Author: has written 5284 posts for this blog.

Jill has been blogging for Feministe since 2005.
Return to: Homepage | Blog Index

269 Responses

  1. Donna L
    Donna L September 25, 2012 at 3:11 pm |

    Given what happens here every single time there’s a thread that deals even peripherally with male circumcision — namely, lots and lots of comments equating it with FGM as a human rights violation, and strenuously attempting to discredit any possibility of any health benefits whatsoever — why do you even bother with this?

    1. Miss S
      Miss S September 25, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

      I’m not looking forward to the comments for that very reason. The last thread I read on circumcision was a mess.

    2. yes
      yes September 26, 2012 at 2:49 am |

      You’re right, of course, Donna. Cutting a child’s genitals has nothing to do at all with cutting a different child’s genitals.

      1. Bloix
        Bloix September 26, 2012 at 9:08 am |

        And we have a winner!

        1. yes
          yes September 28, 2012 at 4:21 am |

          There’s a big difference between acknowledging that two issues are related/exist on the same spectrum and equating them as the same thing. The former is common in discussions of FGM and MGM/whatevereuphamismyouliketomaintainyourprivilege, the latter is what dishonest commenters pretend happens.

    3. Erin
      Erin September 26, 2012 at 11:53 am |

      This paper is very poorly written. Only about 20% of the claims made in the paper are accompanied by citations, and the methodology seems shoddy. The authors interviewed women they “got to know” during their travels? That is nothing approaching a representative sample.

  2. Chris
    Chris September 25, 2012 at 3:17 pm |

    Actually, there are really huge problems with some [if not all – I’m not going to claim to have read every single thing on the subject] “circumcision reduces chance of contracting HIV” studies… Like, the participant group was really small, they were circumcised as adults and the study was fairly short-term [how much sex do you suppose the recently cut guys were having?], the guys who were circumcised also given education about HIV, the studies were ended early conveniently when the numbers were pro-circumcision…

    Science is run by humans, who have biases. Science needs critique to work, and what I’ve read suggests that the critique in this case is pretty strongly warranted.

    1. Chris
      Chris September 25, 2012 at 3:22 pm |

      [Can’t find the place where I originally read about the criticism, but here’s another place that covers basically the same arguments – http://www.doctorsopposingcircumcision.org/info/HIVStatement.html It also talks about the links between the people who conducted the study and North American pro-circumcision advocates.]

  3. Donna L
    Donna L September 25, 2012 at 3:29 pm |

    And the criticisms of the study all come from anti-circumcision advocates, right? This is hardly an issue I care about personally, and I certainly don’t care what decisions people make for their children one way or the other, but are we to assume that the CDC, WHO, and, most recently, the American Academy of Pediatrics (which has changed its position from being neutral or against the practice) are all in the pocket of people with a pro-circumcision agenda, and have not taken their positions in good faith based on their interpretations of the evidence?

    1. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl September 25, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

      I do think there needs to be far more research into the issues raised by the recent Africa circumcision studies. Specifically, where the causal link lies between circumcision and HIV, whether the success seen with adult circumcision will translate similarly into reduced HIV rates after infant circumcision, whether the reduced rates of HIV transmission will continue over the long term, and why these results diverge from what has been seen in Western European men, who have very low circ rates and relatively low HIV transmission rates as well.

      1. Henry
        Henry September 25, 2012 at 9:02 pm |

        Western European men have high access to condoms and use them often. Getting those two things to happen in other parts of the world has proven difficult, especially the use part where condoms are even available. That research has already been done. Where you have a situation where people see doctors infrequently (at birth and when already severely ill, you may only get one shot at a preventative measure – hence the relative suceess of the polio vaccine).

    2. Bagelsan
      Bagelsan September 25, 2012 at 6:35 pm |

      Donna, you know perfectly well that the CDC and WHO are totally in the pocket of Big Circumcision!

      1. Onymous
        Onymous September 25, 2012 at 7:06 pm |

        Well the US didn’t at one point, so at some point there must have been some big pro-circumcision group, why assume it magically disappeared?

        Also the US has been circumcising infants at a prodigious rate for what is it 30 years now? It doesn’t take some mustache twirling cabal, just the existence of people invested in the status quo who don’t want to think they were having kids foreskins removed (and their foreskin was removed) pointlessly and are thus prone to confirmation bias.

  4. chava
    chava September 25, 2012 at 4:13 pm |

    From a review article: “Three randomised controlled trials and over 40 observational epidemiological studies have provided compelling
    evidence that male circumcision reduces the risk of heterosexual men becoming infected with HIV. [1], [2], [3] and [4] WHO-UNAIDS recommend that circumcision be added to present HIV-prevention strategies for HIV risk reduction in heterosexual men.5″

    Cites are:

    1) B Auvert, D Taljaard, E Lagarde, J Sobngwi-Tambekou, R Sitta, A
    Puren. Randomized, controlled intervention trial of male circumcision
    for reduction of HIV infection risk: the ANRS 1265 Trial. PLoS Med, 2
    (2005), p. e298.

    2) RC Bailey, S Moses, CB Parker et al. Male circumcision for HIV
    prevention in young men in Kisumu, Kenya: a randomised controlled
    trial. Lancet, 369 (2007), pp. 645–656.

    3) RH Gray, G Kigozi, D Serwadda et al. Male circumcision for HIV
    prevention in men in Rakai, Uganda: a randomised controlled trial.
    Lancet, 369 (2007), pp. 657–666.
    SummaryBackground Ecological and observational studies suggest
    that male circumcision reduces the risk of HIV acquisition in men. Our aim was to investigate the effect of male circumcision on HIV
    incidence in men. Methods 4996 uncircumcised, HIV-negative men aged 15–49 years who agreed to HIV testing and counselling were enrolled in this randomised trial in rural Rakai district, Uganda. Men were randomly assigned to receive immediate circumcision (n=2474) or circumcision delayed for 24 months (2522). HIV testing, physical
    examination, and interviews were repeated at 6, 12, and 24 month
    follow-up visits. The primary outcome was HIV incidence. Analyses were done on a modified intention-to-treat basis. This trial is registered with ClinicalTrials.gov, with the number NCT00425984. Findings:
    Baseline characteristics of the men in the intervention and control
    groups were much the same at enrolment. Retention rates were much the same in the two groups, with 90–92% of participants retained at all time points. In the modified intention-to-treat analysis, HIV
    incidence over 24 months was 0·66 cases per 100 person-years in the
    intervention group and 1·33 cases per 100 person-years in the control
    group (estimated efficacy of intervention 51%, 95% CI 16–72; p=0·006). The as-treated efficacy was 55% (95% CI 22–75; p=0·002); efficacy from the Kaplan-Meier time-to-HIV-detection as-treated analysis was 60% (30–77; p=0·003). HIV incidence was lower in the intervention group than it was in the control group in all sociodemographic, behavioural, and sexually transmitted disease symptom subgroups. Moderate or severe adverse events occurred in 84 (3·6%) circumcisions; all resolved with treatment. Behaviours were much the same in both groups during follow-up.

    Interpretation: Male circumcision reduced HIV incidence in
    men without behavioural disinhibition. Circumcision can be recommended for HIV prevention in men.

    1. Rhoanna
      Rhoanna September 25, 2012 at 4:35 pm |

      One of the limitations of those studies are that they’re looking at adult circumcision (in Africa), and only over 2-5 years. It’d be premature to conclude from those studies that infant circumcision would help prevent HIV, or that it would help better than offering circumcision to adult men. (It might. Those studies just don’t say one way or another, and we don’t seem to have a good idea of why circumcision lowers HIV infection rates.)

      1. Partial Human
        Partial Human September 25, 2012 at 5:18 pm |

        Also the circumcised cohort were given comprehensive sex/HIV education, the control group weren’t

        There are some real methodological issues.

        1. chava
          chava September 25, 2012 at 9:12 pm |

          Rhoanna–
          Well, yeah. But I don’t think any of the African initiatives are pushing infant circumcision (could be wrong). It’s pretty hard to argue with the numbers above, honestly–it works, it works well, and it doesn’t require behavioral change (the holy grail of public health measures, in other words)

          PH–
          Sorry, where did you see that about the sex ed? Or are you saying that all three randomized trials and 40 observational studies have methodological issues?

      2. chava
        chava September 25, 2012 at 9:09 pm |

        Well, yeah. But I don’t think any of the African initiatives are pushing infant circumcision. It’s pretty hard to argue with the numbers above, honestly–it works, it works well, and it doesn’t require behavioral change (the holy grail of public health measures, in other words)

        1. Tamen
          Tamen September 26, 2012 at 6:24 pm |

          Well, yeah. But I don’t think any of the African initiatives are pushing infant circumcision.

          Well, you couldn’t be more wrong:

          http://www.who.int/hiv/pub/malecircumcision/manual_infant/en/index.html

          http://www.theworld.org/2011/10/botswana-infant-circumcision-campaign/

          http://www.irinnews.org/Report/90605/KENYA-Infant-male-circumcision-for-HIV-prevention-promising

          all which were among the top 7 hits for the google search term “infant circumcision africa”.

  5. Asia
    Asia September 25, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

    I had no idea that circumcision could have that much of a effect on HIV. More research should be done to explore that link especially if there methodological problems. A statistic as high as 70% would equate circumcision to vaccinations. I think a lot of people would circumcise their sons on that information alone.

    1. Jessica
      Jessica September 25, 2012 at 5:35 pm |

      It is not equivalent to a vaccine for a few reasons. A vaccine with 70% efficacy for the whole population might lead to herd immunity, depending on the virulence of the disease. However, HIV has multiple transmission routes and male circumcision only affects transmission from women to men via vaginal intercourse. It does not protect women at all (except indirectly in that lower rates in men will result in fewer women being exposed to HIV), nor does it provide any protection against acquisition via anal sex or injection drug use. So circumcising your male child might reduce his risk of acquiring HIV, *if he is exposed to it via heterosexual vaginal intercourse and does not use a condom*. Circumcising the entire male population would not lead to the end of HIV due to the presence of the other transmission pathways.

      1. Asia
        Asia September 25, 2012 at 7:48 pm |

        Perhaps, preventive treatment would have been a better word choice. That said, Gardasil is only marketed to girls. It offers no protection for boys. And has been criticized about the protection for being limited. Yet, it is still better to have it than not.

        1. bleh
          bleh September 25, 2012 at 7:53 pm |

          Gardasil does in fact offer protection for boys, and work has been done to get approval for boys.

        2. tinfoil hattie
          tinfoil hattie September 25, 2012 at 8:58 pm |

          Not true; both my sons are being vaccinated against HPV, and the pediatrician’s office recommends it for boys and girls. There are posters in the office explaining that HPV isn’t just a “teenage girl problem.”

        3. Henry
          Henry September 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm |

          The Gardasil availability for boys is recent. Previously it was denied to males, mostly because someone apparently thought viruses were heterosexual and very horny, and thus would ignore boys.

    2. deadleaf
      deadleaf September 25, 2012 at 6:22 pm |

      Looks like the people fighting for classifying circumcision as genital mutilation just lost, if the numbers are that high, it just became preventative treatment.

  6. msgd
    msgd September 25, 2012 at 5:08 pm |

    Good OP.

  7. Jeff
    Jeff September 25, 2012 at 6:08 pm |

    A 70% risk reduction after the proper sexual education and sexual barrier devices have been implemented? Doubt it.

    I would like to see a study done here, in the United States. Most likely I am guessing it would be similar to Europe, where many men are uncircumcised and with proper cleaning and safety experience little problems that they would otherwise face.

    About 33% of men in Africa are raising another mans child unknowingly. Would it be fair to bring that statistic to the U.S? Absolutely not.

    The article also states that many men in these countries are now opting for circumcision because they believe it can prevent them from getting aids. That is pure ignorance, almost as bad as those who believe having intercourse with a virgin will cure aids.

    1. Annie D
      Annie D September 25, 2012 at 6:27 pm |

      The article also states that many men in these countries are now opting for circumcision because they believe it can prevent them from getting aids. That is pure ignorance, almost as bad as those who believe having intercourse with a virgin will cure aids.

      Except they’re not risking giving 16 year old girls AIDs. Big difference.

      I agree that making badly informed health decisions is bad, but let’s not equate it with men with AIDs having unprotected and potentially exploitative sex with teenage girls.

      Also, I wonder how they ethically justified NOT giving the control group the same comprehensive sex education they gave the circumcised group — it wasn’t something that they were testing and it’s pretty conclusively linked to better health outcomes, no?

      1. Jadey
        Jadey September 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

        Well, not if having circumcision leads them to not wear condoms – that still does put their partners at risk. Also, the original comment did say, “almost as bad”, so it wasn’t a complete equivocation. I think that anything that interferes with proper sexual health education is pretty bad because it increases the risk for everyone.

        I’ve found Jeff’s comments on other threads to be problematic and I’m not interested in defending the guy on all counts, but I don’t find much to disagree with in this particular comment. The methodologies for some of these studies do seem quite flawed, though that is often the nature of field research.

        1. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 25, 2012 at 7:42 pm |

          Exactly. There is no evidence that circumcision eliminates heterosexual transmission of HIV completely. The truth is that even if someone is circumcised they are still at risk for contracting and transmitting HIV. Recent CDC stats indicate that 37,045 men (and 9,868 women) were diagnosed with HIV in 2010. Meanwhile, U.S. circ rates have hovered around 54% to 56% for several decades now. Why is there no research into the rates of HIV transmission here in the U.S. relative to circumcision status? I can’t imagine why, if the stats for HIV transmission here in the U.S. were directly correlated to the presence of an uncircumcised partner, the information would not already be widely available and publicized.

          I’m not breaking out my tinfoil hat just yet, but something smells fishy to me here.

        2. Annie D
          Annie D September 26, 2012 at 5:39 am |

          My reaction probably stemmed from an unfortunate association between having sex with virgins to cure AIDs and the increased risk of rape faced by virgin girls in countries such as South Africa. This is also cited as a reason why South Africa has a higher rate of child sexual abuse than countries with lower prevalence of HIV. Some other people have made similar associations, some in an academic setting.

          I did not say this, because I did not think Jeff’s comment was that far out of line that I needed to, because I thought the one followed fairly logically from the other and because it was off topic.

          I was also presuming that anyone who comes to a doctor to ask about being circumcised to prevent HIV transmission would be told about condoms and their general usefulness.

  8. Kat
    Kat September 25, 2012 at 6:20 pm |

    The scientific facts don’t show that circumcision reduces the chance of HIV transmission AFAIK. The main study that that claim is most often based on has been shown to have hugely exaggerated their results, on top of a fatally flawed methodology. Are there other, well-designed studies out there that show a relation between circumcision and transmission rates?

