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Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
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294 Responses

  1. matlun
    matlun June 19, 2012 at 4:12 pm |

    the right of parents to dictate what happens to their child should end right around the point where a grown man is putting his mouth on the baby’s genitals.

    Is it because of the sexual associations that you are objecting?

    If it was not for the infection risk (large if, granted), then I do not see that part as more problematic than the actual circumcision, since I do not read that action as sexual in context.

    But perhaps I am misunderstanding you, and you are objecting to circumcision in general?

  2. Katya
    Katya June 19, 2012 at 4:18 pm |

    I get that the practice reads as really creepy, but it doesn’t seem to be sexual in nature. I’m of the view that it should be stopped because it’s clearly a health risk, but the fact that I find it off-putting for other reasons isn’t an argument for me. Absent evidence that this involves an adult using a baby’s body for sexual gratification, I think we’re looking at something that would be harmless except for the herpes and other infections that can be spread. And it should be banned on those grounds, because we do not tolerate religious practices that put the health of nonconsenting people, including children, at risk. I think that’s a better rule than deciding whether we find a practice distasteful.

  3. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 19, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    It may be an ancient Jewish procedure, but fortunately it isn’t widely practiced, and so far as I know most Orthodox Jews reject it. Personally, I think “urging” isn’t strong enough. Especially since from what I’ve seen, the people who practice this are in complete denial about its health risks.

    And, no, I don’t mean circumcision per se. But I’d say there’s about a 90% chance that this thread goes off-topic very quickly, in an extremely familiar direction.

  4. karak86
    karak86 June 19, 2012 at 4:22 pm |

    I object only in the sense it’s a unnecessary health hazard, and I believe that the whole mouth part is a cultural addition instead of an absolute imperative.

    But besides the risk of infection, my response is meh. There’s a very specific context for touching genitals, right up there with mammograms and your mom teaching you how to put on a bra or your dad checking for diaper rash. My parents had to touch and take a look at my privates for several health or practical reasons, in a very specific, understood context.

    If you have a context that has no abusive overtones, then do whatever.

  5. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 19, 2012 at 4:23 pm |

    And I should add that it appears from the article, and other things I’ve read, that this is sometimes done without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

  6. Katya
    Katya June 19, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

    In any other context, a man putting his mouth on a baby’s genitals would be considered child molestation.

    While that’s true, it’s also true that context matters here. As I understand it, the practice apparently began as a way to prevent infection (obviously based on an incorrect understanding of medical science). It turns out, it does the opposite (which is why most Jewish communities have abandoned the practice), but the practice itself didn’t have anything to do with sex.

  7. Katya
    Katya June 19, 2012 at 4:43 pm |

    And I should add that it appears from the article, and other things I’ve read, that this is sometimes done without the parents’ knowledge or consent.

    Which is clearly not okay. Even if it’s done for medical reasons, no non-emergency procedure should be performed on a child without parental knowledge and consent. And no one should perform a religious ritual on a child without parental knowledge and consent.

    And as to the point that sexual assaults are sometimes perpetrated for non-sexual reasons–that’s true, but if this isn’t being done for sexual gratification, what nefarious purpose does it serve? What’s the bad motive? It’s not being done to deliberately harm the child, or because the mohel is on a power trip (assuming this is not one the cases where it’s done without the parents’ knowledge). It’s not being done because some adult just felt like putting his mouth on a kid’s genitals and he could, so he did. To say it’s molestation, I think there has to be some wrongful or improper motive–for example, touching your kid’s genitals isn’t molestation if you do it in order to clean or dry them, or check for rash or infection, or apply a medication.

  8. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

    Your freedom ends where my freedom starts. Cutting other people is not an expression of freedom, religious or not.

  9. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 4:52 pm |

    Well, I guess that’s the crux: I would classify this as abusive. It serves no medical purpose, it’s often done without the parents’ consent, and it violates the bodily autonomy of a child.

    Does it? I’m not sure it’s different from touching while cleaning genitals, or whatever else.

    The problematic part is cutting, if the practice didn’t involve it it would be acceptable, even with sucking away imagined blood. It’s not like infants already internalized society’s shame about genials so it won’t get traumatized by anyone touching them anymore that from anyone touching its arm. Ceteris paribus.

  10. DAS
    DAS June 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    As I understand it, the practice apparently began as a way to prevent infection (obviously based on an incorrect understanding of medical science) – Katya

    Way off topic, but I’d hardly say incorrect, just dangerously incomplete. I would imagine that saliva (full of lysozyme and commensal organisms that could compete with infectious bacteria) would lower the risk of certain infections, in particular certain bacterial infections. Proper sanitation, of course, lowers the risk of infection even more and anyway, obviously, certain infections (not just herpes) would be spread by metzitzah b’peh.

    It must be said, btw, in this context, that not everything those who claim to be the standard bearers of “tradition” do is actually traditional. I don’t know how “traditional” metzitzah b’peh actually is (I am no Talmid Chachem), but there are many things the so-called “ultra-orthodox” Jews do that actually are not supportable in actual Jewish law.

    Of course, as Jill points out, part of religious freedom is accepting that some people will do, in the name of religion, some pretty weird stuff. And context is important as others have pointed out. And certainly it’s not my place (even as a fellow Jew, so certainly it wouldn’t be something a secular authority should do as a matter of course) to say that “what so-and-so does isn’t real Jewish practice, so restricting said practice cannot be construed as limiting religious freedom” — part of religious freedom is the freedom to practice a variation of a religion (if only the Israeli government and official Rabbinate there would fully appreciate that). Certainly “I find it icky” is hardly even a viable standard for morality (despite what Kass and others would have you believe) and certainly not a viable standard for regulating behavior.

    But it seems to me that metzitzah b’peh does cross a line. And the fact that most Jews reject it (and thus, in the sense of Schechter’s notion of “catholic Judaism”, it is not Jewish practice) does indicate that it is something we Jews can (and in this case should) do without. So why doesn’t government just ban it? Certainly, secular authorities have had no qualms about banning Native Americans from using peyote, for example. And that doesn’t have the consent issues that metzitzah b’peh presents.

  11. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

    Also, virgin birth is technically possible, even among homo sapiens.

    But it also invariably result in female child.

    Therefore, Jesus was a woman.

    :D

  12. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll June 19, 2012 at 4:54 pm |

    but it doesn’t seem to be sexual in nature.

    Who gets to decide this?

    Seems like this is also being decided for someone who can’t give consent.

  13. matlun
    matlun June 19, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

    would classify this as abusive. It serves no medical purpose, … and it violates the bodily autonomy of a child.

    Circumcision in general does not have a medical purpose but is “just” a religious and cultural ritual, and I would say a permanent surgical removal of a body part is a much more severe violation of bodily autonomy than the mouth to penis contact.

    The risk for medical complications should be reason enough to forbid the practice IMO, but I honestly do not see the argument you are making here.

  14. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 19, 2012 at 4:57 pm |

    It only took 12 posts.

  15. matlun
    matlun June 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm |

    It only took 12 posts.

    Or seven posts if you start counting after your prediction. Still, with the subject choice of the OP it was pretty much inevitable.

  16. Nahida
    Nahida June 19, 2012 at 5:14 pm |

    Also, virgin birth is technically possible, even among homo sapiens.

    But it also invariably result in female child.

    What! But… how! Someone explainify! *demands*

  17. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 19, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

    What, we’re acting as if parthenogenesis is a reality now? Talk about a derail!

  18. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll June 19, 2012 at 5:54 pm |

    What, we’re acting as if parthenogenesis is a reality now? Talk about a derail!

    It IS a reality. Not for people, but lizards shouldn’t be marginalized like that.

    (yes, I’m joking)

  19. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 19, 2012 at 5:58 pm |

    There’s an interesting article here on the 19th century controversy over the practice, which apparently arose in Vienna in 1837 when “a number of children had become infected with sores after their circumcisions, and some had even died”:

    http://www.ou.org/index.php/jewish_action/article/8976/

    It seems that a lot of people started abandoning the practice then. So, it’s really been about 175 years since the harm became known.

  20. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 6:12 pm |

    What! But… how! Someone explainify! *demands*

    Can’t, i remember reading about it in prehistoric, pre-internet age. But i think i am not pulling it out of thin air. I guess asking a biologist or extensive googling could help, though, if you really want to know (i don’t think it’s important at all, so i don’t feel that need myself. Just an interesting tidbit)

  21. IrishUp
    IrishUp June 19, 2012 at 6:19 pm |

    As I understand it, part of the problem is that the infections are associated with a very few mohelim, who are being protected by the Chassidic community. Leaving other parents to unknowingly place their infants at risk even when they are consenting to metzitzah b’peh.

    At this point, I can’t see how this ceremony is de facto different from other baby touching that goes on, and the objection scans as a cultural “eww ick” to me. Whether sexual *gratification* is a goal or not, sex abusers do intend to perpetrate *abuse* (even if they don’t perceive their action as wrong, they do intend to do something TO their victim). A mohel performing the ritual who is on the up and up is doing just that. From what I understand, the “b’peh” part is like 1 second. (Which is not to say that abuse has to be X time minimum, but just to dispel any notion that this is some kind of prolonged contact.) I would think that the cutting is by far the more traumatic experience, and that happens in ANY Bris Milah or circumcision.

    That said, the obstructive actions of the community leaders, as well as how clerical sexual abuse is handled within this same community, means there is no transparency with which to determine whether abuse is going on or if a mohel is ALSO a child abuser. Which changes the whole game. People are being silenced, people who would speak up are being shunned, the rebbe & religious and community leaders rally around the suspected guilty rather than those who have been or might be victimized. Where have we seen that dynamic before? Oh right, everywhere.

    Given that the baby’s health is supposed to be the prime concern for the mohel, and that while the risk of infection is low, infection carries with it substantial morbidity and mortality, it would seem that other methods should be used. The measures being taken by the NYC Health Department seem to be completely appropriate.

  22. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 19, 2012 at 6:22 pm |

    Circumcision in general does not have a medical purpose but is “just” a religious and cultural ritual,

    There are plenty of medically necessary circumcisions.

    We discussed circumcision on the radio show I co-host which was based out of the UK, where they tend to not circumcize babies. Everyone who called up had a horror story about either themsleves or someone they know (in one woman’s case all 4 of her sons,) who had to get a medically necessary circumcision during adolescence, all of whom had some sort of complication. (I’ve never had stitches to the penis, but I can imagine keeping them clean and intact must be a hell of a job.)

    When I heard these teenage circumcision stories and the stories about people who’ve had Balanitis or Phimosis (links below with warning) I feel HUGELY relieved that my parents nipped that particular worry in the bud for me.

    WARNING: Links contain pictures of gross penii
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Balanitis
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Phimosis

  23. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 19, 2012 at 6:27 pm |

    i think i am not pulling it out of thin air

    I suspect you are; there have been claims that this has happened, but obviously no proof.

  24. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 6:33 pm |

    When I heard these teenage circumcision stories and the stories about people who’ve had Balanitis or Phimosis (links below with warning) I feel HUGELY relieved that my parents nipped that particular worry in the bud for me.

    Looks more like very sligh inflammation for me. Hardly gross. Phimosis is more serious, but it’s very minor and easily treatable condition. Not gross either, but i might be overly lax with my grossability.

    i think i am not pulling it out of thin air

    I suspect you are; there have been claims that this has happened, but obviously no proof.

    Oh, so you heard about it too! Great, i was afraid my memory was tricking me.

    But yes, i wonder how would i be possible to even falsify. I mean, i remember it was supposedly very rare (as in one-in-million births) and thus really hard to spot. Not to mention that you’d either have total confidence about lack of semen presence or genetic testing that would reveal it’s a mother clone. Not really achieveable for something so rare, so i guess it must have been theoretical in first place.

    Or something :D

  25. Li
    Li June 19, 2012 at 6:36 pm |

    So while balanitis is an inflammation, people should probably be pretty wary about calling phimosis (which is a physical formation of the foreskin) gross. The appearance and function of other people’s junk is not any of your business.

  26. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 19, 2012 at 6:38 pm |

    Oh, so you heard about it too! Great, i was afraid my memory was tricking me.

    Yeah, there was this woman named Mary who claimed to have been impregnated despite being a virgin. That ended somewhat badly.

  27. Sara Dalton
    Sara Dalton June 19, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

    I’m with Jill on this, putting your mouth on someone’s genitals requires consent (unless this practice was literally going to save the life of someone too young to express consent).

  28. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |

    So while balanitis is an inflammation, people should probably be pretty wary about calling phimosis (which is a physical formation of the foreskin) gross. The appearance and function of other people’s junk is not any of your business.

    Phimosis very often leads to a torn foreskin during sexual encounters. It’s more than an appearance issue, can you imagine painfully splitting your foreskin during your first sexual encounter? Besides, I don’t want to get all puritanical, but I don’t expect to see exposed genitals on wikipedia, and I was just warning anyone else who might not want to stare at that.

  29. matlun
    matlun June 19, 2012 at 6:49 pm |

    I’m the last person who’s going to defend circumcision, but it’s not fair to say that it serves NO medical purpose. It has been shown to decrease the transmission of certain STDs, including HIV, and decrease the risk of certain infections.

    It can be debated whether it is actually medically beneficial, harmful, or neutral. But regardless of the answer to that, children are not normally circumcised because of medical reasons. What I was trying to say was that the purpose of circumcision is not medical – it is a traditional religious and cultural tradition.

    On closer consideration, this may not be fully applicable to the US where (as I understand it) circumcision for non-religious reasons is common, with somewhat unclear reasons for the origins of the tradition.

  30. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 6:51 pm |

    I’m with Jill on this, putting your mouth on someone’s genitals requires consent (unless this practice was literally going to save the life of someone too young to express consent).

    To repeat my previous question, does putting your mouth on someone’s toe does require consent, too?

    How do you acquire infant consent?

    So while balanitis is an inflammation, people should probably be pretty wary about calling phimosis (which is a physical formation of the foreskin) gross. The appearance and function of other people’s junk is not any of your business.

    Yep. Much better to say “it grosses me out”, thus making it about your own story and not about objective quality of someone else body. I’m actually dead serious about this one.

    The Mary thing is more of a wishful thinking, agreed. I mean, Jesus was a woman! If that’s not breaking news i don’t know what is. But think of it – how many women clothed in men garments and tried to pass as men? Plenty! I say it’s perfectly plausible. Even likely, i’d say :D

  31. Li
    Li June 19, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

    I’m aware of the potential complications of phimosis, thanks Steve. It’s still fucked up to refer to other people’s genitals as gross. It would have been simple enough to describe the pictures as explicit.

  32. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 6:55 pm |

    Phimosis very often leads to a torn foreskin during sexual encounters. It’s more than an appearance issue, can you imagine painfully splitting your foreskin during your first sexual encounter? Besides, I don’t want to get all puritanical, but I don’t expect to see exposed genitals on wikipedia, and I was just warning anyone else who might not want to stare at that.

    You’d have to be pretty heavily sheltered for that to even come as a possibility. And start having intercourse at the age of 8. Or seven.

    I mean, unless you’re totally shamed about your genitals you’ve got to see other people penii, you’ve got to see a doctor at one time, you’ve got your parents to notice. That’s rather inconceivable scenario, tbh.

    If you don’t want to see a pictures of genitals in encyclopedia article about genitals, i’d say you’re pretty heavily puritanical. Just my opinion of course. But i have to ask, did you ever read wikipedia article about oral sex? It has quite lenghty talk page about the pictures included in it…

  33. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 19, 2012 at 6:58 pm |

    I’m aware of the potential complications of phimosis, thanks Steve. It’s still fucked up to refer to other people’s genitals as gross. It would have been simple enough to describe the pictures as explicit.

    Your concern is duly noted.

  34. SophiaBlue
    SophiaBlue June 19, 2012 at 7:16 pm |

    To repeat my previous question, does putting your mouth on someone’s toe does require consent, too?

    Um, yes? Pretty sure I would be unhappy if someone put their mouth on my toe without my consent. Pretty sure I would kick them just out of reflex.

    How do you acquire infant consent?

    You can’t, that’s the point. Infants can’t give consent, which is why to the extent it is possible we should not be touching their genitals. Obviously sometimes it will be necessary for medical or cleaning purposes, but this practice is clearly neither.

  35. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm |

    Great. For the record, i completely agree.

    The conclusion is that the unconsensuality of circumcision is not a issue, because consent doesn’t apply to infants, because, reality. (as in, they are unable to give consent in practice). Therefore criticising this practice because it’s unconsensual is not really well thought-out argument.

    Doesn’t mean that this practice isn’t wrong because of other things, obviously. I think it is, personally.

    On a side note, I don’t really think think there’s much difference between genitals and toes. Not for infants, at least. And by the time there is they should be able to give consent, and thus go and get consent if you’re going to touch a child. Anywhere, including toes.

    Because it teaches them bodily autonomy, contrary to what our fucked up socialization teaches them at the moment.

  36. SophiaBlue
    SophiaBlue June 19, 2012 at 8:10 pm |

    The conclusion is that the unconsensuality of circumcision is not a issue, because consent doesn’t apply to infants, because, reality.

    That’s not how it works. If you require consent to do x, and someone can’t consent, then you shouldn’t do x to that person. Putting your mouth on someone’s genitals requires their consent, infants can’t give consent, therefore you shouldn’t put your mouth on an infant’s genitals. Again, we make exceptions for health reasons, but those reasons don’t apply here.

  37. Sisou
    Sisou June 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

    I needed a trigger warning, I was not prepared for that.

    I really want all ya to stay away from children because your lack of concern about the bodily automony of children. really, we debating intentionality and toes vs gentials in child molestation.

    Seriously, a child can’t consent which requires adults to have common sense and decency.

    Some please give feminste a lesson in good touch, bad touch.

  38. Hugh
    Hugh June 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

    Phimosis is manageable as an adult. Doctors very rarely recommend circumcision as treatment for it, so circumcision as -prevention- seems pretty hard to justify.

  39. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 8:33 pm |

    That’s not how it works. If you require consent to do x, and someone can’t consent, then you shouldn’t do x to that person. Putting your mouth on someone’s genitals requires their consent, infants can’t give consent, therefore you shouldn’t put your mouth on an infant’s genitals. Again, we make exceptions for health reasons, but those reasons don’t apply here.

    My point is that it’s poor argument because it leads to absurd conclusion. Putting your hand on someone’s toe requires consent, infants can’t give consent, therefore you can’t touch their toes.

    Doesn’t seem so good argument anymore. But you’re right that then we have a real world and health concerns and so on. Of course, if we come down from abstract discussion into reality, we have infants that require frequent and prolonged physical contact aka touch to basically survive, so… everything gets a bit fuzzy. the point is that there’s no more harm in mohel sucking than in parent hugging a child. It’s the adults that have the squick grossout that make this part of that ritual a problem.

    Of course, then it’s the issue of circumcision being a genital mutilation, basically, so, yeah, it’s bad, no real question about that.

    On a side note, i’m not really sure that infants can’t consent. I mean, they are quite able to non-verbally communiate if they approve or something or not, no?

  40. EG
    EG June 19, 2012 at 8:41 pm |

    the point is that there’s no more harm in mohel sucking than in parent hugging a child. It’s the adults that have the squick grossout that make this part of that ritual a problem.

