs in severity. However, the comparable thing between them is that both are about physically ripping/crushing/cutting away a healthy part of the genitals of young non-consenting girls and boys – that is an unarguable fact.

    This in my view is the baseline why both FGM and MGM is wrong. Severity and motivation does not alter this baseline. Denying any comparability between FGM and MGM is a way to obscure this fact, making it easier to hold the contradicting views that FGM is wrong and male circumcision is not wrong.

    As a public service I can inform you that un-circumcised men don’t need a special condom. However, one want to make sure the foreskin is pulled back before the condom is put on. Penises do come in varying sizes and shapes and there are a number of condom models which to some extent reflects this.

    Ellid: You do know that female also produces smegma around clitoris and in the folds of labia minora? No-one around here, least of all me, would use that as an argument to minimize FGM or to express distaste for the intact genitals of women or suggest that they’re not capable of cleaning themselves.

  56. AndyLace says:

    On the religious front… I do my best to respect religions and religious persons, but I can not condone harming another by stealing away part of their sexual organs just because a religion supports or requires it. While I am busy doing my best to respect religion/religious I also feel the religious should be doing their best to respect other’s (including their own children’s) rights to genital integrity. Raising children in a religious home is one thing, but taking away healthy and functioning tissue from a child is quite another. If the fear is that adult men would not electively have the procedure, then that also needs to be looked at. If an adult man would not willingly decide to be circumcised because his religious beliefs required it, does it not seem even more horrible then to force it on someone so small and unable to defend themselves?

  57. Shoshie says:

    AndyLace: If the fear is that adult men would not electively have the procedure, then that also needs to be looked at.

    I think it’s exactly the opposite that is the concern. That adult men WOULD elect to have the procedure done, but would rather have it done when they are children.

  58. Layla says:

    Shoshie:
    I think it’s exactly the opposite that is the concern.That adult men WOULD elect to have the procedure done, but would rather have it done when they are children.  

    In countries where circumcision is only done for religious reasons eg: all of Europe, men are quite happy with their intact genitals. Over 80% of the world’s male population are intact and are not lining up to get cut, wishing their parents had them flayed as newborns.
    The circumcision rate in 2009 in the US for newborns was 33% and continues to drop.
    As far as the Jewish question is concerned, a baby boy can be welcomed into his religion with a Brit Shalom – the ceremony minus the genital cutting.

  59. Azalea says:

    Shoshie: I think it’s exactly the opposite that is the concern. That adult men WOULD elect to have the procedure done, but would rather have it done when they are children.  (Quote this comment?)

    The vast majority of intact males stay intact because they choose not to get circumcized. Little boys choose not to get circumcised. Babies are the only ones who don’t choose not to because they don’t have a choice.

  60. Azkyroth says:

    Cultural norms that demand that UNCONSENTING PEOPLE BE HARMED are WRONG.

    For fuck’s sake, is there something difficult about this?

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