    But even if circumcision does effectively stop HIV transmissions, I don’t really see how that would make circumcising babies less fraught. Babies don’t have sex. People who are old enough to decide if they want to be circumcised do.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 25, 2012 at 6:40 pm |

      If people are going to be skeptical about claims for the health benefits of circumcision made by so-called “circumcision enthusiasts,” then why should anyone trust a contrary piece like the one you link to, which is by the author of a dishonest polemic entitled “Circumcision is immoral, should be banned” (see http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2011/08/circumcision-is-immoral-should-be-banned/)? A piece which claims that the “heads” of circumcised penises are “leathery and tough”? And which cites the transmission of herpes by that disgusting circumcision method we had a thread about recently — without mentioning that method, or its unusual nature, other than describing a bris as “ritual cutting-up ceremony” — as supposed evidence of how awful circumcision is? I would suggest that if anti-circumcision advocates really want to accomplish anything, they might want to avoid relying on the screeds of dishonest fanatics who flirt with anti-Semitism.

      1. Kat
        Kat September 25, 2012 at 6:59 pm |

        No one has to trust him. Anyone who’s skeptical about his criticisms (which is reasonable, given his beliefs/affiliations) can look up the study themselves and see if what he says was accurate or not.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L September 25, 2012 at 7:01 pm |

        I notice that the author has written many columns on this same subject, including applauding the attempted criminalization of infant circumcision in Berlin. And although I assume he’s not personally anti-Semitic — he is, after all, affiliated with Oxford — the people who leave comments to his columns have no such scruples, and, when they’re not claiming that circumcision = rape, make charming suggestions such as advocating that anyone convicted of circumcising an infant be compelled to wear a yellow star. In other words, I will continue to be highly suspicious of the motives of people who devote themselves to this cause.

        1. EG
          EG September 25, 2012 at 7:05 pm |

          advocating that anyone convicted of circumcising an infant be compelled to wear a yellow star.

          Holy hell, really? Really? I’m not even sure why I’m shocked, though. No, I know: it’s because…who the hell tries to make themselves out to be like the Nazis?

        2. Kat
          Kat September 25, 2012 at 9:06 pm |

          DonnaL, I totally agree that anti-male-circumcision advocates reach and lie and are really anti-Semitic and sexist really often, and it’s disgusting and inexcusable. But the criticisms of the study’s methodology that are summarized in that link are pretty scientifically damning. Are you disputing them? I can’t tell if you’re just venting about the anti-circ brigade or defending the study.

        3. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 25, 2012 at 9:35 pm |

          What I’m saying is that I’d be interested in reading an evaluation from a neutral source. Not from a dishonest anti-circumcision advocate who allows flagrantly anti-Semitic rhetoric in his comment section to remain unchallenged. Why should I even believe his characterizations of the study?

        4. Kat
          Kat September 25, 2012 at 11:14 pm |

          If by “believe” you mean “take his word for it,” you shouldn’t and don’t have to. He cited his sources and you can either verify or prove him wrong by looking them up. His blog piece was mostly a layperson-friendly summary of the criticisms in this academic article (full text here). It seems pretty unlikely to me that those were all lies and/or misrepresentations, given that (a) the paper made it past the JLM’s peer review process, and (b) that the original study being criticised is fully available here and so it would be really, really easy for anyone to expose any lies or misrepresentations.

          Just because people have biases doesn’t mean they’re making shit up. I agree that assessments from neutral parties are important and needed, but if you read the study along with the criticisms of it I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any unfairness other than the blog writer possibly implying that the study trials were stopped early out of the researchers’ conscious desire to bias the results here: “By contrast, the non-circumcised men got to keep having sex during the full two month period during which the treatment group was in recovery mode. Then, mystery of mysteries, the trials were stopped early.” (The study authors say they stopped the trials early because of ethical concerns.)

        5. Kat
          Kat September 25, 2012 at 11:30 pm |

          Er, strike that “possibly” qualifier in my last comment. He’s definitely implying conscious bias.

  9. thatguy
    thatguy September 25, 2012 at 6:39 pm |

    If someone recommended cutting off a child’s finger to prevent AIDS they would get the exact same reaction as these authors. The reaction is totally justified.

    And the studies are really, really poorly done:

    http://www.aidscirc.org/2012/07/how-circumcision-solution-in-africa.html

    http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/05/when-bad-science-kills-or-how-to-spread-aids/

    But the moral issues far outweigh any “scientific” issues.

  10. Jaen
    Jaen September 25, 2012 at 6:44 pm |

    Personally this study has always sort of irked me. I’ll admit my own bias against compromising bodily autonomy, and how it has always been integral to my identity as a feminist. I also believe the moral arguments against circumcision should be enough to stand on their own. However there seems to be a lot of problems popping up from this study, and I think we should also consider a more critical view before we hail circumcision as the ultimate HIV protector.

    Firstly, the circumcised group were given access to sex/HIV education which the control group didn’t receive. Claiming that circumcision was the only cause for this reduction in HIV is blatantly ignoring the possible success of sexual education, and furthermore crediting itself with something social rather than medical. There is little argument that sexual education is one of the most powerful tools in fighting against HIV, so why aren’t we focusing on this and the percentage of HIV reduction this might have caused?

    Secondly, and a point which I almost never see is that this is a study on exclusively the infection rate of heterosexual men. How does male circumcision affect the infection rate for heterosexual women or gay men who are far more at risk? Even if the change is minimal for them, what is the fallout to the more at-risk when we have a bunch of men who are being told circumcision is this magical fix for HIV? Because it’s certainly not a magical fix for them. There are so many lies and myths floating about HIV, that I really hope this doesn’t launch a whole new wave of them.

    Instead I’d much rather tease out the difference between education and circumcision in reducing rates for both genders. I feel like we have only a tiny window into what this means, and there’s too much jumping to conclusions that circumcision is a magical answer, and that’s why I’m personally annoyed whenever I see this study.

  11. Joe from an alternate universe
    Joe from an alternate universe September 25, 2012 at 7:13 pm |

    Jill,

    Spot on. The science on this is settled. Study after study has concluded that a sharp reduction in aids transmission results from circumcision. It also reduces the risk of other STDs and cancer. The American Society of Pediatrics has revised their advice on it: http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2012/08/27/159955340/pediatricians-decide-boys-are-better-off-circumcised-than-not

    Yet, people continue to argue with it. Their view on the morality of circumcision outweighs any honest debate.

  12. BigRed
    BigRed September 25, 2012 at 7:28 pm |

    I see your claim that circumcision reduces the risk of AIDS infection and raise you a critical discussion:

    http://blog.practicalethics.ox.ac.uk/2012/05/when-bad-science-kills-or-how-to-spread-aids/

    Maybe what this blog post discusses is wrong but that you made a claim regarding reducing this risk without linking to some evidence makes me wonder whether you evaluated the evidence.

    1. DonnaL
      DonnaL September 25, 2012 at 8:34 pm |

      I guess this must be the first result people come up with on google when they search for anti-circumcision blogs, because it’s the exact same link that Kat posted above — to Mr. “circumcised penises are leathery and tough.” See my comment at http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2012/09/25/lets-stop-attacking-aids-researchers-yeah/#comment-528412

      I am not impressed!

  13. Kristen J.
    Kristen J. September 25, 2012 at 8:50 pm |

    There seems to be conflicting evidence. Including evidence of significant HIV transmission during circumcision (as well as other complications – which surprise, surprise happen a lot more when the people born with penises are circumcised outside of a carefully controlled study). All of which is complicated by the fact that we could probably get far more effective results by flooding the world with free condoms and educating people on their use. Given those facts it would seem the more ethical approach would be free adult/adolescent circumcision for those who would choose it and shit tons of education/condoms for everyone else.

    1. chava
      chava September 25, 2012 at 9:18 pm |

      Well, maybe. Condom use requires behavioral change and cultural change, which is a hell of a lot harder to pull off. I’m not saying we *shouldn’t* flood the world with condoms and sex ed, I’m just saying it isn’t as easy a fix as it looks like.

      1. Kristen J.
        Kristen J. September 25, 2012 at 9:27 pm |

        I don’t know…I mean…circumcising infants also tends to require a cultural change. As a widespread approach it requires access to medical facilities and the willingness to use them. Given that most of these studies involve adults choosing circumcision, its not really an issue – self selection bias and all – but suggesting it as an appropriate population wide initiative seems like it would require cultural shifts. Given conflicting evidence on efficacy, the 1 to 2% infection rate as a result of infant circumcision, I don’t see why that cultural change should be preferred over education/condom usage.

        1. chava
          chava September 25, 2012 at 9:36 pm |

          Yeah, but I don’t think people are advocating circumcising infants in the developing world. Everything I’ve heard has been about adult circumcision.

        2. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 25, 2012 at 10:01 pm |

          You might take a look at Kebaabetswe, 2003; Young 2012; Tobian 2010. All of the ones I’ve been looking at are behind a paywall, but hopefully you have access. There are more than a few recommending neonatal circumcision.

  14. chava
    chava September 25, 2012 at 9:22 pm |

    You know, no one is saying that circumcision cures or prevents transmission of HIV. What people ARE saying is that in a developing world context, adult circumcision can be an incredibly effective intervention. Jill is also saying that hey, maybe hijaking an academic’s book with anti-Semitic, anti-science vitriol is not so awesome.
    I don’t see why we have a problem with that.

    1. Tamen
      Tamen September 26, 2012 at 6:53 pm |

      What people are having a problem with is the pushing of routine infant circumcision. WHO pushes infant circumcision in Africa. Se my earlier comment for links to some of the campaigns in Africa to introduce routine infant circumcision against AIDS.

      Adult people are able when given correct information about pros/cons to decide themselves whether they should have a circumcision. I am not convinced about the quality of the methodology of the studies I’ve seen referenced here so I am currently unconvinced that the adults are getting correct information before they elect the procedure.

      Male infants and children shouldn’t have sex and generally don’t. The only reason for pushing circumcision for infants rather than only for adults must be a belief that not enough young adults will elect circumcision when they have been informed about pros/cons. It short, it’s an attempt to preemptively circumvent their consent.

      1. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 8:24 pm |

        Adult people are able when given correct information about pros/cons to decide themselves whether they should have a circumcision. I am not convinced about the quality of the methodology of the studies I’ve seen referenced here so I am currently unconvinced that the adults are getting correct information before they elect the procedure.

        So basically, you think that circumcision with a greater incidence of discomfort, pain, and infection (i.e. adult circumcision) is far superior to the alternative (i.e. infant circumcision.) And that makes sense, how?

        1. Tamen
          Tamen September 26, 2012 at 9:58 pm |

          Firstly, that makes sense because I care about something called consent and bodily integrity – also for men and children.

          Secondly, exactly how do you know that infants experience less discomfort and pain than adults when circumcised?

          As for complications like infections, I assume you have looked at studies comparing complications rates between infant male circumcision and adult male circumcision before making the assertion that it’s less common?

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 9:33 pm |

          Firstly, that makes sense because I care about something called consent and bodily integrity – also for men and children.

          I don’t understand this sentence. What is “something called consent and bodily integrity – also for men and children.” You say it’s something to care about but to me it just seems like random words thrown together.

          Secondly, exactly how do you know that infants experience less discomfort and pain than adults when circumcised?

          Oh just a little something called ‘healing time.’ On average infant circumcisions heal 4 times faster than adult circumcisions.

          As for complications like infections, I assume you have looked at studies comparing complications rates between infant male circumcision and adult male circumcision before making the assertion that it’s less common?

          Yes, I have. Look, for example, at the article Henry posted earlier.

        3. Tamen
          Tamen September 28, 2012 at 11:23 am |

          Me:

          Firstly, that makes sense because I care about something called consent and bodily integrity – also for men and children.

          Fat Steve:
          I don’t understand this sentence. What is “something called consent and bodily integrity – also for men and children.” You say it’s something to care about but to me it just seems like random words thrown together.

          Ok, now you’re being willfully obtuse, but I’ll indulge you and go into tea-spoon mode and rephrase and expand on the sentence you didn’t understand:

          I think adult circumcision is superior to infant circumcision because and adult can consent to the procedure and an infant can not.

          Now, an infant can’t consent to really anything one might argue. And that brings us to the concept of bodily integrity which in my view is important principle which of course is intrinsically tied in with consent.

          In short I believe that bodily integrity should not be overriden even when there is an incapability to consent unless there is an immediate (as in before the person is capable of consent) large risk for even graver injury/death.

          “- also for men and children.” is a barb against the double standards I see. Men because we’re here talking about male children who’ll grow up to be men, and some of them will resent being circumcised, but also children in general because children are often left without human rights. For instance in the US slapping a child is legal while slapping a spouse is domestic violence and rightfully illegal. That barb was an aside to the main point I was making and I would have left it out if I had realized it would confuse you.

          Please let me know if this still is unclear for you.

          Oh just a little something called ‘healing time.’ On average infant circumcisions heal 4 times faster than adult circumcisions.

          Ohhhh, 4 times you say? Color me unimpressed that people are perfectly willing to inflict upon infants 1/4 of the pain they are reluctant to believe adults would consent to.

          The same goes for the risk of complications.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 28, 2012 at 11:41 am |

          In short I believe that bodily integrity should not be overriden even when there is an incapability to consent unless there is an immediate (as in before the person is capable of consent) large risk for even graver injury/death.

          Well, then that’s where we disagree.

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 28, 2012 at 11:44 am |

          “- also for men and children.” is a barb against the double standards I see. Men because we’re here talking about male children who’ll grow up to be men, and some of them will resent being circumcised, but also children in general because children are often left without human rights. For instance in the US slapping a child is legal while slapping a spouse is domestic violence and rightfully illegal. That barb was an aside to the main point I was making and I would have left it out if I had realized it would confuse you.

          Please let me know if this still is unclear for you.

          It’s not the barb, so much as the atrocious grammar, which makes you difficult to understand.

          You have not cleared up anything. I wanted some examples of violations of bodily integrity which you put on a par with circumcision.

      2. Tamen
        Tamen September 28, 2012 at 5:42 pm |

        English is not my first language, so I hope you can enlighten me to what grammar rules I broke in the sentence you had trouble parsing. I’m always looking for opportunities to improve my English.

        I wanted some examples of violations of bodily integrity which you put on a par with circumcision.

        Are you expecting me to be a mindreader since nothing you’ve said in the previous comments to me can even be remotely interpreted as that question?

        Your attempt at goading me into a gotcha and get me deleted/banned is rather transparent. I hope you haven’t spent too much time anticipating me walking straight into your trap.

        I have already provided one example of bodily integrity which are protected for adults which are not being respected for children. I am not going to say it’s on par with circumcision or not as that is not my place. One man might resent and be more hurt about the excessive physical punishment he received as child than the circumcision he had when he was an infant. Another man might feel the opposite, that he resents and feels more damaged by being circumcised than from receiving excessive physical punishment. Who are we to decide that one of them is wrong?