    This is the part of your statement that needs evidence, because you are assuming two things:

    1) The sexual feelings attached to genitals are not felt by infants.
    2) The fact that it’s adults who have a problem with the mouth-on-penis part of the circumcision means that it’s not really a problem

    Now, I don’t buy #1 at all. Why on earth would you assume that? Further, babies and children are acculturated into a society in which adults have a problem with mouth-on-penis contact with children/babies, so I don’t see how you get to the idea that the adult problem with it means it’s not really a problem.

  41. EG
    EG June 19, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

    In fact, given the fact that babies do masturbate from a very young age (there’s a blocked-by-diaper, not-having-good-enough-motor-control problem to overcome), I would say the evidence is against you.

  42. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 19, 2012 at 9:21 pm |

    I think you misunderstood me. I don’t dispute that infants are sexual beings, i’m aware they are capable of masturbaion right of the bat, basically.

    I just dispute that there’s a difference between general bodily autonomy and sexual bodily autonomy until socialization starts working with shame and stuff. Granted, that’s assumption – but so is claiming the opposite. I got that sentence you quoted from this.

    The second point is really easy. If people are squicked by something happening to other people, well, that’s completely, utterly irrelevant. I mean, banning rituals because some people are grossed out by them? I am sure nothing could go wrong with that :D

  43. Fletch
    Fletch June 19, 2012 at 9:27 pm |

    The main purpose of this post is to ask Tomek if he is possibly thinking of the fictional story “Herland?”

    The problem, from my point of view, is the fact that the names of the infected aren’t being disclosed, leaving them free to spread to more helpless babies. If their key concern is the well-being of the infants, then they ought share this fact with the community, or at the very least keep their saliva off babies’ open wounds.

    And as a point of curiosity, were cases of neonatal herpes (from the mama, not the aftermath) taken into account for this article?

  44. irishup
    irishup June 19, 2012 at 10:16 pm |

    I don’t think the point is that there is no sensation – the babies clearly register pain from the foreskin removal as evidenced by their reaction so lets assume that sensation is intact. What I think Tomek was talking about, and what I had in my head in my comment, is that a 2 – 8 day old baby has no reference point, nor the cognitive abilities, to attach different meanings to a sensation on his penis vs a sensation on his toe.

    Infants don’t actually HAVE autonomy or the capacity for consent, so these are not the issue. I see the issue as rather respecting infants’ bodily integrity – meaning that you act in the baby’s best interests respecting the fact that someday (soon) this baby will be an autonomous human separate from you. But in the meantime, as a parent, your job is to act as steward, weighing potential harm vs. benefit of this course of action or that to your children as best you can. And if you’re an observant Jewish person, you view the Bris Milah as being in you son’s best interest.

    But if you’re prioritizing tradition or rather fringe interpretations of religious mandates over known avoidable risks, I’d say you’re being a poor steward.

  45. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe June 20, 2012 at 12:41 am |

    Oh shit. At first I thought this was the typical anti-circumcision rant. But I have to say this practice in downright weird. I would say that if orthodox people want to continue this they get tested for Herpes 1 and 2 before they be allowed to do this.

  46. Partial Human
    Partial Human June 20, 2012 at 12:45 am |

    Fat Steve pontificating about things he knows little about. Must be a day ending in ‘Y’.

    No Steve, the boys and men of the UK are not afflicted with widespread cock-blight. Circumcision is for Jews, Muslims, and the occasional case of phimosis that doesn’t respond to manual stretching.

    Labia can get infections, clitoral balanitis and phimosis are common. Should infibulation be performed, or just removal of the clitoral hood and the frenulum?

    Same goes for labial adhesions. Painful, can lead to tearing and bleeding if not caught in infancy. Nasty. Scrape them off, save the hassle?

    See also: tonsils, the appendix, adenoids, etc. Removal at birth? Or is it just cockskin that’s disgusting and wrong, as per your bizarre culture, and was only ever removed to prevent masturbation a terrible, burdensome, future health risk?

    IrishUp – ITA. The numbers of infected haredi babies outnumber those reported. Parents will not name mohelim (Fisher isn’t the only one spreading herpes), and there are doctors in the community who will treat the baby, and ignore the mandatory reporting of infant herpes.

    New York’s turning a blind eye to this, like it is with the staggering number of child rapists in the community (who never go to trial, or on the registry, and whose records are sealed), and the disgusting hate campaigns directed towards. victims, who often commit suicide.

    Bloc voting is a powerful thing.

    One mohel on another forum claims to perform up to 40 MBP a week, on babies belonging to haredim, Hassidim, and even Modern Orthodox, who are creeping further to the right now.

    Speaking out about it leads to threats, smear campaigns, and accusations of anti-semitism, especially from the Satmar camp, and often the Gur.
    Certain Satmarers will claim that no brit is halakhically valid without MBP, and that the occasional death is nothing if it means following the law. Even though MBP is not halakhically based.

    It’s terrifying how many people here will defend a grown man sucking blood from the penis of an eight-day old baby, “Because religion!” Makes me wonder how the argument would play out for a similar Christian or Muslim ritual. My spidey*-sense says it would be quite different.

    I actually have a cousin called Yossi Spiederman. His tzitzit look like webs. Sadly I could only find little velvet Marvel kippot, and he wears kippah srugah, a big knitted one. A girl can dream.

  47. EG
    EG June 20, 2012 at 12:54 am |

    If people are squicked by something happening to other people, well, that’s completely, utterly irrelevant.

    Except the context is in a society that considers mouth-genital contact with children to be utterly unacceptable (and apparently this is true for at least some of the families who were not told as well); this is the society the child will be socialized into, and so that unacceptability does figure into his experiences.

    What I think Tomek was talking about, and what I had in my head in my comment, is that a 2 – 8 day old baby has no reference point, nor the cognitive abilities, to attach different meanings to a sensation on his penis vs a sensation on his toe.

    Yes, that’s what I’m disputing. More and more of the assumptions that have been traditionally made by child development specialists about what infants don’t know or feel are being contested with fresh evidence, and given the masturbation, I’m not sure why we would assume that an infant can’t identify a significant difference between sensations emanating from his penis and his toe; too, I’m not sure that cognitive abilities are really what’s needed to do so. It comes down to how constructed, i.e. dependent on social reference points, you believe sexual stimulation to be; I think enough of it is innate to call into question the assumption that it’s only adults who experience a difference between touching an infant’s toe and his penis.

  48. Partial Human
    Partial Human June 20, 2012 at 12:56 am |

    Oh, and by Steve’s “culture”, I mean the bizarre American Kellogg-adulation. I might call it ‘Wellvillianism’.

    Purity-policing a-go-go.

    Cornflakes = good
    Deliberately-induced scarring of the genital mucosa = bad.

  49. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe June 20, 2012 at 12:57 am |

    Also, I have to say, as a libertarian, that I have trouble with government getting involved with peoples religious and spiritual beliefs, but transmission of viruses might trump those rights.

  50. Partial Human
    Partial Human June 20, 2012 at 1:05 am |

    Joe – roughly 80% of adults have coldsores. MBP is wrong, and it needs to be clamped down on. No pipettes, no HSV testing, nothing

    Metzitzah can be done with a
    moistened bedikah pad (small cotton swab, every orthodox woman has a pack in the house). MBP is not halakhically required, it’s abusive, potentially fatal, and should be banned.

  51. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe June 20, 2012 at 1:21 am |

    Joe – roughly 80% of adults have coldsores. MBP is wrong, and it needs to be clamped down on. No pipettes, no HSV testing, nothing

    Metzitzah can be done with a
    moistened bedikah pad (small cotton swab, every orthodox woman has a pack in the house). MBP is not halakhically required, it’s abusive, potentially fatal, and should be banned.

    As a non-Jewish person I will defer to your opinion. It sounds like a small sect within the community doing this.

  52. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh June 20, 2012 at 1:44 am |

    I would normally just defer to the Jewish views on this issue, and lurk, but I have to speak up at least for now, because I am very squicked out by the stuff that Tomek is saying here about babies for fuck’s sake, and consent to sex.

    Yes, babies can feel pleasure and pain, and they can express feelings of pleasure and pain, but they CANNOT consent to sex or acts like metzitzah b’peh because they have no understanding of what is actually happening. I find any suggestions to the contrary to be extremely disturbing and on par with one pro-pedophila activist who gave an interview saying he believed a 6 month old baby could consent to sex. I spent 10+ years as an activist in the survivor movement and I am an early CSA survivor so this is a subject I am sadly familiar with. I assure you that I didn’t and couldn’t consent to intercourse when I was two years old, and no, it didn’t just magically “become” rape when I reached the age where I was able to put two and two together and get confirmation from the adults in my life that that was what happened or when I learned about sexual shame.

    Similarly, these babies undergoing circumcision can’t consent to the circumcision or the act that follows it because they don’t even understand what the hell is happening to them. That is a violation, even if their being so very young will likely prevent traumatic memories that older very small children can have.

  53. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 2:42 am |

    Similarly, these babies undergoing circumcision can’t consent to the circumcision or the act that follows it because they don’t even understand what the hell is happening to them. That is a violation, even if their being so very young will likely prevent traumatic memories that older very small children can have.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the parents the ones who have to consent to any surgical operation of the child? Plus, I really don’t think a circumcision under anaesthesia counts as a ‘violation.’ When an older boy is circumsized for therapeutic reasons, is that a violation?

  54. SydneyKait
    SydneyKait June 20, 2012 at 4:29 am |

    Putting your mouth on a babies genitals isn’t justified with religious tradition. Just because something has been done for a long time or is part of their belief system doesn’t make it immune from being wrong. I wonder how this would be viewed if it were happening to girls instead of boys.

  55. WHEOhio
    WHEOhio June 20, 2012 at 4:33 am |

    To compare this practice to the vital act of cleaning and bathing is so incredibly disingenuous. You have to wipe your kid’s bottom and change their diaper for their health and comfort. Cleaning your baby falls into the category of absolutely necessary, non-negotiable parenting responsibility. Placing your mouth onto the genitals of a child (I cannot believe I am saying this) serves absolutely no purpose other than to uphold some absurd dogma because the adults involved can’t let go of a “tradition”. Just because something has been done for a long time by many people over the years does not mean that it should be protected or continued. I mean, really? We haven’t learned this yet?

    Also, ‘meaning well’ does not mean that something is a good – or even benign – thing to do. Intent, it is not magic, and all that.

    This whole thing is apalling, and if it weren’t hiding under the cloak of religion, it would absolutely not be tolerated under the law.

  56. WHEOhio
    WHEOhio June 20, 2012 at 4:40 am |

    Or, what Sydney Kait said.

  57. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 5:17 am |

    The main purpose of this post is to ask Tomek if he is possibly thinking of the fictional story “Herland?”

    Never heard of it before. Sounds sort of interesting until it gets into relationship phase and then it sounds like it’s slipping into stereotype really hard. But no, i didn’t get the parthogenesis thing form the “Sexmission” movie either (i’m Polish, so it would be more likely).

    I would normally just defer to the Jewish views on this issue, and lurk, but I have to speak up at least for now, because I am very squicked out by the stuff that Tomek is saying here about babies for fuck’s sake, and consent to sex. (…)

    I don’t see consent to sex as an issue here at all. I don’t see how it’s even a topic given the wide difference between infant and adult worlds (how they perceive it). I mean, does infant have a concept of “sex” at all? It’s a cultural concept, one has to learn what it means – and there is quite wide variance among adults about its meaning.

    And whether an infant can consent or not, as i said i’m not sure. Obviously, not in legal sense, but what i was wondering is that consent even in adult world is often non-verbal (seriously, most of our communication is non-verbal), and while infants can’t speak, nor do they have typical adult capabilities, they do seem to be able to communicate, right (that’s obviously ongoing consent, not pre-action one. But consent is an ongoing process anyway and not free-to-do once i agree card)?

    It’s not the first time i see such response from abuse survivor, though. So consider – if you were abused, you didn’t consent. I don’t care what some fuckwad says about his child victims’ consent. I don’t believe it any more i would believe rapist saying that “she wanted it”. Even if you think that infant can consen it doesn’t automagically mean some adult pedophile has the right to determine whether particular infant did or not, so it would not change your – or anyone else – situation. Perhaps, don’t hurt the kid, what about it? If it cries, stop tickling it, cutting genitals or check the diaper, or whatever else?

  58. Becky
    Becky June 20, 2012 at 6:00 am |

    Trigger warning – discussion of sexual assault on children

    Tomek – children can’t give meaningful consent to sex. Sexual activity with children is considered sexual assault even for verbal children who say yes or willingly go along with it. Because children don’t have the capacity to understand what they’re “consenting” to, because they are too likely to have blind trust that adults won’t hurt them or to be afraid to say no to authority figures… among other reasons. That goes for infants too – yes, they can communicate “I like this/I don’t like this.” And yes, that should be respected when it comes to things like tickling or cuddling. But communicating that sexual activity feels good is not even close to the same as meaningful consent (and I kind of can’t believe I had to type that).

  59. Lauren
    Lauren June 20, 2012 at 8:01 am |

    The argument that’s all about the intentions of the adult and whether or not they’re sexual is along the same lines of defenses used by NAMBLA. Come on, people.

  60. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 9:30 am |

    You know what is absolutely ridiculous?

    That an argument was made for why ANY mouth on penis contact is NECESSARILY abusive by definition because of, oh I don’t know, our objectively moral cultural associations with that act? Even aside from the health risks, the act itself must be condemned in ALL arenas because of the sacred rite of consent.

    But the actual cutting off of part of the penis? Not allowed to talk about that!

    Cuz, uh, it might prevent HIV! (no)
    You could have health complications! (Humans??? no!)
    It’s more widespread?
    Jews on this thread might get offended?
    I really don’t understand it.

    It’s mind-boggling to condemn a “sexual” act because of its violent nature evidenced by a lack of consent and then say nothing about the ACTUAL violence that necessarily preceded it.

    Seriously.

  61. Flowergirl
    Flowergirl June 20, 2012 at 9:40 am |

    while infants can’t speak, nor do they have typical adult capabilities, they do seem to be able to communicate, right

    Ok, but infants can’t understand what an adult means when he asks ‘can I put my mouth on your penis to suck out the blood’ and so can’t give or refuse consent to it. Arguing that babies signal lack of consent through crying is essentially saying that it’s ok to try something to see if they consent or not, since this is how they understand it. Which seems kind of problematic, no?

  62. speedbudget
    speedbudget June 20, 2012 at 10:10 am |

    If someone were putting their mouth on a baby’s genitals for non-religious reasons, would there be any defense of it?

    Why is it that religion automatically gets a pass? Automatically giving abusive behaviors a pass because it comes from a religious tradition has got to be the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard of.

  63. Lauren
    Lauren June 20, 2012 at 10:18 am |

    Arguing that babies signal lack of consent through crying is essentially saying that it’s ok to try something to see if they consent or not, since this is how they understand it. Which seems kind of problematic, no?

    Under this logic, it’s okay to do whatever you want to non-verbal people, and as long as they don’t cry, it’s all good! Play on!

  64. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 10:20 am |

    Ok, but infants can’t understand what an adult means when he asks ‘can I put my mouth on your penis to suck out the blood’ and so can’t give or refuse consent to it. Arguing that babies signal lack of consent through crying is essentially saying that it’s ok to try something to see if they consent or not, since this is how they understand it. Which seems kind of problematic, no?

    Well, it’s not that i’m suggesting chopping babies legs off and waiting for reaction to see whether they like it or not :D

    But i don’t think you actually think it’s not okay in many cases to act first then respond to reaction. Unless you ask your significant others for verbal consent every time you touch them. Which would surprise me.

    Anyway, what i am saying is that in case where verbal consent is not possible, one should better pay attention to non verbal communication and was disputing the earlier claim (which i earlier supported too, but, whatever) that infants can’t consent. I don’t think it’s that clear cut now. Not that i think it’s not the case already, at least if we speak about at least somewhat emphatic parents. Which would mean a small minority, but, well, that’s my personal experience.

    The argument that’s all about the intentions of the adult and whether or not they’re sexual is along the same lines of defenses used by NAMBLA. Come on, people.

    Who’s saying that here? The only person who brought this thing up was Annaleigh and i don’t think she’s card-carrying NAMBLA member, really.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but aren’t the parents the ones who have to consent to any surgical operation of the child? Plus, I really don’t think a circumcision under anaesthesia counts as a ‘violation.’ When an older boy is circumsized for therapeutic reasons, is that a violation?

    Seriously? Can’t you see a difference between older boy who can say something about it and an infant who can’t? Parents, even in our flawed system, thankfully don’t have Roman-style complete overlordship over their progeny, so they can’t order, idk, kidney removal for teh lulz. Or for sale. Not that selling into slavery doesn’t happen. But i digress.

    Their consent is required because someone has to, kids are considered not knowledgeable enough to do it and parents are assumed to have best interest of kids on their mind (yeah, right), and know the situation the best. And many medical procedures require approval of both the kid (if it’s old enough) and parents, anyway.

  65. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    Lauren,

    Trigger warning – discussion of sexual assault on children (…)

    Which i think is rather complicated case. Sometimes it’s bullshit (i mean, two teenagers, yeah, not allowed), sometimes it’s very good regulation, even if i don’t agree with theoretical assumptions behind it (ie: i think sexual contact between children and adults – and also between children and children older than them – should be banned full stop, for variety of very good reasons, yet i do not think that children are harmed by sexual activity. Like the masturbation mentioned earlier in the thread. That’s purytannical bullshit, basically)

    But communicating that sexual activity feels good is not even close to the same as meaningful consent (and I kind of can’t believe I had to type that).

    I disagree. Probably not always (um, faking for some reason, for example), but i assure you if i moan i am pretty damn sure i am communicating that yes, i like, and yes, i consent, and please, more. So the reality is again more complicated that the theory of consent.

  66. igglanova
    igglanova June 20, 2012 at 10:35 am |

    What’s missing from all this is a consideration of what possible benefit metzitzah b’peh has for the infant in question. And it would have to be pretty damn spectacular to outweigh the associated health risks and emotional distress.

  67. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 10:38 am |

    Under this logic, it’s okay to do whatever you want to non-verbal people, and as long as they don’t cry, it’s all good! Play on!

    Well, if you’re rapist looking for an excuse, yeah, i guess it’s logical then, but, you know, i assumed we’re talking about people with goodwill and empathy and, idk, basic humanity.

    Oh well. It seems i just said that most jurors lack these qualities, judging from many rape cases.

  68. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 11:04 am |

    Why are we assuming that male religious authority figures are operating out of goodwill and empathy?

    I don’t know.

    Fun personal anecdote time.

    When I had my bris, there was thankfully no Rabbi putting his mouth on my penis, but there was a Rabbi cutting off my foreskin. He didn’t do a very good job, and I guess I started bleeding a lot. My parents were all like “Hey, lets go to the hospital now maybe”, and the Rabbi was like “No, don’t. Some boys are just bleeders”. Thankfully my parents were not fucking around and they took me to the hospital.

    Overshare:
    I can see the part of my circumcision scar where the Rabbi clearly screwed up.

    I think the point of sharing this is to add an account of circumcision where a Rabbi was far more interested in partaking of some CYA than he was in a baby’s health and welfare.

  69. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 11:25 am |

    Why are we assuming that male religious authority figures are operating out of goodwill and empathy?

    Wait, what religious authority figures have to do with this conversation?

    Oh, right. Sorry :D

    On a more serious note, i think i had more of family type structure in mind when writing that, since the topic was hovering around that. And naive as i might be i think there’s not much point of discussing close relationship not based on that because it ends with DTMFA very quickly. Yeah right, easy to say, financial dependency, etc.