        Me:

        In short I believe that bodily integrity should not be overriden even when there is an incapability to consent unless there is an immediate (as in before the person is capable of consent) large risk for even graver injury/death.

        Fat Steve: Well, then that’s where we disagree.

        Can you elaborate on which part of this you disagree with? Is it the concept of bodily integrity, the requirement of consent before bodily integrity is breached, that the requirement to breach bodily integrity without consent is an immediate large risk for even graver injury/death?

        To me all of them seem to be reasonable requirements that we extend to adults and I really don’t want to believe that you don’t think infants are entitled to the same protections as adults are.

        Would you support routine unconsentual circumcision for adults as well? A patient is under the knife for an appendectomy and the surgeon circumcise the patient at the same time when it’s noticed that the patient isn’t circumcised. All for the greater good of all and so on.

  15. Henry
    Henry September 25, 2012 at 9:25 pm |

    The American Academy of Pediatrics shifted it’s position from nuetral to pro circumcision recently and it was not just because of HIV risk – so to claim there is some mass of pro-circ evil doctors floating around out there controling things is nonsense. If there were they certainly had 30 years of piss-poor results at the Academy.

    To reiterate what is in the NPR article Joe cites:

    The academy’s task force spent seven years combing through the latest research, analyzing more than a thousand studies. Their conclusion?

    For starters, Blank says, circumcision helps baby boys pretty much immediately.

    “The health benefits of male circumcision include a drop in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life by up to 90 percent,” she says.

    But there’s a much bigger reason to do it, Blank said. Circumcised males are far less likely to get infected with a long list of sexually transmitted diseases.

    “It drops the risk of heterosexual HIV acquisition by about 60 percent. It drops the risk of human papillomavirus [HPV], herpes virus and other infectious genital ulcers,” she says.

    It also reduces the chances that men will spread HPV to their wives and girlfriends, protecting them from getting cervical cancer.

    “We’ve reviewed the data and, you know, we have gone through them with a fine-tooth comb, and the data are pretty convincing,” she says.

    Some of the things our cave dwelling ancestors invented are not bad, things like fire, farmign and turns out male circumcision.

    1. (BFing)Sarah
      (BFing)Sarah September 26, 2012 at 4:53 pm |

      This is all of the stuff that my ped (and my OB) told me when I asked about circumcision. I’m not in the medical field and, although I did research, everything I found was either written on a site that was so anti-circ that their reasoning seemed biased or was so blase about the harm to the infant’s bodily integrity that it wasn’t helpful. I really ended up not knowing what to do and just let my DH make the decision. Seriously, can I get an opinion from a neutral source that does their research right? Sigh.

      Also, I worry that even the murmurings of a study like this in certain areas could lead to people thinking that all they need to do is get circumcised and there is no more need to worry about HIV. No possible way that that rumor doesn’t circulate.

    2. Tamen
      Tamen September 26, 2012 at 7:53 pm |

      The health benefits of male circumcision include a drop in the risk of urinary tract infection in the first year of life by up to 90 percent,

      What is missing here to evaluate the usefulness of this statistics is the prevalency of UTI in male children. In the UK, where there is a comparably low circumcision rate compared to the US the rate of UTI among male children is 3.7% the first three months and 1.1% afterwards (source). In the US the rate seem to be 2% for male children below the age of 6 (source).
      So, not really a difference between UK and US there.

      UTI is treatable by antibiotics.

      In my world a reduction of the risk of a treatable disease from 2% to 0.2% is not enough to justify violating an infants bodily integrity.

      AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians) reports that the complication rates for neonatal circumcision is somewhere between 0.1% and 35% with infection, bleeding and failure to remove enough foreskin being the most common. Sounds like a lousy trade-off to replace a known risk of 2% for one infection with an unknown risk ranging between 0.1 and 35% for another infection, or blood-loss or a botched circumcision. Failure to remove enough can lead to skin-bridges (where foreskin which is not cut sufficiently can fuse with the raw wound of the glans (in small children the foreskin is merged together with the glans, during a circumcision the foreskin is ripped from the glans, leaving a raw wound) causing so called skin-bridges. These can be painful and can impact erection.

      ut there’s a much bigger reason to do it, Blank said. Circumcised males are far less likely to get infected with a long list of sexually transmitted diseases.

      This is an argument for circumcision of sexually active (read: young adults and older) males and not an argument for neonatal circumcision, unless one is of the belief that infants and children are generally sexually active and at a significant risk for STDs.

      In the US the lifetime prevalency of breast cancer (a much more horrible disease than UTI) for women is 12% (it’s 0.1% for men). I understandably don’t see anyone arguing for routine mastectomy based on that.

    3. ballgame
      ballgame September 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm |

      It also reduces the chances that men will spread HPV to their wives and girlfriends, protecting them from getting cervical cancer.

      This is just blatantly false, according to a study last year from the University of Washington:

      While HPV infections in women have been widely studied, HPV infections in men is an area lacking in research.

      This University of Washington study tested for HPV infection at the head of the penis (or glans), on the shaft/scrotum skin, and in urine samples. Researchers found that the shaft/scrotum skin were the most likely sites of HPV infection in circumcised males, with a higher percentage of infections at these sites in circumcised males as compared to intact males.

      Since shaft and scrotum skin together comprise the vast majority of the surface area of the penis in circumcised males, and are the most likely sites for HPV infection in circumcised males, any research done on circumcision status and HPV infection must necessarily include these sites.

      However, most randomly-controlled trials (RCTs) only include testing of the head of the penis (or glans) for HPV infection. The widely-publicized RCT in Rakai, Uganda is one notable example. By not including all sites of infection, and in particular, by ignoring sites that have the highest chance of infection in circumcised males, researchers are producing false claims of protection.

      Furthermore, the researchers of this U. of Wash. study note that most RCTs fail to account for the recovery period in circumcised participants who have to wait until their wounds heal, allowing time for the intact males to get infected. This leads to further inflated claims of a protection benefit from circumcision.

      This is the kind of bad science you find repeatedly once you dig into the details of studies which purportedly show benefits from circumcision.

  16. ok...
    ok... September 25, 2012 at 11:05 pm |

    Can we not have a policy congruent with human rights while offering persons a chance to make an informed decision about their own health?

    Discontinue circumcision for infant males. Provide adolescent males with whatever facts or studies there are regarding circumcision’s possible impact on their health, perhaps about the same time we explain how else they can protect themselves from STDs. Then let those males make their own decision about how to take care of their own bodies as/when they mature into adulthood.

    Finally, promote and respect the same policy in foreign nations.

  17. Nillerz
    Nillerz September 25, 2012 at 11:11 pm |

    Attacking the results of shitty studies done in third-world nations with very poor education is part of the scientific method. Even if the studies show that AIDS is reduced in circumcised people, it doesn’t say whether or not this is caused by the circumcision or environmental factors. Religious people circumcise more. They also preach abstinence more. HMM…

    At any rate, it would be the same as removing the breast tissue of newborns to prevent later breast cancer. Simple procedure, right?! They don’t even remember it down the road!

  18. ballgame
    ballgame September 25, 2012 at 11:52 pm |

    The notion that ‘science’ has established the effectiveness of circumcision as a prophylactic is extremely dubious. Bad science like the studies in Africa don’t prove anything. In addition to the flaws in these studies that others here have pointed out, there is also a significant bias that I discussed in a post over at Feminist Critics:

    [A]ttitudinal studies of African women show they’ve been influenced by pro-circumcision media and have a favorable view of the operation. It is entirely possible that the differing rates of HIV infection between the male test and control groups had nothing to do with the biological difference between being circumcised or uncircumcised, but was due instead to HIV-free pro-circumcision African women being more willing to have sex with circumcised men than non-circumcised men.

    Consider the following postulates:

    — A careful woman who is educated about STDs is less likely to be HIV positive than a woman who is either careless or uneducated about STDs.

    —An HIV positive woman is less likely to care whether her potential partners are HIV positive than a woman who is HIV negative.

    —In Africa, an educated woman is more likely to consider a circumcised male to be less risky for transmitting HIV than an uncircumcised one.

    I submit that all three of these are likely to be true, and if so:

    —HIV-free women in such a culture woman will be more likely to prefer circumcised men for partners, and …

    —… circumcised men will therefore be more likely to end up with HIV-free women as partners than uncircumcised men.

    If so, the circumcised men weren’t less susceptible to HIV infection … they were less exposed to it. In other words, all the supposed “scientific” results of the African studies could easily be nothing more than a kind of self-fulfilling myth. ‘Randomizing’ who gets circumcised will do nothing to eliminate this bias. To eliminate this bias, you would have to take the (obviously impossible) step of randomizing the control groups’ and test groups’ sex partners.

    1. Lamech
      Lamech September 26, 2012 at 12:10 am |

      Or more generally: This was not a double blind study. Therefore one of the possible mechanisms for the causal relationship is what is commonly called the placebo effect.

      1. chava
        chava September 26, 2012 at 10:51 am |

        By definition, a placebo effect is not statistically significant. So, no.

        I also question your assumption that women know their HIV status, note that several of the studies controlled for behavioral changes before and after the circumcision, and point out that IF men slept around more post-surgery (which they didn’t) the infection rates would cancel out the benefit of any placebo effect.

        1. ballgame
          ballgame September 26, 2012 at 11:25 am |

          It would not be necessary for every woman to know their HIV status to result in distorting the results of the studies. Certainly significant numbers of women in Africa with AIDS know they have it, and women who are careful (and who happen to also have absorbed the message about ‘circumscribed men = safer’) would, as a group, be much less likely to have HIV than women who are careless (whether or not they know their HIV status for certain). That’s all that needs to be true to change the HIV exposure rates for the two groups of men and thus result in the differing HIV rates shown in the studies’ results.

          The studies did not control for the HIV status of the sex partners of the two groups of men.

        2. chava
          chava September 26, 2012 at 11:28 am |

          No, they didn’t. But there are enough confounding factors, and the effect size is so large, that they didn’t really need to do so (also, it would be near-impossible).

        3. Lamech
          Lamech September 26, 2012 at 3:39 pm |

          … Umm… I don’t think you understand statistical significance.

    2. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 6:09 pm |

      —In Africa, an educated woman is more likely to consider a circumcised male to be less risky for transmitting HIV than an uncircumcised one.

      Is this how sex works where you’re from? Or do you just assume that African women ask about their partners circumcision status before asking if they’re HIV positive? What a ludicrous statement.

      1. (BFing)Sarah
        (BFing)Sarah September 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm |

        + 1

  19. chava
    chava September 26, 2012 at 12:00 am |

    Well, this turned into a shitshow. Jill, what happened to the fist-in-face for people comparing to FGM?

    1. DonnaL
      DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 12:12 am |

      This is why I said in the very first comment that there was no point in having a discussion here relating to male circumcision, ever.

      I do hope that William Foster was being sarcastic, and is aware that people with vaginas get UTI’s more often than those without because they have much shorter urinary tracts. It has nothing to do with FGM. (Maybe he thinks women pee out of their clitorises?) I never had a UTI in my entire life prior to my GRS.

      1. MrRabbit
        MrRabbit September 26, 2012 at 12:55 am |

        I don’t pee out of my clitoris? Wow, I’ve been doing it wrong…

      2. Jim
        Jim September 26, 2012 at 10:49 am |

        “This is why I said in the very first comment that there was no point in having a discussion here relating to male circumcision, ever. ”

        You got that shit right, Donna. Most of this commentariat has shown how pig-ignorant they are on the subject. If ya know what I mean.

        1. chava
          chava September 26, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

          What the fucking fuck, Jim. I thought maybe this was just weird, but given your full throated intactivist position down thread, I’m going to go straight past tactless and onto full on racist.

          Fucking seriously? And on yk. Blarg.

        2. Lamech
          Lamech September 26, 2012 at 3:50 pm |

          Its not nice to compare ignorance with a willingness to mutilate children. There are plenty of extremely ignorant people out their who don’t mutilate children.

      3. Fat Steve
        Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

        Maybe he thinks women pee out of their clitorises?

        They do when they’re with me.

        …I have no idea what I mean by that, it just sounds funny.

      4. Marcie
        Marcie September 28, 2012 at 4:58 am |

        This is why I said in the very first comment that there was no point in having a discussion here relating to male circumcision, ever.

        Maybe there are some things feminists should better leave alone.
        On the other hand, it’s interesting, quite revealing and a bit sickening to see that the right for bodily autonomy suddenly takes the back seat when women are not affected.

    2. Rachel Drach
      Rachel Drach September 26, 2012 at 12:13 am |

      Here’s a novel idea, how about sticking to the “my body, my choice!” idea for BOTH genders? Radical, I know.

      1. David
        David September 27, 2012 at 2:47 pm |

        Exactly!!

    3. Kristen J.
      Kristen J. September 26, 2012 at 12:22 am |

      She’s probably sleeping…lazy, lazy blogger.

      1. chava
        chava September 26, 2012 at 12:38 am |

        @ Kristin–

        Yeah,yeah, that whole “sleep” thing. I hear the pro-sleep lobby is cooking the numbers on that one.

        (in all seriousness, I commented about it so she’d see it in the morning)

        1. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 26, 2012 at 1:00 am |

          I know. I know. They say bloggers need 8 hours of sleep, but I bet its closer to 15 or 20 minutes.

    4. Henry
      Henry September 26, 2012 at 12:23 am |

      It’s midnight in the eastern USA. I suppose the moderators are sleeping or out doing something decidely more fun and involving beverages.

      To answer the trolls: what about informed consent for vaccinations? I am horrified to learn I was carted off at 2 months old for my DPT shots and thus had my immune system modified against my will. I want my undifferentiated Beta cells back now!

      To recap, we’re supposed to be discussing whether parents have the right to modify their child’s body without their consent to achieve a health benefit that is not outweighed by any detrimental effects from the modification.

      1. chava
        chava September 26, 2012 at 12:35 am |

        Um, actually I think we were supposed to be discussing the ethically fraught torpedo-ing of an important new HIV/AIDS book on Amazon, and how internet groupthink (kind of similar to anti-vaxxing fervor) has taken over parts of the intactivist movement.

        Also, that circumcision in Africa, in adult men, might not be so bad.

        That’s what I got from the OP, anyway.

        1. Henry
          Henry September 26, 2012 at 12:58 am |

          I think everyone is still on par. 1 of the OP, but point taken.

      2. ballgame
        ballgame September 26, 2012 at 2:53 am |

        I am horrified to learn I was carted off at 2 months old for my DPT shots and thus had my immune system modified against my will. I want my undifferentiated Beta cells back now!

        That’s a completely apt comparison, Henry … assuming your vaccination also destroyed 10,000 – 20,000 highly specialized erogenous nerve endings in your genitalia. Otherwise, it’s pretty silly.

  20. Lydia
    Lydia September 26, 2012 at 7:55 am |

    Again with the comparing circumcision to FGM?

  21. auditorydamage
    auditorydamage September 26, 2012 at 9:37 am |

    First, I’m not sure how extensively the AIDS-circumcision studies have been. Is the correlation statistically significant? Has a cause been hypothesized and tested yet? It would be a wicked-neat stroke of luck were the correlation caused by a medically helpful effect.

    Second, the obvious solution to the debate surrounding male circumcision is to delay the practice until the male is mentally able to consent to the procedure – say, sometime in the teens. This runs face-first into religious requirements to carry out circumcision as early as possible, but since I think individual liberty of thought and bodily autonomy overrides the dictates of others’ beliefs regarding supernatural forces, I would tend to promote rejection of such beliefs or reforms that delay such rituals until age of majority. Given how much of organized religious programming involves rapid indoctrination and propagating rules without modification, even in the face of ethical or material opposition, this will be a hell of a hill to climb, but I think it is necessary for our continued survival.

    Third and final thought – anyone who compares the relatively minor violation of infant male circumcision with the screaming horror of female genital mutilation needs to stop trying to make every issue about men and how we’re somehow the real victims. When people start lopping off glanses at four years old and sewing them up in unsanitary conditions out of a desire to control male sexual behaviour, then there will be an equivalent problem. Until that time, the horrors committed under the aegis of controlling women far outstrip the somewhat ludicrous practice of chopping off foreskin as part of an agreement with a deity.

  22. DP
    DP September 26, 2012 at 9:51 am |

    I really don’t understand why some people are so committed to the right to lop bits of their son’s dick off. As an uncircumcised male, it has its pros and cons, I guess, but I am very, very happy that no one chopped a piece of it off. Because here’s the thing – the medical rationalizations are all ex post facto justifications of a ridiculous tradition.

    1. chava
      chava September 26, 2012 at 10:14 am |

      the medical rationalizations are all ex post facto justifications of a ridiculous tradition.

      Yes. That is totally why international health coalitions–with plenty of members from countries who don’t circ routinely–have spent buckets of money on this. The Swiss just want to justify American ‘ridiculous traditions’!

      A 70% effectiveness rate over multiple controlled randomised studies is not a rationalization. If someone invented a pill, tomorrow, with that kind of infection prevention–even if that pill had a chance of (treatable) severe side effects–I can’t imagine this would even be a question.

      1. chava
        chava September 26, 2012 at 10:29 am |

        Also? The book in the OP does not deny the importance of the current trifecta of prevention: Abstinence, Be Faithful, and Condoms. They just add that circumcision might help, too, and present the new research on it.

        Aside from which, the book notes that plenty of African cultures DID circumcise, and were bullied out of it by Christian missionaries who thought it barbaric, unsanitary and (perhaps) just a bit Jewish. According to the book, you can trace severity of outbreaks by the extent to which the country or culture routinely circumcised.

        1. Jim
          Jim September 26, 2012 at 11:33 am |

          Examples? The only group that I know of that stopped circumcision was the Zulus under Shaka, who stopped it because the circumcision lodge took time out of military training. This was obviously well before any Christian influence.

        2. chava
          chava September 26, 2012 at 11:56 am |

          Go to Amazon, click on Preview the print edition of the book, and search for “circumcision.”

      2. DP
        DP September 26, 2012 at 12:39 pm |

        That’s because a pill and chopping off body parts are not equivalent. You can, at the very least, stop taking a pill.

        We already have a way to stop HIV transmission that doesn’t involve penis-guillotines – a fucking condom.

        1. chava
          chava September 26, 2012 at 1:00 pm |

          Side effects from a pill can be permenant. Also, penis guillotines? Really?

          Anyway, yes, condoms are an important part of the fight. It looks like circumcision may be too, and it doesn’t have to be infant circ, either. So what is your beef with adult men consenting to this procedure in light of the pretty hard evidence that it lowers their risk?

        2. DP
          DP September 26, 2012 at 3:24 pm |

          Have you not seen Robin Hood – Men in Tights?

          Regardless, I have no beef with a grown-ass man cutting his foreskin off. You do you, ya know? But I find it weird to do it to a kid who gets no say.

          I mean, if we’re going to get graphic here there is no question it makes masturbating more difficult – a circumcised guy needs to go find some lotion or something, and uncut dudes are good to go.

          There’s also self-interest. I feel like uncut dudes deal with a lot of shaming and taunting in childhood/adolescence that would go away if it wasn’t so prevalent/wasn’t cast in this light that uncircumcised men are dirty, filthy and unclean.

        3. Tamen
          Tamen September 28, 2012 at 6:06 pm |

          Also, penis guillotines? Really?

          In general I am not sure how many people who discuss this issue in this thread knows anything about the procedure and the surgical tools used. So here are three Wikipedia links to three most common of the implements used in the US (contains pictures of male genitalia and some pictures of the implements in use – the in situ pitures of the Plastibell, Gomco clamp is not very graphic):
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastibell
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gomco_clamp
          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mogen_Clamp

          And a picture (not in situ) of the Mogen clamp: http://www.hnmmedical.com/ob-gyn-instruments-1/mogen-circumsicion-clamp.html

          I am of the opinion that if one can’t stomach the pictures of these implements and some not very graphic (no blood) in situ pictures then one have no business arguing for neonatal circumcision.

        4. chava
          chava September 28, 2012 at 6:50 pm |

          I watched it done to my son. Fuck off. Most surgeries are stomach-turning, but I don’t see anyone demanding you be able to watch a video of an appendectomy before getting one done. Or for that matter, anyone but right wing nutjobs demanding you watch a video of a D&C before getting one.

        5. matttbastard
          matttbastard September 29, 2012 at 8:36 am |

          I am of the opinion that if one can’t stomach the pictures of these implements and some not very graphic (no blood) in situ pictures then one have no business arguing for neonatal circumcision.

          Newsflash: Numerous common medical procedures are often gross as all get out.

          Film at 11.

          (Hey, I even get squicked out by medical dramas on network television. Guess I should convert to Christian Science if I wish to credibly claim moral consistency.)

        6. thinksnake
          thinksnake September 29, 2012 at 8:45 am |

          I am of the opinion that if one can’t stomach the pictures of these implements and some not very graphic (no blood) in situ pictures then one have no business arguing for neonatal circumcision.

          I have absolutely no idea what the procedure used to remove my four wisdom teeth was. I didn’t know before the operation, and I have no desire whatsoever to find that out.

          Similarly, I have no particular desire to examine the equipment necessary to perform a colonoscopy, which I’ve also had done.

          I could go on. Your point about the ability to stomach images of procedures and implements really holds no ground.

        7. Tamen
          Tamen September 30, 2012 at 7:34 am |

          Chava:

          I don’t see anyone demanding you be able to watch a video of an appendectomy before getting one done.

          I am not demanding that either. First off, I didn’t post a link to a video of a circumcision, I posted links to Wikipedia’s pretty clinical description of the three most common implements used in circumcision. Those links included pictures of the implements and a couple of pictures with male genitalia with those implements in place (none of which showed cutting or blood).

          If you don’t want to know the details of the procedure which you are consenting to have done to yourself then it’s your business. I still don’t believe it’s too high a standard to require that people who argue for a routine procedure to be done to other persons unable to consent should have some knowledge of what that procedure entails.

          thinksnake: As I wrote to Chava above:There is a major difference. You had those procedures done to yourself and I assume you consented to them. If you were arguing for routine neonatal extraction of wisdom teeth (let’s for the sake of the argument pretend that’s a real procedure) or a routine colonoscopy of infants I at least would expect you to be familiar with the procedure you are a proponent for.

          It is noted that several thinks my standards are too high in this regard.

      3. DP
        DP September 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm |

        Circumcision exists because religion and I think we need to be skeptical of pretty much everything religions have to say re: sex, gender and bodily integrity.

        1. chava
          chava September 26, 2012 at 4:55 pm |

          Jewish and Muslim circ does. Plenty of non-JC cultures have done it over time, though. So unless you want to change that to “let’s be suspicious of everything culture has ever come up with, because culture,” it doesn’t really work.

        2. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 29, 2012 at 9:54 am |

          Circumcision exists because religion and I think we need to be skeptical of pretty much everything religions have to say re: sex, gender and bodily integrity.

          Religion and you think we need to be skeptical of what?

          I don’t even understand what that means, it certainly isn’t a reason that circumcision exists.

    2. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 4:06 pm |

      I really don’t understand why some people are so committed to the right to lop bits of their son’s dick off. As an uncircumcised male, it has its pros and cons,

      yeah, the reason would be in order to prevent what you refer to as ‘the cons’

  23. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable September 26, 2012 at 10:02 am |

    Male genital cutting is nothing like female genital cutting, except when it is exactly the same.

    So, never, then.

  24. Random Midday Hotness: Get Free. « PostBourgie

    […] Jill: “The ideological attacks on AIDS scholarship are scary. If the moral arguments against circumcision can stand on their own, then they can stand on their own; there’s no need to deny the scientific truths that, for many of us, complicate the issue. And there’s certainly no need to trash an important body of work just because it doesn’t bow to your agenda.” […]

  25. ballgame
    ballgame September 26, 2012 at 11:10 am |

    Third and final thought – anyone who compares the relatively minor violation of infant male circumcision with the screaming horror of female genital mutilation needs to stop trying to make every issue about men and how we’re somehow the real victims. When people start lopping off glanses at four years old and sewing them up in unsanitary conditions out of a desire to control male sexual behaviour, then there will be an equivalent problem. Until that time, the horrors committed under the aegis of controlling women far outstrip the somewhat ludicrous practice of chopping off foreskin as part of an agreement with a deity.

    Many male infants also scream in agony when they have their foreskins cut and then literally torn off one of the most sensitive parts of their bodies. (The foreskin doesn’t normally separate from the glans until the infant is older.) Until relatively recently, this was done without anesthesia, and even now the anesthesia that is used is only partially effective. (And yes, part of the original impetus for male circumcision of gentiles in America was, indeed, to control their sexuality.)

    The notion that circumcision is a “relatively minor” thing is a myth we tell ourselves to keep from actually seeing what an appalling violation it really is. It may not be equal to some other horrible violations that we rightly condemn in the U.S., but it is not the trivial incident that some here seem to believe.

    1. auditorydamage
      auditorydamage September 26, 2012 at 11:28 am |

      It is minor when compared to FGM practices. Hurts, forgotten quickly. As someone whose bodily autonomy was violated as a newborn, I would not dare compare what was done to me, in a hospital by people who know what they’re doing and understand the germ theory of disease, with what is done to female children in much less careful and anti-compassionate circumstances. There is no equivalence.

      There are good ethical reasons to stop infant circumcision without trying to equate it with the butchery that is euphemistically called “female circumcision”. Also: calling “citation needed” on that claim that male circumcision was ever primarily or secondarily about controlling male sexual behaviour.

      1. Jim
        Jim September 26, 2012 at 11:40 am |

        “It is minor when compared to FGM practices. Hurts, forgotten quickly. As someone whose bodily autonomy was violated as a newborn, I would not dare compare what was done to me, in a hospital by people who know what they’re doing and understand the germ theory of disease, with what is done to female children in much less careful and anti-compassionate circumstances. There is no equivalence.”

        Translation: When white people in white coats do it , it’s completely different from when a bunch of ooga-boogas do it. That seems to be your argument.

        “Also: calling “citation needed” on that claim that male circumcision was ever primarily or secondarily about controlling male sexual behaviour.”

        This shows your unfamiliarity with the subject, because this stuff has been out there for some time. But here you go. Now you don’t need to ask ever again, right?

        http://www.cracked.com/article_19520_5-insane-ways-fear-masturbation-shaped-modern-world.html
        http://www.stayfreemagazine.org/10/graham.htm
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Circumcision_controversies

        1. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 1:27 pm |

          Translation: When white people in white coats do it , it’s completely different from when a bunch of ooga-boogas do it. That seems to be your argument.

          Not really. I think a more accurate translation would be “Pathetic, self-absorbed MRAs obsessively whining about the tragedy of lost foreskins are completely different from the movement to stop FGM.”

        2. Bagelsan
          Bagelsan September 26, 2012 at 2:16 pm |

          Cracked.com is one of your references? Are you 15?

        3. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 3:26 pm |

          Historical fact: There was a torrent of anti-masturbation rhetoric in the United States in the second half of the 19th century. (I have a 400-page treatise on the subject, published in 1870, entitled “Satan in Society.” It condemns male and female masturbation alike, and is really quite fascinating.)

          Historical fact: One of many crackpot remedies suggested for the shameful and criminal practice of childhood male masturbation was circumcision.

          Historical fact: Routine infant male circumcision in the the United States started increasing rapidly after the First World War — some attribute it to the large numbers of men who were circumcised in the military because it was believed that the practice inhibited the transmission of venereal diseases — and became even more common after World War II.

          Myth: That there was a causal relationship (or even any evident temporal correlation) between Fact # 2 and Fact # 3.

          Not one of Jim’s amateurish citations — not even the one to Cracked.com! — establishes, or even attempts to establish, the existence of such a causal (or correlative) relationship. Nor does any other authority I’m aware of.

          Speaking of “pig-ignorant.” Whatever that was supposed to mean (and I have an idea), I’m sure it wasn’t well-intended. So please fuck off, Jim, and crawl back into whatever fetid hole you oozed out of.

  26. deadleaf
    deadleaf September 26, 2012 at 11:13 am |

    …something about jill and banning the first person to equate FMG to forced circumcision, something…

  27. DonnaL
    DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 11:34 am |

    Many male infants also scream in agony when they have their foreskins cut and then literally torn off one of the most sensitive parts of their bodies. (The foreskin doesn’t normally separate from the glans until the infant is older.)

    Maybe. But that’s certainly not what happened at the one bris I attended, when the baby (my son) barely reacted, and the whole thing took — at most — a couple of seconds. He whimpered a little, but stopped immediately, when he was given a little wine on a gloved finger. I have a photo of him taken a few minutes thereafter, sleeping soundly, wrapped in a wimpel with a little yarmulke on his head. He looks like a birthday cake.

    And this is why you should always use the most experienced mohel you can find!

    The more that anti-circumcision advocates try to exaggerate the process and compare it to FGM, the less convincing they sound. Circumcise your child or not, I don’t care in the least, but the rhetoric is despicable. As long as anti-circumcision advocacy remains as closely tied as it does to its twin origins in the MRA movement and anti-Semitism, I refuse to take it seriously.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 26, 2012 at 5:04 pm |

      As long as anti-circumcision advocacy remains as closely tied as it does to its twin origins in the MRA movement and anti-Semitism, I refuse to take it seriously.