  70. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 20, 2012 at 11:33 am |

    I remember my son’s mohel claiming that there was a much lower rate of complications, etc., when it’s done by an experienced mohel (he had done thousands — the best man for the job in Northern New Jersey, according to all the recommendations we got!) than in a hospital by a doctor. Was it true? I have no idea; there was no Internet in those days to allow me to look. Fortunately, everything went well, and my son only cried for a few seconds, even though in those days it was very rare to use any kind of local anesthetic and all the mohel did was dip his gloved finger in some wine and put in my son’s mouth.

  71. yes
    yes June 20, 2012 at 11:43 am |

    1) Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait.
    2) Putting your mouth on a child’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring some extreme hypothetical snakebite situation.

    I don’t feel like either of the above statements are complicated or contentious propositions. Am I mistaken about the basics of bodily autonomy and ownership? No means no, and so does “I’m a week old.”

  72. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 11:52 am |

    1) Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait.
    2) Putting your mouth on a child’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring some extreme hypothetical snakebite situation.

    I don’t feel like either of the above statements are complicated or contentious propositions. Am I mistaken about the basics of bodily autonomy and ownership? No means no, and so does “I’m a week old.”

    Seriously. Thank you.

  73. EG
    EG June 20, 2012 at 11:56 am |

    But the actual cutting off of part of the penis? Not allowed to talk about that!

    I haven’t seen that. I mean, let’s talk about it. I myself am not on board with circumcision, and would like to see it disappear as a standard procedure in hospitals and suchlike. I don’t see any reason for it (my understanding is that the supposed decrease in HIV transmission was disproven), I don’t like cutting pieces off of children, it causes unnecessary pain, and infants can’t consent. That said, in my opinion, the way to start activism around this issue is not by focusing on Orthodox communities, but by getting the AMA and the pediatricians to recommend against it and to get hospitals to stop randomly offering it at birth.

    Personally, should I have a boy, I would like to have a bris shalom.

  74. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 12:00 pm |

    Personally, should I have a boy, I would like to have a bris shalom.

    Word up.

  75. Flowergirl
    Flowergirl June 20, 2012 at 12:22 pm |

    But i don’t think you actually think it’s not okay in many cases to act first then respond to reaction. Unless you ask your significant others for verbal consent every time you touch them

    Actually, I do think it’s not okay in many cases to act first then respond to reaction, including with my currently non-existent significant other.

    Would I ask for verbal consent every time? No, but the first time, yes. Until we had an agreement, yes. If I wasn’t sure she wanted it, yes. If I was worried it might hurt or upset her, yes. If I wasn’t sure that she’d verbally consent or not consent, yes. If I was doing something outside of the norm for society and/or our relationship, yes. Don’t put words in my mouth, please.

  76. marc200
    marc200 June 20, 2012 at 12:30 pm |

    I think applying the whole language of “consent” and “bodily autonomy” to babies is really problematic. Babies cannot and do not consent; they have no independent bodily autonomy. Of course actual sexual behavior with a child is and should be illegal, this is properly an agreement made between and enforced by adults. But parents do and should do all kinds of things to babies and children that would properly be seen to require consent and have sexual implications between strangers in an adult context — bathing their kid naked, cuddling, kissing them on the cheek, encouraging the child to suck milk from the mother’s breast (not strictly necessary as formula could be used), etc. etc. These are nonsexual expressions of parental love. If you start trying to apply adult notions of ‘consent’ and ‘autonomy’ here you are setting things up for major abuses by child protective services, nosy neighbors, etc. There have in fact been such cases — children taken away and put into foster care (a horribly abusive situation) because e.g. parents photograph them naked in the bath. You also set up a situation where the public is encouraged to look for sexual overtones in ordinary physical affection between parents and children, which is potentially quite icky in its way too.

  77. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 12:34 pm |

    1) Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait.

    Jews are evil. Got it. Thanks for the tip (no pun intended.)

  78. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 12:40 pm |

    Actually, I do think it’s not okay in many cases to act first then respond to reaction, including with my currently non-existent significant other.

    Would I ask for verbal consent every time? No, but the first time, yes. Until we had an agreement, yes. If I wasn’t sure she wanted it, yes. If I was worried it might hurt or upset her, yes. If I wasn’t sure that she’d verbally consent or not consent, yes. If I was doing something outside of the norm for society and/or our relationship, yes. Don’t put words in my mouth, please.

    I don’t think we disagree at all. These two stataments aren’t mutually exclusive, after all, and I’d certainly ask the first time, as far as i remember that’s exactly what i was doing. If would be doubting s/he would want it, i’d ask, or not do it – hell, it often happens to me during an argument, for example.

    The situations i meant when i think it’s okay are situations like: evening, you and your long-time SO are going to sleep (assuming single bed), and you put your hand around hir body, for example. I think such situations are quite common, thus “many”. It seems for me that’s really common viewpoint, that’s why i said i thought you would agree with that (i didn’t want to say that you do agree, btw! I don’ know, perhaps you don’t!)

  79. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 20, 2012 at 12:43 pm |

    my understanding is that the supposed decrease in HIV transmission was disproven

    I don’t know if disproven is the right word, but it’s certainly been called into question and is presently in dispute.

  80. Shelly
    Shelly June 20, 2012 at 1:09 pm |

    But the actual cutting off of part of the penis? Not allowed to talk about that!

    I don’t think that’s the case. But not every post has to solve every problem in the world. Circumcision itself was not really the subject of the post. It could maybe be the subject of a *different* post, but it’s kind of a derail here.

    I’m firmly on team Don’t Put Your Mouth on Babies’ Genitalia. EVER. I don’t care if it’s an ancient religious practice. Religious practices are not magically exempt from criticism.

  81. Sandy
    Sandy June 20, 2012 at 1:18 pm |

    it’s not fair to say that it serves NO medical purpose. It has been shown to decrease the transmission of certain STDs, including HIV, and decrease the risk of certain infections.

    To this I would like to say – who the fuck cares if it decreases the risk of HIV? I hate that this gets used as a pro-circ argument. Can you have your infant daughter’s breast buds removed to prevent the possibility of breast cancer someday? No? How come? Oh, because she might want to have breasts, and has a right to keep the body parts she was born with, and has the right to decide for herself as an adult whether she wants to prophylactically amputate something? Right then.

  82. QLH
    QLH June 20, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    But i don’t think you actually think it’s not okay in many cases to act first then respond to reaction. Unless you ask your significant others for verbal consent every time you touch them. Which would surprise me.

    Generally, when dealing with a significant other, you gain an ongoing understanding with each other and develop casual rituals around physical affection/touch. In an ongoing relationship like that, you usually don’t ask for consent before every instance. You probably negotiate your boundaries about physical touch early, and communicate regularly enough to know if anything’s changed.

    Outside of those very close, ongoing relationships with mutual understanding? Yeah, you might want to ask first. Make the offer and see how it’s responded to.

    It’s better to make sure that everyone involved is comfortable with what’s going on. As opposed to seeing what you can get away with.

  83. Sandy
    Sandy June 20, 2012 at 1:25 pm |

    (And yes, I know, the Ashley treatment, don’t get me started. But the vast majority of the time, parents can’t have their daughters’ breast buds surgically amputated because of a risk of a disease that’s decades into the future. It isn’t done, because of a recognized right of women, barring medical necessity, to keep the body parts they are born with.)

  84. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh June 20, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

    Who’s saying that here? The only person who brought this thing up was Annaleigh and i don’t think she’s card-carrying NAMBLA member, really.

    Oh really? You were the one who said that acts like the mohel sucking the baby after the circumcision wouldn’t be considered violating unless one of those adult prudes stepped in and said something was wrong with it!

    Yesterday you said:

    the point is that there’s no more harm in mohel sucking than in parent hugging a child. It’s the adults that have the squick grossout that make this part of that ritual a problem.

    What other people have tried to get through to you and to others is that the mohel doing the sucking would be considered to be sexually assaulting the child in just about any other context, but because the context is religious, it’s been given the benefit of the doubt by many people.

    Your view, again, is not that different from the pro-pedophile activists who say that sex with a small child doesn’t “become” a violation until some prudish adult steps in. That is why I posted last night, that is why I felt fucking nauseated.

  85. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 20, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

    I happen to agree that a discussion of circumcision in general is a derail in this thread. Why? Because Orthodox Jews are never, ever going to give up circumcision no matter what arguments are made, and no matter what laws people unsuccessfully try to pass (as in San Francisco) by making invidious comparisons to FGM. Whereas there is a possibility of stopping, or at least substantially curtailing, the particular practice which is the subject of this thread, which hasn’t been universal among even Orthodox Jews since at least the 1830’s. And which has recently resulted in several deaths. A tangible, immediate harm, again unlike male circumcision in general, the long-term harms of which to sexual functioning are as disputed as the benefits.

    All of which, I think, is reason enough why it makes sense to have a discussion about the specific practice rather than the general practice, regardless of what one thinks about the latter. (In my case, let’s just say I’m ambivalent, but find it difficult not to be highly suspicious of some of the anti-circumcision rhetoric, especially given what happened in San Francisco.)

  86. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 2:35 pm |

    I find it to be incredibly intellectually dishonest to criticize the treatment of a circumcision wound by centering the conversation around the effect on the baby and it’s violent nature due to a lack of consent without criticizing the far longer lasting and more greatly affecting violence that perpetrated this wound, the circumcision act itself.

    I don’t think anyone here could possibly disagree that this practice of MBP should stop, but our discussion here (if we’re talking about potential possibilities for change) will not reach those who practice MBP. Our discussion could, however, be heard by those who might violate their son’s bodily integrity without his consent by cutting off part of his penis.

    There is a specific and relevant point in contention here about the consistency between a view accepting of circumcision but unaccepting of any contact between an adult mouth and baby genitalia.

    That was a gross sentence to write.

    I think that both are harmful and violate of feminist principles.

    Why don’t you?

  87. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 2:42 pm |

    Either some comments are ending in moderation or i am getting blind and not noticing them in first place.

    I’m not sure why we would assume that an infant can’t identify a significant difference between sensations emanating from his penis and his toe; too, I’m not sure that cognitive abilities are really what’s needed to do so. It comes down to how constructed, i.e. dependent on social reference points, you believe sexual stimulation to be; I think enough of it is innate to call into question the assumption that it’s only adults who experience a difference between touching an infant’s toe and his penis.

    Wait, you think that we are born with innate recognition of our sexual organs that amounts to treating them as private? Are you really serious? What else, we have genetically wired knowledge that it’s bad to fart in polite company?

    That’s what i disagree with. That’s why i said i don’t think infant is going to be traumatized by mohel suckage (as opposed to circumcision itself). It has nothing to do with pedophilia, Annaleigh, and i don’t care if NAMBLA abusers construct stupid arguments based on something similar.

  88. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 20, 2012 at 2:43 pm |

    more greatly affecting violence

    tell that to the babies who’ve been infected with herpes, even the ones who didn’t die. Unless you really think that living with a circumcised penis is a greater tragedy than living with herpes, and constitutes mutilation analogous to FGM.

  89. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 2:46 pm |

    tell that to the babies who’ve been infected with herpes, even the ones who didn’t die.

    Obviously in a situation where there are such serious health concerns, that takes priority when judging the case.

    But I don’t think you’d be okay with it if a dental dam was used, so this argument is a red herring.

  90. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 2:49 pm |

    But I don’t think you’d be okay with it if a dental dam was used, so this argument is a red herring.

    I should not have presumed to know your opinion, actually, but I have seen many comments on this thread to which this critique would apply, so the point is still relevant.

  91. Partial Human
    Partial Human June 20, 2012 at 2:56 pm |

    Fat Steve – yeah it’s totes anti-semitic to say what routine infant circumcision is bad. Jews are the only Americans who circ. Nebech nebech, the femwagons are circling!

    You’re twisting yourself into a pretzel to defend RIC, why? What do you have invested? All British men are crippled by their terrible intact foreskins, anyone objecting to RIC is calling all Jews evil, and any body part with the potential to cause problems should be cut off at birth, but only if that part is a foreskin.

    WTF is your game here?

    Oh and Tomek – just no, shut up.

    Trigger warning, child sexual abuse.

    Do you realise that much of the trauma and devastation afflicting survivors of sexual abuse, happens because they feel guilty. If. they ever enjoyed the sensations or the attention, they often. believe that they caused/encouraged the abuse, that they wanted it, that THEY are to blame. Not the adult who took advantage,who knew that certain acts might feel good to the child, encourage them to continue, that there’s “nothing wrong” with what’s happening.

    So please, stop. No straw 17 year olds, no hypothetical teen boys experimenting (not the same at all). Sexual activity between an adult and an infant, a toddler, a child, or anyone under the age of consent is WRONG. No ifs, no buts.

  92. EG
    EG June 20, 2012 at 3:13 pm |

    Wait, you think that we are born with innate recognition of our sexual organs that amounts to treating them as private? Are you really serious?

    No. I think that we are born with innate recognition that sexual sensations from the genitals are different from other touch sensations. And yes, I am serious about that. And I don’t think the harm from child molestation is mainly about a violation of privacy; I think it is about a violation of sexuality and trust.

  93. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 3:36 pm |

    No. I think that we are born with innate recognition that sexual sensations from the genitals are different from other touch sensations

    Which doesn’t necessarily mean anything about traumatization. And anyway, i agree with that.

    And I don’t think the harm from child molestation is mainly about a violation of privacy; I think it is about a violation of sexuality and trust.

    Wait, wait. By child molestation you mean this specific kind of it? Because, yeah, in general i totally agree with that. Child sexual abuse is traumatic because it violates trust in safety from adult, and it violates their sexuality.

    I’m not sure how that translates into infant and mohel though. While kids generally absorb cultural concepts of sexuality quite early (with “don’t touch yourself there” messages, etc), i think infants didn’t have the time to do it yet, so i don’t know what exactly does it violate if not general bodily autonomy.

  94. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 20, 2012 at 3:47 pm |

    Oh and Tomek – just no, shut up.

    Oh go jump off a cliff or something.

    Sexual activity between an adult and an infant, a toddler, a child, or anyone under the age of consent is WRONG. No ifs, no buts.

    Which is what i explicitly wrote here.

  95. EG
    EG June 20, 2012 at 3:50 pm |

    Our disagreement, Tomek, is that I consider sexual sensation to be an aspect of sexuality, and therefore mohels need to keep their lips off baby boys’ penises.

  96. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 3:56 pm |

    Fat Steve – yeah it’s totes anti-semitic to say what routine infant circumcision is bad. Jews are the only Americans who circ. Nebech nebech, the femwagons are circling!

    Errr…I didn’t say that because he didn’t say ‘bad’….when you characterize a universal practice of the Jewish religion which has been practiced for thousands of years (circumcision, not the sucking thing) as ‘evil’, yeah, that is a bit anti-semitic. If circumcision is evil and Jewish parents all circumcize their sons, then surely the implication that all Jews (or at least Jewish parents,) are evil.

  97. Doublylinkedlists
    Doublylinkedlists June 20, 2012 at 5:30 pm |

    Yo Fat Steve, your Jewish essentialism is wrong. My sister will not be circumsizing her kid if she has a boy.

  98. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 5:38 pm |

    Yo Fat Steve, your Jewish essentialism is wrong. My sister will not be circumsizing her kid if she has a boy.

    Nice to know that your sister is not evil as my parents. Hopefully she’s not as annoying and pedantic as you.

  99. Partial Human
    Partial Human June 20, 2012 at 8:11 pm |

    There are plenty of Jews who don’t circ. Brit Shalom/Brit Tikkun is performed by about 50 US rabbis.

    I prefer to judge someone by the content of their character than the state of their genitalia, something which I hold by for other (hopefully obvious) reasons too.

  100. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 8:28 pm |

    There are plenty of Jews who don’t circ. Brit Shalom/Brit Tikkun is performed by about 50 US rabbis.

    I prefer to judge someone by the content of their character than the state of their genitalia, something which I hold by for other (hopefully obvious) reasons too.

    That is not my point. I am not defending the practice, in fact, I was on the ‘against it’ side because I only was aware of the religious justification, but when I heard of the medical issues, I became less sure. My point is when you call a widely used religious practice ‘evil,’ you are casting a judgement on people of that religion.

  101. yes
    yes June 20, 2012 at 8:43 pm |

    @Fat Steve.

    Jews all think and believe the exact same way; it’s in their blood. Gotcha. Thanks for the tip.

  102. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 8:54 pm |

    @Fat Steve.

    Jews all think and believe the exact same way; it’s in their blood. Gotcha. Thanks for the tip.

    Yeah that’s what I was saying. Clearly I’m the anti-semite.

    Not all Jewish people wear yarmulkes. Yet, it would be anti-semitic to say wearing yarmulkes is ‘evil’. Not all Jewish people wrap tefillin (sp?), yet it would be anti-semitic to say wrapping tefillin is evil.

  103. yes
    yes June 20, 2012 at 8:56 pm |

    @Steve again, actually

    I know it’s not helpful to your argument, but I said the act of genital amputation is evil. Decent people can do evil things, and subservience to religious and cultural norms is a common (though not the only) path to that situation. Judaism is very far from having a monopoly on this phenomenon.

    Also, could you do me a favor and say the following aloud:

    “I find the idea that Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait to be extremely offensive.”

    Bonus points if done in front of a mirror.

  104. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 20, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

    @Steve again, actually

    I know it’s not helpful to your argument, but I said the act of genital amputation is evil. Decent people can do evil things, and subservience to religious and cultural norms is a common (though not the only) path to that situation. Judaism is very far from having a monopoly on this phenomenon.

    Also, could you do me a favor and say the following aloud:

    “I find the idea that Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait to be extremely offensive.”

    Bonus points if done in front of a mirror.

    That sentence doesn’t make sense, riddled with double negatives and logical flaws, as it is. I’m not offended that you are implying Jews are evil. Just pointing it out. If you like though, I’ll repeat. This is the sentence I object to if that helps you.

    1) Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait.

    If anyone who shares my ‘sensitivies’ with regards to anti-semitism thinks I’m making mountains out of molehills and wants to tell me I’m over-reacting, I’m willing to listen, but I’m as yet unconvinced that your comment, as quoted above, does not have a more sinister aspect to them.

    I want to make this clear. I am not levelling this criticism at anyone on this thread but “yes.” This is not about arguing against circumcision,
    it’s about casting around accusations of ‘evil.’

  105. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 20, 2012 at 10:40 pm |

    This is not about arguing against circumcision,
    it’s about casting around accusations of ‘evil.’

    And I’m supposed to be the pedantic one.

    The absolutism you’re complaining about isn’t there. The act is evil. Or bad. Or contrary to feminist ideology. Or violative of consent. However you want to phrase it.

    Don’t cut up your kid’s dick.

    This is controversial?

  106. Mike Crichton
    Mike Crichton June 21, 2012 at 12:05 am |

    igglanova wrote:

    What’s missing from all this is a consideration of what possible benefit metzitzah b’peh has for the infant in question.

    The benefit was that back in the dark ages, saliva really was a reasonably effective disinfectant. This is why most mammals will instinctively lick their wounds. Of course, _modern_ humans have much better methods at our disposal.