      I mean, there’s plenty of literature on circumcision by actual, you know, doctors, with real honest-to-goodness scientific evidence. Refusing to even engage with an issue because someone nasty also discussed it is kinda… silly.

      There’s a decent body of evidence that says circumcision reduces the risk of getting AIDS from unprotected sex, and another which suggests is decreases sexual pleasure. I personally don’t think that tradeoff is one parents should be making for their kids, and I think the fact that we see the later as relatively unimportant has a lot to do with how sexphobic our culture really is.

      So yeah, circumcision of infants is a violation of bodily autonomy. If people want to make that trade-off, they can do it for themselves, when they’re old enough to make an informed decision.

      1. DonnaL
        DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 5:26 pm |

        Refusing to even engage with an issue because someone nasty also discussed it is kinda… silly.

        Right. I say silly things here all the time. It would help if you read what I said a little more carefully. I’m giving you the benefit of the doubt that your distortion of my comment was not deliberate. Although it’s difficult to imagine how someone could accidentally confuse “closely tied to its twin origins” with “someone nasty also discussed it.” Come on already.

        1. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 26, 2012 at 5:37 pm |

          Sorry if my snark obscured my point.

          Fundamentally, anti-circumcision is a topic which relates to the way men are treated. It’s unsurprising MRAs were one of the first groups to discuss it. I mean, MRAs spend a lot of time talking about the ‘men can’t be raped’ narrative. Doesn’t make that an irrelevant issue.

          What I think is really foolish is to refuse to entertain an idea because you dislike where it originated. I mean, there is legitimate scientific discourse around this topic, so to plug your ears and say ‘nah-nah-nah MRAs’ is aggressively anti-intellectual. It pisses me off a little, I guess, because you’re essentially turning your back on a fairly pressing issue of social justice because of what seems like a knee-jerk reaction against a relatively uninfluential group on internet trolls.

          As for having origins with antisemitism, even if that is true, the discussion has moved so far away I’m really not sure how it could possible be relevant.

        2. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 5:57 pm |

          As for having origins with antisemitism, even if that is true, the discussion has moved so far away I’m really not sure how it could possibl[y] be relevant.

          I disagree. Obviously. But maybe I’m just imagining things.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 6:05 pm |

          As for having origins with antisemitism, even if that is true, the discussion has moved so far away I’m really not sure how it could possible be relevant.

          It’s not the origins with anti-semitism that are relevant, it’s the current Anti-Semitism and Islamophobia that drives the anti-circumcision brigade. The sort of anti-semitism that would cause one to deny scientific evidence. The same sort of anti-semitism that causes someone to deny the evidence of the Holocaust.

          Now, you are clearly not bothered by Anti-Semitism. You think it’s more important that someone else’s child’s genitals look the way you want them to look. So I wouldn’t expect you to think any other way. We just have different priorities. I have to admit I spend very little time thinking about other people’s children’s genitalia. In many ways that sort of obsession is unhealthy.

        4. EG
          EG September 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm |

          As for having origins with antisemitism, even if that is true, the discussion has moved so far away I’m really not sure how it could possibl[y] be relevant.

          Really? So the anti-semitic comic book about the evil mohel that was circulated in SF during the campaign to ban circumcision there was, what, a coincidence?

        5. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 26, 2012 at 6:28 pm |

          I disagree. Obviously. But maybe I’m just imagining things.

          Meh, I don’t believe that; I I just don’t like the idea that because person A has an evil motivation for believing something, that belief is inherently wrong, even if people B, C, and D all have totally pure motivations for believing the same thing.

          Cutting children’s genitals without their consent is super problematic. It has some benefits and some downsides, which people should be able to choose from when they are old enough to make an informed decision. I realize there are stupid people who agree with me, just as I’m pretty sure there are stupid people who agree with you (for example, Fat Steve is trying to imply I’m a pedophile because I’m against circumcision); I just don’t think that impacts the rightness or wrongness of our arguments.

          You think it’s more important that someone else’s child’s genitals look the way you want them to look.

          You illiterate mindless troll, get the fuck back under your bridge.

          I have to admit I spend very little time thinking about other people’s children’s genitalia. In many ways that sort of obsession is unhealthy.

          Jesus, you really are a stupid piece of shit, you know that? I mean, sure, at least you’re not openly attacking rape survivors this time, but reading “against genital cutting of children” as “pedophile” is nearly as stupid. And offensive.

        6. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 26, 2012 at 6:31 pm |

          Really? So the anti-semitic comic book about the evil mohel that was circulated in SF during the campaign to ban circumcision there was, what, a coincidence?

          On this forum? Really? You really think the people who are posting about bodily autonomy here secretly just hate Jews?

          I’m not denying anti-semetic tropes are being deployed by some people who are against circumcision, but this discussion, seems to be basically about the rightness or wrongness of the thing, in and of itself.

          I mean, I’m not going to stop being against the War on Drugs just because Ron Paul agrees with me.

        7. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 6:37 pm |

          I realize there are stupid people who agree with me, just as I’m pretty sure there are stupid people who agree with you (for example, Fat Steve is trying to imply I’m a pedophile because I’m against circumcision);

          Hardly, I’m pointing out how ridiculous your argument is due to the fact that you are ridiculous. The fact that having it repeated back to you makes you sound like a pedophile is more evidence of it’s ridiculousness. You make me laugh, you do. Pretending that anti-circumcision advocacy has nothing to do with anti-semitism is supporting anti-semitism. I personally don’t believe in non-anaesthesized non-surgical circumcisions, but I’m not going to hold hands with Anti-Semites to get that point across.

        8. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 26, 2012 at 6:42 pm |

          Hardly, I’m pointing out how ridiculous your argument is due to the fact that you are ridiculous. The fact that having it repeated back to you makes you sound like a pedophile is more evidence of it’s ridiculousness.

          This is the last time I reply to you, ever. If you truly believe that caring about infant genital cutting is the same thing as ‘being obsessed with other people’s children’s genitals’ you’re too stupid to waste time on.

          Maybe an analogy well help you figure this out. I don’t support the war on drugs. Neither does Ron Paul. His belief comes from a desire to make government do almost nothing, which would absolutely devastate poor communities of color, among others. Mine comes from seeing firsthand what it does to one of those poor communities of color.

          So, according to you, I clearly believe everything Ron Paul does about everything. God, why am I such a racist?

        9. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 6:50 pm |

          Maybe an analogy well help you figure this out. I don’t support the war on drugs. Neither does Ron Paul. His belief comes from a desire to make government do almost nothing, which would absolutely devastate poor communities of color, among others. Mine comes from seeing firsthand what it does to one of those poor communities of color.

          I’ll give you an analogy back (which you don’t have to respond to.)

          A few months ago someone here posted a video of a child singing a song about how gay people won’t get to heaven. Now, I don’t believe in heaven, so I strongly agree with that statement. However I wasn’t about to voice my agreement with the lyrice of the song, because I didn’t trust the context was one of atheism, and not one of divisiveness. It does matter who you’re agreeing with.

        10. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 8:35 pm |

          I don’t believe for one moment that the organized anti-circumcision movement has gotten past its anti-Semitic origins. Opposition to the war on drugs didn’t start with Ron Paul, and isn’t permeated by his influence. The two situations aren’t remotely analogous.

          I think I’ve made my feelings clear, and see no point in engaging further.

        11. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 27, 2012 at 2:27 am |

          I don’t believe for one moment that the organized anti-circumcision movement has gotten past its anti-Semitic origins.

          Ok, and I’ll defer to your knowledge there. I believe you (and I never said I didn’t, though I did say that on this comment thread, I don’t personally see any anti-antisemitism from the vast majority of anti-circumcision commenters). Seriously.

          Nothing about that suggests the idea itself is wrong. It might mean being affiliated with the movement is difficult/ethically fraught, but that doesn’t disqualify the underlying idea, which is that bodily autonomy is important and people shouldn’t be subjecting their infants to irreversible elective surgery.

          Frankly, the conflict with feminist ideas here is pretty blatantly obvious. So sure, some people might agree with me for the wrong reasons- maybe even most people who agree with me do- but the reasons I am opposed to infant genital cutting are feminist in nature. Nobody aside from me can change that.

    2. Lolagirl
      Lolagirl September 27, 2012 at 11:50 am |

      As long as anti-circumcision advocacy remains as closely tied as it does to its twin origins in the MRA movement and anti-Semitism, I refuse to take it seriously.

      I find this rather…stunning coming from you, Donna. Who cares what those cranks have to say about the issue? There are still very real and important points to be made about the bodily autonomy issues involved in RIC. I have 4 boys, and we opted to not circ any of them because we have never felt that we have the right to make such an important medical decision for them without their input. If they choose to be circ’d as adults, whatever, that’s their decision to make. Because it’s their body and only they should decide what happens to their own penis for crying out loud.

      As far as the issue of HIV transmission is concerned, I don’t have the hubris to assume that any or all of my kids are hetero and thus whether circ’ing them will even matter to them on a personal level. Furthermore, having both partners tested to know their status and using condoms are a far more effective way to prevent HIV transmission than circumcision. Comprehensive sex education and making adult circumcision an elective option is far more respectful to a child and the adult they will eventually become than making that decision for them as an infant.

      1. Donna L
        Donna L September 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm |

        I don’t have the hubris to assume that any or all of my kids are hetero and thus whether circ’ing them will even matter to them on a personal level

        Excuse me? What in the world makes you think that the same considerations wouldn’t apply to a gay man?

        Now, if you had said that you don’t have the hubris to assume that your sons are cissexual, I might buy the comment. If my parents committed a human rights violation when they had me circumcised, I’ve gotten rid of the evidence.

        And if you find my statement “…..stunning” coming from me (I love the emphasis by ellipsis), you haven’t been paying much attention to the issues that concern me.

      2. macavitykitsune
        macavitykitsune September 27, 2012 at 12:44 pm |

        As far as the issue of HIV transmission is concerned, I don’t have the hubris to assume that any or all of my kids are hetero and thus whether circ’ing them will even matter to them on a personal level.

        Lolagirl, I normally agree with you on things, but that’s a sort of uncomfortably homophobic statement. Are you implying that straight men don’t have to worry about HIV? I don’t think you are, knowing you, but you might want to rephrase that.

        1. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm |

          I read it the other way, macavity — that Lolagirl meant that somehow it wouldn’t be a concern unless her kids were heterosexual? Now I’m not sure!

        2. Alisonghfh
          Alisonghfh September 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm |

          It’s not really my conversation to jump in on, but I thought Lolagirl said that because circumcision has only been shown to reduce transmision to heterosexual men via vaginal intercourse. Thus, if her children are not heterosexual men who engage in vaginal intercourse, circumcision would not have a demonstrated benefit. I don’t see the statement as at all homophobic.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 1:23 pm |

          I’m going to step in and defend Lola here. She said “As far as the issue of HIV transmission is concerned…”

          It seems to me that she was referring to the fact that the study dealt with HIV transmission among heterosexuals.

        4. James
          James September 27, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

          Circumcision is only recommended to reduce HIV transmission among heterosexual men. Assuming a male child is at reduced risk of HIV transmission because he is circumcised is also assuming that that child will be heterosexual.

        5. chava
          chava September 27, 2012 at 1:37 pm |

          No, its assuming that given the majority of the population will engage in PIV intercourse at some point, the intervention makes sense.

        6. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 27, 2012 at 3:13 pm |

          Ok, let’s take a step back here. The default assumption among 99% of the U.S. parenting contingent is that their boy children are hetero. I am saying that I think this is pure hubris, and that I would never make such an assumption. Because that’s stupid. Statistically, it’s actually quite likely that (at least) one of them will not be cis/hetero. Thus, it makes even less sense to go ahead and get them circ’d and then assume they are immune to ever contracting HIV.

          How on earth is that a homophobic comment?

        7. chava
          chava September 27, 2012 at 3:34 pm |

          First of all, NO ONE is saying, or even implying, that circ makes you “immune.” It helps, together with a package of other interventions, to lower net risk in a population group.

          Second, most people will have PIV sex in their lives, even queer people. So it doesn’t seem ludicrous to plan for the most likely outcome.

        8. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 27, 2012 at 4:21 pm |

          First of all, NO ONE is saying, or even implying, that circ makes you “immune.”

          Technically, this is true.

          But then again, there is still a lot of foolishly incorrect misinformation floating around in the general consciousness wrt to sex. Like that you can’t get certain STIs from oral sex, or that you can’t pregnant during your period, or that oral/anal isn’t even “real sex” to begin with. This should hardly be surprising, since a rather large percentage of kids here in the U.S. do not receive any sort of sex education in school or even at home.

          Furthermore, the popular media coverage is reporting this as “routine circumcision reduces HIV transmission by 70%” without clarifying that it appears to be limited to PIV/hetero sex. It’s rather easy to see how this part of the message may very well get lost altogether and that a whole lot of young people especially will assume themselves (incorrectly) to be at such a reduced risk for contracting HIV that they won’t bother with condoms.

          In the meanwhile, the whole issue of bodily autonomy is still being left out of this discussion entirely.

        9. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 27, 2012 at 4:29 pm |

          Sorry for the brevity and general lack of clarity in my comments, everyone, I’ve got a millionty things going on in real life atm. I should know better than to try and participate meaningfully in a debate about anything without the time to express myself better.

        10. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 27, 2012 at 4:47 pm |

          Eek, Donna, Lolagirl, I see what you were getting at now! That’s not homophobic. Sorry. That sentence looked weird and I parsed it wrong, clearly.

  28. chava
    chava September 26, 2012 at 11:40 am |

    #isfindingthisdiscussionironiconYK.

  29. Bagelsan
    Bagelsan September 26, 2012 at 2:21 pm |

    You fail biology forever. Do not pass Go, do not collect $200.

  30. ballgame
    ballgame September 26, 2012 at 3:48 pm |

    DonnaL, I have read that not all infants cry under extreme duress, but that some ‘shut down.’ To accurately assess your son’s experience, you would have to have measured his heart rate and/or certain stress hormones in his blood stream. These are universally elevated among infants who have been circumcised.

    As to whether an experienced, skilled mohel can obviate all discomfort, I’m skeptical. It would not surprise me to find that some mohels are more deft and others less so, and that being deft helps, but that doesn’t mean the experience won’t still be traumatic for the infant. No matter how skilled he was, he still has to literally rip flesh away from one of the most nerve-rich areas of an infant’s body. I refer you to a study conducted in Canada in the late 1990s researching the effect of various anesthetics which responded to this very issue:

    A third view is that superior surgical technique eliminates newborn distress from circumcision, thus removing the need for anesthetic. Although our physicians were highly experienced in performing circumcision and had excellent surgical technique, every newborn in the placebo group exhibited extreme distress during and following circumcision.

    1. DonnaL
      DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

      Perhaps I should have mentioned that the mohel did apply some sort of local anesthetic, even though he obviously wasn’t a physician. I am not someone who believes that it’s appropriate to perform circumcision without some form of pain relief.

  31. Jamie
    Jamie September 26, 2012 at 5:11 pm |

    Wow. Every once in awhile, feministe posts something that is so out of left field and just wrong, it chases me away for a good few monthes. This is one of those.

    I can’t even begin to touch the racist overtones of limiting circumcision as an ethical choice to places with “widespread AIDS” – do you mean communities in North America? Vancouver’s downtown eastside where I work? How do you plan on deciding who qualifies to have their foreskin removed because they will wind up there at some point? Or… do you mean other parts of the world? The global south, perhaps – and suggesting that circumcision is only OK there is some pretty blatant racism.

    HIV follows oppression. Not foreskin. HIV will not cease to decimate populations until women have the right to refuse sex, condoms are available, rape culture is ended, health care is affordable, stigma is removed…. and I wonder if any of that made it in to your calculus.

    I won’t compare circumcision to FGM, because obviously, but I will say that if we expect men to become our allies then we need to extend the same courtesy. Circumcision is painful, limits men’s sexual enjoyment (and their partners, if they’re penetrating), and so many other nasty things I don’t have time to type out. It’s not a way to end the AIDS epidemic.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 26, 2012 at 5:58 pm |

      I won’t compare circumcision to FGM, because obviously, but I will say that if we expect men to become our allies then we need to extend the same courtesy. Circumcision is painful, limits men’s sexual enjoyment (and their partners, if they’re penetrating), and so many other nasty things I don’t have time to type out.

      Not only haven’t I noticed any of the nasty things you don’t have time to type out, I haven’t noticed any of the ones which you actually did type out. How on earth is my sexual enjoyment limited by the lack of foreskin (or my partner’s)? How could you possibly even compare?

      If you expect men to be your allies, you could start by not implying that they have damaged penii because they were born in the USA after 1950.

      1. DonnaL
        DonnaL September 26, 2012 at 6:19 pm |

        I’m sure that there are plenty of flawless, impossible-to-criticize studies proving the point.

      2. pheenobarbidoll
        pheenobarbidoll September 26, 2012 at 11:20 pm |

        As someone who has experienced both sexually, both circumcised and uncircumcised partners had equal sexual enjoyment, and it did not take longer for the circumcised partner to reach climax. And um…I didn’t notice any difference between them. Any of them. Size and technique? Sure. But overall feeling? No difference at all. Had I been blindfolded, I wouldn’t have been able to pick out an uncircumcised penis over a circumcised penis during penetration. More uncircumcised partners seemed to have nicely curved penises, which was quite pleasant, but I don’t think that can be contributed to circumcision.

        /end of tmi comment

        1. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 12:05 pm |

          I didn’t notice any difference between them

          Really? But I thought circumcised penises were supposed to be all leathery and tough (from all that exposure to wind and sun and sand, I suppose).

        2. macavitykitsune
          macavitykitsune September 27, 2012 at 12:41 pm |

          Donna, don’t you think that would mean they’ve been whittled down by wind and water erosion by the time men hit their 30s or so?

          THE SHRINKING PENISES OF MEN: EXPLAINED!!!!

        3. pheenobarbidoll
          pheenobarbidoll September 27, 2012 at 2:06 pm |

          *snickers*

      3. Jamie
        Jamie September 29, 2012 at 7:50 pm |

        Fat Steve –

        If these things aren’t true for you, I’m sorry I generalized (really.) I’ll keep that in mind next time, and thank you for pointing it out.

        I obviously didn’t hear this from my own experience, but I did hear it from other men at seminars about circumcision.

  32. James
    James September 26, 2012 at 9:36 pm |

    offers a 70% reduction in the likelihood that you will contract HIV?

    *only if you are male and engaging in heterosexual intercourse

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm |

      *only if you are male…

      No one is suggesting that females get the tips of their penises cut off…

      1. James
        James September 27, 2012 at 8:46 pm |

        Unless they are intersex.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L September 27, 2012 at 9:07 pm |

        Fat Steve, you are aware, aren’t you, that there there are trans women who have penises (not to mention intersex women)? Jokes about women with penises are really not cool.

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 9:14 pm |

          Sorry, I wasn’t thinking. I should have appended cis- to that.

  33. Tramenilla
    Tramenilla September 26, 2012 at 10:03 pm |

    People, people, can we get real here for a second?

    Not hurting religious people’s fee-fees trumps infant bodily autonomy hands down.

    I mean how absurd would it be if we waited and allowed people to choose to be circumcised? Sure, we’d be respecting the bodily autonomy we claim to hold so dear, but AT WHAT COST????

    AAAAT WHAAAT COOOOOOOOOOOOST………………….

  34. chava
    chava September 26, 2012 at 10:18 pm |

    You know, it blows me away that feministe has such a pro science take on vaccines, but mention circumcision as a therapeutic HIV intervention and you get blatantly anti Semitic comments chucked at Donna with no one batting an eye, loads of conspiracy theories about how the WHO and international research community are conspiring to mutilate babies, and umpteen comparisons to FGM.

    Condoms are wonderful. Sex Ed is wonderful. Fighting rape culture is wonderful. ANYTHING that shows the kind of potential success rate that circ has deserves at the very least serious consideration as a public health measure in communities in crisis.

    1. Lamech
      Lamech September 26, 2012 at 11:53 pm |

      Could you point me to one of these anti-Semitic comments?

      1. chava
        chava September 27, 2012 at 5:04 am |

        That little comment Jim made about being “pig-ignorant, if you know what I mean.”

        1. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 11:26 am |

          Thank you. Given that he went out of his way to say that “pig-ignorant” was an apt description of the people here who disagreed with him, “if ya know what [he] mean[s]” — specifically me, since I’m the one he was responding to — it’s hard to imagine any other interpretation. Hence my suggestion that he crawl back into the fetid hole from which he oozed. Together with his citations to Cracked.com.

        2. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 27, 2012 at 7:03 pm |

          Hey, so I’m assuming this is an issue of my own ignorance, but ‘pig-ignorant’ is an antisemitic slur? I’ve heard it used in a bunch of different contexts that had nothing to do with Judaism, so I want to make sure I have this right.

          I apologize for needing to be educated- I googled/dictionaried and I couldn’t find anything. Thanks.

        3. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm |

          I can’t say I’ve heard it myself before, so I imagine it’s Jim’s own little invention, but I think his meaning is rather obvious (given the addition of “if ya know what I mean”), albeit circuitous. Think about how Jews, pigs, and ignorance might fit together.

        4. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 9:18 pm |

          I’ve heard of the expression ‘pig-ignorant’. I have never heard it followed by a suggestive ‘you know what I mean?’ because no one ever follows an expression with ‘you know what I mean?’ unless they are implying a hidden meaning.

        5. DonnaL
          DonnaL September 27, 2012 at 10:21 pm |

          Exactly!

        6. amblingalong
          amblingalong September 28, 2012 at 2:18 am |

          I re-read it and I then took “if ya know what I mean” to imply that Jews and Muslims are literally “pig-ignorant” — like, they don’t eat pigs and are therefore ignorant of them.

          Oh, blech. I bet Jim feels real clever.

          Thanks.

    2. Kristen J.
      Kristen J. September 27, 2012 at 8:26 am |

      Possibly because the science here isn’t remotely as robust as that supporting vaccination and the consequences of being wrong are much higher? Plus it has the faint whiff of colonialism….engage in our bizarre mutilation rituals and that will protect you from disease but we don’t really know why.

      1. chava
        chava September 27, 2012 at 11:07 am |

        1) The consequences of ‘being wrong’ about vaccines, if we take their detractors seriously, is huge–life threatening allergies, severe asthma, brain damage, etc etc (they aren’t just afraid of asthma). I would even say it is potentially larger than the morbidity/mortality from circumcision.

        2) Vaccines, in case you’ve never noticed, get called “colonialist” by the anti-vax crowd all the time, too. “Just take our magic Western shots and feel better.” Actually, unlike circumcision, there is at least some evidence for big pharma doing shitty things with vaccines in Africa, on the level of not developing needed vaccines if nothing else.

        3) The science is damn good. It isn’t as airtight as vaccine studies, but it’s good. Honestly, some of this is just trust–I’ve looked at the data myself, but fundamentally I have a lot of close friends and acquaintances who are pretty excellent global health, medical, and stat people, and I trust them when they say the studies are good. I also don’t automatically distrust the advice of the international health community, particularly when they all agree on something.

        4) We have some potential models for why it works. But demanding one before deciding to believe the data is just silly–we usually DON’T know the answer to that question in medicine, we just know when something does work, when it doesn’t and have a vague theory about why. (We’re not totally sure why SSRI’s help IBS, but they do, for example).

        5) I’m not crazy about pushing infant circ in Africa, but we could offer it at average age of first intercourse, for example. This whole thread seems to be flipping out/shifting the goalposts to talk about infant circumcision, while that’s only one possible way to take this research, and one of several *suggested* ways, and ALWAYS suggested to be taken in conjunction with condoms, sex ed, and reducing violence against women. (thanks for giving me the names of those studies re: infant circ in Africa, btw)

        RE: “bizarre mutilation ritual,” I prefer ‘blood sacrifice to the sky-god,’ thank you very much.

        1. chava
          chava September 27, 2012 at 11:08 am |

          AUTISM. I meant to say “they aren’t just afraid of autism,” not asthma.

        2. Donna L
          Donna L September 28, 2012 at 10:49 am |

          As for bizarre mutilation rituals, I feel perfectly okay critiquing USian culture with that language. Its my culture and I find a great number of our cultural practices bizarre and horrifying.

          You really can’t see that this kind of rhetoric — perhaps most of all the reference to “ritual,” but the other two words as well — comes across as an unambiguous attack on infant male circumcision for religious purposes, which is largely associated with Jews in the USA, and not at all as a critique of USAian culture in general? It’s difficult for me to understand how someone who is sufficiently sensitive to rhetorical implications to characterize “ridiculous” as a gendered insult could be so careless in her own word choices.

      2. Donna L
        Donna L September 27, 2012 at 11:20 am |

        our bizarre mutilation rituals

        Oh, FFS. “Our” “bizarre mutilation rituals”? There isn’t one word in that sentence that’s justifiable. You do know that the overwhelming majority of circumcised people in the world — hundreds of millions of them — are Muslims living in Africa and Asia? And speak for yourself about “bizarre” and “mutilation,” especially in the context of adult circumcision. I know that I said I wouldn’t engage anymore, at least with amblingalong, but this kind of shit really infuriates me.

        1. chava
          chava September 27, 2012 at 11:28 am |

          Also that the European efforts to ban it are in response to heavy Muslim immigration to their countries. (It’s not politically viable to make it about the Jews anymore, at least not openly).

        2. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 11:30 am |

          (It’s not politically viable to make it about the Jews anymore, at least not openly).

          Except in Berlin, apparently.

        3. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm |

          Except of course that it isn’t the rest of the world thatttt is promoting this practice as a *health* initiative. Its primarily USian policy makers. So yes, any time we suggest one of our *many* bizarre cultural practices, particularly those pushed by Christian missionaries I’m going to suspect shenanigans. And yeah, amputating a part of the body is bizarre and it is by definition mutilation.

        4. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 5:02 pm |

          amputating a part of the body is bizarre and it is by definition mutilation.

          No it isn’t. Nonsense. You do realize that this characterization — particularly the italicized part — is precisely, word for word, what transphobic bigots say to trans people? I suggest that you choose your words more carefully next time.

          I hope you also realize that “Christian missionaries” never, ever pushed circumcision. You’re being ridiculous.

        5. Lamech
          Lamech September 27, 2012 at 5:29 pm |

          @Donna L: Your right that mutilation isn’t just cutting off a body part. The thing that separates mutilation from body art or medical procedure is consent.

          If someone brands me when I don’t want them too? Its mutilation. If someone cuts out a chunk of my tongue I want? Mutilation. Someone cuts off my hand, and I want it? Mutilation.

          If I pay someone to brand me its cool body art. If I go to my doctor and get a hand removed for medical reasons, its a important medical procedure.

          Same thing with circumcision. If an adult gets snipped, of his/her own free will. its fine and okay. If an unconsenting baby (or adult) gets cut its mutilation.

        6. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 5:33 pm |

          But never mind infant circumcision for the moment (and the issue of whether parents can consent on their children’s behalf, which I believe they can); Kristen was applying those adjectives wholesale, including to adult circumcision.

        7. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 5:36 pm |

          In addition, at least so far as I’m concerned, “mutilation” also requires a material loss in function and/or utility. And it often is used to imply a “mutilated” appearance.

        8. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 27, 2012 at 6:11 pm |

          Okay, first, Christian missionaries do in fact push this practice as part of conversion. Google it for yourself. There was a huge problem with that in Kenya in particular through the 1960s and continuing to fairly recently in placeslike the Philipines. So, maybe you should research things before you start using gendered insults against another woman. Second, I have only objected to infant circumcision and specifically noted that those objections don’t apply to adolescents or adults. And before someone says “goal posts,” I cited sources above for this being advocated as population wide approach for children. So yes, this public health policy is about children who by definition cannot consent. That being said, I should have been more careful in explaining what I meant. I apologize for implying that what consenting adults do with their bodies is mutilation.

        9. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 6:24 pm |

          Kristen, I still disagree with you, but am glad that at least you clarified what you meant. As for gendered insults, which I certainly always try to avoid, I looked at what I wrote to you, and it seems to me that the only insult was my saying that I thought you were being ridiculous in saying without qualification that amputating a body part was mutilation “by definition.” If you view that as a gendered insult, I apologize, although it’s a word that I’ve seen applied equally to men and women alike. Am I missing something?

        10. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 6:26 pm |

          Edited to add: I meant “ridiculous” to apply at least as much to the mutilation comment as to what I thought (apparently incorrectly) about the missionary statement. (Based on Christianity’s traditional abhorrence of circumcision.)

        11. Donna L
          Donna L September 27, 2012 at 7:22 pm |

          OK, I tried googling this, and all I came up with was citation after citation to the fact that “Christian missionaries discouraged rituals such as male circumcision.” (From the very book that’s the subject of Jill’s post.) See also http://www.scribd.com/doc/95991700/Anthropology-and-Circumcision

          I assume that you have support for your examples, but if you’re correct, they’re very much the exception to a nearly-2000 year old rule of Christian contempt for male circumcision by reason of its “Jewishness,” a view that’s probably at the heart of the old Christian belief that Jewish men menstruate and are not “real men.” (How they reconciled this with the simultaneous construct of women marrying Christ with a ring made out of the Holy Prepuce as the wedding ring, I’m not sure.)