  107. yes
    yes June 21, 2012 at 8:27 am |

    @ Steve 108

    I would have no problem saying that forcing children to wear yarmulkes was evil if wearing one caused amputation or some other serious, permanent violation of the body. But really, your parallel ignores that yarmulkes are worn more or less exclusively by Jews. Jews make up a minority of circumcision practitioners. Why aren’t you calling me an Islamaphobe?

  108. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 21, 2012 at 12:10 pm |

    …Why aren’t you calling me an Islamaphobe?

    Haven’t got around to it yet.

  109. matlun
    matlun June 21, 2012 at 1:03 pm |

    My point is when you call a widely used religious practice ‘evil,’ you are casting a judgement on people of that religion.

    As a general principle, that is just ridiculous.

    Or are you taking the same position on calling FGM evil? If so, feel free to substitute whatever religious practice you find most evil. Considering all the sick practices humans have come up with throughout history surely there must be something?

    Also, the judgment is on the people exercising the practice, not all people of the same religion (as has been pointed out above).

  110. yes
    yes June 21, 2012 at 1:10 pm |

    @steve
    Cute. Childish, but cute. Stick to complaining about grammar. There’s not really anything that can be said to someone who finds that sentence offensive or objectionable.

  111. Mxe354
    Mxe354 June 21, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

    My point is when you call a widely used religious practice ‘evil,’ you are casting a judgement on people of that religion.

    What?

    When I condemn Islam for allowing rape in some circumstances, I am not casting a judgment on all Muslims. Islam isn’t a race or ethnicity FFS. Don’t be absurd. Attack on religious beliefs =! bigotry against religious people.

  112. yes
    yes June 21, 2012 at 1:24 pm |

    Also, just to clarify: I don’t think circumcision is evil. I don’t think it’s a good idea, but I don’t think it’s evil. I believe very strongly that an adult male who wishes to have the procedure done for religious, cultural, or personal reasons should be free to do so without anyone judging him.

    I do, however, think involuntary circumcision is evil. I believe that parents don’t have the right to consent to it, or any other amputations on their child’s behalf without overt medical necessity. I have trouble believing that a serious, non-trolling person would read this conviction as a sneaky back door way to bash Jews. Then again, this is the internet.

  113. Angie unduplicated
    Angie unduplicated June 21, 2012 at 1:34 pm |

    Circumcision is just another form of genital mutilation, and kissing it to make it better is just another form of superstition. Oral sex spreads herpes from the infected to the uninfected. Kissing and licking genitals is oral sex. Religions are not given a pass on any other kind of sexual activities, and should not be given a pass here. Religions are group opinions and should have no more protections than any other opinion.
    And, re human parthenogenesis: There are several intersex people in my extended family. So far, no known pregnancies, but shouldn’t a virgin birth in an intersex human be of either sex, or both? Enlighten the hillbilly, please.

  114. Zac
    Zac June 21, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

    I’ve always enjoyed this video of Christopher Hitchens talking about circumcision. He absolutely kills it.

  115. yes
    yes June 21, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

    I would take issue with Hitchen’s claim that the genital mutilation community is entirely religious. There are a lot of social forces behind it (for example in the United States) too. Granted, the history of both male and female genital mutilation in the US is tied to a puritanical hatred of pleasure (especially self-pleasure), but the modern forces are not entirely religious.

    That said, I do enjoy some of Hitchens quite a lot. Though this is not necessarily the best venue to be citing him, due to the parts I don’t care for.

  116. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 21, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

    I have trouble believing that a serious, non-trolling person would read this conviction as a sneaky back door way to bash Jews. Then again, this is the internet.

    You deny that some people use this issue to bash Jews?

  117. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe June 21, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

    There is actual scientific data that demonstrate a significant lowering of the HIV infection rate in circumcised males, I don’t think there can be much of a dispute about that:

    http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0020298

  118. Lamech
    Lamech June 21, 2012 at 11:20 pm |

    Indeed Hitchens is completely wrong that it is solely religious. People do it for totally non-religious reasons. Indeed in America the main reason genital mutilation is so common is the cereal guy if I recall what I read on wikipedia correctly.

  119. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 22, 2012 at 8:47 am |

    There is actual scientific data that demonstrate a significant lowering of the HIV infection rate in circumcised males, I don’t think there can be much of a dispute about that

    I should begin all of my arguments by telling people they’re not allowed to dispute my cited facts.

    I would dispute this data’s relevancy to the moral question of an infant’s bodily autonomy. I might even point out that this is unrelated to the reasoning and motivations people have for circumcising their sons.

    I might also point out that the circumcisions performed in the study you cite were performed on adults after consent for the operation was given.

    Or I could point out that the age range for the study was 18-24, and that perhaps the results are not generalizable to infants. I don’t think sexually transmitted HIV is a widespread problem among infants.

  120. EG
    EG June 22, 2012 at 9:06 am |
  121. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe June 22, 2012 at 2:22 pm |

    I would dispute this data’s relevancy to the moral question of an infant’s bodily autonomy. I might even point out that this is unrelated to the reasoning and motivations people have for circumcising their sons.

    I might also point out that the circumcisions performed in the study you cite were performed on adults after consent for the operation was given.

    Or I could point out that the age range for the study was 18-24, and that perhaps the results are not generalizable to infants. I don’t think sexually transmitted HIV is a widespread problem among infants.

    I’m simply pointing out that the HIV is significantly lower for circumcised males, and the studies show it. People have their sons circumcised for all different kinds of reasons; while most are religious, some are for ease of hygiene. Hospitals don’t do it now unless the parents ask for it, so it’s not like doctors are running around circumcising every boy they can get to, or are trying to talk parents into it. There would be an ethical question for that.

    If you have moral objections to it, you’re free to make that decision for your family, but I object if anyone wants to make the decesions for other parents. I think the crowd that wants to make circumcision illegal unless absolutely necessary are going to far.

    Also, I think the moral question for this blog was the placing of a man’s mouth on an infant’s penis. There’s a now proven danger to this.

    EG, most of your link actually buttresses my point. It also points out the results were so dramatic they stopped the studies early. This is only done because not giving the treatment to the non-control group because of its success is considered unethical

  122. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe June 22, 2012 at 3:05 pm |

    Also, regarding cancer of the penis and circumcision, according to wiki:

    “Lack of circumcision – Circumcision during infancy or in childhood provides partial protection against penile cancer, but this is not the case when performed in adulthood”

  123. DoublyLinkedLists
    DoublyLinkedLists June 22, 2012 at 3:19 pm |

    Science as justification for violating the bodily autonomy of a marginalized group of people without consent.

    What a revolutionary idea!

  124. Donna L
    Donna L June 22, 2012 at 3:40 pm |

    Newborn babies now count as a marginalized group of people? Interesting.

    In any event, there was no lack of consent in my case: I consented retroactively, nunc pro tunc. All that “evil” washed away. I never was very attached to any of it, after all!

    More seriously, I’d be a lot more sympathetic if people stopped lumping this together with FGM as being in the same universe of “mutilation” and evil, and stopped using other ridiculously fevered rhetoric to try to ride on the coattails of the anti-FGM movement and gain political support that way. I don’t care whether people circumcise their children or not, whether or not they’re Jewish, but it’s a reprehensible comparison. And there really are a hell of a lot of people who don’t appreciate being told that they were mutilated in infancy by an evil action. Because if that’s not how they view it, it simply isn’t true, and nobody has any right to tell them the contrary.

  125. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 22, 2012 at 3:50 pm |

    And there really are a hell of a lot of people who don’t appreciate being told that they were mutilated in infancy by an evil action. Because if that’s not how they view it, it simply isn’t true, and nobody has any right to tell them the contrary.

    Thank you. I was beginning to think it was just me.

  126. yes
    yes June 22, 2012 at 4:59 pm |

    @Steve
    I don’t doubt that someone, somewhere has used virtually every moral principle to bash Jews. Antisemitism’s popularity throughout Western history more or less ensures that. What I’m saying is that I find it cynical and dishonest to pretend that my statement was a targeted, secret slam against a small portion of the people who practice circumcision.

    @Donna
    It sounds like you are proposing the idea that if an adult is okay with something being done without their consent as a child, then it wasn’t really without their consent? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but that really seems like the principle you’re suggesting. If I’m missing something other than “well, this is a circumcision-only exception” please explain.

    Aside from that, I understand that you don’t appreciate people making these statements. And I really hope my words have come across as a judgement and condemnation against those who circumcise children, and not those who have been circumcised as children. If I failed to make that distinction, I’m very sorry.

    That said, your offense doesn’t weigh very much when compared with the bodily autonomy of children as a whole. Human rights trump feelings, and that you’re okay with something doesn’t mean it should be legal or morally acceptable to force it on half the human race.

  127. Donna L
    Donna L June 22, 2012 at 5:16 pm |

    It sounds like you are proposing the idea that if an adult is okay with something being done without their consent as a child, then it wasn’t really without their consent? I don’t want to put words in your mouth, but that really seems like the principle you’re suggesting

    That’s what nunc pro tunc means. And why not? It makes just as much sense as adults who aren’t OK with it retroactively deciding at whatever age that it *was* “mutilation.” Who has more right to make that decision than the very person involved? Certainly not you. My son doesn’t consider himself “mutilated” (a word people should be very careful about using), and doesn’t believe that his parents did anything wrong by having a bris for him. Do you really think that it’s the place of anyone to argue that every single person actually involved is wrong? And that anyone else other than him even has the right to express an opinion? That they have a greater right than he does to speak for that baby — who just happens to be him? Give me a break.

    I should make it clear, of course, that for obvious reasons it’s entirely academic for me personally, of course.

  128. Lamech
    Lamech June 22, 2012 at 9:05 pm |

    More seriously, I’d be a lot more sympathetic if people stopped lumping this together with FGM as being in the same universe of “mutilation” and evil, and stopped using other ridiculously fevered rhetoric to try to ride on the coattails of the anti-FGM movement and gain political support that way. I don’t care whether people circumcise their children or not, whether or not they’re Jewish, but it’s a reprehensible comparison.

    While there may be additional discrimination that hit victims of FGM, the mutilation itself, can range from less drastic (some flavors of type IV), as equal as one can get with the two different genders (type 1a) to significantly worse when compared to the stereotypical MGM.

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

    So yeah, the sort of are the same universe of “evil”, seeing as how one of the forms of FGM, is pretty much exactly equivalent to the stereotypical MGM.

    And there really are a hell of a lot of people who don’t appreciate being told that they were mutilated in infancy by an evil action. Because if that’s not how they view it, it simply isn’t true, and nobody has any right to tell them the contrary.

    And there are a lot of people who don’t like being told that it was okay to mutilate their genitals. More to the point, the same thing goes for victims of FGM, so if you honestly believed “And there really are a hell of a lot of people who don’t appreciate being told that they were mutilated in infancy by an evil action. Because if that’s not how they view it, it simply isn’t true, and nobody has any right to tell them the contrary.” you couldn’t call refer to FGM as FGM.

  129. yes
    yes June 22, 2012 at 11:32 pm |

    Can you explain what is special about male genital cutting that makes it uniquely fitting where almost any other consent-ignoring conduct wouldn’t be applicable for nunc pro tunc? I assume you wouldn’t consider, for example, non-religious sexual contact to be retroactively consensual if the child grew up believing it was okay into adulthood. Or any degree of female genital cutting (which I’ll go ahead and acknowledge and emphasize causes much more damage than MGM, but we’re talking about consent, not degrees of harm here).

  130. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 22, 2012 at 11:51 pm |

    I don’t think you can divorce the consent issue from the degree of harm, to be honest. And I don’t believe you can override the adult, informed opinion of the very person involved, if they decide to give retroactive consent. Which, of course, isn’t true of everyone. All I know is that there was nothing remotely evil about the fact that I was circumcised as an infant, and nobody gets to tell me otherwise. But if my son has a son and decides not to, will I care? No. It’s his decision.

  131. Azalea
    Azalea June 23, 2012 at 5:23 am |

    I can’t believe that ANYONE would have to defend why it isn’t ok to touch, suck, fondle, handle, etc a child’s genitals without a medical or hygienic necessity.

    I understand the this practice started with the belief that it was done to help but obviously it harms. Why would it be ok EVEN IF IT DIDNT harm, for anyone’s mouth to be on the genitals of another person without that person’s consent and chalk it up to religion?

  132. Azalea
    Azalea June 23, 2012 at 5:33 am |

    My son doesn’t consider himself “mutilated” (a word people should be very careful about using), and doesn’t believe that his parents did anything wrong by having a bris for him. Do you really think that it’s the place of anyone to argue that every single person actually involved is wrong? And that anyone else other than him even has the right to express an opinion? That they have a greater right than he does to speak for that baby — who just happens to be him? Give me a break.

    People say mutilated because children born with foreskin and clitoral hoods would have it unless it was forcibly removed, the vast majority of the time this is done without their consent. You (as in general terms for men and women who have been circumcized and want their children circumcized) may like being circumcized and prefer to not being circumcized, none infant likes having their body part cut off, no infant enjoys not having it there anymore. They can grow up to get over it or not miss what they only had for a few hours, days or weeks of their entire lives but that doesn’t mean they retroactively consented.

    I know plenty of women without a clitoral hood who would tell you what their parents did to them was not wrong and that it’s wrong that this country has laws against them removing the clitoral hood of their daughters at infancy while they can remove the foreskin of their sons. Would you tell them they were wronged? Because if you would that would be infanticizing them and wrong on your part.

  133. EG
    EG June 23, 2012 at 6:09 am |

    EG, most of your link actually buttresses my point. It also points out the results were so dramatic they stopped the studies early. This is only done because not giving the treatment to the non-control group because of its success is considered unethical

    Joe, I disagree. Here are the relevant parts:

    Over forty epidemiological studies have been conducted to investigate the relationship between male circumcision and HIV infection.[1] Reviews of these studies have reached differing conclusions about whether circumcision could be used as a prevention method against HIV.[2][3][4][5]

    [as you say, description of the evidence in favor]

    A meta-analysis of data from fifteen observational studies of men who have sex with men found “insufficient evidence that male circumcision protects against HIV infection or other STIs.”[18]
    Some earlier reports had expressed the position that circumcision has little to no effect on HIV transmission among heterosexual couples.[19][20][21] Furthermore, some have challenged the validity of the African randomized controlled trials, prompting a number of researchers to question the effectiveness of circumcision as an HIV prevention strategy.[22][23]

    The criticisms of the strategy are elaborated on in the main body of the article. Nobody is saying that there isn’t evidence that circumcision can be effective; what I am saying is that the evidence is in dispute.

    Further…is it seriously a better idea to circumcise rather than to teach your kid to use condoms? In the US, we won’t give our kids HPV vaccinations, but cutting off the foreskin is OK with us? That’s a weird dynamic, and if medical science had anything to do with it, you wouldn’t be seeing the outrage over the HPV vaccine.

  134. Raja
    Raja June 23, 2012 at 6:14 am |

    Whatever sympathy I may have had ended when I read “Adult puts his mouth to a child’s dick” done

  135. yes
    yes June 24, 2012 at 11:46 am |

    @Donna
    I’m curious why you believe retroactive consent applies to male genital cutting but not to sexual activity, other forms of amputation, or female genital cutting. I’m assuming (correct me if I’m wrong) that you’d oppose FGM even if it took a form that did equivalent damage to MGM.

    Also, preemptively overriding adult, informed opinion is pretty much the entire problem with mgm.

  136. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 24, 2012 at 11:53 am |

    My point is when you call a widely used religious practice ‘evil,’ you are casting a judgement on people of that religion.

    Bwah ha no. If that were the case, every single person on this planet would be “evil” except the atheists, and they’d all just be assholes. No religion has no blood on its hands, so to speak.

    (Atheism isn’t a religion, natch. But it has blood on its hands too.)

  137. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 24, 2012 at 12:49 pm |

    Bwah ha no. If that were the case, every single person on this planet would be “evil” except the atheists, and they’d all just be assholes. No religion has no blood on its hands, so to speak.

    (Atheism isn’t a religion, natch. But it has blood on its hands too.)

    No one is talking about ‘blood on your hands’ (i.e. historical crimes committed in the name of your belief system.) The point is, the whole concept of ‘evil’ is a construct created to emphasis certain religious ideas over others.

  138. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 24, 2012 at 12:50 pm |

    sorry, I meant to say ‘emphasize.’

    If there is ever a massive overhaul to the Feministe comment structure, an edit feature would be so fantastic.

  139. yes
    yes June 25, 2012 at 10:28 am |

    Agreed, Steve. And that’s often fantastic. I feel incredibly comfortable smugly asserting the superiority of my moral view that things like rape, torture, and murder are evil. I feel like you probably do, too. I just add something to that category that you don’t. I know it’s subjective, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a worthwhile idea or category.

    Though I’d say that the concept of “blood on your hands” is more troubling than the idea of labeling an action evil, what with issues of collective/hereditary guilt showing up and the badness that comes from that.

  140. matlun
    matlun June 25, 2012 at 10:47 am |

    No one is talking about ‘blood on your hands’ (i.e. historical crimes committed in the name of your belief system.) The point is, the whole concept of ‘evil’ is a construct created to emphasis certain religious ideas over others.

    No, it is not only about religious ideas. Morality and ethics are not exclusive to the religious but are heavily connected with culture, philosophy, and politics.

    As an illustration, I am not religious but would be happy to join yes in “…smugly asserting the superiority of my moral view that things like rape, torture, and murder are evil”.

  141. chava
    chava June 25, 2012 at 10:56 am |

    Wonderful. Another Feministe thread bashing circumcision and calling parents who practice it “evil.” Nice to know how you really feel about us barbaric Semites!

    (and yes, I know there are Jews and Muslims who don’t circ.)

  142. yes
    yes June 25, 2012 at 2:17 pm |

    I’m not the one arguing that human rights violations are okay if the victim is Jewish…

  143. chava
    chava June 25, 2012 at 2:23 pm |

    Don’t think its a “human rights violation,” so no, I’m not. But as you were, no point in arguing if we disagree on that basic point.

  144. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 25, 2012 at 3:00 pm |

    Cutting off parts of someone’s body without their consent? Not sure what to call it if not a violation of their rights.

  145. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 25, 2012 at 5:46 pm |

    Cutting off parts of someone’s body without their consent? Not sure what to call it if not a violation of their rights.

    A haircut?

  146. EG
    EG June 25, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

    A haircut?

    C’mon, Steve, you know that’s a lousy comparison. Hair is dead matter, cutting it doesn’t hurt, and it grows back.

  147. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 25, 2012 at 7:41 pm |

    So if someone wandered over, held you down, and shaved your head that would be cool with you? :p

  148. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 25, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

    C’mon, Steve, you know that’s a lousy comparison. Hair is dead matter, cutting it doesn’t hurt, and it grows back.

    I wasn’t comparing it to circumcision, I was comparing it to

    Cutting off parts of someone’s body without their consent

    and I was doing so to point out how this hysterical language is little more than that. I mean, everyone’s just like ‘oh, genitals’ as if circumcision has any sort of sexual aspect (and of course the inevitable comparison FGM, which clearly has a sexual aspect.)

  149. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 25, 2012 at 8:24 pm |

    So if someone wandered over, held you down, and shaved your head that would be cool with you? :p

    No, it wouldn’t be cool. But that doesn’t make my mother evil for cutting my hair as a child. Had she continued to do it while I went through high school, that might have been fairly classed as evil.

  150. yes
    yes June 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm |

    @chava
    Agreed, though one wonders why you joined the conversation in the first place. Just for the name calling?