          In fact, I can’t find anything at all to support what you say about the Philippines, where 80-90% of the population has been Catholic for a very long time, long before the 1960’s. Male circumcision was apparently part of traditional culture there before Christianity (perhaps because of Muslim influence), and certainly the Muslim population practices male circumcision, so I’d be interested in seeing your proof. As for Kenya, I found references to one specific Christian church there that requires male circumcision, not to any overall advocacy of male circumcision by Christian missionaries. So I remain skeptical of your premise.

          So even if I’d googled your assertion beforehand, I would have come to the same conclusion. Circumcision is not a Western or colonialist practice by any definition.

        12. chava
          chava September 27, 2012 at 8:21 pm |

          Anecdata:

          Had dinner with a friend from Malawi tonight; she mentioned that in her culture, traditional circ ceremonies were lost around when the Christians came in and started converting everyone. They’ve just recently starting having a bit of interest in reclaiming it.

        13. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 27, 2012 at 9:03 pm |

          Hmm…I didn’t find anything much when googling either. Somewhat surpising. I guess I should hold on the snark next time.

          As for citations:

          Boahen, Africa under Colonial Domination 1880-1935 (1985).

          Jabavu, The Ochre (1982).

          That’s the most modern citations. The remainder are from missionary chronicals including:

          Collected Letters of H.M. Thompson (1883).

          I caveat these letters with a note that many of them, like most missionary letters, are deeply offensive. Read with caution.

          As for the controversy in the Philippines, churches and religious organizations partnered with the government to provide yearly circumcision operations on Black Sunday. Often of young children. Whether you consider Catholicism to be part of colonialism in that country is matter of perspective. Among the people I grew up with that were from the Philippines the concensus was that it is.

        14. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 27, 2012 at 9:31 pm |

          @chava,

          Again, I think the practice of *infant* circ is potentially colonialist. The practice of circ-ing adolescents in fairly well documented as a traditional practice.

        15. chava
          chava September 27, 2012 at 10:27 pm |

          Kristen:

          OK, so, again–while some of the initiatives are pro-infant circ, not all of them are. And I think handwaving the colonialist opposition to adolescent circumcising rituals, and the role that may have played in the spread of the AIDS epidemic, is somewhat disingenous.

          If infant circ were really the only thing people to which on this thread were opposed–vs disgust and ‘ick’ with the practice as a whole– I would expect more of a “Hey, let’s offer this as part of a package of interventions to teen boys/men in Africa! Maybe we can undo some colonialist damage while we’re at it! Yay!”

          Instead we get “bizarre mutilation rituals,” and “amputating a part of the body is bizarre and by definition mutilation.”

          Also, I keep sticking an “i” in your name that doesn’t belong. Apologies!

        16. Kristen J.
          Kristen J. September 28, 2012 at 1:11 am |

          @Chava,

          My first comment ended with:

          Given those facts it would seem the more ethical approach would be free adult/adolescent circumcision for those who would choose it and shit tons of education/condoms for everyone else.

          So I agree that for adolescents and adults this should be a fully funded medical choice.

          As for bizarre mutilation rituals, I feel perfectly okay critiquing USian culture with that language. Its my culture and I find a great number of our cultural practices bizarre and horrifying.

  35. macavitykitsune
    macavitykitsune September 26, 2012 at 11:18 pm |

    Circumcise men. Not infants (unless for religious reasons or what have you, though that’s still somewhat problematic).

    I mean, to all the people on this thread who are leaping straight from “this might reduce risk” to “compulsory penis guillotines” (wtf yo), is there anything that says this procedure needs to be performed in infancy? No? Then quit fucking with adults’ bodily autonomy and stfu.

    1. amblingalong
      amblingalong September 27, 2012 at 2:29 am |

      Thanks.

  36. Auren
    Auren September 27, 2012 at 2:19 am |

    [Editing this comment to again say: I was not joking about the comparisons to FGM. STOP IT. I will delete comments that compare removing foreskin to female circumcision. They are not comparable. STOP IT. – Jill]

    Come on. Get with the 21st century here and stand up for what’s right. And what’s right, ISN’T genital mutilation, in ANY form, regardless of the excuse that’s used – and make no mistake, the idea that it could reduce infection is an EXCUSE. If you want to reduce infection, advocate for condom use. Give out free condoms and increase sex education. But don’t cut a child’s genitals. If they want to grow up and mutilate their own genitals that should be their choice and their choice alone, not somebody else’s.

    1. Fat Steve
      Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 7:40 pm |

      And what’s right, ISN’T genital mutilation, in ANY form, regardless of the excuse that’s used – and make no mistake, the idea that it could reduce infection is an EXCUSE.

      Of course, it’s it’s just an excuse, we all know the real reason is so Jews can use the foreskins in their rituals to summon Satan so they can take over the world.

      1. Lolagirl
        Lolagirl September 27, 2012 at 8:15 pm |

        Steve, I think/hope you would be pretty disgusted by the reasons that a lot of x-tians throw around for circ’ing their boys. All of it consists of sex-shaming type statements about the appearance of one versus the other and the horrors of not looking like Dad or other boys at school. Oh, and plenty of snark about how boys are too stupid/clueless/careless to keep their penis clean as well.

        This is actually one of those topics that makes me wish I wasn’t a parent at times, because it is a surprisingly common topic of conversation among child-having people. A whole lot of sexist, gender stereotyping and essentialism gets thrown around whenever circumcision comes up, and it’s all pretty nauseating. Heaven forfend that you ever bring up the religious significance that circumcision has in the Jewish and Muslim faith to them, it is guaranteed to cause extensive mind blowing.

        Btw, this is also the only context in which I’ve heard anti-semitism come up wrt to circumcision. That is, when x-tians feel they must clarify that they didn’t circ for that reason(!).

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 8:48 pm |

          All of it consists of sex-shaming type statements about the appearance of one versus the other and the horrors of not looking like Dad or other boys at school. Oh, and plenty of snark about how boys are too stupid/clueless/careless to keep their penis clean as well.

          I don’t necessarily agree with those reasons, particularly the ‘looking like Dad’ but I’m not disgusted that people are thinking about the psychological effects that come along with being bullied for looking different. I can see you thinking it’s not an important enough reason to do something you think is wrong to your child, but surely it’s not nothing. Now, I don’t know much about you Lola, but I’m reasonably sure you have no experience being bullied about penis shape, and being circumcised, growing up in New York, neither did I. But the one kid at my day camp who was uncircumcised got teased mercilessly, and that’s not nice at all.

          In terms of cleanliness, I would also guess you have little experience in cleaning an uncircumcised penis, again, neither do I. Yay for me, I say. Do you think it bothers me that I never heard the word smegma until I was a teenager and only then in a humorous context? Plus, I can admit that I wouldn’t know how to tell my son to clean his foreskin, and even if I was taught, well, I’m just glad I never had to have that conversation with my father.

          If I have a bias in anyway, it’s due to the fact that I have a circumcised penis and I absolutely love it. No complaints whatsoever, (apart from mild irritation about the fact that it usually wakes up before I do.) I also have no recollection of any trauma. So, why would I be disgusted at even the most specious of reasons for a procedure which, based on personal experience, I don’t find disgusting.

        2. minervab
          minervab September 27, 2012 at 9:47 pm |

          Steve, my husband is intact and I assure you, cleanliness is not an issue in places with running water and access to soap. It takes less time to slide down the foreskin, apply some soap, and rinse off than it does to wash and condition his hair. We trust little kids and their parents to be able to handle washing hair instead of campaigning to shave all kids’ hair off. We should trust them to wash the rest of their bodies, too.

          If there is an actual medical problem, sure, circumcise. But electively and routinely as infants? No – it’s a violation of bodily autonomy. The kid can decide for himself when he’s old enough to ask for it.

        3. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 10:12 pm |

          Steve, my husband is intact and I assure you, cleanliness is not an issue in places with running water and access to soap. It takes less time to slide down the foreskin, apply some soap, and rinse off than it does to wash and condition his hair. We trust little kids and their parents to be able to handle washing hair instead of campaigning to shave all kids’ hair off. We should trust them to wash the rest of their bodies, too.

          If there is an actual medical problem, sure, circumcise. But electively and routinely as infants? No – it’s a violation of bodily autonomy. The kid can decide for himself when he’s old enough to ask for it.

          Well, that’s just lovely for your husband and his autonomous penis. I keep seeing the phrase ‘bodily autonomy’ being thrown around like everyone has the same definition of that term. Can you give me some examples of violations of bodily autonomy which you would put on a par with circumcision?

        4. igglanova
          igglanova September 27, 2012 at 10:19 pm |

          Is it really so hard to understand that unnecessary surgery is a violation when undertaken without the patient’s consent?

        5. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 27, 2012 at 11:57 pm |

          Is it really so hard to understand that unnecessary surgery is a violation when undertaken without the patient’s consent?

          Yes, it is actually. I wasn’t aware that there was a set in stone definition for ‘necessary’ and ‘unnecessary’ surgery. According to certain types of Christian Scientists all surgery is unnecessary. I guess my definition of necessary surgery, wherein a parent allows a surgical operation that they believe is leading to the best outcome for their child’s health, is barbaric to you.

        6. minervab
          minervab September 28, 2012 at 12:31 am |

          Jill – I’m aware there are places without running water and soap. I mentioned them because I don’t think studies on the benefits of circumcision from places without regular access to running water should be applied to the US. I want to see studies done in the US before I’ll believe that the claimed benefits will apply to men here. You know?

        7. minervab
          minervab September 28, 2012 at 12:41 am |

          Steve, I don’t have a hard line. If a doctor says it’s necessary that the surgery be done immediately and cannot wait unil the child can meaningfully consent, that’s fine for me. I don’t think a doctor would say ear piercing on toddlers or tattooing a five year old are medically necessary, for instance. They can wait until the kid asks for them. The same goes for the vast majority of circumcisions. The threat of HIV via PIV is extremely small for infants, assuming circumcision actually reduces that risk. Children should be able to consent around puberty, when sexual activity is more of an immediate issue. They can also be taught about condoms as an alternative option and choose that instead. It’s their body. Let them choose what to do with it if there isn’t a pressing need for surgery.

        8. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 28, 2012 at 8:55 am |

          Seriously, Steve?

          Now, I don’t know much about you Lola, but I’m reasonably sure you have no experience being bullied about penis shape, and being circumcised, growing up in New York, neither did I.

          Kids are going to tease about anything and everything they can seize upon as fodder for teasing. That’s how kids operate before they develop filters and empathy. Hopefully, with good parenting and life experience they get beyond that and become decent adult human beings. I’m not going to permanently alter my childrens’ bodies to prevent some nebulous threat of teasing that may not even come to pass, and I sure as hell am not going to buy into the notion that I have to preemptively do things to prevent stupid people from hassling or teasing my kids.

          In terms of cleanliness, I would also guess you have little experience in cleaning an uncircumcised penis, again, neither do.

          Now that I have four uncircumcised boy children running around? I know everything there is to know about it, trust me. Until the foreskin begins to separate from the glans around age 3 or 4 the rule is to actually not do anything other than swish the penis around in the bath like one would toes or fingers. Forcibly retracting a small child’s foreskin before it begins to loosen on its own is actually quite dangerous and can cause permanent injury. As the older boys have experienced full retractibility they have been given plenty of instruction on how to gently retract themselves and clean as necessary each time they bathe.

          So, why would I be disgusted at even the most specious of reasons for a procedure which, based on personal experience, I don’t find disgusting.

          Maybe because it’s not all about Steve, all the time?

          People having stupid reasons for permanently altering their children’s bodies should cause disgust and disapproval. Religious reasons are one thing (although as an areligious person I don’t agree with them personally,) but making up stupid reasons that aren’t actually based in logic or reality? Yep, I’m going to judge that. Especially when it wanders into territory opining upon whether or not it will make your boy children appear sufficiently manly or virile to their future female partners.

        9. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve September 28, 2012 at 2:11 pm |

          Now that I have four uncircumcised boy children running around? I know everything there is to know about it, trust me. Until the foreskin begins to separate from the glans around age 3 or 4 the rule is to actually not do anything other than swish the penis around in the bath like one would toes or fingers. Forcibly retracting a small child’s foreskin before it begins to loosen on its own is actually quite dangerous and can cause permanent injury. As the older boys have experienced full retractibility they have been given plenty of instruction on how to gently retract themselves and clean as necessary each time they bathe.

          Ok, another reason for me to be glad I was circumcised as an infant…never had to have that conversation with my mother.

        10. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 28, 2012 at 2:34 pm |

          never had to have that conversation with my mother.

          First of all, this is something both my husband and I have discussed casually with the kids while they were being supervised in the shower. Usually in the same sentence as instructions like “and don’t forget to wash the jelly off your face and from behind your ears.” It’s not a big deal if one doesn’t make it a big deal.

          Which leads to my second of all, what’s with the prudishness and body shaming? Really, they’re just penises, not atomic bombs. While we’ve talked to them in passing about keeping their under the clothes items covered in front of others, the goal is to raise well-adjusted kids who aren’t ashamed of their bodies or their sexuality. Making a big deal about penises as a necessary source for epic freak-outs is intended to prevent negative self images and poor self esteem.

          Then again, I also have no compunction with breastfeeding the baby in front of my kids either. And no, I don’t cover up or make a big deal about it, it’s just part of every day life.

        11. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 28, 2012 at 2:36 pm |

          Oops, meant to type Not making a big deal about penises, etc. Sorry for the typo!

        12. Donna L
          Donna L September 28, 2012 at 3:10 pm |

          Not making a big deal about penises

          Excellent advice for a parent, I think. Long ago and far away, when I was a pre-adolescent child and had one myself, my mother accidentally saw me naked once, and when I reacted with outraged embarrassment, her comment was “Don’t worry about it — I’ve seen more penises than you can shake a stick at.”

        13. Lolagirl
          Lolagirl September 28, 2012 at 4:11 pm |

          “Don’t worry about it — I’ve seen more penises than you can shake a stick at.”

          LOL, Donna, that’s hilarious!

          After having my aforementioned foursome, I think I may actually borrow that line.

      2. igglanova
        igglanova September 28, 2012 at 12:33 am |

        The necessity of a surgery is not based on beliefs, but medical reality. The miniscule benefits of infant circumcision do not outweigh the risks. (No young kid is going to need the kind of protection against HIV that circumcision provides, for instance.) A procedure that corrects no medical issue and has the potential to cause more problems than it solves is about as clear-cut a case of unnecessary surgery as you can get.

        It is so easy to compromise and choose the ‘best of both worlds’ option that I am amazed this is even an issue. If the kid decides, later, that the benefits of circumcision are desirable enough, he should be able to make that decision himself.