    @EG
    Lousy is very generous. It’s rather like equating a “wet willy” to rape, and then arguing that since kids love the former, the latter is no big deal. And if you disagree you’re just secretly a bigot.

  151. chava
    chava June 25, 2012 at 10:02 pm |

    Because I’m contrary, and find the continued presence of both “it’s just like mgm” and “how could this POSSIBLY be anti-Semitic” rhetoric on Feministe obnoxious.

  152. chava
    chava June 25, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    Fgm, not mgm.

  153. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm |

    A haircut?

    o_O Presumably your name indicates you’re a guy?

    How do you equate hair and dick like that again?

  154. EG
    EG June 25, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

    I mean, everyone’s just like ‘oh, genitals’ as if circumcision has any sort of sexual aspect

    Does it not, though? I know that when I was looking up bris shalom ceremonies a little while ago, I ran across a column written by a rabbi advocating circumcision as a practice that reflected Jewish values, mainly the one that our sexual desires and urges should be controlled. Let me see if I can find it now. OK, I can’t find that particular one, but this comes up:

    So we put a sign on the most physical and potentially lowly organ, to say that it can and should be used in a holy way. In fact, it is in sexuality that we can touch the deepest part of our soul, when we approach it with holiness.

    Here it is: We take pride in a ritual that affirms that sexual desire is not meant to be left unrestrained, but must be shaped by values of fidelity and devotion.

    It seems that for at least some Jewish circumcision advocates, it is about sexuality.

  155. chava
    chava June 25, 2012 at 10:28 pm |

    Errr, quoting Chabad is not the best way to make your point. You do realize they think the messiah has already come, right?

    The second column is more in line with the circ arguments I have heard from mainstream Jews.

  156. EG
    EG June 25, 2012 at 10:32 pm |

    Sorry, I wasn’t paying attention to the whole website or URL. It was the second one I was remembering, anyway. I found the whole thing so very alienating that if I had been on the fence about circumcision, I think it would have made me decide against it.

  157. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 25, 2012 at 11:02 pm |

    o_O Presumably your name indicates you’re a guy?

    How do you equate hair and dick like that again?

    Oh, macavity, surely that sort of base below-the-belt humor is beneath you. (Personally I love it, but I thought you were better than that ;p)

  158. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 25, 2012 at 11:03 pm |

    I was doing so to point out how this hysterical language is little more than that.

    Ah yes. We’re being “hysterical.”

  159. yes
    yes June 26, 2012 at 11:47 am |

    @chava
    So, mostly trolling.

    @steve
    Of course. Amputating one of the most sensitive parts of the penis, and exposing the most sensitive part to constant mild abrasion couldn’t possibly have any sexual side effects. In America, non-religious genital harm (both male and female) has a history rooted deeply in reducing pleasure, especially self-pleasure. Whether Judaism has a similar tradition might be academically interesting, but it doesn’t change the physical reality of what’s being done without consent.

    Or, to quote a nice phrase I here quite often around here, “Intent isn’t magic.”

  160. chava
    chava June 26, 2012 at 1:49 pm |

    Oh yes, absolutely. Nothing but an evil, genital mutiliating troll Jew here. Move along.

  161. chava
    chava June 26, 2012 at 1:51 pm |

    Also, Jill–has it occured to you that most of the observant (and a nice portion of the secular) Jews and Muslims who regularly comment here have abandoned these threads?

    Might be worth a little consideration the next time one of the “It can’t POSSIBLY be anti-Semitic. Oh noes!” fests gets going.

  162. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 26, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    Also, Jill–has it occured to you that most of the observant (and a nice portion of the secular) Jews and Muslims who regularly comment here have abandoned these threads?

    Might be worth a little consideration the next time one of the “It can’t POSSIBLY be anti-Semitic. Oh noes!” fests gets going.

    I don’t think Jill’s post was anti-semitic AT ALL. I don’t even think the comments about ‘evil’ and ‘mutilation’ are anti-semitic. I do think they are insensitive to anti-semitism, which is a different thing, but as you can see I still feel it’s worth kicking back against.

  163. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 26, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

    So chava and Fat Steve are bringing up antisemitism where they admit there is none. Great. So productive.

  164. chava
    chava June 26, 2012 at 2:45 pm |

    So chava and Fat Steve are bringing up antisemitism where they admit there is none. Great. So productive.

    Where did I do that?

  165. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 26, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

    So chava and Fat Steve are bringing up antisemitism where they admit there is none. Great. So productive.

    I objected to calling circumcision ‘evil’ on the grounds that it implies that a majority of Jews commit an evil act as part of their religion. I never called anyone anti-semitic, nor did I bring up ‘anti-semitism.’

  166. Lamech
    Lamech June 27, 2012 at 8:29 am |

    Also, Jill–has it occured to you that most of the observant (and a nice portion of the secular) Jews and Muslims who regularly comment here have abandoned these threads?

    You seem to be implying that they’ve abandoned the thread since they think we are too anti-genital mutilation. Look if anyone has a problem with the anti-genital mutilation stance of ours, and they left? I fail to see how people leaving who are okay with mutilating children is anything but a good thing.

    Also you also seem to be implying that lots of Jews and Muslims are the kind of people who are okay with mutilating children. I’m sorry, but that is a truly terrible thing to say.

  167. yes
    yes June 27, 2012 at 10:45 am |

    I appreciate what Lamech is saying, though I depart from it on a crucial point. Because many societies have normalized circumcision, it’s very easy for otherwise decent people to allow or do something pretty evil to a child’s genitals. I can’t quite summon up a “whew, good riddance” to the idea of people leaving the conversation, even people with disturbing beliefs. And while people who choose to make callous jokes about victims are obnoxious, the answer to a social ill is almost always more speech, not less. It’s a shame that so much of this conversation devolved into puerile “oh, I didn’t say you were a bigot, I just implied it :)” type bickering, but it’s still better than ignoring the issue.

    That said, I don’t think Chava was elected to speak on behalf of all the Jews and Muslims who post on feministe.

  168. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 11:37 am |

    I objected to calling circumcision ‘evil’ on the grounds that it implies that a majority of Jews commit an evil act as part of their religion.

    I’m glad that you don’t think that’s anti-Semitic, then. Because I totally believe that plenty of people do “evil” things for religion all the time, and Jews don’t get a pass.

  169. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 11:40 am |

    Erm, chava:

    “‘how could this POSSIBLY be anti-Semitic’ rhetoric on Feministe obnoxious.”

    “Might be worth a little consideration the next time one of the “It can’t POSSIBLY be anti-Semitic. Oh noes!” fests gets going.”

    Nope, no oh-so-subtle accusations there! :p

  170. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 11:43 am |

    I think I misunderstood you, then, Bagelsan. I thought this:

    “So chava and Fat Steve are bringing up antisemitism where they admit there is none.”

    Meant that you thought I had “admit[ted] there is none.” On the contrary, while I don’t think these threads are flat-out racist, I do think there is an element of anti-Semitism that tends to run through them, yes.

  171. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 11:47 am |

    You seem to be implying that they’ve abandoned the thread since they think we are too anti-genital mutilation. Look if anyone has a problem with the anti-genital mutilation stance of ours, and they left? I fail to see how people leaving who are okay with mutilating children is anything but a good thing.

    Hm? No, I think that ppl have been slowly just abandoning the threads on religion (circ among them) on Feministe because there is just. no. point. to arguing it anymore. Aside from which, some of my RL friends who also comment here have said that while they have seriously mixed feelings about bris milah, and would be interesting in hashing out those feelings, the “evil” and “mutilator” rhetoric turned it into the opposite of a safe space for them.

  172. pheenobarbidoll
    pheenobarbidoll June 27, 2012 at 11:49 am |
  173. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 11:51 am |

    Oh my. Pheeno, thank you for proving my point so…neatly? Ironically? Let’s see…anyone care to recall what happened that last time Germany did that? FFS.

    Now tell me there isn’t a reason to be wary of anti-Semitism in these discussions.

  174. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 27, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

    Oh, macavity, surely that sort of base below-the-belt humor is beneath you. (Personally I love it, but I thought you were better than that ;p)

    LOL. I am sekkritly 12.

    The thread doesn’t seem like the right place for me to voice my opinions, honestly; my main experience is with Hindu styles of stripping bodily autonomy (I had my ears pierced, was repeatedly shamed into trying to grow my hair out, would have had my nose pierced if my parents hadn’t insisted on giving me a choice, my grandmother was branded, Marathi women are routinely tattooed with their husband’s name, etc) most of which I find fucking disgusting. I’m thus sort of, by heritage and limited familial experience – my grandmother was traumatised by the branding, which occurred when she was in her teens, remains so to this day – opposed to any kind of permanent body-mod without full informed consent from the individual.

    Because I’m not really sure of Jewish religious laws and traditions, and would like information if anyone who’s still reading/responding on the thread feels like it: is there a reason why the circumcision has to be done that early? I mean, what’s stopping people from undergoing the procedure in their teens, when they have a better idea of the ritual itself? A lot of painful Hindu customs sort of got shifted into adulthood that way, and became a choice rather than an imposition.

  175. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 27, 2012 at 12:20 pm |

    it: is there a reason why the circumcision has to be done that early? I mean, what’s stopping people from undergoing the procedure in their teens, when they have a better idea of the ritual itself? A lot of painful Hindu customs sort of got shifted into adulthood that way, and became a choice rather than an imposition.

    Well, I can only say that I have no recollection whatsoever of my circumcision, as it was done under anesthesia when I was a few days old. However, Sam, our intern who had to get his done at 18, (because it was ripping every time he had sex with his girlfriend, so it wasn’t life threatening but still medical,) well, it wasn’t a painless operation or recovery as the area in question is significantly larger and required stitches, etc.

    Nevertheless, he still feels he made the 100% right decision and will tell anyone within earshot how much he loves his little bell-end.

  176. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 27, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

    Well, I can only say that I have no recollection whatsoever of my circumcision, as it was done under anesthesia when I was a few days old.

    *nods* Of course, same as I can’t remember having my ears pierced. (Though watching me scream left my mother with a lasting hatred of piercing-as-tradition, so ymmv.) Maybe I wasn’t very clear, though: my question was more along the lines of… can’t this whole discussion about the consent-or-lack-thereof surrounding body modification be cut off at the knees by shifting the schedule later? Is there an actual proscription against teen circumcision? Because that would make my question completely moot.

    As a parallel, kind of how Hindu weddings are now, well, the business of adults, instead of being done to bewildered children who go back to their parents’ and don’t even really know the significance of being married until they hit puberty and are shipped off to their husbands. There was a vague sort of prescription that kids get married in the tradition (though not in the scripture, which generally dates 16 as the minimum age), but there was no proscription of adults getting married instead, so we largely fixed the issue by creating an age of consent. (Which I still think is problematically low, since 16yos can get married if they have notarised parental consent, but wev.)

    Re: circumcision itself – I honestly don’t give a shit what adults, or even teens (in a relatively non-coercive environment) do to their bodies. But all religions have problematic coercive aspects when it comes to the bodily autonomy of children, and I don’t think Judaism should be exempt from critical reflection – which is not the same as legislation or forced compliance – any more than Hinduism should.

  177. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 27, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

    Because I’m not really sure of Jewish religious laws and traditions, and would like information if anyone who’s still reading/responding on the thread feels like it: is there a reason why the circumcision has to be done that early? I mean, what’s stopping people from undergoing the procedure in their teens, when they have a better idea of the ritual itself?

    There’s a couple reasons. One, it’s the way it’s been done for thousands of years. The proscription for circumcision done on the 8th day of life is dated at least back to the Mishnah. It’s also not considered a custom, but an integral part of Jewish law, on par with keeping Shabbat (Sabbath).

    Two, the recovery is a lot harder in adulthood. Newborns heal pretty quickly from it, from my understanding, while it’s a much more painful and riskier procedure in adults that requires much more time for recovery. All the Jewish men I know IRL are very happy that they were circumcised as babies and plan on circumcising their boy babies. Not that there aren’t Jewish men who are upset that they were circumcised and refuse to circumcise their babies, just that I haven’t met any in my circles.

  178. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 12:59 pm |

    What Shoshie said.

  179. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 27, 2012 at 1:02 pm |

    I don’t think Judaism should be exempt from critical reflection.

    I agree with this, and I’d be very interested in internal discussions about autonomy and circumcision within a Jewish context. However, Feministe is not, historically, a safe space for those discussions. I think that’s true for any discussion of a common, but possibly problematic, practice by any historically marginalized group. In particular, I can say that antisemitism and Jewish concerns about assimilation and long-term survival are not taken seriously in most social justice contexts and Jews who mention such concerns are usually written off as paranoid and self-centered–and I’ve never heard those adjectives applied to Jews ever! \sarcasm

  180. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 27, 2012 at 1:07 pm |

    The proscription for circumcision done on the 8th day of life is dated at least back to the Mishnah. It’s also not considered a custom, but an integral part of Jewish law

    That was pretty much what I wanted to know, if it was custom or law! Thanks.

    I’d be very interested in internal discussions about autonomy and circumcision within a Jewish context. However, Feministe is not, historically, a safe space for those discussions

    Point taken, and agreed with – that Gaza post was kind of, uh. Er. Interesting. In a trainwreck-with-body-parts-everywhere sort of way. It’s also why I waited so long to ask this, because I didn’t want to derail anything or come off as anti-Semitic.

  181. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

    That was pretty much what I wanted to know, if it was custom or law! Thanks.

    No problem!

  182. EG
    EG June 27, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

    I have a question for other Jews, secular or Reform or non-observant. I’m wondering how you determine which Jewish laws and customs you will continue with, and which don’t matter to you (this is not meant to be argumentative; I’m genuinely interested), whether it’s about a visceral feeling about what it means to be Jewish, or a thought-through policy, or a bit of both.

    I’m thinking of my father; I’m quite certain he and my mother would not have had my sister circumcised had she been a boy, because they told me so, and I’m sure that he will be on board with my decision against circumcision should I have a boy, because he’s got some weird Freud issues. But at the same time, when I told him last year that I was planning to get a tattoo, he freaked out. Very amusingly. Because I shouldn’t do that, because we’re Jews. (“Is that bacon you’re eating? Aren’t you an atheist?” I asked.) Because anti-semites want to mark us (No anti-semite in history has ever wanted to force Jews to get tattoos of Alice in Wonderland on their backs, I pointed out.) Because the ink will give me cancer. (Just…no, Dad.) For my father, there’s something viscerally Not Jewish about tattoos, but not about not circumcising. But I don’t know why.

  183. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 27, 2012 at 7:19 pm |

    I have a question for other Jews, secular or Reform or non-observant. I’m wondering how you determine which Jewish laws and customs you will continue with, and which don’t matter to you (this is not meant to be argumentative; I’m genuinely interested), whether it’s about a visceral feeling about what it means to be Jewish, or a thought-through policy, or a bit of both.

    I’m thinking of my father; I’m quite certain he and my mother would not have had my sister circumcised had she been a boy, because they told me so, and I’m sure that he will be on board with my decision against circumcision should I have a boy, because he’s got some weird Freud issues. But at the same time, when I told him last year that I was planning to get a tattoo, he freaked out. Very amusingly. Because I shouldn’t do that, because we’re Jews. (“Is that bacon you’re eating? Aren’t you an atheist?” I asked.) Because anti-semites want to mark us (No anti-semite in history has ever wanted to force Jews to get tattoos of Alice in Wonderland on their backs, I pointed out.) Because the ink will give me cancer. (Just…no, Dad.) For my father, there’s something viscerally Not Jewish about tattoos, but not about not circumcising. But I don’t know why.

    Laws? Probably don’t follow any that I wouldn’t follow anyway for their own sake (thou shalt not kill, commit adultery etc.)

    Customs: definitely food from kiska to matzo ball soup, also I guess the traditions of jewish humour and I still use plenty of yiddish expressions.

    I also have a question for the other ethnically Jewish people on here. Do you consider yourself to be ‘white’? I thought about this the other day when someone on a different thread referred to me as a ‘white male’ and it occurred to me that I don’t actually identify as ‘white’, and think most Jews of my age don’t. (The male bit was, in fact, accurate.)

  184. yes
    yes June 27, 2012 at 7:33 pm |

    @chava
    I’ll admit you have a point there. Concern for the personal freedom and safety of young Jews was one of the Nazi party’s biggest platforms, right?

    Nice Godwin, though.

  185. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm |

    Oh my. Pheeno, thank you for proving my point so…neatly? Ironically? Let’s see…anyone care to recall what happened that last time Germany did that? FFS.

    Wow, it took this long to Godwin the thread? That has to be a record! 9_9

  186. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm |

    Let’s review: not wanting Jewish babies subjected to genital mutilation is anti-Semitic. Riiiight. And Hitler ate his veggies, hence all veg-eaters are secret Nazis. “FFS” indeed.

  187. EG
    EG June 27, 2012 at 7:47 pm |

    No, you know what? I’m going to second chava’s response. Germany does not, under any circumstances, should not be held up as some kind of moral exemplar in opposition to Jews. Germany has no moral leg to stand on, and we are not obliged to give their moral pronouncements any weight. I’m fairly anti-circumcision, and that was the only comment on this thread that made me even consider for a flickering moment rethinking my position.

    How did you expect Jews to respond to being told Germany’s moral stance on our customs? When you invoke Germany’s opposition to a Jewish law/custom, you are implicitly invoking the Holocaust in the minds of many, many Jews. Chava didn’t Godwin anything.

  188. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 7:49 pm |

    Oh my. Pheeno, thank you for proving my point so…neatly? Ironically? Let’s see…anyone care to recall what happened that last time Germany did that? FFS.

    Wow, it took this long to Godwin the thread? That has to be a record! 9_9

    Come on, Bagelsan, you have to admit that is the neatest Godwin ever. Honestly, the link practically Godwined ITSELF.

    To be serious, though–historically circ and kosher slaughter are the first things to be outlawed before some ethnic cleansing goes down. Makes a person a bit twitchy, Nazi Germany aside.

  189. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 7:51 pm |

    Let’s review: not wanting Jewish babies subjected to genital mutilation is anti-Semitic. Riiiight. And Hitler ate his veggies, hence all veg-eaters are secret Nazis. “FFS” indeed.

    Mmmm, no. The insistance that Jews have no reason to be nervous about outlawing one of their most sacred rites is anti-Semitic. And yes, we are not a monolith, and there are Jews who will differently. Point still holds.

  190. EG
    EG June 27, 2012 at 7:53 pm |

    I have a response supporting chava in mod.

    Steve,

    I do identify as white, but I consider my whiteness provisional and site-specific. I have always been white in the places I’ve lived–NYC, Phillie, London–in the times I’ve lived in them (1970s and onward). But I think there are plenty of places in the US and Europe where I would not be white. Here and now, I get white privilege in NYC, and since that’s where I live, I am de facto white. If I’d had the experience, though, of living in a place where I wasn’t white, I don’t know if I would feel white even in NYC, if you see what I mean. While I intellectually know that my whiteness is provisional, experientially it’s almost always been secure.

    For some reason, for me, in terms of Jewish rituals, having my partner step on the glass at our wedding, should I ever get married, looms large. I don’t know why. (And of course, Steve, like you, the quotidian culture.)

  191. Donna L
    Donna L June 27, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

    some of my RL friends who also comment here have said that while they have seriously mixed feelings about bris milah, and would be interesting in hashing out those feelings, the “evil” and “mutilator” rhetoric turned it into the opposite of a safe space for them.

    Thank you. It’s such BS. I don’t have any problem with the Jewish people on this thread who have issues with the practice (like EG) but avoid the absurd hyperbole. But I don’t think the people who use the two words mentioned — especially “evil,” but also “mutilation” (given my perspective as both a Jew, and a trans woman who’s had that word tossed at her about a million times) have any idea what they mean. Unless they think that some things are a little bit “evil” (kind of like being a little bit pregnant), I guess that means that what was done to all the male members of my mother’s family who were murdered for being Jews not so long ago — her grandfather, two uncles, a first cousin — was no different in kind, and in the appropriate word to be used to describe it, as what was done to them when they were 8 days old. Hey, evil is evil, right?

  192. chava
    chava June 27, 2012 at 8:18 pm |

    I wanted to mention that when I say anti-Semitic, I’m mentally including *all* Semites. The anti-circ laws in Europe are pretty clearly in response to Muslim immigration; Jews are more of an afterthought.

    FWIW, Said has some good things to say on anti-Semitism as applying to both Jews and Arabs.

  193. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 27, 2012 at 8:23 pm |

    Mmmm, no. The insistance that Jews have no reason to be nervous about outlawing one of their most sacred rites is anti-Semitic.

    Yup. Right up there, from what I understand, with Hindus not eating beef (hence my question about whether the process could be delayed, rather than stopped). I can only imagine how trying to outlaw that taboo would go…

    Oh wait I don’t have to: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Indian_Rebellion_of_1857

  194. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 27, 2012 at 8:29 pm |

    @Donna,

    I tend to use “body modification” in circumcision’s case for just that reason, because it changes form not function (if done well, anyway). Would that work as a neutral term? I can’t imagine applying that to, say, FGM, which is intended fairly obviously to remove sexual pleasure.

    I’m not real comfortable with the age at which circumcision’s done, but a fairly, uh, hostile scene like this isn’t where I want to bring that up; you guys are getting piled on enough.

  195. Donna L
    Donna L June 27, 2012 at 8:30 pm |

    having my partner step on the glass at our wedding, should I ever get married,

    It was something meaningful to me, too. (Just wondering: when two men or two women get married in a Jewish wedding, who steps on the glass then?)

    In terms of laws and customs, it’s just a visceral thing with me. A few examples:

    I’ve thought occasionally about getting a small tattoo somewhere, but I also have some visceral issues with it. Not so much because of the religious proscription against it (which would be a little strange for me to observe given some rather more significant alterations of my body that have taken place!), but because of the association with concentration camp tattoos that it brings up for me.

    Food restrictions? I don’t observe them at all, really. (Although I can be weird about it some ways: if it’s called ham or bacon I’ll eat it, but if it’s actually called “pork”? Never. And white bread with mayonnaise? Just no.)

    But: the thought of naming a child after a living parent or grandparent seems very, very “wrong” to me, instinctively. “Junior” is just not a Jewish thing!

    I’m sure I could think of many more examples, but I’ll stop there.

  196. EG
    EG June 27, 2012 at 8:41 pm |

    I totally agree about the naming thing! I could never name a child after a living person. Though I’m given to understand that the Sephardim do? (I mentioned this to my mother once, and she said “Well, they’re doing it wrong.”(!!!))

  197. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 8:44 pm |

    Jews differ on circumcision, it’s not restricted to Semitic people, and not all Semites hold with it. So opposing it != necessarily antisemitism. Just because something has been used to persecute doesn’t mean any future mention of it is persecution. Jeez. The right to cut up/suck on a baby’s dick is an interesting place to die-hard hold the line on “but it’s my religion! (sometimes! except when lots of Jews don’t like it! and lots of non-Jews do it! whatever!)”

  198. Donna L
    Donna L June 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm |

    Re Steve’s question: having lived my whole life in New York City and other places in the Northeast USA, and having light skin — despite my otherwise rather recognizably “Jewish” features! — I’ve certainly always been perceived as white, and, as EG points out, I’ve been accorded the white privilege that Jews were given by fiat in the USA at some point, just as other groups have been at various times. In other parts of the world, and at other times in history, certainly not so much. But I’ve always thought of “whiteness” as pretty much entirely a socio-political construct rather than anything real anyway, and something that I associate with Northern European Christian people — not really Southern European and Middle Eastern people, of any religion, for whom the labels “white” vs. “not white” seem to be almost arbitrary, and very obviously have virtually nothing to do with skin color. So, no, being “white” is certainly not something I consider part of my identity. Unlike, say, being Jewish.

  199. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm |

    Oh noes, one of the sacred rites of marriage used to be that women were property, and that totally got outlawed too! Clearly we are nearing the downfall of all married civilization! And the sacred ritual of going on a lot of Crusades is so last year; Christianity is probably over now! And I heard that throwing yourself on your husband’s funeral pyre is discouraged now! Ditto foot binding! And FGM in the US is a no-no! All cultures are definitely ending now!

    …Ending a “sacred ritual” that results in harm and even death is fucking great in my book.

  200. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 27, 2012 at 8:51 pm |

    Bagelsan, I believe everyone’s been fairly clear that this issue does in fact need to be discussed, just not used by raging assholes as an excuse to be raging assholes.

  201. Donna L
    Donna L June 27, 2012 at 8:52 pm |

    So opposing it != necessarily antisemitism.

    You’re missing the point entirely. Nobody here is claiming that. It’s the ridiculously overblown rhetoric being used to describe it. Some people here sound like they belong somewhere with all the whiny MRA’s equating their missing foreskins with FGM.

  202. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 27, 2012 at 9:30 pm |

    Wow, it’s weird that you two have such different experiences of New York than I do. You’ll probably be shocked to hear that I was beaten up twice (one time by a gang of kids one time just by one kid with a pipe who broke my jaw,) for being Jewish when I was in junior high school. Both times it was by white (presumably Catholic) people. And this was in Queens in the late 70’s/early 80’s, not Mississippi in 1961.

  203. EG
    EG June 27, 2012 at 9:44 pm |

    Sadly, I am not too surprised to hear that your experience was different. I grew up in Manhattan on the Lower East Side (now the East Village, but not back then), so we were in about the most historically Jewish area you could find. But back then, before the more recent waves of immigration, my understanding is that a lot of Queens was very much Archie Bunker territory. I’m so sorry that you got some of the brunt of that. It makes me think of Howard Beach (Brooklyn, I know, but the racist/anti-semitic violence itself).

  204. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm |

    Bagelsan, I believe everyone’s been fairly clear that this issue does in fact need to be discussed, just not used by raging assholes as an excuse to be raging assholes.

    I believe that certain people on here are equating discussing it with being a raging asshole. Or at least an anti-Semite/Nazi. And we all know that, once a thread gets Godwined, it’s nearly impossible to revive the poor thing.

    But hey, if we’re considering the Nazis’ opinions of things to be legit (“the Nazis didn’t like it either!”) then in their opinion I’d be plenty Jewish too, as would my family. So are we following their rules on this? ‘Cause then I’m Jewish, and I think it’s evil.

  205. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 28, 2012 at 12:11 am |

    It makes me think of Howard Beach (Brooklyn, I know, but the racist/anti-semitic violence itself).

    Actually, Howard Beach is in Queens, in fact, that is where one of the incidents took place.

  206. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 28, 2012 at 8:39 am |

    when two men or two women get married in a Jewish wedding, who steps on the glass then?)

    Both of them, in my experience.

    Bagelsan-

    There aren’t loads of Jews who are opposed to circumcision. There is a small minority. A growing minority, but a very small one. When you call people who circumcise murderers and baby haters, then you are talking about the vast majority of Jews. Yes, people in other religions, like Muslims, do ritual circumcision. Yes, it’s performed by lots of other people for asthetics (which, incidentally, I find pretty odd).

    But people like you are the reason that I don’t often take part in these discussions. Because you have NO IDEA what the cultural issues are for people like me and absolutely no interest in finding out. If things are going to change, at least in populations where circumcision is done for longstanding religious, then they’re not going to change due to people like you. Your words are offensive an uninformed. So please, just stop.

  207. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 28, 2012 at 8:44 am |

    I believe that certain people on here are equating discussing it with being a raging asshole. Or at least an anti-Semite/Nazi. And we all know that, once a thread gets Godwined, it’s nearly impossible to revive the poor thing.

    Bagelsan, you are being so intellectually dishonest it’s unbelievable. It is you who are trying to shut this discussion down with the following:

    a) Insisting on using the word ‘evil’ when people tell you they find that term offensive.

    b) Apart from offending and turning people away, calling something ‘evil’ is a way of shutting down discussion. Once you call something ‘evil’ you’ve made a pronouncement, you’re not opening discussion.

    c) Incorrectly bringing up Godwin. Godwin refers to an inappropriate Nazi analogy, Godwin does not apply to a discussion of anti-semitism, where Nazism is quite relevant. You use this as a tool for cutting off discussion as well.

    Bagelsan, you’re perfectly entitled to think circumcision is evil, but don’t expect people on here to engage with you when you’re acting like a fucking jerk.

  208. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 28, 2012 at 8:52 am |

    I believe that certain people on here are equating discussing it with being a raging asshole. Or at least an anti-Semite/Nazi.

    Funny how I was able to discuss it – and disagree with it! – while all those same people didn’t call me a raging asshole. It must have something to with *gasp* my not being a raging asshole at them!

  209. EG
    EG June 28, 2012 at 9:21 am |

    Funny how I was able to discuss it – and disagree with it! – while all those same people didn’t call me a raging asshole. It must have something to with *gasp* my not being a raging asshole at them!

    Seriously. Apparently I was able to do the same, while being Jewish the whole time.

    When I look at what matters to me to preserve about Jewish culture, it turns out to be almost entirely the folk culture and customs and some of the abstract values–if we lived in a Jewish-dominated society, I suspect I would identify as Ashkenazi rather than Jewish, the way that, I don’t know, Italian atheists of Catholic descent separate being Italian from being Catholic. It’s not easily separable, of course…I’m not sure it’s easily separable for any culture/religion, really, but when I start totting up the things I decide to keep on doing even though I don’t believe in supernatural rationales for them (not naming after the living, not having baby paraphernalia in the house before the baby is born) I tend to veer far more toward superstitions and folk customs than anything else. Probably I’m really pagan at heart.

  210. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 28, 2012 at 9:31 am |

    Godwin refers to an inappropriate Nazi analogy, Godwin does not apply to a discussion of anti-semitism, where Nazism is quite relevant.

    Yep. Anti-Semitic and anti-Roma culture are two places I’d argue Nazism isn’t a Godwin. Speaking about the Nazi persecution of Jews, to refer to the persecution of Jews, isn’t a Godwin – it’s fucking history, and recent enough that people should be able to arrive at this conclusion without trouble.

  211. matlun
    matlun June 28, 2012 at 10:35 am |

    Funny how I was able to discuss it – and disagree with it! – while all those same people didn’t call me a raging asshole. It must have something to with *gasp* my not being a raging asshole at them!

    Or perhaps this was due to you not actually explicitly disagreeing with it (infant circumcision)?

    Much of the moral question comes down to how much leeway religions and traditions should be given in doing things that we normally consider wrong. Is there any moral difference between circumcision due to long religious and cultural tradition and for example the parents cutting of the earlobe of their infant just because they feel like it? (Assuming no medical issues with either operation)

    Personally I do not think there is any difference and that tradition or religion does not change the moral value of the action. This position does imply a lack of respect for the religion, and it is fairly unsurprising that this gets peoples hackles up, which is why the issue is very hard to discuss productively.

  212. EG
    EG June 28, 2012 at 10:46 am |

    and for example the parents cutting of the earlobe of their infant just because they feel like it?

    People pierce the ears of infant girls all the time.

  213. matlun
    matlun June 28, 2012 at 11:07 am |

    People pierce the ears of infant girls all the time.

    Ok, I meant cutting off, but that was just a random hypothetical and not important. I just picked that as an example because
    1. It is not part of any existing tradition I know of and is thus easy to look at in isolation.
    2. It is irreversible.
    3. It is not significantly medically harmful.

    The basic question is: When judging the morality of circumcision, does it matter at all that it is a religious and cultural tradition?

  214. Donna L
    Donna L June 28, 2012 at 11:11 am |

    not having baby paraphernalia in the house before the baby is born

    I remember that one very well (even though out of necessity my ex and I didn’t 100% comply with it, we did wait as long as possible), along with all the superstitions about the way you speak of the baby before it’s born — only in the conditional, never assuming anything, etc.

    Don’t forget the idea of naming your baby “Alter” (at least temporarily) to deceive the baby-snatching demons into thinking he or she isn’t a baby but an old person! (As if they work off lists of names — “Hmm, that one’s named ‘Alter,” so it can’t be a baby; let’s take the next one on the list instead!)

    I didn’t think the “Rashi’s Daughters” trilogy were great books by any definition, but they were fascinating to me as portrayals of many different aspects of Jewish life — particularly Jewish women’s lives — in medieval Europe (specifically, in Northern France in the late 11th and early 12th centuries, although parts take place in Spain; there was much more interaction and exchange between Spanish/Sephardic and French/Jewish/Ashkenazi Jews during that time-period than most people recognize).

  215. EG
    EG June 28, 2012 at 11:19 am |

    Don’t forget the idea of naming your baby “Alter” (at least temporarily) to deceive the baby-snatching demons into thinking he or she isn’t a baby but an old person! (As if they work off lists of names — “Hmm, that one’s named ‘Alter,” so it can’t be a baby; let’s take the next one on the list instead!)

    I love the set of traditions that assume that demons and the Angel of Death are either very stupid, or very bound by bureaucratic roles that they cannot bend, and thus can be unsmarted:

    Angel of Death (consulting list): It says here that I’ve come for one Yetta Greenspan.

    Mother/Father: There’s no-one here by that name.

    AoD: What about her? (points at sick little girl) Eight years old, sick with scarlet fever, isn’t that Yetta?

    M/F: Oh, that’s our daughter, Trudy. We don’t know any Yetta.

    AoD: Curses! I’m going to have to have a long talk with my secretary about matching names and addresses! (departs)

    M/F: Whew! Good thing we changed your name, Ye–I mean, Trudy.

    Trudy: (recovers)

  216. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 28, 2012 at 11:26 am |

    Or perhaps this was due to you not actually explicitly disagreeing with it (infant circumcision)?

    Actually, I did.

    Is there any moral difference between circumcision due to long religious and cultural tradition and for example the parents cutting of the earlobe of their infant just because they feel like it?

    – __ – I’d say that both practices are pretty wrong-headed, personally. As would the several Jews on this thread who’ve popped up to point out that they or others they know don’t support circumcision. Although I should point out that ear-piercing transcends cultures, and that’s a finger no one can point in any direction.

    On the other hand, the fact that Toddlers and Tiaras exists without the background of either religion or cultural tradition terrifies the fuck out of me.

  217. chava
    chava June 28, 2012 at 4:46 pm |

    @ EG–

    Well, it’s a bit of both (rational vs gut feeling). We tend to focus on what will build community and keep that community alive, so kosher, even though we don’t really care, *something* to mark shabbat and most of the major holidays. For awhile TH (mikveh) but that became a stress on the marriage. I went through a phase of tzinus stuff for awhile, but it made me viscerally uncomfortable/angry, so I quit.

    I have a tattoo, but I’m the only one. My MIL doesn’t even have her ears pierced (most of my female in-laws don’t, actually).

    The cultural side of it is mostly food, film, art–stuff like that. Speaking of, anyone watched A Serious Man? Best. Movie. Ever. Not naming after a living relative. No baby shower, no baby stuff in the house until the last minute.

  218. chava
    chava June 28, 2012 at 4:56 pm |

    In any event–

    The circumcision thing is still close to the surface for me, since we just had a bris two months ago. Ironically, a lot of our female relatives w/sons called to tell me not to have a bris, that’s barbaric–but we MUST do it, just in hospital. Apparently it was Not Jewish if we didn’t do it at all, but a bris was a bridge too far.

    I don’t know if we made the right decision, and I do know that I was crying upstairs before (and after, and during). All the other mothers there hugged me and shared stories about the emotional pain THEY remembered from 20, 30 years ago when their sons went through it.
    Mr. chava was quite torn up as well, but didn’t feel like he had the space to be visibly upset by it. The baby was by far the least upset of anyone, fwiw.

    So….a fraught thing, nu? But something we both felt pretty compelled to do. I’m NOT sure if it was the correct (Western, humanist) decision, but we both felt that giving it up meant something more deeply unsettling.

    Other than that–I have never met a circ’d man IRL who had anything bad to say about it. And believe me, I went around asking *everyone* for nine months (yes, I got some odd looks). Fundamentally I didn’t feel that we were doing him harm (and perhaps even some marginal good re: health), and that the transient pain was justified by the larger benefits to tradition and the community.

  219. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 28, 2012 at 5:07 pm |

    When you call people who circumcise murderers and baby haters, then you are talking about the vast majority of Jews.

    If anyone here had said that, you might be approaching a point.

    Cutting things off of babies for no other reason than religion is evil; I get that this offends religious people. Not-offending-religious-people is not exactly a high priority for me, though, ’cause they’re fucking offended by anything that suggests their particular religion is imperfect in any way. Jews are no exception. ‘S half the reason I’m an atheist now, like many people who are tired of toeing the religious (inherently racist, sexist, ableist, ageist) line.

  220. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 28, 2012 at 5:10 pm |

    And to whoever said “OMG you’re basically equating circumcision to the Holocaust!” way upthread, no, there are degrees of “evil” just like everything else. Calm the hell down and stop making every discussion revolve around Nazis for once. :p

  221. Donna L
    Donna L June 28, 2012 at 5:15 pm |

    anyone watched A Serious Man? Best. Movie. Ever

    I really liked that movie. And it occurred to me while watching it that there were things about it that it would be very hard for anyone not Jewish to really “get.”

  222. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 28, 2012 at 5:17 pm |

    Bagelsan, are you also against cutting the umbilical cord?

  223. EG
    EG June 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    Calm the hell down and stop making every discussion revolve around Nazis for once.

    Well, you know how sensitive Jews are. All it takes is several hundred years of murderous persecution and an attempted genocide in living memory that destroyed the Jewish communities of Europe, and we keep bringing it up. Gawd.

  224. Donna L
    Donna L June 28, 2012 at 5:21 pm |

    there are degrees of “evil” just like everything else

    I see. So where does circumcision stand on your 1-100 “scale of evil”? A 1? A 2? In which case, what’s conceivable point is there to your using that word for it in the first place, other than doing it for the express purpose of trying to bait people?


    Calm the hell down and stop making every discussion revolve around Nazis for once. :p

    You really are a piece of work. Go f**k yourself.

  225. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 28, 2012 at 5:23 pm |

    ‘S half the reason I’m an atheist now, like many people who are tired of toeing the religious (inherently racist, sexist, ableist, ageist) line.

    And yet you manage to be a bigger asshole than some of the cis, straight, white, male, abled people on this site. Quite an accomplishment.

    Calm the hell down and stop making every discussion revolve around Nazis for once. :p

    Uh, wasn’t it you and yes who brought it up?

  226. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 28, 2012 at 5:24 pm |

    Well, you know how sensitive Jews are. All it takes is several hundred years of murderous persecution and an attempted genocide in living memory that destroyed the Jewish communities of Europe, and we keep bringing it up. Gawd.