  37. Bloix
    Bloix September 27, 2012 at 3:18 pm |

    “Not hurting religious people’s fee-fees trumps infant bodily autonomy hands down.”

    Well, yes, Tramenilla, it does. Glad you get it.

    I really don’t get this “bodily autonomy” shit. Who made bodily autonomy the most important value? I personally don’t give a fig for this “bodily autonomy” and I find that people who argue from it seem to think it’s a self-evident value as if it were Holy Writ from some invisible alternative Bible.

    Well, I don’t buy it. And I think allowing families to raise their children as they see fit without forcible government intervention – putting children in foster care, putting parents in prison – far outweighs this nonsensical “bodily autonomy” rhetoric where there’s no decrease in the child’s ability to participate fully as a human being in all aspects of life.

    1. Tramenilla
      Tramenilla September 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm |

      This is… possibly the most absurd thing I’ve ever seen in years of lurking Feministe.

    2. igglanova
      igglanova September 27, 2012 at 4:34 pm |

      I honestly can’t tell if this comment is sarcastic or dead serious.

      1. Bloix
        Bloix September 27, 2012 at 4:49 pm |

        It’s serious (well, “glad you get it” is sarcastic, of course.)

        If people want to worship at the altar of bodily autonomy over all things, they can go right ahead. To me government enforcement of the right of bodily autonomy poses a genuine dilemma. But people like Tramenilla don’t see it that way. They think that people with guns should break up families, put parents in prison, and turn babies into orphans in order to prevent the removal of a piece of skin whose absence has caused no known harm to the hundreds of millions of men who have lived ordinary, full lives without it.

        Tramenilla thinks that nothing is more important than intact foreskins. I think intact families are more important. So, yes, I’m dead serious about this.

        1. igglanova
          igglanova September 27, 2012 at 5:04 pm |

          They think that people with guns should break up families, put parents in prison, and turn babies into orphans in order to prevent the removal of a piece of skin whose absence has caused no known harm to the hundreds of millions of men who have lived ordinary, full lives without it.

          What? Who wants anything like this? Do you even realize how unhinged this sounds?

        2. Bloix
          Bloix September 27, 2012 at 6:21 pm |

          “Who wants anything like this? Do you even realize how unhinged this sounds?”

          igglanova, the San Francisco ballot measure that was proposed in 2011 would have criminalized circumcision for all males under 18 and made it a misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in prison. The supporters of the measure said clearly that parents who had their children circumsized would be punishable under the law.

          I have read many, many statements that parents who circumcise their children are bad people who do not deserve to raise children.

          The German court that ruled against circumcision earlier this year (now overturned) ruled that it constitutes “infliction of grievous bodily harm” which of course is a crime that would justify termination of parental rights.

          Prof Brad DeLong, a liberal economist who writes an interesting and valuable blog, had this to say in support of the German court’s ruling:

          “Your children are not your chattels.

          “They make their own choices about who to be and what to do.

          And if you try to act as though your children are your chattels, then you are the kind of parent who when your children ask for bread give them stones, when your children ask for fish hand them serpents…”

          Yes, you read that right. He had the nerve to quote Jesus to tell Jews that we are bad parents who cannot be trusted to raise our children.

          So no, I am not unhinged. The anti-circumcisionists want to put people like me in prison and they want to take my children away.

        3. igglanova
          igglanova September 27, 2012 at 10:15 pm |

          It is absurd and dishonest to cherry-pick the most extreme statements and propositions coming from the anti-circumcision camp and present them as if they represent the movement as a whole. For instance, you have absolutely no grounds to accuse Tramenilla of believing that it is acceptable to forcibly separate families from each other with armed police.

  38. Athenia
    Athenia September 27, 2012 at 4:01 pm |

    I’m all for the medical benefits of male circumcision, but I’m wondering how does it reduce infections exactly? I can imagine not-so-fun bacteria could live in there or something, but not I’m not how that translates to inside the body?

    1. chava
      chava September 27, 2012 at 4:08 pm |

      http://www.plosmedicine.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pmed.0040223

      “The association between circumcision and reduced risk for HIV acquisition is biologically plausible: the foreskin contains high concentrations of superficial Langerhans cells, CD4+ T cells, and macrophages [11]—all target cells for HIV infection, some of which may also be close to the skin surface [12,13]. In addition, the preputial sac may serve as a reservoir for HIV-containing secretions, resulting in prolonged contact time after exposure to secretions, and the foreskin may present less of a physical barrier to HIV entry than the more heavily keratinized skin of the shaft of the penis [12], and may have more frequent epithelial disruption. There are also potential indirect mechanisms of association between lack of circumcision and HIV risk; for example, lack of circumcision is associated with increased risk of genital ulcer diseases, which in turn are associated with increased risk of HIV transmission and acquisition”

  39. Marcie
    Marcie September 28, 2012 at 4:30 am |

    Please enlighten me:
    Why does the US have one of the highest HIV infection rates among “modern” countries while it also has one of the highest percentage of circumsised sexually active men?

    1. Donna L
      Donna L September 28, 2012 at 10:42 am |

      Probably because most HIV transmission (certainly most transmission to people with penises) in the USA doesn’t occur through PIV intercourse, and, therefore, has nothing to do with what’s covered in this study?

      I don’t know whether anyone has studied the issue of whether women who become infected with HIV in the USA through PIV intercourse are more likely to have become infected through intercourse with uncircumcised than with circumcised men.

      1. Tamen
        Tamen September 29, 2012 at 3:32 am |

        I don’t know whether anyone has studied the issue of whether women who become infected with HIV in the USA through PIV intercourse are more likely to have become infected through intercourse with uncircumcised than with circumcised men.

        Not in the US, but that hasn’t stopped AAP and others from applying them to the US:

        One particular trial published in The Lancet involving 922 HIV infected men in Uganda found circumcision did not reduce HIV transmission to uninfected female partners. The findings suggested that the risk of HIV transmission could even have been increased in the six weeks after circumcision due to unhealed wounds from the procedure. (source).

        1. Fat Steve
          Fat Steve October 6, 2012 at 2:26 pm |

          The findings suggested that the risk of HIV transmission could even have been increased in the six weeks after circumcision due to unhealed wounds from the procedure.

          Glad you’re finally admitting the benefit of having the circumcision done as an infant.

        2. Tamen
          Tamen October 6, 2012 at 6:29 pm |

          Glad you’re finally admitting the benefit of having the circumcision done as an infant.

          Do you use the word the as an admission that that’s the only benefit?

          The study suggested that the risk could have increased in the six weeks after circumcision due to unhealed wounds.

          No, not a strong enough argument for me to reconcider my stance on infant circumcision. Proper and reliable and trustworthy information to the adult man electing circumcision should reduce that possibility of a risk even further.

          I really don’t get why you’re or anyone for that matter is so gung-ho about infant circumcision? In particular in the context of preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

    2. Elaine
      Elaine October 6, 2012 at 11:43 am |

      The way I’ve heard it:
      Circumcision reduces sensation.
      Condoms reduces sensation.
      Ergo, circumcised men/boys are more likely to complain about “not feeling anything” when using protection.

  40. chava
    chava September 28, 2012 at 1:09 pm |

    I’m starting to feel like a broken record, but looking back at this thread now that it’s died down, I see a massive pushback against infant circ (despite that not being the main point of the OP), a fear that this information will be used to promote infant circ in America, the standard comparisons to FGM, lots of stuff about the tragic mutilated fate of circumcised penii (consenting or non), and very little discussion of the book, the possibility and ethical implications of adolescent or adult circ or the huge impact it could have in some African communities.

    Which….kind of mirrors what happened to the guy’s book in the Amazon comments. How very meta.

    1. Tamen
      Tamen September 29, 2012 at 4:02 am |

      I see a massive pushback against infant circ (despite that not being the main point of the OP)

      Not the main point no, but Jill did talk about infant circumcision in the post and although she stated that she was generally against it, but that the calculus changes based on the research cited.

      a fear that this information will be used to promote infant circ in America, the standard comparisons to FGM

      Well, AAP has already cited the studies from Africa as reasons for changing their stance in their new statement on circumcision.

      the possibility and ethical implications of adolescent or adult circ or the huge impact it could have in some African communities.

      Well, since circumcision campaigns already are well underway in several African countries I guess we’ll know soon enough what impact it will have. I imagine convincing an adult or adolescent man to circumcise would be a somewhat tough sell and I hope they haven’t oversold it because that could lead to risk compensation actually making it worse.

      I also wonder why it is that several African countries has higher HIV rates among circumcised men than among uncircumcised men if the protection is so effective as the studies purports them to be.

      FWIW, I don’t care for the tactics against the book on Amazon, but pro-circumcision people are just as able to add positive reviews so at least in that way the playing field is level.

      I am not impressed by sparing children from awkward conversation about genital hygiene used as an argument for infant circumcision and some of the other reasons which have surfaced in this thread.

      1. chava
        chava September 29, 2012 at 10:02 am |

        It isn’t, actually. They’ve had no shortage of volunteers.

        I’m not impressed by the hygiene thing, either.

  41. GendErratic
    GendErratic September 28, 2012 at 4:39 pm |

    […] there was a mess of a post and comment thread that mewled and whined about how anti-circumcision people were manhandling, as opposed to […]

  42. valentifan69
    valentifan69 September 28, 2012 at 6:47 pm |

    How many infants are having sex? If you’ve a newborn the worst that can happen is he’ll catch HIV from a medical intervention and untreated be dead by 2-3. Circ won’t stop that and may help it. The second worst thing is catching HIV through sex in his mid-teens and untreated being dead by 25.

    A lot can happen in quarter of a century. Go back 25 years from now and there were no antiretrovirals. Hell, HIV was only confirmed as the AIDS virus 28 years ago. Now we have decades of life expectancy with treatment after AIDS onset. It just strikes me that this is worrying about the very long term, and second guessing events when we really don’t know all that much about what the conditions will be. Surely, we should worry about people catching HIV now.

  43. ClockworkJillian
    ClockworkJillian September 28, 2012 at 7:24 pm |

    Quite frankly, I am disgusted at the continuous comparisons between male circumcision and FGM; the giveaway is in the goddamn name, folks. Not to mention, one has a well documented advantage in terms of clear health benefits for both partners, and the other serves no purpose except to act as to mark official passage into the yoke of patriarchy.

    Personally, I strongly suspect that a substantial amount of anti-circumcision sentiment and by extension, the comparison between circumcision and FGM comes for MRAs that are desperate for something, anything to hang their hat on as a harm against men.

  44. Donna L
    Donna L September 28, 2012 at 8:12 pm |

    I want to add that I’m having a great deal of trouble believing that you even asked that question, and that you tried to turn what I wrote into yet another anti-circumcision argument — and that you may even be trying to argue that if you accept that a trans woman was always really female, then a trans woman who was circumcised as an infant was actually a victim of FGM? With “friends” like that, I don’t need enemies.

  45. anon101
    anon101 September 30, 2012 at 1:45 pm |

    The thing is that the calculus for infant circumcision does not change because of the HIV protection because infants don’t have sex.

    But what is more interesting is the gender dynamic. Particularly after the invention of hormonal birth control feminists have been complaining that the men were dumping the responsibility for birth control completely on the women. Now with HIV and circumcision the female proponents of male circumcision seem to be dumping the HIV prevention responsibility on the men because they seem to think that if the man is circumcised they don’t have to make sure any longer that the man wears a condom. Which strikes me as a significant double standard.

  46. Jennie
    Jennie October 1, 2012 at 8:08 am |

    Where I come from, male circumcision is actually regarded as genital mutilation and SLF (the national pediatricians union) have taken an official stand against the practice. It’s on its way to becoming illegal and most Swedes would never even consider circumcising their sons. For me, the notion that male genital mutilation and female genital mutilation are not comparable, is totally new and very hard to understand.

    I really don’t care much about whether circumcision (male or female) could prevent HIV/AIDS – that seems to me a stupid an argument for circumcision, as saying that removal of all breast tissue would prevent breast cancer. It’s besides the point. Bodily integrity is essential for any kind of freedom and preventing disease can never be a valid reason for cutting in the body of another person against his or her will. Of course, you can do studies on the subject and it is indeed of medical interest, but taking it from there to actually advocating circumcision to prevent HIV/AIDS is just … scary.

    I have the right to choose what I want to do with my body. Nobody has the right to cut my clitoral hood or perform surgical procedures of any kind on my body without my consent – no matter the reason or intentions. That same right does my son have. Nobody should ever have the right to cut the body of another person, no matter what, without their consent.

    Would these studies be met with a different attitude from Feministe writers if they said that removing the clitoral hood prevents HIV/AIDS? Would you consider cutting your daughters genitalia to prevent HIV/AIDS? If you would consider doing that to your son but not to your daughter, you’re being sexist.

    It doesn’t matter that female genital mutilation often is followed by more suffering than male genital mutilation. Abuse is still abuse even if it only hurts a little, and it’s still abuse if someone else got beat up worse than you did.

    Circumcision isn’t risk-free. It does come with huge risks and a lot of side-effects, many of them life long. But it’s not really relevant, is it? Or are we supposed to accept violation of the physical integrity of people, as long as they are not as badly hurt as some other people were? Can you even compare suffering interpersonally? I don’t think so.

    Would you say that you can’t compare rape without physical violence to rape with physical violence? It’s still rape, isn’t it?

    Men might not generally (big emphasis on that word) suffer as much as women after having their genitalia cut, but the violation on their physical integrity is the same.

    I apologise if this post is offensive to someone. Please keep in mind that I’m from a culture that doesn’t share the American perspective on circumcision. I have no intent to hurt or offend, I only want to understand how you think and show you the perspective of another culture.

    1. Donna L
      Donna L October 1, 2012 at 12:38 pm |

      Nobody should ever have the right to cut the body of another person, no matter what, without their consent.

      You couldn’t possible believe that literally, could you? There’s such a thing as surgery on infants and small children in Sweden, right? For which the parent(s) or guardian provides consent on the child’s behalf?

      So it’s really always a question of balancing need vs. harm in order to determine when third-party consent can be given, correct?

      If you start from the a priori premise that there’s significant harm from infant male circumcision and no “need” for it, of course you’re always going to reach the conclusion you have. Obviously, there are those who challenge that premise.

      My guess is that there simply aren’t enough observant Jews or Muslims in Sweden to challenge those premises, or influence the conversation, in any way. Just because Sweden isn’t a particularly religious country doesn’t mean that it isn’t overwhelmingly Christian-centric in its cultural assumptions and value judgments.

      Theory aside, I find it astonishing that you can’t see the enormous factual difference between infant male circumcision and FGM. To pretend that the difference doesn’t exist is not a way to have any sort of productive conversation on the issue.

Comments are closed.

The commenting period has expired for this post. If you wish to re-open the discussion, please do so in the latest Open Thread.