    If it weren’t for the fact that about half of you are male I’d be calling you hysterical, EG. A few centuries of persecution and attempted genocide? Why, when Bagelsan was young they persecuted her for millennia, uphill both ways in a blizzard!

  227. Donna L
    Donna L June 28, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

    Bagelsan, are you also against cutting the umbilical cord?

    I’m not sure that’s a great analogy; if you’ve had a child you know that it eventually dries up and falls off by itself. (My ex actually saved our son’s in a little box for sentimental reasons.)

  228. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 28, 2012 at 5:27 pm |

    I’m not sure that’s a great analogy; if you’ve had a child you know that it eventually dries up and falls off by itself.

    Same can be said for the penis…it’s just a much longer process.

  229. EG
    EG June 28, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

    chava–that’s a really strange place for your relatives to draw the line, but I guess any place is strange, really. Or not strange at all, really…perhaps I’m just falling into a Manichean all-or-not-at-all way of thinking. I will definitely look up A Serious Man.

  230. Donna L
    Donna L June 28, 2012 at 6:14 pm |

    My MIL doesn’t even have her ears pierced (most of my female in-laws don’t, actually).

    I was thinking about this the other day, Chava. I think it’s really a matter of custom rather than law. It’s my understanding that most commentaries have always permitted ear-piercing (at least for women!) on a number of theories, including the fact that it usually doesn’t draw blood, and the fact that its purpose of self-adornment isn’t harmful. And there’s a great deal of historical and textual evidence that ear-piercing was common among Jewish women, in ancient times and in medieval communities, in Europe, North Africa, and the Near East. For example, there were many 10th-12th century lists of women’s personal property found in the Cairo Genizah (for inheritance purposes, and in marriage contracts to show what women brought into the marriage so the husband couldn’t claim it), and earrings — and a lot of other jewelry — were almost universal. I don’t think they were clip-ons!

    Yet, as you indicate, many women do think of ear-piercing as not a Jewish custom. My mother told me that when she was growing up in Berlin, Jewish women pretty much never pierced their ears. Neither she, her mother, nor her grandmothers did. I’m apparently the first woman in my family to have done it in some time! But I have reason to believe that as recently as the mid-19th century, the custom may have been different. I have photos of both of my grandmothers (USA and Germany, born 1888-89), and all four of my great-grandmothers (Poland and Germany, born 1851-1863), and not one of them had pierced ears. I also have photos of four of my eight great-great-grandmothers (all from Germany, born 1818-1829), but three of them were old ladies at the time the photos were taken, so it’s hard to draw any definitive conclusions about whether they ever had pierced ears from the fact that they weren’t wearing earrings at the age of 80 or so.

    But in the photo I have of one pair of my great-great-grandparents with their children, taken in Pomerania in 1859 — the oldest family photo I have — my great-great-grandmother Lina (a/k/a Keila) Auerbach, who was then 32 years old, is dressed “traditionally” (unlike my great-great-grandfather, who is wearing a European-looking suit and has no beard): among other things, her hair is covered by a kerchief, and she’s wearing large hoop earrings. So maybe it was only after that, among German-Jewish women, that *not* piercing one’s ears became the custom. For all I know, ear-piercing began to be thought of as being old-fashioned.

  231. yes
    yes June 28, 2012 at 7:08 pm |

    Yikes, so much cringe-inducing awfulness. I’ll skip most, but there’s one or two I just can’t leave be:

    Branding a person is less evil than burning them alive.
    Beating a person up for being gay is less evil than murdering them for being gay.
    Mocking a rape victim is less evil than committing rape.
    And yet, those are all evil actions. In fact, I’d say that committing those acts makes you an evil person (something I didn’t allege about genital cutting).

    And somehow we can all wrap our heads around that idea of degrees of evil in those cases. But the second you mention genital mutilation/cutting/whatever word you want to use for forced amputation of healthy tissue, everyone loses their shit and pretends that you’re saying mgm is the moral equivalent of the holocaust.

    Oh, and if we’re playing the “you sound like an MRA so HA!” blame game now, then I’d like to point out that a lot of this reminds me of men who claim that things like calling out rape culture are really just about hating men and not about protecting and preventing victims. It’s just religious privilege instead of male privilege.

  232. chava
    chava June 28, 2012 at 8:17 pm |

    chava–that’s a really strange place for your relatives to draw the line, but I guess any place is strange, really. Or not strange at all, really…perhaps I’m just falling into a Manichean all-or-not-at-all way of thinking. I will definitely look up A Serious Man.

    I thought so as well; but since then I’ve heard it from a few other families pondering the decision as well. Something about the ritual makes certain ppl twitchy, perhaps. The most common line I’ve heard is ‘well of course do it, but don’t have a *party*!’

  233. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 28, 2012 at 10:06 pm |

    Branding a person is less evil than burning them alive.
    Beating a person up for being gay is less evil than murdering them for being gay.
    Mocking a rape victim is less evil than committing rape.
    And yet, those are all evil actions. In fact, I’d say that committing those acts makes you an evil person (something I didn’t allege about genital cutting).

    And somehow we can all wrap our heads around that idea of degrees of evil in those cases. But the second you mention genital mutilation/cutting/whatever word you want to use for forced amputation of healthy tissue, everyone loses their shit and pretends that you’re saying mgm is the moral equivalent of the holocaust.

    Oh, and if we’re playing the “you sound like an MRA so HA!” blame game now, then I’d like to point out that a lot of this reminds me of men who claim that things like calling out rape culture are really just about hating men and not about protecting and preventing victims. It’s just religious privilege instead of male privilege.

    You sound like an imbecile, so hmmm…

    Ok, you talk of “forced amputation of healthy tissue.” Who has the right to consent over medical issues for a newborn if not the parent? So how is that forced?

    You also say it’s not evil if there’s an ‘extreme medical need’. So if the parents are getting the circumcision in the honest belief that it will prevent their son from future medical issues, how is that evil? How is that any different than a vaccine? A vaccine may prevent a terrible illness or it may be completely unnecessary. Still you wouldn’t call vaccinating your children from measles ‘evil’ just because they never get exposed to measles virus.

    This is why I don’t actually believe in the concept of evil. It’s just a word that incredibly stupid people use to dismiss things they don’t feel like mounting a legitimate critique of.

  234. Shoshie
    Shoshie June 29, 2012 at 12:40 am |

    Not-offending-religious-people is not exactly a high priority for me, though, ’cause they’re fucking offended by anything that suggests their particular religion is imperfect in any way.

    Fuck you, Bagelsan. I’ve shown myself, time and again, to be open to critiques of religion, including ones regarding this very issue. I’ve spent a huge amount of time involved in discussion and activism within my religion to fix areas that I believe are harmful or deficient. So just fuck you.

  235. yes
    yes June 29, 2012 at 11:49 am |

    Parents’ rights to consent are already very limited. Parents can’t consent to sexual activity on behalf of their child. Parents can’t consent to have a healthy testicle removed, even if they honestly believe it will lower the child’s chances of testicular cancer*. And that doesn’t change if they have a holy book that says they should do it. Elective, irreversible surgery is something we generally reserve for adults. Also, vaccines don’t involve amputation.

    * I chose that example because having one testicle doesn’t alter sperm or testosterone rates, and people like to pretend that circumcision doesn’t affect the organ in question.

    Listen, I know there’s a history of seemingly sincere criticism being cynically employed to persecute Jews, but this just isn’t one of those times. This is about children and bodily autonomy, and some people find children’s ownership of their own bodies a powerfully moral issue. And when something grossly violates someone’s moral viewpoint, we call it evil. If you want to feel special and invent your own term, go ahead.

  236. Donna L
    Donna L June 29, 2012 at 1:07 pm |

    Except that you still insist on using “MGM” to refer not a Hollywood studio but male circumcision, demonstrating that you still don’t know what “mutilation” means. The meaning of that word has nothing to do with consent issues; it has to do with the effect on the body. By calling it “mutilation” even though it affects form but not function for the overwhelming majority of people, based purely on its status as “amputation of healthy tissue” (your distinction of vaccination), you’re necessarily saying that even those who choose male circumcision as adults are engaging in self-mutilation. Which they aren’t. Not to mention the necessary implications of what that means for trans people, given that they’re accused of self-mutilation all the time. After all, the genital surgeries I’ve had were considerably more significant than my infant circumcision, and kind of left it in the dust!

    In sum, this is a separate issue from consent, and your insistence on calling it “MGM” is even more clearly based on a desire to bait people, along with a transparent attempt to control the dialogue by falsely equating male circumcision with FGM.

  237. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 29, 2012 at 1:44 pm |

    Parents can’t consent to have a healthy testicle removed, even if they honestly believe it will lower the child’s chances of testicular cancer*

    Not true. Parents can consent to the removal of a testicle with a pre-cancerous benign tumor.

  238. Donna L
    Donna L June 29, 2012 at 2:03 pm |

    Also, I’ve never even heard of parents wanting to do remove a healthy testicle from their infant child. Why would they? (Usually, it’s the opposite: someone is born with one, and they try to take the other one from wherever it got stuck or didn’t descend, and move it down. Which they did in my case when I was nearly 11 — a complete waste of time, actually, since it never really grew or functioned anyway. They should have gotten rid of it! Sorry to be so graphic, but it made my orchiectomy a lot more difficult; the doctor had to spend so much time carving it out from the place it got fused to that the local anesthesia wore off before he was done. Ouch!)

    And of course you can survive & function perfectly well with one testicle, one kidney, etc. But if something happens to the one left, well, you’re kind of out of luck; I’ve never heard of a testicle transplant! So doing so does inherently increase the risk of a bad outcome. It’s not even remotely analogous to circumcision. Maybe it would be analogous if having a foreskin were essential to an important bodily function? And if you started out with two of them and removed one?

    But neither is the case.

  239. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 29, 2012 at 2:19 pm |

    Donna,

    In sum, this is a separate issue from consent, and your insistence on calling it “MGM” is even more clearly based on a desire to bait people, along with a transparent attempt to control the dialogue by falsely equating male circumcision with FGM.

    The problem here is that if you object to circumcision being called MGM, you have to divide FGM into, well, FGM and something else – because some forms of FGM are less severe than circumcision (namely, clitoral hood cutting variety).

    (it’s not important to me, since imo the problem is with consent, and self-mutilation isn’t bad, so accusing people, including trans persons, on this basis sounds hollow for me)

    Also, Fat Steve, why do you resort to insulting people right off the bat? It makes Feministe worse place, imo.

    Not true. Parents can consent to the removal of a testicle with a pre-cancerous benign tumor.

    Which, by definition is not a healthy testicle so i am puzzled why did you say that.

  240. chava
    chava June 29, 2012 at 2:48 pm |

    OT, but FWIW–the reason you attempt to remove or fix an undescended a testicle is testicular cancer. If you leave it as-is the risk of testicular cancer shoots way, way up.

  241. Donna L
    Donna L June 29, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    the reason you attempt to remove or fix an undescended a testicle is testicular cancer. If you leave it as-is the risk of testicular cancer shoots way, way up.

    Which is why I never understood why it wasn’t done in my case until I was nearly 11; for that reason, I believe I had close to the same risk of testicular cancer as if they’d left it where it was. They should have just disposed of it, since it never worked anyway, and I certainly was never attached to it emotionally!

  242. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 29, 2012 at 4:04 pm |

    Thank you, yes, for trying to continue this discussion. Not the most well-balanced interlocutors ever.

  243. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 29, 2012 at 4:07 pm |

    (But gawd, the Nazis sure were big on bodily autonomy weren’t they! This argument is soo like what they believed I’m sure it’s easy to get it confused.)

  244. EG
    EG June 29, 2012 at 4:19 pm |

    And when something grossly violates someone’s moral viewpoint, we call it evil.

    Yeah, sure, or you could show some sensitivity to historical context and rephrase so as to demonstrate your desire to distance yourself and your arguments from centuries of murderous antisemitism. You could particularly do so when you have been informed that the language you have chosen is loaded and tapping into a history of persecution.

    I am a big advocate of children’s bodily autonomy and, in general, their rights. I am also strongly opposed to FGM. And yet when I discuss FGM, I do not refer to it as “barbaric” or “primitive” or “savage,” because there is a history of white people using terms like that to describe what non-white people do, and it’s not a history I wish to connect myself or my arguments to any more than is unavoidable.

    If you really wish to avoid tapping into a history of antisemitism, choose words other than “evil.” Otherwise, you are, at best, willfully pushing buttons.

  245. Donna L
    Donna L June 29, 2012 at 4:20 pm |

    Not the most well-balanced interlocutors ever.

    I have no idea what you’re implying.

  246. EG
    EG June 29, 2012 at 4:28 pm |

    And I just want to make this clear: I am not in favor of circumcision. I do not think it should be standard in the US. I would like it to be a Jewish law/tradition that falls into disuse. And I’m an atheist.

    Bagelsan and yes, you are alienating and irritating me.

    Do you think you’re convincing Jewish lurkers?

  247. yes
    yes June 29, 2012 at 5:51 pm |

    I think this is a conversation that merits some aggressive wording. I think it’s a profound moral issue. I understand the merit of walking softly and using non-confrontational language. I understand the rhetorical and social value of respect. However, I choose to speak more stridently because believe that’s part of challenging the untouchable status of social norms. I don’t think this is just an issue of polite disagreement about the philosophy of childcare, and referring to non-consensual circumcision as just “a bad idea” or “unfair and unjust” misrepresents my point.

    As an aside, I feel very comfortable describing FGM as evil. I also feel very comfortable asserting that most forms cause enormously more sexual harm than whatever you want to call what’s done to male babies. The use of the term mgm isn’t to say “they’re EXACTLY the same.” The point is to assert that they exist on a continuum. They’re related activities (cutting off parts of someone’s genitals without their permission). One, again, is more severe, but they both violate the same basic rule about bodily autonomy.

    And EG, I find what you say irritating and infuriating too. I find Steve’s attitude and callousness profoundly offensive and alienating. I plan to worry about offending you exactly as much as you intend to worry about offending me.

  248. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 29, 2012 at 6:00 pm |

    (But gawd, the Nazis sure were big on bodily autonomy weren’t they! This argument is soo like what they believed I’m sure it’s easy to get it confused.

    Who the fuck said that, you disingenuous ragepuppet?

  249. EG
    EG June 29, 2012 at 6:08 pm |

    And EG, I find what you say irritating and infuriating too. I find Steve’s attitude and callousness profoundly offensive and alienating. I plan to worry about offending you exactly as much as you intend to worry about offending me.

    Oh, I’m not offended. I just think you’re flailing around up to your shoulders in gentile privilege and not even considering whether or not your tactics are efficacious.

  250. chava
    chava June 29, 2012 at 7:25 pm |

    Which is why I never understood why it wasn’t done in my case until I was nearly 11; for that reason, I believe I had close to the same risk of testicular cancer as if they’d left it where it was

    Huh. In that case, I’ve got nothing. They recommended that if our son’s hasn’t fully descended by 6 months we consider surgery.

  251. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 29, 2012 at 7:34 pm |

    Which, by definition is not a healthy testicle so i am puzzled why did you say that.

    Is it a language thing or do you not know what benign means?

  252. yes
    yes June 29, 2012 at 10:52 pm |

    And I feel that you’re drowning in theistic privilege. My, isn’t that productive and insightful! More to the point, I think you’ve misinterpreted my intent. I’m under no illusions that I’m going to convince someone that a random person on the internet is right, and their god is wrong.

  253. Donna L
    Donna L June 29, 2012 at 10:59 pm |

    I think that’s the current medical recommendation, since they’ve found changes at the cellular level in the development of undescended testicles beginning around that age. And because surgery on babies that young is a lot more advanced and less risky than it used to be. And because the earlier it’s done, the lower the risk (they think) of cancer and infertility in that testicle. The recommended age used to be between 1 and 2 years, because quite a few descend by themselves before then. Back in the day, when I was a child, they used to think any age was OK as long as it was before puberty. Which is probably why they waited until I was 10. (I’ve been hospitalized and had surgery so many times in my life that they tend to blend together, but for some reason I remember that one very well, because (1) there was a transit strike and my mother hitchhiked on milk trucks and postal trucks every day to get all the way up to Columbia Presbyerian; (2) my second-favorite stuffed animal got lost; (3) I told a nurse that I was an atheist, and she was so horrified and incredulous that she practically made the sign of the cross in my face; and (4) the other child in the room was was very, very sick and I think might have been dying, which was very disturbing, so I gave him my toys that I’d brought; I couldn’t think of anything else to do. All that for a surgery that was very painful and basically a complete waste of time. How dare they violate my bodily autonomy without my consent! Oh, wait.)

  254. Donna L
    Donna L June 29, 2012 at 11:09 pm |

    And I feel that you’re drowning in theistic privilege. My, isn’t that productive and insightful! More to the point, I think you’ve misinterpreted my intent. I’m under no illusions that I’m going to convince someone that a random person on the internet is right, and their god is wrong.

    I think EG made it very clear that she’s an atheist, yes? And that she’s personally opposed to the practice?

    And I guess it hasn’t occurred to you that the reason most Jews circumcise their sons has very little, if anything, to do with God?

    All of which proves — in addition to the standard “reading comprehension fail”! — that you really are drowning in Christian privilege, whether you identify as Christian or come from a Christian background or not.

    Speaking of circumcision and of Christians, here’s an irrelevant factoid: when nuns married Jesus back in medieval Europe, guess what the “wedding ring” was supposedly made of? That’s right, the Holy Prepuce of Christ! Of which there were many real-life, dried-up examples throughout Christendom. One does wonder where they all came from. (Maybe the priests had contacts with the local mohels; who knows?)

  255. Lamech
    Lamech June 30, 2012 at 12:16 am |

    In sum, this is a separate issue from consent, and your insistence on calling it “MGM” is even more clearly based on a desire to bait people, along with a transparent attempt to control the dialogue by falsely equating male circumcision with FGM.

    Once again, I recommend reading the wikipedia article on FGM. I’m sure you’ll find type 1a is as comparable to the stereotypical MGM as one can get. And that some versions of type 4 are less bad than the stereotypical MGM.

    So using MGM for MGM is about as appropriate as using FGM for all forms of FGM.

  256. yes
    yes June 30, 2012 at 1:15 am |

    So let me get this right:

    EG is an atheist, so EG can’t have theistic privilege.
    I, on the other hand, can and DO have Christian privilege despite not being Christian or having a Christian upbringing.
    Neat.

    @steve
    Don’t be a jackass. You know what’s wrong with the parallel you drew, and invoking some “hey i bet you’re a funny foreign person who doesn’t speak English” trope isn’t very honest or decent. And if you weren’t being directly racist, then your comment was enormously insensitive of the long standing prejudice the English speaking world has against non speakers.

    See? Isn’t that an odious little cheap shot?

  257. chava
    chava June 30, 2012 at 1:55 am |

    And I feel that you’re drowning in theistic privilege. My, isn’t that productive and insightful! More to the point, I think you’ve misinterpreted my intent. I’m under no illusions that I’m going to convince someone that a random person on the internet is right, and their god is wrong.

    1) Am for all intents and purposes, an atheist. Ish.

    2) Like Donna said….it doesn’t have a whole lot to do with the religion bit for a lot of Jews.* Not exactly, anyway. It’s messy. Which you seem to have trouble understanding.

    * I have no idea how that shakes out for Muslims. Again, though–worth nothing that the new wave of European court cases and responses on circumcision are nearly directly in response to a wave of Muslim immigration and the corresponding racist, Islamaphobic pushback. But no, everyone is just concerned for human rights. Totally.

  258. chava
    chava June 30, 2012 at 2:02 am |

    And if you weren’t being directly racist, then your comment was enormously insensitive of the long standing prejudice the English speaking world has against non speakers.

    See? Isn’t that an odious little cheap shot?

    Don’t be such an ass. Pointing out that your language has been oblivious, hurtful and insensitive is not “an odious little cheap shot.” Jesus, do you really think that all racism & anti-Semitism (which is a form of racism) comes in the form of smack-you-upside the head bigotry these days? Language, it is not that simple. It is not enough to refrain from delightful aphorisms like “Jews are greedy and want to control the world with their noses.”

  259. EG
    EG June 30, 2012 at 4:38 am |

    And I feel that you’re drowning in theistic privilege. My, isn’t that productive and insightful! More to the point, I think you’ve misinterpreted my intent. I’m under no illusions that I’m going to convince someone that a random person on the internet is right, and their god is wrong.

    I’m an atheist, you dolt. As I have said. And you have no idea how Jews work. You’ll note that not a single Jew on this thread has said “God says we have to circumcise, and so you can’t question it” and that not a single Jew has said that factored into his/her decision. You are assuming a Christian model and projecting it onto Jews.

    But do explain what this “theistic” privilege is that I’m demonstrating.

    So what is your intent? It’s not to convince Jews that circumcision is wrong, because you’ve just said so. Is it to convince non-Jews? In which case, why are you so obsessed with pushing back against Jewish objections to your language, and have said nothing about circumcision being the default US practice even though Jews compose less than 2% of the population? Or perhaps it’s just to be an asshole. In which case, congratulations.

  260. EG
    EG June 30, 2012 at 5:12 am |

    And now I’m realizing what this conversation is reminding me of.

    It’s reminding me of Azalea’s insistence that it’s totes OK to say that homosexuality is a sin, because we’re all sinners, and why should she have to care what the historical uses and implications of that language have been for gay people, even after plenty of LGBTQ people explain that they are hurt and threatened by that language, even LGBTQ people who share her religious background?

    There are degrees of evil and why should yes have to pay attention to what the historical uses and implications of that language have been for Jews, even after plenty of Jews explain that they are hurt and threatened by that language, even Jews who share ze’s atheism and dislike of circumcision?

  261. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 30, 2012 at 5:15 am |

    Is it a language thing or do you not know what benign means?

    Part language, part biology. Is that really a case? I mean, whith completely benign tumor (is there a such thing, at all?) it’s not even a cosmetic surgery.

    So if we get rid of the scary ‘cancer’ word, it means that parents can amputate a testicle for fun? Well, sounds wrong as hell, too.

  262. Tomek Kulesza
    Tomek Kulesza June 30, 2012 at 5:18 am |

    Okay, as i thought, benign tumors in general are health issue, too, so testicle with b.t. is not an equivalent to foresking in this case, since it’s a health risk.

  263. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 30, 2012 at 10:13 am |

    @steve
    Don’t be a jackass. You know what’s wrong with the parallel you drew, and invoking some “hey i bet you’re a funny foreign person who doesn’t speak English” trope isn’t very honest or decent. And if you weren’t being directly racist, then your comment was enormously insensitive of the long standing prejudice the English speaking world has against non speakers.

    You’re the jackass if you think that it’s a ‘long standing prejudice’ to think that a non-English speaker might not know an English word (Tomek said himself the misunderstanding was ‘part-language.’)

  264. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 30, 2012 at 10:15 am |

    Okay, as i thought, benign tumors in general are health issue, too, so testicle with b.t. is not an equivalent to foresking in this case, since it’s a health risk.

    There are studies that say removing a benign tumor decreases risk for testicle cancer. There are studies saying removing a foreskin decreases risk for AIDS.

    Why is it evil to believe one set of studies and not another?

  265. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve June 30, 2012 at 10:24 am |

    I should add here that I am an atheist as well (Dr. David James referred to me as a “prominent atheist” when I debated him…though I considered that hilarious.) After 3 years of that whole skeptic circuit I learned to distinguish between critiques of religion and anti-semitism, Islamaphobia, anti-catholic sectarianism, etc, etc.

    It’s pretty clear what we have here:

    Bagelsan is against circumcision as is EG. However as shown from previous threads Bagelsan hates admitting she may have said something that is in anyway wrong. So, she ends up agreeing with “yes” who clearly has a chip on his shoulder about Jews and Muslims and “Lamech” who is undoubtedly a white supremacist.

  266. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 30, 2012 at 10:34 am |

    @yes,

    I don’t agree with infant circumcision, personally. But, um. I’m not about to wander up to people with circumcised penises and inform them confidentially that no really, you’re mutilated. Deformed. I know you feel fine but lol you’re not.

    Frankly, I thought the actual topic of the post – the sucking of the penis – was fairly gross as a tradition. I’m actually not that uncomfortable with plain ol’ circumcision. >.> Maybe that’s just me. …me and most of the Jews on this thread.

  267. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 30, 2012 at 11:58 am |

    Frankly, I thought the actual topic of the post – the sucking of the penis – was fairly gross as a tradition.

    And I don’t think anyone here — or anyone else, other than a minority of Hasidim — thought any differently about that. That practice started to die out, as I mentioned early on, as long ago as the 1830’s when there was an outbreak of what was probably something like herpes in Vienna, among infant Jewish boys, and most rabbis decreed that it wasn’t necessary.

    The fact that nobody disagreed is probably why the thread almost immediately, and predictably, turned to perfervid denunciations of infant circumcision in general. Which is not something I care very much about one way or the other — except to the extent that the opponents of it try to outlaw it (as in Germany now or San Francisco last year) or go as overboard on their rhetoric in as offensive and truly counter-productive a way as some have here (never mind the open anti-Semitism that emanated from the guy behind the San Francisco referendum last year, with his comic book depicting a blond Aryan hero rescuing babies from the clutches of evil, blackhatted mohels, something that would have been right at home in Der Stuermer.)

    Anyone who’s opposed to circumcision who thinks outlawing it will ever happen in the USA, or that the kind of rhetoric displayed here will ever persuade anyone, is truly an idiot.

    As for Germany, I just can’t wait to see the images of police bursting into Jewish homes and dragging off elderly Jewish mohels in handcuffs to prison. That’ll go over well.

  268. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan June 30, 2012 at 1:22 pm |

    Frankly, I thought the actual topic of the post – the sucking of the penis – was fairly gross as a tradition.

    Just “gross”? Well, don’t hurt yourself taking too strong a stand! :p

  269. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune June 30, 2012 at 1:35 pm |

    Just “gross”? Well, don’t hurt yourself taking too strong a stand! :p

    -_- Somehow many, many comments disagreeing with the practice aren’t too strong a stand, just because I’m not calling Jews Nazis or evil? Wowzies. Don’t hurt yourself finding more ways to project.

  270. DonnaL
    DonnaL June 30, 2012 at 2:02 pm |

    I have a comment in moderation pointing out that *nobody* has defended the practice which was the original subject of this thread. And nobody does, period, except a minority of Hasidim — or has, for about 150+ years. In fact, the universal agreement here about that subject is probably what led to the immediate and predictable denunciations of circumcision in general. The only difference between this thread and the one about the San Francisco referendum last year is that there’s actually been some pushback against the overblown rhetoric, even from people who are opposed to circumcision or don’t really care about it one way or the other.

  271. yes
    yes June 30, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

    @EG
    The privilege I’m talking about is the attitude that religious activities are exempt from the standards and rigor that is applied to other topics. And regardless of the complicated relationship between faith, culture, and social identity, it’s a disingenuous version of “religious freedom” that you’re ultimately evoking, and that is evoked to immunize religious circumcision from the kind of criticism it merits. That’s what I was talking about. It’s what turned a story about very obvious sexual assault that we’d all run screaming from into “the city health department suggests maybe you shouldn’t put your mouth on a little boy’s penis. I mean, we’ll throw you in prison and torture you if you do it otherwise, but if you claim faith then we’ll just politely request you stop it.” That’s the extreme example of religious privilege, but the broader phenomenon permeates this thread.

    And no, saying it’s evil to hurt children is not at all like claiming homosexuality is a sin. This situation is like me saying that persecuting homosexuals is evil, and a bunch of religious people calling me a bigot because I’m obviously targeting their group with my broad statement.

    As to my not mentioning the mainstream secular practices…. fuck, are you kidding me? My original “overblown rhetoric” was about that. I just didn’t make an exemption saying it was okay if the victim was a Jew, so I guess that’s the problem. It’s Steve that got the derail train going by calling me a bigot, so I responded to what I felt was a dishonest appraisal of my words. And then more people jumped on board, and we all but lost sight of what the damn thread was about. Which is the point of a derail, I suppose.

    My attention has wandered away from discussing the mainstream American practice because a) no one’s defending it, and b) no one’s calling me a bigot or complaining that my blanket statement about child welfare was targeted at mainstream America.

  272. EG
    EG June 30, 2012 at 5:00 pm |

    The privilege I’m talking about is the attitude that religious activities are exempt from the standards and rigor that is applied to other topics. And regardless of the complicated relationship between faith, culture, and social identity, it’s a disingenuous version of “religious freedom” that you’re ultimately evoking, and that is evoked to immunize religious circumcision from the kind of criticism it merits.

    And if you could just point to any place in my comments that evinces that attitude? Any phrase at all? I’m fairly offensive about religion. The fact that you dismiss “the complicated relationship between faith, culture, and social identity” that comprises being Jewish in favor of considering any critique of your rhetoric as an attempt to shield religious circumcision from the criticism it merits because of freedom of religion is evidence of your ignorance and the safe harbor of being gentile that you take for granted.

    I have said not one thing in defense of religious circumcision. Go back and look. I’ll be here when you get back. See? Not one damn thing. What I have said is that Jews get rightfully angry and defensive when non-Jews start referring to their practices as “evil” because of, let me repeat, several hundred years of murderous anti-semitism predicated on the notion that we are evil. Not different, or annoying, or prioritizing tradition above children’s bodily autonomy, but evil. As in, representatives and agents of absolute moral malevolence.

    So, if you’re a non-Jew, and you don’t want to associate yourself with the kind of people who justify murdering Jews with such rhetoric, don’t use that rhetoric. The fact that you read “don’t use language that evokes anti-semitic murderers to critique circumcision, particularly if you actually hope to dissuade any Jews from circumcising their sons” and somehow translate that in your head to “don’t criticize circumcision when it’s done for religious reasons” is your problem.

    My attention has wandered away from discussing the mainstream American practice because a) no one’s defending it, and b) no one’s calling me a bigot or complaining that my blanket statement about child welfare was targeted at mainstream America.

    I wonder why that might be. Let’s think for a moment. Why would mainstream Americans not feel that a statement condemning a common, almost universal, practice of theirs as “evil” was a threat, but Jews would? What could the difference be? Could it be…maybe…that non-mainstream Americans do not have a history of calling them evil and using that to justify fucking killing them?

    Nah. It’s probably just that Jews are so damn whiny.

  273. yes
    yes July 1, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    Ah, more cheap shots. Nice. If it’ll save you keystrokes, I can just mentally add insults to the end of all your posts.

    I’d lend more credibility to claims that my one use of the word evil evoked centuries of bigotry, murder, and blood libel if I was talking about something uniquely or even overwhelmingly Jewish. I wasn’t. If you feel that a condemnation that falls largely on gentiles is implicitly evocative of Jewish persecution, then I’m afraid there are not many things that such an argument can’t be used with equal merit to condemn. And if you work from asserted insensitivity to active malice, then I don’t think you’re really participating in a conversation anymore.

    If someone had pointed out that it’s important to apply a moral judgment of circumcision evenly and avoid singling out Jews, I’d absolutely have agreed. If someone had pointed out that there was a dangerous line between condemning an act and demonizing a whole group of people, fine. The fact that people who do this to their children are for the most part decent people is very easy to accept. Instead, I got “jews are evil. thanks for the tip.” That’s not a difference of tone, that’s a difference of message. It’s a great debating tactic, but it’s a shitty way to present sincere ideas.

    Lastly, I wasn’t expressing shock or amazement that no one had called me an Americanophobe or gentilphobe or whatever buzzword probably exists on right wing blogs. I was answering your question directly in the terms you presented.

  274. yes
    yes July 3, 2012 at 3:34 am |

    @mac

    I would assume that’s a courtesy you’d extend to everyone, regardless what was done to them. An unwillingness to call someone mutilated (with all its pejorative overtones) isn’t the same as saying an action isn’t mutilation.

    I pretty much agree with your feelings about oral suction, though I’d say that someone putting their mouth on a child’s genitals evokes the same moral reaction in me when it’s done for religious reasons as for when it’s done for non-religious reasons. I’m sure that sentence is considered incredibly overblown and hateful, though.

  275. chava
    chava July 3, 2012 at 7:04 am |

    I’m sure that sentence is considered incredibly overblown and hateful, though.

    No, but that one is.

  276. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune July 3, 2012 at 8:31 am |

    I would assume that’s a courtesy you’d extend to everyone, regardless what was done to them. An unwillingness to call someone mutilated (with all its pejorative overtones) isn’t the same as saying an action isn’t mutilation.

    ….and how do you not see that that’s exactly what you’ve been doing, in arguing with Jewish people who’ve been circumcised? I’m honestly curious.

  277. EG
    EG July 3, 2012 at 9:00 am |

    I’d lend more credibility to claims that my one use of the word evil evoked centuries of bigotry, murder, and blood libel if I was talking about something uniquely or even overwhelmingly Jewish.

    But not if you’re talking about something overwhelmingly identified and associated with Jews. Right.

  278. yes
    yes July 3, 2012 at 8:36 pm |

    @mac

    There are certainly things you consider mutilation, I assume? Things that, in a discussion about whether they are okay or not, you’d use the word “mutilation,” yes? At the same time, you wouldn’t approach someone unsolicited and tell them they were mutilated.

    I feel that’s the important difference. I wouldn’t “wander up” to a victim/recipient of anything I perceive as mutilation and tell them “no really, you’re mutilated. Deformed.” regardless of whether they were for or against it. But I’ll use the word in a discussion of the morality of forcing that alteration on others.

  279. DonnaL
    DonnaL July 3, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

    In other words, you do think circumcised men are “mutilated,” whether they think of themselves that way or not; you’re just too polite and considerate to say so to their faces.

  280. yes
    yes July 4, 2012 at 12:56 am |

    @donna
    I would regard what happened to them (if it was forced) as mutilation. Calling someone “mutilated” has an ugly, insulting undertone. To take an extreme example, would you would use the phrase FGM? Do you think it’s fair to say to someone who uses the term FGM “oh, so you think those women are mutilated.” Now, most forms of FGM cause much more damage, but if this is an issue of saying that using the word mutilation implies that you’re judging people as mutilated, then it naturally applies to all uses of the word.

    If an adult man is comfortable or happy with the state of his body, that’s his business. I don’t condemn adults who want to have their bodies modified in any way, for any reason. My issue is with forcing how you want your body on someone else.

  281. yes
    yes July 5, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    @EG

    Not if I’m talking about something overwhelmingly identified and associated with Jews, Americans, and Muslims, no.

  282. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 6, 2012 at 9:42 am |

    I wouldn’t “wander up” to a victim/recipient of anything I perceive as mutilation and tell them “no really, you’re mutilated. Deformed.” regardless of whether they were for or against it.

    Errr that’s what you’re doing, by bringing up circumcision being evil as your FIRST POINT this discussion of sucking blood from penii.

  283. Fat Steve
    Fat Steve July 6, 2012 at 1:49 pm |

    SInce I posted that quickly while loitering in the airport, I will try to explain without shit sentence structure and grammar.

    OK, ‘yes’, your very first comment on this thread about metzisah b’peh (sp) was a two parted comment, the first part of which was:

    1) Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait.

    You followed that point up with

    2) Putting your mouth on a child’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring some extreme hypothetical snakebite situation.

    I immediately pointed out how #1 could be interpreted as ‘Jews are evil.’ Instead of you clearly stating that is not what you meant, and acknowledging that, regardless of intent, your comment could be open to misinterpretation, you continued to argue that ‘evil’ was the right word.

    YOU later went on to claim that there is a continuum of evil, and some things are more evil than others giving examples which were as laughable as ‘not tipping a waiter is evil but firebombing a restaurant is more evil’ or some such nonsense. I don’t really buy that but you’re the one who said it so maybe you do.

    NEVERTHELESS, even if you do believe in gradations of evil, surely your first comment on circumcision:

    1) Amputating parts of children’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring extreme medical necessity that can’t/mustn’t wait.

    and your followup comment on grown men sucking babies penii

    2) Putting your mouth on a child’s genitalia is always wrong and evil, barring some extreme hypothetical snakebite situation.

    indicates that you put these two acts on the same level of evil.

    Now, this may not be what you meant at all, but if you didn’t, I wonder why you weren’t more accepting of the comments of those people who pointed out the interpretations, especially as we have no other evidence to go on, this being your first post.

  284. yes
    yes July 6, 2012 at 2:30 pm |

    No, it isn’t. I didn’t “wander up” to you. There’s a difference between attacking someone’s body out of the blue and professing a strident opinion on a topic we all knowingly started talking about. I’ll very willingly call what I see as mutilation mutilation in a thread about that topic, regardless of who else might read my comments.

    I’m not saying there’s something implicitly wrong with the body of a man who has been circumcised. I wouldn’t even say that about someone who had much worse done to them. But I will say there’s something implicitly wrong with forcing that change on someone.

    As a point of curiosity, what do you see as the moral distinction between metzitzah b’peh and regular circumcision? Is there one? Why?

  285. Henry
    Henry July 6, 2012 at 2:59 pm |

    Banning it because you consider it some form of sexual abuse is horrifyingly anti-semitic (and by no means am I in agreement with 99.9% of anything the orthodox do). This is not the first the time Jews have been accused of having loose morals and corrupting the youth by the dominant Christian culture (SeeVenice’s reasons to create the ghetto). Sucking blood from a wound is an ancient practice, and was done by doctors for centuries in various contexts. It’s not a medically safe practice and if that is the basis to ban that’s a good reason, but accusing rabbi’s of liking to suck baby- penis as some form of “control” or other “gratification” is really beyond the line here. And even if you ban it you do know most rabbi’s use a glass tube they suck on to draw blood from the wound (the purpose being that the flow of blood should prevent infection) so it still won’t pass the “its creepy” test you are imposing on someone else’s religion.

    Here’s a good article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brit_milah

    This is at 290 comments so if this post is late, please disregard, I don;t have time to read all of them.

  286. Donna L
    Donna L July 6, 2012 at 3:07 pm |

    yes, I’m still absolutely convinced that you don’t know what the word “mutilation” means.

    But I think we’re going to have to agree to disagree.

  287. yes
    yes July 6, 2012 at 6:16 pm |

    @ Donna
    I suppose so. I mirror your thoughts.

    @Henry
    I’m not sure which comments you are replying to. Personally, the “it’s creepy” factor isn’t really the issue here. Violation of bodily autonomy and direct harm are really my main bugaboo.

    The one caveat I’ll add is that someone saying “it’s my religion” generally changes my views about how right/wrong an action is roughly 0%. I may feel differently about their motives as a result, but the action doesn’t get special condemnation or praise. I understand many people differ from me vastly on this point.

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